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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


From deep within a sleep that almost felt like death, something stirred and awakened. Dreaming ... she was dreaming, though she realized it not, the scientist thought as he watched the EKG waves spring to life and begin their sudden movement. Pleased beyond anything he could have imagined, a frightening, feral grin spread over his features.

And nearby, his subject continued to dream.

Soaring ... she was one with the cosmos, blazing bright as a star, at once both one with the universe and yet apart from it. She felt the cold vacuum of space as it moved aside to let her pass, the warmth of a sun consume her as she passed through it, reveling in the beauty, the perfection of it all. She was elated, her heart racing in her chest with a rhythm that matched her silent race through the diamond lit backdrop of space. Raising her face toward the nearby sun, she basked in the touch of its rays, the golden glow lending her smile an almost heavenly quality. Home ... she was home again...

Illyana whimpered and turned uneasily in her sleep, much to the dismay of those two who watched over her, not quite daring to wake her. Cold sweat poured from her brow, and she sat bolt upright in bed, as if finally having sensed their presence in the room. Eyes fluttering weakly in the dim light, she struggled to make out their faces, her heart fluttering and racing still with the fear of her dream. And then there were arms around her, one pair strong and comforting, the other slim and loving. "Piotr? Kitty?", she asked breathlessly, almost not daring to hope.

She felt their nods more than saw them, and sagged with relief into their embrace. "God, it's so good to see you ... I thought I ... I might never see you again," she whispered softly, tears beginning to flow from her eyes.

"Why Illyana ... what made you think you could ever be rid of us?" Kitty asked, leaning back from her and smiling. But something was wrong, Illyana sensed. Kitty's voice had changed at the end ... and her face ... oh, her face!

Illyana covered her mouth in horror as Kitty's smile grew, seeming to encompass her entire face until it split in two, the halves peeling back to reveal the wrinkled, dark demon flesh below. Her teeth, now fangs, dripped with venom and her eyes flashed a violent red as she lunged forward with her gaping maw to encompass Illyana's head, snapping it off in one, clean bite.

Illyana screamed in horror and woke suddenly, incoherent and sobbing in the arms of her brother and her best friend.

Having gained control of his rage and checked in with a few of his informants, Sinister's polished air of refinery returned to him as he reached for the commlink. Pressing in the combination, he drummed his fingers lightly on the comm panel as he awaited a response. Three rings later, a woman's voice answered the call.

"I don't know who you are or how you got this number, but this is a secure line. Please clear the line now, you are unauthorized to be--"

"My dear, your trace will be done and you'll know who I am in less time than it takes to finish this sentence, unless I miss my guess ... and I rarely ever do. Be a love why don't you and put on your leader?" he asked, and though his voice was smooth as silk, the underlying threat was loud and clear in his tone.


With the faintest hint of a smile, he imagined the expressions on the other end of the line as they realized who their caller was.

"Um..Storm?" Alison called timidly from the doorway.

"Yes, Alison?" Storm asked regally, not turning as she continued to monitor the events below her in the Danger Room.

"I ... um ... there's a call for you ... "

And this time Storm caught the shaky sound in her voice, turning quizzically toward the younger woman. There was little that could shake Alison Blaire after all she had been through, Storm knew. This was no ordinary call.

"Who is it?"

"It's ... " Alison paused and licked her lips nervously. "It's ... Sinister, Ororo."

Without turning back to the control panel, Storm reached down and shut off the sequence in the room below.

Lockheed snorted in disgust, then sneezed indignantly as dust filled his nostrils, puffing in annoyance at the tight fit of the vent around him, wondering why they'd even bothered to install a system so small and useless. He paused as the shaft merged with another at a crossroad of sorts, taking the time to stretch his wings gratefully.

He had separated from Kitty almost immediately after her reunion with Illyana and making sure that everything was alright for the time being. Illyana seemed real enough, right enough, but his extra senses told him something here was very wrong. He'd known something was wrong the moment they'd arrived ... there was a smell of evil about the place ... only the faintest scent, but one he had registered immediately. He finished his stretch and sniffed the air tentatively again, searching for the source of the dark smell. A few steps and scents later, he had it.

It was coming from somewhere in the basement.

Magneto's anger was an almost palpable as the other X-Men entered the Briefing Room. Remy didn't even need to guess why they'd been called here. After the strike on Alpha Flight's base, he guessed that none of them really needed telling what was to happen next.

Remy glanced up in surprise as he saw Kitty and Piotr enter the room. Perhaps they were here to talk about Illyana after all ...

And indeed, Magnus held his anger in check as he nodded cordially to the two, waiting until they were seated before speaking. "Is she well?" he asked briefly, but not without genuine concern.

"As well as can be expected for a person who's been what she's been through," Kitty offered carefully.

