Ideally, you should read "A
Year in the Life" and "A
Day's Work" before embarking on this, but hopefully
it can be understood on its own.
DISCLAIMER: The following story is an unauthorized
work of fiction using characters belonging to Marvel Comics,
DC Comics and Chris Claremont. No profit is being made on
it. This work is copyright of Tilman Stieve (Menshevik@aol.com).
Please do not archive the story on your website without informing
me first. You can download this and copy it for your entertainment,
but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel and Time-Warner will
set their lawyers on you.
The Time the Twain Shall Meet
The morning sun lit up the off-white curtains of the eastern
window and through it the room. Filtered rays fell on the
naked couple lying asleep in bed, their bodies and limbs entwined.
Drowsily the silver-haired man stirred and unglued his eyes.
For a moment he felt lost, then he refamiliarized himself
with the sparse, but feminine furnishings of the room.
Beside him, Rogue was breathing regularly. Magneto still
was a bit dazed at the course of events that had reinstated
him as a resident at Xavier Mansion, and brought him and the
young mutant together. Both for Rogue and for him the growing
strength of their love had come as a wonderful revelation.
He himself had for a long time tended towards pessimism in
romantic matters -- his marriages and relationships had either
ended in tragedy or broken up -- while Rogue had given up
hope of ever experiencing happiness with another person. But
now for the first time in years things looked brighter: circumstances
no longer prevented them from facing up to and exploring their
feelings for each other, and thanks to an unhoped-for discovery,
this journey of exploration was taking them on routes of which
they had barely dared dream. Previously he had always avoided
direct skin contact with her for fear of what she might discover
when she absorbed his memories, but at their meeting outside
Hamburg he had not even thought about it, only to discover
accidentally that through his mutant control of electromagnetism
he could negate her absorption power.
That night, caresses and kisses had seemed enough, but at
their later meetings they had become more daring and finally
had taken the plunge. Now making love seemed almost normal.
Almost, but not quite. Sometimes, when he reached an especially
high plane of ecstasy, he occasionally still lost control
of his powers for split-seconds. Sometimes metal objects in
the room would suddenly take wing, or he would become vulnerable
to her power again and she would find her mind flooded with
a mix of his desire and his memories. At least his mental
state in these moments was such that the images that flashed
before her mind's eye did not originate from the dark recesses
of his memory, the slaughter of his family, Auschwitz, Anya
burning to death ... There had been one embarrassing moment
when she suddenly realized he had been thinking of Lee Forrester
while making love to her. But thankfully Rogue had been forgiving.
He wondered if his old friend Charles Xavier or his two telepathic
students ever got into similar hot water with their lovers.
Was the gift of reading minds an asset or a dampener whenever
you were intimate with the women you loved, Charles? The problem
with Rogue's draining of minds was that it was a one-way street:
even if she wanted to, she could not directly transfer her
thoughts and feelings to his mind. Maybe there was a measure
of poetic justice to it, he mused, forcing him to stay honest
with her and somehow repay her for the trust and kindness
she had so willingly advanced. But even without reading her
mind, he was sure of one thing: for her the sex was not as
important in many respects as the intimacy Magneto's usually
iron control over his magnetic powers made possible. To be
able to touch, to talk in each other's embrace until both
fell asleep, to luxuriate in the touch of their skins from
their faces and necks all the way down to their feet, to wake
up without having to worry about accidental transfers of powers
and memory, that really was the greatest miracle. She loved
lying snuggled up to him the whole night through, basking
in their mutual warmth and pretending for a few hours that
her hope of living a normal life had come true.
It really was vexing: There were a few people who could have
direct skin contact with her, but she still seemed no nearer
to exert voluntary control over her native mutant power. Perhaps
not surprising from what she had divulged to him of her life
so far -- Mystique had finally despaired of her attempts at
a training regime, and after Rogue had joined Xavier's little
band, she usually had been with combat training and the X-Men's
endless missions, while Xavier usually was too busy with so
many matters that the question of how Rogue might gain control
of her obstinate power seemed to end up with a very low priority.
But then Charles hardly had a 100 percent record with his
students' mutant powers: Cyclops still could go nowhere without
his ruby quartz lenses, and Iceman had never fully explored
the possibilities of his powers until the White Queen had
rubbed his nose in them when she had temporarily taken refuge
in his body. The old Magneto, the man who was always ready
to see the worst in every person, would have loved this, would
have accused Charles of subconsciously trying to prevent his
surrogate children from realizing their full potential, so
they would feel inadequate just like their crippled mentor
and would continue to depend on him. But that was unfair and,
considering how he had done with the people in his care, the
Brotherhood, the New Mutants, even the Acolytes, he was clearly
in no position to criticize. Charles worked hard for his dream
and for his students, harder than most, and most of the X-Men
had grown too old to have 'Father Xavier' wipe their noses,
metaphorically speaking. Some problems they would have to
solve themselves, and some maybe could not be solved.
Gently stroking the curves of her body, he looked around
the room. A handful of mementos were scattered here and there.
Over the bed was an old poster of a Mississippi paddle-wheel
steamer, rain-damaged and singed in one corner (presumably
the result of some attack on the mansion). Beside it, a framed
photograph of the team around the time when Scott had tried
to set up house with Madelyne Pryor. Among the costumed men
and women smiling (or, in Wolverine's case, grimacing) into
the camera, he recognized Rachel Summers, Kurt Wagner, Piotr
Rasputin and Kitty Pryde, now all living in Britain. It had
been in those far-off days that Rogue and he had first met;
he had tried to give up his old ways and went to live with
Xavier and his students. A lot of the problems that followed
probably stemmed from things simply moving too fast. Charles's
injuries had deteriorated quickly and before he knew it, he
had thrust his responsibilities upon his old friend and former
enemy, to the shock not only of Magneto himself, but perhaps
even more to that of the X-Men and New Mutants. Events soon
drove them apart; after the X-Men left for the West Coast
and he abysmally failed as the New Mutants' new teacher, he
threw in the towel, resolving that he had been a fool to try
to be another Charles Xavier and withdrew from the world.
His eyes fell on the pastel sketch of a landscape in the
Savage Land, drawn by the most artistic of the X-Men past
and present, Colossus. Magneto had met Rogue there about a
year after he left Xavier's School. He was investigating the
machinations of Zaladane, who was trying to harness the power
of the Earth's magnetic field and set herself up as the ruler
of first Antarctica and then the world from her Pangean lair.
At that moment Rogue suddenly appeared from some extradimensional
exile, alone and locked into mortal combat with the physical
manifestation of the personality of Ms. Marvel she had once
absorbed. He had to rescue her because she could not bring
herself to kill the revenant. There had been the first signs
of a personal attraction then, but nothing could come of it,
partly because he still felt beholden to Lee Forrester. At
the end of a protracted battle against Zaladane and her forces
that also involved Ka-Zar, Shanna and a Russo-American force
led by Nick Fury, all of Rogue's impassioned entreaties could
achieve was to get him to spare the Savage Land Mutates' lives.
He was too sure that Zaladane was too dangerous to be given
a chance to escape from imprisonment (and, given the trouble
even an 'ordinary' man like Saddam Hussein could cause long
after defeat, part of him still felt he was right) and after
living through the Holocaust he no longer wanted to see mass-murderers
go unpunished. He had a feeling that Nick Fury probably might
have understood him, but knowing how much Rogue had embraced
Charles's vision, he did not even want to try to see things
The two years after their parting had been a slow descent
into despair. His decision to go back to relying only on himself
proved the last nail in the coffin in his fragile relationship
with Aleytis Forrester. At least they parted more or less
on friendly terms. His withdrawal from the conflicts between
mutant and non-mutant and between mutant and mutant was not
to last, however. Suddenly he was thrust into the role of
Mutant Messiah by a group who even called themselves his Acolytes
and suddenly he was at their head in another battle against
a multitude of national armed forces and Charles's X-Men.
In that confrontation, Charles Xavier had cut loose: Seeing
him rip the Adamantium implants from Wolverine's body was
too much and he let loose on Magneto with all he had. A full
force blast from the most powerful telepath on Earth was like
having one's mind fried and strained through a sieve at the
same time. For weeks Magneto had been reduced to drooling
idiocy, the remaining Acolytes who had remained having to
spoon-feed him. It had taken him months to regain his faculties,
the fine control of his powers, and most importantly, his
memories. Who knows how he would have coped if Amelia Voght,
Charles' former lover, hadn't nursed him back to health? But
then she had slipped away again. Ever the woman of mystery
was Amelia, showing up when you least expected her and then
disappearing without warning.
The Acolytes had dispersed soon after that. Some of the hotheads
had struck out on their own, Exodus, who had worshipped him
almost like a god until his last defeat, fell into a deep
depression, and the others dispersed in all directions, trying
to find an unpopulated region to lie low. He himself withdrew
to Avalon, his asteroid base circling Earth, where he honed
his powers and kept a vaguely interested eye on affairs on
his planet of origin.
Much against his expectations and fears, the outlook for
mutants and comparable persons did not continue to be bleak
in all respects. No thanks to the Clinton Administration,
which shied away from an issue that -- at least until 1994
or '95 -- appeared to be even more likely to cause trouble
to someone taking a stand against prejudice than gay rights.
One little expected contributing factors had been the greater
awareness of Earth no longer being an island in space. Looking
back it seemed strange that humanity had kept going along
on its business as if nothing had happened with the evidence
of other races and civilizations continually before their
eyes -- one just had to think of the countless headlines generated
by exiles like the Kree Captain Mar-Vell and Galactus' former
herald, the Silver Surfer. A greater awareness of the world
around them had only really begun when the Human Torch's Skrull
wife, Lyja Storm, had begun to make use of some of her time
off from the Fantastic Four to write articles on her native
civilization, edit English translations of Skrull books and
to appear on the talk show circuit. Reed Richards' computer
software had enabled her to produce workable translations
of many classics of Skrull literature (and, interspersed,
a few carefully chosen works for the mass market) in quite
a short time and helped initiate ESU's new Department of Xenophilology,
the first academic center devoted to the study and teaching
of extraterrestrial languages and literatures. Lyja Storm's
cultural ambassadorship had made others follow her example,
for instance at Bard College, where Charles Xavier's Shi'ar
connections proved essential in setting up a new research
center for intergalactic cultures. Even now the reclusive
Silver Surfer was rumored to be working on a selection of
religious and philosophical tracts from Zenn-La and other
planets which was eagerly awaited by the esoteric and New
All this had inclined many to look on some Alien races and
'funny-looking' Earthlings with more interest than apprehension,
while some of those more inclined to a paranoid view of the
world for the first time began to think that superpowered
humans and mutants might actually be useful to have on their
side in case those inscrutable extraterrestrials got funny
ideas. The sometimes publicized exploits of mutants in government-sanctioned
teams like the Avengers, Great Britain's Excalibur and Washington's
X-Factor helped to counteract the bad press generated by the
likes of Mr. Sinister, the Mutant Liberation Front, the mysterious
new Brotherhood of Mutants, and, until not that long ago,
by himself. At the recent general elections in the UK there
had even been two Mutant candidates, one of whom got elected
on a Labour ticket in a safe constituency. The reverse of
that medal was that one grouping of survivalist militias who
were trying to find a group of superpowered free-lancers "to
help protect them from the federal spandex-clad hired thugs."
The photograph on the bedside table, a family portrait taken
at the christening of Rogue's foster sister Irene, reminded
Magneto of the 'scandal' that had exploded in late 1995 after
the relationship between X-Factor's government liaison Valerie
Cooper and Mystique had become public knowledge. For a time
it had looked as if Dr. Cooper was going to lose her job.
There was an almighty racket (which however had resulted in
a number of gay rights and other special interest groups becoming
interested in mutant rights), but then it had blown over surprisingly
quickly, with a part of the public actually becoming fascinated
with the concept of a woman fathering a child, while others
were sidetracked into debating its theological implications.
Magneto suspected that either a deal of some kind had been
struck, or maybe X-Factor had better connections in the government
hierarchy than he had suspected. Another factor must have
been the bitter infighting among the mutiphobe groups after
it was revealed on the Internet that Graydon Creed, leader
of the Friends of Humanity, was the son of Mystique and Sabretooth.
From being seen a credible potential third-party candidate
in the 1996 presidential elections, he rapidly descended into
temporary obscurity. Within his movement a faction arose that
accused him of being a mutant himself, engaged in a conspiracy
that would deliver 'humanity's protectors' to their enemies,
while from outside he was charged with trying to take out
his personal family problems on the wider world. Others began
to rethink the matter of how far 'genejokes' and 'flatscans'
were apart if not only 'normal' humans could bear mutant children,
but also vice versa (Magneto's own granddaughter was another
case in point). It seemed quite obvious to Magneto that Mystique
had taken care that the news of Creed's embarrassing family
background broke in the summer of 1996 when they would do
his political ambitions the greatest damage, even though with
the consummate skill of an experienced freelance secret agent
and infiltrator, she had made sure that it would not be directly
traced back to her. You just had to admire the way she handled
herself when she was interviewed on talk shows and morning
news programs about the matter.
But was it enough to rethink his course of action once more,
Magneto had wondered. He did not want to talk his hopes and
doubts within Charles, certainly not within such a short time
after their last battle. Which made it seem all the more logical
to contact Rogue in secret. After some long-range correspondence
(his electromagnetic powers made contacts via computer possible
in ways undreamed-of by Bill Gates) they arranged for a clandestine
meeting in Germany -- of all countries! -- when Xavier went
to the NATO Conference on Metapowered Operatives. What they
had not expected was that their old attraction would be rekindled
and indeed reinvigorated once they faced each other again
eye to eye. Although they were a little tentative when she
came into his hotel room, but a little surprisingly they found
themselves more comfortable than in the Savage Land. They
weren't in the shadow of an impending battle, he had in the
meantime worked out the end of his romantic loose ends with
Aleytis, and she had grown more self-confident after withdrawing
for a time after her short-lived romance with Gambit had turned
sour. Their love burst through their protective shells, and
suddenly the future seemed clearer, more hopeful. The unexpectedly
discovery that their powers were compatible, that for them
intimacy was possible, seemed like an indication of better
things to come.
From then one, it seemed almost easy. At first they continued
to meet from time to time without letting the other X-Men
or Rogue's family know. One subterfuge Rogue used a few time
was to sneak in an evening (and, after a while, a night) with
him by making little detours on her way between New York and
Washington, when she visited Mystique, Valerie and her baby
stepsister in Georgetown. Then came the time when she had
finally persuaded him to mend his fences with Charles and
Magneto smiled thoughtfully.
