Death of a Dream
Chapter 18: The Final Countdown
Rogue stood before her faction of the Brotherhood, hands
on her hips as she surveyed them all. Sabretooth, Havok, Nightcrawler,
Gambit, Psylocke, and their newest additions, Juggernaut and
Spiral. All faces were intent upon her as she continued speaking.
"Psylocke has imprinted each of your minds with the
schematics for the Morlock tunnels; paths to be taken, security
devices to avoid and access commands to the mansion, when
we get that far. Y'all know your roles...any questions?"
Havok spoke up, not even bothering to raise his hand. "What
exactly are our orders concerning the Morlocks?"
"There were none specifically, so ah'm going to order
that we fight them only if they put up resistance. If they
run away, let them be."
"That sounds a bit merciful," he responded, a wicked
gleam in his eyes as he pushed his point.
Rogue's eyes narrowed just slightly with annoyance. "Call
it what ya will. Ah say we're saving valuable resources. We
don't want to be worn out when we finally do reach the mansion."
Psylocke smiled coyly and cut Havok a sidelong glance. "Well,
that certainly seems to cover everything, doesn't it?"
"You have a question, Psylocke?" Rogue asked sharply.
"Several, actually," the Asian woman replied smoothly.
"But we really haven't time for them now."
Rogue nodded tersely. "We can settle them later, then,"
she said, her words carrying an ominous tone. Psylocke shrugged
lightly and returned her burning gaze seemingly unfazed.
"Alright then, move out y'all. Get yourselves together
and say your goodbyes if necessary. We meet at Gateway's plateau
in exactly one hour." Without a further word, she turned
her back on the group and stalked from the room.
With eager smiles, the remaining members of the Brotherhood
set out to make their individual preparations.
Alex Summers was still smiling as he struggled into his uniform,
thoughts filled with visions of the upcoming battle. This
was his big chance in more ways than one, both to prove himself
and perhaps gain control over the Brotherhood. Rogue couldn't
be in top form, being five months pregnant and starting to
bulge prominently, not to mention that she was likely to be
looking out for the two lives she carried inside her.
He held no particular love or hatred for Rogue, save that
she had a position that he coveted. He supposed she had even
done him a favor when she had killed his brother Scott. Alex
would have liked to have done it himself, but either way,
the job was done. He often wondered what his brothers last
thoughts were as she tried to pummel him to death with his
own optic blasts. The thought almost always made him smile.
His brother had been more like him at the end than ever, and
Havok had almost begun to admire the ruthlessness with which
Cyclops had systematically begun killing off the X-Mens enemies.
Losing Jean and the Professor had truly unhinged him. Still,
he hadn't thought anyone would have the balls to put Cyclops
back in his place, or remove him altogether, despite the loose
cannon he'd become. He doubted if anyone ever would have if
not for his brothers brutal slaying of Mystique right before
Rogue's eyes. And even then...if Rogue had not been possessed
of Mystiques memories and temperament at the time...he'd often
wondered how much that had to do with it. Probably quite a
bit. Despite Rogue's claims of being a killer early in her
career, he couldn't imagine her murdering someone, even in
hot-blood, and especially not so ruthlessly. Trying to kill
Scott with his own power...no, that sounded like Mystique's
style far more than Rogue's. And even though in the end she
had had to beat him to death with her own fists because Scott
was immune to his own power, it still didn't strike him as
something Rogue would have done, herself. Which was exactly
why he felt Rogue unfit to lead the Brotherhood; she wasn't
ruthless, and she definitely wasn't a killer.
And now, with the children at stake, she was bound to be
distracted from her job...wouldn't it be a shame if something
unfortunate happened to her during the battle?, he thought,
chuckling darkly. She was almost bound to slip up, and Alex
was going to be there when she did.
"Chere?" Gambit asked quietly as he slipped into
their room. It was so dark he almost thought she might not
be there. He was turning away to go look for her elsewhere
when she spoke.
"Ah'm here, Remy. Over by the window."
He already knew what was troubling her without having to
ask. After all, it was the same fear that plagued him, as
well. He let his eyes adjust to the darkness and moved up
beside her, putting an arm around her waist without speaking.
"You know we probably won't live through this fight?"
she asked almost nonchalantly. He paused to consider her words,
her tone, and it took him a moment to realize that it wasn't
nonchalance in her voice- she was simply being matter-of-fact.
"Chere, we gonna be fine--," he began, trying to
sound more cheerful than he really felt. But she cut him off
before he could even get going.
"No, Remy. No more lies, no more pretendin'. You know
as well as ah do that this might be the last time we can be
together like this...that our children might never be born."
"I know, chere," he said quietly after a moment.
"Old habits die hard, I guess," he added, trying
"Whichever side we're on, this battle's bound to turn
ugly. If we don't make it out...," she trailed off. He
couldn't see her face very well in the darkness, but all the
same he knew the tears were there.
"Then at least we die fightin', chere, together, you
an' me, side by side." He took her hand and squeezed
it gently. "I can't think of a better way to go."
