————— The Wreckage —————
Flames leapt skyward from the wreckage of the Blackbird that minutes ago had been piloted by Dr. Hank McCoy, the X-Man known as Beast. The debris from the destroyed jet was lying scattered across a large span of lawn near the east wall of the estate. Large chunks were still intact, including the front end of it. It was toward this that two figures were running toward.
“Colossus lift this sheet out of the way, I’ll go in and see if I can help” said Shadowcat as she phased through a large sheet of jet hull that was lying across a jagged hole that had been torn into the side of the cockpit.
She stepped through the metal like it was air. She half wanted to close her eyes afraid of what she would find there. She stared around the busted remains of the jet. The glass windshield was completely gone, bits of the safety glass sprinkled around the ground she was walking across. She heard a grating noise behind her as her partner, the metallic mutant; Colossus used his enhanced strength to remove the blockage she had phased through. He stepped through, his size making the small space seem crowded. Despite the situation that had them both here she couldn’t help a small smirk flit across her face at Piotr’s appearance. After having his costume completely burnt away a while ago during a sentinel attack Kitty has phased pieces of her jacket together to make a crude pair of shorts. The just about helped him retain his dignity, she may not have minded him strolling around naked, but it just wasn’t professional during a sentinel attack.
“Well, is there … anyone here?” he asked lamely.
“Don’t know, haven’t looked” she replied, making it too obvious that she wanted him with her in case she did find anyone. She did not think she could deal with finding a body in here. She had already seen too many horrific deaths today to last a lifetime. Many lifetimes in fact, she thought bitterly.
They walked forward, her hand subconsciously seeking out his. Kitty’s gaze was drawn to the lead pilot’s seat. If someone had been on board when the jet was shot down, they would have been sitting there. She let out a little gasp as she saw that in fact there was someone there. The muted light was making it hard to make it out exactly who it was. She could see it was someone big, she could also unfortunately see that whoever it was was not moving. She looked up at Piotr’s face and watched as he set his jaw, and strode determinedly toward the chair, preparing himself for the worst.
It wasn’t enough.
As he reached the chair, the shock of its occupant’s identity was so overwhelming; he reverted back into his human form. Kitty ran forward as Piotr stepped back. She looked at what he was staring aghast at. There sat Beast, slumped in the chair still held in by the safety straps. His head lolled to one side, a small trickle of blood had dried on the side of his face. All over his body were horrific burns, very little of his characteristic blue fur remained.
Trembling Kitty reached out and placed her fingertips to his blistered neck checking for a pulse.
With tears streaming down her face she put her ear near to his mouth to check for breathing.
“Oh Petey!” she sobbed, “He’s dead”. She slumped to the floor as she heard the words she had just spoken. Hank McCoy was dead. The concept of this seemed incomprehensible. How could he be dead, he was Hank McCoy. He was an X-Man, her friend and one time mentor. Now all she could see was a charred husk of the mutant she had loved to hug, of the man who she had always been able to confide in. The idea was preposterous. She looked up at Pete; he was still staring at Beast, transfixed. She reached up and put her palms on his chest.
He woke from his shock. But he still could not stop looking at the corpse of one of his best friends. He put his arms around Kitty, aware that he should somehow be trying to comfort her, but unable to voice anything at the minute. She leaned into the embrace, and sobbed into his chest. He robotically stroked her hair, still unbearably entranced. He tore his eyes away, desperately trying to recall Beast in better times; he did not want his lasting mental image of this great man to be the one he had just witnessed. He lowered his forehead to Kitty’s shoulders, silently letting tears roll down his cheeks as his grief finally kicked in. Then he heard Kitty let out a small gasp, and she stepped back, pointing to the side of the wrecked cockpit.
Colossus turned to look at where she was pointing. Another chair seemed to be occupied near the weapons controls. Beast had had a co-pilot. Someone else was dead.
Silently they walked over to the chair. As with Beast the body was still strapped into the chair, slumped over and charred. Kitty did the same checks she had with Beast but couldn’t identify who it was. Colossus pointed to a non-charred piece of skin. It was dark and there seemed to be silvery, white marking forming patterns on it.
