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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


It was insanity, Sinister thought as he reviewed the files that the computer had pulled up. Bringing back such a being could only spell Armageddon for this already faltering world. And he could only assume that that was the intention of the mysterious person who had sent this baffling message. What else could it possibly mean? Someone was toying with him, giving him a glimpse of their hand before laying their cards out on the table and ending the game completely. For everyone. What kind of maniac would be so arrogant and - Maniac, he thought, his mind snagging hold of the word. Maybe he did know what kind of maniac would dare, at that. Sinisters visage twisted into a snarl, and his fingers dug into the lab table with such strength that the metal buckled beneath his rage.

"Damn the fool," he swore beneath his breath, red eyes lighting up like twin fires, almost blinding in their intensity despite the bright lights of the lab.

"What's the matter Gambit ... can't sleep?" Madelyne purred in her throaty, knowing voice as Remy passed her in the hall.

Considering, he turned to face her, red eyes flashing in the semi-darkness as he studied the gloating expression she wore almost constantly. As if she had some secret that gave her ultimate power over every other being around her. He broke the gaze and ran a tired hand through his hair, knowing that he must have looked much worse than he felt, like an addict who'd been too long without a fix.

"S'been a long day, petite, neh? Too much t' t'ink about for me to sleep."

Madelyne smiled, an almost predatory smile, he noted, as she sauntered closer to him, hips swaying provocatively. "I agree ... why sleep when there are so many more ... exciting things to do?" she asked suggestively, her voice dropping to a husky whisper. She moved closer still to him, leaving only a mere foot of space between their bodies, emerald eyes fixing on his admiringly on his frame.

If she had been any other woman, Gambit simply would have finessed his way out of the situation with his not inconsiderable smooth charm. But with this woman, he thought perhaps a blunt denial would work best to get the message across. And that was if he was lucky.

He raised his hand to stroke his chin, as if in thought, making sure that the wedding band on his left hand caught the light. "Now chere, you know I'm a married man..."

"Yes," she replied, crossing her arms and looking at him with raised brows, her whole demeanor, her very poise set as if to say "and so what?"

"So den ... ," he said, beginning to turn away, as if that settled the matter.

Madelyne laughed aloud. "What's this? Nobility from the man who worked for Sinister and organized the Marauders?"

Remy stopped in mid-step, feeling his heart turn stone cold at her insult. Of all the things she could have said, that was the one that struck home the most. She really should have known better. Madelyne might be dangerous, might even be able to kill him, but he had never let good sense get in the way of avenging an insult. Barely turning his head to the side, his words were flat and cold as he spoke. "You know, for all dat you have Jean Grey's face, you got none of de lady's class."

Madelyne's anger rose like a flash-fire in mid-summer underbrush, her green eyes flashing dangerously. Remy could almost feel her anger like a living thing from five feet away, and he allowed himself a small smirk for pushing her buttons as well as she had pushed his.

"I could make you, you know," she sneered, her voice turning harsh and ugly, such a dramatic change from her normal seductive purr. "Reach right into your tiny little mind and pull your strings like a puppet."

Gambit turned slowly back toward her, purposely leaning casually against the wall, arms folded over his chest in apathetic challenge. "You certainly welcome to try, petite."

Enraged, Madelyne pushed out with all her might, thinking to at least render him unconscious and give him a raging headache as she no longer had a taste for his more carnal instincts. Shocked for the second time that day, she didn't manage to recover from the wave of power that shoved her backwards, and she fell ungracefully floor in a heap. Murder in her eyes, she snarled like a wild animal as she leaped to her feet, wondering where the hell this man had gotten psi-shields of that kind of power.

Gambit merely continued to smirk, allowing himself a few seconds of satisfaction as he basked in her hateful expression. Then he let his arms drop back to his sides and pushed off from the wall with his shoulder, turning away for the last time as he strode down the hall. "Sinister fixed us up good, non?" he asked over his shoulder with quiet sarcasm, leaving Madelyne sputtering in rage and disbelief behind him.

"God Remy, you look like hell," Rogue observed aloud as he stepped, almost staggering into the room.

"I got waylaid ... by a Mack truck," he replied with a tired wink as he practically fell down onto the bed beside her, thinking his statement had been fairly close to the truth, considering Madelyne's overtures tonight. Turning his face to one side so that he could look up at her, he smiled faintly. "So how's dat glass jaw, ma chere?"

She frowned unhappily at the mention of her injury, the jibe driving home the lingering feeling that she had screwed up badly today. Raising one hand to touch the left side of her jawbone gently, she nodded. "Sore. But Ah'll survive. The med-lab healed most of the damage."

