Saturday, November 24, 2001

Bishop #5 - Tales of Los Angeles

Bishop #5 - Tales of Los Angeles, part one

(Please note - I am not even going to try and represent Jazz’s accent. Vocabulary, yes, a bit. But not the accent. Even after thinking about it loads, I decided that it wasn’t worth it, and would probably detract from the story as I screwed it up. My apologies to all of those who miss the southern sounds of Scatman Crothers, but I’m not going to. Right, on with the story.....)

In almost the tales of all worlds, there is a hero, and there is a villain. It is often so that the line between the two is very blurred. Indeed, often so thin is the line that each often finds his or her self doing things that would not fit the stereotype. One such case is now.....

"ALRIGHT JAZZ, FLOOR IT!" Bishop yelled, as he ran towards the black Porsche parked on the sidewalk in front of him. This might have seemed odd to an onlooker, as there was no driver. But at this point in time, there were no onlookers, nor did the lack of a driver matter. As soon as Bishop was inside the door and bullets started to fly, the Porsche had begun to speed away, as Bishop lay across the front seats, out of breath.

"So I take it that they said no?" came a voice from the speakers of the car.

"You got that right," said Bishop, catching his breath. He checked to see if he’d been shot by the veritable wall of lead that had been thrown at him. Seeing that all was well, he twisted round, and grasped the steering wheel, in order to make it look as if he were driving.

Jazz made what could be considered a robotic sigh. "I take it you got what you went for?" Jazz may be becoming used to Bishop’s methods. However, as an Autobot, he didn’t appreciate the danger that Bishop was exposing himself, and others, to. The fact that he was opposed to Bishop’s theft of the data they required also had some bearing on this.

Bishop, on the other hand, had no problem with either of those factors. Raised as he was, he’d almost never had respite from danger. This time, his methods had brought him success.

"Indeed." He raised a small disk into the light. "Can you have a look for me, check it didn’t get damaged?"

"Sure thing." With that, Jazz’s CD player tray popped out, and Bishop put the disk into it. Where a normal CD player would be damaged by the data contained on a CDROM, Jazz was fully capable of understanding the sound that came out and translating it.

"Woah! We’ve struck paydirt!" came the cry from Jazz’s speakers, as he read the disk. "This has information for finding each major gang in the area! Including Downshift’s bunch."

"In that case, I think we know where we’ve got to go next. Where is it?"

"Hold it, we don’t even have a plan yet. With some of the guns I’ve seen these guys pack, even I don’t want to go in there without some idea about what to do."

"Then here’s the plan - you drive us in, when I get out, you transform. I hope that’ll scare enough of them away so that we can get to Downshift without much trouble."

Jazz was still unsure. He lacked Prowl’s logical tactical genius, but he wasn’t Autobot second in command for nothing. As a member of the Autobot High command, he’d seen worse plans, but then again, he didn’t like going in with so many variables. All they knew was that Downshift had holed up in an old warehouse with a gang called the ‘Morbid Victors’. ‘As seems to be the fashion for this world’s villains’ he thought, as an aside.

"I thought you’d be more enthusiastic... He is your comrade, after all.."

"I am, man, but we need to be careful. Prowl and the other ‘Bots’d rather we came back empty handed, than not at all."

"Then what about getting some backup?"

"Nothing doing Bish li’ll buddy, word from HQ says that we’re spread pretty thin on the ground here." (see almost every other title for details J Mike)

"Fine.. then we go ahead as planned...."

Jazz, stuck for an idea better than Bishop’s, had no choice but to agree.


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Meanwhile, in a dark secluded corner of an abandoned warehouse, something is stirring. It snaps into consciousness like a sword out of its sheathe, and with all the inherent dangers. Unbeknownst to the ‘Morbid Victors’, the current inhabitants of said warehouse, its gold and black personage slowly starts to infiltrate the walls, the floors, and the very entirety of the Warehouse, waiting for the next card of fate to be played.


----------------------------------------


In the selfsame warehouse, a being sits on his throne. This is no throne like for a king of ages past, however. This throne was one of technology, and signified the power of it’s occupant...

As a viewscreen flipped out of one of the arms of the throne, he turned his face toward it, and the video/audio feed came through with a slight crackle.

"Report", came his curt order, to this subordinate at the other end of the connection. The man hesitated slightly, and then said,

"Boss, you’d better eyeball camera 6, it’s a pretty hot picture I think you’ll want to see."

The dominant figure sighed inwardly, wondering why no-one ever gave him a straight sentence with this kind of report. As he turned the main screen on to play the input from camera 6, the thought slipped out of his head, however. A black Porsche was speeding around the warehouse district, as the heli-cam tracked its movements.

"Damn them... they’re here already.." As it rose from the throne and stood, it took on a slightly different shape, and headed for what he liked to call his ‘office’. "You will rue the day you sought me out, Bishop, yesss..."


----------------------------------------


As Jazz took another corner at breakneck speed, Bishop wondered what had gotten into him. He doubted that it was enthusiasm. He decided to voice his concerns.

"Hey, Jazz, aren’t we taking it a little too fast? I don’t know if you got told this at any point, but we have speed limits on this planet!"

Jazz’s speaker system gave voice to his reply to Bishop.

"I got wind of a Decepticon scanning frequency being used on us. That means big trouble for us if I can’t shake our pursuer!"

"I’ll take a look outside!" Yelled Bishop, as he opened the window and leaned out, gun in hand. Looking up, he could see some kind of small flying device, presumably , with a kind of rocket-assisted helicopter propulsion system. "It doesn’t look like those decepticons we saw last time"

"Does it look like a bird? Or a bat?"

"Nope. Looks like some kinda badly made human device"

"Well, damn, I though it was ‘cons! Looks like your guys have taken more stuff from us than we thought!

"Indeed," Said Bishop, as he took aim and blasted the spy device out of the sky.

"What was that for?"

"Just because it isn’t your mortal enemies, doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous. And personally," He said, getting fully back inside Jazz, "I hate being watched."

"Whatever you say... Okay, action stations, it’s showtime!"

With that, Jazz accelerated to a speed well outside the range of even a normal Porsche, and did a handbrake turn worthy of the Dukes of Hazard before speeding through the locked doors that now lay in front of him. With an ear-splitting crash, they burst off their reinforced hinges, and flew into the large space that was so conveniently in their path.

Both Jazz and Bishop were equally baffled by the lack of any response. Then the proverbial penny dropped;

It was a trap! But then, a further anticlimax occurred, as nothing happened while Jazz slowed down, and transformed, as Bishop got out. Unholstering his energy rifles, Bishop took a glance around the room. He looked into all the places where he should have been able to see snipers bearing down on them, but saw only empty places. He could see no sign of any exits other than the doors that they had burst through, and anyway, there was no sign of a quick exit. Although all of the equipment was still there, nothing was left as if in a rush. It was as if the occupants had simply disappeared without a trace. Then, looking up as Jazz bid him so, did Bishop see what was the problem.

‘Oh sh*t, what’re we gonna do now?’ Thought Bishop to himself, just before all hell broke loose.