“I think it was that Wakandan kid, one of Beast’s student squad” he stated.
“Oh God, not another one of the kids” moaned Kitty, fresh tears spilling down her face.
Gathering himself Colossus put his hand on her shoulder. “We should get back out there, there is nothing we can do here and we need to stop these soulless monstrosities from killing anymore of our friends”.
“You’re right” muttered Kitty, “I’ll go inform Scott, he’ll need to know. C’mon lets go”. They marched out of the wreckage, their eyes glinting with retribution and a determination to help put an end to this.
————— The Xavier Estate Grounds —————
The fighting was getting intense. Redneck was finding it hard keeping the sentinels at bay. He had been providing sideline help to his more powerful team members by fusing joints with his heating powers but aside from that he couldn’t really think of much else to do. He noticed that Masquerade felt the same. Even with Wolverine’s hardcore training and ninja stuff he had taught them there was not much that he and Karen could do to help.
“Now what should we do?” said a slightly out of breath Karen as she ran up to him. She had just shape-shifted her skin into a denser form with small blades protruding from her hands. Troy inwardly laughed; Wolverine had far too much effect on the team, now Karen was trying to sport claws like his. She reached him and briefly touched his shoulder, letting him know that she was ok.
That was paramount to Troy. As a member of Squadron X he was fine to be out in the thick of battle, he just worried that he and Karen had bitten off more than they could chew. He had spied Wolverine attempting to make his way toward them even though they had been told to stay behind. Did he really think that they would? Bit naive of him if he did. He will be so mad though, the young mutant thought.
He glanced around and saw that X-23 and Olympian were trashing some of the smaller sentinels that had swarmed out of the big ones not too long ago. See it was fine for them, she had a healing factor and he had strength and speed and some other stuff. He thought that Hisako was also fine with her armour and Amazon; well she was the size of a small high rise so she had things covered. What did he and Karen have as a guarantee, not a lot, some Kevlar armour in their uniforms, decent enough reflexes and mutant powers that might come through in a pinch. Ah well, you make the most of what God gives you, he thought.
“So what should we do?” restated Masquerade, re-morphing into her usual form.
“Don’t know babe” he replied, “doesn’t seem to be much we can do”.
“Yeah I know, I tried shifting into the form of one of the smaller ones but they must be reading body heat signatures and keep picking me out” she sighed, aggravated that her and her boyfriend were pretty much just picking up the pieces left behind from the others.
“I might just be able to solve that little dilemma” said Redneck smirking, “Morph into one of them again” he asked.
“Okay, but I don’t see what good…” started Karen.
“Do it, I have an idea”. He stepped back and watched as the girl he had crushed on for ages moved her flesh around her body into a near duplicate of the sentinels. The only things that she left unchanged were her eyes. He loved those eyes and she knew it, no matter what shape she took, she kept the eyes the same, just for him. It was their little thing, one of those things that mean everything to people in love.
He had spent ages mooning after the alluring girl from Canada, when she first arrived at the mansion. He had made his best mate Olympian come with him and follow her around and had gotten Hisako to find out all about her. He was obsessed. Eventually Amazon had gotten sick with his pining and told Wolverine that she thought they should get another team member, specifically Karen. They had rolled around laughing as Logan broke the news to them. The look on his face, according to Paul, was ‘freaking hilarious’.
He had been a mess then. Every time she spoke to him he got tongue-tied or said something ridiculously stupid. After about a week with her on the team, he had begun to think that she thought he was a drooling imbecile. The rest of the gang just milked the situation, getting as much enjoyment out of his embarrassment as possible.
Getting back to the matter at hand, he thought. Concentrating, he slightly raised the core temperature of Karen, her unique physiology adapting to the alteration. It wasn’t great but a cursory heat scan should show her signature to be similar enough to a sentinel that she could get close enough to do some damage. They set off in the direction of the nearest robot.
