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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


Rogue, Logan, and Bishop ran towards the sounds of breaking wood, glass, and other assorted household items. Rogue turned the corner into the ante room. "Momma," she said sternly, "you stop that this minute!"

Mystique ignored her, aiming a series of kicks at Will's midsection. Will dodged her easily, leaning back until he appeared to be doing the limbo. He didn't make any offensive moves, choosing instead to simply stay out of her range.

Will's passivity seemed to enrage Mystique further, and her attacks became more ferocious, aiming for his throat and groin. Finally, she leaped towards him, causing them both to tumble over the couch and land on the floor. She landed on top of him, straddling his chest, then pulled a thin-bladed dagger from her belt and held it to his throat.

Will seemed to take this turn of events calmly. "I wouldn't recommend it," he said in a conversational tone.

"Why the hell not?" Mystique growled.

"Look down."

Mystique shifted her gaze to her midsection. Will was holding a wicked-looking knife with a serrated edge about a centimeter away from her abdomen.

"I know I'll heal," Will continued. "I'm not so sure about you."

Mystique gave him a long, steady look of malice, then withdrew her dagger.

Rogue took it from her, handing it to Bishop, then helped her up. "You know, most mothers just interview their kids' dates," she said jokingly.

"Why didn't you mention him before?" Mystique demanded.

Rogue gave her a pointed look. "And when was the last time I knew where to contact you?"

"Don't confuse the issue."

Will stood up, straightening his clothes. "Raven Darkholme, I presume. That is your most recent alias, isn't it?"

Mystique's response was a venomous look. "What are you doing with my daughter?"

"Well, we were about to watch some movies..."

"That's not what I meant!" she snapped.

"Then maybe you should be a bit more specific."

Mystique's eyes narrowed for a moment. "What ... are ... your ... intentions?"

"So that's where you got that phrase," Will said to Rogue. Turning his attention back to Mystique, he paused a moment in thought. "Put as simply as possible, I intend to make sure that Rogue is as happy and comfortable as I can make her while we are together. Is that concise enough for you, or should I try to expand on it?"

Mystique was quiet for a moment, then she bent down, righting a chair that had been flipped over during their struggle. Settling gracefully into it, she fixed Will with a steady gaze. "Start expanding."

Will nodded. "May I sit down? We may be here a while." Mystique gestured towards one of the remaining chairs, and he sat in it as if it were a throne.

Rogue sat down on the couch, finding that two pairs of eyes were focused on her. "What do you think you're doing?" Mystique asked.

"I am the subject of this conversation," she declared.

"Subject, yes," Will said. "Participant or observer, no." Seeing Rogue's look of surprise, he explained. "This will be the conversation that would normally have taken place while I was waiting for you to get ready for our first date."

"It'll just be a little more in depth," Mystique agreed.

Rogue put her head in her hands. "I don't believe this." Looking back up at them, she gave them a pleading look. "No bloodshed, please."

"That shouldn't be a problem anymore," Mystique said. "We won't be too long. Shut the door behind you - and no listening from the other side."

If she tells me to go to my room, Rogue thought to herself as she stood up, I'm going to scream.

As she entered the hallway, she looked at Logan, Bishop, and Xavier, who were standing just beyond the door. "Anyone who says even one word dies," she warned them as she stalked off.

The three men looked at one another, bravely fighting the temptation to break out in laughter, and went to Xavier's office.

Once the door was closed, they gave in to temptation.

About half an hour later, Will and Mystique walked out of the ante room and into the hallway. "It's safe now," Will called out.

Rogue's face peeked out from the kitchen. "Well, at least everything's still attached. Are you two done cutting chunks out of one another?"

"We had a very civilized conversation, actually," Mystique said. "I learned a little about Will, and we were able to agree on some ground rules."

"Like what?"

"Pretty much that if you get hurt, I'll kill him - several times." She glanced at the clock on the wall. "I'd better get back before Val decides to send the whole Air Force after me." She took a piece of paper from the pad by the hallway phone and wrote on it for a few seconds. "Here's the drop box that I'm using now," she said as she handed it to Rogue. "Try to write once in a while."

"I promise." They carefully hugged one another. "Take care of yourself, Momma."

