—CASSIE—

I levitate down onto the city street, my image inducer on, hiding my face behind my mask and uniform.

Chaos reigns supreme on the city block. People are running every which way to get away from the mutant standing in the middle of the street, brushing dust off his robe, wiping green, pus like  blood from his bottom lip.

“Look at them run,” Pestilence hisses as his body begins to glow, “But they can’t run from me.”

Green energy surges out from his body. The ground explodes at his feet, cars are cut in half. People are running but it won’t be fast enough. I lift myself into the air to avoid the energy, holding up my hands and using every ounce of will power I have to form a dome barrier around Pestilence and myself. His energy hits the barrier, putting an inordinate amount of pleasure on my cranium. But it does the trick. The energy presses against the wall but I hold strong, keeping all civilians safe.

“Brave girl,” says Pestilence, his body light with energy, “But what of your own safety?”

A blast of energy emits from his eyes and flies towards me like a dagger. I force my will in two, straining my mind like never before. I keep my hands up and I form a second barrier around my body. The energy collides against it, the force of which sends tingling shockwaves over my skin and I feel a fever rush through me.

A hollow and cruel escapes Pestilence’s hoarse throat, “Impressive but soon you will succumb and you’ll be mine.”

He’s right. I can’t hold this for long. The weight is for too much, it’s straining both my body and mind beyond it’s limit and I’m losing my grip on everything and getting a wallop of emotions they aren’t mine. The awe and fear of the human spectators outside of our barrier, the willful determination of the NYPD who surround the barrier, and the sadistic lust to infect, to consume from Pestilence. Thoughts creep into my mind, voices loud and clear. They all think I’m going to die, that he ‘s a monster, a demon, but me, I’m courageous. It’s a furlong and sad thought, but so many of them actually find me to be a hero, despite being a mutant.

Of course some are hoping we both kill each other, rid the world of the mutant scum, they say.

Some are just simply amazed at how pretty the dome looks, all illuminated with green energy. Prettier then the Empire State Building, a few think

All their thoughts, their emotions and feelings pour into me and I latch onto it, onto them. I take it all, every emotion of fear and hate, of gratitude and remorse, of courage and strength, and I let it wash over my body.

I find my burden lifted, both my barriers stronger then ever. Pestilence grows frustrated, and intensifies his attack but it doesn’t matter.

I connect to more minds, using them to give me strength.

I float higher into the air, and bring one hand down to about mid-level and point it at Pestilence, who’s frustration has turned to rage. His eyes met mine.

And I connect to his mind, breaking through all his psychic barriers as I lash out at him with a full force psionic attack.

The energy depletes as Pestilence screams in pain, blood gushing out of his noise. But he isn’t alone in screaming. Every human I had used to support my attack is clutching their heads, crying out. And as I fall to my knees, I realize I’m screaming too.

I try to fight the pain caused by the psychic backlash. I need to stay connected to Pestilence, I need to see inside his mind. I need answers but I can’t grab hold. It’s as if my mind is fighting to get through a wind tunnel.

I let go, and clutch my head. It is as if I had just been stabbed with a hot poker.

Pestilence is on the floor as well, withering in pain as he holds his head in his hands.

I get to my feet, which wobble under my weight. I stumble to the left and nearly fall.

“You are strong…” Pestilence whispers through bloody stained, clenched teeth, looking at me with pure, unadulterated hatred. He’s barely able to stand, his left shoulder slouching, “Let it just be you and I then!”

He raises his hands and buzzing noise fills the air. Tiny black dots begin flying out his hand, eyes and mouth. No, not dots. Locus!

I put up another barrier but there is no need. The locus aren’t attacking anyone. They’re clustering together, millions upon millions of them, building a new dome that covers Pestilence and I within seconds.

My connection to the humans serves immediately and I become aware of the the stilted night air and an eery silence.

I also realize that my breathing is erratic and heavy, and my stomach is cramping. I’m in pain again, on the verge of collapsing.

