The Resurrection Gauntlet
Chapter 5: SIFTING THE ASHES
"Oh, ye of little faith," Madelyne taunted from
the doorway of the control room as she picked up on Gambit's
thought, which was not hard to do, considering the way it
was bouncing around the room with Vertigo's special help.
Arclight hesitated at the sound of her voice, fist raised
high in the air, having been prepared to crush Gambit's skull
in as he writhed helplessly on the floor. That split second
was all Iceman needed to hit her hard and take her down.
Bobby Drake was not a killer by nature, though he had become
hardened with his years in this chaotic world. Killing seemed
to come so easily these days ... to their enemies, to the
humans, even to his own teammates. It was as if the value
of life had dropped very low suddenly, and people were deciding
to cash out while they still could. Certainly, he had done
his share of killing in the last eight years since the madness
of the Shadow King began, but he had never become a "killer."
He only killed when absolutely necessary or when left with
no other choice. Maybe it was because he was a throwback to
the old days, when the original X-Men had first formed, that
he still held his values as high as he did. Or maybe it was
just because he was a nice guy with a forgiving heart. But
whatever it was, it was the only thing keeping Arclight alive
He froze Arclight in a solid block of ice up to her neck
as Madelyne moved off, allowing her room to breathe even as
he rendered her harmless ... for about 30 seconds. Then she
burst free with an incredible rippling of muscle, and Bobby
noticed as she moved in on him, that she was absolutely huge,
somewhere near the size the She-Hulk had once been.
He wasn't about to find out what those muscles could do to
his ice-form. As she swung at him, Bobby brought up one arm,
not to block the blow, but to grab her fist and dodge the
hit instead. Her momentum carried them forward and they hit
the ground side by side, Bobby maintaining his grip as he
impacted hard against the concrete floor. Arclight looked
confused for a fraction of a second, then grimaced, and began
screaming in pain as he froze her arm solid, all the way through,
every muscle, every sinew, with the freezing temperature of
liquid nitrus. Then he gave one sharp tug and pulled the limb
free from her shoulder, watching as it shattered into a million
fragments of glittering ice shards.
Bobby Drake was not a killer, no, but drastic times called
for drastic measures.
He iced over the wound at Arclights shoulder as she fell
unconscious, preventing her from bleeding to death, then spared
a glance around the room to see how they were doing.
Illyana flashed back into the room next to him, Polaris at
her side, startling him as they appeared from nowhere, and
he had to fight every instinct to keep from pummeling them
with a load of ice. He sighed, then gave them a severe look,
motioning for them to be quiet as he caught sight of what
was happening across the room.
He watched as Madelyne moved toward Vertigo with a confident
calm, resembling nothing more than a cat about to play with
its prey. The younger girl was so busy trying to keep Magnus
and Gambit occupied that she had yet to notice the tall, deadly
woman approaching. And even if she had, it would have done
her no good.
The weakest link of the Marauders, Vertigo was only good
for disorienting opponents to make her teammates slaughter
of them that much easier. She had no power, no training that
allowed her to kill on her own, and she knew it. Just as she
knew she was in trouble, now. It made her nervous that she
could not see the entire room for the gigantic machine that
served as the bases brain. A hulking piece of metal with twinkling
lights and buttons, it descended like a tree trunk through
the center of the room, a good 20 feet wide in circumference.
Frowning, biting her lower lip in concentration, she focused
on keeping the two men down, knowing if she let them up she
was done for. But she wanted, in truth, nothing more than
to flee the scene and save her own hide. The entire team,
save Arclight, had already been killed, and she did not want
to be next.
Considering that, she began to back toward one of the gaping
holes in the walls of the control room, thinking to keep the
men disoriented long enough to make good her escape into the
surrounding woods. With any luck, maybe one of the others
would have the same idea and they could get out of this freezing
climate together. Vertigo had no love for any of her teammates,
but she hated being alone.
Her foot had actually touched the melted slush outside when
a sudden, jolting pain shattered through her skull, her brain
seeming to catch fire and explode. She died so quickly she
didn't even have a chance to scream before she hit the floor.
