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"The Archetype Association"

The Archetype Association

Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49


Logan grunted as a scorpion walked across his face.

He couldn't do much about it, because he, like all of the other X-Men, had a dampening collar around his neck and was shackled to a wall, with his arms pinned so tightly that he had no leverage. He could pop his claws, but that wouldn't do him any good, and the gags bound around their mouths kept them from talking to one another.

He had been the first to awaken after the attack, and had been worried by how long the rest of the team had taken to come around. Whatever they had been drugged with was pretty strong, he realized. It wasn't intended to stun them, but to put them out and keep them out. At that level, it probably would've killed a normal human, he thought to himself.

Once they were all awake, and had each come to the conclusion that their bonds were too complex to be picked (although Ororo gave it her best try), they took a quick survey of the room. It was perfectly square, consisting of finely chiseled sandstone, lain in courses so tight that they were seamless. They were hanging on three of the walls, leaving the remaining one bare. On a small stone column in the center of the room a simple oil lamp, of the sort common in the Mideast, provided the only light.

After what Henry judged to be about two hours, a stone slid inward, appearing from the center of the free wall, and ground along the floor with a dusty hiss.

Apocalypse strode in, his feet crunching on the thin layer of sand on the floor. He gave the door a nudge with one hand, and it closed with a hollow boom.

He slowly walked the perimeter of the room, gazing into the eyes of each of the X-Men in turn. His stare was steady and unwavering, and his expression was unreadable. After he was done surveying them, he gestured at the lamp. Its flame blazed up, nearly reaching the ceiling, filling the room with light.

He moved to face Ororo, and pointed a finger at her. The finger seemed to liquefy for a moment, then started to elongate and narrow, turning into a thin, sharp hooked blade.

Ororo didn't even flinch as he started moving it towards her eye. In her mind, however, she prayed to the Goddess for help.

Apparently someone was listening, because Apocalypse snapped his finger down in an eyeblink, unlocking the gag.

Ororo and all the other X-Men exhaled with relief for a moment. But only for a moment.

Apocalypse drew himself closer to Ororo until they were eye-to-eye.

"Where is he?"

Ororo was dumbfounded by the question. She had been expecting Apocalypse to gloat, or start preaching about the survival of the fittest, or another one of his characteristic behaviors. She was so stunned, in fact, that she gave the only answer she could:

"I don't know."

Apocalypse looked at her for a long moment, then nodded slowly, turning away from her.

The next thing she knew, her head was cracking against the wall from the force of his slap.

"That was not what I wanted to hear," he informed her.

He gestured again, and their gags vanished.

"I truly hope that one of you has a better answer than that to give me. If not, the next few days are going to pass very slowly."

"Are you tellin' me that all your overgrown arcade machines can't find one man?" Logan growled.

"He is far from an ordinary man, Wolverine. And I will not waste my time wading among the unfit refuse of the world to seek him out, when you can give me what I require."

"In other words, he's invisible to your sensors," Warren concluded.

Apocalypse's eyes narrowed slightly, and he glanced at Warren. "I knew that time would give me the opportunity to bring you back into my fold, my son. I look forward to having Death fly the skies again."

"He's baiting you, Warren," Scott advised. "Ignore him."

"You are hardly one to criticize, Cyclops," Apocalypse said in a mild tone, "especially given your recent idiocy." He smiled slightly as he saw Scott jawline ripple. "You were given more than ample warning about Archetype's nature and purpose, and yet you still chose to accompany him here despite his objections. To add to your foolishness, you insisted that the rest of the X-Men join you. Very unwise."

"Indeed, I suppose that I must thank you. While defeating all of you was in itself hardly worth the trouble, it provided enough of a distraction to leave Archetype vulnerable when he faced me. All I need do now is deliver the final stroke."

"But to accomplish that," he continued, his voice becoming sterner, "I must procure him. And that, youngsters, is where you are of use to me."

"What makes you so certain that we know where he fled to?" Henry asked in as professional a manner as he could manage.

"Oh, I do not doubt your ignorance of his whereabouts, Doctor McCoy. But you do not need to know them to serve my purpose."

"And why is that?"

Apocalypse's response was to punch Henry in the gut. "Your suffering will bring him to me."

"You see," he said conversationally as Henry gasped for breath, "he knows that I have you. That knowledge will gnaw at him. After all, you are his family now. He would never let anything happen to you. He has already proven that. Soon - very soon, I should think - he will return here to try and free you, and in his weakened condition he will be easy prey. It will take very little effort on my part to eliminate him."