Magnus nodded, then moved to the more important topic at hand. "And she still remembers nothing of how she came to be with us?"

"No," Kitty said regretfully, seeming almost uncomfortable at having to admit the fact in front of so many people. "But ... we do have a theory."

"Please, continue," Magnus replied with a sweeping gesture that gave them both the floor.

Kitty looked to Piotr questioningly, and Remy noticed the big man nod slightly, as if turning over the discussion to his wife. Kitty nodded, herself, then began. "We think it may be that this Illyana is not "our" Illyana, not the one we knew at all." She glanced about and saw the puzzled looks fixed on her, then continued. "You see, Illyana was not only raised in Limbo as a child, but she passed through that dimension many, many times in her older form. Limbo is nothing if not a nexus of timelines, a place where the walls grow thin between worlds, if you will. That is why she was always able to travel through it to anywhere in the world so easily. Much like the wormhole theory, Limbo is, only not just between points of destination, but actual timelines as well."

She paused again, letting the information sink in for a minute, and held back a sigh as she saw the odd looks exchanged around the table. If only they could see how confused Illyana had been ... how alone and vulnerable, they wouldn't even be wasting time on this meeting.

She gave in to her sigh, then rose from her seat, feeling the need to demonstrate as she explained. "You see, time is not constant in Limbo. Rather, all times exist at once all together in one place. It's a difficult concept, there are times when it boggles even my nimble mind, but I know it's true. Through every portal in Limbo, there is not only travel to another destination, but portals to other places in time. When Illyana was first taken into Limbo by Belasco, the X-Men had already been there and died, trying to save her. She spent many years there under his demonic influence, and when she finally escaped, she went backward in time, to the point when the X-Men had first tried to pull her out of the portal." She paused and cleared her throat, struggling with explaining the next part. "Given that theory, that all possible futures and pasts can exist in Limbo simultaneously, it is possible that there are thousands, maybe even a million Illyana's running around in Limbo. This could be one version from a timeline similar to ours ... or it could be the same Illyana we knew, who gave up her power during Inferno." She shrugged, realizing how confusing it all sounded. "She certainly has most of the same memories as our Illyana. Any way you look at it, though, she's still the only Illyana, though maybe not the one we particularly knew."

Kitty paused again, hoping vainly that they were getting it by this point, because if she explained it much more, she was going to start confusing herself. "So, all points in time seem to exist in Limbo. We think that this Illyana may have somehow found her way through them and escaped Limbo into this world. She remembers all the events up to the end of Inferno. While the rest of us remember the heroic sacrifice she made which cost her her powers and life as an adult, returning her to the age she was before she entered Limbo, Illyana remembers only sealing off Limbo and nothing more. She has no recollection of her life as a child after that, no memories of growing ill and dying of the Legacy Virus."

"Then ... you didn't tell her?" Remy asked curiously.

"Why should I have?" Kitty asked almost bitterly. "Why should I tell her that her life of hell came to a perfect, tragic end as we remember it? Doesn't she deserve this second chance she's been given to try and live a more normal life? I don't think that will happen if we tell her she's supposed to be dead."

Remy didn't know Illyana's whole story, but from what he had gathered, it didn't seem to be a happy one. Secrets could be dangerous ... but the girl probably did deserve a second chance, much more of one than he, himself, deserved. Why not let her have some happiness? He thought for a moment, then nodded, settling back into his seat.

Kitty seemed about to go on when Magnus interrupted. "So could this in fact, be our Illyana? The same one who sealed off Limbo at the end of Inferno? Could she have gotten caught in the time stream, somehow, after her sacrifice?"

Kitty looked at him uncertainly, then shrugged slightly. "It COULD be ... which would explain why she has no memory of events after Inferno. She could have trapped herself inside of Limbo when she sealed it off ... from what we gathered from Rahne, who was there, she found a young Illyana in one of the time streams in Limbo and made the demonic Illyana confront herself. It was seeing her own innocence that made the adult Illyana turn back to the side of good and sacrifice her powers and life as she knew it to save our world. We assumed that by giving up her powers, she regressed to the little girl she had been before she entered Limbo and attained her power. But perhaps ... perhaps that little girl we found afterward was only the younger version of Illyana that Rahne had found." Kitty's gaze seemed to focus sharply as she turned the idea over in her mind. "Yes ... that makes sense."

"And if that is so, then that only leaves one question ... " Magnus said ominously, and all eyes turned to him.

"What of the Darkchilde?"

Lockheed paused in the darkness of the shaft, his incredible sense of hearing picking up something shuffling in the blackness ahead of him, the first telltale sign of what had brought him down here in the first place. Freezing in mid-motion, he sniffed the air cautiously, silently, making no more noise than spider scuttling through its web. He couldn't see a thing though, and after a few moments of peering into the dark with his infravision, decided he must have either been hearing things or there were undead mice about the ventilation shafts. Chuckling softly to himself, he put one clawed talon forward to begin moving again.

