—CORY—

“You’re wrong, we have nothing in common!”

But Death-Ororo just smiles at me, “Meet me across the street.” It disappears in a cloud of black mist before I could respond.

I remain on the ground, unable to take my eyes off where Death disappeared. I know I shouldn’t go…I know I should just leave but there is a question I have to ask It.

I get to my feet and walk out of the alley, looking down at the ground, trying not to appear to shady. But no one notices me. They’re to busy talking and smoking cigarettes to pay any attention to a scared kid.

Death is waiting for me at a restaurant across the street, sitting at a small table in the outside seating area. It’s taken the appearance of Emma Frost, her hair looking super blond, curling at the end. As I near It, I have to make sure not look down at Death-Emma’s cleavage, which is hard to miss in her skin, tight white dress. Damn, how could someone be gorgeous and creepy all at the same time?

“Sit,” It demands as it picks up a menu. I do as It says, watching Its every movement for any sort of hint, “Hmm,” It shakes Emma’s head, “Not a single decent white wine.”

One of my eyebrows raise, “You drink?”

It looks at me, a smirk crossing Emma’s lips, “Yes, I like a fine white wine now and again. I’m a sophisticated sort. I’m not a fan of red wine. Feels like too much of a cliche.”

“Who are you?” I blurt out, unable to hold it any longer.

“Well that’s the big question isn’t it?” Death replies, enjoying every moment of making me wait, “Who are you hoping I am?” Death asks, staring at me with Emma’s blue eyes, “Or I guess the real question, is who are you hoping I’m not?”

I can’t really reply because I don’t know the answer. I don’t know who I want Death want to be, and I don’t know who I want Death not to be…I want Ororo back…but I don’t know want her to be this.

“There are so many possibilities,” Death leans back in Its chair and It shifts back into Ororo, “What if I am Ororo Munroe?” There is a real creepy excitement in Its voice, “I can control the skies, rain death upon humanity. Hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, floods,” Death face is lit with joy, “Just imagine it! The thousands upon thousands that would die, Mother Nature’s wrath in my hands.”

I could imagine it and it made me want to puke all over the table. It was bad enough that she was taking over Ororo’s body but to abuse her powers like that?

“Still,” Death shifts back into Emma Frost, “I could do such damage as the White Queen. Beauty and wealth can get you far in life, but with telepathy,” It run’s one of Emma’s fingers over Its forehead, “I can kills someone with a thought, a snap,” It snaps, “of the fingers…Or…” she shifts into Kitty Pryde,”I could be Kitty Pryde…” It moves Its hand to my chest, right over my heart, “And I could just reach inside, place my hand around their heart, around the very core of life, and rip it right out…”

Its fingers nails dig into my chest and I send quick shock through my body and into Its hand. Death retracts it’s hand with a hiss, but is quick to return the smile to Its face.

“I know what you’re hoping for Cory,” It says as It massages Kitty’s hand, “That my host will do what Gaia did and gain control, turn their back on Apocalypse, but it won’t happen.” I try to keep a straight face. I don’t want her to know I was thinking that exact thing, that I’m still thinking it, “Gaia was a special case, you see…We miscalculated. It was her powers that allowed her to regain control…She had two sides to her, even before I took her as a vessel. The human side and the primal side that her powers granted her. It was the primal side which returned her to humanity, which was able to block me out…” I could see the anger rising in Death, the disgust on It’s weakness, “But that won’t happen again. Cory, dead is dead.”

“But Gaia was’t dead,” I say, unable to let it go, “So you can’t be a dead person.”

“Who says?” Death replies, “Apocalypse is stronger then ever, I am strong than ever. I can do whatever I so please.”

I stare her down, “Or think you can.”

Death smile widens, “You have changed too Cory. I can see it in you…I can smell it. Do you remember why I chose to go after you two years ago?”

“You said because death surrounded me,” I reply as steady as possible, “You said because I let death define my life…because I was afraid of it.”

“Yes and so much of that remains the same,” Death-Kitty says, “But so much has changed. Your life is still defined by death, still surrounded by it! You are just like me. You are a harbinger of Death. You don’t fear death anymore. You embrace it”

—CASSIE—

Green energy presses against my telekinetic barrier, lighting the room with an eerie glow. My hands are held out, because despite the fact that it’s totally unnecessary, I always use my hands when I use my telekinetic powers. The force of the blast causes me to strain, my head aching but my barrier never weakens.

