————— Somewhere in the Mansion —————

“Betsy! Betsy c’mon wake up” cried Paige Guthrie as she held the unconscious telepath’s head in her lap. Minutes ago she had fallen across the prone body of the X-Man known as Psylocke. So far nothing she had done was getting any response from her. She seemed fine and her breathing was regular, but she was still out of it.

“Sis!” came a excited cry from down the corridor. Paige looked up and saw that it was her older brother Sam, the X-Man known as Cannonball. She nearly cried with relief as he ran up to her. “What’s going on, what’s up with Betsy?” he asked as he saw his sister’s situation.

“Ah don’t know Sam. I found her like this a few minutes ago”.

“Well we’d best get her moved, something’ weird went down with those sentinels outside, lots of little sentinels are coming out of their chests” her brother explained.

“Where can we take her, the whole place is in a mess?”

“Let’s find one of the more intact rooms at the back of the mansion. We can put her there. Then we should get outside and give the rest of the team a hand. Paige you can’t believe the amount of sentinels”.

“Sam, what about Beth, Melody and Jay?”

“I’m worried too Paige but the kids can handle themselves, they will have to. There are a lot of kids outside Paige. They need our help. Some of them won’t stand a chance in this chaos. We’re X-Men, they need us”.

Paige felt tears roll down her cheeks as she realised what her brother was saying was right. She knew her first duty was to get outside and co-ordinate with the rest of the team. Heck it was mansion security 101. She was just so worried about her younger siblings. She had promised her mother to look out for them. She knew they were pretty level headed kids, well except for maybe Melody, she could be a bit of a wild card.

“Ah know you’re right Sam, Ah’m just worried is all. Right let’s get Betsy somewhere safe then …” she stopped, her eyes going wide as she stared down the hallway over Sam’s shoulder. Sam spun around, at the end of the corridor stood three small sentinels.

“Where the heck did those guys come from?” he asked. A second later he had activated his blast field taking off in a direct line toward the sentinels. “Get her out of here” he yelled at his sister. The sentinels fired a barrage of bullets at the mutant screaming toward them. Not one of the bullets touched him, all reflected off his blast field. Sam hit them at full speed sending the group of robots flying, falling to the ground in pieces.

Husk watched as her brother annihilated the strange small versions of the sentinels. Still in her steel form Paige found no problem to lift the unconscious body of her fellow X-Man. She threw her over her shoulder and began to head the opposite way from where her brother was fighting. She briefly considered how ironic it was that she had set out to help protect her family yet instead had ended up protecting her boyfriend’s ex. Ah well such is life she thought.

She rounded a corner of the hallway only to gasp as four more of the small human sized sentinels spotted her and raised their gauntlets. She threw Psylocke behind her and flinched as the bullets bounced off her metal skin. Husking her left arm she revealed a steel blade. She ran toward the sentinels slicing and hacking at them. Seconds later her brother rocketed into them scattering them all over the place.

“I think that’s all for now” he said as he landed.

“Good” said Paige as she waggled her fingers in her ears trying to shake the ringing that Cannonball had left as he had flown by her. She turned around and picked up Psylocke again. Together the Kentucky siblings headed off to find somewhere safe for the comatose telepath.

————— Near the Estate Gates —————

“Get down Ali” yelled Bishop as he blasted a sentinel behind her.

“Thanks for the warning Lucas” said Alison sarcastically as she got up out of the churned mud puddle she had dropped into. Trying to wipe the bulk of it off her clothes, she approached Bishop firing a couple of laser blasts at an oncoming sentinel. This pitched battle had just kicked up a gear when the huge sentinels had suddenly released a batch of smaller more mobile sentinels. There were now robots crawling everywhere.

“There has to be something we can do about this. There is too many, we’ll get worn out eventually. And you can only absorb so much energy” she reminded Bishop as he took the brunt of a cannon blast.

“I know Ali, I’m sure Scott will come up with something. He is acting oddly though. There doesn’t seem to be any method to his deployment of the X-Men. They are not acting as a co-ordinated unit” replied Bishop.

“Yeah whatever” replied Dazzler, only half listening, “Hey look Alex and Lorna are headed this way”. She watched as Polaris flew toward where they were enjoying a brief respite from robotic attack. Havok was being supported magnetically underneath her. As she flew she casually flipped her hand toward a sentinel sending it flying through the air smashing into another one. They landed just beside Alison.

