***********

After an extremely wild ride, Dani, Sally and Traumfanger arrived at the ER of the Kreuzberg hospital. Dani and Sally quickly unloaded Sabra, and Traumfanger called for help. Two orderly’s appeared with a stretcher to haul Sabra inside. Traumfanger explained to them that Sabra had been shot several times, and that she also suffered severe neck trauma. The orderly’s took her inside at once, and all were grateful that they had not seen Omega Red wrapping one of his coils around Traumfangers arm.

“It seems Arkady wants me to remain close-by” Traumfanger said as he went back to the car. As soon as he sat down next to Omega Red again, the creature calmed down and released Traumfangers arm. Traumfanger caressed Red’s face and ran a hand through his hair, whereupon Red leaned his head into Traumfangers shoulder. The old man spoke softly, inaudibly to all but Omega Red.

“Okay, I’m getting completely weirded out by this. Omega Red is one of the most vicious, brutal killers in the world, and now he’s behaving like a little puppy.” Sally spoke in amazement.

Dani remained silent for a moment, taking in the surreal scene, and then spoke to Traumfanger: “Sir, we will speak of this, after we have taken care of Sabra. You seem to have some control over Omega Red, and for now that’s fine with me. When we get back, you have some explaining to do!”

Traumfanger nodded, but said nothing.

Annoyed, Dani turned to Sally: “Come on. We have to see what is going on with Sabra, and I think we have some explaining to do. They’ll probably alert the cops, and maybe your SHIELD badge can get us out of having to explain things we don’t even understand ourselves.”

With that, Dani and Sally went inside, leaving Traumfanger and Omega Red in the car in the parking lot.

“Dani, do you think we can trust Traumfanger? We barely met him, and you’re leaving him to look after one of the most dangerous creatures alive!” Sally asked as they walked up to the reception.

“I’m sure that Mr. Traumfanger has his own agenda in all this. We crashed into Germany, and it was like he was there waiting for us. I don’t know what his role in all this is, but Omega Red seems to be an important part of it. If we are to get any closer to figuring out what’s going on, we’ll have to stay close to the man. I’m certain about the fact that he seems to care for Omega Red, and he controls him. We stay with Omega Red, we stay with Traumfanger.”

As they came to the reception in the lobby, they were spotted by two police officers. Dani quickly whispered to Sally to let her handle it first, and then to step in flashing the badge when things got out of hand. Sally nodded in agreement.

“Ladies? Are you the ones that brought in the gunshot victim just now at the emergency center?” one of the officers asked.

“Yes, we are. We found her lying in the street. How is she doing?” Dani asked back.

“Where did you find her?” the other officer asked.

“A few blocks away. We’re American, and I don’t know the city that well” Dani answered.

“What are you doing here? Tourists?”

“That’s right… We’re tourists…”

Sally could tell that Dani wasn’t doing to good, but let it go for now. She saw Dani shift uncomfortably. The officers had seen it, too.

“Can I see some identification, please?” one of them asked. Time for Sally to step in.

“Here’s mine, you don’t need hers” Sally said, and took out her SHIELD badge. The two officers were taken aback a little by the badge, which Sally found comforting. Dani breathed a sigh of relief.

“Okay then, Agent… Blevins… Does this have anything to with the shootings earlier this night?”

“Shootings? What shootings?”Dani asked.

“A café was shot up earlier this evening, by a group of terrorists. They killed 23 people, and injured another 11. Then, a fight near a hotel broke out between costumed people like you… companion you brought in, and that also turned into a shooting. There were reports a few minutes ago of massive amounts of gunshots fired over at the warehouse district.” One of the officers answered.

Dani and Sally were both stunned. Dani recovered first, and answered: “We can neither deny nor confirm that.”

A moment of silence followed, and one of the officers started speaking to his companion in German. Both Sally and Dani tried to listen in, but they couldn’t understand a thing.

“I’ll have to take this up with my superior” one of the officers said, and left.

“We’ll be here,” Dani answered, trying to sound unimpressed. She headed for the reception desk, and asked about Sabra, but was told that there was no information available yet. Sally and Dani went to sit in the lobby, while the police officer that had remained behind stood near the reception desk, not letting them out of his sight.

“Well, that didn’t last long” Dani said with a wry smile.