"What are you grinnin' at, sugah?" Rogue had woken
"Oh, I was just thinking of Charles's face when you
brought back here for the first time."
It had been an occasion to remember. Charles was in the midst
of a lively discussion with Scott, Jean, Ororo, Sean Cassidy
and Emma Frost on how the X-Men and the Xavier Institute should
act with respect to the general public, when Rogue just brought
him into his study, simply saying: 'Ah think you two need
t'talk.' Charles's jaw had dropped with good reason, for hadn't
there been three telepaths in the room, and yet his entrance
had come as a surprise? But then by natural gift and frequent
exercise he had long had strong psychic defenses, and the
half-dozen in the study had after all been deeply engrossed
in their dispute.
Rogue, who had been running her fingers along his stubbly
jaw, finally roused herself. She rose, unselfconsciously stretching
her lithe body, apparently not even noticing how the raising
of her arms lifted her firm, pink-tipped breasts or with what
attention his eyes were fixed on them. (The distraction caused
by his once-more raging hormones was a minor drawback of his
rejuvenated body). Muscles rippled under smooth, elastic skin
as she walked off to the bathroom. The toilet flushed and
the shower could be heard. Magneto continued to reminisce.
It had not been easy, at first, to become part of the X-Men
team again. After all, Charles had fried his brain in their
previous battle in the belief that it was impossible that
he would ever reform, and now Magneto was coming back of his
own accord, ready to abandon his old ways? It simply had seemed
too good to be true. Rogue's eloquence and his own readiness
to submit to limited psi-scans helped, but it really was a
mystery to himself why he felt as if a shadow of darkness
was no longer cast over his soul.
They soon found out the answer. When Charles had 'wiped clean'
Magneto's mind during their battle over Wolverine's prostrate
form, his darkest inner demons, the unacknowledged part of
him that especially in the days of the first Brotherhood had
taken pleasure in the suffering and humiliation of his enemies
and lackeys, had slipped in under Charles's psychic defenses.
In the subconscious of the great psi it hid and festered,
joining forces and finally merging with his own dark side.
He had heard stories of the time when that had first appeared
in the world years before as the malignant Entity, when all
the X-Men could not defeat it unaided. But it turned out that
that had only been a foretaste of the horrors brought about
by the new psychic being that called 'himself' Onslaught.
A creature of almost pure psychic energy and an almost unlimited
capacity for power, he had been a most intimidating threat.
Because he fed on the strength of mutants, the X-teams could
not defeat him by themselves but had to depend on the help
of other metapowered heroes and super-teams.
Fortunately, some months earlier the high tide of anti-mutant
hysteria had brought the policy-makers of the better-known
super-teams together behind the scenes at the NATO metapowers
conference to thrash out the misunderstandings that had bedeviled
e.g. the relations between the mutant teams and the Avengers
for so many years. Good thing that there was so much common
history to ease the way to a more cooperative relationship,
in particular the personal link between X-Factor and the Avengers
embodied by his son Quicksilver, that between the Avengers
and the X-Men through Hank McCoy (who also had been a teammate
of the current Avengers chairwoman on the short-lived Champions
of Los Angeles, along with Iceman and the Angel, as he then
was), and the traditional close friendships between the Avengers
and the Fantastic Four and between the X-Men and their European
'off-shoot', Excalibur. It also helped that Captain America
was on good terms with Nick Fury, who in turn had helped Val
Cooper and Forge to overcome the inertia and control urges
of factions of the bureaucracy of the Pentagon and other Washington
departments. Who knows what might have happened otherwise
if they had had to waste a lot of time on explanations and
fights? Good thing too that Nightcrawler had been on hand
to prevent Onslaught from laying his hands on Franklin Richards.
Onslaught had tried to complete his personal evolution by
fusing with some extremely powerful mutants, and the son of
Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman with his potentially
reality-bending powers was his prime candidate. In teleportation
jumps spanning longer and longer distances that took him all
over the North American continent, the German ex-X-Man had
barely managed to stay ahead of the pursuing Onslaught, enabling
the heroes to marshal their forces and set up the decisive
confrontation in an almost uninhabited forest a little distance
from Warren, Pennsylvania. There Onslaught had finally been
defeated and dispersed, but the final jump took so much out
of Kurt Wagner that he lay in a coma for three weeks. Fortunately
few of the others involved in that fight sustained injuries
Rogue re-entered the room, toweling her hair. "Up and
at 'em, sleepyhead," she exhorted him, "remember
my folks expect us b'fore noon!"
Magneto groaned theatrically. In his previous relationships
he never had met his partners' families. Magda, like himself,
no longer had one when they met as two Displaced Persons in
1945, and later he had usually been in circumstances that
barely permitted a semblance of a love-life, but not contact
with his lovers relatives. Now it was different: As Rogue's
had been trying to improve her family life, it was only to
be expected she would be rather insistent about her wish to
take him to see her strange family: Mystique, the shape-changing
mutant ex-terrorist who had raised Rogue as her foster daughter,
and her unlikely new 'wife', Dr. Valerie Cooper of the National
Security Council, one of the most important officials in Washington's
mutant-related bureaucracy. Not that he bore them ill will,
even though years ago, when Mystique had just started X-Factor's
predecessor group, Freedom Force, they had captured him in
a skirmish with the X-Men, an effort that led to his abortive
international trial in Paris. For all he knew, they were now
on the same side, but still he did not relish the prospect
of becoming involved in the schemes of such arch-manipulators.
"Cheer up, handsome, it could be worse. Val promised
me Graydon's not gonna show up."
Oh yes, just the thing to make my day, Magneto mused, another
reminder that by getting involved with Rogue he was now almost
family to one of the best known spokesmen for genetic bigotry.
At least it was easier to get along with Rogue's other stepbrother,
Kurt Wagner. After finally patching up things with his biological
mother Mystique, Nightcrawler was now visiting her and Valerie
at every possible occasion to play with his baby half-sister.
With a quiet sigh of resignation, Magneto got up, automatically
assembling his costume from its molecule-sized metal components
on his body.
"Oops! Sorry dear." Rogue normally didn't like
it when he showed off, but now she only grinned indulgently.
He left her quarters to cross over into his own, to wash,
shave and finish his packing. In the corridor he saw Iceman
on his way to the stairs. They exchanged stiff nods -- Robert
Drake had become a close friend of Rogue's in the interim
since Pangea, and though he wasn't interested in her romantically,
he had a tendency to think her boyfriends weren't good enough
for her. Which exacerbated the 'normal' unease in Magneto's
relations to many of the X-Men. He had trouble deciding with
whom it had been more difficult -- the members of the original
team, most of whom never had cooperated with him before Onslaught,
or those who had been his teammates before, but who also had
cause to think he had betrayed them then.
Rogue's relations with her teammates also had changed after
she announced who her new boyfriend was. Storm and Wolverine,
who had been accustomed to cast a vaguely parental eye on
Rogue ever since her rookie days, cautiously signaled that
they felt happy for her. Others shook their heads over her
choice of lover. Saddest of all for Rogue was that her relationship
with Gambit was destroyed -- they had been close before, even
before they had embarked on their ill-fated romance. Of that
closeness almost nothing remained, except in some flashes
in fights, when they functioned as a team without words. But
in the mansion, Rémy now tended to avoid her and her attempts
to become friends with him again. But something loomed over
them as a dark shadow -- some secret she had accidentally
learned through her power in their only kiss. She never told
him or any of her teammates what it was, but sometimes she
managed to catch Gambit alone, and knowing her he suspected
that she tried to convince him to come out with whatever skeleton
he had in his closet.
For Magneto himself, the most awkward relationship was going
to be that with his two children, and with Quicksilver's irregular
visits to X-Mansion and the X-Factor compound, and, more significantly,
with the upcoming exchange program, by which the Beast and
the Scarlet Witch would switch their positions on the rosters
of the X-Men and the Avengers, there was going to be a lot
of scope to revive painful memories of the days of the first
Brotherhood. Also, although he chronologically was seventy
years old, due to certain events in his personal history,
he physically had more youth than his children. Although they
both were in a good shape that belied the fact that they had
passed their fortieth birthday a few years ago, physiologically
he was now younger than they, having the body of a man in
his twenties. Considering what he had done in his past, and
in particular to Wanda and Pietro, he would not be surprised
if they felt that he was undeservedly fortunate. Meanwhile,
Rogue was disgustingly optimistic about patching up things
with the X-Men, his son and daughter, and maybe at some point
even a significant part of the public at large.
Ah, the confidence of youth! He once had it too, back in
the 1930s in a Zionist youth group in Lithuania. Soviet occupation,
German invasion and genocide, the murder of his family and
finally Anya's death thoroughly knocked it from his personal
make-up. There had been dark periods when he had even yearned
to have stayed with his parents and his sister in the mass-grave
in a Belorussian forest clearing. Even two years ago there
had been times of almost unrelieved gloom, but to his surprise
there he now found Rogue's optimistic outlook on life more
infectious than he had ever thought possible.
Four years ago,
in a universe far, far away...
It was a sweltering summer evening in Washington DC. Police
captain Brian Arsala, dressed in an extremely colorful Hawaiian
shirt as usual, had just returned to his Georgetown home.
The old building was shared by two households: the Arsala-Grangers
lived in the second floor, and the Halls at ground level.
But what few people in the national capital knew: this house
was also home to the city's metahuman team, Hawk and Dove.
"Hello, honey, I'm home!" he shouted as he unlocked
the door and entered the lilac vestibule. Dawn answered from
"Brian! You're just in time for changing Una's nappies!"
Brian bowed to the inevitable and joined his wife after depositing
his shoulder-holster along with the two action figures he
had bought on his way home in his study-cum-lair. But he wouldn't
let her Briticism pass without comment: "Enjoyed the
reception at the embassy, did you, luv?"
"Of course I did, ducky!" She grinned, the dimple
on her right cheek deepening.
"A duck married to a dove?" He picked up the baby
girl, kissing her on the top of her head, which was sparsely
covered in fine, dark hair. As he set about changing her diapers,
Dawn lovingly started mopping up the perspiration from his
forehead and shoulder-length hair. He felt happy. His professional
life was progressing as smoothly as could be expected in a
surprise-filled field as that of the head of the District's
Special Crimes Unit. Granted, his superiors had yet again
postponed the acquisition of a helicopter to replace the one
trashed more than a year ago, but apart from that his team
operated smoothly. Wolfson, Kirby, Trinh and the others were
showing a marked talent for improvisation, and if worst came
to worst, he always knew how to contact Dove quickly. And
her kind of air support was better than none (and in fact
a lot more versatile than a copter could provide). So with
his more limited resources he still made the Washington S.C.U.
a force to be reckoned with, even if it might always have
to live in the shadow of the more lavishly provided team in
Metropolis. Not that he begrudged Maggie Sawyer her bigger
funding. For some reason Metropolis seemed to be much more
attractive to metapowered villains than Washington, which
meant that in spite of Superman's well-known connections to
the city, the Metropolis S.C.U. always had their hands full.
Dawn, ever the model student, had not let her pregnancy slow
her down for long and now was back on course to follow in
her mother's footsteps into a career at the State Department.
Guess that's why they call her a superheroine if she can balance
her studies and motherhood and continue to moonlight as a
costumed vigilante. Who was partnered with an impulsive (Wolfson
usually was less diplomatic: "a psycho!") meta called
Hawk who at times could be a tad testing for the police to
But for all that, he was glad that Hawk and Dove were on
hand, such as a couple of months ago, when a group of wacked-out
super-patriots called the Sons of Liberty had tried to throw
their weight about with operatives in high-powered battle-suits.
He also was grateful that he got along with them so well in
private and that his family life worked out so well. Brian
and Dawn were intensely in love with each other, and both
loved her daughter. He could hardly wait for her to grow up
enough to appreciate his Samurai Saurians collection. And
to need to have her diapers changed no longer!
Upstairs, Renata was busy at the computer in her study; the
desk and large parts of the floor were covered with notepaper,
pens, pencils, CDs, picture postcards, mugs and other clutter.
She was working on a term paper. Once she entered the last
months of her pregnancy she was spending a lot more time at
home, since her protruding belly was a bit awkward to seriously
continue her freelance news photography. So today, as on a
few other days during the past fortnight, she had been baby-sitting
for Dawn. And tonight she and Hank were invited for dinner
with Dawn and Brian. The two families liked to get together
at least once a week to talk things over. This was in part
because it seemed unnatural to avoid close contact when they
were actually sharing a house, in part to overcome the negative
side-effects of living with two double identities. Dawn also
felt it would be easier to defuse potentially stressful situations
that might derive from their odd quadrilateral relationship
(she and Hank partnered as Hawk and Dove, but married to Ren
and Sal) at an early stage.
Ren saved her files, switched of the PC and walked over to
the next room where Hank Hall was working out with weights.
He was a little behind schedule because of the appointment
with his parole officer earlier in the afternoon and, not
untypically, he had decided to put off his academic homework
to do his physical exercises first.
"Aren't you cutting it a bit fine with your paper?"
Ren asked, "remember you promised we'd go to Lamaze class
The look of sudden, sinking realization on her husband's
face told her all she needed to know. She just had to lean
forward to kiss him on the temple and run her fingers through
"Maybe you'd better give exercising a little rest, eh,
big guy? Get some of your homework done?" He pulled a
long face, but put down his dumb-bells.
"And you didn't even get a chance to work up a decent
sweat," she quipped in a funny voice. That did the trick,
he lightened up and put his arm across her shoulders.
"Guess I'd best make the most of the free time that's
still left to me, eh?" he said as his left hand found
its way to touch her swelling belly. "But I really need
to work out more at home. Sometimes it feels like all I have
when I'm out is the wrestling team."
Of late Hank did not see as much Hawk action as he would
have wanted. Of all the conditions imposed on him when he
was put on probation, the most irksome to him was not doing
any crime-fighting unless he was officially requested to.
At least Sal had seen to it that he got a beeper from the
S.C.U. But sometimes it was extremely frustrating to see a
'minor' violent crime in the street and not being allowed
to intervene (at least when there was a chance of being observed).
They sat around the table, Una sitting on Dawn's lap. Brian's
paella supper had gone down well, and the two families were
now relaxedly chatting over ice cream. Hank and Brian were
earnestly discussing the merits and drawbacks of a new sonic
gun the S.C.U. was considering to add to its arsenal, and
Ren and Dawn were talking about the difference between their
spouses' attitudes to birthing classes. Then suddenly the
outside wall started to glow with an eldritch green light.