"You too. And you take care of my daughter," she told Will in a threatening tone. "If anything happens to her, I swear I'll hang your head on my wall."

"Given my powers," he mused, "you just might wind up with your own little Orpheus."


"Look up your Greek mythology when you get back."

"Right," she replied dubiously. She shook his hand and left.

"That went better than I expected," Rogue commented after the door closed.

"It was an interesting conversation. She has an impressive knowledge of Chinese torture procedures. We still have some movies to watch."

An hour later, they were both laughing at The Ref when there was a knock on Rogue's bedroom door. "Come in," she called after pausing the movie.

Ororo opened the door and leaned in, holding Smoke in her arms. "She was sitting outside, meowing and pawing at the door."

"She must miss Daddy," Rogue commented.

"Probably more like she's keeping tabs on her pet," Will disagreed.

"You two certainly look comfortable," Ororo commented. Will was sitting up in the bed, with his back against the headboard, while Rogue was lying down, her head nestled in Will's lap.

"I'm not complaining," Rogue said with a smile.

Ororo lowered Smoke to the ground and closed the door behind her. The cat quickly jumped up onto the bed. After sniffing at both Rogue and Will for a few moments, she climbed up onto Rogue's chest and lay down on her stomach, looking directly into Rogue's eyes.

"I feel like I'm getting the third degree," Rogue complained.

"She does the same thing to me when I'm reading in bed," Will told her. "She'll fall asleep in a few minutes." Will's prediction proved accurate, and Smoke was soon curled into a ball, her purrs sending pleasant vibrations through Rogue's midsection.

"I could get used to this," Rogue decided.

"Do you have to worry about absorbing her?" Will asked curiously.

"No. I couldn't figure out why for a long time. The best explanation that the Professor and I could come up with is that there's a level of awareness or mental development below which my powers don't kick in. Otherwise, I'd be picking up stuff from the microbes in the air, or the animals that live on or in human skin. Most animals aren't intelligent enough for me to worry about."

"I never thought about that," Will admitted. "Of course, now that you've mentioned it, the idea that I've got little critters burrowing into me is giving me the creeps."

"Sorry." She started the movie again, then took Will's left hand in hers while gently caressing Smoke with her right.

Once the movie ended, Will stroked her ribs softly, tickling her slightly. "I have to get up so I can make dinner," he told her.

"Okay." She started to get up, then realized that Smoke was still asleep on her stomach. "This is going to be tricky."

"Just float up a foot or so," he suggested. "I'll slide out from underneath you." She did so, and he stood up a few seconds later. "Any suggestions for dinner?"

"What can you make with the veal that we got?"

He thought a moment. "I can do either veal Parmesana or veal Marsala."

"Which is easier for you?"

"Parmesana. All I have to do is pop open a can of sauce and boil water for pasta."

"Let's do that, then."

"See you in a little while, then. Want me to close the door behind me?"

"No, leave it open." After Will had left, she lowered herself back onto the bed and lay quietly for a few minutes, enjoying the sensation of feeling the rise and fall of Smoke's breathing. The cat soon woke up, lifting up her head.

"Good morning, furball," Rogue told the cat cheerfully.

Smoke blinked at her, then got on her feet and arched her back, yawning as she stretched.

Rogue wrinkled her nose. "I wonder if there's such a thing as breath mints for cats," she wondered aloud. Smoke replied by jumping down and leaving the room.

"You don't have to take it so personally." She stood up and went downstairs to the parlor, where Logan was watching a football game. "Exciting game?" she asked.

"Nah. It's been a massacre. I'm glad I didn't have anything riding on it." He sniffed the air. "You been with Will and the cat?"

"We just finished watching a movie. Smoke decided that I make a nice mattress."

Logan grinned. "That's 'cause she smells Will's scent on you. She figures that means you're a friend. And speaking of whom..."

Smoke ran into the parlor at breakneck speed, stopping just before she reached a wall, then turned around and ran right back. She slowed down as she neared Logan's easy chair, then leaped the four feet or so from the floor to the back of the chair, where she lazily sprawled herself.

Logan craned his neck to look at the cat. "Hyperactive little thing, ain't you?" Smoke ignored him.

