********

When Alani woke up, she found herself sitting in between Abby and Clarice on a couch. Her hands were tied behind her back, and she had a strange collar around her neck. In front of them stood Selene, Kevin, the Black Lord and the Black Lady. Behind Selene was Rachel, chained to the wall in a crucified position.

“Ah, the girl is finally awake. It seems I will have to start my re-enactment without Miss Pryde” Selene said with an evil smile.

“What are you talking about, bitch?” Alani asked.

“Such eloquence. What does Emma teach them these days?” Selene said.

“What do you want with them, Selene?” Rachel said angrily, “Your grudge is with me!”

“Very well, I will explain” Selene said, and was then surprised by a knock on the door. The door swung open at once, and a man with long gray hair stepped into the room.

“Modred!” Selene said as she recognized the man who just put a small wooden hammer in his pocket.

“Thou recogniseth me. I am honored” Modred said and closed the door behind him.

“How dare you disturb me, Mystic? I should kill you for this!” Selene said.

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. If thou kills me, thou willst never find out what I have come her to discuss with thee, Queen” Modred said, totally unafraid and unimpressed.

“We will talk then, Mystic. For now, do not interfere!” Selene said, intrigued by the ancient Mystic.

“I would not dream of it, lady. I always enjoy a well-crafted corruption. Just pretend I am not even here” Modred said, and moved back.

“Now, back to the business at hand. My dear Rachel, what is it I always wanted of you?” Selene said, turning her attentions back to Rachel.

“Who knows what you want, crazy bitch? As long as you realize I will never give you anything!” Rachel answered defiantly, yet knowing she was powerless to stop Selene at this time.

“It was always my ambition to make you my disciple, Rachel, from the first time we met. Yet you rejected me, and with your formidable powers, even greater perhaps than mine, I was never able to coerce you. That changes today” Selene said.

“And how do you think to force me now? Both our psychic powers are equally inhibited. You have nothing to force me! Nothing!” Rachel said.

“I have your friends” Selene stated, and walked to stand with the Black Lord and Lady. She laid a hand on the Black Lord, and before the horrified eyes of all present, except Modred, she drained the man of every ounce of life-force he possessed. The empty suit of clothes of the lack Lord fell to the ground amid a pile of ashes.

“Your threats are empty, Selene. While you may have us in your clutches, you can’t force me to follow you!” Rachel shouted.

“I can make you promise to serve me. You will, unless you want me to do the same thing I just did to our host to your friends” Selene said.

“Fine. I promise. Now how are you going to make me keep that promise?” Rachel said.

“You mutants always underestimate the other forces at work in this world. I was a Queen and a Sorceress long before I discovered my mutant-powers. I can use magic to enforce your promise, so I can control you psychically later on. You’ll not be able to resist me, and the power of the Phoenix will serve me!” Selene said.

“I will fight you!” Rachel said, trying to sound more confident than she felt.

“No, you won’t. Now, do I have your promises, or do I have too kill one of your friends?” Selene asked.

*********
Down in the well-stocked wine-cellar of the Hellfire Club, Kitty was reminded of what had happened to the X-Men just before she joined them. The Hellfire Club had captured the X-Men, corrupted the Jean Grey Phoenix and only Wolverine was left to fight them. Kitty had to wonder at the similarity of this situation and the one she found herself in. With all the fellow X-Women having disappeared and herself getting attacked, she had to believe the others were captured, and possibly Rachel had been disabled in some other way. If anybody would try to corrupt Rachel it was Selene. She had tried before, and had almost succeeded. Jean’s love for Scott had saved the day back then, as had Wolverine’s going completely medieval on the Hellfire Club. What magic `get out of jail free’ card would the X-women have instead? And was she now supposed to take on Logan’s part? Kitty looked at her swords, and thought about how much of an influence Logan had been on her, for better or for worse.

When the door to the cellar opened, Kitty hid behind a barrel. Five men, outfitted in Kevlar body suits and faceless masks, walked down the stairs into the cellar. They were not just carrying clubs now, but also guns with silencers. Kitty considered her options. She would be able to take them all out, easily if she used the swords. The question was whether or not she wanted to use them. She had the ninja-training to kill them all without even getting touched herself, but that would turn her into something she wasn’t. Did she really need to become Wolverine to play his part? Why did so many decisions in life always come down to killing or not killing? Logan had thought her a lot, but would he even want her to become like him? Of course not, but did she have the right to make a moral decision, taking the chance that she might not be able to save her friends? Plagued by doubt, Kitty forced herself to focus, as the hired security thugs closed on her position.