She shuddered with a repressed sob, turning and grabbing
him tight in her arms. "Ah love you Remy. Ah always have,
and ah always will, in this life and the next."
"An' I love you, Sabine," he said softly, stroking
her hair as he leaned in to kiss her. "Now an' forever."
They held each other in the darkness, completely silent as
they cherished the moment for all it was worth.
No expression was evident on Gateway's face as his bull-roarer
sung through the air. He did not even blink as eight figures
filed past him and into the portal he had created, and they
in return did not pay any attention to him. That was the way
it had always been, the way it was meant to be. All except
one. He remembered her, though it did not show in his face;
she was the one who had always been so kind to him, bringing
him gifts and food. And though he did not return the last,
backward glance she gave him, he saw it nonetheless. The portal
swirled shut, returning to the nothingness from whence it
came, and the plateau was silent once again. Thus, there was
no one to bear witness to the single tear that streaked its
way down his dark, leathery cheek.
Leech ran through the tunnels as fast as his little green
legs would carry him, ignoring the heavy pain in his side
and his gasping pants for breath. His own pain didn't matter,
his own life didn't matter...all that mattered was that the
Mistress knew what was coming. He tried to shut out the visions
of years before, of Morlocks dying in scores around him. If
he thought about that, he was done for. His fear would paralyze
him, and then they would be upon him. He couldn't let that
happen, he couldn't let his people die a second time. He could
help this time. He WOULD help this time. And he was almost
"Security breach!" Kitty yelled as she phased up
into the living room of the mansion from the monitoring systems
Everyone sprang into action at once, alarms suddenly blaring
through the house like an angry, awakened banshee.
"Where and how many?" Storm asked simply as she
watched the other X-Men arrive from every doorway.
"The Morlock tunnels," Kitty replied, her face
as pale as if she had seen a ghost. "And only two."
To her credit, Storm kept her fašade of control even as her
heart seemed to thunder within her breast. Bright Lady, not
again, she pleaded silently. Aloud she began shouting orders.
"Alright, Kitty get back to the control room and monitor
for any further security breaches as well as additional activity.
Colossus, you go with her. Everyone else come with me."
Without waiting for response, she took to the air, heading
for the bowels of the mansion and the entrance to the Morlock
Rogue was very glad she was the only team member who could
fly, it gave her the advantage of scouting far ahead of the
team. As she sped through the dank tunnels, she was relieved
to find that they seemed empty, completely devoid of any life.
It was reassuring and yet eerie at the same time. Had they
gotten to ground before their arrival somehow? Or were they
lying in wait to ambush the intruders into their home?
Further back, and much less happily, the rest of the group
made their way down the narrow ledges that bordered the sewers
refuse. They weren't far enough in yet to have reached the
"Alley" and better footing on solid ground, but
with an enchantment from Spiral, they found negotiating the
steep, skinny ledges much easier than expected. They were
making good time.
"Just like old times, eh LeBeau?" growled Sabretooth
as he crawled along the ledge on all fours, resembling nothing
so much as a cat.
Gambit stiffened at the remark, remembering the last time
he had been down here with Sabretooth...a lifetime ago...yet
it was almost like yesterday in his mind. And this time, he
had not only inadvertently led them here, but he was on their
side. Not for long, he reminded himself, not for long.
Setting his jaw in grim determination, Remy LeBeau pushed
onward through the murky darkness.
"Stand back, everyone," Storm commanded as she
landed before the massive door that led to the Morlock tunnels.
"Spread out and be ready to attack on my command."
Trying vainly to keep her hands from shaking, she keyed in
the security code to unlock the final barrier between the
mansion and the underground. They were lucky that they hadn't
actually made it into the mansion yet, considering that their
intruders seemed to know the other security codes to bypass
their defenses. At least this way they might still have the
advantage of surprise. She finished keying in the sequence
and stepped back as the door slid open.
For a moment, nothing happened. Each X-Man sat on edge, just
barely holding their powers in check as they waited tensely
for their intruders to reveal themselves. They were rewarded
an instant before the strain threatened to break their control
as a green head poked its way around the edge of the massive
"Leech," Storm sighed with obvious relief. He looked
excited, but not afraid. At least that meant that the Morlocks
were still safe. For the moment.
"Lady Storm," he said, trying to keep his voice
respectful despite his obvious agitation. "They come."
"Who, Leech?" she asked, the fear returning as
quickly as it had receded. Surely not the Marauders...
He frowned, scrunching up his little face in concentration.
"The old-friends...the one who steals life, the man with
glowing cards...and the woman who speaks with mind. And others..."
"The Brotherhood," Bobby spoke up, Leech's excitement
beginning to catch him. "Woo-hoo! Finally! A real fight!"
Storm cut him a scathing glance that could have killed him
where he stood, and he visibly gulped as he settled down.
