———————- Munitions Store ———————

-“Go on Kim, just turn to gas, seep through the joints, grab the guns and bring them out. God its not like I’m asking for a miracle” said Norman to his squad member. That earned him a dirty look from the pale girl he was talking to.

“Look we are going to need those guns if we are to stand any chance against the sentinels” he said.

“Or we could just stay here and leave the sentinels to those who know what they are doing. Like the X-Men perhaps?” said Melody rather sarcastically.

“I think she’s right Norman, we shouldn’t be doing this” agreed Jay.

“Oh, big surprise there, listen I’m leader of this squad and there are plenty of reasons to get out there and fight. Did you not see how many of those things there are? The X-Men will be over-whelmed” said Norman.

“Fine then, but if anyone gets hurt it’s on your head” said Jay.

“Blah, blah, blah” complained Paul, “just get the weapons and let’s go. Standing here doing this is worse than any number of sentinels”.

“Right, go ahead Ghost” ordered Norman. Kimberly closed her eyes and converted to her gaseous form. Swirling around a bit the rest of the Defenders watched as she seeped through the joints of the munitions store in the underground facilities of the mansion. They had done the same thing when checking to see why the alarms had sounded. She had gotten inside the observatory and opened the doors to let the rest in. After that Jay had used his hacking skills to bring up images of what was happening outside. He had been shocked to see the devastation and dismayed when sentinels had shown up on the scene.

Slowly the green gas that marked Ghost’s presence began to seep back out through the doors. Re-forming Kim was carrying an armful of plasma rifles and guns with armour piercing rounds. There were loops of ammo slung on her shoulders. Norman walked over and lifted one of the plasma rifles. He began fondling its handle and looking down its sights. Disgusted at his obvious delight at handling the weapon Jay grabbed it off him. “It’s not a toy Norman” he said.

Norman reached over and grabbed it back off Jay “Gee really I’d never have guessed. Ok team let’s get kitted up and move out”. Jay watched apprehensively as Avatar led the way to an elevator. He had a bad feeling that this was not going to end as optimistically as Avatar thought. Ignoring it for now and vowing to himself to keep his sister safe he grabbed a gun and followed.

———————- Mansion Side Entrance ———————–

Archangel swooped down low over the Xavier Memorial Gardens artfully dodging a set of small cluster grenades that had been launched at him from a nearby sentinel. He had been with his girlfriend Paige when the attack happened. He had been talking to her about his disappointment with Avatar as the young man had proven arrogant and abusive when given the trusted position of squadron leader. She had just asked about the progress of her two siblings when they had felt a large shock run through the building. Worrying about the squad he had just left and at Paige’s urging Warren had set off to find them and make sure they were Ok.

At least that was the plan before he had spotted the sentinels and had come under fire. He was heading to the armoury to get some decent fire power to battle the mutant hunting machines and was racing toward one of the side entrances to the mansion. Just as he was about to land he spotted something that made his blood boil. There was his squad marching out into the grounds bold as day. Furiously he banked his wings and flew down towards them.

“Defenders, Avatar what the hell do you think you are doing out here? Where on Earth did you get all those guns?” he yelled at the team leader as he alighted in front of him.

Momentarily stunned by his mentor’s anger Avatar couldn’t find his voice until eventually Icarus spoke up. “Archangel, we thought that since the place was swarming with sentinels that we could maybe provide some covering fire for ground bound X-Men. We appreciate the situation is dangerous but Avatar thought that we could stay well enough away from the main fighting and try to do some damage or distraction from the sidelines. The idea was to never get entangled but to sting them and run giving others the breathing space they need to disable them”.

Warren glared at the young mutant and then nodded to Avatar “Is this true Norman? Tell me you had no intention of directly engaging the sentinels”.

Avatar numbly nodded his agreement but still could not find the nerve in the face of this X-Man to raise his voice. Silently Warren decided that if they all made it through this that Icarus would be a wiser and smarter choice for the squadron’s leader. He quietly rebuked himself for ever placing so much trust with the spoiled young upstart in the first place.

“At the moment and because this is an emergency I’ll let you all stay as long as you do everything I tell you to exactly as I tell you. Is that understood?” A chorus of yes’ came back to him. “There will be no direct engagement with any of the sentinels. You are all to stay airborne and keep your flight patterns random and complicated. Sentinels are quite large and will find it difficult to track you if you appear to be all over the place. When you stop to shoot, shoot once then move, do not stand still for a long length of time. Now let’s go.”