“Yeah, they’re really gonna believe we’re tourists when we both show up looking like a trainwreck. Man, my whole body hurts from that fight!” Sally said

“For now, I think we’d best go along with those policemen. Maybe we’ll find out if all the other incidents are connected.”

“I thought the same thing. That superior of them may tell us what we need to know, like what costumed guys were fighting each other,” Sally said

“If he doesn’t want to tell you, you can try taking of the jacket!” Dani suggested with a wicked grin.

“Oh right! That’ll do it! Hi officer, wanna stare at my boobs? I’m a bit black and blue right now, but normally I’m really sexy!” Sally answered in a mock Marilynn Monroe voice.

“And you’re blond, too! That should work!” Dani added smiling

“Not a big draw here, chief. Look around, most of the staff here is blond!” Sally said pointing at three nurses who were all blondes.

“Ever the outcast! Seriously though, I have to try and talk to Sabra. She seemed to know more then we do about the situation at the warehouse, and…. And I need to know about my powers. She touched me, and then something happened to me. I took Omega Red down with a psychic arrow…. And I’m sensing things around me once more… The way I used to…”

“She gave you your powers back? But how? Oh Dani, that’s great! I’m so happy for you!” Sally said in too loud a voice and hugged Dani.

“Shhhhh…. Keep it down. Right now we’re the only ones who know this. It may be an ace in the hole we can use later. I have a feeling that there will be more fighting tonight, before this thing is through.”

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

Vazhin was sitting in front of his huge viewing screen, taking in images of Sabra as doctors were working on her. He had already dispatched several operatives to Kreuzberg hospital to keep an eye on things, and Zero had brought another two powered operatives, designated Cold Boy and Gun Boy. It had displeased him that they were the only operatives he had been able to find at such short notice. Together with Old Boy, who was itching for a rematch, and Sick Boy, who had eagerly agreed to the meet at the Hospital, they would have to do to get Omega Red and to eliminate Moonstar and Skids. When he received an incoming transmission, he sent away the three operatives still working to install various forms of hardware in his new command center.

“Yes?” he answered the call.

“I thought I’d let you know that the mission on the helicarrier was a complete success. Everyone who worked at Omega Red at SHIELD is dead, every shred of information they have gathered has been destroyed, as well as all hardcopy and any and all samples.”

“That’s great!” Vazhin said, actually happy.

“Well, you now what they say. You want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” The voice on the other end said.

“I suppose so. Were you seen?”

“No, but Stark is not an idiot. He’ll recognize the weaponry I used. It’s going to drive him insane trying to find out how he can’t spot me at all, and how I gained entrance. Did you now he has his hip headed for Russia? He’s certain the Russians are behind today’s attack.”

“Hmmm. I really don’t want him here for the big fight. There’s more than enough costumes here anyway.”

“You need help? If you have Zero on line, I could sent a few subjects from the Amsterdam Lab”

“I don’t think a bunch of MGH-enhanced test-subjects are gong to make much of a difference” Vazhin said.

“I’m not talking about subject enhanced with only MGH. I’ve been meaning to field-test some other subjects, too. Tell me, have you ever heard of a drug called Kick?”

“The mutant-enhancer? Are you serious? What have you got?” Vazhin asked excitedly.

“Three subjects, all enhanced with MGH and Kick,” the voice said in a proud tone.

“I think Zero has enough power for one more trip,” Vazhin said smiling, “For the Balance”

“As always!” the voice said, ending the conversation.

***********

Nightcrawler awoke from his unconsciousness as he felt a cold hard object touch his skin. He opened his eyes without moving, and stared in the face of John Greycrow, the assassin and former Marauder known as Scalphunter. He was wearing his gray body armor, and held a rifle to Kurt’s hand with one hand, and in his other hand he held Illyana’s Soulsword. “Tell me, Nightcrawler. Are you right with God?” Greycrow asked him.

Kurt didn’t answer, to stunned by the sight of the Soulsword and the appearance of the old X-Men foe. He wanted to let Greycrow talk, while he figured out what the best course of action was. He cursed himself for allowing him to live when he confronted Scalphunter a few months back. The cross the assassin wore around his neck seemed to indicate Nightcrawler had been correct, yet his gun told a different story.

“Don’t think about teleporting. I will have shot you before I smell even the slightest whiff of brimstone…” Scalphunter threatened.

“What do you want?” Nightcrawler tried stalling him.

