“People, we better hurry up here!” Markus called to Kurt and Ilyana

Ilyana was busy preparing a spell that would allow her to talk to the murdered Maverick whose bloody corpse lay at her feet. Her hands were drenched in his blood, and she was whispering as she drew a pentagram in the air with Maverick’s blood. Kurt was looking at it all disgusted and fascinated at the same time. What was it with Ilyana? Ever since she showed up a couple of hours ago, all his senses had been “off” as far as Ilyana was concerned. He sat on the bed, watching her perform a necromantic ritual, and he could not take his eyes of her. She was in demonic form, a legacy of her soulless state since being reborn. All these things should have made him extremely uncomfortable, as a devout catholic, but somehow they didn’t. The only thing that bothered him was the fact that he was drawn to her, in a way he believed he should not be drawn to a girl he had once told bedtime stories to. Why was that? What connected them? Kurt was sure if he could just concentrate a little more, the answer would come to him, but no matter how hard he tried, it stayed just out of reach.

“People! Kurt! Time is running out! Come have look!” Markus called.

Kurt got up, and looked out of the window that Markus was standing by. Police were gathering in the street, and he could already see that some were pointing upwards, to the broken window Markus and Kurt were looking out of.

“They’re calling in…. what you call… SWAT? Yeah, a SWAT team. We have them here, you know.” Markus said.

“They saw our fight, and me flying out the window. I guess a couple of bullet holes tend to attract attention, too!” Kurt said, referring to his fight with Bullseye a short while ago. He touched the wound on his leg, where Bullseye had kicked him with his spiked boots.

He saw Markus looking at him, clearly expecting some form of suggestion. With a sigh, Kurt spoke: “I think we should leave. It would not be good to have a confrontation with the police right now.”

“But I’m almost ready!” Ilyana protested. By now, drops of blood were floating in thin air, forming the inverted pentagram.

“We can’t wait! You heard Kurt. We get out NOW!” Markus yelled. Kurt looked outside again, and saw a van pull up, filled with heavily armed policemen. They were pointing and gesturing, and then entered the building where Markus, Ilyana and he were hiding.

“Come on, we go now!” Kurt said, and went to grab Ilyana’s arm. She pulled away.

“You go! We have to do this! We may never get the chance again!” Ilyana yelled, but Kurt didn’t want to hear it.

“We didn’t HAVE the chance to begin with, Ilyana!” Kurt replied. He again tried to take her arm.

“You go your way, we’ll go mine!” We’ll meet at the destroyed bar in an hour!” Ilyana said, and grabbed Markus. A circle appeared under her, and Ilyana, Markus, Maverick’s body and the magical pentagram disappeared through it, leaving a thoroughly confused Kurt behind.

***********

Dani was still stunned about what had just happened to her. Just when she thought Omega Red was going to drain the life out of her with his coils, a touch from Sabra had triggered a response in her. Barely realizing what was happening to her, she had fired a psychic arrow from her hand at Omega Red. A tremendous rush of adrenaline took hold of her, and Dani felt positively elated. This was like dream! Only now did she realize how much she had missed having powers. The effect of sensing things around her, of a power flowing through her was almost overwhelming, and she almost collapsed as a result of the combination of physical exhaustion and mental euphoria. Still in a daze, she felt a tugging sensation in her mind. It was Skids, who was waking up. Dani came down to earth, and ran over to where Skids had been tossed by Omega Red.

“Skids! Sally! Sally?” Dani called.

The only thing coming from Skids was groaning.

“Sally! Are you okay?” Dani asked in a worried tone.

“Oh my God, that hurts….” Skids mumbled as she tried to get up. Her force field was down, her SHIELD uniform was ripped, and she was black & blue all over.

“Where? What can I do?” Dani asked

“Everywhere… Oh man… Can you help me get up?”

Dani helped her up and they stumbled towards their wrecked car. That’s when Dani was finally reminded of Sabra, who had been shot several times, in an attempt to help the mutants.

“Sabra! Sabra!” Dani called out, but other than labored breathing, she got no reaction from Sabra.

Meanwhile, Sally checked on Traumfanger while hanging on the car, and was pleased to see that the man was merely unconscious. He was looking a bit pale, but his pulse and breathing were stable and regular. Finally standing up unsupported, she thought about what had just happened. She had defeated a foe in single combat. She: Agent Sally Blevins! She felt incredibly proud of herself, and all of sudden she didn’t hurt as much anymore. Maybe to most superhumans a guy like Vanguard was a joke. Hell, she only heard from him because she had studied every active superhuman SHIELD had profiles on. To Sally, her fight with Vanguard, a guy obviously sent here to fight whoever was coming, was one of the first real personal victories she had ever enjoyed. Who knows? Maybe this whole X-team with Dani could work! They could even ask the old man Traumfanger to join! Then she noticed Omega Red, lying unconscious on the floor.