Captain America #3 - A Lifetime Lost, Part Two: ...at the twilight's last gleaming?

With the aid of science, in 1941, Steve Rogers became the fighting embodiment of freedom and the symbol of a nation; he became Captain America....

Captain America

Number Three

By Brian Kilby

A Lifetime Lost, Part Two: "...at the twilight's last gleaming?"

My name is Steve Rogers. I was born on July 4th, 1917. In 1941, I underwent a radical treatment that remade me, that changed me inside-out. I became the fighting embodiment of freedom and the champion of the American Dream. I became Captain America. As amazing as this sounds, it is something that I know, something that I put trust in.

I also put trust in Doctor Henry Pym. He's my friend and ally, we've been through Hell and back together. Through the good times and the bad, he's always been there. Regardless of that trust, the things that Hank now tells me are not and cannot be true. In this hour of happiness*, Hank is telling me that everything that I know is a lie...

*See last issue.

"Steve, please--it's painful, I know. Believe me, I know pain but you have to put it past you--I did." Hank Pym rubs his brow, sits down in his chair and continues digging through the computer system."

"Hank, I think you better take a break from that computer...."

"Why Steve, so that we can play make believe? Hm? Jesus, Steve--it's been sixty years, get over it."

"I don't think I like your tone, Hank."

"I don't like your act, Steve! I have two words for you, 'drop' and 'it.' If you want to do something productive, get me some coffee."

Steve puts his powerful hands on Hank's shoulders. "Who are you and what have you done with Hank Pym?"

Frustrated, he takes a deep breath. "My name is Hank Pym and I'm digging through the Volksnet looking for a site with information on the new KR-19 Retrovirus--but I can't find a site in English. Right now, however, I'm about to get mad and grow into a very large, very angry man. I'm then going to break your skull, that is unless you let...go...of...me!."

Steve relinquishes his grip. "No, you were looking for a file on Mutant genes. I repeat: Who are you? What's going on here and who is behind it?" Steve raises his voice and walks around the room. "Hydra? A.I.M.? Skull? You're dead Skull, but that never stopped you before! End this charade now!"

"Steve...first off, who are you talking to? You're Captain America...not Captain Senility, act like it. Second, The Red Skull isn't dead...though he has to be over eighty years old. Did you take your medication--?"

Steve cuts Hank short. "Details."

"Details...? Oh, no. No, I'm not playing along."

"Details. Now."

Hank sighs, "if it will shut you up.... Where to begin? Yeah, yeah, the beginning... After you hit the deep freeze back in--what was it? '42, '43? There was nothing to stop the army of German Supersoldiers led by The Red Skull. The United States never officially declared war against Germany, threats of the German Super Weapon kept us at bay. It was the Atomic Bomb. We finally developed our own but it was too late. France was in ruins. England fell. The rest of Europe followed. Eventually, Germany turned on its allies and claimed Europe and most of Asia as part of the new Fatherland. Hitler ruled half of the world...until he was usurped by The Red Skull. In February of '45, The Skull signed a treaty with President Roosevelt...signed it in Winston Churchill's blood. It was the darkest day in American history but it guaranteed peace between The United States and the new German Empire. We've had peace since. Any of this ring a bell, Steve?"

"No, Hank. It doesn't. That's not how anything happened. We went to war, Hank. After Pearl Harbor. Does any of this ring a bell? No, Hank. Nothing you say 'rings a bell' because it never happened. I know the problem now. He's behind this."

"The Red Skull stuff again, Steve? That fight between the two of you was a long time ago. I went to school with Sandra Bullock, you don't hear me accusing her of stealing my newspapers...though that would explain a few things..."

"Where's Tony?"

"Dead, just like he's been for the past ten years."

"What...?"

"I guess you'll ask about Thor next?"

"What about him?"

"He's--."

Hank's response falls on deaf ears...Steve's mind is inundated with pain, pain so great that he falls to the ground, unconscious.

Hours later, he wakes up on a platform.

"Steve, I don't know how to put this, exactly...you had a mild stroke."

"Hank...?"

"Yes, it's me. Steve. I ran a biopsy...and the results are not what I was expecting." Hank turns on a computer monitor. An element in your blood has become active. I've noticed it before and have researched it, but to no avail. It's not an element...in the practical sense. It's actually a binary compound, two elements are bonded together...in a way that just shouldn't be. One is Carbon...and the other is something entirely new, just off our Periodic Table. This shouldn't be but, the compound is indivisible, I cannot isolate the second element from the Carbon...and after these results, I'm not sure if I want to. All of a sudden, this has become highly unstable and it's ravaging your blood-cells...it's like it's eating its way out, breaking your blood down as it goes. Steve...by these results, you only have four days to live..."

"What...?"

"It gets even more strange. The radiation that this element is emitting is the same as normal atmospheric radiation. Normal background radiation...for Germany."

"What? Normal for Germany?"

"Yes, as long as I've remembered, Germany has had strange levels of radiation emitting from its borders."

"That's...not normal, is it?"

"That it hugs the political boundaries? No but nothing is normal, is it? There could be something that the German Government does that creates this unique pattern of radiation. Nuclear tests, radiation screenings? Bad irrigation? Who knows? No one, that I'm aware of, has determined why this phenomenon exists."

Steve turns over on the platform, to get a better look at the monitor. "Hank, I want maps and a diagram of this binary chemical. I want all of the information that you can give me."

With a few keystrokes, Hank complies.

"Germany controls more area than I thought. It slithers around the world like a snake, only North America is free from German control?"

"That's right. German territory begins right there," Hank points, "to Northern Canada. It ends at Mexico."

Steve gets up.

Hank warns, "No, Steve. I wouldn't get up, not in your condition."

"Whatever this is, Hank, I can't just let it kill me. I'm getting to the bottom of this, now."

"Steve, I may act like a jerk sometimes, but I respect you...and I'm sorry for acting like I did a while ago. It's not like me. Why, why am I acting like this? Why doesn't this...feel right?"

"Hank...none of this is real... The Red Skull is not some global dictator. He's a madman who likes to inflict pain and suffering. You, you're wrapped up in your experiments but you are a good man. You're one of my closest friends. And Tony, Tony's not dead."

"He is here...as is Thor and the rest of the Avengers. We're all that's left."

"What happened to them?"

"The business. Iron Man fell during a fight with Ultron IV. Thor, he was turned to glass by Thanos. My poor, beautiful, Jan...she and Wanda were...liquefied. Everyone of us, even our reservists, all dead...one gruesome way or another."

"Hank, none of this is real, I can assure you that."

"You may be right. I would be most grateful if you were...but that disease which I diagnosed you with, the radiation eating away at your body. That's real. This pain that I feel deep inside, the empty feeling I get when I wake up in the mornings. That's real too. If somehow, you can fix both of those things, I'm at your disposal."

"...the first thing we need is a plan. The map, again, please."

"Here you go."

Steve notices a discrepancy. "Wait...before, German territory ended at Northern Canada. Now it ends at the Canada/US border...just miles from here."

"Steve, Canada has always been under German control."

"I'm...not going argue. I'm just going to take you at your word. Do the Quinjets still work here?"