“So, how’s the date going?” asked Lorna with a smirk on her face.

“Just shut up and help get rid of these sentinels” laughed Alison as she saw a blush spread over Bishop’s face.

“I suggest we make our way toward Scott” said Alex. “We need to regroup, this wide spread thing is only weakening us as a whole”

The other three stared at him.

“What?” he asked “Why are you looking at me like that? I can do strategy too”

“Riiiight!” said Lorna, “let’s just go shall we?”. She, Bishop and Dazzler took off toward the Phoenix Memorial, Havok followed grumpily after them, blasting a few sentinels to bits as he did so”.

“I hate being the younger brother” he muttered.

————— Near the Stables —————

“Come on Brightwind let’s get out there, we have to go find the kids” said Danielle Moonstar as she led her winged horse out from the stables near the back of the mansion. She was loathe to take her precious steed with her into such a fire fight but she needed the airborne view the horse would give her. She had to find her students. It was all she could really think of. She was next to useless against sentinels, her psionic weapons just had no effect. She mounted the winged horse and trotted out of the stable building.

She was about to take flight when she heard a commotion coming from somewhere nearby. Suddenly from around the side of the building came running a small group of kids from the school. They saw her and ran in her direction. Without warning some sort of small sentinel flew around the corner as well, aiming directly for one of the kids, a small brunette girl, whose name escaped Dani for a second. She cried, helplessly watching as the sentinel picked up the child and … and then just flew off with her.

“What in Valhalla?” she asked herself. The sound of an explosion distracted her. From around the same corner came flying through the air a petite, Asian looking girl that Danielle could not help but recognise. “Jubilee!” she called, getting off the horse. The young X-Woman ignored her, seconds later Moonstar realised why. More of the small sentinels had rounded the stables, and Jubilee was hard pushed to fight them off.

She watched as Jubilee acrobatically dodged cannon blasts from the robots, while detonating small explosive light-globes on them. She blew out the back of one’s head while simultaneously dodging the launched net of another.

“Dani, get those kids out of here, we can’t let the sentinels get them” screamed Jubilee as Dani made to help her. She obviously thought she could handle the threat while Danielle got the remaining kids out of harms way.

“Ok kids, time to leave I think, Miss Lee can handle this better if she does not have to worry about you” she said gathering the frightened kids into a group. She quickly ushered them into the scant protection of the stable building. In a flash or inspiration she remembered the sub-level route that led to the stables from the mansion. It was a temporary solution she thought but it would have to do.

Quickly she brushed straw and hay out of the way on the ground and found the outline of the metal hatchway. A control panel was embedded in the concrete beside it. She tapped in the access code for the hatch but realised that the earlier explosion that had rocked the mansion had fried most of the systems. “Damn it, damn it, DAMN IT” she screamed in frustration as she helplessly battered the doors. She wasn’t going to be able to open them.

The kids were looking frightened now, the noise of Jubilee’s battle outside was tremendous. In a massive flash a section of the wall disintegrated and Moonstar got a view of what was happening. A large sentinel had landed and was firing on Jubilee as she was fending off three of the smaller ones. She wasn’t going to be able to keep that up for long.

Brightwind she sent to her pegasus. My dearest I have need of you. She felt her connection to the winged animal flare as he recognised his partner in the skies. Her mutant ability to commune with animals made this possible and was one of Dani’s biggest joys. She calmed the crying kids around her as she told the horse what she needed it to do. She couldn’t leave these children her, vulnerable as they were, but she just had to help Jubilee. Sending her last thoughts of love, she watched as Brightwind took off into the air heading for the large sentinel.

The huge robot swung its head as the winged horse flashed by its sensors. Scanning it quickly it classified it not as a mutant and as a minimal threat. It’s processors whirred as it computed the optimum solution. Again the horse flashed past. The robot finally decided that this distraction was preventing it from terminating it’s target. It’s destruction was required. Casually it lifted its hand, palm facing outward and let a barrage of cannon rays loose. They tore the horse to shreds.

“NO!” screamed Moonstar, as the pain of seeing her bonded animal killed ripped through her soul, searing it with the harsh truth of it’s death. The pain of the horse that she also felt through her link was nothing in comparison. Sobbing and screaming in rage she somehow managed to remain with the kids, even though she wanted nothing more than to attack these robots with her bare fists. Just then a jet screamed overhead, and blasted the hateful sentinel into pieces.