Bobby gave Vertigo a glance as she fell to the floor, watching
as smoke drifted from the girls nostrils, then looked to Madelyne
in astonishment. "What the hell did you do to her?"
Madelyne shrugged, not moving to help him as he went to Gambit
and Magneto, checking to see that they were alright. "Flash-fried
her synapses. The brain does run on low level electrical impulses,
after all," she said by way of explanation to his dubious
look. "Force them all to converge in a certain way ...
well, I don't need to draw you a picture, do I?" she
asked with a cool smile.
"No," he said shortly, turning his attention fully
to Magneto and Gambit. "They seem to be coming around.
They should be alright in a moment or two. It's Siryn I'm
worried about ... we need to get her some medical attention,
"Good. Holding up this room is getting boring,"
Madelyne replied nonchalantly.
In the absence of Magnus' power to hold the room together,
she had brought a telekinetic bubble forth to bear its weight,
something Bobby had been completely unaware of. It made him
extremely uncomfortable to think that most of their lives
had been saved by this cold, cruel woman, today.
"Iceman!" Illyana called excitedly from the other
side of the room. "I think she's coming around."
"You left Arclight alive?" Madelyne asked him disdainfully.
"Not all of us are heartless killers like you, Madelyne,"
he replied, standing and moving toward Illyana's voice.
"Hmm...," Madelyne called thoughtfully, almost
slyly behind him. "I wonder if Havok would have agreed
with that assessment."
Bobby stopped in his tracks, muscles between his shoulder
blades tightening as the barb drove home. Of the few times
he had killed, perhaps Havok had been the most ruthless death
he had delivered. During the X-Men's final battle against
the Shadow King, Havok had killed Firestar, otherwise known
as Angelica Jones. Not only had she been a wonderful person,
full of hope and promise for the future, but she and Bobby
had been in love. Havok had laughed in his face after killing
her, and Bobby had snapped, driving one of Marrows bone shards
into the other mans evil heart. It had been a harsh, irrevocable,
reprehensible act. And he had never regretted it.
"Being another of Havok's former lovers, Madelyne, I
should think you would be able to answer that yourself,"
Polaris commented as she floated a few feet above the debris,
rounding the "brain" of the base and coming into
full view. "I could."
Bobby bit back and smile and continued toward Illyana, letting
his own retort to Madelyne die unspoken. He wished he could
stay and hear the rest of the conversation, but there were
more important things to worry about right now. He rounded
the center "brain" to find Illyana hovering cautiously
over a moaning Arclight. "Okay, Illyana. I want you teleport
everyone back home right away. Siryn and Arclight need medical
attention, and I'm sure Magnus will want to question our ...
"What about you?" she asked, seeming concerned.
"I'm gonna stay and do clean up duty. See if there are
any ... other survivors."
"Count me in for dat," came a thick cajun accent
from behind him. Bobby had no great love for Gambit, but in
that moment he found himself grateful to the cajun for his
offer. There was no way he wanted to stick around this place
all by himself.
Bobby sighed and shook his head. After two hours of picking
through the debris, they had yet to find a single living soul.
They had found Rahne not far from where Siryn had been, buried
beneath what seemed like a ton of brick, a testament to the
dangers of Arclights brute strength. It looked like she'd
gotten her own licks in before she died, though, if Scalphunter
and Harpoon were any indication. It was hard to tell what
had been brought down with bombs and what had been destroyed
by the Marauders sheer strength, but Bobby found himself silently
thanking whatever power might be listening that all the bodies
they had found so far, save Rahne, seemed to have been incinerated
by the initial bomb blast.
The bodies of the Marauders they simply let burn, but the
others he had gathered together in a coffin of ice to be transported
back home and buried. Every X-Man who had died so far was
buried in New York, on the original mansion grounds. It was
a tradition by now. So many of them had lived their entire
lives there that it only seemed fitting that they find eternal
rest in the same place. Alpha Flight may have been Canadian
and not truly part of the X-Men, but they held the same spirit
and deserved to lie beside their fellow mutants.
