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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 19: Battlezone

The headaches began as soon as Havok blasted his way through the fused door, a mild, annoying pain that seemed to stem from the center of the brain. It only worsened as they cautiously made their way through the mansion, alert for any sign of the X-Men, from mildly annoying to white hot knives that seemed to stab into their eyes. All of them felt it, save Sabretooth, Juggernaut and Spiral, who were here of their own free will and having never been touched by the Shadow King. Psylocke swore a string of curses and tried to ignore as best she could. As bad as it was for them, they knew it was far, far worse for her, being a telepath. Her mood did not improve when they discovered the X-Men were nowhere to be found and they deduced that they must have made for the psionic barrier outside. Gritting her teeth, she strode defiantly toward the mansion grounds, pushing the pain aside with all the ninja training she had received. The pain abated...a little.

Rogue was the first one to burst through the mansion door, and the X-Men saw her easily from their slightly higher ground not too far away. Even easier to see, and perhaps far more disheartening, came the huge form of the Juggernaut, quickly followed by the rest of the Brotherhood. Storm shouted her final commands to the team to spread out, having time to see Logan heading straight for Sabretooth, and then the fury of the battle was upon them.

"Been waiting a long time for this, runt," Sabretooth growled as he lunged at Logan again, adamantium tipped claws only grazing Logan's side rather than disembowling him as intended.

Logan's own claws were bloody, and Sabretooth bled from a great number of minor wounds, but neither could seem to get a good hit on the other. As elusive as ghosts, they danced a dance of wild, feral beauty, as intoxicating as it was deadly. Logan did not pause for breath as he returned Sabretooth's blow, catching him across the face with an unexpected spin. Whatever Creed had been about to say was forgotten as he lost half of his face to Wolverine's claws.

Completely enraged, Sabretooth roared his defiance at Logan, the already severed muscles of his jaw giving way on the left side of his face, leaving his jaw bone hanging at an awkward angle. But Creed was an animal, perhaps even more so than Logan, and the wound did little to slow his pace as he closed in on his prey.

Gambit was completely helpless as Storm lifted him from the ground with a whirling, angry wind, sending him spiraling up toward her flying form. "So this is how you repay my trust, Remy? By leading these butchers into our home to slaughter us?" Her face was twisted with rage, and the sky around her echoed her mood, booming cracks of thunder and lightning ripping across the rapidly darkening clouds.

Gambit knew he had to talk fast, or he wasn't going to get another chance. "St-Ororo...listen to me petite. Me an' Rogue, we here to help you."

"Lies!" she cried, the thunder echoing loudly on the heels of the word. "Do not seek to deceive me, Remy, I know you brought them here, they could not have gotten through the tunnels any other way."

"Den why ain't I attackin' you, petite? I could...even from this awkward angle. You trusted me once, chere, trust me now."

Her pupiless, white eyes narrowed as she stared at him with hard suspicion. "On our friendship, for our friendship, for everything we have been and might have been to each other, you swear this is so?"

"I swear, petite. Soon as de big guy shows up, you'll see for yourself wh-," he broke off, eyes fixed somewhere on the battle below. "Petite," he whispered, his face growing pale as he pointed.

Storm spun, looking to the spot where Gambit had pointed, and felt her heart lurch within her chest at the sight that greeted her. Logan lay upon the ground, surrounded by blood, too much blood, she thought, and Sabretooth stood above him, bloody claws ready to finish the fight.

She did not even think as she called the lightning to her fingertips and sent it hurtling into Victor Creed with every ounce of rage in her body. The force sent him sprawling into the ground face first, skin cracked, blistered and bleeding. She flew closer toward the ground, gathering the lightning to her again, ready to strike the next blow if necessary. Unfortunately, she forgot about Gambit.

He didn't even scream as he began to fall, plummeting through the air with gaining speed. Looks like dis is de end, LeBeau, he thought to himself as the ground rushed up to meet him. And then, suddenly, miraculously, he stopped falling. It took him a moment to realize that he was safe in the arms of his beloved and flying back toward the ground at a much slower speed.

Storm didn't even notice as Sabretooth rose from the ground, wiping a trail of thick blood from beneath his nose. "Not bad for a frail," he growled, "but you don't play fair. So...since you wanna stay all safe up there in the air, I think I'll just take care of yer lover-boy here." He spun quicker than a cat, leaping for Logan with his claws extended, but Storm was faster.

The lightning that poured into his body was unlike any experience he had ever experienced, he could feel his blood boiling, the skin blistering and blackening, peeling back from the muscles that twitched and convulsed uncontrollably. He fell to the ground again like a rag-doll, thinking that even in all his years of electro-shock therapy, he had never felt the primal rage of electricity in all its unbridled fury. He pushed himself up from the ground again defiantly, what was left of his face twisting into something like a smile. "That's okay, frail. We can play this all day long. Eventually, yer gonna be too slow, and lover-boy here is gonna buy it."