Flapping his wings he heard the others lift off behind him. He decided to take these kids as far away from the fighting as he possibly could. He had given them the illusion they were going to help and he would let them think they were while at the same time getting them the hell out of here. Scanning the ground he spotted more students exiting the entrance to the Memorial Gardens. Squinting, he could make out that they were Emma Frost’s team the Hellions. He was about to send his lot on a bit and go order the Hellions to get back inside when he noticed a group of the robots land at the far corner of the mansion, right were they were heading. Feeling panicked he realised that they were going to have to fight their way through to get clear. Taking his weapon that he had grabbed off one of his students he opened fire on the nearest sentinel. Beside him Icarus and Nimbus did the same although with less accuracy. The sentinel began to falter under the barrage and then Warren saw Avatar screech past them toward the sentinel firing his own gun it. Warren yelled in rage at the boy to get back but he couldn’t be heard over all the noise.

Glory and respect, thought Norman as he swept past Nimbus and Archangel, firing his gun at a sentinel, that’s what I’ll teach them to show me. He had seen the look in Archangel’s eyes as Icarus had started spouting off about what they had been doing outside the mansion. He was going to be dropped, and that pansy Icarus was going to be made leader of the Defenders. That is unless he could prove to Warren that he was good enough to lead this team, and any idiot knows that a good leader leads the way. That was why he was heading closer to the sentinels. That and it would look awesome in everyone’s eyes. He swung in around the lead sentinels head blasting his plasma gun directly into its face. So intent was he on getting this first sentinel he had blinded himself to the real danger of the situation. He located the spot on the sentinel’s head where the CPU was apparently stored. Hovering only a few feet away from it he unleashed a barrage of plasma bolts directly at it and the sentinel began to fall.

Icarus watched Avatar as he destroyed the sentinel nearest to the team with a grimace. The stupid idiot had forgotten everything Archangel had told them. Quickly accessing the situation he realised that while Avatar was hovering in one spot obviously elated with his victory the other three sentinels had got a lock on him. Icarus took off screaming toward Avatar yelling “Avatar move, keep moving they have you”.

Norman spun to see what that idiot Icarus was yelling about when he felt a sharp pain in his back. He felt himself lurch in the air and he tried to beat his wings to keep him aloft. He nearly passed out with the pain from doing so. Glancing behind him he screamed when he saw that half of his right wing was missing. Going into shock he began to fall to the ground but was caught just in time by Icarus. They both hit the ground hard and rolled for a distance.

Icarus looked up from the crumpled heap he was laying in with the now unconscious Avatar. He saw that Archangel had flown toward them but also that he was not the only one. A sentinel was fast approaching where they had landed its gauntlet aimed at them. Just as it let loose a blast of energy Icarus felt himself and Avatar lifted into the air. He noticed the faint glow around them and realised that Nimbus had just used his powers to raise them up out of harms way. Landing again they were joined by their saviour, along with Ghost. “Where is Melody?” he asked the pair.

“Don’t worry, Warren made her and Wing stay back while we came in to get you two. He’s distracting the sentinels while we make a break for it” explained Ghost.

“Uh guys I think the distraction failed” mumbles Nimbus pointing to a sentinel that must have forced its way past Archangel.

“Icarus keep Avatar here while we take this thing down” said Nimbus. He raised his hands at the low flying robot and a glow appeared around it. Increasing the personal gravity of the machine Nimbus forced it to crash roughly into the ground. While he did this Ghost had transformed into her gaseous form and had approached the fallen sentinel. Laying her hand on it she vaporised most of the monstrosity.

Icarus watched closely as out of the gassed form small figures began to appear. He was shocked when Nimbus flew out of the cloud of gas narrowly avoiding a barrage of energy blasts. He could not see Ghost anywhere. It was then that the figures resolved themselves and he saw that they were miniature versions of the large sentinels. A group of about ten flew off to his right and he knew with panic that they were heading directly for Wing and Aero. His little sister was in danger. He shoved off the still unconscious form of Norman and was about to fly off when he was attacked by the other sentinels. He couldn’t leave Avatar lying there. Running back he picked up his fallen ‘leader’ and tried to get some height. A sentinel threw some small ball shaped objects at him which exploded releasing a gas around him. Trying not to breathe the noxious fumes he accidentally slammed into a tree dropping Avatar and then hitting the dirt himself about twenty metres away. He looked up in time to see three of the smaller sentinels blast the still form of Avatar with their gauntlet guns.

“Oh God that’s it I’m dead” he began to panic. He got up and with a piercing pain realised that he had broken his left wing. Great, not even a slight chance of escape now, he thought. He reached for the gun that had been pilfered earlier and was dismayed when it wasn’t in its holster. “I must have dropped it earlier” he whimpered. He saw the things raise their hands toward him and closed his eyes.

