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"Death of a Dream"

Death of a Dream

Chapter 1: Homecoming
Chapter 2: Old Ghosts
Chapter 3: Strange Bedfellows
Chapter 4: Melancholy Memories
Chapter 5: Of Love and Betrayal
Chapter 6: Innocence Lost
Chapter 7: Of Friendship and Discovery
Chapter 8: First Blood
Chapter 9: Cast Out
Chapter 10: Revelations
Chapter 11: Of Love and Hope
Chapter 12: Stolen Lives
Chapter 13: Bad Dreams
Chapter 14: The Ties that Bind
Chapter 15: A Hero's Life
Chapter 16: Old Wounds
Chapter 17: A Time of Last Things
Chapter 18: The Final Countdown
Chapter 19: Battlezone
Chapter 20: Zero Hour
Chapter 21: A Glimmer of Hope

The sequel to this story is "The Resurrection Gauntlet."

Death of a Dream

Chapter 3: Strange Bedfellows

If I could sweat in this form, I'd be a puddle by now, thought Bobby Drake as he was suddenly encased by a boiling heat wave.

"That new guy sure is cute," said Firestar, grinning as she shot another microwave blast of heat at Iceman.

He parried with an iceblast, meeting her shot halfway, the resulting steam masking his expression as he spoke. "Even cuter than me, Angel?"

"Mmm...maybe," she replied, her grin broadening as she took to the air to avoid his next volley of ice missiles.

He concentrated a freezing blast around her form, cooling the microwave energy which held her form aloft but stopping just short of freezing her in solid ice. His own grin appeared as he moved forward to catch her rapidly falling form in his arms. "Well, Angel, appearances can be deceiving, you know? It's actions that count," he continued as she landed perfectly in his outstretched embrace. Smiling, he leaned his face closer to hers, lips barely an inch from her own.

With a light laugh she leaped from his arms, landing gracefully on her feet. "Come on now, Bobby. You know fire and ice don't mix."

"And you think fire and a snake in the grass do?" he countered, folding his arms over his chest and regarding her seriously.

She brushed a fiery strand of hair from her face, avoiding his gaze as she dodged the question, asking casually, "What exactly did this guy do to make you all hate him so much?"

"Why don't you ask me yourself, chere?" came the smooth reply as the door to the Danger Room slid open to reveal Gambit standing there.

"Remy." Iceman's greeting was completely flat as he nodded once to the cajun.

"Bobby." Gambit's greeting was just as emotionless as he stepped into the room. "So good to see you again. An' keeping such lovely company," he added, leaning down to take Firestar's hand and bring it to his lips gently. "I'm afraid I haven't had de pleasure, chere. Remy LeBeau, pleased to meet you."

Her face almost as red as her hair, she nodded once, stuttering out a reply. "I'm Angelica Jones, also known as Firestar."

"And I'm the flamin' Queen o' England," came the exasperated voice from the control booth of the Danger Room. "Are you all gonna practice today, or stand around flappin' your gums?"

"Sorry, Logan," muttered Firestar, trying to regain her composure. "We've been waiting for Wanda and the others to show up before really starting the program."

"I'm here," the Scarlet Witch called, hurrying into the room. "The others are right behind me, too."

Logan nodded, watching as Shadowcat, Colossus, Dazzler and the former Morlock called Lasher entered the room. Looking at the motley crew below him, he heaved a sigh. He'd never had much use for Cyclops back in the old days, but sometimes he wished the old boy scout were still around. If anyone had ever known how to forge a team, it had been Scott Summers.

This exercise was for all of them to hone their powers and stay on their toes, but more so, it was for those newer X-Men whose limitations were as yet unknown. Firestar was something of a known quality to them, but Lasher was still learning to control his telekinetic energy tendrils. Even so, it was most important that they learn to function together as a team. Dazzler, Iceman, Shadowcat and Colossus were all veterans, but hindered by the fact that they had never before functioned together as a team. The Scarlet Witch was used to being part of team as well, and even Logan had to admit that he admired her pluck. Still, she had never fought alongside any of these people until the last year or so, and the same held mostly true for Gambit also. Looking at Iceman's expression as Gambit continued to sweet talk Firestar, he could only hope that their exercises in the Danger Room would be enough to bring them all together.

