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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


"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 right now.

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, and quickly."

"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 ... captive."

"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 hopefully.

"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, non?"

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 6


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