"Well," Remy replied, sitting up to kiss her injured jaw tenderly. "Magnus took care of de femme but good. She won't be punching anyone in de jaw ever again." He paused, then added as an afterthought, "Least til Sinister clone her again."

"It's never gonna end, is it?" Rogue asked with a hopeless sigh. "We killed the Shadow King only to have other tyrants rush to take his place ... Ah want so bad to believe that we can put this world back together, make it a better place, the kind of place our children might have a future in. But we can't even protect them, much less save the world," she said bitterly, clenching her pillow tightly in frustration.

"Aw, chere. C'mon ... .," he said gently sitting up fully and circling his arms around her. "You know we'll find a way to help dem. We got time."

"But no options," she said, her frustration creeping into her voice.

"Well...," Remy thought for a moment, a vision of Sinister passing unbidden through his mind. Shaking the image off with a shiver, he concentrated on the situation and what few viable options they had. "Dere's Madelyne," he suggested, though not with much confidence.

Rogue snorted. "I'd sooner trust the devil himself than that snake in the grass," she spat sarcastically, and Remy supressed another shiver as the reference made him think of Sinister once again.

Forcing the unpleasant thought away, he managed a genuine smile, remembering. "You used t' call me dat, once."

"Yeah," Rogue agreed, smiling back as she thought back to their early days together, then turned somber as a thought occurred to her. "But this is different. She's the kinda snake that bites."

"Oui," Remy had to agree after a slight pause. "But she all we got right now, chere. We got to hope she can be persuaded, eventually."

Rogue sighed again and leaned heavily back into his embrace. "Ah guess, sugah ... but that don't mean Ah gotta be happy about it."

Gambit nodded and remained silent, holding her tight in his arms as he kissed the top of her head lovingly. He didn't much like the thought of needing Madelyne either, much less letting the woman near his children. But he could scarcely afford to consider the only other alternative. He'd had enough of Sinister in his life already to last him forever, and he was in no hurry to experience the mans not-so-tender mercies again. Any deal with the evil geneticist would be like a double-edged sword: not only would Sinister get what he wanted, but he'd make sure to twist whatever he gave in return in such a manner that no one won but himself. That was Sinister's way. And there was no way in hell Remy was going to risk losing this woman that he loved more than life itself, or his children, whom he loved just as fiercely. He had come too far, had too much to lose and had too many people depending on him now to simply throw away his soul. Had he had only himself to be concerned with, he wouldn't have thought twice about it ... but his life had changed a great deal from his solo days. And he loved it.

But if it came down to it, he wondered, could he let his children die instead of making such a deal? He knew he couldn't ... so he would simply have to make sure that it never came to that.

Bobby tossed and turned in his bed, unable to sleep after everything that had happened tonight. Incredibly, the part that bugged him most was the scenario between he and Lorna in the med-lab earlier tonight. He mentally kicked himself over and over again for letting something like that happen. He should have known better. Sure she was beautiful, sure he cared about her, but he really should have- "Ah, who'm I kidding?" he asked the darkened room out loud. "One look from her and I turned into quivering jelly. Who wouldn't?"

He sighed and rolled over onto his back, staring at the ceiling disconsolately. Now he had probably ruined the friendship he treasured so highly with her for good. She had been having a weak moment, caught up in the memories of her youth, and had let it sweep her away. He should have been stronger, should have stopped her, but the truth was, he'd never truly gotten over his feelings for Lorna, not completely. She had always held a special place in his heart over the years, but since they'd been on the team together, they had grown very close as friends, and those feelings, much as he denied them, refused to go away quietly. There was nothing standing between them now, save the fact that she deserved far better than Bobby Drake, he thought. And that was just it, he knew she deserved better than him. Lorna was a woman capable of great passion; she threw herself wholeheartedly into everything she did, and in the years following the Shadow King's domination, she had become one of the best soldiers this world had to offer. She had grace, she had poise, a presence that could, at times, make him feel like the callow boy he had been when he first joined the X-Men.

He had felt the same way about Angelica, once, but he had pursued her with good-humor, hiding the ache in his heart as best he could, never expecting to win, and finally, suprisingly, she had accepted him. Accepted him wholeheartedly and with more love than he had ever thought possible. Their time together had been short, but he had never forgotten a single moment of it. The pain had faded somewhat after six years, but he still missed her, longed for her sometimes at his side. And though he knew Angelica would have wanted him to go on without her, he shouldn't have let that need bleed out onto Lorna like that.

