************

Sally Blevins  SHIELD agent and former mutant hero Skids, drove her car towards Berlin, in the middle of a crazy night that only moments ago had been an afternoon. She tried to recall how she had gotten here after starting her day on security detail on the helicarrier, contemplating ending her career at SHIELD after only a year on the job. Now she was driving a damaged SHIELD Flying Car, with former Mutant Dani Moonstar sitting beside her, and an unconscious Omega Red in the back, together with an old German guy who called himself Traumfanger, who seemed to care very deeply for Omega Red. During this day she had caught Omega Red with her force field and shot him in the face, had yelled at Tony Stark; possibly the most powerful man in the US, crashed a flying car through a wall in her force field, applied for a job in a new X-Team, and had dodged hundreds of bullets. “Yep, these are the days you tell your grandchildren about”, Sally thought to herself.

Thinking about her day so far, she realized that most of the things that had happened was stuff she had chosen to do. She was not just reacting, she was actually doing something. This morning, she had wanted to leave SHIELD, and now she felt like a SHIELD agent, doing her job, and enjoying it! Was this fun? She felt useful and great. She had actually tried to talk Dani into something, instead of listening to others herself. Was this what she really wanted? Joining Dani’s new mutant team? A life of missions and heroics, and adventure? It didn’t feel like running away, but like running towards something! What a difference a day makes!By now they had entered Berlin, and were on their way through an industrial district, on the former east side of the city that was once divided. Traumfanger kept giving instructions, left, another left, now right, and then he said stop, in front of a huge abandoned factory complex.

“Stop? Why? Where are we?” Dani asked Traumfanger.

“Well, if I’m correct, you’ll find the hole through which you crashed in this vehicle on the side of this building”

“How do you know? Just what can you do?” Skids asked

“It’s not very simple to explain. You have to understand we didn’t know that much about mutation back in my day. I have a general assortment of psychic powers, but I was especially great at pulling pictures from someone’s mind, or retrieving memories. I could also put in all sorts of fake memories in somebody’s mind, and could even project that to others. I was quite powerful in my day.”

“So what happened? Old age?” Dani asked.

“I would love to answer all your questions, but to do so when approaching the enemy’s stronghold is never a good idea, is it?”

“I suppose you’re right…. Okay… So now what do we do? I’m open to suggestions.” Dani stated next, trying to concentrate on the matter at hand.

“Hey, you’re supposed to be leader, girl. Just tell me what to do, and I’m good to go!” Sally said smiling. She was completely rested from her earlier exertions, and still couldn’t believe how good she felt right now.

“Right… Well, I figure we’ll have to do some recon first. When we left here, it was crawling with those commando types. I don’t see any of that now, so we can assume they either left or are waiting in ambush…” Dani thought out loud.

“Hmm… I think I can assure you that there is no army waiting for you here. I’m detecting some active minds in this area, but not that much…” Traumfanger told the women.

“So basically it’s force field up, and inside we go, right? You better pack some hardware, Dani… It may get ugly when the commando’s are waiting for us.” Skids told Dani, and opened a compartment in the back of the passengers seat. In it were several fire arms, assorted ammunitions and various knives. Dani took out a large hunting knife, much like her own knife that probably got left on the helicarrier, and more reluctantly strapped on a holster and took out the gun.

“You know… I really don’t like guns that much…” Dani said.

“Neither do I, but still would like mine back, as I like getting shot even less” Skids answered, as she took her own firearm from Dani. The girls were ready to enter the building, and looked at Traumfanger, who was still sitting in the backseat of their car, holding Omega Red.

“What do we do with him?” Skids asked

“We can’t take him with us… And we can’t leave Omega Red here on his own anyway. I say we give him a gun and tell him to protect himself…” Dani said as she reached over to the armory compartment.

“Thank you, but I’m good…” Traumfanger said as he took a gun out of his own pocket.

“What is this? Am I starting an x-team, or a firing squad? Is everybody packing these days?” Dani said in frustration.

“Sign of the times…. I blame Cable, he started it way back when!” Skids threw in.

“Oh well…. Here we go….”

Skids wrapped both Dani and herself in her force field, and the two women walked around the corner, and climbed into the breach in the wall.

*********

Ruth Bat-Seraph sat in a nice restaurant, wearing basic black evening attire, sipping a non-alcoholic cocktail, feeling both elated and miserable at the same time No matter how strongly Ruth tried not to think about it, she always felt strange whenever her work brought her to Germany. Sure, she was a tough-as-nails Mossad agent and superhero, but listening to the German language made her think of so many members of her family that had died in the holocaust. She knew that was in the past, she knew that the modern German people could never be blamed for the mistakes and horror of the past, but there she was, sitting in the lounge of a modern restaurant in the German capital, wearing her finest dress, awaiting her contact, and feeling guilty because she was enjoying herself.

