Chapter Ten - "The Battle For Asteroid M"
Another mutant was called in to help. Lila Cheney was a famous
rock star, and Greg was shocked to find out she was a mutant
as well. Her power was very useful - she could teleport enormous
distances. In fact, she couldn't teleport any less
than about a light year. But, by jumping through a couple
of stops, she could get them to Asteroid M very quickly.
The X-Men pulled out a set of Shi'ar spacesuits from storage.
"We cannot trust the life support on Asteroid M anymore.
Rogue - you, Colossus, and Fortress can use these, "
'These' turned out to be simple helmets with a small air
supply. The mutants' invulnerability would protect their bodies
from vacuum. Colossus didn't need to breathe when armored,
but with the helmet he could stay in radio communication.
Greg was relieved - in a full spacesuit, he wouldn't have
been able to extend his field.
"I'm afraid we don't have any suits for you," Storm
told Magneto and his followers. "Are there any on your
"Actually, I have a better idea," Magneto replied,
"which might help you out as well. I have a secondary
station, which no one else has, ere now, been told of."
Toad and Unus exchanged glances - they hadn't known either.
He continued, "It was my prototype station. It's much
smaller than Asteroid M, and it's in a far more distant orbit,
but it serves as a good laboratory. I've stored some weapons
there which may aid our campaign."
Magneto had given the coordinates to Lila, who had quickly
transported the group to 'Asteroid N'. She said the intermediate
stop that they'd flashed through was a restaurant on a planet
near Sirius. Greg wished they'd been able to linger, but they'd
appeared and disappeared in less than a second.
The air was cold, there was no gravity, and the walls were
bare rock. But the lab they'd appeared in was large enough
for them all. Toad and Unus were getting into spacesuits.
What good am I going to be if I can't use my power?
Unus thought. If I repel anything, I'll tear open my suit...
He thought of Lorelei and his resolve stiffened.
Magneto was opening some cabinets and pulling out items.
"This should cause batteries to discharge explosively.
This creates large, opposed magnetic fields in metals; they
tear apart violently. This uses induction; it merely melts
metals. This is a directed EMP weapon; it should disrupt electronics
even through significant shielding. Don't point it at any
"Nimrod, at least, is mostly based on optical circuits.
It won't hurt him much." Rachel explained. "It might
work on the other Sentinels, if they follow the same design
as I know, but they're well protected."
"Really. Well, in that case, perhaps this is a better
choice. It puts a great deal of stress on optical materials,
changing their refractive index sharply. I use the same principle
in those telescopes over there. It might cause Nimrod some
Shadowcat was prowling like her namesake, and came across
an irregular blob of silvery metal. "What's this?"
Magneto glanced over. "Adamantium. I was investigating
its properties. I can shape it while it's forming, but once
solidified, I haven't been able to affect it."
"I wouldn't say that," Wolverine noted. His adamantium-laced
skeleton had been jerked about by Magneto before.
"I stand corrected," Magneto replied. He continued
excavating weapons. He was a bit troubled to be sharing so
much with his former enemies, but the fight with Nimrod had
been very convincing. "Here, Storm, this propels rounds
of metal-sheathed carbon fibers. It has a substantial recoil,
but the fibers pick up a charge on impact and spread through
the target. It completely ruins electronics, motors and transformers."
Away from Earth's magnetic field, Xavier and Rachel could
communicate over vast distances. Lila would transport the
forces across the two light-seconds to Asteroid M, then return
to N and wait to be called. Everyone thought it wise to have
a quick exit available.
"There will be two teams. Alpha team will be me, Colossus,
Professor X, Nightcrawler, Toad, Unus, and Fortress. Beta
team is Storm, Rogue, Magneto, Shadowcat, Phoenix, and Wolverine."
They'd been over the plan before, but Cyclops was a firm believer
Rogue and Fortress weren't happy about being separated, but
Scott and Ororo had agreed that it was best that they not
be distracted by each other in combat. For not entirely different
reasons, Kitty and Peter had been placed on different teams.
Rachel and Xavier were split to afford a psychic channel of
communication between groups.
"Alpha team's primary goal is to infect the station
with the viruses. Beta team is going to take on Nimrod. We're
each carrying copies of the viruses, though, so if it doesn't
work out that way we can still complete both objectives."
He paused. "We have to expect lots of those new Sentinels,
and plenty of traps. Our key advantage will be a certain amount
of surprise - he probably isn't expecting us for another day
or two. But we're going to have to move fast to make much
use of it."
Alpha team materialized in what had been the galley of the
station; located near the hydroponic garden, it offered reasonable
cover and a straight shot to the main control room.