Everyone fell silent, except Una, who started to cry. The
grownups apprehensively rose. The hairs at the back of Hank's
neck bristled. Brian Arsala edged towards the cupboard where
he kept his firearms. Hank and Dawn shouted out:
The change happened silently, but in a flash. It was much
more noticeable with Hank: He about doubled his body weight
as his muscles expanded beyond the size normally acceptable
in human beings. At the same time his jeans and sweatshirt
were superseded by a skintight leotard in a jagged red and
white design with a matching mask and spiky cloak. Dawn too
transferred into a costume -- it sky blue set off with white,
feather-like decorations -- but for her the most noticeable
physical change was that her hair faded to almost white and
suddenly was longer than before. At that moment, the glowing
wall crumbled and silently exploded into the room.
Silhouetted against the dust and smoke was a quartet of menacing
figures, two huge, one minuscule. The one up front stepped
forward, a menacing sneer etched on his features. His outlines
were blurred at first, then reassembled into a shape resembling
those of Hawk and of his late enemy, Kestrel, but in an only-too-familiar
sickly green, purple and dark blue-gray color scheme.
"M'shulla!" Dove exclaimed. Hawk stepped forward,
between the intruders and Renata, who had picked up the baby.
He probably was not even aware of the low growl that issued
from his larynx.
"Hey, M'shul, no fair!" shouted M'shulla's companion,
"I smash the wall, and you hog the attention!" Child,
whose looks -- reddish-blond hair down to his shoulders, chubby
cheeks -- were very much in keeping with his name, wore a
suit quartered jester-fashion in green and purple, both in
different shades from M'shulla's.
"Oh, pipe down, you little oik," retorted the leader
of the group, "of course the most powerful Lord of Chaos
in the room is the one the spawn of that pervert T'charr and
his paragon have to worry about most."
"Is not!" was Child's petulant reply. "Not
after I regenerated Flaw. Sic' em, Flaw!" He gesticulated
to the crystal warrior behind him, indicating the group of
the house's inhabitants. The servant, who literally had twice
Child's height, lumbered forward, lifting his arms menacingly.
"Go get them!" Child shrieked, "They smashed
you to pieces the last time, now's the time we get our own
"You fool!" hissed the smallest of the four, who
was just alighting from M'shulla's right shoulder, "Even
if they're hopelessly outmatched, you don't attack them piecemeal!"
Phew, thought Hawk, and I thought M'shulla was an eyesore
with his color-sense! The little creature, a kind of compound-eyed
bat with a bulldog's snout, had fur and leather wings in clashing
shades of magenta, vermilion and crimson that just made eyes
water. But Hawk registered only a glimpse of him, and then
Flaw was on him and knocked him down against the table. But
his wrestling training had not been for nothing: soon Hawk
was on his feet again and had not only tripped Flaw, but grabbed
him by his ankles and bodily lifted him up. He hurled the
crystalline golem around in a circle, reflecting and refracting
M'shulla's beams of hazardous colored light off Flaw's facets.
Where the reflected rays hit the floor, walls and ceiling,
they cut smoking holes. But the majority of the reflections
were in the general direction of the three Lords of Chaos.
They could not hurt M'shulla, but they did cause his small
sidekick and Child to dive for cover.
Dove quickly sized up the opposition. M'shulla, the shape-changing
Lord of Chaos obviously was the ringleader. Child and his
servant Flaw had already been his footpads at their last clash,
in Druspa Tau. She did not recognize the little bat-like thing
hovering around the group, but he/she/it also seemed to take
his/her/its cue from M'shulla. As T'charr and Terataya's most
persistent enemy, M'shulla probably was out to kill their
earthly 'incarnations' or to prevent the completion of the
Unity. In any case the first priority should be to get Una,
Brian and Ren out of the line of fire. Better act quick though.
M'shulla has stopped his futile light-show and from the way
he is now gesturing, it seems he is systematically and unhurriedly
summoning up some major spell.
Dove flew towards Child, goading him to grandstand: "Hey
boy, are you going to let that green and purple pain outshine
you?" Child reacted by hastily summoning a spell of his
own, but thanks to her raised perceptions and analytical faculties,
she could judge her flypath well, to avoid. Following her,
Child did not notice that he was swiveling towards his partner.
When Dove sensed he was about to unleash his spell in her
direction, she suddenly banked to the left and up, barely
avoiding the ball of blinding orange light Child had launched
at her. But as she had planned, it now was flying towards
M'shulla. Who at that moment was holding his own mighty spell,
physically manifested as a bright, burning green cloud, suspended
in the air between his hands. Momentarily dazzled by the two
sources of intense light, he could not react in time by either
moving aside or summoning up a defensive shield. At the last
moment he tries to vanish from Child's fireball's path, but
in that instant it and M'shulla's firecloud collide and fuse
with spectacular results. Everything is bathed in a blinding
sulfurous light, and there is a huge roar as if a Jumbo Jet
was taking off seven feet overhead.
Dazed, the three Lords of Chaos pick themselves up. To their
astonishment, they are in a hole in the ground. The place,
where the cellar used to be. The house, and its five inhabitants,
have vanished without trace. It is suddenly silent. Silent
except for the sound of water spurting from a broken main
in a lazy arc, spraying off the prone figure of Flaw.
My own Una,
if you read this, it may be that three of the four men and
women in on your secret -- myself, Brian and Hank -- will
no longer be left alive or in a position to tell you this
personally. Not that I expect any of us to die soon, but I'm
supposed to be the practical, orderly one who plans ahead
even for the worst contingency. I hope that at least Renata
and your grandparents will have survived to help you explain
this, the story of your origin and to decide what to do about
your heritage. Of course my dream scenario is that you will
get this as a kind of souvenir after I told you the relevant
facts in person and that all of us will be very much alive.
To get it over in brief, my child, the man known to the
world (and official records) as your father isn't. Your biological
father is Hank Hall. It all began with two groups of very
powerful cosmic entities, the Lords of Order and the Lords
of Chaos, who are continuously busy fighting each other for
the control of the universe. At one point, however, the Lord
of Chaos T'charr and the Lord of Order Terataya met and fell
in love with each other. They decided that for the good of
the world the simple dichotomy between Order and Chaos had
to be transcended -- a world in total chaos would sooner or
later deteriorate into self-destruction, while total order
would result in stasis, a state unfit for living beings because
it stifles freedom. (I rather hope you'll say: "But that's
obvious.") They wanted to promote their ideas about the
cooperation between Order and Chaos in the cause of betterment
and progress. And the way they decided to do this was to give
your father and his late brother, Don Hall, metahuman powers
so they would work together as a duo of costumed crime-fighters.
T'charr imbued Hank with superhuman strength and Terataya
gave Don agility and sharper analytical thinking. Both would
access their powers by calling out the names of their secret
identities -- Hank became Hawk, and Don Dove. Together they
did their bit for Truth and Justice (and, Hank more than Don,
the American Way) until one day, in the midst of a major crisis
involving almost everybody who wore a costume, Don was killed
by a collapsing wall while saving some children.
The hour he died, T'charr and Terataya transferred his
powers to me. I needed them too, because some terrorists had
taken over the US Embassy in London and mom was inside. At
first I thought I was just one of many Doves. But then I heard
of the death of the original Dove and from then on I set myself
the task of tracking down his partner, Hawk. Thankfully Hank
did not make it too difficult, because without the balancing
influence of his brother and partner, his irrational tendencies
went unchecked. But I wasn't the only one pursuing him, T'charr's
rival Lord of Chaos, M'Shulla, had sent a supernatural mass-murderer
called Kestrel after him. It was fighting him that Hank and
I first met and became partners -- it was also then that Renata
first fell in love with Hank and found out about our double
lives. Some time later -- after I had first met Brian and
we had become interested in each other -- we found ourselves
in an other-dimensional world called Druspa Tau. There we
finally met T'charr and Terataya (they had transformed themselves
into a dragon wearing an amulet) only to see them perish in
a cataclysmic fight against M'shulla and his minions. But
before they died, they merged their essences with ours, and
ever since Druspa Tau T'charr is part of Hank, and Terataya
part of me. The rub was that T'charr and Terataya were lovers,
and they had really intended to complete their "project"
by conceiving a child together. So suddenly there was this
sexual tension between Hawk and Dove, even though at the time
Hank and Ren were already more or less committed to each other
and although I had not yet made as much progress with my romance
with Brian, I knew I was far more attracted to him than I
was ever going to be to Hank. For months, we felt secure --
the feelings our supernatural "guests" had for each
other seemingly bottled up in our subconscious. Life moved
on, Hank was duped by the ghost of a dead criminal called
the Top (don't ask) and wound up in prison for a while, Brian
discovered our secret, Ren & Hank and Brian & I got
engaged. And then suddenly T'charr and Terataya's 'mating
urge' manifested itself with a totally unexpected force. Believe
me, we thought long and hard over this, both among ourselves
and with our partners. What we had to reckon with was perhaps
not so much an affair of the heart (although that element
was present) as a desperate wish to incarnate the Unity between
Order and Chaos in one living person -- you. Eventually we
decided to give in to what may have been inevitable in any
case, but which did not come easy because of that, hoping
that once we had conceived you, we could get on with our lives
without T'charr and Terataya interfering. And shortly after
we had "done the deed", both of us got married to
our respective spouses, who thankfully supported us in all
If you read this letter, this most likely means that you
are the last chance for the realization of T'charr and Terataya's
dream of a Union of Order and Chaos to promote good in this
Remember the Unity.
Your loving Mother.
Renata and Una screamed in terror as the house around them
shuddered and trembled. The vibrations ended in a mighty crash
that left no windowpane unsmashed. It suddenly was dark again
-- the electric lights were out, and what light there was
came from outside, an unfamiliar reddish glow through the
windows. As Renata's eyes adjusted to it, she noticed that
the attackers had disappeared. Hawk went to the nearest window
and looked out.
"Where the hell are we?" he wondered aloud. Instead
of the familiar Washington street scene, the view was of some
kind of huge cave: walls of a strange purplish red rock were
dimly lighted by a lava flow at some distance and splotches
of sickly green luminescent fungus growth on the walls. No
form of animal life was immediately visible, but his instincts
screamed that there was something or someone out there, and
it was turning its attention on the strange house that had
suddenly intruded in this tunnel.
"Hell seems to be the operative word here," said
Sal, who had crawled up beside Hank. There even was a hint
of sulfur in the hazy air.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the room, Dove picked herself
up. She had been nearest to the 'explosion'. Once she noticed
they were in no immediate danger from the Chaotic attackers,
she turned to Ren: "Is Una all right?"
"She's physically okay, I'd say" But not unsurprisingly
given her ordeal, the baby was crying. Renata gently rocked
her and stroked her hair. When Una had calmed down a little,
Ren turned to the others: "What happened, guys?"
Brian looked over the house with a worried expression. Plaster
had fallen from the ceiling in shards of all kinds of sizes.
And the way the formerly straight lines of the walls, floors
and ceilings were now curved and bent, it was clear that the
damage to the structure of the building must have been quite
serious: "Uh, shouldn't we maybe better get out of here
before the building collapses?" The muffled sounds from
beneath the floor added to his discomfort.
Quickly, the five staggered outside. Hawk and Dove moved
up to Renata, Dove to relieve her of Una, and Hank to support
her. "Are you okay, babe?" asked Ren's worried spouse.
"Ohmigosh, the baby" blurted Dove, "you're
"I think we're okay. At least for the moment..."
Ren reassured everybody around. She was perspiring a little,
but that was probably as much due to the raised temperature
as to the exertions of the past quarter of an hour.
They assembled before the splintered remnants of the front
door. They tried to assess the situation. Hawk muttered: "Man,
what kind of spell did that cosmic sleazeball use...??"
Dove scratched her chin: "Well, I doubt that it was
M'shulla's intention to bring us here..."
"Wherever here is." interjected Brian glancing
at the infernal surroundings.
"... because then he'd surely have brought himself and
his henchmen with us. I'd say he had something more destructive
in mind and added a fail-safe that excluded him and the other
three from the spell's effect. But somehow it must have gestalted
with Child's magicks, landing us here with no one intending
"You mean at the moment even those scumbags don't know
where we are?" Hawk asked in exasperation.
"I guess you could say that's a good thing," said
Brian, "but this place gives me the willies." Of
the four grown-ups, he had the least first-hand experience
of the supernatural and not surprisingly he felt the most
apprehensive about what he heard and saw. Like those luminous
eyes that had appeared for a moment in a dark side-tunnel.
It must have been easier even for Ren, who wasn't a trained
police officer, but had been to the magic real of Druspa Tau
and had made the acquaintance of more than a few magic entities
more close up than she cared. Which made her worried tone
all the more ominous:
"Uh guys, was that glowing circle here all the time?"
They looked around and saw that they were standing in the
middle of a circle of light about 20 yards across -- not in
its exact center, but all inside. Inside its circumference
everything lightened up, became bathed in a dull red glow
that became yellow and then a bright phosphorescent green.
"Shit, here we go again!" shouted Hawk, as they
all disappeared in a blinding flash of sulfurous white light.
Time Capsule (2)
Just a few lines from me in case the worst comes to the
worst. One reason why we decided to write this down is that
we wanted to avoid any Greek-Tragedy-type situations in case
your father, my lovable Hankster and I decide to have children.
Because if we do, they would then be your half-brothers and
At the time I made light of it, putting it down as a "last
fling" before the wedding, on par with a booze-induced
lapse that might happen at a wild stag or hen night. But it
really was not that easy to come to accept what had happened,
neither for me, nor for Brian. I have to admit, the temptation
to exploit my friend's and husband's feelings of guilt over
having had it away with each other was at times hard to resist.
But I am glad that in spite of the stress our friendship survived.
Ultimately this was because we knew that it wasn't Hank and
Dawn making you, but the Lords of Order and Chaos who haunt
Although the decision to kind of get our (Brian's and
mine) permission before they went ahead with it caused a lot
of friction (like they weren't twisting our arms with the
fate of the universe in the balance blah blah blah), it was
the honest thing to do. And it probably was unavoidable, 'cause
it would have been a teensy bit difficult to do on the sly
as I had been in Druspa Tau and knew of Terataya's and T'charr's
intentions. Still, there were times when it felt like we weren't
two couples joined by friendship and your little secret, but
as if we were a six-person commune (with the dead, yet ever-present
T & T).
Back in the D.C. Groove
Hawk, Dove, Ren, Sal and Una reappeared in a familiar setting:
the Virginia bank of the Potomac, near Theodore Roosevelt
Island. Only the light was all wrong. A few moments ago they
had just finished dinner, now they already saw the dawn coloring
the sky behind the Washington Monument and the dome of the
Capitol in the distance. "Great," groaned Hank,
"now they screwed up our time too!"