“I have to stay true to myself” Kitty told herself, and jumped out of hiding, wielding her swords. She did something she rarely did, and let her ninja-training take over. There were two notable exceptions, however. First she held on the realization that not every strike she didn’t block would hit her, because of her phasing power. Second, she restrained herself, and limited her offensive to non-killing blows with her swords. The next few minutes were a blur to all combatants. Kitty was like a ghost, passing through objects, phasing through bullets. Her opponents were not like the two guys who had assaulted her earlier, but better trained, more ruthless and using a variety of mixed martial arts. Kitty slashed at legs and hands with her words, using the handle of her swords to knock out teeth. However adept Kitty was at phasing during combat, she had to solidify to make contact with her opponents, and a few times they managed to take advantage of that. She received blows with clubs, and a bullet barely grazed her left leg. In the end, Kitty’s experience, powers and training were too much for the five thugs. When the fight was over, Kitty stood with bloodied swords over the unconscious and wounded security guards. She studied her fallen opponents, and saw that they were all alive and that none of them were mortally wounded.

“Yeah, Logan… I guess I’m also the best there is at what I do” Kitty whispered to herself, “but what I do… is pretty okay, I guess”

Determined not to waste any more time, Kitty headed up the stairs out of the cellar, ready to go out and save her team.

*******

“You’re one crazy, sick, shriveled old hag, you know that, right?” Clarice said to Selene.

“Just for that I’ll kill you last, pink freak!” Selene said, looking at Rachel as she moved her hands over the heads of the three captured and incapacitated X-women. Clarice glared angrily at Selene and Abby tried her best to hide her fear. Alani however had a different look, one of concern.

“Stop Selene! I’ll do it! I’ll serve you!” Rachel shouted.

“Ah, you say it, but I don’t believe you. The magic knows” Selene said.

“The lady is right, fair Rachel. Magic doth not lie” Modred put in.

“Shut your mouth, Mystic. This is my moment, and mine alone! Now, Rachel, perhaps you need a little more convincing. Which of them shall I take?” Selene said, smiling at Rachel.

“Please, Selene, there is no need!” Kevin interrupted all of a sudden.

Selene turned around to face her protégée. She lowered her hands, and gave him the warmest smile she was capable of.

“Dear boy, this is the lesson I sought to teach you. A threat is only as good as your willingness to back it up. Now, I might persuade Rachel to give herself over to me without any more violence, but that would leave room for doubt. She has to know, to see what I’m willing to do to force her decision, or she will never be mine completely. Do you see now, Kevin?” Selene spoke condescendingly to her companion.

“But… You already killed the Black Lord!” Kevin blurted out.
“That served another purpose entirely, boy. That was me demonstrating my power and repaying the Black Lady for her work in setting up this re-enactment for me. But I sense that you need to learn your lesson more thoroughly as well. Tell me, do you like this girl Alani?” Selene asked.

“I… I… No… No, she means nothing to me!” Kevin said.

“My boy, you are a terrible liar! I could have let you have her. I could have made her your willing slave, to do with as you please. With enough magic, who knows what pleasures she could have shown you. But alas, an example needs to be made” Selene said.

“No, please!” Kevin cried, as Selene moved toward Alani, and stretched out her hand.

“Selene! Don’t do this! I’ll serve you! Please!” Rachel shouted, pulling at her bonds.

“Yes, you will” Selene said, looking at Rachel and Kevin, “Both of you!”

“Please don’t… “Alani said with a whimpering voice.

“Hush, child. This will all be over soon” Selene said, and put both her hands to the sides of Alani’s head. She closed her eyes, and began draining Alani’s life-force.

“It’s over now!”Alani said, as Selene’s hands passed into Alani’s head. Selene screamed at withdrew her hands, little more than stumps dripping molecular matter. Alani got up as her clothes and inhibitor collar melted of her body.

“Look what you made me do!” Alani said, and stretched out her hands to Selene.

“Time for me to interfere!” Modred said, and pulled a small globe from his pocket which he threw on the floor where it shattered. A mist rose throughout the chamber, and everybody stopped moving, except for Modred and Selene.

********
When Kitty ran into the ballroom in her torn dress carrying a pair of bloody swords, she got a mixed reaction from the party-guests. Some moved out of the way, some looked frightened, and one man even called “Look! The entertainment has arrived!” Kitty paid no attention to them, heading straight for the stairway that lead to the second floor from the ballroom. She phased through everybody who did not get out of her way, drawing gasps and screams and even some applause. The varied noises turned to just screams when a group of Hellfire guards in masks ran into the ballroom and started shooting at Kitty. Kitty ran up the stairs, and the guards came after her.