“Feels so good to be back,” says Pestilence forgoing his attack and looking at his hand, “It has been too long since I’ve had a host and so long since I’ve last seen you.”

I raise an eyebrow, “I don’t think we’ve meet. The old Pestilence I knew was an old man named Panacea.”

I take I take stock of my surroundings. The dorm is small to small for a fight and far too dangerous for any student on this floor, “you’re inhabiting a dead art student’s body.”

“A new host, yes,” replies Pestilence running a hand over his emancipated face, “But I am the same horseman you meet two years ago. I remember it all. And I remember you,” his long, bent finger points to me, “My how you’ve changed.”

“What can I say,” I slowly raise my hand, “Evolve or die!”

I thrust my hand out and wrap Pestilence in a telekinetic grip. He immediately begins to struggle but I hold tight and then fling him across the room, into the wall opposite the door. He hits it hard enough to create a crack in the wall. The ceiling shakes and white dust rains down on us.

He fires another beam of green energy and I hold out my palm, creating a new barrier. I could still feel the heat of the blast, as the energy continues to push against my barrier, I need to turn my head to avoid being blinded by the rays.

Even though I hold the blast at bay, I start to feel sick. My stomach turns, my throat tightens and my eyes burn. I could feel my barrier weakening; as the turret of energy presses on.

My head begins to hurt, pain starting in my frontal lobe and spreading like wildfire. I grit my teeth and try to push it away.

“You can’t deny it!” Pestilence screams, “Embrace it! Let go and admit your defeat.”

Well that is the wrong thing for him to say. I never admit defeat, my ego is far too large for that.

Instead I gather my strength, I embrace the pain, the needles that feel like they are going into my brain and I use it to my advantage. I bring it all in using my empathic powers to transfer my pain into raw power. The air around me ripples and the walls around me crack. Dust falls from the ceiling again but instead of falling on me it, it soars towards Pestilence like a raging sandstorm.

I lash out, pushing both my arms against my own barrier and Pestilence’s energy. And it’s as if a small bomb goes off. Everything in Tucker’s room is absolutely obliterated, the wall and the doorway behind me crumbles. Pestilence is thrown off his feet with such force of power that when he hits the wall, it doesn’t just crack but explodes, sending Pestilence soaring into the night sky.

And, I realize, as I inch closer to the now open wall, into a crowded New York City street.

—JOSH–

“You have to get out of here,” Megan grabs my shoulder, looking scared out of her mind.

“I can’t,” I shake my head, “I have to stop him…”

“We’ll get the others,” Megan’s grip tightens on my arm.

I close my eyes and try to reach out to Cassie through our telepathic bond, but I pretty much just get static, “They’re in trouble…I need to stop him so I can help them.”

“But he’ll beat you,” Megan’s voice cracks, “He always beats you”

Well that hurts, “Not always,” I correct her, “Remember I beat him in Genosha two years ago and I can do it again. I’m stronger now…”

“Please,” her eyes, wet with tears, stare into mine, “Just go, don’t rush into a battle you don’t know you can win.”

I’m not sure whether to be touched or insulted. The fact that she actually still cares about me is a nice surprise, but she has no little faith in me, so that sucks.

I shakw my head. Whether she believes I can do it or not doesn’t matter, “If this fighting continues someone else is going to get thrown into the fire or hit in the head with a rock…I can’t stand back and watch people get hurt.” She opens her mouth to contradict me, “No stop. I need you to get these people out of here,” I look back at War. He’s waiting for me…He’ll give me time but only so much. If he doesn’t get my blood, he’ll take theirs, “Teleport as many as you can away from here, separate them..”

“But-”

“As many as you can, as far as you can,” I press on, “I’ll distract him. Hopefully with his attention on me and their distance from him, the mind control will break.”

“I can’t…” she says softly, “There are so many…I’ll get tired.”

“Push yourself,” I put a hand on her shoulder, “I know you can do it. You’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. I know you never wanted this, never wanted to be a hero or have this life…but there are moments in life where you don’t have a choice, sometimes you just have to do push aside your own personal feelings and do the right thing…even if it isn’t the right thing for you.”

A tear falls down from the corner of her eye and she moves her hand to the side of my face. It’s warm and familiar and make my heart skip a beat.

“I wish you wouldn’t say that,” she says softly, ‘I really do…”

I step back from her and her hand falls from my face, “Just get them out of here Megan…I’ll handle him. Don’t worry about me. I’m not the boy I was two years ago…and even if I am…even if something happens…just get the people to safety.” More tears from from her face. I want to tell her that I still love, kiss her and hold her. But she’s made her choice and I’ve made my mine.