"What is he to you?" Jean demanded.

"He is an abomination," Apocalypse replied in a flat tone. "Unnatural and unfit."

"Is he?" Rogue snapped. "Then why didn't you just blast him, like you usually do to the 'unfit'?"

Apocalypse was silent for a moment, but his glare spoke volumes. "He is not worth the effort."

"Bull! He took down two of your Horsemen without breathing hard. Matter of fact," she continued, thinking out loud, "War said that you were waiting for Archetype. Why would you be waiting for someone who isn't 'worth the effort'? That isn't like you." She paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts.

"Now that I think about it, you're acting really out of character. What's with the illusions, the sneak attacks - for that matter, why did you take us as prisoners? Your normal MO's to kill anyone who trips over something."

"The true survivor tailors his tactics to fit the situation, Rogue," Apocalypse replied smoothly.

"So what's so different about this situation?" she pressed. "What makes him so special that you'd go this far out of your way to destroy him? How is one man a threat to your..."

Her voice trailed off as the realization came to her:

"You're afraid of him."

Apocalypse's eyes blazed, and he struck Rogue hard enough to make a gash across her cheek.

"I fear no one!"

Rogue spat blood as she glared back at him. "That's why you kept us as hostages. You want some leverage to use against him. You don't want a fair fight! This isn't about the survival of the fittest. It's about your survival! He's got the potential to be your equal. You've known that all along. He stands 'against you, from now until the end of days'. You're trying to save your own skin, and you'll hide behind us if you have to." She sneered at him. "Some survivor you are."

His reply was a series of blows that broke her nose and a few of her ribs.

The other X-Men watched helplessly, unable to do anything. Betsy had to turn her head away.

Apocalypse composed himself a few moments later. "I am a survivor, X-Man," he growled as he held Rogue's head up by the hair and stared into her battered face. "I have survived for four thousand years. I will survive beyond humanity. I will survive beyond Archetype." He released her and strode to the opening door. "And I guarantee that I will survive beyond you." The door boomed behind him.

"Guess I... told him... didn't I... guys?" Rogue wheezed.

Soon afterwards, the lamp burned out.

A few hours (days? months?) later, Apocalypse entered the room again, followed by two small mutants who each carried a small covered tray in their hands. "I realized that I was not fulfilling my duties as a host," he announced as he had them set the trays on stands and leave the room. He set a new, battery powered lamp on the table, then walked over to Rogue, whose head was hanging loosely.

"You are not looking at all well, my dear," he advised her as he cupped her chin in his hand and raised her head up.

The others tried to suppress their reactions, with varying degrees of success. Rogue's eyes were both blackened and heavily swollen, her nose was crooked and bleeding, and she was covered with cuts, welts, and other wounds, none of which was healing properly. Logan guessed that a few of her teeth were broken as well.

Apocalypse removed the coverings from one of the trays, revealing an assortment of surgical implements and a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. "First, we have to clean off those wounds. We cannot allow infection to set in, after all."

He saturated a gauze pad with the alcohol and started scrubbing at Rogue's face with it. The sting of the alcohol went straight into the cuts, causing her to moan and writhe in pain.

"Give her some kind of anesthesia, damn you!" Henry yelled.

"I am afraid that we do not keep any on hand, Doctor. One must make do with the materials available. I am certain that you agree."

After a few more minutes of 'disinfection', Apocalypse gripped Rogue's nose between two fingers and manipulated it until it was straight, ignoring her cries in the process. "That should heal satisfactorily, I should think," he said when he was done inspecting his handiwork. "I would take care of your ribs as well, Rogue, but I am certain that your modesty would prevent you from disrobing in front of so many people. I will, therefore, bow to your aesthetic tastes, and leave you now." He picked up the trays and walked towards the door. "I believe that I will leave the lamp this time. You should all have the dignity of seeing one another as you say farewell."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Bishop asked.

"As I have observed no indications that Archetype is returning to aid you, I believe that an incentive program is in order." He uncovered the other tray, and placed the contents, a flat monitor, on the wall, where it stuck. He activated the monitor, which displayed a room with a large wooden table. Several malicious looking iron implements were hanging from the walls.

"I will kill one of you per day until he returns. The unlucky individual will be chosen by random lot." He tapped at his chin with one finger. "Slow torture seems an appropriate method. After all, when one is four thousand years old, one must maintain some traditions." He opened the door, then turned around. "I strongly suggest that you all get some rest. One of you is going to have a very busy day in the morning." The door shut behind him.