"You are wrong, Victor Creed," Storm proclaimed, the lightning crackling about her form, bathing her in a golden glow and encasing her in a nimbus of light. In that moment, she resembled nothing less than the goddess she had once been worshipped as, and even Victor Creed had to stop and admire such beauty. For a split second.

"'Zat so, frail? You mean you don't heed pleas of mercy anymore, or stick to that precious code the old man taught you?" He knew she would never kill him, she just didn't have the heart of a warrior. Too dependent on her morals and standards to just cut loose and go with her instincts.

"You would never beg for mercy," she said, unleashing another brief blast of electricity and throwing him to the ground. She floated down closer, almost within his reach, had he been able to rise at that moment. "And even if you did, that time is past. Too many mutants- too many people- have died at your hands, at your masters. No, the time for mercy is done. You and your masters reign ends here. Now. Today." The lightning poured from her like a living thing, burning his flesh from his bone in great boiling strips. He screamed, an animal scream of fury and pain, but even that was lost to the howling wind that twisted and screamed its own primal song about them. She let the power flow through her relentlessly, until his form was little more than adamantium skeleton and a puddle of ooze. And still she did not relent. Glorying in the full fury of the storm that was her namesake, she did not even feel strained as the electricity coursed through her, invigorating her very soul. When at last she let the power return to its rightful place in the sky, there was nothing left of Victor Creed but his adamantium skeleton.

Rogue set Gambit down gently on the ground, off to the side of the main activity. He flashed her a smile, and she could not help but smile back, despite the carnage that ensued around them. For a brief moment, she felt a fleeting hope, a moment completely removed from the events around her. A feeling that everything was going to be all right. And then she saw Magneto's form floating rapidly toward the battle.

Colossus traded blow for mighty blow against the Juggernaut, keeping his attention focused solely on him. If he could simply keep him away from the rest of the battle until the X-Men had taken care of the other members of the Brotherhood, the Juggernaut was likely to leave. He had never been much of a killer, and Colossus was surprised that he had accompanied the Brotherhood at all. Distracted for a moment by his thoughts, the Juggernaut landed a solid blow to his jaw, sending him flying across the hill. He hit the ground, hard, leaving a furrow in the soft earth as he skidded to a halt.

"Ha! Caught ya nappin, big guy!" Juggernaut called gleefully, quickly closing the distance between them. Colossus shook his head, trying to clear it, and then smiled as he saw a form come into focus just behind Cain Marko's massive form.

"Speaking of napping," came Shadowcat's voice from behind the behemoth, "say goodnight, Cain!" Phasing her arm through his helmet, she passed her hand through his spinal cord, the resulting scrambled electrons rendering the Juggernaut unconscious.

The ground shook terribly as he fell, attracting the attention of several people fighting nearby. A split second later, Spiral was there, facing off in front of Kitty.

Firestar was nearly at the end of her rope. She fought valiantly against the exhaustion of her body, forcing herself to concentrate on keeping her power at full force. If she hesitated, even for a second, Havok's power would bust free and take out several X-Men, including herself.

It was nothing so much as a battle of wills, her microwave blast holding back his raw plasma energy. They had reached a stalemate five minutes ago, and they had been locked in this contest of will ever since. Sweat streamed down her face as she clenched her teeth and bore down hard, hoping to turn back his power even for a moment. To her credit, it seemed to push him backward just a bit, and then he increased his own power, regaining the ground he had lost. She strained as her muscles began to tremble with fatigue. Her source of power was not limitless, it depended solely on how much endurance she had, how much strain she could take. Havok's power, however, was fueled endlessly by the sun, and though it was blocked from view at the moment by Storm's furious weather, she knew he could store almost endless amounts of solar energy in his body.

She could feel her control beginning to slip as the microwave cocoon she had formed around his plasma weakened, his white hot blast slowly creeping closer and closer to her. Oh God, I've failed, was all she could think as the microwave shield gave way completely.

"Angel!" Bobby screamed at the top of his lungs. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion as he watched her form fall from the sky, plasma blast catching up to it despite the speed with which she fell. He had no time to think as he unleashed a massive ice blast at the plasma wave, freezing it solid just as it enveloped her form. Too late, too late, his mind yammered at him even as he ran to where the chunk of ice had hit the ground.

Havok turned as he cried out, a cruel smile on his face. "Don't worry, Iceman. Where she's gone, you'll shortly follow."

Even before he had finished speaking, Bobby erected an ice shield around him, protecting him from the ensuing blast. He didn't even flinch as the ice began to rapidly melt beneath the solar power that pulsed from Havok. Instead, he concentrated every fiber of his being on one objective. Killing the man who had killed the woman he loved.