Lila disappeared instantly to fetch the Beta team. The mutants
dashed for cover behind a counter and took stock. Much of
the kitchen had been stripped; very little remained of any
technology more complicated than a fork. Food lay rotting
everywhere; they were glad for their sealed air supplies.
"All right," Scott called across their (hopefully
secure) radio link, "let's go, by squads, leapfrog."
The mutants moved into the garden in teams of three and four,
alternately charging forward or providing cover. The garden
was a mess; robots didn't need food or air, and had stripped
this area for parts too. The only light came from the clear
windows above, which filtered the sunlight to Earth-normal.
It didn't take long for the mutants to run into problems.
Three Sentinels emerged from under the garden, blasting energy
at their targets. Colossus protected Professor X and Toad,
while Cyclops ducked and Fortress put a shield before Nightcrawler
Unus slid to the side and fired the EMP weapon at one of
the Sentinels. The effect was immediate; it looked like the
robot had suffered a stroke as half its body went limp. The
other half continued firing, even as the robot fell.
The other Sentinels were advancing quickly, however, and
Professor X's induction gun wasn't having a major effect.
Cyclops took one Sentinel in the leg and it went over. The
remaining Sentinel had turned red, though, and Scott's hopes
Fortress focused his field into a cylinder with a sharp tip
and pushed it into the red Sentinel with all his might. It
plunged through and emerged out the other side, scattering
parts across the garden. Cyclops finished off the robot he'd
knocked over and looked to see how he could help. Toad was
using the battery weapon on the half-paralyzed Sentinel; something
runbled inside and the robot collapsed. Colossus had practically
dismantled the third robot as soon as Fortress had it on the
So far so good, Scott thought. "Okay, regroup
and move! We don't have a lot of time!"
But as soon as the teams resumed their advance, three more
Sentinels came out of the main control room towards them.
And behind them, Nimrod hovered, blocking the entrance itself.
Beta team appeared on the outer surface of the asteroid,
magnetic boots holding them to the rock. They had chosen to
start near the engineering areas; it was likely that Nimrod
would be there, building new Sentinels. They moved as quickly
as they could, aiming for a bulkhead they could tear through
and start their hunt. It was hard walking in the boots; that
and the lack of gravity slowed them down more than they liked.
Rogue and Phoenix flew "above" them, trying to
look in all directions at once. Phoenix spotted the four approaching
Sentinels an instant before they opened fire. Her telepathic
warning reached Rogue just in time; she'd been reflexively
counting on her seventh-sense to alert her to danger. She
ducked and a blast shot over her head. The rest of the team
had dived into a cleft in the rock and began return fire.
Magneto found to his dismay that these Sentinels were just
as immune to his powers as Nimrod. He tore a large chunk of
iron off of the asteroid and hurled it at one of the machines,
nearly breaking it in half. Wolverine was firing the metal-shredder;
it caused some cracks in a Sentinel's armor, but not much
Rachel couldn't directly affect the robots, either. She was
able to block some of the energy bolts, and once managed to
reflect one back at the robot that sent it, damaging its hip.
Storm's charged-fiber weapon turned out to be devastating;
one Sentinel almost disintegrated from the shock, and the
one Rachel had damaged lost an entire arm.
Rogue had kept low, hugging the surface of the asteroid,
leading the fourth one away from the battle. She'd palmed
several heavy chunks of ore; after ducking behind some cover
(she wasn't about to repeat the mistake she'd made last time),
she turned and began pitching them. The Sentinel nearly melted
through the outcropping she hid behind, but it finally froze
up after the tenth projectile shot through it with the force
of a meteorite. Ah wonder how Greg's doin', she worried
as she flew to rejoin her team.
Shadowcat had phased down into the base, into engineering.
She saw at least forty Sentinels in various stages of construction
and nervously avoided them, looking for a terminal to plant
the viruses with. By then Xavier had relayed that they'd spotted
Nimrod, so the team's roles were reversed.
If Nimrod had still been subject to emotion, he would have
been annoyed. The mutants had arrived significantly earlier
than he'd planned; there had been only a 2.0349% chance of
them attacking so soon. He wasn't optimally prepared. He had
a little under two dozen operational Sentinels; many more
were still being constructed. Most of his traps were incomplete.
Still, the extra sensors he'd scattered liberally across
the station were paying off. He'd known when both teams had
arrived and he'd been able to route Sentinels appropriately.
He wasn't using overwhelming force yet; best to sacrifice
a few troops early and determine their stratagems, develop
countermeasures. Though not to the degree he'd planned, he
did have the advantage of numbers now. They had some weapons
he hadn't expected, but nothing that couldn't be countered.
