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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


The X-Men felt it like a physical blow.

Rogue's psionic scream tore through their minds with more rage, anguish and sorrow than they had ever thought possible, rocking each of them with its sheer power and stunning them with its raw emotion.

It seemed to go on forever, screaming its cacophony of emotions, and then ended raggedly, suddenly, as if the link had been abruptly severed.

"Dear God," Magnus whispered, his blue-grey eyes wide when he could finally open them.

In Southern California, Storm did not even bother to pull herself from the grass after the scream faded. She lay there, head in her hands, quietly sobbing for the death of one of the best friends she had ever known.

The Phoenix paused momentarily in her journey, hovering in the air with an expression of puzzlement. She had never felt such primal rage, such utter anguish, except within her own mind. For a moment, she sympathized with the woman who cried out for the loss of her love, remembering her own loss of Scott so many years ago.

But wait ... that wasn't right ... Scott had lost her, not the other way around. She had sacrificed herself on the moon to save the universe. She remembered saying goodbye, saying that she loved him, and then activating the old gun behind her with her telekinesis, scattering her atoms into infinity. That was right ... wasn't it?

It seemed to be right, yet she had a second memory struggling to the surface, one blurred and overlaid by other memories throughout the years. A memory of being reborn again, of finding Scott again, of marrying him. A memory devoid of the Phoenix power. One that cut off abruptly in a painful flash as she faced off against the Shadow King, drifting into darkness ... until now.

But that couldn't be right. The Phoenix had never been Jean Grey, though it had longed with all its heart to be. How could she have a memory of herself without the Phoenix power? She WAS the Phoenix. Wasn't she ... ?

Rogue crawled across the floor of her children's room, her soul in agony as the scream went on and on inside her mind. She was far beyond coherent thought now, her normal patterns of thinking jumbled in total chaos. It hadn't been the preservation of her children's lives, or even the preservation of the rest of the world's minds, that had made her break contact with Irinee' and Jean-Luc. It had been an act of pure instinct, the act of a wounded animal seeking shelter, the need to curl into a tiny ball and hide from the harsh truth hammering its way through her mind over and over again.

He hadn't pulled her into death with him, but she felt as if her heart, her life, her soul, had died with him. Only her body remained, and her mind ... and those were filled with nothing but a burning, all consuming feeling of loss.

Would that she had died with him than suffer to live like this.

Several miles from the decimated lab in Seattle, a figure appeared from nowhere with an audible pop of air displacement. Shaking his head, he surveyed the damage around him for a moment, then shrugged almost imperceptibly. It mattered not. He could always build again.

The dust of debris floated in the air about him, and he brushed it from his clothing disdainfully. Most would have considered a bit of dust a welcome alternative to the other outcomes of having been at the heart of such an explosion. But then, most people were not Sinister.

Without another glance around, he disappeared in the same manner he had arrived.

Rogue sat up suddenly straight and gasped, jarring Illyana from her state of semi-consciousness.

"He's alive," Rogue whispered, as if in shock.

Illyana squinted at her, debating on whether or not to argue that Remy couldn't possibly be alive after seeing the image Rogue had projected of his death.

"He's STILL ALIVE!" Rogue shouted, rising to her feet, and Illyana had never heard so much rage contained in three, small words.

"Who, Rogue?" she asked weakly, barely able to force the words from her mouth. The use of her voice set her into a fit of coughing, and she noted grimly that Sinister's failsafes were carrying out their work quickly.

"Sinister," the other woman answered, drawing the sibilants out into an eerie hiss, and Illyana felt a stab of fear shoot through her. The look in Rogue's eyes was akin to the look Illyana had seen in Wolverine's during his animalistic, berserker rages.

Only this was more frightening, and even less human.

The Phoenix could feel them inside her mind as she approached the complex. Two tiny awareness', so small, so fragile, so filled with power. How could they bear it, she wondered? Their power was enough to rival her own, and she didn't have a great history of being able to control herself.

The thought sent a pang of regret through her momentarily, and then she was distracted again by the power contained within the Arizona complex below her. She didn't bother with the formalities of a door, instead using her near god-like telekinesis to punch through the face of the cliff wall, on a path to collision with the two tiny minds that shone like a beacon, calling her in.