The stairway ended up in a dressing room with one door leading out. Kitty ran through it, and ended up in corridor on the second floor. To both sides of her were rows of doors, and Kitty considered her options for a few seconds. Her options all disappeared when she heard the lock on the door behind her getting shot, and saw four more guards appearing at the end of the corridor. That was eight guards who were now chasing her, as Kitty ran down the other end of the corridor. Kitty considered fighting them, when she heard a scream coming from the end of the hallway she was running towards. She couldn’t place whose scream it could be. Was it Selene?

Kitty’s grazed leg slowed her down, and the guards were gaining on her. She did not have the time to fight all eight of them, nor was sure she’d win again, without resorting to killing them with her blades. She stopped, turned around and decided to try something else. Crouching, she touched both her hands to the floor, and concentrated. Then the entire floor phased over the length of the corridor. All eight guards that were chasing her dropped through the floor that had suddenly become intangible beneath their feet, and disappeared from sight, as did all the small tables and chairs that decorated the long corridor. Kitty ceased concentrating, and the floor became solid again. She picked up her swords and headed for the room at the end of the hallway, ready for anything she might find.

*******
Selene, still screaming from losing both her hands to Alani’s powers, Modred and Rachel, still chained up, found themselves in a small blue-glowing circle, surrounded by mists.

‘What did you do?” Rachel shouted at Modred.

“Nothing, really, my Lady. I merely stopped time for a moment, allowing us to move between the seconds” Modred said.

“What are you doing? What do you want?” Rachel said, barely making herself heard over Selene’s screams.

“Thou needst not concern thyself with that, my lady. My concern is only with Selene this day” Modred answered, as he looked at the evil witch as she lay screaming on the floor.

“Perhaps, a little aid is required, for she is no use to me otherwise” Modred spoke softly. He pulled a vial from his pocket, and uncorked it. From it, he let four drops fall on Selene’s mouth, and she stopped screaming.

“What is this, Mystic?” Selene growled as she recovered. Her hands started to reform, but at the same time her appearance grew old and haggard.

“Methinks thou should consider more carefully the tribal magic’s surrounding the child that seemed a mere pawn to thee, Lady Selene. Or perhaps I should call thee Vammatar, as it seems more appropriate this evening?”

“I have not been called that for millennia, Mystic! Now, speak your purpose or end this spell!” Selene said.

“Very well, Vammatar. What wouldst thee tell me about this?” Modred said, and handed her the Journal of Friedrich von Paulus. Selene took it, and paged through it, then handed it back.

“What is this nonsense? It tells of my death at the hands of a foe I do not know, and of people dying I know to be alive today! Why show me this?” Selene said in an agitated tone.

“I had hoped that it would rekindle thy memory of a time that wasn’t and a time that saw thee hold certain Iron Bound Books, Vammatar” Modred said, looking disappointed.

“I have not seen those cursed books for millennia, nor would I consider ever using them again!” Selene spoke, a hint of fear in her voice.

“Curious” Modred said with some dismay, “I was certain thy involvement would lead me onward on mine quest. Unless….”

Modred took his compass out of his pocket, and stood between Selene and Rachel. The arrow spun around, glowing a fiery red, and then pointed squarely at Rachel.

“Ah, I see I was mistaken!” Modred said, and turned to face the dazed Rachel who had been in a trance-like state since the beginning of Modred’s spell.

“Leave her, Mystic! She’s mine!” Selene shouted.

“It wouldst serve the well to remember that what I granted through magic can easily be taken away, Vammatar! Shut thy mouth or loose thy hands!” Modred said, as he put his compass away, “I sense the powers over time within thee, fair Rachel. Art thou the key to unlocking a past that no longer exists?” Modred took out the journal once more, and the hourglass he had used as he confronted Sublime earlier. Rachel woke from her trance, and look at Modred with confusion. Then the Mystic touched the book to Rachel’s brow, and the results were spectacular.

All the lights in the building went out, and Modred’s time spell ended. Anything electric in the building exploded showering the building in sparks and setting fire to certain rooms, such as the one the captured X-Women were in. The hourglass exploded in Modred’s hands, as he cried “Yes!!!! Yes!!!!!!!”

Kitty burst into the room as all hell broke loose. She noticed the inhibitor collars on Abby and Clarice at once and phased through them. The collars fell of instantly, and the X-Women got to their feet. Kitty then jumped at Modred, who was still touching his Journal to the bound Rachel, but fell back as she touched Modred. A sheen of white energy covered Rachel and Modred, as the last one cackled maniacally.

Selene was the first to notice that the psychic inhibitor had also ceased to function. As Alani came at her, she conjured a fist from the floor that grabbed her. Alani disintegrated in instantly, and Abby sent a cloud of smoke into Selene’s face. The Black Lady pulled out a gun and started shooting, until Clarice knocked her out. Kitty recovered and the four X-Women stood together against Selene.