"Hmm, I wonder if this is before or after our attack?"
"Who cares?" was Hawk's querulous reply, "we'll
smash 'em up good either way."
"That's mah mayunn!" beamed Renata, the young Texan,
"still, don't you think it might be a good idea to call
in some help, sport?" His expression hinted that did
not much like the idea that they actually might need some
kind of assistance. "I mean, are you sure we can even
find them otherwise? Who knows where they're off to now?"
she added soothingly.
"Guess you're right, Ren," said Hank, "And
we'll be needing a safe place for you and Una in the meantime."
"I'll ring up Wolfson," said Sal. "If we traveled
a few hours into the future, the police should have noticed
that our house has gone missing by now and he should be on
the case." Unfortunately he must have lost his cellular
phone in the house, so he had to leg it to the nearest public
telephone. Punching in Wolfson's office connection, he came
in for a rude surprise:
"Vice squad, Sgt. Klotzkowski," came an unfamiliar
"Excuse me, Sergeant, I must have gotten a wrong connection.
Could you please put me through to the S.C.U?"
"S.C.U.? What's that stand for? South Carolina University?
Boy, have you got a wrong connection..."
"No, the Special Crimes Unit! This is Captain Arsala
"Captain .... who? Oh, I get it. You're a real riot,
Donovan." The man on the other end of the line hung up.
"What the hell...?" Sal tried again, then called
the police information desk. There too his inquiries after
Wolfson and the Special Crimes Unit were met only with blank
incomprehension. Had their mystic jump landed them in a time
before or after the S.C.U.'s existence? He quickly checked
in the battered directory: No entries for Brian Arsala, Dawn
Granger, Dawn's parents or Renata Takamori, and some idiot
had torn out the page with the 'Hall' listings.
Dawn came up beside him, no longer in costume, so at least
they no longer were in any immediate danger: "What's
"None of us is listed in the phone-book. Neither are
S.T.A.R. Labs. And at HQ they've never heard of the S.C.U."
"So it's a pretty safe bet this is not the Washington
that we left. We'd better find out quickly where or when we
Luckily, the nearby newspaper and magazine was open. As they
entered, Ren noticed an unfamiliar sight among the picture
postcards: Among the selection of views of the White House,
there were, as usual, some pictures of the Presidential family.
But instead of George and Barbara Bush, there was an entirely
different couple. "Uh-oh..." Come to think of it,
they looked vaguely familiar, but not in that surrounding.
She quickly snatched it up from the rack and flipped it around:
"William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United
States of America, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the First Lady,"
she read out to the others.
They rushed to the newspaper section. Hank got there first
and picked up the Post: "July nineteen, nineteen
ninety-seven..." he read with a sinking voice.
They quickly checked the other papers and magazines. Dawn
was a little surprised not to find the Metropolis Daily
Planet, which usually was carried by most Washington area
newsagents, but that surprise was nothing to finding something
called the Daily Bugle among the out-of-town papers.
The main headline mentioned someone called Spider-Man whom
she had never heard of, but then many new superheroes could
have appeared in the past four years. A more worrying factor
was that according to the masthead the Bugle had been
published in New York since before World War 2, but she couldn't
remember ever seeing it on any of her visits to the Big Apple.
Hank went through a sports papers. What happened to the baseball
leagues? He'd have thought it inconceivable that someone would
be able to take the Metropolis and Gotham franchises and move
them to Florida and ... Colorado???
The four looked at each other apprehensively: something was
seriously, definitely wrong.
"Hey, this isn't a public library," the saleslady
said. Feeling a little embarrassed, Ren bought a couple of
papers and the by now somewhat crumpled postcard. Hank, acting
on a horrible suspicion, asked the saleslady for a larger-scale
map that would take him from Washington to New York. After
paying for it, he took the others outside and examined it.
Their hearts sank when they could found nothing where Metropolis
should be and only a minuscule town on the site of Gotham
"Did-dee did-dee, did-dee did-dee!" Renata tried
to lighten the impact by humming the theme from The Twilight
Zone, but the smiles she got were clearly strained.
"So what do we do now?" asked Brian.
"How the hell should I know?" Hank flared up. "The
way I see it, everybody we could ask for advice has disappeared
from the friggin' surface of the Earth."
"Well, even if S.T.A.R. don't have a Washington branch,
surely there must be somebody who does research into interdimensional
travel." Renata said, grasping for hope.
"Question is, do we want to approach them. This world
gives me the creeps." Hank replied.
"In any case," said Dawn, "we'll have to find
someone first, then we can find out if they're trustworthy.
Another thing: We got her because of a magical attack. Maybe
we can find someone who could take us home by magic means?"
"Well, there's Barter," mused Ren, "he definitely
has no trouble traveling between dimensions. He took us to
Druspa Tau, remember?"
"No, after what he did the last time we met, I don't
want anything to do with that scumbag ever again!" Hank
was most emphatic. But then Barter had come close to irrevocably
ruining his life by aiding the Top to trick him into helping
him to return to the living and steal Senator Thomas O'Neill's
body and career. This was done by having the Top pretend to
be the ghost of Don Hall and setting him up so that it looked
as if Hank had attempted to assassinate Tommy O'Neill. Which
did not hurt the Top's new political career and also enabled
Barter to pay Hank back for having knocked him out while they
were in Druspa Tau.
Until they could think of something better to do, the five
strangers in a strange universe walked northward, gravitating
towards Georgetown and where their home should be in a kind
of irrational homing instinct. Not the most auspicious idea,
as it turned out. Just as they stepped onto Francis Scott
Key Bridge, a quartet of costumed figures appeared out of
thin air in the middle of road beside them.
In the center of the group stood an imposing man, all encased
in glittering chrome from head to toe. His armor only left
the lower half of his face free; the helmet and shoulders
were a forest of spikes and what looked like cooling vanes.
His arrogant pose indicated that he was the leader of the
other three -- a half-naked, four-armed giant, a mustard-colored
creature were-cat-girl, and a woman encased in a skin-tight
orange suit and cowl, a rather impractical white horsetail
hanging from the back of her head almost down to the ground.
A big truck swerved to avoid the three and jackknifed across
the width of the northbound lanes. The traffic ground to a
halt, but the three were in no particular hurry to leave the
road. Their attention rather was caught by an approaching
dark blue aircraft accompanied by a flying green-haired woman
in a blue and yellow suit. The crew must have taken notice
of the disturbance on the bridge, as the aircraft immediately
did a half-roll and descended to put down at the edge of Georgetown
University campus. The doors sprang open and a group of men
and women, most of them dressed blue and yellow, leaped into
"Oh no, the feds! Just what we need!" shouted the
horsetail woman. "As if being caught with our pants down
by Cable's thugs wasn't bad enough!"
The four-armed strongman replied: "Well, what do you
expect, Locus, if the boss-man thinks it's a clever idea to
hide out practically on the same block as X-Factor central?
'They'll never think of looking for us here', you said."
he added, turning to the leader.
"Silence, Forearm!" thundered the chrome-clad one.
"Locus, take us out of here. There's not enough time
for a counter-strike anymore."
"What, and leave the others behind?" The giant
and the cat-person clearly were annoyed. "NO WAY!"
shouted Forearm, "we can hold X-Factor, Stryfe, 'specially
if we get some hostages. Like those gawkers over there!"
He started running towards Hank, Dawn and their companions.
Unlike the early-morning joggers and bikers on the bridge,
they had not immediately taken flight as soon as they saw
the fearsome foursome, because they had taken until now to
get their bearing on them and figure out that they were not
superheroes, but rather villains.
"Boy, have you picked the wrong hostages," growled
Hank before shouting "Hawk!" -- a second or two
after Dawn had shouted "Dove!" The two immediately
jumped forward to shield their families.
Forearm hesitated when he saw the transformation: "What,
more freaks? Washington is getting as bad as New York!"
But it was too late to change course: Having lost his concentration,
he ran straight into Hawk's massive punch. He staggered back.
The werecat who had moved to follow him now thought better
of it. They were clearly outnumbered and about to be engaged
on two fronts (the blue and yellow guys were approaching rapidly
over the bridge), so rather sensibly she decided to make a
strategic retreat and called out to her teammate to do the
The woman in orange had meanwhile conjured up some sort of
shimmering light effects that just had to be a dimensional
portal of some sort and anxiously motioned for her teammates
to hurry up and go through. As the big silver guy stepped
forward to counter-attack to throw back Hawk, the one with
the four arms regained his footing, rabitted and jumped through
the portal. Dove was fighting the cat-girl, only to be swiped
aside from behind by Stryfe, who had just hurled Hawk against
the railing. Then Stryfe and his group quickly went through
the portal. Hawk quickly got to his feet, but he would not
be able to cover the ground between himself and the dimensional
portal in time to catch up with his opponents. His fist slammed
into the pavement, scooping up a lump of concrete which he
threw at Locus just as she went through her portal as the
last of her quartet. As the dimensional pathway collapsed,
Dove and the others could just make out that Hawk's aim had
been true -- the rock grazed her skull and her body slumped
to the ground. But where that ground was, was another matter.
The fight was over almost before it had started. Ren ran
towards her man and hugged him. "My hero!" she breathed,
half-hiding her true feelings under the cliché phrase and
an intonation from which outsiders would have deduced she
was poking fun at him.
"Hey, nobody gets to threaten you when I'm around."
Characteristically, his fighting fury was replaced by loving
tenderness as soon as the danger was over.
At that moment the green-haired woman landed beside them,
soon followed on foot by the suits from the aircraft caught
up with them: a huge muscle-man who made even Forearm look
puny, a blond feral man with long claws at his fingertips,
an indigo-skinned redhead, a man with a prosthetic leg clutching
a huge firearm in a metallic hand, and a tall blond man who
was loudly cursing over the escape of the supervillains.
The man with the prosthetic limbs walked up: "Thanks
for trying to help to stop Stryfe and his thugs. I'm Forge,
this," he indicated the tall blond one, "is Havok.
And who are you?"
At that moment the blue aircraft had taken off again to make
the short hop to the roundabout at the southern end of the
bridge. The pilot obviously was in a hurry to pick up the
blue suits and take them to another crisis spot. Dove shouted
over the din of the jets: "We're Hawk and Dove. Are you
"Yes ma'am, Federal Special Strike Force X-Factor"
shouted Havok as he motioned to the others to hurry to the
plane. "Can't say I ever heard of you. You new in town?"
Hawk and Dove kept up with the rapid pace of the unfamiliar
team as they quickly walked off the bridge. Hawk was not too
happy about the peremptory manner of the two leaders and blurted
out: "No, we've been fighting crime here for more'n three
Havok stared at him in confident disbelief, while Forge raised
both eyebrows in astonishment. Dove, noticing out of the corner
of her eye that Brian and Ren were slowly following at a distance
apparently unnoticed by the others, decided that she was going
to take a risk and at least trust these X-Factor fellows with
part of the truth: "But that was five years ago, and,
by the look of things, in a different universe."
The two X-Factor bigwigs stopped in their tracks. The one
called Forge spoke first. "Terrific. And the day had
started so simple. 'Break up a fight between X-Force and the
MLF' they said. And now we run into interdimensional travelers.
Will you be staying in our reality long, I hesitate to ask?"
Before Dove could stop him, Hawk had given the answer: "How
the hell would I know. That we're here at all seems to be
some magical accident, an' none of us is a flaming sorcerer!"
Dove gave him a chiding look. Leave the talking to me, Hank,
Havok, on the other hand, visibly relaxed. "I guess
we maybe can find someone who can help you." The look
he gave his teammate Forge was rather odd. Could it be that
one of them dabbled in magic?
In the meantime, the mixed group had reached the aircraft.
The pilot, a woman, was leaning out of the cockpit, holding
a map. She was waving to Forge and Havok. When they arrived
at her side, she pointed to a location near to where they
were at the moment: "They're all over this block right
now, they just told me on the radio. I think you'd best go
there under your own power -- there isn't really a good place
to land any nearer than this!"
"You could still drop me off from the air, Val."
came the cheerful suggestion from the giant who suddenly loomed
over the others.
"Me too!" added the blue-skinned woman.
Havok quickly thought it over. "Okay, Guido, Mystique
and Polaris come in from the south, I'll go in on the ground
from here with Forge and Wildchild. Give us five minutes start."
"Waitaminit," said Hawk, "are you gunning
for the same creeps we just fought?"
"Their teammates, at any rate," said Forge, ignoring
the pilot's efforts to catch his attention, "they've
just been ambushed by another outlaw group called X-Force.
But it's not unlikely that Stryfe and his pals will return
to try and pull them out. You've seen what their phase-shifter
At that moment, another radio message came in on the pilot's
earphones. "People, we'd better hurry," she said,
"the Rosslyn cops are talking lots of civilian casualties!"
"That does it," shouted Havok, "I've had it
up to here with Cable playing the loose cannon all the time.
He really oughta have left operations in residential areas
to us. Just because he says we're in the middle of a war...!"
In the meantime, Hawk and Dove had exchanged a look. Then
Dove asked: "Can you use some help?"
In the News
THE DAILY BUGLE
New York, July 21, 1997
Rosslyn Battle Between Mutant Outlaws Causes Massive Damage
Federal strike force and mysterious metahumans intervene
By Ben Urich. Rosslyn, Va., residents saw their town turned
into a battleground as two outlaw mutant groups clashed near
the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Saturday. According to a police
statement, the vigilante team X-Force tracked down the terrorist
'Mutant Liberation Front' after the latter had raided the
Federal detainment facility The Vault on July 12, liberating
three of their accomplices (as reported in Monday's Daily
Bugle). In the ensuing metapowered confrontation the private
residence used as a hideout by the MLF was almost totally
destroyed, with many of the buildings in the neighborhood
suffering massive structural damage. Thanks to the rapid intervention
of Federal superpowered strikeforce X-Factor, it was possible
to contain the fight, while Rosslyn firefighters and rescue
services extracted civilians trapped in the damaged buildings
and aid the injured. According to the latest count, seventeen
people -- mostly inhabitants of the damaged buildings -- were
injured, three of them seriously. Six X-Force and MLF operatives
are currently in police custody at an undisclosed location,
while the others managed to escape. The pursuit is currently
being conducted by the Federal agencies concerned.
An eyewitness interviewed by The Daily Bugle states
that X-Force operatives attacked the MLF hideout near Lee
Highway from several directions at once in the early hours
of July 19th. This eyewitness also claims that two hitherto
unknown 'superheroes' were involved in the fracas. The source
who wishes to remain anonymous states:
"The guy looked like a body-builder who OD'ed on steroids,
only he actually could use his muscles. He was dressed in
a red and white costume in a kind of spiky design with a funny
little beak above his nose. He must be calling himself Bird
of Prey or some such name, although I didn't see him fly.