“Right now I want this!” Scalphunter answered brandishing Illyana’s sword, “But I would also like you to answer my question: Are you right with God?”

“Is this a new thing with you? Talking about religion before you kill? Are you Samuel Jackson now? I gave you a chance, but it seemed I was mistaken.” Kurt said defiantly. It made him a little sad, actually, as he had truly hoped Scalphunter would try to reform.

“Ha! No, I am actually serious, you know! You see, I thought about our conversation. I am not right with God, but I must remain true to myself. What I am is a killer. I must be what I am, do you understand? It’s the only way things can ever be right for me.”

“You lack the courage to change, and blame it on God!” Nightcrawler said, trying to understand the Soulsword presence.

“No, YOU lack the courage to go with your nature! But that’s fine. You see, I think you are not right with God. You try, but you fail. You are a monster, like me, and you deny it. That’s why I’ll let you of the hook. Don’t try to follow me. I’ll kill you. This makes us even.”

“What do you need the sword for?” Nightcrawler called as Scalphunter started to leave the hotel room.

“Nothing! I just like it, so I’ll take it. You better concern yourself with getting out alive. I was hired to kill you, and I didn’t! From now on, all the bets are of, X-Man!” Scalphunter said, leaving the gun with his gun on Kurt until the door closed behind him.

As soon as the door had closed, Nightcrawler picked up the phone, and called an international number.

“Hank”

“Hank, it’s Kurt! Listen, I need you to pick up a trace-signal for me, in Berlin!”

“Which one?” Hank McCoy, AKA the Beast of the X-Men asked.

“Scalphunter’s. He actually threatened me with a gun, and warned me not to follow, after trying to strike up a conversation about me being a monster like him. Then he left me. I don’t know why people like Greycrow always mistake my faith for a weakness. Did he really think I would just let him be, without making sure I could find him anywhere in the world using a sub dermal GPS?”

“Those Marauders were never very smart. Deadly, but severely lacking in gray matter so to speak. Hardly any substance to them, really. Wait a second while I try to pick up the signal. Are you on the move”

“No, sitting at a phone in a hotel room. I’ll wait until he’s stopped moving to start following him.”

During the silence that followed, Kurt’s thoughts returned to Illyana. Her sword had manifested from his body. He knew that was where Amanda had stored it, but somehow any and all coherent thought concerning Illyana had been next to impossible for him, as long as the Sword was inside him. The sword was more than a weapon; it was in a way a manifestation of Illyana’s soul. Illyana’ sudden feelings for him seemed to make sense, as well as his feelings towards her: the sword sought to bring them together. “Maybe I can save Illyana yet!” Kurt thought.

***********

Markus came to, lying on his side on a concrete surface, facing a pool of vomit. He looked around and saw it was night, and then noticed he was probably on the roof of a building. He looked over the edge of the roof, and he recognized where he was. Back in Berlin, near the Alexanderplatz. He spit a few a times, to loose the awful taste in his mouth, concluding the vomit was probably his own. Then he finally noticed he was not alone; leaning on a chimney was Illyana. She was back to her less demonic state, that of a beautiful young woman sporting a pair of horns jutting from her forehead. She was just finishing wrapping the arm that Bullseye had injured in red cloth, when she noticed Markus was back to his feet.

“We’re back? What happened?” Markus asked, still reeling from his experience in visiting Limbo.

“I cast the spell, and returned us here. The spell was successful.” Illyana told him, not seeming very interested.

“Why can’t I remember anything? I thought you would channel Maverick… my father… through me!” Markus wanted to know.

“I did. I performed the spell so that you would not be awake for it.”

“Why?”

“Because some things should be left to the soulless….” Illyana answered in a bitter voice. Markus looked at her for a moment, and noticed that she had in all likelihood had been crying. He couldn’t get a handle on this girl. She was shifting through emotions like a manic person. She could be funny, charming, sensual, scary, and now sad and bitter.

He tried to reach out his hand to her, but Ilyana flinched as soon as he touched her.

“The spell took a toll, and I’m regaining my strength. The thing I’m looking for has manifested, and I have to go after it, right now. Will you help?” Ilyana asked Markus.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Kurt?” Markus said, noticing how Ilyana seemed to recover, and not wanting to let Kurt, the one he trusted in this, behind.

“We can’t wait! I feel it now! I can sense it! It’s close, and Kurt no longer matters! Are you coming or not?” Illyana shouted angrily, glowing with a red light and looking a lot more demonic again.