"Count your blessings," Rogue advised him. "We finally have a pet around here that won't fly, shoot fire, or eat us out of house and home."

"Good point. Think Will needs any help with dinner?"

"We can ask."

Will was placing the chicken in the oven when they walked in. "Is there anything left that we can help with?" Rogue asked him.

"Just setting the table. Unless you think anybody will want wine with the meal."

"Not a bad idea," Logan decided. "What would you serve with this?"

"I think a white zinfandel would go well."

"I'll go get one." Logan walked towards the elevator as Will pulled out the shredder and shaved the cheese into a large pile. "Does tomato and onion sauce sound good?" he asked after looking in the cabinet.

"Sounds fine."

"Good." He poured most of the sauce into a bowl and placed it in the microwave to heat. He opened the second oven, and Rogue was assaulted by the overpowering odor of garlic and tomato. "What is that?" she asked as she blinked her eyes.

"Thyme foccacia and roasted garlic," he replied as he took a pastry brush, dipped it in a small bowl of olive oil, and basted the upper surface of the garlic heads, which had been divested of their top halves.

Logan walked back in just as Will closed the oven door. "That garlic smells good," he commented.

"I'm going to try to add more of it to our diets. Every little health benefit helps." He took the wine bottles from Logan and placed them in the freezer, then opened the oven that held the chicken and placed a few spoonfuls of sauce on each breast, topping them with the cheese.

Logan and Rogue quickly set the table, putting out wine glasses for the drinkers, jugs of water and milk for the others, and placing the seafood forks out for the garlic at Will's request. When they came back in, Will had placed the foccacia and the garlic on trays, and was stirring the angel hair pasta. "Everything should be ready in about three minutes. Why don't you call everybody in?"

"Right," Rogue said. She decided to be lazy about it, and just gave a general announcement over the intercom. By the time Will was pulling the pasta out of the water, everyone was filtering into the dining room. He poured the drained pasta into a large serving bowl, and brought everything out to the table in a few more trips.

"This smells delicious," Betsy said as she sat down.

"Thanks," Will told her. "I thought that since we had a light lunch, we deserved a big dinner."

"I'm not complaining," Bobby said as he took a piece of chicken from the tray. "How are we supposed to eat these?" he asked when the garlic was passed down to him.

"Usually, you spread the cloves onto bread, but I decided that since I made the foccacia, we could just have it as an appetizer by itself." He dug out a clove with his fork and popped it into his mouth.

Bobby followed Will's lead. "Not bad," he conceded.

"I'm glad you approve."

"As long as I'm not cooking it, I approve."

"So do we," Warren said under his breath.

The rest of the meal passed quietly. As they stood up, some to watch the news and others to do the dishes, the alarm siren called out. "Everyone downstairs," Ororo ordered.

"We'll go on ahead," Will said, Taking hold of Rogue and Henry, who sat on either side of him, and teleporting the three of them to the War Room.

Henry went straight to the World Tactical Display and called up the location of the alert. He paused in confusion. "Of all the places in the world for someone to attack, why would they pick Salt Lake City?"

"I could think of three possible reasons," Will offered, ticking them off on his fingers. "First, financial: there's a lot of money there. Second, political: it is a future Olympic site. Last would be religious: it's the headquarters of the Latter-Day Saints. Or maybe somebody just got woken up on a Saturday morning one too many times."

"I don't think anybody's that cranky when they get up," Rogue said.

"Bishop," Henry pointed out.

"Then again..."

"Do we have any information regarding their identity, Henry?" Ororo said from behind him as the elevator doors opened.

"Not yet. Betsy, would you please utilize Cerebro?"

"Of course, Hank." Betsy sat at the station which held the ominous-looking headpiece, placing it on her head. They were all silent for a few minutes as the technology extended her telepathic awareness, allowing her to 'see' the mutagenic signatures present in the surrounding area. She sighed and removed the helmet. "They're mutants, at least some of them, but they don't match anything in our files."

"Whoever they are, they've already smashed one building," Will declared. "We don't have time to take the Blackbird. I'll have to teleport us."

"No," Ororo said, vetoing him, "we may need the equipment on the Blackbird. Can you teleport it there with us in it?"