The girl had the same type of costume, only in white and sky
blue with more wavy borders. Reminded me a bit of a pigeon,
Speculation is rife about the freelance participants in the
Rosslyn incident. X-Factor liaison official and Mutant Affairs
administrator Dr. Valerie Cooper declined to comment on them
at the Sunday press conference in Washington. She identified
those captured in Rosslyn as three members each of X-Force
and the MLF but did not give names.
According to sources well-informed about the illegal mutant
scene, X-Force and the MLF have been engaged in an internecine
feud that dates back at least to the time the two groups came
to public attention. There is still a great degree of controversy
about the supposed aims of the outlaw X-Force, with some parts
of the official law-enforcement agencies, media and political
spokesmen openly divided on whether they should be seen primarily
as terrorists, a militant expression of mutant paranoia, or
a criminal vigilante group. The 'Mutant Liberation Front'
and its leader Stryfe, on the other hand, have always openly
pursued an agenda of terrorism against non-mutants and rival
Washington Daily Dispatch
Tuesday, July 22, 1997
Mystery Surrounds 'New Superheroes' in Rosslyn Fracas
By the staff of the Dispatch. Although the media circus has
left town, normality has not quite returned to Rosslyn's city
center. A large part of the devastation wrought by Saturday's
three-cornered superpowered battle is at this moment still
being restored. Said a spokesperson for specialist contractors
Damage Control: "We expect to be finished and out of
here by Wednesday."
Arlington area citizens and journalists covering 'superheroes
and -villains' are still discussing the two previously unknown
metapowered persons who participated in the later stages of
the fight. Prominent superperson guru Peter S. Andersson,
phoned for a comment, had this to say: "At the moment
I'd say they must be a couple of new members of the X-Men
[an East Coast-based outlaw mutant group]. They always seem
to have new members, and sometimes co-operate with X-Factor.
But everything could look totally different once we get more
sightings. I'm not sure about the slight similarity between
the costumes of the two. Could be they're related or married
or something. One thing's sure: wearing a bird motif is a
bit silly if you can't fly."
Meanwhile, some men and women in the streets of the Arlington
area expressed hopes that the two newcomers were 'homegrown
talent'. And Stephanie Laschett (17), a visiting high-school
student from Arlington's German twin town half-enviously said:
"Things like this never happen at home in Aachen."
A local radio station staged a listeners' poll to think up
a name for the duo based on the look of their costumes. The
most popular suggestions were (in ascending order) 'Red and
Sky', 'Peregrine and Pigeon' and 'Cardinal and Blue Jay'.
Said WFZP talk radio host Jack Holzapfel: "Listeners
really had a ball with this. Some of the names they thought
up were really cool. And then of course you got really lame
ones. I mean, Hawk and Dove? Wasn't that an Al Jaffee series
in MAD Magazine?"
X-Factor's town offices and quarters were quite near to where
home should have been (actually, the space of the Arsala-Hall
residence was occupied by the Latverian travel bureau, Latveria
being a Balkan nation that existed in this universe, but not
the one that was home to Hawk and Dove). Most present were
now in the kitchen/dining area, preparing a quick snack after
they had gone through the debriefing about the Rosslyn fight.
As Hank put a slice of pizza into the microwave and took
stock of their hosts. Guido, X-Factor's Strong Guy was sitting
in a massive easy chair, stirring his mug of hot cocoa. His
head and left arm were bandaged. Beside him, Polaris was spreading
some mayonnaise onto the stack of salad, meats and vegetables
on her Dagwood sandwich. Wildchild was sitting on the back
of his chair and digging into a light salad, while across
the room Havok and Forge were talking with Dawn and Brian.
The microwave beeped, Hank pulled out his meal and walked
back to the others. He sat down next to Ren who was rocking
little Una on her knee. Next to her was X-Factor's government
liaison, Valerie Cooper, also with a child on her lap. It
seemed to be about the same age as Una, only its skin was
light blue. Ren, in her usual forthright fashion, phrased
the question about that that Hank was too tongue-tied to ask.
"Oh, Irene gets that from Raven." Dr. Cooper replied
"But didn't they just say she was your...?"
"It's a long story," put in Mystique, the indigo-skinned
shape-changer, who just arrived bearing a tray of food for
her and Valerie. Oops, thought Hank, hope Ren didn't inadvertently
hit on an embarrassing point. He secretly dreaded the moment
when someone would bring up the matter of Una's parentage
in an unexpected situation, so he naturally wondered about
comparable situations involving others, especially when superpowers
or extremely unusual physical features were concerned (and
where he came from, blue skin was extremely rare, at least
among Earth-dwellers). Luckily it turned out something that
the women actually seemed to enjoy talking about (he had a
nasty suspicion that Raven Darkhölme rather enjoyed his discomfort),
but indeed it was a very strange story. It turned out that
Cooper and Mystique were a couple and Irene actually was their
biological child. As Dr. Cooper explained, "Raven's fully
functional both as a woman and a man."
Nearby, Havok, Forge and Dawn were discussing the skirmishes
of the morning, especially about where the leaders of X-Force
and the Mutant Liberation Front could have gone. Havok, X-Factor's
field leader, still was puzzled by some details: "I still
don't understand why Stryfe took off so early. Sure, he knew
his side had been hit hard by Cable's lot and was seriously
outnumbered once we arrived."
"To say nothing of your unexpected intervention,"
Forge courteously added. Dove half-bowed with an amused smile.
"But still," Alex Summers continued, "shouldn't
he have at least tried to pull out more of his underlings.
I mean, getting caught with his pants down like he was this
morning is not likely to enhance his prestige. But isn't he
really going to lose face if so many wind up in the clink.
And you'd think he'd get more use out of a phase-shifter like
Locus than just to high-tail it out of here."
"Maybe they couldn't do more than they did," Dove
suggested. "It's possible that Hawk knocked Locus out.
Didn't you hit her head with that rock?" She turned to
"I think I did," he replied. "It only was
a glancing hit, though, far as I could make out."
"Still, with your kind of strength, that could be enough
to knock someone unconscious," Forge mused, stroking
his mustache. "And I maybe there's even a longer-term
effect. Maybe a concussion would prevent Locus from properly
using her power even after she came to..."
The door opened and two more costumed persons stepped into
the room: A man in a red-and-purple suit, young of body but
white of hair, and a woman in green and black. Her auburn
hair had a white streak shot through the middle. Hank noticed
that a number of the X-Factorites tensed at the new arrivals,
and when the woman rushed forward to hug Mystique, his instinct
told him that her companion was the main cause of the change
in the atmosphere.
Mystique did the introductions: "This is my foster daughter,
Rogue, and Magnus. And these are Hawk, Dove, Brian, Renata
and little Una. They're from another reality."
The last remark would have been a conversation-stopper in
most cases, but the new arrivals registered the news without
batting an eyelash. "Oh?" said Rogue, "Anywheah
"That depends," said Dove with a half-smile, "have
you ever been to an Earth where two of America's major cities
are called Metropolis and Gotham?"
"Can't say ah've been to either of 'em," the young
woman (could she be around twenty?) admitted. "Though
ah wouldn't be surprised if Wolverine has. He seems to do
most of the dimension-hopping among us. Almost as if he had
a special clause in his contract."
"Rogue and Magnus are with another team, the X-Men,"
Valerie Cooper explained. "They're not affiliated with
the government, so you should get along wonderfully."
She aimed an mock-conspiratorial wink at Hank. "As far
as Uncle Sam is concerned, we're not even sure if Magnus really
"Actually, this was supposed to be a family visit,"
"Yes," said Magnus with a half-smile, "to
give Valerie and Raven here a chance to -- how do you call
it? -- scope me out." His English was grammatically correct,
but his accent clearly indicated that it was not his mother
"Okay, okay," interjected Valerie Cooper, "before
this turns into a discussion of our family life and of mutant
politics, perhaps we should return to the subject of our friends'
predicament? I guess they're more interested in finding their
way home than in talking shop with us."
Actually Hawk, Dove and the others were rather curious about
some aspects of this -- the mutant aspect for instance was
rather strange, because in their world those metahumans who
owed their powers to an accident of genetics were not really
perceived as a group apart from other metahumans. But maybe
it was best to concentrate on their own problems first. It
would probably take long enough to find a way to return to
their own universe for them to explore this one in greater
detail. In the course of the subsequent conversation it emerged
that the X-Men and others of the costumed heroes of their
universe had encountered some of the other natives of Hawk
and Dove's reality. Rogue for instance inquired about "a
man dressed up as a bat and the teenage boy he's got runnin'
around as a walkin' target". Apparently, less than a
year ago there had been some kind of interface between the
two universes, during which two of her friends had met Robin
and Wonder Woman, respectively. Only at that interface there
had not been a five-year discrepancy between the two realities
(that Clinton guy was president in both universes at the time).
So if they really wanted to return home, it looked as if they
would also have to travel back in time. And from what Forge
knew of technological time travel, that opened a whole can
of worms, paradoxes and splitting-off of alternate timelines.
But Forge was rather reluctant to discuss the non-technological
alternatives, even though he did not find it hard to accept
that they had been 'shipwrecked' by magic spells gone wrong.
At least the interface in 1996 seemed to indicate that M'shulla
and his cohorts had not caused to great a damage in the five
year interim. But what the hell had he been up to all this
The normal rules of time do not apply in this daemonic realm,
so it is impossible to affix a temporal measurement to the
appearance of the Lords of Chaos. A small group of little
demons scurried for cover.
M'shulla happened to change his shape in a way that somehow
seem/will seem appropriate to his new surroundings, sprouting
three curved horns (one between his eyes), a snake-like, pointed
tail, and black serrated talons.
His eyes had fallen/fall on a badly damaged house. With its
elegant 19th-century decor it looked/s very much out of place
in its hellish surroundings. It also looks/will look as if
it had been dropped from some height. A cursory search of
the ruin is about to reveal/has revealed no trace of its former
"Curse them! Where have those troublemakers gone off
to?" he hissed/will have hissed, a green tongue forked
into five prongs oscillating left to right along his puffy
purple upper lip.
His sometimes ally, Child, was/is too distracted to answer,
momentarily engrossed in exploring the debris for new toys
to play with. His servant Flaw had/will have fallen into immobility
without his master's attention. Meanwhile, M'shulla's right-talon
ghoul, Gorum, is/will be amusing himself by incinerating the
"Bah! I'll find out soon enough myself." M'shulla
set/s about making a scrying pool of a puddle of some noxious
Limbo liquid that will/happened to be nearby. Gradually, bit
by bit, an image appeared, which showed his quarry in a place
within a few miles of their home -- but in an entirely different
universe. He called/s out to Child, but the immature little
imp at first didn't react. It took/will take a magically summoned
lightning to bring him over. Gorum, who had been hovering
behind M'shulla's right shoulder, panted with the thrill of
What none of the powerful beings (will) have noticed was
that their use of a scrying pool did not go unnoticed. Around
the corner, in a side passage, a luminous circle appeared,
and standing in it, a girl in her early teens. Her round head
was covered in straw-blond hair which was cut in severe bangs
in front and hung down behind in long straight tresses that
reached down past her shoulder-blades. She was dressed in
black and yellow with a red belt closed by a circular buckle
decorated with a large black saltire. Suddenly, something
caused/s her to slink back into her passage.
The teetering building suddenly collapses/d into a disorderly
hill of rubble. Which never got/gets a chance to settle as
suddenly a huge purple horned demon in a torn vest emerges/will
emerge from the house's former cellar. He slowly got/gets
to his feet, smoldering with rage and maybe something else.
At any rate fine jets of smoke issue from his scowling face
and shoulders, and it is a guess as good as any that this
demonic denizen of Limbo heats up according to his moods.
He fixes/ed a bloodshot eye on the 'visitors.'
Observe as Child, always unable to restrain his mindless
impulses, once again will say/said the wrong thing that caused/s
S'ym to let loose a bellow of rage, quickly followed/preceded
by two flaming beams of orange fire from his palms. By a trick
of Limbo's unpredictable timestreams, the building collapsed/will
collapse again, and S'ym once more crawls/-ed up from beneath
its rubble, pausing to scratch his head to see himself attacking
See M'shulla as he is/will be about to counter-attack with
a spell of his own, only to find his way blocked by himself
saying "Bah! I'll find out soon enough myself."
The other M'shulla set/s about making a scrying pool from
a puddle of a noxious Limbo liquid that will/happened to be
nearby. Gradually, bit by bit, an image appeared, which showed
his quarry in a place within a few miles of their home --
but in an entirely different universe. He called/s out to
Child, but the immature little imp is/was/will be rocking
with his annoyingly giggly laughter. S'ym backhands/has backhanded
him into a nearby wall. One M'shulla gapes at the 'second'
one as he looks into the scrying pool as the image disappears
bit by bit and then disassembles the scrying pool in alienated
movements -- there must be some kind of reflection of events
that turns their sequence backwards.
He concentrated/s again on the scrying pool, trying to ignore
the distraction of the developing fight between S'ym, Child
and Flaw and the irritating temporal fluctuations of his current
surroundings. M'shulla gets/got flashes of his prey all over
the world, but found/will find it almost impossible to lock
onto one of them. Finally/penultimately, just before/after
Flaw stumbled/s into him and falls/fell into the pool and
shatters/will shatter it, he spies Hawk and Dove traveling
from near their last location along the adjoining series of
large cities towards the sound north of the long island off
the east coast of the continent. In his excitement, his body
metamorphoses/d to a giant squid. Meanwhile/just before/after
that, the other M'shulla at last succeeded/s in conjuring
up a tempest that hurls /will hurl S'ym along the length of
"Time to finish this tomfoolery," he said/ says
through his gritted beak, "let's go and eradicate Hawk
and Dove and their spawn." His tentacles perform/ed a
series of sorcerous gestures and a purple sphere began to
form around him and his allies.
"Whatsamatter, M'shool," quipped Child, "is
the timestream in this place too chaotic for you?" But
his fellow Lord of Chaos did not deign that worthy of a response.
The light of the sphere grew in intensity, casting harsh
shadows around it. Then it began to fade from this reality.
At the last moment, a luminous circle appeared beside it.
The mysterious girl was using this opportunity to hitch a
The stepping-disk appeared in a side-alley, unnoticed by
most of the passers-by. As Magik looked around, she nearly
stumbled across a sleeping homeless man. She smiled with quiet
satisfaction. She was pretty sure that the intruders had not
noticed her 'stowing away' on their traveling-sphere and then
getting off soon after it had entered the air-space above
New York. At last her second long exile in Limbo was over.
