The Resurrection Gauntlet
Chapter 3: FROM THE GRAVE
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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