She wore a covert version of her Sabra costume under her dress, a high tech solution to the problem superheroes faced when out in public in revealing attire. Somehow she felt that this surprise mission would involve fighting as Sabra, and in the best boy scout-tradition, Ruth always came prepared. It amazed her that the restaurant lounge was still filled with people drinking and talking. The night was already halfway over, the kitchen of the restaurant had closed, and the restaurant staff had gone home. The bar was still open, the music was loud, and three men and one woman had already hit on her. A bartender leant over to her and said that there was a call for a Good Girl. Ruth looked at him, and said she’d take the call.

“This is Good Girl”

“This is Big Boy”

“This is not company business?”

“I’m afraid not. I need you on recon, and backup”

“Where?”

“Grid 16B, 0-5-HT. Two mutant girls, O-Red, big mess.”

“Give me five”

“You have one. This is for keeps”

“Right. Good Girl out”

Ruth finished her drink, and got up. She walked out of the lounge and into the street. She knew it: Sabra-stuff… Two mutant girls, eh? Ruth wondered which, but it didn’t really matter. Big Boy had called, Omega Red was there, and the girls were as good as dead. That’s what so many of her colleagues failed to understand. While she personally liked the X-philosophy of peaceful coexistence, she was first and foremost an agent of Mossad, and as such she saw the world as it really was: cold & dangerous. She wore the colors of the superheroes, and even liked and admired many of them, but when they got out of line, she would take international security over loyalty to a costumed acquaintance any day. By now she had reached a small alley, took of her dress and activated her costume. She shook her hair loose, and activated her anti-grav units. “Germany or not, this always feels great!” she thought, and flew into the night.

**********

Markus looked down on the body of the brutally murdered Maverick. Kurt had already looked through some of the mercenary’s belongings, and examined the body. He was absolutely positive that this was Maverick. Ilyana just sat next to the body, in silence, with her hand in the biggest pool of blood on the floor. Kurt looked at Markus, who was trying to absorb what had happened to him this day.

“Markus, if there is anything…” Kurt began.

“I know. I really believe you. But I’ll deal with this later. I’m an agent. I can compartmentalize. This gets stored. And then I’ll go nuts over it.” Markus said, giving Kurt a gentle smile as if it was Kurt who was to be consoled.

Kurt nodded, and Markus continued: “It does make sense, eh? I was a power absorber, he was a power deflector. I don’t know about his age, though. Wasn’t he a bit to young?”

“Don’t bet on it…. He’s actually a lot older…. ” Ilyana said, as blood from her shoulder dripped in Mavericks blood. Kurt saw it happen, but decided to just observe for now.

There was one thing he was curious about, and did indeed ask Ilyana: “What’s with that Axe of yours?”

“It is my talisman… A conduit for magic, containing some magic itself. It was made from the very fabric of Limbo, and it feeds my magic, reducing its cost….”

“Reducing the cost…” Nightcrawler repeated, knowing she meant blood or life force. What he had heard from the young students at Xavier’s who had met Ilyana some time ago, Ilyana was recreated from Belasco’s memories and Limbo’s magic. Thus created by that foul demon, she was lacking a soul, and much more prone to darkness than Ilyana had ever been, even when under the influence of the demons of Limbo. Yet, he could not deny that this young woman sitting before him was in almost every aspect an older version of the Ilyana Rasputin he had known and loved.

“What did Bullseye want with that thing?” Kurt asked next.

“I think I know,” Markus answered first, “Bullseye is a very sick, insane man, and he has a thing for killing people with their own weapons, ever since he aced some assassin named Elektra with her own weapon. That was a huge thing back then, and it landed him in a huge mess with that Daredevil guy in New York.”

“The axe is powerful in it’s own right. It grants me some control in Limbo, and when not properly controlled it can drive a person straight to darkness…” Ilyana said with a worried look.

Nightcrawler shuddered at that thought, never having liked magic & demons. He decided to change the subject: “I guess we’d better search this place. See if we can find anything to shed some light on tonight’s chaos. Der Polizei will be here any minute now, and we can’t come back here that easily…” Kurt suggested.

“I have a better way…. I have plenty of blood here, both from me and from Maverick. We also have a blood relative here… I should be able to conjure up his soul for a little necromantic Q&A” Ilyana countered.

