Chapter One: Walking Trouble

The city was once called Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Its colonial architecture and sense of history highlighted Philly’s role in the shaping of America. Much of America had been built in Philadelphia, both physically and spiritually – and so Apocalypse had started destroying America there. It was a symbolic move, meant to show mankind that there would be no brotherly love between man and mutant. The buildings were razed, the people were slaughtered, and the city was renamed as Apocalypse passed it off to a prelate without a second thought.

Since then, the city of Cain had been well managed. Its prelate was focused, driven, and unwilling to fail in his duty. The roads leading into the city are clean of debris or cars, long since recycled. The rubble and stonework and steel of Philadelphia had been pulled down and re-purposed, rebuilding an orderly city of blocks and rectangles. The prelate insisted on the creation of parks and theaters for his mutant brethren. His personal Citadel sits back in the city, out of the way of the populace but still there, towering over the skyline as a constant reminder of exactly who they owed their happy little lives to. A twenty foot tall wall surrounds the Citadel, which is manned by Infinity guards. A similar structure surrounds the city, although it is only ten feet tall. The prelate didn’t want his citizens to feel trapped, but he did want them to feel safe.

The traveler had walked for almost a week straight, eating nearly nothing and struggling to find water in the barren, war-torn landscape. The bottoms of his thick, black leather boots are nearly gone and his feet are blistered and bleeding. His jaw is swollen on the left side. Underneath the black fabric that covers his chest are bruises. There are three long gouges running along his right side, just under his ribs. A small trickle of blood still comes from the slowly healing wounds, their edges black and crusted.

Several of Cain’s citizens stare at him as he walks down the main street, his one good eye focused on what lays before him: the Citadel. He grunts and groans with every step. His appearance scares off the women in their pretty clothing and forces the men to step in front of them protectively. One of the men shouts, getting the attention of a pair of Infinities that had been standing at an intersection chatting. Swinging their plasma rifles off of their shoulders, they begin to move towards the traveller, shouting at him.

Smiling, exhausted, Prelate Scott Summers knows that he can finally stop moving.

With great relish, he collapses to the ground.

Chapter Two: A Warm Welcome

Across the country, Pietro Lensherr’s small team of survivors pass through the forest that leads to their destination, a foreboding site called the Tomb. The castle towers over them now, its pointed roofs stabbing into the high moon. There are signs of battle all around them. The earth is disturbed, left in odd piles throughout the forest. Trees lean over or have been uprooted completely. Large clearings and burned patches are left over from energy blasts and acid splashes. Clearly, Piotr had not been taking it easy on his students.

Not that it helped. Pietro thinks, trying to walk calmly through the devastation, a frown on his face. So many mutants dead… he turns, looking at Illyana, who continues to stick near Shiro behind him. More names to add to the list of the dead. And more to come once we contact the mansion and – no. Stop that. We’ll reach the castle, find a comm.-unit, and call – Suddenly Sunfire shouts and atomic fire rushes past Pietro.

Sunfire and Illyana are at his side immediately, their eyes trained on Sunfire’s target. It originally was some sort of…device…that had risen from the ground. Sunfire’s blast had reduced it was to so much slag.

“What was that?” Morph asks, catching up to the rest of the party. “Oh, I guess we’ll never know.”

“Calm down,” Quicksilver replies, crouching near the device. “I think it’s just – ”

A female’s voice seems to come from the very trees around them. “Please refrain from – ” More movement behind the group startles Morph, causing him to lash out with a giant hand! He smashes this new threat, discovering that it’s some kind of screen.

“It’s a computer!” Morph shouts, turning to look at the others. “What kind – ”

“Stop!” Quicksilver stands. “It’s Know-it-All!”

“Know it all?” Sunfire asks, puzzled.

A screen suddenly pops up next to Quicksilver, rising from the ground on a telescoping pole to the height of his head. “That is correct,” the screen says. “Know-it-All,” Caught in the screen’s picture is a young woman. Only her head and upper shoulders are visible, her skin a smooth shade of brown. A brightly colored headdress of technology is connected to her head. A clock’s face rests in her forehead, devoid of numbers. “I take it that the mission was a success.”

“Mission?” Quicksilver asks.

“Yes,” Know-it-All replies, shifting to look down at Illyana. “That is Illyana Rasputin, gene scan confirmed at 98.19373%,” She shifts back up to Quicksilver. “However, your presence here, Pietro Lensherr, does not bode well for the rest of the students. Tell me, did Instructors Rasputin not return from the Core with the rest of the unit?”

Death already having consumed his thoughts, Pietro tries to dodge the subject. “A lot has happened Know-it-All. I need to get inside and contact the mansion. Apocalypse Island is – ”

“I am aware of the fate of Apocalypse Island,” Know-it-All replies coolly. “I have been surfing the channels. I shall update my records to indicate that the other students are dead. I should also inform you that, in the event of the death of your father, I have been left several recordings to – ”

“KNOW IT ALL,” Quicksilver says, his voice loud and hard. “Let us in. Establish a line to the mansion. Whatever comes after, I’ll deal with it then. Understand?”

“With ease,” Know-it-All replies. “I am unlocking the front gate and deactivating all hidden weaponry. Please proceed. I should also inform you that – ”

Quicksilver isn’t there to hear her reply. In a burst of snow and dirt, he’s gone.