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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

Chapter 13: TRIAL BY FIRE

Rogue hadn't even fully awakened before she knew something was definitely, inherently wrong. The house was quiet, far too quiet for this hour of the morning. Placing a hand to her groggy head, she moaned in pain and sat up.

And then the memories came rushing back, filling the gaping hole in her mind with a speed that almost sent her spinning back into unconsciousness.

Remy! Remy was gone! She leaped from their bed, losing her balance and crashing hard into the night table beside it. Undeterred, her invulnerability keeping her from feeling anything, she arose from the wreckage in a panic. Remy had gone after Sinister ... and the children. The children! That was what was missing. There was no sound from the outer rooms, no squeals of delight, or peals of laughter to break the morning's silence.

Rushing from her room, she took off straight down the hall toward Illyana's room in a frenzy.

They could all feel the presence as they landed in California, like a force of nature, beyond all reason, beyond all comprehension, beyond all human grasp of emotion. If not for their hard years of mental training as X-Men, they would have been swept away totally by it, even drawn into it, like moths to the flame, so close to the source.

"Siryn, you stay behind with Madelyne," Magnus ordered as they exited the jet.

Siryn looked down with more than a little trepidation at the woman being submitted to her care. She wasn't positive, but she was pretty sure that this bluish tone wasn't the woman's natural color.

Flames rose about her form as Henry McCoy looked on ... he thought it was perhaps the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. A nimbus of fire that completely surrounded her statuesque body in the form of wings, like an angel straight from heaven, or hell, depending on which version you subscribed to. He was so enraptured by her beauty and his own success, he had no fear for his own life in her presence.

His mistake.

Magnus was taken aback by the sight that greeted him within the derelict complex. He had never personally gone up against the Phoenix, though he had certainly read and heard enough about her. But none of it described the majestic presence of such a creature. Watching Henry McCoy twist within her fiery, taloned, claw, he was so enraptured that he, too, nearly forgot the danger they faced.

"Wake up, Mags," it was Logan's voice, prompting him from his awe-inspired state. "This is our act."

He looked to the man, seeing the lines in his face for the first time since he had known him. Logan looked to be as old as Magnus himself, but it rarely showed on him like it did now. His gaze falling on the rest of the group, he noted their hesitation as they, too, took in what they were facing. For all that Logan had spoken, no one moved an inch, each consumed by their own thoughts.

Jean ... oh my dear friend ... was all Storm could think as she watched the scene before her with infinitely sad blue eyes.

Jean ... Bobby thought bleakly as he watched one of his oldest and dearest friends about to commit murder.

By the White Wolf ... Piotr marveled, riveted where he stood.

Only Logan's mind remained perfectly silent, as still and solid as his body, though the sheer force of power being exerted here was enough to drive the other X-Men backward. Only his eyes gave way, squinting against the glaring fire in the night sky, and the emotion held within those black depths was known to neither God nor man.

The concerned thoughts emanating from the group were an open book to the fiery creature, and she hesitated just for a moment as she stared at her former friends gathered about her. She had memories of these people ... fond memories for some ... especially the one whose thoughts she could not read. His mind spoke nothing to her, but she sensed it was only his supreme effort of will and her lack of directly trying to probe his thoughts that kept him secreted from her. Like half-remembered dreams, she saw his face ... behind a ... bouquet of flowers in a hospital ... ?..she had been ... hurt? Sick? Or had he been hurt? Had they both been hurt ... ? Another flash, and he was above her in agony, claws extended, somewhere ... on ... the moon? He was going to ... kill her? Save her? But ... he didn't ... couldn't ... because ... because he ... loved her?

She couldn't hold onto the images, and they escaped her grasp like quicksilver, gone before she could truly understand them. But she knew the feelings they inspired within her ... and for just that moment, her energy nimbus wavered, flickering with indecision ...

It was then that Magnus recovered his senses and struck.

Rogue growled and screamed with frustration, kicking one of Illyana's pillows across the room. They were gone, as surely as the rest of the X-Men were gone, as surely as Remy was gone, and be damned if she knew how to find any of them!