Will looked doubtful. "I'm not sure, Ororo. I think it'll be better if I open a Door, and we go through that."

"Can you make a Door that big?" Betsy asked.

He nodded. "I can't keep it open for long, though. We'll have to go through it quickly."

"What if you opened it just beyond the entrance to the hanger outside?" Warren suggested. "That way, we'll have the momentum that we'd get from going down the runway."

"That works," Will decided after thinking about it for a moment.

"We'll take Blackbird Blue," Ororo announced. "I want Logan, Rogue, Will, Betsy, Bobby, Jean, and Henry in the hanger in ten minutes." The named individuals all ran, flew, or teleported to the locker rooms to get into uniform. Will, whose uniform involved buttons, laces, and various layers of weaponry, took a bit longer to get changed than the others, but made up for it by teleporting to the hanger, rather than using the monorail. He was opening the primary entrance hatch by the time everyone stepped out of the transport tube, and seated himself in his usual spot, across from the Electronic Countermeasures Station, where he would jeopardize the fewest critical systems if his powers flared up.

Rogue took the pilot seat, with Jean acting as copilot. "Warming up engines," she announced. "Ready for takeoff in three minutes."

"How long will it take us to clear the runway?" Will asked.

"About seven seconds," Jean answered.

"Give me a ten-second countdown before takeoff."

"Right." She and Rogue went through the pre-flight checklist while the engines reached operating temperature. "Can you bring us out at twenty thousand feet, Will?"

"Consider it done. We'll be approaching the city from the west once we come out."

"Got it," Rogue said, preprogramming the flight computer for the area.

About one minute later, everything was ready. "Take off in ten..." Jean counted. "nine... eight..."

When Jean hit "one," Rogue went to full throttle. Everyone was pressed into their seats as they sped down the runway. Rogue, knowing what was coming, ignored the fact that pitch darkness greeted them just beyond the exit.

The instrumentation lit up automatically as they entered the Door. Bobby stared at the featureless void that existed outside the window. "Real party zone you've got here, Will."

Will ignored him, concentrating instead on finding the proper dimensional 'path' to get them to their destination. "We'll be coming out in five seconds," he declared. He proved to be true to his word. A rectangle of blue sky appeared in front of them two seconds later. Rogue aimed for it, and the Blackbird caused a small sonic boom as it suddenly appeared in the Utah sky moving at 1.2 Mach.

Will pitched forward slightly as he closed the Door. "You okay?" Bobby asked.

He nodded. "Just give me a few seconds," he said in a breathless voice.

"Salt Lake City dead ahead," Rogue announced. "Slowing down to subsonic."

"Cloak and sonic bafflers activated," Logan added from his seat behind Jean.

"I have a fix on the signal," Betsy said from the offensive systems station. "I'm feeding it to you, Rogue."

"Got it. ETA two minutes."

They reached the target area and placed the Blackbird in hover mode, at a height which placed them above the tallest of the buildings in the area, minimizing the risk that a passing helicopter would smash into the hidden plane.

Henry and Betsy linked the external cameras to their display screens, using the joystick interfaces to manipulate the view. "Found them," Henry announced. "It appears that you were correct, Will. They appear to be attacking the Olympic stadium."

"Can we get a close-up?" Ororo asked as she walked back towards Henry's station.

"Coming up now." The monitor showed five people, four men and one woman, all dressed in spandex bodysuits accented by suede vests, cowboy boots and Stetson hats.

"And people say we look ridiculous," Ororo commented.

Will came back and glanced at the video image. "I'd guess that they're some sort of militia group that happens to have powers." He pointed at one of the men. "That's a military-style haircut he's got, and they all look like poster children for the Aryan Nation."

"No argument there," Betsy said. "Wait a minute." She zoomed in on the vests, which had a six-pointed star medallion surrounding a crest.

"'Army of the Holy Nation of New Israel,'" Will read with distaste. "Great. Just what we needed. Super-powered Millennialist separatists. Can I go back to bed now?"

"After we've dealt with this," Henry said firmly.

"Then let's get to work. What do we know about them?"

As Will finished speaking, the largest of the men on the screen picked up a nearby cement mixer and threw it at an incomplete stadium wall. The wall crumbled, sending bricks flying.

