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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

Chapter 4: INTO THE FIRE

For the second time that day, Magnus was surprised.

He had hardly re-entered the complex, Madelyne at his side, when Bobby Drake and Lorna Dane has had descended on him with astounding news.

"Illyana's alive?" he asked in disbelief. "Here?"

"I found her in Phoenix, about to get crushed by a Sentinel," Lorna supplied. "She had already taken one blast from it when I found her, but she seems to be recovering nicely in the med-lab."

"But how?" he asked, trying to assimilate the information, make it more real in his mind. Illyana had been one of the New Mutants while he was headmaster at Xavier's Institute, perhaps the only New Mutant with which he'd had anything in common. Her constant struggle against the darker side of her soul had formed something of a bond between them, since he had often fought the same war with himself. And Illyana, like he, in the end, had given all that was best and brightest in her soul to save the world. The only difference was that it had cost her all of her power and regressed her to the form of a child again. Not more than a year later, she had died, another victim of the Legacy Virus. That he knew, for he cringed deep inside at the memory of defiling her funeral with battle. That one event had set so many others in motion ... the least of which was not that her older brother, Colossus, had lost his faith in Xaviers dream and had joined Magneto's own Acolytes.

"We do not know, Magnus," Lorna's voice interrupted his musings. "She has only just become conscious. We thought you might wish to speak with her first, since of all of us, you know her best."

He nodded, and without a further word moved down the hall toward the med-lab, leaving Lorna and Bobby to gape at the red-headed woman who had stood silent, unnoticed, behind him all this time.

"Hello," Madelyne purred teasingly. "Miss me?"

Magnus entered the med-lab and caught his breath. It was, indeed, Illyana Rasputin, there was no mistaking her. He paused a moment, simply staring at her as her eyes lifted to meet his.

She was a little older than he remembered her, perhaps 18, but her face still glowed with the freshness of youth despite the fact that she was still pale from her ordeal. She looked in almost perfect health, unchanged since last he had seen save for a physical feature or two. The honey blond hair fell further down her back now, and she stood fully at about 5'7. But it was her eyes that he remembered more than anything else, those eyes that had held far too much wisdom and burden for one so young. Those, too, remained the same.

They stood in silence, staring at each other for a moment longer. What could he say to her? Magnus wondered. After all this time ... .

And then he saw the sadness, the confusion in her eyes, and he knew.

"Welcome home, Illyana."

Siryn groaned and sat up, holding one hand to the side of her head. She didn't know what had just happened, except that the world had seemed to explode in flames all around her. In fact, the flames were still burning, she realized as she pulled herself to her feet in the decimated control center. That could only mean they were under attack.

She stopped, forcing herself to calm against the tide of panic that threatened to claim her, listening intently for any sound of battle. Whether the crackling of the flames impaired her hearing, or there was nothing to be heard, she could not tell, but only silence met her ears above the burning. But where were Rahne and the others? she wondered frantically. She didn't know how long she had been unconscious, but it seemed they should have been launching some kind of counter-attack against their unknown foes by now.

She didn't want to think about why they might not be able to.

Wiping the blood and sweat from her eyes, she ignored the dull throb in her temple as she moved to the communications comm, praying that it was still intact enough to make one last call-and then the world turned upside down. She felt as though she were being twisted inside out, falling, her stomach
lurching in protest to the sensations that seemed to spin her body and perceptions out of control. Sagging against the console, she heard the tinkling sound of female laughter, as if from very far away as she fought to control her body.

"Got her, Scalphunter," that same, light, female voice spoke aloud.

And then Siryn knew who she faced, knew why the rest of her team was conspicuously absent. Gritting her teeth, she used all of her will to focus on the comm panel. Her fingers felt thick and clumsy, barely responding to her commands, but she couldn't let that stop her, not when so many lives depended on her. The code burned brightly in her brain, a distant voice yammering at her, urging her to hurry even as her fingers moved sluggishly over the number pad.

"Good work, Vertigo," came a man's voice, thick and sinister through the fog in Siryn's brain, and then she knew she was done for.

A spray of bullets erupted into the otherwise silent night.

In the back of her feral mind, Rahne knew she was hurt badly. She could smell the singed fur of her shoulder, the slowly drying blood that still flowed from the wound. But more overpowering was the taste and scent of the blood in her mouth from the man who had hit her with the energy harpoon. There was little but shreds left of him, now, and still her bloodlust was not sated.

Crouching down on all fours in her hybrid wolf form, she watched from the shadows as Vertigo laughed merrily at Siryn's predicament. She wanted to leap at the weak woman, tear her throat out while she still laughed, watch as the light slowly left her eyes. But she dared not do that, yet. The man was the greater threat, and she would have to deal with him first.