"Yeah, why?"

Steve gets up and walks runs towards the secret elevator, "because I have a trip to make. I need answers before I make a leap of faith. The Red Skull is behind this. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I have to find his location, I have to gather all the telemetry that I can."

"Steve, where are you going? What if it's not the Skull?"

Steve responds with a grin. "I'm going to look for answers"

"But where?"

"Where I was before everything went crazy...The Pentagon."

Transformers #6 - Lost and Found

Transformers #6

"Lost and Found"

Written By Karl V.

"Prowl, was that guy just leaving in a black Porsche?" Ambassador Cullen had seen the race car zoom out with the radio blaring, as he entered the main bridge of the Ark.

Prowl lifted a few faceplates, the equivalent of a human smile. "Yes, that was Jazz. And, he had one of the mutants with him {Bishop #4 for details-KV}. The mutant may have a lead on one of our missing comrades."

The Ambassador couldn't help the opportunity. "Ah, I see. Interesting how you use that Russian colloquiums. I suggest you update your speech program before General Preston thinks your being controlled by the Russkies."

Prowl laughed, while surprising Cullen by doing so. "Your language seems to take words from several different others, sometimes modifies them, and claims it as it's own. A rather inefficient use of language if you ask me. And, I already uploaded data about your old 'Cold War' so I got your joke."

"That's simply amazing. Anyway, I came not as the Ambassador of your people, but as one of Canada."

Prowl detected Cullen's serious demeanor. "If it's bad news, don't bother. I doubt the Decepticons would follow any restrictions placed on us by any human government."

Cullen nodded. "I know, it's not that. I've been asked if you would be willing to update the current Weapon X project. I haven't been told much, except it's yet another thing that uses your stolen technology for it's own purpose."

"Your wars and the weapons you use are your own business. However, I can not condone the use of Autobot technology for the express use of killing humans. I'll dispatch an operative as soon as one is available to retrieve this Weapon X and any other Autobot technology." Prowl tapped a few buttons on the console, which gave orders to the unidentified agent.

Cullen bowed his head and gulped. He knew the possibility of losing trust would be a risk. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I had to ask."

"No offense Ambassador, but I know you are just the...messenger boy. I still place a lot of trust in you, because you seem to be the only one not trying to gain something out of or from us." Prowl's audio sensors picked up a radio beep.

"Thanks, I appreciate it. Is that your phone?" The Ambassador was at a loss for the proper word.

Prowl nodded. "In a manner of speaking, it's much like your cellular phone. Except the frequency we use isn't potential harmful to any organic creatures."

Prowl put up the visual screen, as it displayed Wheeljack, Ratchet, and five huge oddly shaped metallic creatures.

"Dinobots?" Cullen mused.

Prowl looked down at the human. "How's that again Ambassador?"

"Oh, those metallic things look like Robotic Dinosaurs. I'd bet Steven Spielberg would love to get his hands on them."

Wheeljack overheard Cullen's voice on the communication link. "Well, inform Mr. Spielberg that the Elite won't be available to him at all. We need them first."

Prowl tried to hide his great elation. "I'm sure it was another figure of speech by the human Wheeljack. What's the news on the Elite's condition?"

"We don't know quite yet." Wheeljack euphemized as much as he could. "We need to get them to the repair bay as soon as possible. We need a giant trailer hitch to pull the Elite back to the Ark, so as not to arouse human or Decepticon suspicion."

"Ambassador, do you have any further suggestions?" Prowl wanted to make sure the plan was completely flawless.

Cullen smiled ear to ear. "Yes, just make sure that you have signs on your vehicle. Something that reads: 'Spielberg Productions'. "

Another beep came over the console, as Prowl acknowledged it. "Brawn, report."

"I have bad news. I didn't complete the mission as ordered. The human flame thrower attacked me and I had to respond. He had help with the one Gear's encountered. {That would be Human Torch and Spider-Man respectively...and all this is in FF#6}"

Prowl hit his head, while thinking of the worse case scenario. "What happened?"

"Well, as I said they attacked...I guess they thought I was a Decepticon. I responded in kind, chasing them back to their base. Then, I...uh...decided that I was acting like a Decepticon by the time I got to their base. So, I left before the situation got completely out of hand."

Prowl knew Brawn was covering his tracks, but it was of no consequence. "I'll send Bumblebee out there once his mission is done. He seems to have a knack for human logic processes. Get back to base as soon as possible, we've been rather busy lately."

"Will do, over and out."

Prowl looked down at the human. "Sorry Ambassador, everyone is reporting in as scheduled for a change. Can we continue this later?"

"Sure thing." The Ambassador left the main bridge.

Prowl went back to Brawn's frequency. "We need to get everyone back to replenish the Cybertronium. I didn't want to say that in front of the human."

"I understand. I'll report back as soon as possible." Brawn's face disappeared from the screen only to be replaced by Mirage's.

"I have good news. The hero team known as Heroes For Hire will help us out. It seems apparent that some enemies of theirs are using our stolen technology."

Prowl had a dark look on his face. "It seems these humans have frequently used our technologies for their own purpose. But, nice going. There are a few exceptions to these humans, and some even to seem analogous to Autobot programming. Report back to base for Cybertronium replacement."

"I will do just that. Mirage, over and out."

Ambassador Cullen had overheard the last of the statement, as one more question entered his mind. "Uh, Prowl."

The Autobot quickly tapped on the console to cut communication hoping the human didn't hear the last part. "Did you forget something Ambassador?"

"I just wanted to ask if you gave that mutant papers. Humans require papers to prove that they own their machines, and to prove that they have insurance." Cullen's query made Prowl shake his head.

Prowl's tone was curt and irritated. "I already gave Jazz the appropriate things for the human to identify his "possession" of Jazz. I have studied your ways extensively Ambassador."

The Ambassador took a step back. "I'm sorry, but you are alien to this land. Little things like pieces of paper for proof of ownership and insurance might slip by you."

"We can't afford such oversights. I appreciate your concerns though. There may be other things that we might not know about humans." Prowl heard yet another beep.

"Thanks, just one more thing." The Ambassador seemed to pause for emphasis. "What is Cybertronium?"

In an effort to think of an explanation the human couldn't understand, Prowl called up the screen. It was Optimus Prime.

"Cybertronium makes us work better, quicker, and we don't have bad things happen to us."

If Prowl could, he would have slammed his head against the console. But, he had a more logical process than that. "As you can still see Ambassador, our leader is still delusional."

"Yes, it's a pity really. Well, I better go give your answer to my government." The Ambassador turned and went to walk out of the giant ship.

Prowl turned back to the screen. "Optimus, now that you're done fighting mutants, it is time to come home. You need the good Cybertronium to make you feel a little better."

"I understand Prowl, and I appreciate your concern." Prime's optics blinked out again. "I will come back because good Prowl said so."

Prowl seemed almost thankful for the childlike glitch in Prime this time. "Very well. You need to have the others follow you back."

"ZOWIE! We got him free! Now what?" Warpath was covered in icy mud, but it didn't hamper his enthusiasm.

