Sitting in the hotel room of Kurt Wagner, AKA Nightcrawler of the X-Men, were Kurt himself, Ilyana Rasputin, AKA Magik from the New Mutants and the man known only as Markus. The three had escaped a major gunfight, probably a cover-up for an assassination attempt on Markus’ life. Kurt & Ilyana had just promised Markus to help him solve the mystery of the past few months of his life.

“So… Where do you want to start?” Kurt asked Markus.

“Well… I don’t really know… I can’t seem to get anywhere with this”

“Okay, so what do you know? Are you on your own, or are there others in the same position as you?” Kurt asked looking intently at Markus

“You mean more mutant’s? None on the government payroll. I know my handler disappeared, too, and the old ways of contacting do not work… Believe me, I tried.”

“The guy who called you?” Ilyana asked.

“That guy? He was just a voice on a phone line… I wouldn’t know how to contact him..”

“Please answer carefully,” Ilyana said, “Did he call you at home?”

“Yes…?”

“And did you leave then?”

“Yes, but I…”

“SHUT UP!!!” Ilyana yelled, and then calmer “Have you used that phone since?”

Taken by surprise by Ilyana’s outburst, Markus hesitated a while, before answering:

“No, I haven’t been home since then.”

“Then I know how to get to the guy who called you” Ilyana said triumphantly

“How? Through Magic? You know your Limbo-magic is tainted, Ilyana” Kurt told her.

“Don’t worry, Uncle Kurt…. I will be very, very careful… I will not take any unnecessary risks” she answered him teasingly while running her hand along his back.

The room was silent, and Markus spoke first.

“All right… Let’s go then!” he said, as he put on his jacket, and picked up his weaponry.

Ilyana picked up her axe, and wanted to follow Markus out the door. Kurt grabbed her arm, and held her back

“Uncle Kurt, we have a job…” Ilyana said, but Kurt interrupted her

“Ilyana, if that’s who you are, I don’t know what you’re playing at, but I don’t like it”

“You don’t, eh? Why do I find that hard to believe? Still the priest? Ha! I see the way you look at me!”

“Ilyana, I don’t like this!” Kurt said through clenched teeth.

“No, but you’ll learn to love it!” Ilyana remarked slyly, and she pulled her arm from Kurt’s grasp. Kurt said nothing, as Ilyana changed her form from horned demon-sorceress to that of a young
woman. She walked after Markus, who was standing at the end of the hallway. Kurt found himself unable to completely deny Ilyana’s suggestions, and tensed up. Then he shook his head, closed the door behind him and walked into the hallway after his friends, towards the stairs running down to the reception. Ilyana was already holding the door open, smiling at him.

********

Standing on the deck of his heli-carrier, wearing his Iron Man armor without the helmet, Director Tony Stark was not a happy man. He surveyed the damage around him, and was disgusted by the number of dead and dying agents around him. He swallowed his grief, and then called his sub-commander, Maria Hill:

“Hill!! Report!”

“Director, the damage is extensive,” reported Maria Hill, the interim Director who had transitioned SHIELD from Nick Fury to Tony Stark, “We have taken heavy casualties, over a hundred dead, and double that number wounded. The engines have come back on line, but everything else is of line. The virus eating away at all our records has been stopped, but we seem to have lost much data.”

Tony looked around as medical personnel were tending to the wounded and agents carried of their fallen brethren and enemies alike. Tony choked up again, and then he noticed the digital command sequence given to the equipment of all their fallen enemies. He took over the heli-carier’s com-system and ordered everybody to get away from the fallen commando’s. All over people dropped
bodies, and ran away. Not three seconds later, all the commando’s went up in an explosion and dark billowing clouds.

When the smoke cleared there was not left of either the enemies or their equipment, and every computer system on the heli-carier had crashed once more. Tony reached out through Extremis, his almost living armor, but could not prevent the loss of another chunk of data. In his mind he went through what was missing, and discovered that everything concerning the medical bay was lost. Another search revealed that all information concerning carbonadium & Omega Red was missing, too!

“Hill, do we know where Moonstar & Agent Blevins are?”

“Well Sir, it seemed they grabbed Omega Red and flew their flying car straight into that tunnel that appeared.”

“They GRABBED him? All right then… What do we know about the white figure making the tunnel?”

“Another one from the X-Men Files. Name is Zero, a construct that used to belong to the MLF, and is supposed to be future technology. The thing disappeared for a while, and has resurfaced now.”

Tony walked of a bit, and looked around the numerous wounded and dead bodies littering the deck. He turned around, and called to Maria Hill.

“I do not believe in coincidence. Have the analysts go to everything that may connect Omega Red with Zero. And get this ship as close to Moscow as we can while staying in NATO airspace.”

********

It all happened in a matter of seconds, but asking Dani & Sally, the trip and its conclusion took forever. They had entered the tunnel created by Zero in a SHIELD Flying Car, and bullets were flying at them constantly, fired by the retreating commando’s they were pursuing. Skids had thrown her force field around the car, but it occurred to Dani that Skids was ducking in her seat as much as she could.

