Disclaimer: All characters belong
to Marvel Comics, and are used here for entertainment only.
Bringing a lawsuit against me would deprive me of the money
I need for college ... and Lord knows I've got to get through
that, or I'll never stop fiddling with these characters.
Feedback is rewarded with large smiles and wedges of California
Continuity: This takes place at some point before Operation:
Zero Tolerance, the Trial of Gambit, or Onslaught. Besides
that, don't worry yourself about continuity ... just sit back
and enjoy (and send feedback).
Prologue: First Martyred
In the small circle of pain
within the skull
You still shall tramp and tread one endless round
Of thought, to justify your action to yourselves,
Weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,
Pacing forever in the hell of make-believe
Which never is belief: this is your fate on earth
And we must think no further of you.
-T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
He was in a cage suspended in nowhere. The bars, twisted
and barbed, were vaguely reminiscent of the ironwork of the
old New Orleans cathedrals, set in a gothic pattern which
might actually have been beautiful, if seen from the outside.
Beyond that, there was nothing but a pale red light and the
hint of the sound of rushing water from far away below, or
in another direction, perhaps upwards- he wasn't sure, he
couldn't tell. He waited for his eyes to adjust and allow
him to see, but as the minutes stretched into hours, and the
hours into something longer, he decided with a grim heart
that he'd either gone partially blind or partially mad, or
had been captured and shoved into some odd corner of the Astral
Plane. In any case, he was startled when something red hit
the cage with all the force of a brick, and it began to swing
precariously from side to side. He grabbed the bars reflexively,
and didn't pull back until he saw his own blood streaming
down his bare arms from gashes in his palms, a vespertine
The cage was hit again, and this time, he saw that the "something"
had been a bird. It came once more, as forcefully as though
it had been thrown. This time, it opened its beak and chirped
before falling away.
He edged closer to the bars and tried to peer through, but
there was nothing outside other than the pale light.
A moment's pause, and then the return of the cardinal. It
became stuck in an iron loop, its wings flailing helplessly
until he took a hold of it and pushed it out, avoiding its
It hit again in seconds.
"What's wrong wit' you?" He yelled at it, frustrated.
"Gonna get y'self killed!"
It screeched angrily in reply as it crashed into the cage,
which shuttered violently. The bird seemed far too mangled
by then to fly, and he felt almost positive that someone really
was throwing it.
That wasn't the case, however. It flew a pace back on skeletal
wings before hurling itself toward him again, and then falling
"Stop! Y'want y'self t'be dead? Y'tryin' t'kill y'self?"
The cardinal didn't return.
He waited for it until he'd noticed the sound of water again,
and the way the red light was glinting off his body armor.
Then another bird hit.
No, not a bird- an angel.
"Murderer!" the Angel screeched, striking the cage
with his fists. "Vilest of the vile ... lowest of the
low ... "
"Warren!" Remy shouted, "Stop! You'll hurt
"Baby killer ... Hitler! Thief! Traitor! The Marauders
were too good for you! No death could be too painful ... "
"No ... stop it, now!"
Warren's face changed, and somehow, it multiplied,
until it had become many more heads, more bodies, spinning
around Remy's cage in dizzy circles.
"Turncoat ... liar ... Judas!" Jean yelled,
her voice accompanied by the accusations of the others; his
team, his family, his X-Men.
"You make me sick!"
"The Devil couldn't even want you in Hell!"
"You deserve any torture ... "
"...any death ... "
" ... any bloody fate."
"I don't!" He yelled back. "I don't, I don't
... just hear me out ... "
"Kill him ... "
"Tear him up ... "
"Bury him alive ... "
He grabbed the bars again, face contorted in fear. "Don't
"We'll make him pay ... "
"...for what he did to the innocent ... "
"...and for his betrayal."
The bars grew hot with energy, nearly white with heat. The
sparks which flew into his eyes didn't bother him, or them,
as they pressed forward, and he continued to charge the cage.