Pestilence’s eyes are wild and wide, “And now you’re mine…”

—JOSH—

I take off running in the opposite direction of the bonfire, my speed increase with each step until I kick off the ground, and I’m off, launching into the night sky.

I make a sharp turn, pressing against the wind and dart towards War.

He’s watching me, waiting. I could see his bald, pale veiny head now, and his cold, red eyes. Even with his robes, it’s obvious he’s muscular. You could see it in his chiseled and scarred face. He’s not a handsome man; he’s fearsome and grim. While the other horsemen all looked frailer then they really were, War has always looked every bit as powerful as he truly is.

As I near War I stop short, but due to my piss poor flying skills, I have trouble slowing down and end up closer to War than I meant to be.

He stares at me and I try to hide my fear, try to ignore the memories that rush into my mind. I don’t want to remember the night when he tortured me, when he cut an A into my stomach because it will only distract me and make me weak, but it’s hard to forget an experience like that. As long as he long as he can’t see what he’s done to me, know of the nights where I wake up screaming then he hasn’t won.

“Finally,” his deep voice cuts against the wind, “I was beginning to grow bored.” He holds up a large machine gun, “I was going to pay those heathens a visit,” he pats the gun and a smirk that sends chills down my spines crosses his face, “But I will have my fun with you instead.”

“Yay…” I deadpan.

Those terrible red eyes give me a quick once more over, “Well boy, it has been for too long. It appears you have grown strong since we last meet.”

“Yeah been hitting the gym hard, really pumping iron, lots of protein shakes, the occasional needle in my ass” I jest poorly, totally off my game. But I joke because I’m scared but even I reach a point of diminishing returns, “Okay I kid. I mostly just sit around and watch TV all day, so I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got super powers.”

“Still with the mouth,” War snarls.

“Never without it.”

War laughs and holds out his hand. A long sword materializes in a blink of the eye, “Do you think so? I can cut you from mouth to mouth, rip out your tongue-”

“Wow,” I cut him off, “You’re really messed in the head aren’t you? Was it the war that messed you up? You were a soldier before you became whatever you are now, weren’t you? Lost your legs. So was that the deal, gain two legs, lose a mind.”

Baiting him is dangerous. He doesn’t do angry very well, but this was all part of distracting him. The more time I wasted with these corny puns, the more time Megan has to get everyone away.

“Who I was means nothing,” War voice rises, seething with anger, “I have evolved.”

“Haven’t we all,” I say with a  shrug, rising higher.

“Let’s see by how much” His hand lashes against the wind and a thin whip cracks the air and strikes across my chest, burning into my skin.

I begin to fall, losing flight. The wind rushes against my back, running through my hair and my shirt. I concentrate on the wind because that’s how Ororo had taught me to fly. I didn’t control the wind like she did, but I at least knew how to use it to my advantage. I hold my hands and act as is I’m pressing against the wind…

And I stop short in mid-air, my body lurching. I fly back up to War in a burst of kinetic. I hold out my arms and let the energy flow towards my fists as I torpedo myself at War.

But he’s fast and my aim sucks. He swipes at me with a sword and I’m only just able to pivot enough so that the sword cuts me cheek instead half of my face off.

“All that talk,” he says as I press a hand against the bleeding check, “It does so little for you. It might make you feel brave but in war there is no talk, only action.”

“Is that why you’re monologuing?”

He smirks, “There are things you need to know, things you need to understand, things you need to be told.”

I rise again high enough so that when I look down at War, I can see just the faintest hint of the clearing below. It looks infinitely less crowded then it had before. Megan was doing it, just like I knew she could.

“You don’t need to tell me anything,” I point down at War, “I know your spiel, I’ve heard it from Apocalypse and I’ve heard it from Sinister. Only the strong survive, weed out the weak…let the chosen rule. You guys and your over the top, on the nose codenames just don’t get it do you? .” I charge up both my fists, “Well tell Apocalypse that the strong protect the weak and I don’t care I’m one of his Chosen! Tell him to go to hell!!”