"I'll tend to his reactivation. My scientific expertise should be adequate enough to do so." Perceptor began work by lifting a panel, then drying out circuit boards.

"Those Decepticons are getting closer. The geographic shifts are increasing as we speak." Beachcomber reported as the others shifted nervously at the news.

Powerglide grew anxious from the fear of being captured again. "Come on Perceptor. Let's get this guy awake and get him moving us out of here!"

"I am attempting to utilize my technical knowledge to the utmost efficiency." Perceptor soldered more circuits together.

The Decepticon clone seekers appeared as the Autobots began to fire away.

"Perceptor, you better get this plane jetting us out of here and fast. I don't know how long until the real deals come to rain on our parade."

Perceptor finished his task. "Well, then let them produce moisture in little droplets. I have activated his main circuits."

With a proud gesture, Perceptor pointed to the jet. It became a pot of water being watched for the start of boiling.

"No Whir! No Clank! Not even a Kapow!" Warpath announced.

Perceptor scratched his cranial unit. "I don't understand. I have made all the necessary repairs. He should activate."

"Well, it doesn't matter now." Blaster reported. "They're here."

To the surprise of the Autobots, only Shockwave had arrived.

"So, you found what I could not. The Lost Cybertronian, as I predicted." Shockwave pointed his laser appendage toward Perceptor.

Perceptor shook his head. "Have him if you want. He hasn’t even activated after I successfully repaired his systems."

"Did you compensate for moisture condensation?" Shockwave queried.

Perceptor hit his head with his hand. "I knew there was something."

"Hold on a minute. This doesn't jive. Why would you need this guy?" Blaster pointed to the Lost Cybertronian.

Shockwave gave a monotone reply. "I will not go into the specifics if you can not figure it out with your own defective processors Autobot."

"Obviously, none of the Decepticons are effective enough to get Cybertronium, except the most recent ones that crossed this Space Bridge. And, even now some of their systems are being effected." Perceptor explained.

Shockwave tried to carry on, but hesitated. A shock went through his systems. The Autobots took the advantage and drew their weapons. Shockwave fired a huge fireball from the laser attachment. All the Autobots ducked, as it passed right by the Lost Cybertronian.

"You missed." Blaster pointed his weapon at Shockwave.

Shockwave fell to the ground on one knee. "The Cybertronium has effected me more than I thought. I made an illogical decision in coming here, so you may terminate my laser core for my mistake."

"I'm sorely tempted to do so...", before Blaster could finish he was cut off.

A myriad of machine noises permeated the tunnel, as the Lost Cybertronian transformed. The huge white robot with red accents took the gun from Blaster's hand.

"And, I will rid you of your temptation." It replied in Cybertronian language.

Blaster was more stunned by his gun being taken away. "Hey man, he's a Decepticon! I need that back!"

The Lost Cybertronian was perplexed by what came out of Blaster's vocalizer. "Can you say that again, in Cybertronian?"

Before Blaster could switch his language program, Shockwave responded. "They meant to kill me when I was fragile and weak from a Cybertronium deficiency. I was attempting to free you, when they came down here."

"That's not true!" Beachcomber shouted at Shockwave.

"Will someone please send me an update of this language they are using?" The Lost Cybertronian got a radio signal from Shockwave containing the necessary information.

"Thank You." The Lost Cybertronian finally replied in American English.

Shockwave nodded. "You are most welcome."

"I care not who did what, all I care that a fellow Cybertronian may be endanger from a variety of parasitic, symbiotic, or other mechanical specific viruses due to his loss in Cybertronium. As a Scientist, it is my duty to help those who need aid. And since this is a war which I obviously missed during my deactivation, I pick no side but the side of a good deed."

"Uh, what did he just say?" Powerglide spoke up for the rest.

Perceptor sighed. "He means to help Shockwave carry out his plan of getting Cybertronium."

The trip back to the Ark seemed pretty harmless. There was a lot of gawking and wide eyes as the Elite traveled on the trailer pulled by Wheeljack. Fortunately for Wheeljack, the humans were paying more attention to the big metal dinosaurs, then the fact that a race car was the one that had the hitch to the trailer.

"I don't get why these humans are so attracted to these big overgrown lizards." Wheeljack blared through his communicator to Ratchet.

Ratchet, who followed close behind the trailer, replied. "Well, according to humans these things were more closely related to what the humans call birds. Of course, there's a bunch of other evolution theories that humans have. It's all pretty confusing programming, if you ask me."

"We're coming up on the base." Wheeljack reported.

The soldier saw the race car, the Elite, and the ambulance behind. He realized this would be a long day. "Oh man, not again." {See Bishop #4 for details}.

"I'm not a human. Obviously, you should get your optic circuits, er...eyes checked." Wheeljack announced to the soldier.

The soldier simply saluted, and waved them on. "Just go ahead. Thank god all you damn good robots chose cars, or else we'd be hung."

"The human brings up a good point. We do seem to stick out a little more than the Decepticons. Perhaps we should explore other human vehicular mode options." Wheeljack rolled forward.

"I'll bring it up to Prowl." Ratchet followed. "Besides, we still look like the human vehicles, even if we do cater a bit to their transportation models."

Wheeljack sighed. "Well, that's a good point. But as the human expression goes, you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket."

"We're here." Ratchet announced, as a familiar green Jeep roared right next to their side.

"Hi guys!" Hound yelled with his vocalizer.

The General, still in the driver's seat, took one look at the Elite. "What in the hell are those?"

"I believe Ambassador Cullen called them Dinobots. I guess he just shortened Dinosaur Autobots down to one word, for easier language use. Although, I'm sure they would still prefer the name of the Elite." Wheeljack told the General.

The General rolled his eyes. "It figures Cullen would come up with something so obvious. Well, I suggest you get your friends there in your ship. We've had a lot of trouble with mutants lately."
"The Decepticons! Did they attack?" Ratchet quickly asked the General.

"I said mutants, not those other Transformers you call Decepticons. And, "

Hound interrupted the General. "Mutants are humans with special defensive and offensive capabilities. I saw them in action. Some of them could be capable of taking us off line, from what I've seen."

"There's something else to add to our report. Well, let's get the Elite in, we need to repair them as soon as possible." Wheeljack revved his engine, and began pulling the trailer into the Ark.

"That's the Elite!" Hound scanned the five metallic Dinosaurs. "I guess they had no choice but the organic forms."

"Yes, they did Hound. Follow us to the repair bay, so you can help load the Elite on the platforms." Ratchet ordered.

"Let me out first, robot." Preston released his seat belt, then hopped out of Hound.

"That's Hound, sir."

Preston ignored the Autobot, as the General walked off to his office.

"Let's go Hound." Ratchet urged his fellow team mate.

Hound followed Ratchet's lead, as they followed Wheeljack into the repair bay.

"So, what's the situation with the Elite?" Hound was silently hoping they could be immediately brought back on-line.

"Not good." Ratchet responded. "I had to rewire their logic circuits to keep their laser cores and necessary functions going. If we were to try reactivation before full repairs, they would be barely able to operate their speech programs."

