The Resurrection Gauntlet
Chapter 15: THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
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
"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
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,
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
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
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
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
A moment later, the pain behind her eyes paled in comparison
to Rogue's voice as it boomed through the small room.
"I AM FIRE! AND LIFE INCARNATE! NOW AND FOREVER-"
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
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
"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.
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