She waited until they stood close together, almost too close, and watched with her golden eyes as the man lifted his weapon against her friend and leader. She crouched lower, powerful muscles coiling tightly with strength yearning to be released, her sharp teeth bared as her muzzle drew back in a snarl, and leaped with all her might.

It happened so fast, Siryn was barely able to follow it in her sluggish state. She had begun to turn toward Scalphunter, at least wanting to face her attacker face to face before she died-and then suddenly, the room erupted in snarling fury and fur.

With incredible control, Rahne landed on Scalphunter's back, teeth firmly embedded in his neck even as she kicked out to the side with her powerful back feet, sending Vertigo flying across the room. She wasted not a second on triumph though, ignoring the cries of pain from the man beneath her as she sank her teeth deeper, feeling for the bone beneath the muscle. Finding it, she ripped and twisted with one powerful motion of her jaws, not so much severing his head as tearing it from his shoulders. Grunting in satisfaction, she spat out the head and watched as the body twitched once and went still.

She had accomplished her goal; the round of fire intended for Siryn had gone wide when Rahne hit him, lodging uselessly in the ceiling. With one look at her teammate to be sure she was alright, the wolf-woman turned her vicious attention toward Vertigo, who lay unmoving against the far wall of the control center. It was then that Siryn recovered her senses and the nausea subsided. Even as she
hurriedly turned back to the console and punched in the code, she heard footsteps thundering down the hall outside. That could only mean the rest, and biggest, of the Marauders had arrived.

Magnus had barely had time to more than greet Illyana when the distress call came through. Patched into the main speaker system through a special code, fuzzy and static filled though they were, the few broken words were enough to freeze everyone in the complex where they stood, their expressions horrified.

" ... Marauders ... .team ... under attack ... help ... "

The moment the communication cut out, he was in action. Moving to the speaker panel, he slammed one hand on the talk button, speaking with as much urgency as he ever showed. "Rogue, get a fix on that signal, now!" He was already certain, in the pit of his stomach where his hope began to sink, that he knew where the signal was coming from. He knew that voice, but he hoped ... Rogue's next words confirmed his worst fears.

"Already on it Magnus." He could hear the hesitation in her voice, and felt his stomach twist painfully. "It's comin' from Alpha Flight's base."

"Damn!" Magnus thundered as he slammed a fist into the wall in a rare display of temper, his blue-grey eyes sparking with helpless anger. "We'll never reach them in time," he muttered sorrowfully to himself as the anger seemed to drain from him suddenly, leaving him tired and hopeless. The rest of the X-men were silent as they poured into the hangar, ready to depart for Canada. From the back of the group, Illyana stepped forth, seeming sure of herself for the first time since he had seen her. With something like a smile, she touched her stomach and drew forth a sword of shimmering light from it, holding the weapon up before her eyes as if appraising it. The Soulsword, Magnus realized, the totality of Illyana's magical power and might. "Oh, yes, we will," she contradicted him.

Magnus didn't even have a chance to respond before they were all gone in a flash of light.

There was a flash of light, and then a sense of suddenly being ... elsewhere. Magnus barely had time to register the perceptions that danced just at the edge of his awareness. Dark shapes with glowing eyes, almost demonic as they twisted and coalesced into strange amalgams. He remembered briefly that Illyana's teleporting power relied on stopping off in Limbo before moving on to the eventual destination, and the reminder that she was still tied to such darkness sent a chill through him. Then there was no more time for thought as they materialized in the burning remains of Alpha Flight's base.

Iceman was in action first, ice power covering and killing the flames easily and clearing a path through the burning building toward the control room, which Magneto was already moving toward inside one of his magnetic bubbles at top speed. Iceman moved in behind him, clearing the path for the others, Gambit, Rogue, Madelyne and Illyana hot on his heels.

They had almost arrived when the entire building seemed to shake to its very foundations, bringing down entire sections of the ceiling, and this time Iceman used his power to try and catch the debris. But for all his power, there was too much of it. "That's gotta be Arclight," he hissed, straining to maintain the ceiling structure and catch all of the pieces at once. And then, suddenly, the load was lighter. Pieces of the ceiling began to move back into their proper places. Perplexed, Iceman risked a glance to see who might be helping him, and was extremely surprised to find Madelyne standing by his side. Without a word, they worked in silent tandem, she replacing the pieces with her telekinesis and he reinforcing them in place and strengthening the structure with solid ice. It took only a minute, maybe two, but they were both aware that every second that passed was precious. Bobby only hoped that Rogue, Gambit and Magneto would be enough to keep the Marauders at bay.

