I've not been
reading the X-Men for a while, so I thought best to describe my story as being set in an
alternate timeline. Historians out there, don't flame me! And hey, I love mail! E-mail
your comments to: email@example.com.
"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't."
For once in her life, Emma had intended to say more to Bobby than she ever did before. In the span of those few hours, he had proven that he was more than just the self-effacing and shallow man she had always assumed him to be. She could now admit her shame over the words she had used to describe him the day before.
Bobby drew a hissing intake of breath as his eyes settled on the newcomer. She looked at him quizzically and saw him mouthed a single word: Mountjoy. It made little sense to Emma because she did not recognise the man who stood beside Creed, leaning casually against the doorframe.
"Resortin' to a mutant to get at mutants, eh, Creed? I always thought your eradication campaign was kinda slipshod. Didn't know you were reduced to scrounging the genetic dump yard for resources."
Bobby schooled his face into a restrained smile and tossed this offhandedly.
He's learning, Emma realised with a sudden sense of pride. Bobby was channelling his anger towards a constructive direction. By simply taunting Creed, he gave the man less of an excuse to resort to violence, taking away in the process, his principle weapon.
Creed reddened visible but controlled himself. He turned instead to address his companion with unconcealed derision.
"Is that the correct one?"
The man known as Mountjoy seemed oblivious to the tone Creed used. He simply cocked his head to one side and surveyed Bobby. Finally, he directed his attention at her but it was almost like a gesture of formality, merely for the sake of completing his inspection.
Bobby shifted uncomfortably beside her and Emma understood the reason why when those bloodshot eyes landed on her. They darted around in a haphazard manner, the priority of their attention seemingly chosen from some random order that defied human cognitive patterns. Emma had this impression that she was scrutinised not as a whole person but as several body parts.
She responded with her own inspection of the man. His lips were loose and moist at the sides; their contents dribbling onto a once well kept beard now matted beyond relief. His once-immaculate clothing was speckled and begrimed. His black flannel trousers were covered with splotches of grey, greenish mould and stray threads were all that remains of several missing buttons from his crumpled silk shirt. Now and then, he lifted an ineffectual hand to wipe his mouth, smearing more filth all over his face in the process. Emma saw that his hand was swollen and discoloured by an untreated wound dealt at the base of the palm.
It did not take a telepath to see that the man standing in front of her was plainly sick of body and maybe of mind as well. Her suspicions were confirmed when Mountjoy opened his mouth to respond to Creed's question.
Even Creed was taken aback; he took several discreet steps away from his companion. But Mountjoy was unaware of the reaction he had caused. He continued laughing earnestly, amused by a joke only he could sense. Suddenly, he turned abruptly on Creed.
"Well? What are you waiting for? Turn it off, I say! How many times must I repeat myself?"
Emma had the satisfaction of seeing Creed's jaw work soundlessly for a few seconds.
"Are - are you -" Creed stopped and composed himself. "This was never part of our agreement; not until you give me the information I wa- "
Mountjoy flicked a supercilious glance at him and drew a remote control from his inner pocket. Without any warning, he pressed a button on it.
The distant sound of an explosion echoed into the room. Emma felt something lurch in her mind, a sensation that was followed by a sequence of telepathic surges. It was as if some mental congestion had been cleared and familiar yet foreign thoughts began filtering into her mind once more. Realisation flashed; Mountjoy had disabled the inhibitor.
She met Bobby's blank look, stunned by the change in events. There was a ghastly sucking sound and everyone turned around just in time to see the end of a transformation that took over Mountjoy. He was separating, no; Emma saw it clearly now. Somehow he had absorbed the body of a woman. That half-melted form was now being purged from his torso.
Bit by bit, the two bodies came asunder, tendrils of solidified lymphoid fluid stretching taut, clinging tenuously between them. Cursorily, Mountjoy flicked his finger in-between, severing the links. The bag of flesh hit the ground with a wet sound. Its skin was corroded veneer-thin and it was a wonder that the organs which could been clearly seen, did not spill out. They are moving, Emma realised. The body was still alive, but obviously not for long. She had to turn away to control the urge to throw up.
That split-second's inattention was all that Mountjoy needed. Emma turned back when she heard Bobby scream. Her mouth worked in helpless horror. She saw that Mountjoy already had his hands on the younger man's face. She saw as their skin made contact and began dissolving into each other. Mountjoy's hand disappeared into Bobby's face, followed by his arm and the rest of his body. The madman took one step forward and they melded together. He had discarded the woman simply to make room for Bobby.