“All right, I’ll come with you! What are we looking for exactly?” Markus asked, trying to calm her down.

yana took Markus arm and looked him straight in the eyes, as she answered “My soul!”

**********

Iron Man landed on the deck of the helicarrier, and was greeted right away by a security detail. Maria Hill soon arrived on the scene to dismiss them, and Iron Man took of his helmet to reveal the worried face of Tony Stark.

“Sir, we have one hell of a breach,” the former SHIELD director said.

“That I heard. Now show me what you’ve got.” Stark answered.

Together they descended to the level at which the attacks had taken place. Tony Stark took it all in, trying to maintain a stoic façade. It didn’t fool Maria Hill, though. She had worked with Stark for a while now, and she knew the massive amount of casualties made him feel responsible and agitated. When she showed him the evidence of repulsors from his own armor, his jaw almost dropped.

“How is this possible?” he asked.

“We were kind of hoping you could tell us, Sir.” Maria answered. She usually enjoyed watching Stark squirm a little, but this was not one of those times. She still wasn’t convinced Stark was the right man to be Director of SHIELD, but she, too, felt responsible for the lives that were lost. Around them people were tending to the victims, and several of the aid workers were casting awkward stares in the direction of their director.

“I have a detailed report on the…” Hill started.

“I know. I read your report en route” Stark interrupted, and he put his helmet back on as he took a closer look at the repulsor damage. He remained in place as he let his armor do the analysis of the evidence, and after that he took of his helmet once more.

“These are mine,” he said stoically.

“Sir?” Hill asked with some concern.

“These are my repulsors. It’s my design, although it is a design that I haven’t used in years.”

“You mean an earlier, obsolete version of your repulsors did this? I cannot believe that!” Hill stated

“Oh, they’re not obsolete. They’re every bit as effective as the repulsors in my most current armor. The design itself is of an earlier model.”

Maria Hill did not want to get into a discussion of Iron Man technology, and changed the subject: “There’s more to it. Have you seen the footage, or lack of footage I should say?”

“Yes, en route. It looks like every bit of surveillance equipment shut down when this guy approached. I’m starting to see a pattern here, Hill.”

“Than I hope this last bit of Intel fits into that pattern. If you’ll follow me?” Hill said as they headed to the entry hatch of the level. A beautiful young woman had set up a computer-interface with the security access point.

“Agent Ayna Sareva, if I’m not mistaken” Stark greeted the tall blonde woman with his usual charm, causing Maria Hill to roll her eyes.

“Correct, sir. Now, I haven’t figured everything out yet, but the clearance code used to enter here was tres unusual. It’s a level of clearance only you and a select group possess” Any said.

“What are you suggesting, Miss Sareva?” Stark asked.

“I am not suggesting, I state facts, Sir. Now, if you please, the strangeness doesn’t end there. As you know, SHIELD clearance codes are constantly updated, and so was this one. I’ve discovered over 400 updates, dating back as far as….”

“The creation of SHIELD….” Stark said.

“Exactly. It looks like this is one of the initial codes created for SHIELD, created by… you, Sir!” Anya said.

“Fantastic. Another impossibility. Keep at it. I want to know who that clearance belongs to” Stark said, already turning to walk away. Maria Hill stepped in his path to tell him one last thing.

“On a somewhat brighter note, we have located the Vehicle Miss Moonstar and Agent Blevins flew into that vortex. It’s in Berlin, but you will not believe the level of carnage that has occurred there tonight!”

**********

Sally Blevins had been talking to the local police for quiet some time, when she came back into the lobby of the local Hospital. She had managed to get the lowdown on the shootings in Berlin, and had found out that Nightcrawler had been seen, in combat with Bullseye. She had also learned that a girl with an axe and horns had been spotted, reminding her of Magik, the New Mutant that had been regressed to childhood when she and her friends had joined that team way back when. Sally was surprised at her own talent to talk without actually saying anything, through the generous application of Dani’s “We can neither deny nor confirm that”-statement. Although she had willfully joined the spy-business herself, she felt Dani had much more of a talent in speaking to officials and making decisions. When she found Dani asleep in her chair in the lobby, she decided to let her rest for a few moments. Heading out to check on Traumfanger and Omega Red, she noticed that dawn was approaching, and it was very busy around the hospital. The nightshift was ending, and the dayshift was about to come on. When she came to their badly damaged vehicle, she heard Traumfanger whisper softly to Omega Red, and it seemed Omega Red was whispering, too. It sounded like Russian, but she couldn’t be sure. The conversation stopped as they noticed Sally.