"Okay," Will said without blinking an eye, "put one down for enhanced strength."

"Another one is a flier," Betsy remarked," indicating the woman, who was surrounded by a nimbus of energy. They watched her draw what appeared to be an old Colt .45 revolver from a holster on her hip and point it at a nearby pile driver. A portion of her aura appeared to flow into the gun, emerging from the barrel as a concentrated beam which cut through the metal of the crane as if it were paper. The crane fell into the remainder of the wall, toppling it, and crushed several construction trailers as it hit the ground.

"I think that's enough of that," Ororo said in a firm voice. "Everyone prepare to drop."

Rogue activated the autopilot and automatic defense measures, then joined the rest of the team by the main hatch. "I'll carry you down," she told Will.

"I feel safer already," he replied with a smile.

"Jean, you take Logan and Henry," Ororo said. "I'll take Betsy and Bobby."

"No, I'll go myself," Bobby told her. "I'll try to concentrate on shoring up some of those walls."

"Good idea," Jean agreed as the hatch slid open.

"Drop on three," Ororo ordered. "One. Two. Three." Rogue and Will dropped first, free falling for the first few seconds so that Jean would have room for her telekinetic field.

Jean, Logan, and Henry left the Blackbird five seconds later. Jean adjusted the shape of her shield to slow their descent.

Ororo and Betsy glided out next. Ororo spiraled down to the ground, trying to get a good view of the ground.

Bobby took the rear, creating an ice slide which he fastened to the edge of the hatch. He jumped out, landing in the slide and adding to the leading edge as he slid down.

As Rogue slowed her descent, Will took in the surrounding area, trying to decide on a strategy. "Can you set me down by that stack of girders?" he asked her.

"No sweat." She let go of him when they were about four feet above the ground, landing right beside him, and they both crouched behind the girders. Will stuck his head around the corner of the pile and studied their opponents.

Activating his communicator, Will spoke into it in a low voice. "Archetype to Storm. Rogue and I are one hundred meters from target, bearing eight o'clock from the wall we viewed on recon. I can see the other three targets from here. Judging from the way the man closest to the crane's cab is vibrating, my guess is that he's a speedster. He'll be mine."

"I'll take the Mister Universe candidate," Rogue added.

"Buzz to reply if you copy," Will finished before releasing the call switch. A moment later, his communicator vibrated for two seconds.

"Betsy says she'll work on the clown with the lariat," Rogue told him, indicating a thin man who was wielding an insubstantial rope and lasso which glowed with energy. "Looks like a variation on her psychic knife, so she's the best match for him. Logan's backing her up. Henry's going to take my target from the other side, so we can tag team him if we have to. Jean's got the one with the gun, and Ororo's working on the guy who's making the mudholes." She indicated a slim man who was causing large areas of the building foundation to crack from underneath by forcing water through it.

"You'd better tell her to warn Bobby about that one," he suggested. "If he freezes too much of the water, he'll just compound the damage."

"Good point." Rogue concentrated for a moment. "He says that he can make the ice flow to the surface as it freezes. It'll all come out of the cracks, and he can move it to someplace else later."

"Good. When's the signal?"

"Coming now," she told him, as she listened for Jean's psychic cue. "Three... two... one."

As she leaped into the air to begin her approach towards her target, Will switched to enhanced speed, running towards the man near the cab of the crane. As he wove his way through the wreckage, then dashed the final few yards to his target, he noticed that the man was facing away from him, and felt an uncharacteristic burst of hope that things were going to work out.

As Will prepared to kick the ersatz cowboy's legs out from underneath him, he found that a pair of icy blue eyes was staring straight into his. A moment later, as he saw a fist heading towards his face, one thought ran through his head:

I have got to do something about this optimistic streak that I'm developing.

Rogue cut through the air as she sped towards her opponent. Focusing her vision a little beyond her target point, she saw Henry moving in to join her. Henry pointed to himself, then down. Rogue nodded, adjusting her trajectory to that she would hit her target in the chest as Henry swept him from behind the knees.

The tactic worked perfectly. The young man, who stood at six foot eleven and had a build which seemed equivalent to a combination of three or four Notre Dame linebackers, simply did not have the dexterity to stay upright once Rogue slammed into him, and he toppled over like a tree. Henry nimbly leaped out of the way before the giant hit the ground.

