Chapter Five - "Approaching Storm"
Suddenly the ground slipped out from under him. He fell,
then hopped up and hovered in midair. That didn't last long,
since a wave of earth broke over his head and he was buried.
He burst out of the ground, and stabilized about twenty feet
in the air. The blond one fired a sheet of flame, which was
easily dodged - until it curved around like a hand. Shocked,
Greg dived, putting the fat man between himself and the flame.
The giant turned to face him. "Hey there, squirt. My
turn." Greg ducked the slow roundhouse and made a jab
for the belly. But his hand didn't come back. He pulled harder;
it was like it was embedded in taffy. The fat man laughed,
and swung a few punches; Greg parried one-armed. He lifted,
but it was like the guy was rooted to the ground. He didn't
"Teach you to mess with the Blob!" the gross hulk
shouted, and landed a solid punch to Greg's face. Then there
was a sound, like a muffled explosion. A huge wave rippled
across the fat man's body, and he fell to the ground, retching.
Greg zipped away, putting the gauntleted man between himself
and the pyromaniac.
"He must've pulsed out his forcefield around his hand.
Nice move," Wolverine murmured to the others.
A single blow flung the helmet off of the groundshaker, knocking
him out in the process. Unfortunately, this gave the flamethrower
a clear shot.
Greg surrounded himself with a bubble of force. The flames
washed across the outside, unable to get in. He would run
out of air soon, though, so he tried to spot the pyromaniac
through the fire.
He flew up and over, pulling out of the grasp of the fire
for a moment. Dropping the bubble, he dived and came around
behind, smashing the valves of the flamethrower. But the fire
didn't go out, and he found himself racing to stay ahead of
a bird made out of flame.
"I keep the flame going, you idiot! I just use
the flamethrower to start it!" the blond man gloated.
"Oh, is that how it works?" Greg spun and brought
up his hands - suddenly a ball of force surrounded the flaming
bird. It burned for a moment; then it sputtered, guttered,
and faded away in the airtight sphere.
The fire-wielder wasn't nearly as happy after that. He was
still frantically trying to restart his flamethrower when
a column of pure force sent him spinning into oblivion.
Literally. As the last opponent fell, the scene faded and
Greg was back in a bare-metal room. Rachel called from above
over the intercom, "Why did you drop your shield? Couldn't
you have trapped Pyro in a ball, too?"
"I, uh, can't make disconnected shapes. I can make holes
or bubbles in it, but it's all one field."
Greg had left a while ago. He hadn't said where he lived,
and based on the speeds he could fly, it could have been a
long way away. "An F-15 weighs over twenty tons, generates
almost thirty tons of thrust, and moves at over Mach 2. I
can pull a lot of thrust, and I only weigh 165 pounds.
I really don't know how fast I can go," he'd explained.
They compared impressions. "He lacks experience, but
he's got a lot of potential," Scott judged. "I hope
he comes back soon."
"He said he would," Rogue objected.
"I didn't say he wouldn't come back. But you've got
to admit he was pretty secretive."
"Chuck, when you 'talked' to him, he damn near had a
heart attack. I really think he wanted to kill you,"
Logan said. "I was about ready to pop my claws."
"While his thoughts are well-protected, his emotions
came through quite clearly. I sensed it too," Xavier
confirmed. "Overall, he didn't seem hostile, however;
"Something must have scared him badly, once." Kurt
could sympathize. His appearance had nearly been his death
several times. Someone who looked like a demon was just going
to have a hard life.
"He fights pretty well. A little slow on the uptake
sometimes, but like you said, he's inexperienced." Kitty
was young, but also battle- hardened.
"He learned some Tae Kwon Do somewhere," Logan
said, "but I wouldn't put him above brown belt. At least,
not in my dojo. And he's out of shape." This was
a slight exaggeration. Greg obviously worked out, but there
were Olympic atheletes in worse shape than the X-Men.
Peter noted, "I don't fully trust him. I was watching
the medical monitors during the tests. He was holding back.
He's stronger than he lets on."
"Yeah, he was faking some. I could smell it." Logan's
enhanced senses sometimes made him very hard to fool.
"Well, y'all would be paranoid too!" Rogue cried.
"Y'know how people are about mutants, and he doesn't
know us from Adam!"
"Rogue, relax," Storm told the young woman. "No
one's saying he doesn't have his reasons, but bear in mind
that we don't know much about him, either."
"I never even told y'all my real name, and y'all took
me in! You..."
"He hasn't asked us to take him in," Scott interrupted.
"Rogue, what's bothering you? You've been upset ever
since we met him!"
She glared at them for a moment, then barked, "Ah'm
fine. Leave me alone." She got up and strode briskly
toward the stairs.
