—LILY—

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!” She screams

At the very last moment, mere heartbeats away from death, I do a back flip just as the beams meet in the middle. It’s enough to save me from certain death but the beams singe the side of my hand and shoulder.

I land on my feet, clenching my teeth, trying to ignore the searing pain and the smoking, burning flesh.

I have no option make to take off running,heading straight down a wide row of cars. The spied web of death seems to follow me, its heat on my heels. It rips into cars, sending them flying in all directions. One explodes and then another, and I have to shield my head and eyes, skirt out of the way of the incoming wreckage.

But I don’t stop running.  I use my powers to attract some of the wreckage and repel it back towards Famine. I don’t look back to see if it hits.

Instead I pick up speed, pushing myself  to the limits of my peak human abilities. I’m nearing the end of the parking garage and the partition walling it off.

My heart beats faster as I realize what I need to do. It’s crazy and something I haven’t done before, but I have no other choice.

I take a giant leap forward, leaping onto the partition. The moment one foot touches the top of it, I kick off. As I feel the wall crumble beneath my feet, I’m propelled into the air.

It’s as if I’m flying, rocketing into the air at incredibly speeds, the air rushing against me, throwing back my hair, pressing against my face. I go nearly a whole parking lot’s distance before I begin to descended, WAY too fast. My hands flail about but it does no good. I’m nearing a grassy knoll and there is no way to go back up.

I prepare to land, closing my eyes and holding my breath as my stomach tightens  with nerves thenn jolts the moment my feet hit the ground. My knees bend and I land in a crouching position, my fingers pressing against the grass.

“Wow,” I say standing, looking back to the parking garage which is at least forty yards away. I clutch my heart and let out a laugh. “That was so cool!”

But my laughter dies right in my throat when I spot the yellow cloak flapping in the wind, soaring straight towards me. I quickly step backwards..

“Hmm,” the robes twist in midair and uncoil as Famine steps out of its center, the yellow cloth resting on her shoulders.

“You leave the safety of the metal filled parking lot for this,” she motions to her surroundings, the sparse and destitute grassy field that the mall had been built over, “Killing you just got much easier.”

—CORY—

“You embrace Death,” It has the voice of Emma Frost but anyone who passes our table would think it’s a beautiful blonde woman, but It’s not. It’s Death itself.

“I do not!” I snap, banging my hand against the table. I know Death is just trying to get me and it’s working. I’m getting pissed.

It’s not true! She’s lying. I don’t embrace death. I don’t!

“You killed Stryker did you not and tell me, do you regret it?” Death peers into my eyes and I have to wonder if It really is Emma or Tonya, because I know It’s reading my mind., “I see it Cory, I see so much death in your future and it isn’t at my hands…It’s at yours.”

“I’m not a killer!” I glare at her as small whiffs of smoke rise from hand.

“But you are,” Death raises a hand as It shifts into Stryker, “William Stryker is dead by your hand.”

“That’s not the same,” I say.

“And why is that?” Death-Stryker asks, “Was it because you hated William Stryker? Did you think that he deserved to die?”

“I…” I want to say no but I can’t, because he was evil and he did deserve to die, “He had a bomb. I had no choice”

“Now Cory,” Death-Stryker shifts back to Emma as a waitress passes us by, not even giving the smoking teen or the shapeshifting hot blond a second glance, “What kind of X-Men are you? Did Charles Xavier not ingrain in you the X-Men moral code; the commandments of Charles Xavier. How could you ever forget number one? Thou shall never kill. Thou shall render unconscious in all circumstances, so thee villain will once more wreck havoc and kill the innocent. Thou shall enable the cycle of the Virtuous Hero, that shall only end in thou’s death.”

I glare at Death, wondering if it was worth the risk to just attack It right here and now, “You have no clue what you’re talking about.”

“You didn’t have to kill William Stryker,” Death points Emma’s long finger, “You could have stopped him with a simple shock and let others deal with the now trigger in his heart. But you made a choice; the right choice. You embraced your true self and you killed William Stryker.” I feel my throat got tighter as the smell of burnt flesh flares up in my nostrils. When will that smell go away? According to Stryker, never.. “You don’t regret it, you aren’t ashamed of the act. The only thing you are ashamed of is that you you don’t regret, that you, in fact, enjoyed it.”

“Not true!” I stand up, “I didn’t enjoy killing him.”

“Then why so brutal?” Death asks, “You stuck your hand through his chest and burnt him from the inside out.” A smile cracks It’s face, contorting Emma’s super fine face into something ugly and cruel, “The pain he felt..my it must have been grand. Even I can’t think to give such a gloriously horrible end to a human being.”