Belatedly, Emma remembered that she had regained her powers. She reached out and was frustrated by the weakness of her attempt. The inhibitor wasn't totally knocked out. She tried again and this time, was forced to reel back.
Mountjoy did not have any psychic defences; she was repelled solely by the state of his mind. Cymbals of clashing voices babbled in his consciousness, their moans drawling a never-ending lament over his theft of their bodies. Emma realised that the minds of all his victims become part of his psyche and his fragmented personality grew more unstable as he added another victim to his collection.
She tried to force those voices aside to find the source of this confusion, hoping that it was not too late for her to tear Mountjoy away from Bobby. Mountjoy shivered. A slow smile enveloped his face. The expression was made all the more grotesque because his face was in the process of constant flux. His features shifted as his body adjusted to the new absorption. With horrible fascination, Emma saw Bobby's anguished face superimposed itself over Mountjoy's mocking one every now and then.
Mountjoy wagged an index finger at her. "No, no, my dear. It wouldn't work. You may have the mastery of human minds but I'm the assimilation genius here. Try prying him away and I'll rip his essence apart!"
His casual demeanour changed and Emma realised he was capable of the threat. She gave up trying to separate the two newly wedded consciousnesses. It was too difficult. For now.
She had to stall for time. Anything to distract Mountjoy and slow down the absorption process. She must gauge him as well; her psychological research told her that a system of logic existed even in the most demented of minds. It was simply a matter of finding the pattern and piecing the pieces together.
It was time to talk.
"I must say I'm not very impressed with your tastes, at least where your passion for new personalities is concerned. As an individual, Robert Drake isn't exactly what I would call the best offer in town. Surely you could do better."
Mountjoy raised his eyebrows amusedly. "You're referring to yourself?"
"You're a bloody mutant too?" Creed exclaimed from behind. "Christ, what is this fucking country coming to? Be assured that I'm going to tell the world about this, Frost. I'll not rest until I've destroyed -"
It was a simple thing to do. Emma overloaded Creed's pain neurones with electrical impulses, triggering off every synapse at once. Excruciating agony rocked his mind and he collapsed to the ground like a scarecrow bereaved of its stuffing. She did not even glance at him but returned her attention to Mountjoy immediately. All this distraction was making her lose patience.
"Look, what is it you want? Money? I have plenty of that. Just name your price and let him go."
Mountjoy stared at Creed's comatose form. The thoughts that went through his mind were not easy to discern but Emma took a wary step back.
He noticed her unconsciousness move and shrugged; it was disconcerting because it was Bobby's mannerism in every sense. "But I've already got what I want. The Iceman, himself!" His voice turned menacing here. "Now what I'm really glad is the fact that you're coming along for the ride - the roads can get pretty lonely."
He took one step towards her and stopped. Cocking his head to one side, he frowned, as if caught in the middle of a great decision. Once again, Bobby's face tried to resurface; with an effort, Mountjoy brought his own features under control.
Even though her telepathy was an effective tool against his power and she could reduce him into a babbling idiot before he even came close, Emma continued to eye him warily. But Mountjoy did not come closer. He remained where he was, and studied her, tapping a finger to his lip.
"Bobby says to let you go."
He waited to see how she would make of that innocuous comment.
"Robert is a perceptive man; there's much you can learn from him. Now what do you want him for?"
Mountjoy mused for a while, deciding if he should tell her. Finally, he flung his hands out in the manner of a mock defeat.
"I need his powers."
"Why, I'm going to the Promised Land! But it's not America, sorry. Marvellous country nevertheless civil rights the ideals "
"I don't like repeating myself." Emma struggled with the urge to mentally wring him like a dog. "And I will not warn you twice if you push my patience too far."
"- the ideals, unfortunately they didn't prevent Fitzroy from killing the Hellions, did they? I was one of those he brought over at the expense of your students. Must've been Catseye - is that her name? I think I stepped on her when I came through the portal. Terribly sorry if she didn't look too presentable for the funeral -"
"Nor I will not give you the satisfaction you want side-tracking the subject in that direction. The dead serve their purpose being dead. Be disappointed - my former students can only fulfill that function in their graves."