The situation in the control room was no less dire. Even as Magneto entered the room, it began to fall in on him under Arclights assault. But there was a reason he was called the master of magnetism. Using only the smallest portion of his power, he held the impending walls and ceiling at bay, encasing the entire room in a magnetic bubble. Turning his attention to the battle scene, he was immediately overcome with a rage so gripping, in some dim corner of his mind, he was almost appalled.

Siryn lay amid the debris of the room, her legs buried in rubble from what was likely Arclights first assault. From here, he couldn't tell if she were alive or dead, and Arclight apparently did not mean to give him the chance to find out.

With a predatory smile, she moved in front of Magnus to engage him, like a shark circling in on its prey. A moment later, her smug looked turned to one of surprise as she was bowled over by Rogue, who flew into her at top speed. The two went down in a tangle of arms and legs, and Magnus turned his attention to what concerned him most.

Or tried, anyway.

Riptide began his whirlwind spin, sending shrapnel and shuriken hurtling throughout the room. Gambit yelled a warning, then ducked behind one of the large, destroyed pieces of equipment for cover. Illyana winked out of existence, and Rogue completely ignored the hail of metal objects, impervious as she was to their effects. Her uniform was slashed in hundreds of places, but the skin beneath remained intact as she traded mighty blows with Arclight. Magnus felt his rage begin to burn like a living thing within him as the madman Riptide cackled and sent another wave of sharp objects at him.

With barely a flick of his hand, Magnus turned the tide of missiles back against their orginator. Riptide barely had time to look surprised before he was shredded with the sheer velocity of his own weapons turned back at him. Slowly, the whirlwind in the room calmed, then died. Of the former Marauder, there remained only a red stain. Again, Magnus moved toward Siryn, this time reaching her and kneeling beside her. Touching her tenderly with the same hand that had only moments ago meted out merciless death, he felt for her pulse. Then the room turned inside out.

Gambit saw Magneto go down under Vertigo's assault, but he had bigger things to worry about. MUCH bigger things, he thought as Blockbuster lifted him through the air by his neck until they were face to face. Struggling to breathe, he nonetheless met the dim-witted Marauder with a glare that could have frozen the heart of a volcano.

"Why fight us, LeBeau? You use ta be one of us," Blockbuster inquired as if he truly didn't understand.

"I was..never ... one of ... you," Gambit spat vehemently, Blockbuster's statement ripping open a wound he'd thought closed long ago. The rage he felt at being compared to these cold-blooded murderers, the guilt he felt for ever bringing them together, and the sneaking suspicion that he, in his own way, was no better than them for his part in things, all welled inside of him with one great burst of kinetic energy.

The first thing Blockbuster noticed was that his head felt sort of tingly. "What are you doing, LeBeau?" he asked suspiciously, too thick and dim-witted to catch onto the truth soon enough to save himself.

"Undoing the biggest mistake I ever made in my life," Gambit grunted out as he released the last of his kinetic energy into the large mans head, then pulled back quickly, trying to shield his face from the coming blast.

The effect was nothing less than spectacular. For a moment, Blockbusters head glowed almost as bright as a sun, filled to brimming with glowing, pink, kinetic energy. Then, it simply exploded with sickening pop, the remains vaporized as they hit the air by the sheer power of the charge. Gambits arms were burnt fairly badly, and his trench coat was ruined, but he was alive, he thought as he fell to the ground from Blockbusters lax grip. Gasping for air, he slid to the side quickly to avoid being crushed by the mans grotesquely huge body as it hit the floor.

Rogue spared a glance in her lover's direction as she heard the loud thump of Blockbuster's body against the floor, and sent him a smile. It cost her. Arclight connected with a right to her jaw that felt like it snapped her head off. Reeling backward toward the floor, she had time to think what a fool she was to take her attention off her enemy like that, and then the floor came up and seemed to swallow her whole.

"Damn," Gambit hissed as he crawled across the floor toward the unsuspecting Vertigo. Rogue was out, Magneto was down for the moment, there was no sign of Illyana, and he still had two Marauders left to deal with. "My kinda odds," he whispered to himself with a wry grin. Truth to tell, there were no odds. He was almost completely drained of power and weak from the use of so much of it. But Remy LeBeau always played the hand he was dealt, to the end.

"Vertigo! Behind you!" Arclight shouted.

And as the world spun sickeningly around him, Gambit scarcely had time for regret as he realized his luck had finally run out.


Continued in Chapter 5


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