I stare down at the table, raking my brain for any sort of response. I’m not like It. I don’t enoy Death. Stryker deserved what he got. I did kill Stryker. I wanted to kill him, and I wanted him to feel pain. He killed Ororo, he captured my friends and he manipulated me. He had to die.

“You see Cory,” Death rises from It’s chair, “You are always so certain about things. You see your future as such a sure thing; you’ll become a success, you’ll be loved and adored, rich and famous…You think your’re friend will survive, that the catastrophe can be avoided but there is nothing certainty in life,” I can’t help but turn back to Death, who in Emma’s white dress, looking almost like a big-breasted angel,  “Save of one thing,”  her eyes turn black, “Me.”

“I’ll show you…” I whisper, “I’m not afraid of you…I’ll show that you’re wrong. Josh will survive-”

Death holds up a hand, “I wouldn’t speak so soon. If War has his way, the boy won’t survive the night.”

My eyes widen and my heart skips a beat, “What do you mean?”

Death shrugs, “He’s just supposed to take the boy, but War takes no prisoners. He brings only Death. It’s why I like him so.”

I have to try not to freak out. I grip my chair and try to keep a straight face but I’m wigging on the inside.  I have to decide what to do next. I have to take out Death but what about Josh? And if War is fighting Josh, it means the girls are probably facing horsemen too. Problem is I have no clue where they are! I just know Josh is at the bonfire in the woods. Lily had a job interviewed but where did-

“Well are you going to go?” Death asks, placing a hand on Emma’s hip.

“Huh?”

“Shoo,” It waves me away, “Go save your friend.”

“Uh…” I’m confused…really confused, “You’re going to let me go.”

Death rolls Emma’s eyes, “You truly are dense. Did you learn nothing from our little lesson,” black mist begins to pour of Emma’s body, “There is only one thing I care about,” the mist becomes to solidify around Death like armor, “Only one thing I work for,” not armor, “only one thing I desire,” a soft and silk cloak flows where the mist once was. Emma’s face completely hidden, “And that’s Death.”

I back away, “So then why help me? Why would you want to save Josh?”

“Because” it won’t be War who will give me what I desire,” Death says as It begins to fade away, black mist dancing around her cloak, “It will be him.”

—JOSH—

This can’t be happening again, this isn’t real. I’m just having another nightmare and instead of torturing me in a warehouse, War has me impaled on a tree in the woods. It’s just a nightmare…

But when War smirks at me, pushing the sword deeper into my stomach I scream out in pain and can’t do anything but admit this is real.

I thought I had some sort of invulnerability, I crashed at super speed into the ground from hundreds of feet in the air and came out with some cuts and dislocated shoulder, but that’s it. I had thought I discovered a new power but I was wrong.

The pain is excruciating. Blood is leaking from my wound, dripping my stomach to my leg. I want to pass out, to drift away so I don’t have to feel this but I can’t.

“Stupid boy,” War mocks. He’s right. I’m an idiot. I’m not invulnerable. I might be dexterous but I’m not made of steel. My skin can be broken, my bones. It all hurts so much! “Open your eyes!” He twists the sword and I do as he says, not quite sure when I closed them in the first place. “Don’t worry boy,” he twists the sword again and my scream rustles through the trees as blood oozes from my wound, “I missed all your vital organs…or at least most of them. One can only hope your healing factor takes care of the rest.”

My healing factor! Now that’s a joke. My healing factor is a wonky of a power and only works half the team, and even then doesn’t do much work. And he knows that. He probably knows more about my powers than I do.

War pushes the sword further into my stomach and I bite my tongue to stop myself from screaming. The tree cracks as the sword digs deeper into its bark.

“You should have killed me when you had a chance,” War twists the sword again and I could taste blood in my mouth, “My Lord Apocalypse gave you the right in Genosha two years ago, but you let me live. You let your enemy go free to come back stronger, vengeful and pissed. You are a fool.”

I’m beginning to realize that.

“You are soft and weak,”War hisses, “A true warrior does what needs to be done. It is the only way to win. Mercy is a weakness. What did you think would happen if you let me live?” He twists the again and I can’t help it, I cry out, tears falling from my eyes, “You have been brainwashed into believing in mercy and hope, to have faith. Let it go; let go of all you believe in,” he twists again. My world is blurring, I’m losing so much blood, “Let go and welcome a quick death. Abandon all hope and all hope in survival. This is when you die.” He twists and pushes and for a moment, I consider his offer, “There is no hope for you. You have no future.”

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