“You got your field up, right?” Dani called

“Yes!!!” Sally answered

“Then why do you duck???”

“You never know!!! It might fail!!!”

“Now she tells me!!!”

They exited on the other end, and noticed immediately that they were indoors, and headed for a wall. Both Dani & sally exclaimed a number of profanities, and Sally put her full concentration into
maintaining the force field as the vehicle crashed through a wall. Dani braced for the impact, and then the vehicle shattered the wall, and exited into a warehouse district. Bullets started hitting the car, as Sally had passed out from the strain, and Dani pulled up the car, and flew into the night. Then she thought about landing, and she realized that she really didn’t know how to do that. She didn’t have much time to worry, as she also realized a commando had jumped onto the car, outside the warehouse as Skids’ force field had failed. The man hung onto Dani’s side of the vehicle with one hand and punched her square in the face two times, before Dani had the chance to punch back. It didn’t faze the man in the least, and he punched her a third time, knocking her to the side somewhat. Dani saw the man trying to climb in, and knew she had to act. She took out her knife a plunged in into the man’s arm, followed by another punch to his face. The commando still didn’t budge, and punched Dani in the face once more, so hard this time that she felt dizzy. Dani saw Sally lying unconscious next to her, and grabbed her gun. She fired it three times, at close range, in his face, and she was sprayed with blood as the man fell from the vehicle. “That’s right, mo#$%fu%^&r”, Dani yelled, as she saw him drop. Then she noticed how high she had flown, and tried to concentrate and shake of the dizziness caused by getting punched in the face four times. She spit out a tooth and some blood, and started to figure out the controls of the flying car. Flying lower and slower, Sally came to, and Dani quickly handed her the controls. Skids put the vehicle down, which was badly damaged by gunfire, and the two women finally allowed themselves to relax.

“Your nose bleeds” Dani said, as she wiped some blood of her face.

“So does your entire face,” Sally answered, “But I guess I should see the other guy?”

“No you really shouldn’t….” Dani answered, not happy about speaking so casually about killing a man, and looking away. Sally got the hint and changed her tone. Both women looked around and

Dani was the fist to speak: “So… Now… Where the Hell are we….???”
*************

Bullseye had left the hotel where he had just murdered Maverick. He made his way to the rooftop of a building across the street, also a hotel. In his hands he carried a large back, containing all sorts of weaponry, and he wore a coat over his uniform. He leaned back against a chimney, and lit a cigarette, as a steady drizzle of rain set in. Bullseye didn’t mind at all, happy as he was to just be able to feel anything again. It had been a few months since some nobody-costumed-hero had shattered his neck, while his superiors in the Thunderbolts were electrocuting him for disobedience at the same time. For months he had lain there, unable to move or speak. When his mobility suddenly started to return, he kept it hidden, and used it to make good his escape. No more Thunderbolts, no more Osborn, no more Daredevil, no more!!! While still recuperating, he was contacted by unknown parties, instructing him to go to Seattle. Bullseye was actually surprised how calm he felt through all this, as if his being laid up for months had somehow made him saner. Sure, he still saw killing as an art, and enjoyed it immensely, but there was nothing irrational about him. He actually felt in charge of his own thought-processes for the first time in years.

The answers to his questions arrived in the form of a letter in a luggage box at Seattle airport. A needle, and a note that the fluid contained would keep him sane and mobile. The letter instructed Bullseye to board a ship bound for Russia, and so Bullseye did. He stowed away as instructed, and a trail of messages led him to St. Petersburg, injecting himself every week. Although reasonably sane, he realized that he had become somebody’s property. He never met his new sponsor, but he was instructed to prepare to carry out some assassinations, the first of which were to take place in Berlin. It involved a pair of kills, one of which he knew well enough: Maverick. Rumor was that Maverick was a mutant, and that he was powerless since most of them lost their powers.  Somehow that struck Bullseye as particularly funny. Besides, Maverick wore a stupid mask, so that made him practically a superhero. This was one kill he had really enjoyed, and killing some connection of his should be just as much fun.

He had arrived in Berlin two days ago, and he was to scout ahead on the Maverick contract. More in control of his faculties than he had been in years, he found it surprisingly easy. The call had come earlier this night to go ahead on Maverick, and it had been carried out to perfection.
Bullseye noticed that the he was getting soaked with rain. Hmm, if they wanted him to wait here, he might as well do it in a warm & dry place. The room directly below this rooftop would do just nicely. And it was occupied, too! Time to play God once more!

***********

The cab pulled away from the small apartment building on Kalter strasse, on the outskirts of the center of Berlin. It was an old quarter of the city, in the part that used to be East Berlin. The building, and all the others, was a bit rundown, but they offered solid affordable housing to the former inhabitants of the workers paradise and the many immigrants that had arrived after the fall of the Berlin wall. Three individuals walked up the steps to the entrance of the building, looking as nondescript as possible. Two men and a female of medium height built and looks getting home from a night on the town. As they entered the front hall of the building, they shimmered, and the true forms of Nightcrawler, Magik and Markus stood in their place.