"Rogue?" Scott asked urgently, "can you answer me? Stay with us, please."

Rogue couldn't answer him. It was too painful to breathe, let alone talk. Her eyes were swollen so badly that she could barely see, and her awareness was starting to drift in and out.

Ororo's eyes were brimming in sympathy. "Jean? Is there anything we can do?"

"Rogue," Jean said gently, "concentrate on the sound of my voice. Ignore everything else. I'm going to try to put you in a light trance."

After over an hour of effort, Rogue was guided through a autohypnosis meditation that left her exhausted, but bought a bit of relief. She hung from her restraints limply, blessedly unconscious.

Henry, who had been studying their cell more closely, came to the conclusion that its appearance was a deception. Since his mutant abilities were not energy-based, his strength was unaffected by his collar. He was still, however, unable to break his restraints, despite the fact that they were set into ordinary sandstone, a substance he had broken on earlier occasions with only moderate effort. The shackles, therefore, were attached to something that was stronger than the sandstone. He informed Ororo of his findings.

"I think that we are actually within a complex containing advanced technology," he told her, "and that Apocalypse, for some unknown reason, wants us to think that this is a primitive installation."

"Any idea why?" Warren asked.

"I can make an educated guess," Bishop said. "If Will is going to rescue us, how will he get here?"

"He'll probably teleport," Scott replied.

"Right into this room," Bishop confirmed. "The question is, what's outside this room? From our previous experience with Apocalypse, I'd say that it's some pretty heavy weaponry."

"Which Will won't know about, because if he uses Cerebro, he'll only detect us, and not the weaponry," Jean finished. "He will be walking into a trap."

"And there's no way that we can warn him," Betsy added glumly.

"Couldn't his power fry out the electronics?" Bobby asked.

"I doubt it," Logan grunted, "not given the shape he's probably in."

The sentry for the north perimeter quadrant stopped his walking for a moment and wiped his head. He had learned long ago that the easiest way to stay cool in the desert was to shave his head and place a light cotton cap on. This allowed him to get as much advantage from evaporation as possible.

Water wasn't a problem, since Apocalypse had as much of it as he needed. The sentry didn't ask how this was done. Asking Apocalypse too many questions could prove hazardous to one's health. He took a short drink and continued on.

As he stared at the setting sun, his extra set of eyelids came down, reducing his field of vision to a smoky grey. He scanned the sky for any incoming objects, then lowered his gaze and let his sight return to normal.

He would never say so out loud, but he thought that Apocalypse was being a bit paranoid. The X-Men had just fallen to him, for God's sake! The only other mutant on the planet who was anywhere near Apocalypse's power level now was Magneto, and he hadn't been seen in months. Apocalypse had no more real opposition, so what was the point of doubling the guard and taking a defensive position? They should have started preparations to wipe out the flatscans by now.

The sentry couldn't figure it out, but he decided that as long as he was still on Apocalypse's good side, things couldn't be that bad. It was time for him to make his report, anyway. He pulled the sleeve of his robe back and activated his communicator.

"Sentry North to Tactical. All clear. Over." He released the call button to receive confirmation.

All he got in response was static. "Damn junk," he muttered to himself. This was the third communicator that had fried from the heat. He took it off and examined it.

As he worked at the casing, the communicator shorted out, sending sparks flying and giving the sentry a mild shock. He cursed as he dropped it, then bent down to pick it up.

Before he could straighten up, a boot came down on his hand, crushing it. The sentry gasped in pain, then looked up. The only thing he saw was a fist, which smashed him in the face and sent him flying. He landed on his back, stunned.

A shadow fell across him, blocking the sun.

"Do you serve En Sabah Nur?" it asked in a voice which echoed against the rocks.

"Y - yeah," he gasped.

"Do you remove the weak?"

"I... I do recon. I look for targets."

"That is enough."

Something in the shadow flashed for a moment, and it turned onto its side.

No, that wasn't right, the sentry realized. The ground was turning onto its side. Then it was upside down, then right side up again...

By the time the sentry realized that his head was rolling down the hill, he was in no position to care.

The shadow moved on, becoming one with the approaching night.

Scott Summers prided himself on having an accurate internal clock. He was always able to tell, to within a few seconds, whether he was on time or late. While this made him a very punctual man (and a pain in the butt to those X-Men who liked to sleep in), it did have its drawbacks at times.

This was one of those times.