The teleporter was a definite problem, however. She introduced
too much uncertainty - she'd already cost him in surprise.
He'd need to disable her, trap the mutants on the base. He
began formulating a plan, integrating the feedback from the
Colossus was charging a Sentinel. It had responded by lashing
out with a blast of what had to be liquid nitrogen; he was
slowing, he could almost feel his metal body getting brittle.
Vainly he tried to reach the robot, do some damage before
it shattered him.
Xavier had been feeling useless; the weapon he carried didn't
affect the Sentinels at all. Now he saw an opportunity to
do some good. He turned the induction gun to low power and
used it on Colossus. At first Peter didn't understand where
the heat came from, but it allowed him to reach the Sentinel
and piledrive an arm into its head.
Nightcrawler had gotten a fix on the other team through the
psi-link that the telepaths were maintaining. After a nearly
instantaneous nonverbal conference with Cyclops and Storm,
he did some very fast teleporting. He grabbed Unus and teleported
to Beta team, then took Wolverine back with him. The strain
was exhausting, but Wolverine, being their best marksman,
had the optical disruptor.
While this was going on, Cyclops and Toad were working on
the second of the defending Sentinels, while Fortress frantically
dodged and parried with the third. Toad's weapon seemed to
have a diminished effect this time; the machine slowed but
did not stop. Cyclops' blasts were not accomplishing anything.
Fortress's opponent had developed a field of its own that
Xavier and Colossus saw this and acted to help out, telepathically
alerting their teammates. Their Sentinel was still blasting
freezing liquid and vigorously trying to determine the mutant's
locations. Colossus picked it up and pointed the cold stream
at Cyclop's foe. The robots were continually exchanging data,
and the stream stopped shortly, but the target was already
collecting frost. Xavier cranked the induction gun to its
maximum output, pointing it at the rock wall next to the massive
Molten ore sagged over the frigid machine; the resulting
thermal stress shattered its outer armor, allowing the red-hot
liquid inside. The shriek of frying metal was deafening.
Meanwhile, Cyclops was blasting the shielded robot for all
he was worth; the whitish curtain of energy was visibly collapsing.
Colossus threw his struggling captive, knocking over the beleaguered
machine and destroying the field completely. Fortress smashed
down with a hammer of force that crushed both Sentinels into
Nimrod had analyzed all this cautiously; he upgraded his
assessment of the danger they represented. Their coordinated
support of each other made them extremely effective. Even
his advanced Sentinels had trouble defending against three
or four threats at once. He began to prioritize targets; Cyclops
and Professor X were unquestionably leaders, and should be
eliminated first. He aimed a disintegrator ray at Xavier...
But Wolverine had drawn a bead on the ultimate Sentinel and
fired the optical disruptor. Nimrod jerked like a fish on
a line, random noise emitting from his many sonic outputs.
A beam of white light flashed from his eyes into the floor,
evaporating some water. His arms flailed.
Colossus and Fortress shot forward, ready to pulverize the
deadly machine to powder. A very low-level, very reliable
backup system kicked in and Nimrod disappeared in a sizzling
flash. The mutants stopped short, dismayed.
Five more Sentinels emerged from the galley behind them.
Wolverine's enhanced hearing picked them up in the nick of
Beta team had forced their way inside the base and were besieged
in engineering. They had thought to destroy the incomplete
Sentinels but had been intercepted by functional ones. Fortunately,
the collateral damage of the battle seemed to be taking a
toll on their surroundings.
There had been six Sentinels at first, and they were down
to five. But Storm's fiber weapon was no longer effective;
the Sentinels seemed to be running a charge across their surface
which dispersed the strands before they penetrated. Magneto
was shielding the other team members with his powers while
simultaneously throwing parts at the robots. Rachel had destroyed
the floor under two Sentinels, dropping them a level and giving
the group some breathing room.
Nightcrawler appeared, carrying Unus; he left with Wolverine.
Unus was disoriented and weak from the teleporting; Storm
traded weapons and began using the EMP gun, with a little
better success - this group hadn't been fully prepared for
that weapon. Rogue broke out some of the roof and collapsed
it onto one of their foes.
Split from her teammates, Shadowcat had found a terminal
and begun deploying the viruses. It would take a few seconds
for the upload to complete; she hoped it would finish before
the Sentinel chasing her had a chance to lock on. Leading
the robot away from the terminal, she phased through walls
and floors as fast as she could; it was only a little faster
than the Sentinel could smash through them.
Continued in Chapter
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