The sun was just cresting the mountaintops of Seattle as Remy reached his destination. A sense of delirious anticipation filled him as he made his way into Sinister's complex, certain that he would find the geneticist completely unaware.

Sinister watched Seera go down without emotion, knowing he could clone her again at any time. The woman was of less than importance right now anyway; he knew exactly what was happening.

The Phoenix brushed off Magnus' attack as one would swat down a gnat, her indecision of mere seconds ago completely gone, sending one of her fiery wings out to snatch him up. "You play with your life, old man. Tell me why I have been summoned to this plane again and I might yet let you live!"

Helpless for perhaps the first time in his life, the most powerful mutant on the face of the earth found himself completely at a loss for an answer.

Remy made his way through the bowels of the complex, finding that his mind remembered the path through the tunnels with too much ease for his comfort. There had been a time when he knew them by heart, could have found his way through them in complete blackness, a time when he had run missions for Sinister on a regular basis through these tunnels. But even worse than these tunnels, were the Morlock tunnels, and Remy could never forget how the blood had run through the gutters that day, staining the stone and earth as irrevocably as it had stained his own hands. He had never forgiven himself for that day, but neither had he forgiven Sinister for placing him at the head of such a massacre. The worst part was that no had ever figured out why, exactly, Sinister had launched an attack on the mostly passive, reclusive group of Morlocks. There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to it, and that made the slaughter all the worse. A killer kills out of necessity; a murderer kills indiscriminately. And for all that Remy had been responsible for quite a bit of death in his time, therein lay the difference between the two of them. In a world where justice still existed, Sinister would have been put down like a rabid dog long ago, but instead he had been allowed to run free and destroy every life he came across, in some way or another.

With all the hate in his heart, Remy gritted his teeth, the sense of anticipation never leaving him. He had waited far too long for this moment ... a moment when at last, he would hold the final card over Sinister's head, winning the pot and taking all.

And for all that simultaneously, several states away, the X-Men were being completely taken aback, shocked, suprised and awed by the Phoenix, no mutant on the face of the earth was more surprised than Remy when he finally reached the heart of the complex and saw his children there.

Wanda Maximoff wrestled with several different levels of emotion as she watched her father fall mercy to the creature's energy tendrils. She did not know the woman personally, but she knew that she would never get the chance to know her father if no one spoke up right now.

"I know why!" she called out, stopping the flurry of activity around her, cold.

"I am not in the mood for this, Remy," Sinister sighed tiredly as the X-Man stepped into view.

His thoughts in utter chaos, Remy simply stood and stared at the scene before him. Once, in his youth, he had been hit in the solar plexus with a baseball bat, forcing all the air from his chest and leaving behind a burning ache that starved for breath, an ache that pulsed and thrummed to the marrow of his bones and pounded through his body like a jackhammer. The sledgehammer that hit him in the chest now had nothing on that. Irinee' and Jean-Luc sat like tiny dolls before Sinister, their delicate frames supported by steel chairs that looked more fit for electrocution than comfort. Bands of metal encircled their angelic heads, the dark metal in striking contrast to their snow-white hair, large green eyes wide as saucers as they stared straight ahead, almost zombie-like. He was shocked, horrified, and violated on a level so deep he couldn't even begin to fathom it. This was a perversion of reality, a nightmare sprung to life, and as he watched, Sinister smiled coldly and deliberately, ruffling Jean-Luc's hair with mocking parental love. Maddened beyond all reason at the sight of his children within Sinister's care, he launched himself at the villain, not bothering to use his mutant ability as he charged him.

"Really, Remy," Sinister commented as he casually side-stepped the attack. "I would think you would know better than that."

"Dat's de t'ing, Sinister ... I just never seem to learn," he snarled as he leapt again upon the geneticist.

The sound of his voice seemed to jolt Irinee' and Jean-Luc from their trance. "Daddy!" his children screamed as one, and he felt his heart wrench painfully in his chest as he spared a glance in their direction.

"I can save them, Remy," Sinister said slyly from beneath him. "The power of the Phoenix already threatens to overwhelm and burn out their tiny minds, like so many matches in the night. Already, I keep them from the fate which would be ultimately theirs, without my intervention."