“How’s Omega?”

“He’s fine…. Still resting…” Traumfanger answered, as Omega Red seemed to hide his face in the old man’s embrace, “No news from Sabra?”

“Nothing yet…. I’ll check when I get back… Traumfanger, aren’t you worried? ” Sally asked.

“I told you, I have nothing to fear from Arkady.” Traumfanger answered, giving her a reassuring smile.

“That’s not what I mean. I’m worried about getting attacked. The warehouse was an obvious ambush. We’ve been here for over two hours now, and whoever wants us or Omega Red, must have found us by now… Also, I think I stalled the police as long as I can by now, and pretty soon they’re going to connect some dots and demand answers I am not able to give them. We should start thinking about what we’re going to do next.”

Traumfanger nodded his approval: “What does Miss Moonstar think?”

“Haven’t asked yet. I’ll go talk to her now.”

“We’ll be here. At the first sign of danger, we’ll go inside” Traumfanger said.

Sally walked back to the reception desk, thinking about just how Traumfanger was going to hide Omega Red, as 7-feet mutants with chalk-white skin tended to attract attention. When she got to the lobby, Dani wasn’t there. Sally went to the desk to find out where she had gone, and heard that the woman they had brought in had been asking for Dani. At first, the attendant nurse would not let Sally go in after her, but flashing her SHIELD badge, Sally managed to persuade her. Once inside, she saw Dani sitting by Sabra’s bed, and accosted a nurse tending to the large amount of wounded in the emergency room.

“Excuse me, miss? How is she?”

“No good” the woman answered with a very strong accent, “Doctors operate and remove bullets, but damage too great. She is still bleeding and she has no more time.”

The answer shocked Sally a little. She knew like no other that heroes can die just as well as regular people, but being gunned down seemed so… ordinary. She quietly walked over to Dani, and stood silently, listening to them talking.

“Moonstar, you must be careful…. You’re involved in something dangerous….. The gunman wanted to kill you…. I was sent to get Omega Red” Sabra managed between labored breaths.

“It’s okay… Take it easy…” Dani tried, but Sabra wouldn’t listen

“No, you must hear this…. There is an organization…. Deeper than Mossad… CIA…SHIELD…KGB… They have existed for decades… They seek to stop others getting too powerful….. I sometimes worked for them… Tonight, Omega Red was the target…. They are dangerous… Committed… Never this open… Omega Red is important…”

“Okay now… You’ve told me, now rest,” Dani said sternly

“No… It’s over for me…. I can give power… to others… I will give you… All my power!” Sabra managed to get out, and then gripped Dani’s hand with both her hands. Her grip was like a vice, and Dani couldn’t get loose. Sally felt like she was nailed to the floor, and she saw a glow pass from Sabra to Dani, and then fade. Dani got her hand free, and the heart monitor Sabra was hooked up to gave a long continuous beep. Several nurses and a doctor ran towards Sabra and pushed Dani away. Dani was dazed, and almost stumbled before Sally caught her. Together they looked at the medics working on Sabra, but it was no use. She was dead.

Sally removed herself and Dani from the Emergency room as quickly as possible. In the chaos of the overcrowded room and the dayshift starting, nobody noticed them slipping out.

“Dani! Dani!! We have to get out of here. I need you here, now!” she yelled at Dani, who seemed to recover.

“I agree… I have a feeling that something is about to start here, and we can’t fight another bunch of those commando’s here in a hospital,” Dani said, straightening herself. As the two women made their way to the exit, two policemen blocked their path, guns drawn.

“Halt! Stay where you are. You are not leaving here” one of the officers said.

The busy area seemed to freeze, and everything went silent. All the people were looking at Dani and Sally, and time itself seemed to stop. Then a tall man got up all of a sudden, and took of his brimmed hat and overcoat. He had a huge axe in one hand, and a three-pronged-dagger in his other. The costume he wore was blue and white, and both of his boots had long spikes protruding from the tips.

“Well, lookie here, if it isn’t the two girls who need killing” Bullseye said gleefully.

“Sh%t! We’re too late!” Dani said, and Skids threw up her force field.