Jubilee meanwhile had spent the brief respite granted to her by Brightwind’s sacrifice destroying all but one of the small sentinels. It manoeuvred away from a blast of energy she directed at it and landed behind her. Spinning on her heel the young X-Man kicked at it, using a technique Wolverine had taught her. The robot didn’t budge. Instead it grabbed her foot and swung her through the remainder of the stable wall that had been damaged earlier. She smashed though the wooded sides and fell, rolling across the ground and slamming into the far wall. She rose up on her hands, only to cry out and fall back down again. Her left arm was broken. The bone was poking through her sleeve. Gross she thought before passing out with the pain.

“Jubilee!” yelled Dani, as her fellow X-Man slammed into the far wall after being smashed through the near one. She watched as the young girl collapsed, not seeming to move. The kids behind her started crying again. Helplessly Moonstar watched as the sentinel responsible for the injured Jubilee stepped into the stable. The other animals were panicking now trying to break free. Moonstar had being trying to keep them calm but there were limits to her powers. She gathered the kids behind her hoping to shield them from what she knew would be their end. “Close your eyes children, everything will be …”.

Her whole world went white. She didn’t feel anything, couldn’t feel anything for she realised she was no longer a part of her body. She stared down at the shell she had once occupied. Well there wasn’t much of that left. She realised with a sudden shock that she was dead. Strangely though she was not as upset about that as she thought she should be. She watched as the sentinel that had just killed her scanned the area it had just fired a rocket at. Dani felt a pang of sorrow as she realised the kids she was trying to help hadn’t made it either. It then started walking toward the still alive Jubilee. No Dani thought, not her too!

She drifted over to the unconscious form of Jubilee. She didn’t know what to do. She spoke into her ear without knowing if Jubilee would hear her. She willed with all her might that she would get up but there was no response. With every fibre of her soul she willed Jubilee to get up, get up and fight. Moonstar felt something weird then, as if something in her had transferred to the unconscious girl. Jubilee stirred.

“Come sister, the concerns of the living are no longer yours” Dani heard a voice behind her. She turned around to see a woman dressed in very little, a large shield and spear in either hand. She was standing in front of a winged horse that looked nearly the spit of Brightwind.

“What?” she began but was cut short as the Valkyrie raised her hand.

“It is time to leave” she said. With that she mounted her horse a flew off.

“But how can I follow?” Dani yelled after her. She was answered by something soft and velvety nuzzling her from behind. She turned and cried with joy as Brightwind nibbled at her hair. With tears flowing down her cheeks for her past life, Dani accepted her call, the call to be what she had been before. A Valkyrie.

The sentinel completely unaware of this, made it’s way over to Jubilee, who was still lying on the ground.

————— Phoenix Memorial Statue —————

Cyclops sighed with relief as he saw Havok, Polaris, Bishop and Dazzler make their way over to him. Polaris was working wonders destroying the sentinels, and for once he didn’t mind his brother was married to the daughter of Magneto. Rubbing a burn he had received on his arm he paused from surveying the battle to greet them.

“Thanks for getting them here guys” he said to Havok, nodded his intent at Dazzler and Bishop. Turning to them he explained “I want to keep a line of X-Men in between the Mansion and the sentinels, most of the kids are in there by now except fot the ones that deem it fit to be out here fighting”. He glanced over to an area where he could see Squadron X and Alpha Squadron battling some sentinels.

“Scott that’s all well and good” said Bishop, “But we will eventually tire and we can’ destroy all these things before that happens. Any plans?”.

“I … I haven’t got anything” replied Scott, blasting a sentinel with his optic beams, “I’ll think of something. Polaris can you …”

“Too many Scott, I don’t have that much power” she interrupted, guessing at his suggestion. She viewed the worsening battle. They were getting desperate, if something doesn’t give now we are done for she thought. She saw a brief explosion off to her left. Looking over she saw Magma bury a sentinel in lava, while Synch smashed through another one while blasting a second with energy from his fists.

She followed him as he flew through the air, creating an invisible wall that two small sentinels slammed into.

“Scott, Alex” she said over her shoulder, “I think I have an idea”.

Coming next: Uncanny X-Men #3 Decimation (3 of 3) – The stunning conclusion to Decimation is finally here. Will Jubilee survive her predicament? Where has Northstar got to? What will Iceman, Magma and Dazzler do when they see the state of their squads? How WILL it all end?