Curt derision powered those words but the apathy behind them hid the turmoil that went on in her mind. Although there was nothing on her face to betray her feelings, Emma was enraged. Mountjoy would never know how close he came to becoming a mindless husk. Deprived of his anticipated outburst, he could only blink.
"I - intend to go back, by the same principle and," Bobby's face morphed into the surface, "I am his key there."
It was not Bobby because that mocking smile never changed. "But before that happens, I shall do my utmost to pry an expression off your face. Fear or grief would be a premium - an excellent keepsake to bring back -"
"I'm amazed," she arched her brows with, only God knows, deliberate effort, "you seem to know a lot about me."
Mountjoy tapped the side of his head. "It's all inside here. Oh wait, I should clarify - they're Bobby's memories actua -"
"But you are presupposing my participation in this ridiculous farce of yours."
"Oh yes, but that's because you can still save him, me. If you don't -" Bobby's face turned entreating this time. "I'll be reduced to that." He pointed to Mountjoy's still-living victim.
Emma smiled thinly as her suspicions were confirmed. "It seems that you need me. Somehow."
There it was. The pattern, or at least a part of it. Even as she grasped at the fundamental issue of their exchange, she knew the outcome of her conclusion. She would go with him. It was not for Bobby, that was one part, yes. But most of all, he was going to pay for the Hellions' death. Fitzroy was dead, but she would settle for anything. Mountjoy dangled the bait in front of her and she would swallow it, even if it choked her. And she would return that agony, thousand-fold.
He groaned theatrically. "I'm afraid so too! But I'll offer you another alternative. Once I get what I want, I'll release Bobby, but in the meantime, I rely upon you to aid me with your powers. It's a simple agreement. What do you think of that?"
"I'll take it."
Another blink. Anyone, who knew Emma Frost better, would be suspicious. But although Mountjoy had access to Bobby's memories, it did not represent living experience. He would have to learn the lesson the hard way.
He dismissed the business as settled and made the move to leave the room. Walking pass the still-quivering body of his previous victim, he swung a leg and caved the head in with a satisfying crunch. Catseye was forcibly brought into Emma's mind. The body twitched and became still. Bobby's face smiled back at her.
He did not look to see if she followed.
Emma stared at the figure departing down the long corridor. She returned her attention to the room, approaching the comatose Creed. She knelt down and began sifting through the memories in his mind, trying to eliminate all traces of his knowledge of her. At an afterthought, she included his memories of Bobby as well. But the inhibitor still affected her powers and she could not erase them. In the end, she could only settle with burying them within Creed's subconscious psyche. It was a short-term measure; he would remember everything eventually but she'd be back to effect a permanent removal before that happens.
She looked at the open door. There was never a choice to be made in the first place. All that verbal edge she possessed while sparring with Mountjoy was simply a cover up for the fact that she was useless. Damn it, it was all Drake's fault! Why did he have to stand there and let the madman take control? He wasn't one of her students; he was an adult for god's sake! He should be able take care of himself. She was sick of being responsible for so many lives. She was sick of having to look over her shoulders and seeing the ruined cairns she left behind her; one milestone for each death, stretching along the highway of her life.
Legs moved first, bodily responses accustomed to the old battle knew their way better than her mind or heart did. Step by step, she walked out of the room, led inexorably along the direction Mountjoy went. She was scared, after so many years. Once, every milestone had simply pushed her onwards but she realised now that the dead always did more than serve their purpose.
Mountjoy wasn't the only one who needed his demons exorcised; she had her own as well.
Creed woke up. His head ached savagely and he was in a basement room for some unexplainable reason. He looked around and saw a mutilated body on the ground. Strangely, Creed could remember where that came about but not the reason why. His eyes landed on a dark patch on the floor and he knelt down to finger it; it was dried blood. Where did that come from? Was there a fight he did not know about? He tried the door and found it locked.
It was Sunday; he remembered now, all the employees were not around. Somehow that had been crucial to his plan as well, but he did not know why. All the answers eluded him as he retrieved a cellular phone from his pocket. Twenty minutes later, one of his subordinates arrived to unlock the door.
Creed growled, pointing to the floor.
"Get a sample of that dried blood and put it through a DNA test. I want it analysed and the owner, identified."
There was something that Mountjoy had said to him earlier on, when they had met in his office. Creed latched on the idea, trying to clear away the clouds of vagueness.
"Sir - what about this?"
He turned to look at the body.