He clicked the intercom again. "Alright, you kids ready, or what?"

"Why don't you come down here and join us old man, and we'll show you how ready we are," came the cajun's cocky voice from below.

With a thin smile, Logan clicked the intercom again, replying, "Don't tempt me, boy."

The door to the control room opened, and Storm stepped inside, moving to take the seat next to Logan. "Are they ready?"

With another glance at the troubled expressions below him, he shook his head and moved his hand to the start button. "They'd better be," he answered gruffly, pushing the button and engaging the sequence.

In the Reaver's old base in Australia, Rogue watched as the workmen about her moved like busy bees. They had achieved much in these few short weeks, building on to the original base and restoring its original technology. Even now, she sat in the central chamber, flipping through the files in the database. Displayed on the screen before her were the most comprehensive files on the X-Men she had ever seen, including many of which she had never met. The files had been updated recently, by Apocalypse, and she was amazed at the scope of the villain's knowledge. Flipping through the images of her former teammates, she felt a wistful tug upon her heart, remembering the old days, the times they had shared. Storm, Colossus, Gambit.... Quickly, she squashed the feeling, pushing it to the back of her mind. It was too late for regrets now, she thought. She'd already made her choice.

"Learning anything useful, Rogue?", came the cold voice from behind her.

Spinning slowly around in her swivel chair, she turned to face another of her former teammates, this time in the flesh.

"Betsy," she nodded to the woman, rising respectfully to greet her superior.

"At ease, Rogue. This isn't the army." Psylocke moved toward the console with liquid grace, her every move that of a predator. Encased in a completely black bodysuit except for her face, she resembled nothing so much as the shadows she was part of. Tucking a lock of dark purple hair behind one ear, she leaned down to have a look at the current data. "Hmmm....Gambit. I recall you used to have quite the soft spot for him," she added, turning her piercing, purple-black eyes on Rogue.

"That was a long time ago," Rogue answered, her eyes downcast.

"Yes," Psylocke replied, almost hissing the word. "I suppose it was." The suspicion in her eyes did not lessen, despite her words, as she kept her gaze upon the younger woman. "Let me make this plain, Rogue." She stepped away from the console and turned her back to the woman, clasping her hands behind her. "I do not like this convenient change of heart you've experienced. I find it highly unlikely that you would turn against your former teammates to such an extreme."

"Then you obviously don't know what ah did before ah--"

"Oh yes," Psylocke whirled, a cold smile twisting her lovely, dark face. "I know all about that. In fact, it's the only reason you've been admitted here. Our master has decreed you the new leader of the Brotherhood, and so it must be. But rest assured, Rogue, I'll be watching your every move. Would that I could read your mind and we could be done with this little charade, but the alien portion of Carol Danver's psyche that you absorbed prevents my probes. Again...very convenient."

"What about your change of heart?" Rogue asked, bringing her chin up in defiance of the woman's words.

"I've already proven myself, remember? The day I drove my psychic knife through Warren's head and then snapped his neck while he lay helpless." She grinned maliciously as she relived the memory, and Rogue shook her head in wonder. She actually had taken pleasure in it, Rogue realized with something like horror.

"So would y'all have me kill Gambit to prove mah loyalty?" she asked, her voice taking on a hard edge, forcing a bravado that she did not feel.

Psylocke whirled away, laughing. "No, Rogue. Not Gambit, he yet serves a purpose...just the rest of your former teammates. Surely you realize that is part of the Brotherhood's main initiative?"

"Ah know. Ah knew that before ah signed on. Question mah motivation all you like, Psylocke, the results of mah future efforts here should more than satisfy you."

"We shall see about that, Rogue. We shall just see." Psylocke cut her one last, penetrating look before melting into the shadows.

Rogue slumped back in her seat, eyes closing in a mixture of relief and defeat. Great, just great, she thought. Not more than a month into my new position, and already I got the master's right hand breathing down my neck. Had she really thought she'd found a new home? A place where she could be safe and happy again? She gave a wry chuckle and willed back the tears behind her eyes. No, she could never go home again.

And from the shadows nearby, came a wicked grin.


Continued in Chapter Four


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