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"The Resurrection Gauntlet"

The Resurrection Gauntlet

The sequel to "Death of a Dream."

The Enemy of My Enemy...
From the Grave
Into the Fire
Shifting the Ashes
Ghosts of Past and Present
Of Regret and Remembrance
Deeper into Darkness
Old Habits
Trial by Fire
The Downard Spiral
Life Incarnate

This story is in progress.

The Resurrection Gauntlet


Sinister sat, tapping his fingers thoughtfully over the lab table-top, one hand folded beneath his chin as he stared intently at the small package lying several feet from his drumming hand. It was harmless looking enough; a small, plain package in a brown wrapper, no address given or posted, not even stamped. And that was what troubled him. It wasn't as if many people knew of this lab in the first place, and the postal system hadn't run in a good eight years with any sort of efficiency. Which meant, that someone not only knew where he was, but had deigned to drop the package off by hand. The thought made him about as close to uncomfortable as he ever got.

But then again, he was Sinister, and few would dare to oppose him. Even fewer could actually hurt him. Still, it never hurt to be cautious.

His fingers fell silent and he rose from the table, cape swirling imperiously about his incredibly tall body, considering the package for a moment more before finally grasping it in his long, pale fingers. It wasn't likely to be a bomb. If someone had truly wanted him out of the picture there were a number of different ways they could have tried to take him out. No, this was a message from someone who wanted to get an insidious point across.

As if Sinister were afraid of anyone, he thought and chuckled under his breath.

The only person who could truly harm him had been killed by a teammate, long ago. And he would never create another Scott Summers. No matter how intriguing the man's DNA.

His mental armor back in place, he tore the wrapper from the package, curiosity piqued even more when he saw the sealed metal box with its biohazard symbol glaring brightly. Samples perhaps? Using his considerable strength, he pried the lid from the box and set it aside.

The inside of the box was filled with a honeycomb of circles, made specifically to hold test vials in place during transit. Sinisters luminous red eyes roved curiously over each of the empty holes before finally coming to rest on the one that was actually filled with something.

He slipped the vial from its slot and held it up to the light, his face now impassive as his scientific nature took over. It was a tissue sample, as best he could tell, stored in some sort of clear, preserving fluid.

His interest piqued, he moved toward one of the lab tables and uncorked the vial, pouring the entire contents into a small, clear tray. Not even bothering to don his gloves, he took a pair of tweezers and reached carefully into the fluid with their tips, extracting the tissue sample from it. Laying it gently on one of his microscope slides, he set the tweezers aside and took the tiny piece of plexi-glass between his thumb and index finger, barely pausing to look at as he carried it to the machine that was one of his master inventions. Standing before a giant monitor, he placed the slide into a waiting case, watching as it slid quietly, perfectly, back inside the machine. Folding his arms across his chest, he waited patiently while the machine analyzed the DNA encoded within the sample, knowing that if it were of any worth to him, he probably already had it catalogued in the machines database. A moment later, he was rewarded as an image began to take form on the screen, the machine confirming the identity of a previously catalogued mutant, blurry and nondescript at first, then quickly focusing as the machine completed its job. A display panel on the machines base flashed one word in bright green letters: DELETED. Leaning forward to peer at the image intently as it formed, he was almost startled as it snapped into sudden clarity.

And staring at that face on the screen, for the first time in longer than he could remember, Sinister felt a tiny icicle of fear wedge its way into his black heart.

"Speak quickly, Madelyne," Magnus prompted as they walked through the red, dry deserts of the Arizona wilderness outside of the base.

"Or what?" she asked with a smirk, hearing the unspoken threat in his voice.

"You are trying my patience", he replied in a quiet, dangerous tone, halting his step. He turned to look at her directly, grey-blue eyes set hard as stone. "I thought that after killing Sebastian Shaw, I had seen the last of the Hellfire Club."

Her green eyes widened slightly in surprise. "Shaw is dead?"

He stared at her impassively in answer, storm-cloud colored eyes never flickering.

"I see...", she said slowly, taking in the news. "Well, no matter," she shrugged it off lightly, her voice affecting a casual tone. "I had no plans to return to him, at any rate."

"And what are your plans, now, Madelyne? You should not even be alive, much less here."