"Does Prowl know yet?" The inquisitive green Autobot checked his scanners to see if the said Strategist was behind them.

Wheeljack finally reached the repair bay, which was thankfully before the bridge. "No, and we intend to inform him once we see if we can make full repairs."

"Yeah, that makes sense." Hound transformed along with Ratchet and Wheeljack.

Hound helped place each of the Elite on the beds which extended out from the Ark's walls. Ratchet began with the flying Elite known as Swoop, since Swoop was easily recognizable even in his Earthen form.

"Well?" Wheeljack asked after a couple of minutes.

Ratchet looked up and smiled. "I can do it. But, I better replace my Cybertronium before I even start a delicate procedure such as this."

"Great, let's go tell Prowl the good news!" Hound quickly ran toward the bridge.

The very gold and black colors of the Ark seemed to shift in movement with them.

"Uh...hello?" His first words were filled with worry of what may come. The small red robot cautiously continued down the halls of the Nemesis, with no other Decepticon to be found.

He continued to the bridge, where he finally found his keeper, for lack of a better term.

The tall blue robot turned to see the short red one. "Frenzy, explain current absence and structural damage."

"Uh, I wish I could Soundwave. I don't even know what happened. I just activated inside this place, and all these weird humans started to attack me." Frenzy attempted to scratch his head to find a piece of his cranial unit missing. "Oh, man..."

"Implement repairs, and I will access your memory data banks for the necessary information."

Frenzy didn't reply, but he seemed to zone out. "I don't think you want to go and do that to Mad Dog, big fella." Frenzy grabbed his guns from his back and swung them out toward Soundwave.

Soundwave ducked for cover and activated his weapons. There was no doubt that there was logic chip damage, but he could not completely take Frenzy off-line. Soundwave began firing at Frenzy on Stun, as the little robot pulled off acrobatics which his programming did not have.

"Ha ha, that's more like you big fella. I've been hankerin' for a little scrape after I tangled with that big ol' War Machine. {That would have been in War Machine #4}" "Mad Dog" continued to let loose with his laser lead upon Soundwave.

Soundwave pulled off a serious of flips and somersaults to avoid getting shot. Soundwave looked around, as the damage to the computer consoles was tremendous. Soundwave knew he had to do something or else face repairing everything for himself. He saw a piece of mirrored glass left from a damaged monitor, in matter of mere seconds his logic circuits predicted the precise trigonometry figure in order to hit "Mad Dog" in the back. Soundwave fired, as the blast hit dead center on the back of Frenzy. Frenzy yelped in shock, as his red eyes blinked out of commission. Soundwave paused for a moment to assess the damage. Numerous monitors and various terminals were damaged to certain degrees. He got up and walked over to the off-line robot. Something caught Soundwave's optic sensors, but it was too late. A black overcoat seemed to grow over Frenzy as he hopped up and blasted Soundwave.

"Well, lookey here. I'm the new sheriff for the town." 'Mad Dog' rubbed the gold star badge on his front chest plate. "I've got to rustle up the rest of the posse, so we can all be one big happy family."

Epilogue:

"You are an utter fool Straxus." The giant black robotic form walked around a tube, which contained a robot's head percolating in a chemical bath. "I should have fully deactivated you."

"Lord Scorponok , I beseech you to let me correct my errors." Then take your laser core off line for this embarrassment, Straxus thought to himself.

Scorponok shook his head. "You had your chance. Even though we have limited resources, we still have main control over Cybertron. You let one squad of Autobots defile the very sanctity of our headquarters, let them destroy a good portion of it, and let one of their leaders make you look like a standard drone bot in the methods of fighting."

"It was Ultra Magnus, Scorponok . Even he has had a victory against you." Straxus didn't care this would make Scorponok take him off line, just as long as he didn't have to endure being in this condition.

Scorponok almost did pull the plug, but he would not give Straxus the satisfaction. "No, perhaps your tenure here will help remind you that we are the ones meant for warfare."

By the pits, do not let me exist like this! Straxus would have struck something down, if he had arms.

"No doubt the Autobot rebels have had time to repair themselves. The next time they try such a bold attack, they will meet death by my hands." Scorponok clenched his fist.

Straxus tried once more. "Lord Scorponok , I would do better as a fully functional warrior than this..."

"I will do no such thing, until you have proven that you not make another large mistake like this again."

I will have my revenge for this, Scorponok . But, I must coddle to your pedantic miserable logic circuits to do so. "I accept your punishment for my failure, leader."

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

X-Men #9 - Remember Me? (Part 2)

X-Men #9

"Remember me?" (Part 2)

By Dave Cousens

"I assume you’ve found the information that I need?" Logan asked whilst removing a cigar from his leather jacket.

Wisdom leaned back and rested his hands on the back of his head, giving a cocky grin.

Logan became somber. "So. How much is this gonna cost me?"

Wisdom lowered his hand and once again picked up his cigarette. Smoke slowly wafted across the table, filtering its way into the cold air. He took a long drag on the cigarette and held still for a moment, savouring the nicotine. Then, the Englishman slowly exhaled the smoke from his mouth and started to shake his head.

"Look mate, I know Pryde probably didn’t speak too highly of me..."

"Hmmf." Logan laughed to himself.

Wisdom’s eyes narrowed.

"But I’m not stupid." Wisdom continued. "You don’t see the things I’ve seen and stay alive by being na├»ve."

Logan remained motionless in his seat, refusing to show his sudden discomfort. His eyes fixed on Wisdom’s, waiting to see how this played out.

"You didn’t really come all the way to sunny England to find out what we know about these TransFormers, now did you?" Wisdom rested his cigarette on the ashtray.

"Alien robots? Sure. Bloody big things too. Nasty energy source that turns everyone into potential Magneto’s. Two factions by all accounts. Classic ‘goodies and baddies’. It’s all fascinating stuff."

Wisdom leaned forward and stared directly into Wolverines cold eyes.

"Only thing is, you know all this stuff." Wisdom said sternly. "Even if you didn’t, you have resources to get them. If you didn’t want to go through Xavier and the moral brigade to get this stuff, you live with the worlds greatest thief, for cryin’ out loud!"

Logan unconsciously shifted in his seat and instantaneously cursed himself for it. He was not used to being rattled by anyone.

Wisdom picked up his cigarette with his right hand and pointed directly at Wolverine.

"Let me tell you what I think you want. I think that you’ve suddenly realized we have a new threat in our little universe of Marvels, something that has transformed the balance of power. Something that takes you out of the game!"

Wolverine lip formed a snarl. His eyes began to glare like fire.

"It makes sense really." Wisdom raised his palm openly. "Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman? They’ve all got showy powers that can affect the iron giants from a good range. Freeze ‘em into place then blow ‘em up. Sound tactic really." Wisdom’s expression changed to exaggerated consideration.

"Rogue can take the fight to them. Phoenix could drop a building on them, Beast could understand them and probably come up with a way to immobilize ‘em. All still valuable members of the team. That just leaves you. It’s doubtful that bone claws will make a sodding bit of difference to something that’s twenty feet tall and made of metal. And what’ll that lovely healing factor do? Prolong your suffering as one of the monsters starts to squash the life out of you?"