Rachel broke the silence. "I think I know what the problem
is. Kitty, what did he say about his forcefield, how thick
"Outside his skin, it's about a millimeter thick..."
she began, then trailed off. "Of course. Nothing ever
quite touches him. He's probably immune ... Rogue, did he
Rogue froze for a moment, halfway out the door, then stormed
up the stairs. Her mind was still hard to read, but no one
needed any further confirmation.
Nimrod had suffered minimal damage in the battle, so self-repair
was quickly accomplished. His Sentinel subordinates were all
totaled, however, and that was irritating. Gathering the parts
and the raw materials had been difficult.
Most had come from a Stark, Inc. research lab. He was authorized
to requisition anything he needed in his native time. He wasn't
sure the authorization of a potential future government applied
here; his legal software was quite limited. He had tried to
minimize the criminal violations, if any. No one had been
And after all that, the Sentinels hadn't made much of a difference
in combat. He couldn't build them flexible enough. If the
unidentified mutant had not intervened, the probabilities
were that only two to four of the mutants would have been
Worse, Nimrod's self-analysis had indicated that, despite
all the combined information gathered from previous generations
of Sentinels, he was inexperienced. He'd needed to learn the
importance of not being outnumbered. He'd been taught the
critical role that the unexpected played in combat.
Therefore, a new strategy was indicated. He required more
experience. He needed to minimize unanticipated factors during
combat. And he had to avoid being outnumbered. He began a
search process, incorporating the information he'd gathered
about this time along with his own records, seeking a solution...
Rogue trusted Storm more, perhaps, than any other teammate.
Storm had voluntarily offered to be absorbed to prove her
friendship. After a sacrifice like that, and after seeing
her personality from the inside, it was hard for Rogue to
stay angry at her.
She had come in while Rogue sat weeping quietly in a chair
in her room. She sat down on the floor with silent grace,
placed her hand on the girl's knee, and waited patiently for
her to be ready to speak.
"Mah costume was torn. He grabbed me, to see if Ah was
all right. And Ah freaked, but nothin' happened."
After a moment, Storm prompted, "So he can touch you
"Leastways, that once. But no reason to think it'll
change." She looked away. "And now Ah don't know
what to do about it."
"What do you want to do?"
"Ah don't know! What do Ah say? 'Excuse me, but
you just happen to be the one of the few people in the world
Ah can touch?'" There had been others she hadn't affected.
Cosmically-powered beings like the Asgardian god Loki; artificial
beings like the Vision; and Wonder Man, who'd been mutated
so much that biologically he really only looked human.
None had ever been potential romantic pursuits.
"Do you think he's attractive?"
"Actually, yes," Storm replied. "A bit young
for my taste, but nice." She smiled.
"Me too, Ah guess. He ain't gonna be a model, but he's
cute." She fell silent.
"But..." Storm prompted.
"But Ah'm afraid."
"I understand. It's always terrifying. You have the
normal uncertainties, of course - What if he's a fool? What
if he's not attracted to you? Does he have a girlfriend, or
is he married?"
"Yeah. And in mah case..." she trailed off.
"...are you really interested in him, or merely the
potential he represents?"
Tears sprung forth again, but she appreciated Storm's honesty,
putting her own fears into words. "Ah can't be sure.
Ah'd just about given up hope. Ah was wonderin' if Ah should
ask Kurt 'bout becomin' a nun or somethin'." Despite
herself, she chuckled at the thought.
Storm laughed as well. "That would be something."
"What if we did get together? Would Ah be so afraid
of losing him that Ah'd let him walk all over me?"
Storm smiled. "I doubt it. You are not the type."
"So what do Ah do?"
"I can't decide that for you. But we will all support
you, whatever you choose. I can say that this sort
of thing is never easy, for anyone."
Rogue looked pleadingly at Storm. "What would you
"I'm really not sure. But I think..." she paused.
"I think that if there were a chance, I would pursue
Greg descended, searching out Madison, Wisconsin. He slowed,
releasing the bubble that he'd pressurized with an air supply
for his trip through the stratosphere. Things were hard to
recognize from up here, but he'd had a lot of experience orienting
himself by the lights of cities. There's Chicago, of course,
so that's Milwaukee. Over to the west...
In a few minutes he was over his neighborhood. He dropped
his speed further and curved down towards his apartment. It
had been a long day, and he had a lot to think about.
He'd just about decided on the way back that he was being
silly. If he couldn't trust the X-Men, who was he ever going
to trust? He'd been badly frightened once before, but that
had been on the other side of the world.
That did teach me one thing, though. No way is Xavier
getting into my head. Nobody messes with my mind. Private
Property. Keep Out. Trust has its limits. He landed in
the woods next to the complex he lived in. Walking across
the parking lot, he got out his keys and let himself into
the building. He had homework due on Monday, but tomorrow
would be time enough for that.
Continued in Chapter
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