Among the missing, he counted Puck and Northstar. He was
quickly coming to the conclusion that they were so deeply
buried that he might simply never find them. Disgusted, he
threw himself down on a pile of debris, something that might
have been a bed once, before it burned, and looked up at his
partner in this unpleasant business.
"What do you think, Remy?"
Gambit eyed him quietly for a moment, drawing a cigarette
from seemingly thin air and tapping it lightly against one
finger before placing it between his lips. Using his kinetic
energy to light the tip, he took a deep drag and then exhaled
a sigh of his own. "I t'ink dere's too many coincidences
happenin' here, non?"
"That's exactly what I was thinking," Bobby nodded
in agreement. "Madelyne mysteriously returns from the
dead, begging for sanctuary with us, which Magneto, for some
stupid reason, gives her. Then, not an hour later, the Marauders
mysteriously rise from the dead as well, attacking Alpha Flight
and killing most of them. We rush to get here, thank God for
Illyana, and Madelyne ends up saving most of our butts."
He chewed on the inside of his jaw in irritation. "Seems
kinda odd, doesn't it?"
"You still believe in God?" Gambit asked curiously,
seeming to ignore the rest of his words in favor of that one
statement. Then, he shrugged as if it didn't matter and changed
to the topic at hand. "Yeah ... Madelyne, de Marauders
... both belong to Sinister to some degree." He frowned
and exhaled slowly into the darkness. "Sometin' big happenin'
here, Bobby. An' I don't t'ink we gonna know just what it
is for a while, yet."
Bobby nodded again, this time silently, lost in his thoughts.
After a few minutes of silence between them, he spoke again.
"Maybe Sinister thought this would be a good way to
have Madelyne "prove" herself. Maybe he sent the
Marauders here for just the purpose of giving Madelyne a chance
to fight beside us and save our collective butts."
Gambit chuckled bitterly and shook his head. "You really
are de conspiracy theorist, ain't you?" He sighed and
looked skyward, cigarette seemingly forgotten in his hand.
"It sound right up his alley, too."
"Then why are you chuckling at my theory?" Bobby
asked, squinting to get a better view of Gambit's face.
"Because it feel too much like Sinister. And if dere's
one t'ing I know about de man, it's dat you usually can't
ever tell he been involved wit sometin' until it's too late."
"Maybe we're just getting better," Bobby replied
"Maybe..." was all Gambit said, aloud. But in his
mind, he wondered if someone was maybe playing them all for
fools. Or maybe he was being even more paranoid than Bobby,
another voice spoke up in his mind. The whole thing stunk
of Sinister, and he had to admit he was badly shaken up by
seeing the Marauders again like that. It brought back too
many bad memories of the past, memories he had tried to forget
for eleven years without success.
He had worked for Sinister at one of the lowest points of
his life, when he had been desperate for the help the man
could offer, and had assembled the Marauders for him. To this
day, he felt responsible for each and every death they had
caused. And there had been hundreds. The Morlocks had been
the worst of it, but surely not the last. Alpha Flight was
only the most recent example, he thought, closing his eyes
painfully. All of the blood they had spilled was on his hands.
He had spent everyday since then trying to atone for his sin,
but he had finally realized that that was impossible. It would
always be there, like a blight upon his soul, just as Sinister
would always be there, waiting, watching, waiting for his
chance to seduce Remy once again to his side. All of this
coupled with the problems of his children added up to nothing
good. Sinister was back, and God help him, Remy didn't think
he was going to get away alive this time.
He flicked his cigarette out into the blackness of the night,
watching as the glowing ember at its end faded away into nothingness,
then turned to Bobby with a resigned sigh. "Back to work,
And in the darkness beyond the glowing embers of the remains
of the base, bemused, hidden eyes watched as the two turned
and headed back into the rubble. A dark chuckle and barely
a rustle in the underbrush later, the watcher was gone, off
to plot their next move.
Continued in Chapter
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