Irinee' and Jean-Luc's powers of telepathy were rapidly fading from Rogue's mind, but she hardly needed them to feel the presence that was barreling its way through the cliff toward her. Armed with the insanity of her rage, she turned toward the east wall of her children's room, prepared to defend them with her last dying breath.

The Phoenix burst through the wall without ceremony, throwing up a cloud of debris and dust which did nothing to hide the glowing nimbus of power that flowed from her form. So intent was she on finding the children who had involuntarily called to her, she was completely taken aback by the woman who launched herself at her, connecting a fist to her jaw with the force of a thundercrack, staggering the Phoenix backward.

Enraged by the woman's presumptuous attack, the Phoenix readied a blast of telekinetic energy, preparing to deal her opponent a quick death. Then she hesitated, the woman's face striking a chord of memory in her mind.

But that was impossible! She'd never seen this woman before in her life ... had she? A memory bubbled to the surface, breaking free of the confusion that clouded her mind.

They had been going after Magneto, and this woman ... Rogue ... had been pensive, almost distraught. She remembered touching the woman kindly on the shoulder, offering a word of reassurance, sympathizing with the confusion this younger woman felt. She distinctly remembered fighting alongside Rogue and the rest of the X-Men ... but how could that be?

Her hesitation cost her. Rogue's fist connected with her face again, sending her chin upward as she fell backward, landing roughly on the floor. Amazed, the Phoenix stared up at her with something like admiration. Very few opponents had ever been able to stagger her, much less put her down for even a moment. This woman had accomplished both in a matter of seconds. She could feel the rage that seethed from the other woman like a living thing, a rage that threatened to break her mind and pull her into a downward spiral toward insanity. The Phoenix recognized that feeling all too well, knew it all too intimately. She knew, too, that only blood could satisfy the hunger for revenge that coursed through Rogue's veins. This woman would do her best to kill her, and though she understood Rogue's current state of frenzy, she could not allow the woman to hit her again.

The Phoenix rose up from the floor, taking to the air to gain a better position on her opponent. If this fight was to be to the death, then so be it, but it would not be the Phoenix who fell today.

Illyana had rarely felt so small and insignificant as she did at that moment. From her position on the floor, she watched the two women engage each other with force more deadly than she had ever seen. It was like watching two titans collide.

Rogue smashed through the wall of her children's room, landing ungracefully in a heap in the hallway. Her entire body ached more than she'd thought possible. Usually her invulnerability protected her from even the worst of blows, but the Phoenix's power was far beyond most things she had experienced.

The Phoenix pressed her advantage, moving in close for another telekinetic blow. Rogue lay still, unmoving as she watched her opponent approach, a look of defeat claiming her features.

The Phoenix smiled with glee, caught up in the fury of the battle now, bloodlust singing through her own veins as strongly as it had through Rogue's mere moments before. Positioning herself, she prepared to deliver another hammering punch with her telekinesis-and was driven back into the room as Rogue launched herself like a rocket at the other woman.

Lodged halfway inside wall, the Phoenix steeled herself for another of Rogue's powerful punches, and was surprised when none came. Instead, she felt hands on her face, not cupping her gently, by any means, but certainly with much less force than the frenzied blows they had been exchanging.

Confused, she willed her telekinesis to push her from the wall. She had barely cleared the wall when she suddenly collapsed to her knees, staring up at Rogue in shock as she realized what was happening. Using all the considerable might of her telepathy, she tried to fry Rogue's mind, shut it down, anything to stop this strangely violating exchange ... and was shocked again by the barrier surrounding Rogue's mind that stopped her dead.

There was an alien consciousness mixed in with Rogue's, one that the Phoenix was not used to dealing with. Given time, even a few minutes, she probably could have worked her way past the barrier, but she did not have the precious time needed to learn how to navigate it. Already, the world was swimming into blackness around her as Rogue siphoned off her power at an alarming rate.

In the depths of her now-primal consciousness, Rogue discovered an idea.

She wanted, NEEDED, to kill Sinister. The knowledge that Remy had sacrificed himself for nothing gnawed at her like a ravenous wild animal. Unable to reach the focus of her hatred at the moment, she had instead vented her rage against this woman, hoping that her death would satisfy the need for revenge burning in her blood. But blow for blow, punch for punch, she had found no satisfaction.