It was then that he realized his mistake. The stench, which had grown stronger with each step of his descent, was now almost overpowering.

They were close, he realized suddenly, too close.

He had no further time for thought then as red eyes and gleaming claws sprang from the darkness all around him, burying him beneath their weight and screaming fury.

Remy had tuned out the meeting almost completely by the time it degenerated into argument between Magnus, Kitty and Piotr. He had heard enough to know that this "Darkchilde" was an evil side of Illyana that the girl had constantly battled against, and Magnus questioned the safety of letting her stay with the team. Kitty on the other hand, and Piotr too, for that matter, seemed to believe that it was best to wait until she showed some sign of her dark side before taking any action. They apparently believed that that part of her soul may have been purged by sacrificing her powers at the end of Inferno. Which left the question of course, as to why she still retained her other powers. Remy, for his part, didn't really much care about possible threats, he dealt much better with problems when they were thrown directly in his face. So, he agreed with Kitty and Piotr, in his own way, though he had let the conversation drop out of his conscious hearing when it became increasingly repetitive.

Glancing around the table, he noted Madelynes absence, then noticed Bobby and Lorna exchanging furtive looks, one always looking away when they caught the other looking at them. Amused, he hid his grin behind one hand as he watched the game of cat and mouse he was so familiar with. Poor t'ings, he thought, already in love and dey don't even know it yet. Hope it's kinder to dem dan it was to me in de beginning.

Their budding romance reminding him of his early days with Rogue, he caught her hand under the table and squeezed it tightly, turning to smile at her. His own smile abruptly faded when he saw the worried expression on her lovely face, emerald eyes fixed on Magnus, completely oblivious to his touch.

Realizing he had missed something important, he snapped his attention back to the man at the head of the table.

The subject had apparently changed, and Magnus wasted no time getting down to business either. No sooner than Remy looked to the older man, he knew what he was going to say. Magnus' blue-grey eyes were flashing in that old, familiar way, and Remy felt his heart sink to his stomach.

"We're going after Sinister," he said simply.

Sinister sat, allowing himself a slight smile as he switched off the comm. The first part of his plan had been set into action ... he had only to wait and everything else would fall into place.

If he had been given to humor, he would have laughed heartily at his foes confusion when he realized that Sinister had turned his own plan back upon him. While his foe had plotted to have the X-Men take Sinister out by impersonating him, he had unwittingly given Sinister the one piece of information he needed to make the X-Men go after his enemy instead. It had taken some improvisation, yes, but he had tailored it to fit his needs perfectly.

Oh yes ... Nathaniel Essex loved it when a plan came together.

"I simply can't imagine what could make Sinister turn on us like this," Remy overheard Lorna say to Bobby as they filed out of the room.

"With someone like Sinister? Who knows?" Bobby returned as flippantly as he could, though he was obviously uncomfortable in Lorna's presence.

"After working beside him against Shaw, I thought we had reached an agreement ... a truce of sorts."

"You should know Sinister only agrees to anyt'ing as long as it's beneficial to him. No longer." Remy couldn't help speak up as he passed them.

"And I guess you would know", Bobby replied, and it took Remy a moment to realize that there was, for once, no malice, no humor in his tone. It was a simple statement, and if laced with anything, it was with understanding, sadness even, perhaps.

Remy only nodded in return, and unable to stand strong in the penetrating gaze of the two, he turned and made his way down the opposite hall.

"What could make Sinister turn on us like this?"

Lorna's question reverberated in his head as he drew quickly away from them. Well, he could think of one thing ... worriedly, his eyes flickered toward his childrens door at the end of the hall.

"'Ro? Darlin'?" Logan asked worriedly as she entered the room, face ashen beneath the deep brown of her skin.

She looked to Logan as if in a daze, crystal blue eyes wide as her mouth worked to form words that seemed reluctant to come.

"What did he say?" he asked more gruffly, moving to her and wrapping his arms protectively about her waist.

She spoke as if her words were distant, coming from somewhere other than her conscious mind, gaze remaining fixed on some horror in the distance he could only imagine. "Jean..." she whispered. And in that one word were tied more emotions than he could put a name to ... longing, regret, awe, fear, love, hatred. He felt an icy hand wrap around his heart and begin to squeeze.

"What about Jean, darlin'?"

"No ... " she shook her head, visibly fighting for control. "Not Jean ... the Phoenix," she said with more force.

He felt his heart stop in his chest, unable to force out the next question that begged to be asked. Thankfully, Storm didn't need further prompting.

"She's back."


Continued in Chapter 9


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