“Dani?”

“We’ve got to get her to a hospital, Sally.”

“What? Oh, sure! Yes! I’ll see if the car will still run”

Dani carefully lifted Sabra, amazed at how much strength a person possesses when the occasion calls for it. She gently put her down in the front seat of the car. There was so much blood, the smell made her retch.

“Dani, the car will run, but I don’t know any hospitals. I’ll try and wake the old guy. There is one more thing, however…”

“What?”

“What do we do with him? I get the feeling he is the reason for all of this” Sally said, pointing at Omega Red.

“We’ll have to take him. I’ll try to put him in the car.”

“Are you nuts? The guy ways a ton. Let’s pull him in together…”

A voice came from behind them: “I have a better idea…”

“Traumfanger! You okay?” Skids asked him, but the man had already stepped out of the car, and sat down by Omega Red’s body. He started whispering in his ear, and touched his brow, as Dani and Skids looked on. They distinctly heard Traumfanger call Omega Red by the name Arkady, and to their amazement, the big monster got up, and followed Traumfanger who directed him to sit in the back of the car.

“Okay, Sally, let’s go. Traumfanger, we’re going to a hospital. What is the closest one?”

“Just follow my directions! But, Sally…” Traumfanger said with a tiny smile on his lips.

“Oh! Oh! Here’s my jacket!!!” Dani said as she took of her leather jacket.

Sally looked down her chest at her torn uniform, and then she realized: “OOOH! Oh, I’m pulling a Wolverine!!” She took the jacket, and put it on in a hurry, closing it in front to cover herself.

“Can we go now?” Dani said, as Sally got into the car, and Sally drove the heavily damaged vehicle out of the warehouse. Sally looked back, but couldn’t find Vanguard anywhere. Then Traumfanger leaned in and said to her: “You did great, Ms. Blevins!” and although she hardly knew the old man, her heart swelled with pride once more.

 

**********

The new base of operations of Colonel Vazhin and his troops was about set up. Most of the equipment was installed, office space had been fitted, and the men were ready for a next assignment. Bugging out and the redeploying at another site in under two hours was a feet of planning and dedication, and Vazhin was rightfully proud of his men.

Vazhin was thinking about what had just happened at his old base. Through surveillance equipment hidden on Sabra’s uniform, he had watched the entire altercation, which had cost a couple of his loyal troops their lives. Vanguard had been defeated, by Skids of all people. That was a major disappointment, but hardly worth getting depressed over. Sabra had turned on him, which was not even unexpected. The use of known heroes in his operation always required delicate planning and handling, but right now she was what he needed to get what he needed. She got him the footage he had watched about the encounter, and was even now still watching. And her turning on him made sure there would be more footage coming. The repowerment of Dani Moonstar was not something to worry about either, although he had definitely not seen it coming. Sipping from his black coffee, he turned his thoughts to darker tidings. The man who had awoken Omega Red was known to him. “Traumfanger, how is it possible that you always turn up where I don’t want you…” he thought.

He looked on as Traumfanger directed Omega Red to sit in the car, which the ruthless killer actually responded to. Vazhin couldn’t believe it. His mind was racing.

“This is the very reason we created The Balance! That bloody bastard! He’s dead! Dead! Dead!!!” Vazhin spoke aloud at the screen in font of him.

“Sir?” a nearby operative asked, making Vazhin realize he was ranting.

Taking a deep breath, Vazhin regained his composure, and asked the operative to set up 6 secure lines, and to have Salinger report to him on the status of Zero. The operative saluted Vazhin hastily, and left. Vazhin meanwhile looked at the screen, where he saw Skids race through the Berlin night, with a badly wounded Sabra beside her. From the backseat, Traumfanger was giving directions, while holding Omega Red’s huge hand in his. Dani had noticed it, too, that much Vazhin could tell.

“Still lovers, eh, after all these years?” Vazhin mumbled.

At that moment the operative came in, and told Vazhin he had the lines prepared.