Both Markus and Kurt remained silent, and Ilyana calmly said: “I’ll prepare….”

*******

“So, they sure were fast getting out of here” Skids remarked as she and Dani walked through the empty hall which a few hours ago had housed a huge commando base.

Dani only nodded.

“Didn’t leave much behind, either” Skids said

Dani again only nodded

“Usually you find some stuff lying around… Something that was forgotten…”

“Sally?”

“Yes?”

“Do you always babble when you’re nervous?”

“Yes.”

“Oh… Could you try to tone it down a bit?” Dani asked.

“I’ll try. And do you always get all “Eye of The Hunter” and stuff?”

“Sally, please….” Dani tried again

“Okay, okay… Hey!!! What’s….??” Sally shouted seconds before a hammer hit her square in her force field protected jaw, and slammed her into a wall.

Dani ducked away, and saw the hammer return where it came from, thinking: “Are we fighting &%#% Thor now?”

A big hand caught the hammer, but it was no Thor. Out of the shadows stepped Vanguard, the Russian superhero still clinging to his communist ideals, wearing a uniform draped in soviet-symbolism, and wielding a Hammer and Sickle. Dani opened fire on him, but the bullet’s bounced of Vanguard, using his mutant power to repel attacks and objects and channeling it through his weapons.He slammed his hammer into a wall, and the rock that came loose he repelled in Dani’s direction. Again Dani had to duck, and she felt like she had lost complete control of this situation. On the far end of the hall, Skids got up, and glided at Vanguard at top speed. She threw a volley of small knives at him, which he repelled easily with a wave of his Sickle. He the stood firm against the coming impact with Skids, secure in the fact that with his Hammer & Sickle crossed before him he would easily repel Skids. With a look of determination Skids went at Vanguard, who grinned as he saw her coming. At the very last moment, Skids dove to the ground, and glided between Vanguard’s legs, that he had spread apart to stand firm. Then she unloaded with a vicious ball-shot, which made the Russian crumble to the ground. Skids made the mistake of stopping to gloat for a second, and that proved to be a big mistake. Vanguard hit her in the stomach, and then used his hammer once more to smash her into yet another wall. Even through her force field, the impact of Vanguard’s attacks was severe, almost knocking Skids unconscious.

In the meantime, several commandos ran into the hall, and started firing at Dani. Dani scrambled as fast as she could, and got behind a support pillar, that shielded her from the bullet-hail. “Damn!” she thought, “I’m a sitting duck!”

She called out to Skids: “Sally! Do you have some force field action for me here?”

“Little busy, chief!” Sally called back as she got up.

Skids and Vanguard were in a standoff mode. Most of Sally’s attack plans consisted of gliding at an opponent, doing damage and relying on her force field to protect her. This guy’s blows however made that very difficult, as he slammed her back so hard that she felt it through her force field. She looked at Vanguard and his look of confidence showed that he knew that Skids didn’t know how to proceed. She kept ducking Vanguard as much as she could, but the Russian got his shots in nonetheless.

Completely pinned down by gunfire, Dani decided to take chance. She took a split second to peek around the corner, and saw that there were five gunmen in combat dress, shooting at her with machineguns. Back behind the pillar, Dani realized that these guys were not making any mistakes, they shot at the entire length of the pillar, so she couldn’t duck out. Besides, the nearest place of cover was over 20 feet away. Dani had another quick look, this time to specifically check out their position. She estimated the distance, and took yet another quick look, now to guess the position of her opponents legs. She clenched her gun in her hands, and breathed out slowly. “I’m a marksman, I can do this…” she thought, “…Now!!” and she shot 4 times around the corner without looking, hitting three of the commando’s in the legs.

Skids was hurting all over by now, from the many impacts she had made with the walls. She tried stalling Vanguard to come up with a plan.

“Has nobody ever told you that Russia lost the cold war?” she yelled, but got no response.

“Do you always hit on girls this way?” she asked next, again without result.

“Lame, lame, lame!!!” Sally thought, but she couldn’t think of good strategy. Then she saw Dani’s shooting from the corner of her eye, and she tried some out of the box thinking. Again she glided at him, but this time she jumped up, and put her force field around Vanguard instead of herself, and skidded over it. Vanguard, who was bracing for impact once more, tried to hit her with his hammer, but hit the force field instead, knocking his hammer back. Skids landed behind him, and before Vanguard had turned, she delivered a beautiful flying kick to the back of his neck. Vanguard fell, but wasted no time getting up to see Skids laughing at him, and ran at her. Skids was thinking that she should really just have shot him instead of going for the heroic kick, and then Vanguard smashed into her.