But first things first. She slipped behind a dumpster and
hastily drew a pentagram in the dirt within a circle with
the tip of her right boot. She raised her arms in an age-old
gesture and murmured an incantation under her breath. After
waiting a couple of minutes, a bright silver sword appeared
in her left hand. It cast an eldritch radiance. A split second
after her hand had closed around the grip, her entire left
arm was covered in shiny metal, an armor which immediately
spread over her shoulder and the entire left half of her torso.
Illyana Nikolaevna Rasputina sighed with relief, grateful
at being reunited with her Soulsword. She waved her hands
again to assume her mundane aspect: The sword and the armor
encasing one arm and part of her body disappeared, leaving
her clothed only in a well-worn (to put it mildly) old New
Mutants uniform. At least, she thought, in this neighborhood
she could wear it without attracting too much attention. And
she hadn't lost her touch: When she left the alley, she was
in Bleecker Street and could already see the house she sought
in the distance, the circular window in the roof with its
mystic design clearly discernible. How long was it since she
had last been there? She went to the nearest newspaper-box
to check the date. July 1997. Well, she landed in a year more
fitting to her biological age, although she still was a bit
'too old' in comparison with what her age would be if she
had never gone to Limbo. But enough self-contemplation, this
job was too big for her alone, it's time to fetch the cavalry.
And with a supernatural threat of this magnitude it clearly
was best to get the biggest guns you could lay your hands
The door was opened by Doctor Strange's manservant Wong.
Nice to see that some things haven't changed since her last
stay on Earth, Magik thought. He had a great memory too, and
no trouble remembering her from her previous (and only) visit
to the Doctor's Sanctum Sanctorum, years before, when the
amulet of a sorcerer dead for thousands of years had caused
so much trouble.
Doctor Strange's mansion, back in those days had many things
in common with a museum, including its somewhat inhospitable
air. Since then, the living quarters had assumed a more lived-in
look, even if they still were spotlessly clean and filled
with an almost unlimited plethora of curios and mystical artifacts.
Wong took her through the entrance-hall, up the carpeted
staircase and through a long corridor. It seemed straight,
but while the sun fell in through the first door on the right,
it shone in head-on through the door at the far end. Wong
showed her into a study. A computer stood on an 18th-century
desk, beneath an old-fashioned, ornate ceiling lamp. The Bloom
County screen saver was oddly out of place in the surroundings.
Wong introduced Illyana to an unfamiliar woman in her late
thirties, Morgana Blessing. Who was she? Strange's social
secretary? Actually, looking closer at the brunette, Illyana
felt she might have seen her before, perhaps on Oprah or something?
Oh yes, now she remembered, Ms. Blessing was a novelist and
sometimes factoid journalist who wrote on supernatural themes.
How in the world had she wind up in Dr. Strange's household.
"Stephen and Clea will be here shortly," Morgana
explained. "They're engaged with the ritual of Thash-Kente
at the moment, and I'd rather we not disturb them. It's at
a very delicate stage. But they should be finished within
the hour." Wong left and soon returned bearing a tray
with tea and small cakes. Five minutes later Doctor Strange
and his silver-haired disciple entered the sitting-room where
Morgana had taken the former New Mutant. They had sensed her
arrival and cut short their activities.
"By Oshtur," said Stephen Strange, "this is
an unexpected visit. We thought you were dead, died of the
Legacy virus. In fact, they invited us to your funeral two
"Uhmm, far as I can tell I've been stuck in Limbo for
the past four years. Maybe another version of myself entered
this dimension from a different timeline?"
"In any case, you seem little changed," said Strange.
And so she did. With the vagaries of the time fluctuations
she had been through it was hard to be certain, but Illyana
did not look as if she had aged more than a year since their
last meeting. Like a girl of fifteen, or at the most seventeen
years. She gave a quick summary of her last enforced stay
in Limbo and of the intruders with whom she had 'stowed away'
to return to terra firma.
"Those guys looked like major trouble, Doc. I mean,
S'ym can be a pretty tough proposition, but he could do little
more than annoy them..."
"But are you sure they were evil?" asked Morgana,
"Maybe they just were acting in self-defense?"
"Even if so," interjected Clea, "beings that
powerful definitely bear watching."
"Well, I got some major bad vibes from this M'shool
person," said Illyana. "The others acted as if they
were underlings or maybe not that interested. One of 'em behaved
like a child, but like one that enjoys pulling legs out of
flies. And what about the ones M'shool wants to rub out, this
Hawk and Dove?"
"I don't think I ever heard these names as the actual
names of persons," said Clea.
"Nor have I," said Strange, "and as Sorcerer
Supreme I really should be aware of most users of magic on
this planet who would be powerful enough to attract that kind
of opposition. But I also don't think I ever encountered your
"So you think they're not from Earth?" Morgana
"I'd be surprised if they're from your universe,"
interrupted Clea. "Have you any idea, where they're heading,
The Siberian mutant was a little unsure: "When I slipped
away from them over New York, they were traveling in a northeasterly
direction, so my first guess would be somewhere in New England."
Doctor Strange scratched his chin: "Hmm, a lot of places
of mystic significance and sources of arcane magic in New
England. Just think of Rutland, Vermont, where Dormammu once
tried to invade. Mages from any universe might be attracted
"This would probably mean assuming that these Hawk and
Dove persons were in fact sorcerers of some description."
said Clea, suddenly somewhat doubtful.
"Yeah, with names like that they could also be costumed
heroes or villains," interjected Illyana. "They
sometimes go in for animal code names."
"Hey, I have an idea," said Morgana excitedly.
"Maybe Hawk and Dove are those two mystery superheroes
who took part in the fight near Washington? That policeman
said they were dressed in bird-motifs."
Clea mused on that: "That was to the south of here,
but of course they could easily have gone to New England or
even out of the country since then..."
Doctor Strange had thoughtfully followed the last exchanges
and rose, saying: "Well, it's definitely time to consult
the Orb of Aggamoto. And since this M'shool may be powerful
enough to hide his aura, maybe I'd better also look for those
superheroes." And with that he motioned the others to
follow him into the meditation chamber next door, where the
Orb was stored. Stephen, Clea and Illyana seated themselves
around the Orb's casing, while Morgana observed the proceedings
from near the door.
Near the Nation's Capital
Everyday life with X-Factor is not the most exciting or glamorous
thing in the world. Normally, only one or two members of the
team are in readiness in their base just over the Maryland
state line during the day (or sleeping over in the duty quarters
next to the communications room at night). The others usually
just had stay within easy reach, i.e. within the Washington
area and carrying a communicator, which, following Guido's
lead, they simply called a 'beeper'. In the early days of
the team, some of Val Cooper's had played a bigger part in
communications, but since then Forge had rebuilt and automated
most of the equipment. The civilian staff then was reduced
to a small number of trusted aides.
On most days, X-Factor's off-duty members went about their
normal lives as far as they could if they stayed within easy
reach of the base. Alex and Lorna, for instance, no longer
could work on long archaeological digs, but as a partial compensation
they occasionally worked at the Smithsonian. Forge split his
time between his laboratory and his office, and Valerie Cooper
usually was busy in her administrative functions and lobbying
various parts of the government and intelligence bureaucracies,
although of course of late she and Raven were devoting quite
a bit of their time to their child. (Mystique's uncanny control
over her metabolism enabled little Irene to become perhaps
the first child to be breast-fed by both parents.) Once Irene
started taking solid food, Mystique had shouldered a larger
share of the parental responsibilities, reasoning that Val
would be able to do more for 'the cause' than she, a notorious
Of course, things were different today. After the Rosslyn
battle, Havok had a hunch that Stryfe would have to try to
strike soon to limit the damage to his credibility as a potential
leader of discontented mutants. Possibly by posing a serious
threat, e.g. taking hostage something like a nuclear power
station in order to force the authorities to free his captured
operatives. So the team was gathered in the base, just in
case it had to take off in a hurry in one of its various aircraft
to deal with the expected crisis.
And then there were the unexpected guests. Hank, Ren, Dawn,
Brian and Una were accommodated in the spare bedrooms. Forge
and Valerie had tried to contact Reed Richards, the leading
authority on time and interdimensional travel, but unfortunately,
if not totally unexpectedly, he was out on a mission with
the Fantastic Four. Wolverine too was nowhere to be found,
but they all were secretly sure that he would have little
to add to what Storm had mentioned at her short visit yesterday.
Forge was still putting off consulting experts into the supernatural.
At the moment, Dawn, Brian, Mystique and Rogue were playing
with the children in the gardens next to the living quarters.
Forge was in the communications center with Havok, monitoring
the incoming news items. Most of the others were sitting around
the table on the terrace in the back of the building, comparing
notes and trying to relax. Guido, who really wanted the extradimensional
visitors to feel at home, had started knitting a pair of booties
for Ren's unborn child. He and Hank had already discussed
the differences between the Washington Redskins of their home
dimensions. Magneto was looking through the papers. After
Renata had digested the news that Northern Exposure had been
canceled, she and Lorna were talking about life with their
respective partners. Ren's direct questions about their avoidance
of a proper commitment, even an informal one, made Lorna feel
a little uncomfortable about the way her relationship with
Alex had developed these past years. Before X-Factor, before
Malice, there had been a time when they had lived together
almost like a married couple, but now it was more difficult.
The question was how much of this was due to the stress of
working in X-Factor and having to deal with the politics that
entailed, and how much was due to a real gradual change in
their feelings for each other. The proximity to Magneto added
to her discomfort. Zaladane had not been much of a sister
to her -- she had in fact only learned that they were sisters
at their last meeting, at which Zala had almost killed her
-- but still it gave her a cold chill to sit at the same table
with the man who had killed her.
Valerie Cooper's car turned into the driveway and drove into
the garage. She had just returned from her monthly conference
on Capitol Hill with Senator Kelly and some others to discuss
current mutant and metahuman affairs. One of the main subjects
on the agenda was of course Rosslyn. X-Factor had acquitted
itself quite well in the fight, but still the fact that the
MLF had hidden out right on the doorstep of the nation's capital
did not reflect to well on them or indeed any of the security
services. It had been a grueling session, even if Robert Kelly
now had a more realistic and less paranoid view of 'mutant
questions' and could be shown what could and what could not
be achieved with the resources at hand. And now she was glad
to be home, or at any rate with her friends and family.
After quickly briefing giving Forge and Alex about the talks
on the Hill to, she walked out onto the lawn to join her family.
After exchanging kisses on the cheek with Raven, she hugged
Irene and lifted her high in the air, which made her daughter
giggle with joy. Then, sitting down with Irene on her lap,
she turned her attention to the others present: "So,
Rogue, you and ... Magnus still enjoying your stay in spite
of everything? Where is he, by the way?"
"He's with the others on the terrace. Said he wanted
to have a man-to-man talk with Hawk 'bout a world with no
mutant troubles. Also, ah think he enjoys the way Guido can
extract a joke from most everything."
"In the meantime, we had a lovely time," said Mystique.
"Little Una's feeling quite at home here."
"And you?" Valerie asked Dawn and Brian, "all
to your satisfaction in your rooms?"
They had no complaints about their accommodation, but they
did want to know about what Valerie had said about Hawk and
Dove's involvement in the Rosslyn fight.
"Actually," said Valerie, "they did not seem
very interested in you beyond the fact that you weren't new
X-Factor recruit which we hadn't okayed with our bureaucratic
watchdogs. As far as they know, you simply are another couple
of unfamiliar superheroes, and I didn't volunteer anything
they did not want to know about. In any case, some of them
seemed to believe news stories that you were former members
of the Defenders or the Great Lake Avengers in new costumes.
So apart from the people we've consulted about the matter
we haven't spread around that you're not from this dimension."
Although she made light of it, Dawn's relief was palpable
in her voice when she asked about the progress of the efforts
to find a way for them to return home. But there still was
no news from Mr. Fantastic.
Mystique wondered aloud: "Have you considered what you'd
do if we can't find a way to return you to your proper place
in time or your proper timeline?"
Brian and Dawn did not immediately answer that question,
which touched on some of their most acute fears since they
had arrived in X-Factor's world in 1997. Finally Dawn spoke:
"I can't say this hasn't worried us for quite a while
now. It is not the first time we've traveled between dimensions,
but it does seem to be the first time we've taken a wrong
turning. Hawk maybe would have a reason to stay here,"
she exchanged a significant glance with her husband, "but
even he wouldn't want his parents to have to go through life
believing that both their sons were dead. We all have family
back home. And there's unfinished business with M'shulla and
Suddenly, there was a signal on Raven's and Val's communicators.
Something had come up and the X-Factorites were called into
Everybody was assembling around the conference table. Forge
was standing next to a holographic map of the northeastern
United States. Typical, thought Hawk, once these high-tech
wizards get started, they can't do anything simple anymore.
I've seen it happen before, in the Teen Titans.
Forge announced the news: "We've received a message
from the FBI. It seems Stryfe and his followers have been
spotted near Mystic, Connecticut." He pointed to the
small town on the New England coast. "That is pretty
near to the submarine base at New London, which may be a very
likely target for an attack. At least that's what Alex and
I think. But assuming the sighting is correct, that leaves
the question why so far the MLF have not actually done anything.
One explanation would be that New London isn't their objective
or that they are still staking it out. But another thing we
could consider is that Locus is still under concussion thanks
to Hawk here and that they are still waiting for her to recuperate
so she can take them in and out of the base."
Valerie Cooper had a question: "How and where exactly
were the MLF people sighted? And how many of them?"
Forge consulted the printout in his hand: "Well, according
to the report, a couple of bird-watchers saw them materialize
on a road through a forest to the north of Mystic (I'll skip
the details for the moment). And they said they saw all four
of them and believe they themselves were not seen on account
of them lying low so as not to scare away the birds."
"Any leads on where they might be hiding out?"
"The local cops are working on them. The FBI is also
sending in a team." Havok replied. "But of course
they hope we can be a little more effective with Forge's special
"So we'll leave in ten minutes," Forge added, "everybody
be in the hangar then."
Mystique looked at Rogue questioningly, and the X-Man nodded.
She'd definitely tag along. Rogue immediately turned to Magneto
and started to whisper to him.
"Can we come too?" Hank suddenly put in.
"What???" Dawn was as surprised as the others by
this request to get involved in another universe's troubles,
especially with a government outfit. Compared to that, the
fact that he hadn't asked her before he included her in his
request was almost to be expected.