Remy struggled with several emotions all at once, loyalty to his family, his debt to Sinister, the possibility of continued life for his children. He had run over this ground time and time again, had thought he had made his decision. And now, his moment in the spotlight had come and he could feel all logical thought draining from him as fear for his children overwhelmed him. It was their very nearness that caused his indecision. If they had been miles away, he could have acted out his plan with the knowledge that they were safe and sound, far from Sinister's reach. This gave Sinister a great deal more leverage, and Remy cursed in every language he knew as he tried to figure out how the man had beaten his hand once again. The hell of it was, he knew that Sinister wouldn't lie to him, Sinister never lied. He told only as much of the truth as need be, though, and Remy had to hope that there was more to the truth than the man told, that his children could be saved by other means. If he could only figure out a way to get them out of here ... he needed more time to work out a new plan. Unfortunately, time didn't seem to be a commodity he had available. Back to Plan A, den.

"No deal," he spat through gritted teeth as he bore all his weight down on Sinister's throat.

"A pity ... they shall die then, just as surely as you will," Sinister said, almost sadly as his body stretched and contorted, rising up from the floor and bringing Remy with it.

The Phoenix hesitated once again as she looked to Wanda for an answer. And Wanda, for her part, searched her mind desperately for one, finding nothing. I'm sorry, father, she thought, wishing vainly that he could hear her.

Henry McCoy, a.k.a. Dark Beast, continued his dance of delight, now released from the Phoenix's claws.

"Isn't she extraordinary?!" he asked of the group gathered before him, not seeming bothered at all when they did not answer him. "The only creature who might be able to take out Sinister once and for all!" he proclaimed madly. Then, finally taking some stock of the group before him, he frowned just slightly. "But ... where's Madelyne? She has to be here ... has to witness my ... our ... final triumph..."

Polaris realized two things within the time that Dr. McCoy spoke. One; Madelyne had been his other creation in this entire scheme, and two; he was playing with forces FAR beyond his comprehension. All of the others were so focused on the Phoenix that they seemed to have forgotten about the man behind her re-creation. She exchanged a glance with Bobby, unable to glean any emotion from his iced-over eyes. She couldn't tell if he had heard or not, but she knew if they were going to make ANY sense of this situation, they were going to have to get some information from the man in charge of this whole maniacal scheme. Calling her magnetic powers to her, she launched herself at the insane man with the velocity of a bullet.

Magnus, realizing that Wanda had bought him time, but not his life, searched his mind for an explanation that might satisfy the creature. He had no idea why Dark Beast would have brought this powerhouse of a madwoman back to life, unless he meant for her to destroy the world, and Magnus certainly wasn't going to encourage that. Then, all of his thoughts came to a grinding halt as he watched the Phoenix stop Polaris dead in mid-flight, sending her backward with all the velocity she had been flying forward. There was a sickening thud as her body hit the side of the jet, putting a deep dent into the gleaming hull. As if in slow motion, he heard Bobby cry out, saw the Phoenix turn her head just slightly away from him, gleaming eyes falling on Polaris as her right hand came up, poised for what looked like a killing blow. He summoned all the air that he could, feeling the heat of the air around him searing the delicate tissue of his lungs as he inhaled. It didn't matter, he would not be beaten, would not see anyone die for so pathetic a reason as lack of voice. "No!" he choked out, not caring what he blurted out at this point. All she needed was something to focus on, and that, he could give her. "You have been called here to save two children, not to kill!"

The Phoenix settled her burning gaze on him with a dubious air. "I have been far better known as a Destroyer rather than a Savior, mortal." And a twisted smile appeared on her dark, beautiful face, a smile that sent cold chills through Magnus' body ... a smile that he knew he would see in his nightmares for years to come.

"Lorna!" Bobby cried out with more anguish than he thought he still possessed as he saw her go down under the Phoenix's onslaught. His heart thudded to a stop in his chest as she hit the side of the Blackbird and slid slowly down it to the ground. No! Dammit, not again! he thought as he ran to her side.

And above them all, from the fiery bird in the sky, came a keening wail of mad laughter that was heard in every mind across the world.


Continued in Chapter 14


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