“Excellent… Now, let’s get some friends here….” Vazhin said, and he left his new aide Correlli to review the footage. When he stood in the door opening, he called to Correlli:

“Don’t do anything. Stay with them and report to me when they are ready to leave the hospital. We’ll take out the lot of them and they’ll never know in how much danger we all were. Now, put a call through to Sick Boy. Tell him the exchange is to take place at the Kreuzberg hospital.”

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

Kurt had only seconds to think. He was in the rented room of Maverick, whose body had just disappeared, there was blood everywhere, and a SWAT-team was about to break down the door. If he did not want to end up in custody or fighting the police, he had to get out. Kurt hated doing teleports over long distances, especially when he was hurt. The slightest lapse in concentration could seriously hurt or kill him, if that meant he teleported into a solid substance. As he heard the police bashing in the door, he teleported out, without any further hesitation.

He reappeared in the bathroom of his hotel room across town. The noise of his teleport alerted somebody who was in the room itself. Kurt used his ability to disappear in shadows, and watched as a commando type person, like the ones that had attacked him at the start of this night, looked around the bathroom. As he saw the man reach for the light switch, Kurt sprung into action. His leg was still hurting a little, but it did not prevent him from almost taking the soldiers head of with one well placed kick. He then waited two seconds and ducked into the room itself as low as he could. Doing this he outsmarted two gunmen who wanted to fire, who now shot up the bathroom he had just ducked out of. Kurt swung round, and delivered another spectacular kick combo to one of the men, while grabbing the others weapon, slamming him in the face with it in the same motion.

Although he had incapacitated all three of his assailants in fewer than 10 seconds, Kurt was very annoyed with the fact that the gunmen had managed to get some shots of. He had really wanted to use this hotel room to treat his wounded leg and to ploy his next course of action. Now it seems hotel-security or the police would get here within minutes. No time to waste, then! He grabbed all of his belongings, put on some clothes over his bright uniform, and hurried out of his room. Nobody was in the hallway at this time of the night, and Kurt hurried to the stairway, taking it to the top floor of the hotel. He then looked for the rooms least likely to have a window, and chose one. Looking around, and listening for any noise for a few seconds, he kicked down the door to get into the room, not wanting to risk a blind teleport. He slipped into the room that was empty, as Kurt had hoped, and he finally relaxed.

Sitting down on the bed, he examined his wound, cleaned it and afterwards bandaged it. It didn’t hurt that much, and Kurt was pretty sure his leg would function at 90%, in spite of the massive size of the wound Bullseye had given him. He then lay back on the bed, and started to process what had happened to him so far this night. Finding the silence to deafening, he put on the television on text service, listening to the quiet musak that filled the room, and somehow relaxed him a little. So somebody was trying to have Markus killed, with total overkill. Markus, who had just carried out a number of assassinations as part of a black-op program, presumably run by the German Government. Markus was probably getting “cleaned”, disposed of because he was the final link to the victims of the assassination spree. Maverick shows up, turns out to be Markus father, and is promptly killed himself. Bullseye, probably Mavericks killer, shows up, and then tries to take out Markus, Ilyana & me…. Ilyana….

There was something strange going on with Illyana. He had heard about the encounter the students at Xavier’s had had with her when was in space. His old girlfriend and former ruler of Limbo had been involved. Kurt thought about asking her about the new Illyana, but Amanda Sefton had dropped completely of the map. Back to Illyana. She was supposed to be a soulless creature, based on the memories of Belasco. Yet, she seemed soulful enough, not hollow at all. She was more frightening then usual, but she seemed more like a slightly twisted version of her previous adult self, rather than a demon. And then there was the strange way she seemed to be toying with him, coming on to him. What was that about? Even more frightening to Kurt, why was he so attracted to her? What was the connection? The more Kurt asked himself these questions, the harder he found it to concentrate? In fact, his concentration had been of ever since he met Illyana. His head was splitting, and he felt his stomach turn. There was something very wrong here, very wrong. As hard as he could, he kept trying to concentrate on Illyana, her behavior and his attraction to her. He felt a burning pain rise in his chest, as if his heart was about to explode. Kurt screamed his lungs out, refusing to let go of the thoughts about Illyana, and then, when the pain had become too much to bare, he passed out. On top of his chest was Illyana’s Soulsword.