Rogue could tell from the amount of resistance that her punch met that she was dealing with someone who had at least a small amount of invulnerability. She wasn't surprised by that, since most superhumans, with enhanced strength, mutant or otherwise, had to have a bit of extra resilience to deal with the added strain that lifting extreme weight caused muscle tissue. There were, however, exceptions to the rule, so she had pulled her punch to be on the safe side.

The blonde rolled onto his knees and stood up, glaring at Rogue. "Get out of here!" he barked with an accent which marked him as a local resident. "God has charged us with a task! The unbelievers must not enter the Holy City!"

"You have got to learn to relax, handsome," Rogue told him in a soothing voice as she hovered in front of him. "A good-looking guy like you should be at Bringham Young breaking hearts and football records, not playing wrecking ball."

The young man responded by picking up a large chunk of rubble and hurling it at Rogue. She dodged it, then grabbed it from behind as it soared past her, slowing it down and gently lowering it to the ground. "If that's the way you want it," she shrugged. "I think it's time somebody taught you a few lessons in tolerance."

Bobby and Ororo were making quite a bit of headway with their assignment. The man with the hydrokinetic ability was actually making things easier for Bobby by bringing more moisture into the air. Bobby searched through the water seeping up through the ground, sending small slivers of ice into the cracks in the soil to gauge the depth of the water. Once he found the location of the well, he started slowly freezing small parts of it and bringing it back up through the cracks. By doing so, he was able to slowly drain the well and take away his adversary's source of ammunition. Once the well was empty, Bobby shaped the ice into a massive wall which he set against the weaker parts of the stadium to serve as a buttress.

With the primary task out of the way, Ororo was able to concentrate on besting the young man, who was now limited to using the moisture in the air. He was unable to mount an effective defense against her, and was quickly stunned by a mild electrical shock.

Logan pounced into the field of view of the man with the lariat, trying to draw his fire and distract him long enough for Betsy to get close enough to strike. As he dodged the first throw of the lasso, he was startled to find that it followed him around, moving along with the gaze of the cowboy.

I definitely do not want that thing touching me, Logan thought to himself as the glowing loop drew near. He extended his claws and swiped at it, slashing through the tendril of energy for a moment. The cowboy winced as his psychic construct was ripped apart, but quickly rebuilt it.

Logan repeated his tactic a few times, allowing Betsy to silently approach their foe from the rear. She plunged her psychic knife into the head of the would-be rustler, who gasped and stiffened at the assault. The lasso shimmered and trembled for a few seconds, then dissipated as he dropped to the ground.

"He okay?" Logan asked.

"He'll need half a bottle of Advil when he wakes up, but he's not hurt," Betsy informed him in a satisfied voice. "He was a bloody amateur. He didn't have any shields at all."

"You're complaining?"

"No," she admitted, "but part of me would like to meet someone who's a challenge without being totally unbeatable."

"We can always see if the Shadow King's still hanging around someplace."

"Forget I said anything."

Jean found that her opponent, who her psychic probes identified by the first name of Sandy, would be a greater challenge than she had anticipated. While the younger woman was, as far as she could tell, purely a telekinetic, she had a natural mindshield which would be difficult to overcome without risking permanent damage to the novice's mind. Jean erred on the side of caution, making several tentative strikes that tested the limits of Sandy's defenses.

"Nothing good is going to happen because of this, Sandy," Jean said in a reasonable tone. "You aren't helping anyone this way."

"We just want to keep our city for ourselves," the girl pleaded. "We don't want thousands of strangers invading the center of our faith."

"They won't be invading," Jean reassured her. "They'll just want to enjoy the Games. They'll all go home when it's over."

"They'll never come here," Sandy snapped coldly. "We'll make sure that they don't have a reason to." Grimacing in concentration, she redoubled her attack. Jean sighed and thickened her shield, as the ionization of the air caused sparks to flare between them.

Will managed to dodge the speedster's first punch. As he ducked, he kicked the younger man's feet out from underneath him, dropping him onto his back.

Jumping to his feet, the tanned, dark-haired man drew a Bowie knife from a sheath at his waist.