“This way, I live on the ground floor…” Markus said, and the other two followed him to apartment 33.

“I still don’t see why we took a cab here…” Markus muttered as he opened the door, and ushered everyone inside.

“It’s called hiding in plain sight,” Kurt explained as the door closed behind him “Or would you have preferred a running gunfight from my hotel here?”

“She can teleport, can’t she?” Markus said, pointing at Ilyana.

“Yes, SHE can, but SHE doesn’t think you would find the way SHE does it all that great” Ilyana said, annoyed at being referred to while she was present.

“No need to take the man’s head of, Ilyana” Kurt admonished

“It’s just that… Well, let’s just say that Limbo is not how you may remember it, Kurt… It’s… different now, and no longer save for you.”

“Mein Gott…. I thought it couldn’t get any worse.” Kurt said

Ilyana didn’t answer, and turned away. A crack in the demon-girl façade, Kurt thought. What is going on with her? She is on the one hand terrible, but on the other hand still the girl we all thought we
lost forever.

“So, what do you want to do?” Markus asked Ilyana.

“Ilyana??” Kurt asked, when she still didn’t answer.

Ilyana wiped her long blond hair out of her face, and faced them, putting on her smile once more. “Markus, is that really a question you want to ask a girl you just invited into your home?” she giggled, and then, more seriously “First, I want some security… Kurt, could you put on a hood or hat or something to hide your face, and stand on the lookout outside? I’ll need full concentration, and I would feel much better if there is some line of defense in place”

Kurt looked at Ilyana, and wondered what she was really planning. The reasoning seemed sound though, so Kurt pulled up his hood, pulled his three-fingered hands inside his sleeves, and went outside to sit in a small alley, directly opposite the apartment building.

As soon as Kurt had left, Ilyana walked over to Markus’ phone.

“Is this what he called you on?” Markus nodded.

“All right then… I’m sorry….” With that she pulled out a small knife, and before Markus had time to react, she cut his hand with it.

“You crazy bitch!” Markus yelled, and he went for his gun.

“Quiet!!” Ilyana said, and she dropped the blood of Markus’ hand on her own, and traced a burning inverted pentagram in the air directly over the phone. Markus looked on in amazement, as Ilyana
completed the pentagram. She stood looking at it, silently mouthing words, and thrust her bloodied hand into the pentagram without burning it.. The phone seemed to glow with blue light, and at that moment Ilyana picked up her axe, and smashed it through the pentagram, into the phone.

Markus was startled for a while, and saw Ilyana glowing a little blue herself. Then al the light faded. Ilyana collapsed as if exhausted, and was breathing heavily. Markus looked at her warily, but went to her nonetheless.

“Ilyana? Are you okay?”

“No, but I will be…” Ilyana answered, and got up, leaning on her axe.
“Did it… work??”

“That depends on how you feel about your father” Ilyana said, composing herself.

“My father? What has that got to do with it? I don’t even know who my father is!”

“Well, he knows you! The magic traces the connection, and ends it at the location where your caller was when he called you…. But the blood… The blood always tells… No question about it….
That caller was your father….”

Markus was silent, a million thoughts racing through his head at once. He was raised in foster homes, and never stayed long in any of them. When his mutant power kicked in at 14, he kept it to himself, and he joined the army as soon as he could. He never knew either of his parents, and all he knew was that his mother gave him up. Markus had always felt to proud to go after his parents, no matter how easily he could have done it, working for the intelligence community.

Ilyana called for him to get his things and leave. Markus looked around his place, and wondered if there was anything there he still wanted. There was a big chance that he would never come back here again. When Ilyana called again, he left right away. His old life meant nothing to him, and this was the final goodbye. When Markus and Ilyana came outside, Kurt asked them if they were successful. Markus answered:

“More successful than I could have imagined… I’m going to meet my father… for the first time!”

No matter how hard he tried, there was something inside Markus that could not suppress his excitement.

*********

The old man walked quietly down the street, and near the end of the street he hailed a cab. He ordered the man to drive out of Berlin, to the outskirts of town. The cab driver informed repeatedly what his destination would be, and the old man told that he would tell him as soon as he knew for certain. At this the cabdriver objected, but a 100-euro note made him more compliant. The old man was concentrating in the back of the cab, and he ordered the cab out of the city, into the countryside. The use of his mental powers, once considerable but for the most part faded now, was a tremendous exertion for the old man, and a small trickle of blood ran down his cheek from his left eye. The cabdriver looked on with worry, but said nothing

At a certain moment, the old man asked the cabdriver to stop, in the middle of a small country road. The cabdriver asked him if he was sure, and the old man nodded. As he got out of the cab, the old man handed the cabdriver 5 more 100-euro notes. The old man told him to forget this fare as soon as possible, and shook his hand, concentrating fully on the space between the cabdrivers’ eyes. Driving away a few seconds later, the cabdriver kept thinking about that nice young woman he had dropped of at the small country house just outside of Berlin. By the time he got back into the city, he was trying to remember how he got those 6 100-euro notes in his pocket.