She laughed with cynical humor, turning her face slightly away from him toward the setting sun. The red tint of the fading daylight made the desert glow a bright crimson, as if it were covered in blood, the long shadows of cactus' stretching out like twisted fingers across the bloodied ground. So much like her past, she thought, filled with blood and dark shadows, reaching out to claim her, always. Sinister, N'astirh, Nathan...without any of them, she would have never existed at all. How she hated them for it.

"People with my genetic structure have a history of refusal to stay dead", she replied, one corner of her mouth turning up in a bitter smile. The focus of her hatred had ever been Jean Grey, the woman she had been cloned of and carbon copied after. But it seemed that finally, this time, Jean was truly dead. It had been eight years since her death, and there had been no sign of her. Madelyne's only regret was that she had not killed the woman herself. "Understand, Magnus. I am here because my objective is to destroy the one who created me so long ago. My entire life has been nothing but a farce, a parody of the late Jean Grey. I would not even exist were it not for Sinister. My best chance to destroy him is with your group, especially since he seems to have such an interest in all things X-Men." She frowned, brows drawing together tensely in the ebbing light. "That ... and I am tired of running. Tired of constantly fighting for my life or hiding amongst the remnants of humanity. I need allies, if I hope to survive in this world, and the Brotherhood is far too disorganized right now to provide a suitable alternative.

"You seem to forget, Madelyne, that not only have you proved yourself as dangerous as Sinister time and time again, but also that I stood by Sinister's side in defeating Sebastian Shaw and his rogue Sentinels. Or perhaps, you simply did not know...?" his voice trailed off thoughtfully, almost suggestively.

"Where have you been all these years since the telepaths were destroyed, Madelyne? Why did you not show yourself before?"

"It matters not how or why, Magnus", she replied, meeting the challenge in his eyes without flinching, "but that I am here asking for a chance to help you fight against the forces that threaten the world. In return, when the time comes- and it will- you will all stand by my side and see Sinister fall."

Magnus frowned, the lines in his face barely changing position to find his most favored expression, seeming to consider her words. Indeed, it did not matter why she was here, or how, it mattered more that she was offering her services to their battle. He didn't trust her, oh no, not in a million years would he ever trust this conniving, manipulating woman whose face mirrored one of the most honorable mutants that had ever lived, and whose heart mocked that same woman's beliefs. No, he would never trust her. But was trust the only issue to be considered, here? Even if Sinister had created her and sent her to them like a Trojan horse, it mattered little so long as he was aware of the threat. He had no doubt that he could crush her in an instant, despite her formidable power, should she turn on them. But was it worth the trouble it would surely bring? Did it matter? He had made shady alliances many times in his past during times of trouble, most notably when he aligned himself with the Hellfire Club while co-leading the X-Men. Things were more desperate now than they had ever been...could he truly afford to turn away any help offered to his cause?

Madelyne remained silent, her profile barely visible to him in the waning light as he watched her, searching for any sign of treachery, triumph, any emotion etched into her features that might betray her feelings. But if there were any emotion there, there was only one he could discern, one he, himself, was far too familiar with. Loneliness. Another mask, perhaps, but it spoke volumes to him. If she were indeed sincere, which he could not bring himself to believe despite her actions, would it be any different than when he had finally succumbed to the "lighter" side? Where would he be today, if not for the belief and support of the X-Men? Their willingness to give him a chance and build their trust in him? He supposed they had not felt much less dubious when he took over as headmaster of the school, but they had at least given him the chance to prove himself. Could he do any less?

Besides, he thought, her telepathy could be very useful in solving the twins problem, eventually. He could ill-afford to trust her with any sort of information like that right now, but if she proved herself reliable and devoted to their cause, she might be the answer they had searched for. It seemed odd that such an obvious answer should be thrust into his lap at such a time of despair, but could he, in good conscience, throw such an opportunity away without exploring it first?

"Well, Magnus", her voice cut into his thoughts as she turned back toward him. "What is it to be?"

Theresa Cassidy rubbed a tired hand across her chin, the monitor seeming to blur before her eyes as she watched. Blinking heavily, the blue screen returned to focus, showing the still empty grounds surrounding Alpha Flight's base. Empty was boring, she thought, but empty was also good. That meant yet another day without being attacked on their home ground.

With a yawn, she ground one hand against her bleary eyes, taking a glance at her wristwatch before looking back the to the screen. Rahne should be here any minute to take watch, then she could get some much needed sleep.