Logan’s arms moved faster than Wisdom could follow. Suddenly Pete found himself being choked by his shirt collar staring directly into the eyes of a madman, with the view of a bone claw just being visible in his periphery. One of the bar staff looked up at the sound of the wooden table being suddenly shifted. Wisdom looked directly into Wolverines eyes and smirked just slightly.

"Wouldn’t do that mate. Otherwise who’s going to get you your shiny mettle back?"

Logan felt his pulse rapidly beating through his forehead. His breathing slowed slightly as he turned to face the concerned bartender. He opened his hands and Wisdom slumped back into his seat. The bartender looked at Wolverine for another moment and then turned away to serve a customer. Logan sat back down.

Wisdom straightened his shirt and smiled at Logan.

"Now then, if you’re sitting comfortably, let me tell you about a man named ‘Dark’...

***

"Okay gentlemen--"

"A-HEM!"

"--And the lady, naturally." The Beast smiled awkwardly. "I appreciate how patiently you’ve all been waiting as I have been expertly fashioning the marvelous device that shall..."

Hank looked around, noticing that everyone was rather bored and just wanted to proceed.

"Um." He cleared his throat. "Heh, yes. Anyway as I was saying, time to see if this works!"

"If?" Gambit frowned.

The Beast turned around to face his completed invention, an oversized collection of spare parts and dials that had been gathering in the basement for the past six months that were assembled much like something from a Saturday morning cartoon. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and pushed the starting button.

...

Nothing happened.

Beast opened his right eye, his left still closed as if to prepare for an explosion.

Scott walked forward from the group of spectating X-Men towards the blue scientist.

"Hank?"

The Beast furrowed his brow. "Hmmm. In my calculations we should now be experiencing an illuminating pyrotechnic display of –

*BOOOOOOOOOOM!*

An enormous surge of energy erupted in the sky, pushing the Beast and Cyclops to the floor. The other X-Men shielded their eyes and squinted to see a pink haze rippling in the air in front of them.

"Gambit?" Cyclops shouted back over the wind this phenomenon was generating.

"Dat’s it Cyke!" Gambit yelled back in confirmation.

A vague humanoid figure was forming in the midst of the storm.

Banshee looked up and his heart skipped a beat. "Clarice?!?"

Adrenaline began to surge through the Irishman! "Jesus Christ! It’s Clarice!"

Cecelia looked at Bobby. "Who’s Clarice?" She shouted across the maelstrom.

"I think she was one of the kids who the Phalanx went after! We thought that she’d sacrificed herself in order to save the others!"

"...help..." the girls voice murmured from the anomaly.

Banshee moved faster than he had ever moved before.

When the Phalanx attacked, they came for the children who would be the next generation of mutants, Generation X. Sean Cassidy took it upon himself to save these children with the help of Emma Frost and the sociopathic Sabretooth. All of the children survived, except for one.

Clarice Fergusson was named Blink for her ability to create teleportation portals. Deciding that the Phalanx entity known as Harvest was inevitably going to win the battle she sacrificed herself by pulling him into a portal with her and then distorting the portal sending Harvest into oblivion. Unfortunately Clarice was only a novice with her power. Her lack of experience meant that she couldn’t focus enough to break free from the very trap that she had created. Banshee tried to pull her out, but the force was too great. He had to watch as she slipped through his fingers and vanished completely. Her death broke his heart.

Sean had vowed to never let anything like that happen to the kids again. Now, he had the chance to change fate itself.

The ripples of energy had become violent waves. Each X-Man was being slowly forced further back against their will. The mighty Beast strained his enormous musculature to try to head towards the glowing girl, his hand grasped towards her.

An aggressive surge of energy lashed the mutants arm backwards, it’s momentum flinging the blue furred scientist with it.

The Iceman was hurtling himself against the waves directly, trying in vain to break past the immense force, only finding himself at a dead standstill.

Sean Cassidy felt an unparalleled surge of adrenaline flow through him.

Banshee stood feet firm on the floor, opened his mouth and produced a yell that could be heard for miles.

With a speed that defied description Sean rose into the air, instantly being knocked back by the force of the torrent. Sean’s body flew like a rag doll backwards through the shockwaves until he had passed all of his comrades. He had never felt anything that intense before.

"Behind me!" Cecilia yelled, extending her natural force field to protect the X-Men from the onslaught of inter-dimensional energy.

Banshee looked on as each of the X-Men fell back, unable to counteract the excessive power created by Blink’s own void.

He looked into the epicenter of the phenomenon. He looked at the poor young girl, he strained his eyes to make out her face. Even beyond the blinding aura that was surrounding the girl he could make out her face. He promised himself that he would memorise it forever, never allowing her to be forgotten. Never allowing her sacrifice to be in vain.

"It’s hopeless." McCoy shouted over the cacophony. "There’s nothing we can do."

Then as the final X-Man was thrown back from the shockwaves, Banshee somehow saw a solitary tear fall down the cheek of the young girl.

For Banshee, that was it.

He rose up like an angel. He had tapped into power that he had never felt before. Banshee started to glow, his new aura began to deflect the storm. With a yell that would bring down a mountain the Banshee had re-entered the storm like lightning. He went face first into the unforgiving force that had proved impenetrable. Through sheer force of will Banshee actually started to gain distance against it. Sparks flew off of his body. Every muscle felt like it was going to explode. He could feel his bones weakening...

Suddenly, Sean deftly changed his direction and rapidly continued to do so. Banshee was ducking and diving in-between the split second gaps in the current.

His pulse was pounding. The pain was excruciating.

Sean reached out with his right hand.

His eyes were forced closed through impossible pressure.

He felt his skin start to give.

He held his hand out towards Clarice as he could feel a line of blood flow across his cheek.

He could feel the tendons in his hand start to unweave.

He reached closer.

He felt a compressing pain on his skull.

He could feel his life about to end.

He could feel...a hand!

From some reserve of energy that shouldn’t exist, Banshee grabbed on to this hand with everything he had.

Without warning there was an explosion of light and energy. Sean could remember himself hurtling across the field amidst the chaotic energy and losing his grip on Clarice’s hand before being knocked unconscious by the erratic blast.

Everything went dark.

***

Sean wasn’t sure where he was. His eyes wouldn’t fully adjust. He tried to push himself off of the floor, but his arms wouldn’t comply. He could feel the tall grass flowing softly against his skin. He suddenly felt how battered his body was.

Sean felt like he was about to die.

"Clarice!" He shouted, bolting up to his feet.

A pain that Sean had hoped never to experience again welled in the pit of his stomach.

"Oh God darlin. I’ll never forget ya." His lip trembled. "I pr--"

A faint murmur of a girl’s voice came from the tall grass a few metres in front of him.

"Clarice?!?"

Sean ran forward, almost falling over himself. He parted the grass to see the young girls light pink body resting on the floor. Sean leaned down and caressed a strand of hair from her face.

Clarice’s eyelids struggled to open for a moment. Then they opened like a newborn child’s. Her beautiful emerald green eyes looked up at her saviour, who had tears of pure joy welling up.