********

Markus was not an overtly religious man. He had been raised a Catholic, but never went to church, and never prayed. Nevertheless, when he mouthed the words “God, help me.” upon arriving in Limbo with Illyana, he meant them. The air was thick with smoke, the landscape was glowing red all around him, the heat of flames coming from the sparse growth singed his skin and the screams of unimaginable creatures were all he heard. He froze for a second, but Illyana slapped him in the face to snap him out of it. Startled, and shaking his head while coming to his senses, he looked upon Illyana, now fully demonic. The horns were there, but so were goat like hooves, a long tail and a forked tongue. Her eyes were completely black, yet a red glitter of malevolence made her even more frightening. Illyana saw how completely in awe Markus was of her home dimension, and quickly grabbed his hands.

“It’s me, Markus! It’s still me! I’m me, Illyana! Keep it together!”

“Right, yeah…. Okay… Okay, I’m there… Oh God!” closing his eyes and bending down on his knees.

“I know… It’s worse than it ever was… Just.. Just try to say focused. We have a job to do here! The quicker we do it, the quicker we get out… Don’t freak out… We’ll get it done… Just… Just stay with me, listen to me. I’ll cast the spell, we’ll contact Maverick, and then we leave, okay? Can you do that?” Illyana said, trying to sound as comforting as she could.

“Okay… Okay, do it!” Markus said, still on the verge of hyperventilating, but standing up nonetheless.

“That’s it! Now, hold out your hand… This WILL hurt!” Ilyana said, as she took out a thin dagger from her belt. Markus did what she asked; expecting to get cut, and Illyana shoved the dagger through the palm of his hand. Markus clenched his jaw, but did not utter a sound

“Very good…” she whispered at Markus; as she took the dagger out and grabbed his hand with her own bloodied hand that she had drenched in Mavericks blood. She fixed her stair on Markus, and although there was nothing reassuring about Illyana’s appearance at this time, he did feel less afraid. Illyana pulled Markus with her, and they stood with both their hands through the pentagram of floating blood Ilyana had created earlier. She spoke a few words, that sounded more like guttural curses than words in Markus’ ears, and then a blue light erupted from the Pentagram. That was the last thing Markus saw before everything faded to black.

**********

The SHIELD Helicarrier had reached European airspace, flying in over Ireland. Stark had left Maria Hill in charge, as other business had called him away. Repairs were almost finished on the ship, and the bodies of all the fallen had been gathered in the gymnasium. Maria Hill was in constant communication with the governments of the lands the ship would pass over on its way to Poland. The Irish and British had been fairly easy to contact and persuade, but the Dutch had made problems due to violation of environmental laws. Maria Hill was now in the process of contacting the Belgian authorities, which proved next to impossible. When an alarm went have, she did not mind at all responding. She ran out of her office, and grabbed the first agent she saw, while frantically yelling into her headset for a situation report, while accessing a schematic on her portable viewer.

“This is Hill to all personnel. We have a security breach in the sleeping quarters! All security to proceed directly to compromised area’s C-45-46-47-48.”

“Who’s in there, Sir?” the agent running with her asked.

“Your mother, now run!” Maria Hill screamed, while accessing the information about the occupants of that level. She was stunned at the revelation that any and all medical personnel were holed up in those quarters.

Running through the helicarrier, Maria Hill soon joined up with several other units of armed men and women, but couldn’t get through the doors that closed of the living quarters from the rest of the ship.

“I want to know who the hell as closed me out of a portion of my own ship!” she yelled at a technical support operative that had joined her. The man tried several things on his laptop, and was then surprised at the answer.

“Sir… It’s sealed at the highest level of clearance!”

“What do you mean?” Hill asked

“Well, at the level of you, Director Stark, and Fury!”

“Fury? What does he want now? Whatever, break down this door!” Hill ordered, and two agents set the explosive to break the door down. Maria could hardly believe that former director Nick Fury had anything to do with an attack on SHIELD, no matter how much he wanted to distance himself from the organization he all but personified. Cautiously, Maria Hill entered with the units of agents. She quickly ordered the agents to search the era, and when they reported back everything was clear: all the medical personnel that had been on duty today had been killed. Moreover, a trail of destruction lead through corridors to the medical bay, where a complete massacre had also taken place. Maria Hill followed her agents into the medical bay to survey the damage, and everywhere she came the damage was unbelievable. Bodies had been blown away, limbs had been torn, and people had been brutally murdered. “No way Fury is to blame for this!” Maria spoke softly to herself. She recognized the blast patterns and effect the weapons used on the bodies of those slain. She would have recognized it anywhere. A technical support agent came up to her:

“Commander Hill, there is something very unusu…”

“I know! I see it. Get Stark on the line! He has to come here to see how the helicarrier was assaulted once more, by someone using Iron Man repulsors!”