He only hoped she could forgive him.

Lorna's thoughts echoed Bobby's as she sat, watching over Puck while he healed. What the hell had she been thinking, walking away like that? Bobby must have felt like a complete idiot after she walked out on him, and he surely had to be angry, thinking that she had been playing some stupid game with him. She bit her lower lip and frowned. Why was it nothing ever turned out like she planned it?

She hadn't meant to try and kiss Bobby; it had simply happened, as if it had been the most natural thing in the world. And then, when Gambit had interrupted, she'd felt like a fool for trying to force herself on him so wantonly. If he had wanted her, he would have done something about it ages ago. Besides, she had already thrown him away once, many years ago when they were young ... why would he want to subject himself to that again?

She sighed, blowing her bangs up from her eyes with the release of air. The truth was, she had never completely stopped caring for Bobby ... and he had grown up so much, turned into the kind of man she could believe in, even follow had he the inclination to take up the role of leadership. But she had screwed that up years ago, unable to see the potential in him as a teenager.

She valued their friendship above any other, cherished it in a way that was only made more special by her feelings for him, which had grown in their time together here.

She only hoped he wouldn't stay angry with her for too long.

Illyana moaned fitfully in her sleep as a nightmare gripped her in its merciless claws. Hands reached out from all around her, demonic smiles above the arms in the darkness as they grasped for her, whispering ominously.

She turned and ran into the darkness, almost blinded as portals of light began to flash into existence all around her. Confused, she didn't think as she leapt into one of the portals, only wanting to escape. And then she was falling, falling endlessly through time and space it seemed, finally hitting the ground with a strangely painless thud as she struck the bottom. She stood, heart pounding heavily in her ears as she listened for any sounds of pursuit.

"Illyana," a low voice whispered from the shadows, and she turned, remembering her Soulsword for the first time as she drew it forth to combat this new menace. She recognized that voice ... from somewhere. It raised the hairs on the back of her neck for reasons she could not explain, forcing her mind backward into the almost primal thought patterns of childhood. Something here was very wrong ...

And then she realized. The eldritch armor that emanated from the sword to clothe and protect her seemed twisted ... deformed somehow. Reaching up with trembling hands to feel her forehead, already knowing in some dim part of her mind what she would find there, she nonetheless drew back in surprise as her fingers came in contact with two, long metal horns. And then she realized ... both hands were on her head, so her sword was ... .where? With horror, she saw it then, held up before her, coiled tightly in her ... forked tail ...

"Welcome home, Darkchilde," Belasco laughed mockingly.

"Master?" Seera inquired meekly from the doorway. She hadn't wanted to interrupt him while he was in such an obvious foul mood, but she would only suffer worse later if she didn't tell him what she had found, now.

In cold silence, he turned, ruby gaze falling on her with such intensity that it made her shiver. Submissively, she lowered her eyes to floor, waiting for him to indicate that she should speak.

"What?" he asked in a voice so unnaturally quiet that it sent chills down her spine. Swallowing against the dryness in her throat, she forced herself to speak aloud.

"There is something you should see," was all she said, having to wait only an instant this time before he nodded his acquiescence.

Timidly, she sent the images that she had just seen moments before into his mind. She didn't like it in here at all, his mind was a twisted, dark, confusing maze, but she made herself bear it, pushing down the queasy feeling in her stomach. She was a telepath/post-cog, in the best sense that she could categorize herself, and not a very strong one at that. She got visions of importance sometimes, like newsflashes from around the world, usually disasters, but only after they had already happened. Once, before the war, she had fancied becoming a news reporter, using her mutant ability to get the scoop on every important story and rise to the top. But the Shadow King had cut that career short, and now she found herself a lackey to this terrifying man, Sinister. But at least with him, she had relative safety, if not peace of mind. Sinister remained impassive as the images paraded inside of his mind, just barely hanging on to his temper as the story progressed. By the end, he was gripping the metal arms of his chair so tightly, Seera thought they might snap like kindling. Quivering in quiet terror, she waited, praying for his dismissal of her. She had never seen him so outraged, and the fact was only made worse by the way he contained it. That made it even more likely to be explosively volatile when he finally released it. She practically ran from the room as he nodded slightly toward her, glad to be away from his presence.

Sinister smashed his fist against one of the metal arms, the light steel screaming in protest as it twisted, damaging it beyond repair. "The Marauders," he whispered angrily, still managing to keep the utter rage from his voice. The game had gone too far, now. His old foe had finally overstepped their bounds. No one, but no one, played at being Sinister.


Continued in Chapter 8


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