“Hey Defender move it or lose it” he heard a female voice yell at him.
Opening his eyes he saw a rocky skinned girl firing shards of rock at high speed at the sentinels that were just about to kill him. As they were distracted another massive rocky form bashed into them from behind, smashing the robots to pieces. Icarus recognised his two saviours as members of the Marauders squad. God was the whole of the student body out fighting. It was then that he remembered his sister’s peril.
“Wing, sweep and dodge” yelled Aero to her partner as she moved into one of their many evasive formations Archangel had taught them over the last few years. They had managed to dodge the lethal force blasts of these new sentinels for the last ten minutes but these smaller units had much more manoeuvrability than their larger counterparts and it was getting increasingly difficult to dodge them. She flew in close to her boyfriend and asked “What are we going to do Wing, we can’t shake them, they’re too fast”.

“We have to try and break through I think they are trying to surround us. Concentrate your gun on the same sentinel as me and when its down lets make a break for it” Wing replied trying to mask the fear in his voice with false bravado. He raised his gun and fired on the sentinel nearest the rest of his squad and Aero followed suit. The sentinel chosen exploded in a ball of fire and the two young mutants made a dash for the gap they had created.

Just as she thought she was clear Melody heard a grunt over her shoulder and spun around as Wing dropped behind her a bit. He had stopped and was holding his side with blood seeping through his hands. “I’ve been shot” he explained. She saw a look of dismay cross his face and she turned to see that the sentinel they had destroyed had been replaced cutting off their escape. She flew toward him, “What now Wing? Let’s try that again. You can still fly can’t you?” she said with a pleading quality in her voice.

“I’ll just slow you down, and besides I don’t think we have enough ammo to break through another time”.

Aero checked her rifle and noted that Wing was probably right. “Let’s try anyway babe”. She turned to face her team-mate who meant so much to her and with tears falling down her face kissed him for what she thought would be the last time. Emptying the last of their ammo at the surrounding sentinels Wing pulled Melody’s face into his chest as the robots raised their weapons to fire.

Archangel watched in horror as Aero and Wing were shot out of the sky by the sentinels. In a fury he raced toward them firing his weapons with deadly accuracy. Destroying the sentinels that had opened fire on his students he looked down to see their bodies lying on the churned lawn. He dived down to where they lay and desperately opened a gash on his arm with a piece of sentinel shrapnel lying nearby. He delicately dripped some of his blood into the wounds of the still children and waited. His healing blood had saved Melody’s sister Paige about a year ago and he hoped that it would do the same for her. He waited another minute. Still nothing. Putting his hands in his face he wept for if they hadn’t responded to the miracle blood now they never would. They were dead.

He looked up and saw the remainder of his squad flying toward him and noted that Avatar did not appear to be with them. “Oh God please not another one” he said to himself. Behind them he saw another two other students he recognised as members of Gambit’s squad the Marauder’s. There was no love between Gambit and Archangel and Warren had taken the naming of Gambit’s squad as a personal insult after finding out that it was Remy that had gathered the murderous, original Marauders. In spite of this he promised himself that he would see that they made it through this.

As they reached him, Jay stared in a stunned stupor at the limp, lifeless body of his youngest sister. Overwhelmed with grief and the stress of the situation he fell down beside her and cradled her head in his lap. Warren nearly broke at the sight, but he had to hold himself together and organize the rest of the students into a defence against the remainder of the small sentinels that were heading toward them. He did a quick count. Twenty-five, far too many, the situation was hopeless. Maybe if I distracted them the students could get away he thought but then realised that there were enough sentinels to split their numbers and attack both. “Marauders provide ground cover for the rest of the Defenders” he ordered Bling and Onyxx. “Nimbus, Ghost disable those sentinels anyway you can think of. Icarus, go see if you can get us some help. Icarus did you hear me?” he yelled at the crying boy. Warren knew he was being harsh but this was not the time to mourn. “Pull it together Jay; don’t let your sister die for nothing”.

“Shut up. You let her die, it was your fault” yelled the young mutant at his leader.

Warren was taken aback by the outburst and decided to leave Jay where he was. “Onyxx keep an eye on him please” he said before lifting up into the air. He could not help feeling that what Jay had said was true. His kids had died because of him. He joined Nimbus and Ghost in the air and turned to face what he knew was the approaching onslaught. It was then that they all felt a sudden wave of energy pass over them. It reached the sentinels and every single one of the dropped from the sky to smash into the ground. What had been a hopeless situation one second ago had somehow turned into a confusing victory. Landing again Archangel surveyed the destruction around him. He needed to find some of the other X-Men and find out what was happening. “Onyxx, Bling will you carry the … the other students” he asked indicating the bodies of Wing and Avatar. He would not leave them lying there. He approached Jay and laid a hand on his shoulder. Slowly Jay got up. The look in the boy’s eyes broke Warren’s heart. He lifted his dead sister into his arms and began to lead the way to the front of the mansion.