"Mister Cassidy?"

"Yes lass?" Sean gulped with emotion.

"Am I safe now?"

"Yeah." Sean’s lip twisted, then began to tremble. "And I promise..." Banshee sniffed "I will never lose you again."

Clarice threw her arms around Sean and gasped him as tightly as she could.

"Thank you."

Banshee closed his eyes. No longer could he feel the physical torment that he’d endured. All he could fell was the warmth of the sun, saltwater running down his cheeks and the heartbeat of a young girl who had given him hope again.

"No lass..." Sean smiled tears streaming silently down his face.

"Thank you."

"People forget how fast you did a job - but they remember how well you did it. "

Howard Newton

X-Men #9 - Remember Me? (Part 1)

"Well, I’m back!"

"Where the hell have you been?"

"What? I was only gone for a moment!"

"You’ve been gone for ages, it felt like months!"

"Don’t exaggerate! I’ve only been gone for..." The young man looked at his watch. "Whoa. Sorry, I guess that was longer than I thought."

"Hmph."

The young man smiled

"So...did you miss me?"

X-Men #9

"Remember me?" (Part 1)

By Dave Cousens

Westchester.

A small gas station closed for the weekend.

You’ve been here before, don’t worry it’ll all come back to you.

The sun shone across the glorious countryside of Westchester, bringing comfortable warmth to the air. The day was calm and quiet; a pleasant surprise considering the meteorological office had forecast the coming of the apocalypse.

Calm and quiet, except for the presence of Dr Cecilia Reyes, who was interrogating the mutant known as Iceman.

"You still haven’t answered me Drake, where were you?" Cecilia inquired, tapping her foot impatiently.

"Oh, I was just getting a can of Coke." Robert Drake answered dismissively.

The attractive young woman eyed him suspiciously.

"MmHmm." A sadistic grin danced across her face. "So, where is it then?"

"Where’s what?" Bobby asked, sounding slightly off balance.

"The Coke can. Where is it?"

"Uh...heh..." Bobby scratched the back of his head and avoided eye contact with his tormentor. "I...uh...changed my mind."

Cecilia folded her arms and stared at Drake.

Bobby looked back at her. She wouldn’t look away.

The outcome was inevitable.

Bobby caved.

"Okay! Okay!" He waved his arms in frustration. "The damned machine wouldn’t work again!"

Cecilia erupted into laughter.

"It’s not funny!" Drake protested. "I’m telling you that thing’s evil! It hates me! Even now, I bet it’s laughing at me!"

Cecilia’s eyes rolled comically. "Oh Bobby, whatever am I going to do with you?"

Bobby looked back across at the machine and squinted suspiciously.

"Maybe it’s a TransFormer..."

Scott Summers looked across the field and watched his two teammates flirting with each other. He smiled. After all of the recent trouble and chaos that the X-Men had been through it was nice to see that life could carry on regardless.

"Ah young love, I remember it well lad." An Irish voice spoke softly.

Scott looked over his shoulder and smiled at Sean Cassidy, the headmaster of Xavier's school for gifted youngsters.

"Getting nostalgic Sean?"

Sean grinned and stroked his chin with consideration.

"Oh, by the way, I wouldn’t let Cecilia hear you say anything about her and Bobby." Scott advised. "She’s quite...forceful." Scott said, with a smile flickering across his lips.

"So, Scott?" Sean turned to the X-Men’s field leader. "Not that I don’t appreciate the glorious scenery and all, but why is it that were all just standing in a field by a petrol station?"

"Well there are two reasons really. You remember being told about the ‘purple ghost’ that keeps appearing in the local area?"

Banshee nodded in confirmation. "The wee lass that keeps asking for help?"

Cyclops nodded back. "Well, Hank thinks that he’s determined a pattern to the appearances and he’s invented a device that should act as a beacon to the ghost, hopefully allowing whatever it is to focus enough so that it doesn’t disappear again."

Sean raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that’s wise, lad?

Scott’s eyes narrowed slightly. "Honestly? I don’t know."

The young man smiled as he was thinking. "But to be fair, I do know I over think things too often. I’m going with my instincts on this one. If it’s an innocent creature then we’ll have done the right thing and tried to help. If it’s the next Sinister then...well, I’ll blast it!"

Sean smiled in response, and then tilted his head quizzically.

"Didn’t you say there were two reasons why were doin’ this Scott?"

"Ah. Yeah." Scott scratched the back of his neck almost embarrassedly. "I thought that after Rogue’s umm...departure...that we...uh..."

Banshee raised an eyebrow at Scott.

"They need something to do. They’re all so tense they’d kill each other if they spent another day in the mansion!"

Banshee’s face grew into a great big smile, which was quickly followed by laughter.

"This is the X-Men’s greatest leader!" He laughed hysterically, resting his hands on his knees for support.

Cyclops nodded uncomfortably. "Yeah, thanks."

***

Manhattan.

One of the more...disreputable neighbourhoods that the city has to offer.

"Michael? Can we please take the other route?"

"Antonia, sweetheart?" the young mans voice said reassuringly. "I’ve told you that you have nothing to worry about. The streets of America are still a safe place to live, trust me."

The young girl smiled anxiously at her lover’s statement.

"It wouldn’t take too much longer to walk around the other way." Her eyes pleaded. "I just don’t like this street, it’s too secluded."

Michael sighed inwardly and brushed back his jet-black hair. Antonia did have a point; they were dressed far too well to be walking through an area that the local police normally chose to ‘overlook’. He was wearing a long black and definitely expensive coat, which covered an equally expensive designer suit. Antonia was wearing the finest clothing that Ralph Lauren had to offer. Michael always made sure that she had nothing but the best, and although she loved him for it, she couldn’t help but have nagging doubts about exactly where he was getting the money from to pay for this life of luxury.

Every time that Antonia had asked him what he did to obtain such wealth he had dismissed her with some charming remark.

Antonia clung to her partners arm tightly. He offered her a comforting smile and then continued to chew his gum.

There was a distant sound of glass breaking followed by malevolent laughter. Antonia’s stomach twisted in panic. She gripped Michael’s arm, but didn’t make a sound. Michael stared forward grimly.

Eight silhouettes appeared like ghosts. From faint specters in the shadows they slowly gained menacing form. Like a pack of wolves, they instinctively stopped and examined the young couple. They shared a collective grin.

"Michael!" Antonia whispered desperately.

The young mans face remained calm. "Just keep walking." He commanded. "They won’t bother us if we don’t show fear."

He took her trembling hand and held it steady and continued to walk towards the pack.

Each member of the gang started to laugh with anticipation.

The leader of the gang took the lead and quickened his pace.

"Hoo boys! Looks like we gonna have some fun after all!"

Mocking laughter resonated through the enclosed alley. Antonia broke into a cold sweat.

Michael’s vision didn’t waver. He focused on a single point, directly past the malicious mob.

Antonia looked ahead and saw the grins of the street gang. It suddenly became all she could focus on.

They were predators’ teeth.

She was going to die.

Suddenly she realised she was numb. Antonia knew that she was walking but she could not feel her legs. Her body was limp. She was being moved solely by the strength in Michael’s left arm.