Havok was still grinning as the ice shield began to melt. I have you now, he thought, turning up the power of his blast and trying to shatter the encasement. Then, suddenly, everything slowed down. The world seemed to be growing fuzzy, and his plasma blast began to ebb dangerously. One hand came up to clutch helplessly at his throat, trying to croak out a curse against Bobby even as he fell backward into unconsciousness.

A moment later, the ice shield burst open, shattering into a million diamond-like fragments, and Bobby stepped out, his expression so hard it might have been carved from stone. With quick strides, he moved to Havok's unconscious body, kicking him hard in the ribs. "Wake up, you bastard. I didn't knock you out that cold."

Havok's eyes fluttered open. "Neat trick, freezing the bloodflow to my brain like that. You should have kept going, though." He raised his arms to blast Bobby into oblivion, and was left open-mouthed in shock as absolutely nothing happened.

"No powers," came Leeches gravelly little voice from behind Havok's head. Bobby looked up to see him and Marrow just behind Havok's prone form, rage claiming his heart as he realized that Leech had robbed him of his opportunity to kill this man by taking all their powers.

Before he could speak, though, Marrow moved to his side, with graceful, cat-like steps. "Good thing I keep a couple of these handy," she said without smiling as she handed him a bone shard. He took it from her, studying the look in her eyes. For one brief moment, they completely understood each other, the need for revenge uniting them. She nodded once and stepped back, turning her back and walking away. Leech followed behind her and Havok and Bobby were left alone.

Havok began to laugh as he watched Bobby run his hand along the length of the bone fragment. "You don't have the guts, Iceman."

The expression on his face was one of almost ridiculous surprise as he died, the bone fragment shoved straight through his heart.

Lasher fell back from the blurring blows Psylocke kept landing on him. Try as he might, he could not seem to hit her with his energy tendrils, she was just too damned fast. He supposed he was lucky that his own fighting skill was pretty high, or he would have been dead a long time ago. He couldn't help but wonder though, why it was that she didn't use her psionic powers against him. She seemed to favor her fists and feet instead, and he could see why she might. She was as graceful and deadly as a jungle cat, a living weapon honed to perfection by the deadliest assassins in the world. But it was more than that...she enjoyed this, he realized. She preferred to fight rather than take out an opponent from a distance, to kill them with her bare hands. And if he wasn't careful, she was going to do just that.

Shadowcat phased instinctively as Spiral's whirling swords came for her, ducking just as instinctively despite her intangible state. She realized how lucky she was that she had when one sword cut through her arm despite her being phased. Crying out, she cupped a hand over her arm to staunch the bloodflow, her eyes wide with surprise. Magic, she thought, the blade must be magic, like Illyana's was. Almost panicking as Spiral moved in, all six weapons poised, she tried desperately to focus on her ninja training. So the witch could cut her, it wouldn't matter if she was phased or not, the goal was to keep her from touching her at all. Taking a deep breath, she stepped back and fell into her fighting stance. Then Colossus stepped between them.

"You should not have hurt her, Spiral," was all Piotr said, his voice grim as he drew back his fist.

"You should not be so cocky," was all Spiral said in response, all six blades whirring to life.

Piotr did not so much as flinch, bringing his fist forward to connect with her smirking face, confident in the fact that her blades could not pierce his armored skin. His fist took her in the jaw, hurtling her backward, but not before three of her six blades sank deep into his mid-section, cutting through the steel like melted butter.

Kitty was on Spiral before she even had a chance to realize she had landed. The next sensation the mad dancer knew was excruciating pain as one of her six hands seemed to explode and be crushed at the same time.

"Let's see how well you can fight without any hands, witch," Kitty spat as she continued phase all of Spiral's hands into the ground, leaving her as trapped as fly in a spiders web.

Storm surveyed the battle from above, taking stock of the situation. She had seen Firestar go down, but she couldn't think about that just now, just as she couldn't think about Logan slowly regenerating where she had placed him after killing Sabretooth. Her team needed her, and she meant to be there for them.

Flying down toward the ground, she skimmed toward where Dazzler and the Scarlet Witch were fighting Nightcrawler. She could not help but smile as she saw that the Scarlet Witch's probability affecting ability had a curious effect on Nightcrawler, sending him farther and farther away from them even as he tried to teleport up and kill them. The situation seemed well in hand, despite the loss of Firestar, the team was holding their own quite well. Her satisfaction warred with her grief briefly, and then won out. They were succeeding...if only....her thought trailed off and her heart seemed to freeze in her chest as she saw the red clad figure floating directly toward her, magnetic bubble supporting his weight effortlessly.

Every shred of satisfaction she had possessed suddenly drained from her, and she was left with only mind-numbing fear as she realized the true battle had only just begun.


Continued in Chapter 20


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