"How many, Leech?" she asked patiently. She knew
they had a little time, anyway, or Leech would be much more
He scrunched up his face again as he thought, then held up
Storm nodded and touched the com-badge at her wrist. "Kitty,
Piotr, we need you down here in the tunnels. The Brotherhood
has arrived at last."
"On our way," Kitty responded immediately, cutting
off the transmission.
"Leech, will you be staying to help us fight?"
Storm asked gently. They would need all the help they could
He nodded firmly. "Yes. Leech fight. Leech and the Mistress."
"The Mistress..?" Storm echoed, seemingly puzzled
for a moment.
"Oh please tell me you haven't forgotten me soon, wind-rider,"
came a gravelly voice from just beyond the darkness off the
"Marrow," Storm breathed.
"In the flesh," she responded, stepping out into
the light. "Such as it is." She chuckled darkly
and gestured the various bones that protruded from her body
at awkward and hideous angles. "Oh no, don't go all soft
on me, now. I can't stand this reunion stuff," she continued
in her ever-mocking tone, completely at ease.
Lasher bristled at her disrespect, but took his cue from
Storm and maintained his calm. Wolverine moved to Storms side
as the newer X-Men exchanged puzzled looks, but no one spoke.
"The Morlocks are safe?" Storm finally asked, regaining
a bit of her composure.
"Snug as bugs," Marrow replied confidently. "Leech
did his job well, didn't you little one?" She paused
to offer the younger Morlock a slight smile, and he gazed
at her adoringly in return. "Ever since the Massacre,
we set up outposts, places to keep watch from, in case anyone
should ever come calling again. They're being sloppy...,"
she added, cutting Storm an almost coy glance. "They
should have had the witch or the elf teleport them right to
"They could not." Storm was shaking her head, trying
to put it all together. "No one except the Morlocks know
the tunnels well enough to do that. You said that Gambit was
with them?" she asked, looking to Leech again, her expression
almost pleading as she hoped that it wasn't true. But it was
Marrow who answered this time.
"The cajun traitor, you mean? Yes, he is."
"That must be how they knew...Goddess...they will be
able to walk right into the mansion, bypassing the psionic
barrier above completely!"
"I knew we shouldn't have trusted that snake,"
Bobby growled, doing a fair impression of Wolverine.
"We have not the time for regrets now," Storm interjected
sharply, trying to recover from her own shock and sense of
betrayal. Pushing down the emotions which threatened her control,
she forced herself to think calmly, rationally. "We must
not fight within the tunnels, to do so would endanger the
Morlocks safety and destroy their home. Let them come to us.
Perhaps if we can get outside..."
"Couldn't hurt to try, darlin'. Maybe if we're lucky,
we can get'em close enough to the psionic barrier that it'll
take some of the fight out o' them."
Storm turned to Marrow again. "Are you with us, Sarah?"
she asked, not bothering to keep her tone regal this time.
The threat to the Morlocks was as real as it was to the X-Men.
Marrow had just as much of a stake in this they did, despite
her abrasive attitude.
"For now," Marrow answered with a sly smile. "but
tomorrow...?" Her smile grew, though it held no warmth
or humor, and she shrugged slightly.
"Good enough...for now," Storm replied, turning
away. "Alright everyone, we take the fight to the surface
and the mansion grounds. Marrow, how long?" she asked,
not bothering to look at the unsightly Morlock.
"About twenty minutes, if they're quick about it."
"Long enough," Storm asserted as she turned toward
Firestar. "Angelica, use your microwave powers to heat
the door to the melting point, then Alison, I want you to
make sure it is fused shut with your laser blast, and finally,
Robert, I want you to cool the door enough to make it harden
"That's not gonna stop them, Storm," Bobby said,
even as he moved toward the door with Firestar and Dazzler.
"No, but at least we will know they have arrived when
we hear the blast," she replied. "And they will
know that we know they are here. That should catch them off-guard.
We want to keep them as off-balance as possible."
Bobby nodded. "You got it, boss."
She tapped her com-badge again. "Kitty, Piotr, change
of plans. We are taking this fight to the mansion grounds.
Meet us there." She snapped off the connection without
waiting for a response and looked at the remaining mutants.
"Everything Logan and I have taught you has been in
preparation for this day. We can only hope that we have done
you justice and that it has been enough. Whatever may happen
today, live or die, family or lovers, we are the X-Men, and
we fight until the end." She let her eyes fall on each
one of them in turn as she spoke. "I could not ask for
better friends to lay my life down beside. May the Bright
Lady watch over us all this day."
Marrow applauded mockingly, earning her glares from several
of the other team members, but Storm ignored her, turning
on her heel and walking from the room calmly.
After a moment, the rest of them, save Firestar, Dazzler
and Iceman, followed behind her.
At the top of the world, the dark presence shifted, stirring
as it sensed events coming together. With a terrible smile,
the man who had once been Magneto mentally called upon his
servant on the other side of the globe. A moment later he
stepped through a roaring portal and emerged within the mildewed
tunnels beneath New York.
Continued in Chapter
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