The gang formed a straight line, blocking the walkway.

"She looks too good for you rich boy!" The leader snarled. "She be good enough for us though. Maybe we should take her!"

The other predators muttered in agreement.

Antonia’s blood ran cold.

Michael motioned for her to stand still and slowly walked ahead of her. He stood tall and fixed his gaze on the leader. As he closed the distance between them, his eyes held his opponents gaze.

Very calmly he opened his mouth. "You’ve had your fun guys. Now, would you please let us pass?"

The leader’s eyes opened wildly. "Oh, we gonna have our fun, boy." He spat out venomously. "First we gonna kill you, and then we gonna take yo’ bitch there. And then we gonna kill her and take her again!"

Michael sneered.

The thug viciously drew a knife from his jacket and lunged for Michael.

"Stop." Michael demanded quietly.

The leader of the gang found his whole body frozen in motion. He began to panic inwardly as he realised his body wouldn’t respond. He was paralyzed.

A moment of fear came across the gang, spurring one of them to lash out. Michael effortlessly sidestepped his attacker and indignantly spat his gum into the thug’s eye. The thug screamed in pain, and fell to the floor thrashing wildly.

The remaining six hesitated for a moment, attempting to reassess the situation. They watched as Michael’s skin turned to a pale white and the end of his hands transformed into talons. It was now his turn to smile sadistically. He took a step towards them. They took one back.

"Shhh." He ordered. "Just watch."

He extended one finger and moved it slowly across their leader’s neck; a line of crimson liquid appeared and started to flow.

One of the gang vomited. Michael looked directly at the leader’s face and spat contemptuously.

"Now, die."

The leader’s body collapsed on the floor, making pathetic gurgling noises. The others watched in terror.

Michael turned to address the others. They all stared into his eyes, transfixed by his gaze. In unison each person reached into their jackets and pulled out a gun. Tears ran down their faces as they helplessly aimed their firearms towards their skulls. A faint odour of fresh urine entered the air.

Michael’s lip twisted with hatred.

"Pull."

Antonia’s life was lost in a red haze. Reality had abandoned her. She could hear a voice...

"You’re safe now sweetheart. You’re safe."

***

"Alors Henri! How much longer is dis gonna take?"

"Despair not, my agitated compatriot. Everyone’s favourite blue furred Beast is approaching a satisfyingly sufficient state of readiness!"

Gambit sighed and let his head roll back so that he was facing the sky.

If you’ve ever had one of those days where you’ve been at a loose end and been waiting for something to happen, you’ll understand how Remy LeBeau is feeling.

Gambit gently stroked the bridge of his nose and deeply exhaled. The Beast looked across at his teammate and realised Gambit’s mood.

Henry McCoy had always been driven by an insatiable curiosity of all things scientific. He could happily spend days examining sub atomic particles to ascertain why a protein strain reacts to a certain catalyst. For him this sort of thing was relaxing. Henry realised though that Gambit wasn’t feeling particularly useful by simply watching his friend tinker around with a machine that looks like it came from page 63 of ‘insane technical genius’ catalogue.

Beast raised his reading glasses so that they were perched on top of his head.

"Y’know, you can always talk to me about it if you want?" Beast offered softly.

"Hmm?" Gambit feigned ignorance. "Talk about what?"

"Rogue."

Gambit turned away from his friend. He stood with his hands in his pockets and kicked a small stone across the dirt and into the nearby grass. He sighed heavily.

Beast sat on top of the metallic machine that he had been creating for the last 6 hours and quietly waited.

After about a minute, Gambit broke his silence.

"I dunno Henri. Rogue just...it’s that..." Gambit sighed again and slowly moved his hand through his hair, pulling the strands away from his face. "I guess I’m just worried about her. Dat’s all."

Henry McCoy smiled sympathetically. He lowered himself from his perch and walked up to the troubled young man. Remy felt the weight of McCoy’s oversized left hand on his right shoulder.

"Remy...Rogue knows where we are. She knows that she can always come back to us when she’s ready."

Henry’s voice continued in its understanding tone.

"I know that she said some...disturbing things, but I do not believe that they were aimed at you. You were simply the easiest target."

Gambit gave a bitter laugh in response and continues to stare at the dirt he was moving with his foot.

"I believe that she was not trying to get away from us, but rather she was simply attempting to extricate herself from her current situation to correctly ascertain a more objective perspective upon which to return to the our collective group."

Gambit looked up at Beast. "Y’know, you almost did it Henri."

The Beast looked confused and scratched the back of his head.

"Did what?" he inquired.

Gambit’s expression turned into a grin. "You almost went through a whole conversation without using any two-hundred dollar words!"

Henry McCoy’s expression turned from confusion to unexpected amusement.

"Well then assist me immediately, my Cajun compatriot, for I have a task to accomplish that requires your attention and I fear that my more simplified vocabulary will become increasingly diminutive!"

The Beast picked up Gambit and threw him over his shoulder. Gambit began to laugh.

"We must expedite our actions! Our available chronological units are rapidly depleting!"

***

England. Land of the Royal family, the metric system and incessant rain.

The locals here have a saying. "I wish I was in Spain!"

A typically abandoned pub in the countryside stands defiantly against the abuse of the downpour and high winds. The mutant known as Logan pulled into the car park and turned off his Harley. He put his foot down and it sunk into a dank, suspiciously brown puddle. Logan muttered obscenities to himself as he walked towards the pub.

He opened the heavy oak door, the water that was dripping from his leather jacket drenched the welcome mat that read: ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here!’

The inside of the pub was only slightly warmer. Logan removed his motorcycle helmet and ruffled his hair as he looked around for his ‘contact’. He sniffed the air. With his hyper keen senses he could detect no more than ten people in the entire place, four of who were drunken teenagers, far too young to be legally consuming the alcohol that was causing them to pathetically giggle in a secluded booth. Amidst the stale odour of cigarettes and alcohol Logan got a whiff of tobacco, more specifically Marlboro tobacco.

He followed the bar around to see a man sitting by himself in a long black coat with a whisky, neat.

"Wisdom."

Pete Wisdom looked up and took his cigarette from his mouth.

"So you’re the famous Wolverine huh?" Wisdom asked eyeing the newcomer standing beside him.

"Yup."

For a moment the two just stared at one another.

"Huh."

Wisdom took another drag on his cigarette.

"What?" Wolverine asked gruffly.

"Nothin’. Just figured you’d be taller."

Logan glared at the Englishman and then pulled up a chair and joined Wisdom at his corner table.

"I can see what Kitty liked about you." Logan quietly jibed.

Wisdom grimaced slightly, focusing on a stain on the wooden table he was sat at. Then he looked back up at Logan.

"We can play games all day sunshine, but to be honest you don’t strike me as the sort who’s after deep and meaningful conversation."

Logan nodded. Although he didn’t want to like Pete Wisdom, largely due to the fact that Wisdom once had a relationship with Kitty Pride, a young girl who Logan had taken under his wing, Logan couldn’t help but find a kindred spirit in Wisdom.

To be continued...