Karen approached the nearest small sentinel and felt a flutter as its scanner registered her proximity. It didn’t attack, Redneck’s plan had worked. She came up behind it and focused her thoughts. She had to be quick; once she trashed this one the others would know she was a fake. She would have to retreat fast. Morphing her arm into a slender blade she thrust it through the head of the robot, taking it out. As she did though, she had not noticed another one come up from behind. She spun around to make her getaway and collided with the robot. Taking a few steps back she was about to morph into something more battle ready when it raised its arms. A fine mist was sprayed from a nozzle in its wrist and into her face. She inhaled and a burning sensation swept down her throat. She went to move away and realised that she could not. The sentinel had paralysed her, so much that she could not even alter her shape.
Redneck yelled out as he saw the machine approach Karen as she dispatched the first one. He began running when he realised she wasn’t moving. The thing was going to kill her. He threw himself against the robot and managed to knock it back a few steps. Grabbing it either side of its head he poured his power into it and the metal it was made from began to melt.
Karen watched silently and motionlessly as her boyfriend tackled the sentinel that had paralysed her. He was melting its head and the robot was pretty much finished. Then out of the corner of her eye she spotted another one of the small ones land. It moved toward Troy. He was so engrossed with finishing off the one that had attacked her he had not noticed. She tried to scream, but no sound issued from her mouth. Her mind tried to force her body to move she had to save him. But all she could do was silently watch. Troy still had his hands in the melted sentinels head when he was shot down by the new one. She felt a tear running down her left cheek, the only thing on her body that was moving. She watched in a detached way as the same robot that had killed the man she loved approached her. She tried to close her eyes again but still couldn’t. The last thing Karen saw was the glowing yellow eyes of the sentinel as it raised it gauntlet to her head.
Wolverine let his animal take over. He let the red anger inside swell until he thought he would burst. He had just watched two of his students die. He was going to destroy every last one of these monstrosities and then find out who built them and make them suffer a fate worse than all the deaths he had seen here today.
Hacking and slicing he demolished the sentinel that had just shot his student Menagerie through the head. He body was still rigid and upright. He sniffed her and realised she had been paralysed first. His berserker increased.
Logan began lashing at anything that came within reach of his adamantium claws. He wasn’t even thinking about his moves anymore. It was all pure animal fury. There was no thought nor form to his actions. As long as he was cutting something, that was all that mattered at the minute.
Laura dispatched the sentinel she was fighting and looked to where she had just seen Redneck and Masquerade die. Wolverine was in full berserker rage mode. This was not good. While it was fine for him to get like this, it was not good if he was needed elsewhere on the battle field. She had to break him out of it. That meant getting dangerously close to a feral Logan, but if there was anyone who could withstand that, it was her.
Leaping in toward him she aimed a kick at his head. The next thing she knew was that he had her by the ankle and had slammed her into the ground. Instinctively she rolled backward and just missed his slashing claws. She kicked out with her leg sweeping Logan off his feet. She leapt up and dived toward him. In his rage he couldn’t manage to get out of the way. Using one claw she impaled his arm into the ground and with her other hand slammed two fingers into a nerve cluster in his neck. His body went rigid from the pressure. Holding her fingers there she used her legs to hold the rest of him down.
“Mr. Logan, James, you have to calm down”, she held his gaze, watching his eyes until she was sure that the rage had left him. She watched it fade from his eyes and kept him there a few seconds later.
“You can get off me now Laura”, she heard him say. She retracted her claw watching him wince as it withdrew through him, and then she stood up. She watched as he got to his feet and look around. “We will discuss your presence out here later, for now can the rest….” he faltered, thinking about the death of two of his students. “Can you four manage to get yourselves back into the mansion, the entrance is not far?”
“Yes sir” she replied. She felt shame burning through her. She had said she would not come out here. Now Redneck and Menagerie were dead. She suddenly felt extremely guilty. Looking up she saw that Wolverine had already raced off toward the Phoenix Memorial Statue to continue the fight. A fight he had asked them to stay out of.