Now, at the moment she was about to snap the god-like woman's frail neck, a more crafty idea occurred to her. This was the Phoenix, an incredible powerhouse the likes of which had rarely been seen. A near-goddess with the power to destroy entire solar systems ... the kind of power that could take out a man like Sinister, easily.

Pressing her bare hands against the woman's face, she began to draw out the power inside of her, letting it fill her with its warm glow.

The Phoenix struggled against Rogue's iron grip, refusing to let herself be stolen, to be used like this.

Growing weaker by the second, she could almost see the power leaving her body, her own fiery glow growing weaker as it began to envelope Rogue. Her power was deserting her. Desperately, she tried one last time to strike at Rogue's mind, but this time she was unable to even pull her concentration together enough to begin such an assault. Pulled under slowly by the darkness that sought to claim her, she found that her memories were still intact and reached out, clinging to them eagerly, clinging to anything that would help her keep her identity. She had been a woman without a sense of who she was so many times ... so many times lost, so many times dead and reborn. How could anyone know who she was?

Rogue could steal her power from her, perhaps, but she would not take her soul. Holding stubbornly to her memories, she followed them downward into blackness.

Rogue was overwhelmed by the sheer power she was absorbing. Her training with the Brotherhood had taught her many things about controlling her power, mostly how to separate memory from power and choose which to take from her opponents, but nothing had prepared her for the primal fury housed in this creature.

The Phoenix's awareness blurred and mixed with her own, and she found her thoughts shifting back and forth between her own and those of the woman whose power she was stealing. She felt gloriously alive! Brimming, almost overflowing with energy and power. As with her children, she had the same sense of world-awareness, of being able to touch every mind, everywhere. She saw the world in whole new way with her newly acquired telepathy. It wasn't sight so much as sensing, waves of telepathy reaching out, wrapping around every object it encountered and giving a sense of shape, color, even texture. It was beautiful! A way of seeing that she'd never imagined ... and one that she had no time to enjoy.

Carefully, she avoided drawing out the woman's memories, not wanting to assume any more of the Phoenix's persona than she already had, and concentrated instead on drawing out every last bit of mutant ability she possessed. It was difficult ... the woman struggled valiantly against Rogue's efforts, and if Rogue had been more aware of the situation, she probably would have thanked God that the Phoenix was not currently at full power, still re-learning her abilities and limits as she was. Even as it was, the Phoenix's persona threatened to overwhelm her own, and it was all she could do to hold on to reality, however fragile her grasp might currently be

She felt as if she would burst, and still, she consumed more, her hunger driven as much by need for revenge as the Phoenix's own hunger for power, now.

Even with her eyes closed, Illyana could tell that Rogue was glowing with the intensity of a star. The white light penetrated the thin cover of her eyelids, striking through her eyes and into her brain with stabbing pain. Whimpering, she ducked her head toward the floor, trying to shut out the burning light.

A moment later, the pain behind her eyes paled in comparison to Rogue's voice as it boomed through the small room.


The light was suddenly extinguished as her voice cut off, and Illyana found the ensuing silence much more disconcerting than anything that had come before.

When she finally dared to open her eyes, Rogue was gone and the Phoenix lay unconscious on the floor.

Sinister pondered as he sat in front of the computer screen in his mini-lab in Nevada. It was a sparse lab, and not much of a base of operations, but it would do for now. He had others that were more well-stocked, but this one won out by proximity.

His battle with Remy, the loss of his main lab, was already forgotten as he turned his attention to far more important matters.

Reaching out with his telepathic power, an ability he seldom used these days, he sought out the X-Men to see how their mission was faring. After all, why make plans when he wasn't even sure the world would be here tomorrow? he thought with a bitter smile. If they hadn't dealt with the Phoenix, then it would be up to him to try, and he doubted he had the time he would need to figure out a way to take her out.

Cursing the range of his power, he pulled on a psionic amplifier and settled back down in the chair.

He didn't even have time to reorient himself before a telepathic message slammed into his brain with the power and speed of a locomotive.

"I'm coming for you, Sinister." The female voice hissed with evil glee.

Sinister pulled the amplifier from his head with a grunt of pain, throwing it across the room in a fit of rage. Angry as he was though, he found that another, less familiar sensation was nagging at him. I'm coming for you... the voice echoed in his mind again.

And though one wouldn't have thought it possible, Sinister's complexion turned an even whiter shade of pale.


Continued in Chapter 16


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