"I want his head as a trophy ... "
"I want his hands ... "
"I want his eyes ... "
The cage blew up with such force that he was tossed what
seemed an eternity away, flying through darkness until he
landed far below in a shallow stream of water.
Around him settled ashes and bits of metal, and occasionally
something which smelled of burnt flesh. His hands were burnt
so badly he could barely move them, and the rest of his body
wasn't in any better shape. He looked down at his fingers,
unable to think for a moment. It wasn't until a long, metal
feather landed at his feet and bobbed away in the stream's
current that he realized what he'd done.
"Oh, Hell," he muttered, "I've killed the
And then he woke up.
"You know, Hank, I envy you."
McCoy favored Bobby with a small smile before leaning again
to peer into a microscope eyepiece. "I'd imagine most
anyone does," he said, "but just between you and
me- I alone can pull off blue fur. It just wouldn't work for
"That's not what I meant."
"I'm not sure my superior intellect would suit you,
either ... " Hank yanked his hand away as a crust of
ice formed around the microscope's adjusting knobs. With a
sigh, he pulled off his glasses and turned in his swivel chair
with a distinctive creeeeek to look at his friend.
"I'm all ears."
"What I meant was that I envy your drive," Bobby
told him, gravely. "The way you know what you want, and
how to get it." He spread his arms out in a gesture meant
to indicate the entire room. "I mean, look at all this-
all those bazillions of pages of notes, all those experiments
you're running all at once. You're always in here. ALWAYS.
You're wrapped up in something you love."
"You envy me for having no life."
"I'm trying to be serious here."
"Perish the thought!" Beast sat back and considered
Drake for a long moment, taking in the rings around Bobby's
eyes and his slouched posture. "Don't you love being
"No ... I mean, I do ... but its not what I thought
I'd be doing all of my life." He picked up a half-empty
Coke which had been sitting on the table for an indeterminable
amount of time, downing it all and crushing the can in his
hand. "When I came here, it was to learn how to keep
my powers under wraps so I could go out and do something more
... normal. Saving the world is great and all, but the problem
is, I want to do other stuff, too. Like you do. Except I have
no idea what that would be."
"I'm struck by a vision of you in the 2000 Winter Olympics."
"Listen," Hank said, pulling off his lab coat and
setting it aside," I don't think this is a problem to
be solved over cold test tubes. I suggest we take it elsewhere."
"As in, the movies."
"Great, we'll talk about my slide into depression over
popcorn during the sex scene."
"I wouldn't have thought you'd want to miss that ...
and pul-eese, Bobby, it isn't as though you don't talk non-stop
through movies, anyhow."
"It's just active movie-watching."
"And after a healthy dose of slapstick comedy, maybe
your head will be cleared enough to talk like the semi-rational
semi-adult you are. As of now, you're making no sense, and
you're not responding in your usual, oh-so-cute way to any
of my jokes." Hank grinned wide, his massive canines
shining in the lab light with all the ferocity of a puppy's.
He clapped Bobby on the back and began shuffling through labeled
petri dishes on the table. "Just give me half-a-minute
to do something, and we can go." When Bobby didn't respond,
he added, "and maybe you should take that time to get
dressed more ... formally. You never know, Cindy Crawford
might be taking some undercover time in the Salem Center theatre."
Drake peeped down at his frowzy pants and sighed, pushing
himself out of the chair with great effort and waddling to
the door. He'd nearly gone out when he heard an unfamiliar
crackling sound, which almost reminded him of rumpling a candy
bar wrapper. Or of sparks.
Bobby turned, and didn't see McCoy. "Hank?" He
walked around the desk until he saw an outstretched blue paw
on the ground behind a lab table. "Hank!"
He raced to the Beast's side, nearly choking as the burnt
gash which cut nearly to Hank's heart came into view. His
blue eyes fluttered madly, until Drake grabbed his hand and
checked his pulse, which was racing ... and slowing ... and
slowing ... and very ... slowly ... thudding ... to ... a
Bobby screamed for help.
Continued in Chapter
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