It had been a rough couple of weeks since Magneto had found her and somehow convinced her to take up the job of reforming Alpha Flight. She had managed to round up a few members of the former team; Persuasion, Sasquatch, Puck and Northstar, and rounded the team out with herself and Rahne. Six was not many in this day and age, but she supposed it was a good start.

They had done nothing but train in the weeks following, trying to bring the individuals together as a workable team, and it seemed to be going well. Magneto had insisted that Canada needed to gather together its mutants in order to help take back the land that was rightfully theirs. Siryn wasn't Canadian, but it had been a long time since she had something to believe in, and she desperately needed something to do besides dwell on the past. She had let sorrow and chaos claim her for too many years.

Her father had been years in his grave, but there wasn't a day that went by that she didn't think about him, regret the time she had let slip by without seeing him. Warpath had followed him, scant months later, and even Deadpool had disappeared during the chaos of the Psi-War. Almost everyone who had ever mattered to her was gone, she had nothing left to believe in. Mutants and heroes died all around her, the Shadow King becoming more and more powerful with each passing day, and she had let the darkness of sorrow claim her after a time, seeing no reason to continue fighting. She had started drinking again, heavily, losing herself in the refugee camps of humans, passing herself off as one of them. There had been many mornings when she awoke with no sense of who she was, or of her past, and on some level, that had made her happy. The alcohol had kept it all at a distance, made it all seem unreal, somehow.

Then the Shadow King had been defeated, and Magnus had come, offering promises of a better world, much as Xavier had done years before him, had taken her in, gotten her off the bottle and back on her feet. She had stayed with his faction of the X-Men for several years, training, learning, getting herself back together, and finally had proved herself a worthy teammate. More than worthy, she supposed, since he had sent her out here to start another team. With time, Magnus had seemed like less and less of a leader to her, and more and more of a father figure. He had been there for her at every turn, guiding her back toward the life she had given up ... giving her something to believe in, to live for, again.

It hadn't been easy to leave them, to start off on her own again. At times, she still thought of herself as the helpless drunk she had lived as for so many years. She hadn't been sure she was up to the task of leading this new group, but she had to admit she was proud of the way things were turning out. A few more months and they would be ready to go out into the world and start cleaning up Canada. Granted, the task was much easier here than it was in America. The wilds of Canada had not been as grossly affected as their neighboring country, but there was still much damage to be healed. Yes, the new Alpha Flight was certainly destined for great things, she thought with a smile.

Lost in her thoughts, she failed to notice as six light blue dots crept onto her monitor.

Then, everything seemed to explode.

Kitty sat, staring at the communications console almost angrily. It had been a good hour since Bobby had cut off their conversation earlier, and she was beginning to worry terribly about what may have happened to him. That, added to the nagging feeling she'd had lately, did not bode well for her thoughts. It was a tickling in the back of her mind, really, a strange sense that ... something had changed. It almost seemed familiar somehow, as if she had experienced it before, a long time ago. If she could only concentrate long enough to figure out when ...

She started as the comm beeped to life, announcing an incoming call and breaking off her train of thought. Quickly, she depressed the button that would transmit the call and watched as Bobby's face coalesced into being from the dots of static.

She could tell immediately that something was wrong. His face held none of its usual good humor and his eyes looked almost haunted. The admonition she had been about to deliver to him for worrying her so died in her throat. "What is it?" she asked urgently, forgoing the usual greeting.

"I need you and Colossus to get out here immediately, Kitty", he said severely.

"What? Why?", she asked, beginning to get annoyed with all the tension. "We can't just up and leave--"

"Listen to me, Kitty", he said, quietly, gravely.

And she did, brown eyes growing wider and more horrified with each sentence.

"Katya!" Piotr called urgently as he descended into the communications hub. "Katya, where are you? What is it?"

Switching to the armored form of Colossus, the young mutant raced down the hall, searching desperately for Kitty. He hadn't sensed that she was threatened when she had contacted him, but she had sounded very upset before telling him to get down here and cutting the call short.

As it was, he almost ran into her as she appeared around the corner of the hall. Nearly stumbling and falling on her anyway, he switched to his human form once again as he regained his balance, staring at her in silence as he watched the tears course down her cheeks. "Katya ... what is it?", he asked softly, wrapping his arms around her.

"A miracle", she replied in a broken whisper. "Oh, Piotr...", she pulled back to look at him with wide, brown eyes. "Illyana ... it ... she ... she's alive."


Continued in Chapter 4


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