Suddenly a bright light filled the room, blinding everyone momentarily. The light came from Modred and Rachel, and Kitty saw through squinted eyes how Modred stabbed Rachel with a knife. She tried to pull Modred away from Rachel again, but was forcefully repelled. Selene took advantage of the confusion, and turned to smoke. She settled on Alani first, who fell down coughing. As she reformed, Selene had the appearance of an old crone. Abby was next as Selene threw everything in the room at her with a gesture. That left Clarice, or so Selene thought. The two faced of, and Selene spread out her hands menacingly in Clarice’s direction.

“Stand!” was the mental command Selene gave Clarice, who suddenly found herself unable to move.

“Oh, crap!” Clarice said.

“I’m about to drain you dry, pink freak, and those are the last words you can muster?” Selene asked, a horrid smile on her shriveled face.

“Actually, I was reading your mind, old fossil!” Clarice said.

At that moment a broken piece of a chair crashed into Selene’s skull. Bleeding and dazed, Selene turned around and saw Kevin Ford standing there holding the make-shift weapon.

“You! You’ll pay for this, stupid boy!” Selene shouted, as Clarice wrestled free of Selene’s domination.

“Do shut up!” Clarice said as she kicked Selene in the face, throwing her cross the room.

“You’ll all die!” Selene said, as she turned to smoke and vanished. The objects surrounding Abby dropped to the floor, and the smoke around Alani disappeared. Kevin ran toward Alani, but dared not touch her. Clarice went to look after Abby, and all looked up at Modred & Rachel, who were still covered in a blaze of white energy.

“I can’t get through!” Kitty shouted at the others.

“Well, what do you propose we do? Teleport her out?” Clarice asked frantically.

“Worth a shot!” Kitty said, and Clarice threw a candle she had imbued with her teleporting power at Rachel. The candle disappeared as soon as it hit the barrier.

“Damned magic! I hate magic!” Clarice yelled.

“Don’t we have something magical we can hit that barrier with?” Abby asked.

‘Well, whatever we do, we better do it fast!” Clarice said, “Rachel isn’t looking so good!” Through the haze of energy, they saw Rachel’s face turn older, and markings appeared on her face, like black stripes starting from the center of her face.

“Oh no!” Kitty said, realizing its significance, “We need something to break this spell fast!”

“Alright. Here goes” Alani said, and jumped at the barrier. A burst of energy filled the room, knocking everybody to the floor. Alani was thrown across the room, and both Modred and Rachel screamed. The white light faded, and Kitty was the first to look up at Rachel. She saw how her face returned to normal, and the markings disappeared. Modred was nowhere to be seen.

“Ray! Ray! Talk to me Ray!” Kitty screamed at Rachel as she freed her from her bonds. She carefully caught her, and laid her down on the floor. She didn’t look as if anything was wrong with her, but after what Kitty knew Rachel just went through, she feared for her. All over the room people were getting up, except for the Black Lady who was still out cold. Abby and Clarice helped each other up, and Alani got up in the far corner of the room. Kevin stood beside her, and handed her his coat to cover herself. Alani took it, but said nothing to the former protégée of the Black Queen. Clarice scrambled to put out the fire in the room, teleporting the burning curtains to the street outside. Slowly, all except Kevin came to stand with Rachel.

“Ray! Wake up, Ray! Wake up! You’re my best friend, Ray! I can’t looe you!” Kitty screamed as tears rolled down her face. Everybody was silent as Kitty cried, and Clarice laid a hand on Kitty’s shoulder.

A soft moaning noise suddenly came from Rachel’s lips. As everybody looked on in amazement, Rachel opened her eyes. Kitty lifted Rachel up ad embraced her, as a sigh of relief went through the room.

“Ray! I’m so glad you’re okay!” Kitty said, “I thought I’d lost you!”

“It’s gone, Kitty… It’s all gone…” Rachel said softly.

“What do you mean, Ray?” Kitty asked.
“The Phoenix… What little I possessed of the Phoenix-force… It’s all gone… He took it….” Rachel answered.

The sound of police-sirens and the fire-brigade broke the tension in the room. Clarice looked outside, and saw fire hoses getting rolled out to put out the fire in the building. At the same time, police-men entered the building and tried to contain the hysteria outside where most of the party-guest had gathered.

“It’s time to get the hell out of here, people” Clarice said.

“Can you teleport us all home?” Abby asked Clarice.

“Yeah, sure. Gather around, girls” Clarice said and Alani and Abby moved in closer.

“What… What about me?” Kevin asked, looking sad and pathetic.

“You!” Alani said with an angry glare, “You can do whatever”

In a blink of the eye, the five women disappeared from view, leaving Kevin behind to ponder his mistakes.