"How long until sunup, Scott?" Warren asked in a hopeless tone.

Scott exhaled. "About two hours."

"Who do you think will get chosen first?" Bobby whispered. He was awake, but still very hazy from the concussion.

"Try to avoid thinking about it," Ororo advised.

"There isn't much else to occupy our time," Betsy murmured.

Rogue, who had been unconscious, suddenly snapped her head up. "Did you hear that?" Her words were slurred due to her injuries.

"Hear what?" Jean asked.

Rogue closed her eyes.

"He's coming."

"Lord Apocalypse, there is a problem with the perimeter scanner in the north quadrant."

"Contact the sentry and have him repair it," Apocalypse replied in a distracted tone.

"His communicator's out again."

Apocalypse sighed. "Then activate the secondary scanners."

"Yes, Lord." The technician leapt over three rows of consoles, landing at the auxiliary controls. He tapped at the panel for a few moments. "Coming up now... damn."

"What is it?"

"They came up for a second, but then there was a power spike. Now I'm getting garbage from the system."

"Then send out an extra patrol!" Apocalypse snapped. "The strong do not depend on machines to do their work!"

"Yes, my Lord!" The technician activated the communications panel. "Alpha Unit, begin patrol in north..."

The speaker let out a piercing squeal, then blew out.

"What the hell..."

Apocalypse exhaled sharply. "If there is not a patrol out there in the next minute, I will send you to join the X-Men!"

"I'll go out there myself, my Lord!" The technician ran towards the main entrance.

Apocalypse walked over to the security monitors, which were in standby mode. "Status!" he barked.

The entire wall of monitors showed nothing but static. He narrowed his eyes.

"He has come back."

"He's back," Rogue muttered to herself.

"Rogue," Henry said gently, thinking that she was still delirious, "you have to try to stay calm."

"No! Look!" she urged them, as she motioned her head towards the lamp.

It was flickering.

"He's back."

The technician grabbed the first two people he ran into, and they hurried through the vehicle bay towards the main door, a massive block of omnium steel weighing thirty tons.

"You get the code," he instructed the man on his right, as he locked and loaded his weapon, a plasma cannon designed to interface with his powers.

The soldier tapped at the keypad. "It's not responding."

"Then use the damn manual override!"

The bay was filled by a sudden breeze. They all looked out at the open desert.

One second later, the door landed on them.

"That will not be necessary."

The cell door opened, admitting Apocalypse and five others, each of whom carried a pistol.

"Your execution dates have been moved up," Apocalypse informed the X-Men.

"He's back, isn't he?" Logan asked bluntly.

"Unfortunately for you, he is too late." Apocalypse gestured for the five men to line up in front of Ororo, Jean, Scott, Betsy, and Warren. "You need not bother with any last requests."

"I love you, Scott," Jean whispered.

A second later, there was screaming.

Fortunately for the X-Men, it was the guards who were doing the screaming.

They were all missing their right arms, and were dropping to the floor, succumbing to shock.

They all stopped screaming. This wasn't due as much to any stoicism on their part as the fact that their heads disappeared one second later.

Apocalypse stared at the bodies for a moment, then raised his voice, speaking so that he could be heard throughout the complex.

"This does you no good! I will kill them myself! You will not allow that!"

The lamp exploded into sparks, plunging the room into darkness.

"You are weak!" Apocalypse continued. "You are unfit!"

There was a tearing sound.

"You talk too much."

A moment later, the room was bathed in light from the hole that Apocalypse made in the wall. He didn't make the hole intentionally. It was simply a natural result of being thrown through it.

Archetype stood in the middle of the room, his eyes ablaze. He was dressed in his uniform, which was drenched with blood, as was his sword.

He strode out of the room, heading straight for Apocalypse. He glanced at all of the equipment and computers on the walls, inclining his head. The electronics all shorted out in an explosion of sparks, then vanished, reappearing in a large mass about twenty feet in the air. Archetype gestured, and a mass of about seventy tons landed directly on Apocalypse's chest, driving him through the floor.

Archetype hurried back into the cell, then stared at the X-Men.

"This may hurt," he warned them as his eyes flashed yet again.

Their collars shorted out, stinging and burning them, then fell off. A moment later, their shackles vanished, and they all slid off the wall.

Rogue started to collapse to the ground, but Archetype caught her, cradling her in his arms. His expression turned from rage to grief as he saw her condition. He walked over to Henry and handed her to him.

"You have to get out of here," he informed them. "Go left and then take the second right. Do what you can to help her once you get out."