"Nice knife," Will told him as he flicked his wrist, activating the trigger in his sheath. An instant later, his paratrooper dagger flew into his hand. "I've got one, too. Now, would you like to surrender before somebody starts bleeding?" He jumped back as the younger man made a wide sweep with his blade, one obviously intended to disembowel him.

"Well," Will shrugged, "I made my gesture towards sportsmanship. Now I can proceed to kick your butt from here to Provo."

Will quickly found himself fighting a defensive battle. He was trying to avoid causing any critical damage, and was reduced to making small cuts which stung, but did not hobble, his opponent. The clinks that their knives made as they thrust and parried increased in tempo, becoming a staccato chime which would end only when one blade met flesh.

Rogue and Henry were both frustrated by their lack of progress against the massive youth. He staggered against their blows, but still managed to cause a great deal of damage to the surrounding area. His eyes were becoming wild, set within the face of a fanatic. His adrenaline levels are probably so high, Henry thought to himself, that he isn't even feeling anything. He'll keep fighting until we knock him out.

Leaping away with a back flip, Henry gestured for Rogue to step back as well. They both gave themselves about ten feet of distance from their opponent. Looking at Rogue, Henry quickly knelt down and patted the ground with his right hand. He pointed at Rogue, then up, then down. He then patted the ground a second time and pointed up again.

Rogue nodded imperceptibly, then leaped straight up, launching herself a good three hundred feet into the air.

Their target, who was now free to focus his attention on Henry, stood up to his full height and puffed out his chest. Knitting his fingers together, he raised his hands above his head and prepared to bring them down on the X-Man.

A sudden blur of yellow and green crashed into the patch of ground where Rogue had been standing, sending a plume of dirt into the air.

The larger man glanced at the hole, then looked back at Henry, a sneer playing across his face. "You guys could be a lot better if you could hit what you aimed for."

A moment later, he was yelling in shock as the ground below him exploded, sending him head over heels into the air. Rogue sailed past him, seizing the fabric of his costume and hurling him to the ground. The shock of his impact stunned him and caused shock waves to echo against the remaining structures.

"It all depends on what we're aiming for," Rogue said as she dusted herself off.

The struggle between Jean and Sandy had reached the point where the two women were spinning around one another, with Sandy pushing herself to the limits of her power and Jean constantly changing the shape of her shields to diffuse the energy of the attacks.

Sandy stopped herself, looking over Jean's shoulder to where henry and Rogue had just defeated their target. Her eyes narrowed, then blazed in anger. "Jack!" she yelled in a panicked voice.

Before Jean could adjust her shields to surround her, Sandy's aura intensified, channeling itself down her arms, into her hands, and from there into her gun.

"You bitch..." she muttered as she pointed it towards Rogue.

"Sandy!" Jean cried. "No!"

The beam was not fast enough to escape Will's notice, at least not while he was operating at enhanced speed. Unfortunately, he was too absorbed with parrying the attacks against himself to open a Door which would deflect the shot.

Rogue had learned, days after joining the X-Men, that her invulnerability had its limits. It had been quite some time, however, since she had last encountered anything which was capable of inflicting more than a heavy bruise on her.

Sandy's gun focused and intensified the energy of her telekinetic attacks, compressing the full power of her aura into a beam half a centimeter wide, giving it a punch which just exceeded Scott's optic blast at its narrowest setting, and a temperature which could melt steel.

Rogue was facing away from Jean and Sandy, and thus was unable to see the beam. Henry and the other X-Men saw it, but simply did not have the time to warn her or knock her out of the way.

Entering Rogue's body from the back, the beam pierced her left shoulder blade, puncturing her lung and exiting through her breast. She cried out in pain and shock, slowly dropping to the ground.

Will froze in his tracks, giving his attacker the opportunity to drive his knife into Will's chest. Will didn't even move, his mind focused only on Rogue. Her fall appeared, to his enhanced vision, to take place in slow motion. He saw the pain on her face as she hit the ground.


The force of that voice brought everyone to a standstill. The world seemed to hold its breath for a moment.

Will turned his attention back to his enemies. His face twisted into an expression of fury.

A moment later, his vision vanished in a haze of grey.


Continued in Chapter 35


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