The Resurrection Gauntlet
Chapter 8: DEEPER INTO DARKNESS
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"'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
"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.
Continued in Chapter
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