“I’ll get them to safety,” she nods at me, her head raising and a fire in her eyes, “Go kick his ass.”

I smirk, “With pleasure.”

—LILY—

“You are just delicious,” Famine says licking the tips of her fingers. I keep a cautious eye on her, my mind racing as I try to figure out my next move, “All that repression,” there is a glint in her yellow eyes as she gives me a once over, “It’s enough to give a girl a tummy ache.”

“Well you don’t know me very well,” I say as I begin to side step away from Famine, “I don’t repress much.”

“No?” Famine’s head tilts, “That’s not what I tasted.”

“You didn’t taste me!” my face pinches in disgust.

“Oh but I did,” Famine steps closer to me, her yellow robe slinking on the floor, “You might love to express your feelings like joy and sadness, but you repress so much else. Quite an interesting contradicting really.”

I stop moving as I step onto the yellow median in the middle of the pavement, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“There is so much anger within you.” There is a hunger in her tone that makes my skin crawl, “You push it down so far that you don’t think you feel it but it’s there, slowly building, festering, gnawing at you. And with that anger there is a resentment you wish would just go away. You might try to pretend these negative emotions don’t exist, but there is no denying it. It’s there, buried deep, eating away at your soul. That’s what repression does to you.”

I’m unnerved and afraid I’m showing it. She knows so much about how I feel, I can’t help but feel violated and shaken. As much as I want to deny her words as false, they ring too true.

“And don’t even get me started on your sexuality,” she says with a smirk.

I’m taken aback by that and more than a little put off, “What about my sexuality?”

“Well look at you,” she motions her hands down my body, “You’re a beautiful, well built, stylish girl-” Don’t thank her, don’t thank her! “in a healthy relationship with a boy you love and yet you remain a virgin.”

“By choice,” I say without hesitation or shame.

“And why do you make that choice?” she moves closer to me, her horrible eyes focusing only on me, “Have you even done anything you can consider sexual with the man you supposedly love?”

I glare at her. This is getting way to personal now, “That’s not of your business!”

“So no,” she smirks.

“I didn’t say no,” I say through gritted teeth, “I said that my sex life is no concern of yours.”

“What sex life?” Famine said, “You’re so afraid of getting intimate, so afraid of what it will mean and how it will change you, that you can’t even touch your boyfriend’s-”

“Shut up! I snap.

“No there’s some anger,” Famine points at me.

My breathing is getting erratic and my face feels hot. I realize that my fists are curled, but I don’t remember curling them, “You stay out of my life and you don’t mention my boyfriend.”

Famine laughs, a full throw her head back, bellow of a laugh. I try to calm myself, push back the anger again because I can’t let it cloud my mind right now. I have to concentrate, I have to figure out how to beat her.

“But we should talk about him, shouldn’t we?” Famine says mockingly, malicious and venom in every syllable, “Because you’re repressing more than your sexuality in concern to him.”

The anger comes back again, “Shut up!”

I hear the screeching of metal as my magnetic powers active. The handful of cars that are still in the garage are pulled several inches from their spots. A few collide into each other either from their front or rear, and one smacks against a column.  Car alarms begin to blare.

I immediately tap into my energy converting powers, of which I understand very little. The only thing I know how to do is turn either really loud soundwaves or my own screams into raw energy. And right now, that’s all I need.

Green energy ripples through the air, moving up my arms as the wails of the alarms dims. With a thrust of my arms, the energy flies off my hands, turning into two large streams of green waves. Famine might have known a lot about my feelings, but she didn’t see this coming. Both waves hit her square in the stomach and she is thrown backwards, flying right into a car door.

“Better,” she says with a grin as she wipes the side of her lip. She gets to her feet and brushes off her robes, “Let me show you can what I can do. Afraid to say, you’ll be dying a virgin tonight.”

She holds out her hands to both sides, stretching her fingers which begin to illuminate with a dark yellow energy.

I begin to back away. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that is not good.

Her fingers continue to brighten, glowing fiercer by the second until..

Dozens of tiny beams of violent light begin to erratically stream from Famine’s fingers. They fly everywhere, cutting into columns, cars, and the ground. I duck out of the way of one, leap over another and lean so far back out of the way of a third beam that if I had the agility and flexibility of a normal human, my back would break. I straighten, only to witness two beams coming from opposite angles, rushing to meet other where they’d make an ‘X’ marks the spot right where I stood!

“Die!”

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