"I still have to pay back Stryfe." Of course, he
was taking it personally.
"Okay, I can relate to that," Dawn replied with
a vaguely amused smile. "So folks, do you want us?"
Valerie Cooper found the smile infectious: "Sure, the
more, the merrier. Umm, Brian and Renata, you wouldn't mind
staying here and help look after the kids?"
"What do you think is more likely: that they're holed
up in town or outside?" The Deputy who had been attached
to X-Factor as liaison to the Sheriff's Department was unfolding
his map on one of the tables of the picnic-ground.
"You'd think ol' Trouble 'n' Stryfe'd be sick of suburban
housing after Rosslyn," surmised Strong Guy. "Unless
he already had something prepared."
"Well, Hawk only hit Locus after the others had already
passed through the portal," said Dawn. "So it's
reasonable to assume they still appeared where they wanted
to. Which may mean that they have a hideout not too far away
They all clustered around the map to study the surroundings
of the place where the MLF had been sighted. Forge concluded
the session: "Okay, you've all been briefed on the four
MLF members who escaped from the Francis Scott Key Bridge,
as well of those who weren't captured in Rosslyn, either because
they weren't there or because they managed to escape somehow.
Just to be on the safe side."
"And your detection gadgets are all in fine working
order?" Lorna was checking. Forge nodded.
"Okay then, let's roll!" said Alex slapping his
Valerie Cooper let go of the red balloon she had been holding
throughout the briefing and watched as it rose above the tree-tops.
"They're off," said Rogue to Magneto and put down
her binoculars. The young X-Man and her companion were the
hidden reserve of the operation. They left the rented Blazer
and walked up to the top of the hill from which they could
observe the area the others were now going to search.
"I really ought to have my head examined," muttered
Magneto. "Co-operating with the U.S. government! You
definitely have a bad influence on me, my sweet." He
was making light of it, but though it remained unspoken, Rogue
knew he was thinking of the last time he had linked up with
a US government agency, one of the intelligence services during
the Cold War. He had angered his employers by bringing a Nazi
war criminal hiding out in South America to stand trial in
Israel. What he hadn't known at the time was that the man
had been working for the same intelligence service as himself.
His controller told him, but only after he had Magneto's Brazilian
lover murdered. That had been one of the seminal events that
had set him on his course to becoming the infamous mutant
Rogue gently caressed his cheek, sympathy for his pain welling
up inside her. "You're doing the right thing, trust me.
Val's a good woman, and they all know what they're doing."
The mixed task force was slowly and carefully advancing through
the woods toward the isolated farm which either itself was
the hideout or was near to where it was situated. Hank, near
the center of the chain, was a increasingly tense. He did
not feel too comfortable about Forge's machines. Not that
he distrusted his expertise, it was basically a question of
never having seen how they worked in action. He felt much
surer of his and Dawn's own mystic trigger, the one that made
their transformation to Hawk and Dove possible only when they
were in the presence of danger. So he kept muttering 'Hawk'
under his breath from time to time.
Out on the right flank, Havok's main responsibility was checking
the outside quadrants, but since he was the field leader,
he of course intermittently looked along the group to see
how they were progressing. So he happened to be looking at
Hank as he transformed to his massive alter ego. Dawn, who
was walking quite near her partner, followed suit within a
second or two. But what neither of them noticed until Havok
bellowed a warning, was that the immediate danger was not
before, but behind them. He saw the air above and behind him
turn into a shimmering mass of liquid purple fire that coalesced
into four shapes: M'shulla, Gorum, Child and Flaw.
"Aw no!" shouted Hawk in disgust, "those jerks
would have to show up now!"
In the News
THE DAILY BUGLE
New York, July 22, 1997
Conn. incident adds postscript to Rosslyn battle
By Ben Urich. An isolated Connecticut forest area near became
the scene of a sequel to the 'battle' in Rosslyn, Va., this
19th. According to the official release, six members of the
terrorist 'Mutant Liberation Front' were tracked to a farm
building near Mystic after their escape from the Saturday
skirmish. The Federal superpowered strikeforce X-Factor succeeded
in capturing five of them. They have been named as Feral,
Forearm, Locus, Reaper, and Wildfire. MLF leader Stryfe is
still believed to be on the run. X-Factor members suffered
"relatively minor injuries."
Anti-mutant spokesman Graydon Creed was quick to express
doubts "if the official statement actually told even
half the true story. This all seems to have worked much too
easy. It would not surprise me if X-Factor and the Mutant
Liberation Front weren't in cahoots."
Speculation also has arisen about a series of mysterious
incidents in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and
their possible connection to the metahuman confrontation.
When phoned by the Bugle for a comment, X-Factor's Havok
said: "Mr. Creed's statement is of course the kind of
paranoid deluded talk we've grown accustomed to hearing from
people of his stripe." He would however not speculate
on the New England incidents or elaborate on the official
account of events.
Valerie Cooper's Diary
Murphy's Law hit us with a vengeance at the beginning
of the battle. We were just about to "go in", when
H & D's enemies (1. M'shulla, a 'Lord of Chaos' who changes
his shape whenever he feels like it, 2. Gorum, another of
the above, a mean little s.o.b., 3. Child, yet another L.o.C.,
brat w/ way too much supernatural power (Caligula must have
been like him), 4. Flaw, Child's crystal golem) made their
appearance. Their attack of course roused the MLF (the 4 we
knew about + Moonstar, Reaper & Wildfire) in the farm
& so we almost immediately found ourselves between 2 fires.
At 1st we were in a pretty fix, even if Rogue & Magneto
took some of the pressure off us by taking the MLF from the
side. Fighting supernatural enemies is not our cup of tea,
and Forge really is the only one of us who is an 'expert'
in that kind of thing. But we were in luck thanks to the timely
intervention of Dr. Strange and friends (these including Illyana
Rasputin, somehow returned from the dead). Also luckily for
us, there was no real cooperation between the 2 groups we
were up against. So even though Guido was out of the fight
almost from the start, we slowly got the upper hand. Once
Forge had overcome his reluctance to be the shaman, he, Strange
&c. fully occupied the gruesome magic foursome. I was
busy on the other front, but it was rather scary having to
dodge ricochetting magic bolts or avoid the effects of sorcerous
energy gradually building up of all over the place. I myself
was paralyzed by Reaper's scythe in mid-battle, but thankfully
Rogue took him out almost immediately, ripping off his bionic
metal hands. So of course I did not actually see too much
of the rest of the battle and leave that part of the account
to someone else.
Especially because the official report is a little incomplete,
since Dr. Strange did not want to have his part mentioned
and we all felt better not publicizing the involvement of
Hawk + Dove and their enemies (talking in terms of strange
visitors from other dimensions, not to mention their demonic
foes, does tend to cause incredulity in the public at large).
Be that as it may, in spite of the unfamiliar powers of some
of the MLF types, we had more heavyweights on our side. We
were already winning when Cable (who had been tipped off by
Moonstar, who, it emerged, was their mole in the MLF (I like
it!)) showed up. With him were Shatterstar and Cannonball,
what was left (in a shape to fight) of X-Force after Rosslyn.
Stryfe and Cable soon were at each other's throats, and almost
everyone with more physical powers was involved in fighting
the MLF. Moonstar let herself be taken out by Cannonball,
but it wasn't so easy with the others. Hawk, poor thing, hadn't
been paying attention at the briefing about the MLF members
he hadn't encountered before and rushed into a fix when he
came up against Wildside. Still, the fight looked do-able
then, if there hadn't been the problem of dealing with all
that mystic (if you'll excuse a pun, Val dear) and time+dimension-hopping
stuff. To be more specific, the side-effects of the fight
between the 'Lords of Chaos' and Doc Strange and his cohorts.
Thank you, Raven. We got a barebones account from Dr.
S. & Forge afterwards. Apart from the stray zaps and hexes
you could best compare the overall effect of to the building
up of a static electrical charge. You then get certain points
where the magic energy is discharged in foreseeable or unexpected
ways. In this case you had special problems because M'shulla
& co. (just arrived) were not properly aligned to this
universe and so some of their spells were out of whack. And
all that spelled trouble for those present who came from other
realities & futures. And the condensation points where
all this supernal 'mist' were Cable & Stryfe -- not just
from the future, but also clones. A magenta halo manifested
around them, turned purple, and then deep blue. But, judging
by the way the two went for each other, they probably had
too much of a red haze in their eyes to notice. When Cable
landed a punch on Stryfe's chin (virtually the only part of
his body that was not covered in metal), there was a sudden
discharge. I lay groggy with my face to the wall, but even
I could not miss that flash of eldritch light.
Quite blinding it was. In situations like this people
tend to turn towards the source of the distraction, but luckily
I'm enough of an old (no funny remarks, Val!) hand at this
that I can stifle that impulse. So I was able to take Feral
out when her attention was diverted, and then I checked what
the hell was going on. What I saw was the tail-end of a pretty
horrible process, in which Cable and his alter ego Stryfe
were somehow fused into one being. I don't know if it was
because of the heat or something, but the metal armor/prosthetics
turned from chrome to blue, first like a motorcycle exhaust,
then coalescing and deepening into purple and dark blue sections.
The fusion of the different sets of metalware resulted in
an extra-heavy suit of armor. The face was hidden behind a
featureless mask (just a couple of slits for the eyes), and
Stryfe's heat-vane things melted into a new backpack. The
oddest change was below the golden belt, where the fused creature
sported a metal 'loincloth' plus armored bell-bottoms. Hawk
+ Dove apparently knew him, they just stood there gaping:
"Monarch!" Which of course got me thinking (damn
all this time & space travel!) and almost cost me when
Feral got to her feet again. At least it mostly evened out
as both MLF & X-Force members were dismayed over the fate
of their resp. leaders and the magical crowd were more or
less distracted equally. After staggering around a little,
the fusion-oid straightened himself up. He clearly was pissed
off (sorry Vee!) against the magic blokes, especially the
'Lords of Chaos', and immediately goes into this big rant
about the necessity to impose order on the world and advances
on them. Doc Strange and Magik recover first and combine to
cast a spell that hurls them back to their home multiverse.
But everybody was shocked to see the blue metal guy rush after
them as the spell takes effect, taking the composite man with
them. By that the odds shifted in our favor that it was comparatively
easy to 'mop up' the remnants of the MLF.
After the fighting was over, Hawk & Dove told us
about this 'Monarch': He was a supervillain from the future
who turned up in H&D's native universe in 1991; it then
took most of the superheroes of their Earth to deal with the
threat he posed. He apparently was the tyrannical ruler of
some future timeline (maybe the Cable/Stryfe amalgam was drawn
back to the year from which they had originally traveled to
our time), who was pursuing a time-traveling rebel into the
past. The rebel wanted to prevent Monarch from coming into
existence (in the mistaken belief that the Monarch was actually
a native of the same dimension), while Monarch wanted to prevent
the rebel from gaining allies who would fight him. I guess
that is why M. planted the disinformation about him being
one of H&D's universe's heroes turned bad, because that's
how he must have got his foe to waste a lot of time trying
to find out which superhero was the 'future Monarch'. Dr.
Strange was all for pursuing M. and trying to find a way to
reverse the amalgamation process, but that may prove a big,
big task. H & D told us that the space/time continuum
of their home dimensions has been torn to shreds and patched
up again at least one more time since the events above due
to the activities of Monarch and another person set on re-drawing
reality, called Parallax. But at the moment we have some terrible
news for Cyclops, Cable's father. Rogue offered to be the
one to tell him, but it's better if Forge and I do it (w/
Rogue and maybe some of the other participants in attendance).
Unfortunately Cyclops wasn't at home when we tried to reach
him by phone. Dr.S. promised to contact us re. possible help
in returning H & D to their original dimension, although
he said it could be difficult-to-impossible to return them
to the point in time when they left. It might be easier to
find a way to their universe in '97, but that would be problematic
because H & D & family would lose the intervening
years and (as Dr.S. told us from his experience with a book
Morgana Blessing wrote) when 'men (& women) of mystery'
go 'missing-believed-killed' for such a long time, there's
always the possibility that a confidante hits on the idea
that the best way to honor his/her memory is by publishing
a big biography that spills all kinds of secrets. So ideally
one should scout ahead before attempting to bring them home.
(As if that was possible!)
After that little discussion of interdimensional and
time travel, we had to do a bit of mundane intradimensional
travel -- transporting the dangerous prisoners to safe confinement,
and sending small task forces all over New England to deal
with crises caused by the backwash of the supernatural battle.
The excess magic apparently gathers in places of mystical
significance (your basic ancient Indian burial grounds) or
imbued with magic in some other way. Dr.S. was a bit worried
that the magic energy might power up gateways between realities.
In that case, it would become possible to travel from one
universe to another. "Fortunately," Strange said,
"the person in question would have to know where he's
going and would want to go there. And that's pretty unlikely
for most people."
Trade was brisk in the little cappuccino bar. The girls'
basketball team of the local high school had just thoroughly
thrashed the team from a private school from neighboring Vermont,
and a gaggle of players and hangers-on crowded around the
bar to celebrate. In the hubbub of their carousing, the teenage
Asian-American girl sitting at a corner table went unnoticed,
certainly by the overworked busboy, the older of the two women
behind the counter noticed. She had seen her here before,
something you almost could not fail to do as she nearly always
wore a bright yellow coat, sunglasses -- pushed up over her
forehead this evening -- and earrings in the shape of London
Transport signs. As on many of the previous occasions when
she had been here, the girl had met with the short, but loud-mouthed
Canadian in the cowboy-type hat who often came to Crossroads
hiking through the woods of New York state. But he had left
half an hour ago, and there the girl still sat at her table,
staring into space and Conal still hadn't gone to ask her
if there was anything more she needed. There, at last the
boy went over and took the girl's order. The bar's co-proprietor
could again turn her attention to the customers nearer at
Jubilation Lee was not feeling too happy. Her 'date' with
Logan had failed to lift her spirits and, as so often before,
she was feeling a bit sorry for herself, immaturity be damned.
In her melancholia she even had let the busboy talk her into
ordering the soup of the day, which turned out to be lentils.
Major boredom. She decided to split and leave for home.
As she came to the doorway, she became aware of an odd tingling
sensation. She stopped dead in her tracks, puzzled by what
she saw. Didn't anyone else notice it? The way whenever she
directly looked at someone, they seemed to change suddenly.
That overburdened fat man with the receding hairline getting
out of a pickup -- didn't he have a mustache when she first
noticed him in the corner of her eye? The truck's paint also
wavered between a well-polished poppy-red and a mud-splattered
orange. There was a group of chatting nearby, but as she focused
her gaze on them, some of them suddenly seemed to change their
sex or vanish completely whenever she blinked.