"Where are you going?" Ororo asked, fearing that she already knew the answer.

He stared at the pile of wreckage in the next room, which was already beginning to move.

"This is not over."

"Will, no," Jean pleaded. "You have to get out of here."

Archetype looked at her for a moment, then gave her a sad smile.

"Jean, this battle was ten years in the making. Turning back now would be a waste of a good investment." He pointed towards the way out. "Please go. I have a task to complete." He turned away and walked towards his opponent.

"He's right, Jeannie," Logan said, grabbing her arm. "This place is falling apart." Indeed, most of the systems in the complex were failing, and explosions could be heard nearby.

Jean glanced back at Archetype for a moment, then picked up everyone in a telekinetic field and flew them out of the complex as fast as she could.

Archetype stood, waiting.

A section of the wreckage started to glow, then melt. Apocalypse pushed his way through the slag, then stood up, glaring at him. He put his fingers to the hole in his chest. "You will have to do better than that," he advised.

"I agree," Archetype said in a neutral tone. "Something more original is called for."

Apocalypse experienced a sudden yank, then felt his body and mind being smeared over half the continent of Asia, then compacted into the size of a small thimble, over and over again. He screamed.

"Already?" Archetype asked in a pleasant tone. "But the night is young."

Apocalypse landed on the floor in a heap, trembling.

"You have killed countless people over the past four thousand years," Archetype informed him. "A few of them would like to have some words with you."

A raging pain erupted in the base of Apocalypse's skull, spreading throughout his mind. A wave of pure hate and malice, fueled over forty long centuries, burned within his head. He gasped with pain. Desperately, he tried to shape his right hand into some sort of weapon to use against Archetype.

"That simply cannot be allowed," Archetype declared.

Apocalypse screamed anew as, with a dismissive gesture, Archetype teleported his hand off.

"Now that I have your full attention," Archetype announced as he sat down on a large piece of rubble, "I will explain some things to you."

"I am not your equal, En Sabah Nur. I am, by far, your superior. You are, regardless of how much personal power you acquire, only one man. I, in contrast, have access to the power of the whole of humanity - everyone who is, everyone who was - and, perhaps, everyone who may yet be."

"You have wasted the past four thousand years on a fool's quest - to impose your warped, pseudo-scientific visions on humanity. I speak of all humans, mutant or otherwise. Your actions go against the natural order. I intend to prove to you that Mother Nature, when ignored, can be a truly vindictive bitch."

"I... will... kill you!" Apocalypse gasped.

"We will meet in battle three more times," Archetype continued, as if he had not been interrupted. "These battles will determine whose vision will shape the future. In our final meeting, one of us will destroy the other. Until that day, I will thwart your every scheme and counter your every move."

"I am going to leave you now," he said as he stood up, "but I believe that a final parting gesture is in order."

Archetype smiled. "Prepare yourself, En Sabah Nur. Your life just became infinitely more complicated." He vanished.

As soon as the X-Men got out of the complex, they made a beeline for the high ground. Jean set everyone down behind a massive boulder, taking care to set both Rogue and Bobby down gently, laying them flat.

"Can you see anything, Logan?" Ororo asked. Of them all, Logan had the best night vision.

"Not a damn thing," Logan replied, looking back at the complex. "The lights just died."

"How will we get back?" Betsy asked. "We have no idea where we are."

"Let's worry about the basics first, Betsy," Scott advised her. "We have to know who wins this thing before we can make any other plans."

They were all silent for the next few minutes, watching the complex.

"Do you think we'll get any sort of signal?" Warren asked.

A plume of dust shot out of the door they had escaped through, followed by a massive rumble.

"I think that answers your question," Bishop told Warren.

The next minute looked like something in slow motion. The center of the complex started to sag, then collapse. The sinkhole slowly widened, engulfing the complex, which sank into the desert in a massive cloud of sand and dust, a cloud that rapidly widened to include the X-Men.

They all choked for a few minutes until the cloud thinned out a bit, then peered into the void left by the vanished mesa.

"Anybody see anything?" Scott asked.

"Nothing," Warren replied.

They all continued searching for a few minutes, then gave up. "No sign of either of them," Henry concluded glumly.

A gloved hand suddenly appeared at the edge of the hill, which pulled up the rest of a very battered and dusty Archetype.

"Shame on all of you," he gasped. "You have to show a bit of faith. Otherwise, this concept of team unity simply will not work."


Continued in Chapter 27


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