I hold one palm and fire a large blast at War. He moves to dodge it, and I watch for his next move, just like Ororo taught me. He goes left and that’s where I fire my second blast.

This one hits him in the shoulder, hitting him hard to twirl his body so his back was towards me.

I fly at him again, focusing more on being steady then on speed. I tackle him just as he turns back around, taking him by the hip.  I kick up the speed, using a blast of kinetic energy for a boost.

The world is a blur as we rocket down to earth. The top of trees rustle and bend as we pass, and I pick up speed, just as a heavy sensation sweeps across my skin and through my bones.  The ground is rushing towards me. I close my eyes and smash us right into a large, sturdy and painful tree.

The force of the crash pulls me away from War, who takes the full blunt of the tree. I’m thrown back into the air, my whole body aching with pain and than come crashing down on my shoulder, which pops out of it’s socket. I cry out in pain.

To my surprise, nothing else is broken. I stand on two strong but aching feet and take in the damage. I had gashes and brushes here and there, but I’ve been worse.

That sensation I had felt before seemed to give me some sort of invulnerability. Not a good one, but enough to make sure my bones didn’t break, which is good because I’ve been there and it isn’t fun. There was so much I didn’t know about my powers, and so much I didn’t want to know.

I feel my healing factor kick in. It’s something I can never get use too. The hot sensation on my face and the regrowth of skin tells me that those cuts are t least healing. But the gashes on my arms and legs remain bloody and my shoulder hangs out of the socket. Fat lot of good my healing factor does. I pop my arm back into place and have to grit my teeth to stop from screaming.

I’m in the deep woods now. Large trees block a good deal of moonlight, making it hard to see ahead. As I go forward leaves and twigs crack beneath my feet.

Where was War? How far did I get thrown?

I continue onwards, rubbing my shoulder which still burnt at the point where I popped it in place As I push a large cluster of branches out of my way, I finally spot War.

It’s clear he had taken the full force of our crash into the tree. He lies there, twitching in what remains of the tree His arm is bent at at a misshapen angle, and a wound in his chest is bleeding. But it’s what in his neck that makes my stomach turn. A piece of the tree is lodgedright into this throat. He looks up at me, his eyes shaky and if I’m not mistaken, full of fear.

I step back, about ready to puke.

Did I really do that to him? A branch was in his neck! Does that mean he’s going to die? Did I just kill him someone?

But….My eyes slowly move back to War. He isn’t deaded…not yet. And he might heal, unless I stop him now. Unless I finish him off. I take a step towards him, my heart in my throat.

I’m not a murderer!

I stop and take two steps back.

Despite War being whatever the hell he is, I can’t justify killing him. Ororo taught me that every life was sacred, and now that she’s gone that lesson means…

What does that mean?

I edge closer to War. What does Ororo’s lessons mean now? Some might say that her being dead means she failed but I don’t see it that way. She sacrificed herself for the greater good. Ororo died living what she preached. No many could say that.

War is still twitching on the floor, blood oozing from his neck wound. He’s growing paler…possibly dying.

I’ll honor her and her teachings, now and forever. I won’t kill War. I won’t kill anyone.

I make another step towards War and there is a sudden shift in his eyes. The fear is gone and the color returns. A smile cracks his lips as he reaches for the branch and rips it out of his throat, which causes a spray of blood spurting out of his wound.

I stumble backwards as War raises is hand.  A blast of red energy hits me square in the chest and I’m thrown backwards into a tree.

War rises of the ground, his feet hanging above the ground as his wounds immediately heal over.

“Fool boy!” he screams as he raises a few feet from the ground. War lunges at me and I do the first thing that comes to my mind. I summon up my new control of invulnerability. I feel the heavy sensation sweep across my skin.

And then War thrusts a sword straight into my stomach. And as the sword cuts through flesh and bone, I feel blood rush up my throat and my scream echos through the forest.

Leave a Reply