But this double-vision stopped once she stepped into the
open. Still, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
Something felt, not necessarily wrong, but different. Wait
a moment, what was that? There, at the top of the Greyhound
timetable: "COACHES TO NEW YORK -- PHILADELPHIA -- GOTHAM"???
She had passed that display a dozen times, but she was sure
she'd have noticed that name before. Something was très screwy
here. And the only big city called Gotham she had ever heard
...was in another universe.
It had been a few months earlier. Dozens of strange men and
women had appeared from another universe. Most of the others
had forgotten about it, but Jubilee had kept a diary. Not
something she did regularly, but there was this boy who had
suddenly appeared out of thin air and into her room in the
Academy in Snow Valley. Landing on her bed, in fact.
Robin had said he came from a big city called Gotham, where
he was the junior partner of a costumed vigilante, the Batman,
also known as the Dark Bat or something. Jubilee had not paid
much attention to that, having only eyes and ears for the
masked young man who by a freakish coincidence wore a costume
not that different from one she herself used to wear. In zero
seconds flat she had realized that this was the guy for her,
and not much long after he had felt the same way about her.
Of course it had been too good to last. It had turned out
that their two native universes had started to merge, and
suddenly the two star-crossed heroes had found themselves
in a lame-o contest about which universe was going to survive.
They even had been set up in a duel. Robin had defeated her
with embarrassing ease, even managing to do it without hurting
her -- both humiliating and sweet of the boy. It had ended
with her lying bound on the ground and with him sitting on
Once she 'cried uncle', it had seemed such a natural thing.
After all, as far as they knew the world was going to end
any time for one of them, they'd never have a another chance.
But like, maximum out of this world... then, thankfully and
contrary to expectations both universes had been saved and
Jubilee and Robin had been forced to go their separate ways.
But this sign at the bus stop, did it mean that by leaving
the bar she had entered a strange, but not unfamiliar universe?
Yeah, right. There must be some way to verify the journey...
Maybe that old newspaper in the bus-station's wastepaper bin.
Ugh, someone must have used that to wipe off their boots or
something. Still, it was legible. Finally, on one of the inner
pages she found a small item, SUPERMAN FOILS SIMULTANEOUS
HEISTS IN METROPOLIS. Bingo.
Maybe it would be a good idea to check out the bar again.
She went back in. Hmm, nothing unusual inside. Pretty much
as she remembered it, and certainly no double-images. Her
eyes swept around the room, finally returning to the open
door. Looking out, she again had the slightly scary experience
of a landscape and people in it which apparently could not
make up its mind between two different scenarios. Wish Wolvie
was still here, he has more experience with this dimension-traveling
Suddenly, the view shifted into one of the competing versions,
the one with the dirty orange pickup. In this world, there
was no wastepaper basket at the bus shelter. Guess that means
if I go out now, I'll probably be in the universe I came from.
She suddenly realized that prospect tore her up. Seeing the
name Gotham had created an undercurrent of excitement, no,
make that a sense of joyful expectation in her. Admit it Jubester,
you're still hung up on the boy...
She gasped. The moment these thoughts had entered her mind,
the view had changed again. The pickup was clean and red,
and the paper bin was back in its place. Hmm, going out on
a limb she'd say that this door operated as a portal between
dimensions that is controlled, at least in part, by the desires
of the person passing through. Jubilee wondered if the effect
was permanent or only temporary. She rather feared the latter,
because she certainly did not remember that tingling from
her previous visits to this place. So maybe if she wanted
to really go, she'd have to make up her mind at once.
Oh hell, nothing ventured, nothing gained, she thought. Gotham
City, here I come!
But only after leaving a message in the machine with Wolvie
and at the Academy.
The home of Valerie Cooper, Mystique and their daughter was
the kind of brownstone townhouse one expects to see in Georgetown.
Situated next to X-Factor's town offices, it offered its inhabitants
a quick retreat from their political and emergency service
Valerie Cooper sat at the antique desk in her study, watched
by framed photographs of various members of her family (including
one of Edmond Atkinson, her ex-husband). She was in the process
of finishing her memo on the recruiting Moonstar and Warpath
into X-Factor's ranks. The other members of X-Force had made
a quick, quiet exit. Valerie wondered if Domino would hold
the group together -- from what she heard, Boomer and Sunspot
were interested in hooking up with Charles Xavier's program
after the disappearance of their erstwhile leader.
Beneath the window, Raven and Rogue were playing with little
Irene on the sunny back terrace. Rogue had returned to Washington
to help assess the aftermath of the events of the preceding
weeks and to co-ordinate the policies of the X-Men and X-Factor.
And of course she took advantage of this to visit her foster
sister and her parents.
There still was a lot to find out about the dimension-hopping
that had gone on so frequently these past two weeks. Rogue
had just mentioned confidentially that one of students in
Xavier's freshman team, Generation X, had gone AWOL into Hawk
and Dove's native universe. They still were trying to work
out how she had done that. If they did, maybe they could find
a way not only to follow her and bring her back, but also
to return the two families currently in residence at the X-Factor
compound to their home, if probably not to their original
They would be discussing this tomorrow in their next get-together
with their guests. Then they would also talk about what the
two couples were going to do until they did find a way to
bring them home. Valerie had contacted Nick Fury about getting
the necessary documentation etc. to become 'naturalized' in
this universe. He still owed X-Factor a few favors. There
still remained the possibility that the five (relatively soon
to become six) would find no way to return or that they would
decide to stay here until a way was found to bring them back
at the same time they left. In that case they might have to
prepare for a longer stay.
Valerie finished her paperwork as laughter drifted up through
the window. Irene was again doing her best to charm her foster
sister and succeeding admirably. Valerie decided to join them,
locked away her memo, thereby leaving the top of the desk
tidy and indeed almost bare, and walked down the wood-paneled
staircase. When she came out onto the terrace, the others
greeted her. Her child turned towards her, got up and, still
somewhat clumsily started to walk towards her. Val quickly
scooped her up and hugged her, placing a warm kiss on her
Irene's sky blue brow.
"Li'l Irene's been keepin' us busy, Val," said
Rogue. "She's had us do bird impressions for the past
With Val there to take care of Irene and the visiting Rogue,
Raven could disappear into the kitchen to prepare a little
meal. Rogue sensed that her foster-mother's partner wanted
to use the opportunity for a short confidential talk: "Well,
'dad', seein' we've been too busy with other things until
now, ah guess this is the part where ya grill me 'bout mah
new boyfriend, right?"
Valerie Cooper briefly chuckled: "No, I think I know
how you feel about him. As a matter of fact, on the moral
level there are similarities to the beginning of my 'marriage',
aren't there? What Raven calls 'the Skywalker syndrome'."
Rogue had listened thoughtfully before asking: "What's
that supposed t'mean?"
Valerie explained with a conspiratorial smile: "Well,
that's what she said last week. 'Both of you are desperately
willing your partner to turn to the bright side of the Force,
just like Leia with Han Solo and Luke with Darth Vader.'"
Rogue snorted with laughter: "Yeah, that sounds like
her. Now ya mention it, ah think she said somethin' similar
t'me yesterday, if not with the same imagery."
The older woman's expression became serious: "Look,
Rogue, we may like to crack jokes about me being your new
daddy, but I really have come to care for you as a member
of my family." There was a somewhat awkward pause. "So
on one hand I'm really happy for you that you finally got
your chance of a life with a ... um, 'significant other' and
seized it. As for your choice of partner..." she shrugged
her shoulders, "I guess in my position I'm more inclined
to support you morally than many other people..."
The young one grimaced: "Momma don't seem to be too
happy 'bout me'n Magneto..."
"Well, Raven frets over me a lot." Valerie sat
down Irene who wanted to play with her toy cars. "She
rather blames herself -- or at least the fact that our relationship
became public knowledge -- for me not getting a cabinet post.
So she's a bit worried about the effect the news might have
that my foster-daughter-by-marriage is intimately involved
"Now we ain't exactly in a hurry to announce that t'the
"Well, at least you two seem to be quite chipper at
the moment. I really wish you well and hope that Magneto doesn't
go on to..." Her voice trailed off. It was an uncomfortable
thought, and one that was perhaps too close to her own, not
totally allayed fear that someday some unforeseen event might
cause Raven to revert to her old ways. (Although now she wasn't
sure that would necessarily mean a break-up. The exposure
of that cyborg who had tried to infiltrate the government
hierarchy not so long ago had given her a fright. If someone
set on the elimination of mutants actually succeeded in gaining
the position Nimrod had aimed for...)
Rogue sensed Val's embarrassment and reacted accordingly:
"Ah've been followin' that case in Hawaii. The way it's
lookin' at the moment, ah expect you two are thinkin' of makin'
honest women of each other over there any time soon?"
"Well, it is a thought. I expect we'd enjoy a Hawaiian
honeymoon," Valerie wistfully remarked. "But the
way Raven's two husbands ended up, maybe I shouldn't be too
eager to get married. to her!" she teasingly added because
she heard Mystique approaching.
Raven gave her a half-withering, half-amused look: "Don't
mind Val, Rogue dear," she dead-panned, "she's just
annoyed at me because I'm not as keen as she is on marriage.
Honestly, now that so many hets are living together without
a certificate, I don't really see why now gays'n'lesbians
should rush to the justice of the peace in such a hurry."
She mischievously gave Rogue a sly wink. But as Valerie refused
to be drawn, Raven just added that dinner was ready. There
was a slight hold-up for deciding who got to carry Irene --
that privilege finally went to the visitor, Rogue -- and then
the three women walked into the house, Mystique hugging Val
This story first appeared in Menshevik Annual #6 in the June
1997 mailing of MZS-APA. It is part of a continuing storyline.
Magneto is not called Erik Lehnsherr here. The origin Fabian
Nicieza foisted on him in X-MEN UNLIMITED #2 violates over
a decade's worth of stories which, while never openly stating
it, always clearly inferred that Magneto's background was
Jewish. Nicieza also demonstrated a much smaller concern for
historical facts than Chris Claremont. For a thorough treatise
on the matter, please check out Rivka Jacobs' Magneto is Jewish
FAQ at http://www.mindspring.com/~alara/ajer/magneto.html.
By a process of deduction and weighing probabilities too lengthy
to expound here, I found it plausible to make Lithuania the
country of his origin. After ditching the XMU #2 origin, it
was only logical to also discard the new name (no one had
called him Erik before, so why did everyone start afterwards?),
especially since "Lehnsherr" is a technical legal
and historical term for which I see no way that it could have
become a family name (people who were a Lehnsherr, i.e. a
feudal lord, already had family names, and people who were
dependent on one would have used a concrete term - e.g. Koenig
(king) or Graf (count) -- instead of the legal abstraction).
Hawk and Dove appear here pretty much as they were in the
fondly-remembered series written by Karl and Barbara Kesel.
For instance the extramarital parentage of Dove's daughter
is from H&D Annual #2. However, for the purposes of this
story, Armageddon 2001 #2 and the subsequent appearances of
Hawk as Monarch did not happen.
Also, since my timeline diverges from Marvel's over two years
before this story, a number of recent Marvel storylines either
happened differently (e.g. Magneto regained his memories before
he came back to Earth, he was not de-aged a second time, and
Onslaught did not result in the apparent deaths of the Avengers
and the Fantastic Four) or not at all (e.g. Operation Zero
Tolerance, because Bastion was never allowed to get the position
needed to launch it).
Acolytes, Adamantium, Angel/Archangel, Edmond Atkinson,
Avalon, Avengers, Banshee, Bastion, Beast, Black Widow, Morgana
Blessing, Boomer, Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants, Cable, Cannonball,
Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), Champions (of Los Angeles), Clea,
Colosssus, Valerie Cooper, Graydon Creed, Cyclops, Daily Bugle,
Damage Control, Defenders, Dr. Strange, Domino, Empire State
University, Dormammu, Excalibur, Exodus, Fantastic Four, Feral,
Forge, Aleytis Forrester, Freedom Force, Forearm, Friends
of Humanity, Nick Fury, Galactus, Gambit, Generation X, Great
Lake Avengers, Jean Grey, Havok, Human Torch (Johnny Storm),
Iceman, Invisible Woman, Jubilee, Ka-Zar, Senator Robert Kelly,
Kree, Latveria, Legacy Virus, (Daemonic) Limbo, Locus, Magda,
Magik, Magneto, Malice, Massachusetts Academy, Luna Maximoff,
Mr. Fantastic, Mr. Sinister, Moonstar, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers),
Mutant Liberation Front, Mystique, New Mutants, Nightcrawler,
Nimrod, Onslaught, Orb of Aggamoto, Oshtur, Pangea, Phoenix
(Rachel Summers), Polaris, Professor X, Madelyne Pryor, Quicksilver,
Reaper, Franklin Richards, Rogue, Sabretooth, Savage Land,
Savage Land Mutates, Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Shanna the
She-Devil, Shi'ar, Silver Surfer, Skrull, Lyja Storm, Strong
Guy, Stryfe, Storm (Ororo Munroe), Sunspot, S'ym, Ben Urich,
The Vault, Amelia Voght, Warpath, White Queen (Emma Frost),
Wild Child, Wildfire, Wolverine, Wong, Xavier Institute of
Higher Learning, Xavier Mansion, X-Factor, X-Force, X-Men,
Zaladane & Zenn-La are TM & (C) Marvel Entertainment
The Force, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo & Darth
Vader are TM & (C) Lucasfilm Ltd.
Captain Brian Arsala, Barter, Batman, Child, Daily Planet,
Dove (Dawn Marie Granger), Dove (Donald Hall), Druspa Tau,
Flaw, Gorum, Gotham City, Maire Granger, Russ Granger, Irwin
Hall, Rae Penfield Hall, Hawk (Henry Hall), Kestrel, Kirby,
Lords of Chaos, Lords of Order, Metropolis, Monarch, M'shulla,
Senator Thomas O'Neill, Parallax, Robin (Tim Drake), Samurai
Saurians, Captain Maggie Sawyer, Sons of Liberty, Special
Crimes Unit?, S.T.A.R. Labs, Superman, Renata Takamori-Hall,
T'Charr, Teen Titans, Terataya, Top, Teresa Bua Trinh, Unity
(although I made up her given name), Waverider, Sgt. Wolfson
& Wonder Woman are TM & (C) DC Comics.
Crossroads & Conal Savoy are TM & (C) Chris Claremont.
Violet Jones & Pansy Smith are TM & (C) Emma Bull
& Lorraine Garland.
Irene Cooper and other supporting characters are mine (for
all the good that does me).
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