Karima Shapandar had never asked for any of this. But that didn’t stop her blasting a hole in the wall of a long abandoned Sentinel production plant and rushing inside. As she flew through the hole and landed in an empty corridor, Karima pondered why she was here.
Six months ago, Karima had been an X-Man, a member of a team that defended a world those that hated and feared them. Of course, Karima was sure that the X-Men had secretly hated and feared her as well. For Karima was no ordinary woman, she was an Omega Sentinel. Transformed against her will into a mutant-hunting monster, she was only freed from her programming by the combined efforts of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, the men known as Professor X and Magneto.
And now she found herself alone. She wasn’t sure what had happened, all she knew was what she had learned since she had woken up on Muir Island, to find the island practically torn apart and her teammates nowhere to be found. The Xavier Institute was destroyed and desolate, the X-Men had scattered, Charles Xavier was dead and Karima was left wondering if she was the cause of this nightmare. To make matters worse, the X-Men had reformed, but they had not sought Karima out.
Karima had seen footage of the new team’s interview with the press after a mission in New York. Where did it leave Karima, if the X-Men were still willing to work with the likes of Avalanche, Sunfire and Lady Mastermind, where did that leave her?
She did not know why, but she was considered an enemy. With several weeks worth of her memories reduced to lost or corrupted data, Karima could do little to counter that assumption.
But she couldn’t let that stop her quest to redeem herself, to be who she had always been. Karima Shapandar stepped into a room full of Sentinels and struck, unleashing a localised EMP that short circuited several of her fellows, as she blasted the rest apart with streams of red energy that flew forth from her wrists. Karima knew that these particular Sentinels had once been human like her, but they hadn’t been as lucky she had. They were little more than empty shells now, victims of the hatred of madmen. Karima hoped she could honour their sacrifice.
Karima did not have to eat, she did not have to sleep. She could keep going until she was smashed to pieces. Maybe the world would be better off if she was.
Karima exited the room and activated her boot jets, propelling herself forwards as her sensors informed her of incoming electronic chatter, heat signatures, deadzones. Karima grimaced as information about known mutants flashed before her eyes, warning signs and threat levels nearly sending her crashing into a wall. Narrowly turning the corner, Karima swerved as she realised what she was seeing. One by one, she read the names while her targeting matrix allowed to her simultaneously rain hell on any Sentinel she passed.
Rachel Anne Grey aka Marvel Girl aka Phoenix. Known Affiliations: X-Men. Threat Level : Severe.
Karima stuck out an arm, morphing it into a hand cannon to blow open a door below her. She shot forward as several Sentinels following her were caught in the blast.
Theresa Rourke Cassidy aka Siryn. Known Affiliations: X-Factor, X-Force. Threat Level: Medium.
Electricity danced from Karima’s fingertips as she span a full 360 degrees in mid air, causing the nearby power dampener to explode in a shower of sparks. She nimbly darted out of the way of an incoming Sentinel, the searing heat of her boot jets scorching the ground below her as she changed direction.
Julio Esteban Richter aka Rictor. Known Affiliations: New Mutants, X-Factor, X-Force. Threat Level: Minimal. Assimilation Recommended.
The anti gravity generators contained within Karima activated automatically, stabilising her flight and allowing her to hover more deftly as she took aim at the doors of the cells. An alarm began to sound within the room, even though the humans within the facility were now nothing more than empty husks. The lights began flashing bright red as Karima fired at three of the four thick metal doors. Her attacks were precisely placed, energy blasts twisting the metal and tearing enormous holes in each.
Sentinels poured out from them, their silvery sheen reflecting bright red, their eyes bright white. Karima winced as beams of yellow light streaked through her. The Sentinels remained motionless. Karima’s arms raised as an energy shield cocooned her from further attack.
As her enemies paused to recharge, she responded with dazzling bouts of rough unfettered plasma. Smoking metal sentries reduced to slag crashed to the floor, while Karima’s nanites repaired the damage to her own systems. She stared down as the last cracks in her armour disappeared, reminded of how much of herself she had lost.
Karima swallowed deeply. She could hear the other three mutants stirring as she stepped forward and took aim at the final door. As the power built up within her hand cannon, the name of the mutant contained within the cell continued to flash across Karima’s HUD.
Neal Sharra aka Thunderbird….
Neal Sharra was blinded by the light and when his sight returned, Neal really wished it hadn’t.
He had lost it. He must have, after all the craziness he had suffered through these past months. Rounded up like an animal, left to rot in a tent by his supposed teammates, before he and Heather had decided they’d had enough. But even that had had it’s price. The people he cared about tended to disappear and Heather Cameron was just another name in a long list. Davis, Sanjit, Betsy…
“Karima…” Neal breathed.
The woman before him was nigh unrecognisable, and the stars blooming in front his eyes didn’t help. Neither did her longer hair, the odd red and white armor she was wearing, the energy cannons where hands were meant to be.
That was when Neal remembered. The thing in front of him with her eyes, her nose, wearing her face, was not Karima, could not be Karima. Would never be Karima again. Bastion had killed her in Calcutta, replaced her with a monster. Neal remembered her last words to him.
“I am an Omega Prime. Within moments I will have reached my full combat mode–with my core programming to destroy creatures like you. It is becoming increasingly difficult to even think of you as human. Your only chance is to disappear. Get as far away from India – and from me – as you can. Assume a new identity… a new life.”
He had tried. He had left India. He had tried to forget her. He had tried to be someone else. An X-Man. Thunderbird. A hero. But Karima had never really left him and he’d always known today would come. The day when he would need to be a destroyer like the Sentinels. His old life would die today. Now.
He still remembered that kiss he’d placed on her lips.
“Shhh…” He’d said to her. “No words…”
“Our only hope at any semblance of happiness is for you to go!”
Mutants didn’t get to be happy.
The Omega Sentinel did not move as Neal allowed his mutant power to burst forth from his fists, solar heat sizzling through the bonds that bound him to his chair. He rushed the Sentinel, and activated his abilities in full.
Neal’s powers made him a living solar furnace. All through his training with the X-Men, he’d been frightened of what he could do. But the memory of what Bastion had done was too much. Was this thing the reason Heather went missing, had this thing killed her? Karima was dead, Neal had finally accepted that. She deserved better than the atrocities committed in her memory.
The room filled with light, this time of Neal’s own making, his body burning away in large uneven patches, until all that was left was a creature of energy and the fire that fueled him.
He struck once with a flash of power, only managing to burn away a quickly regenerating section of the Sentinel’s armour. As he readied himself to strike again, he noticed the fearful expression on the Sentinel’s face, the all too human acceptance in its eyes. He halted, wavering in mid air, like a stunted firefly. A single word escaped his lips, oddly echoing.
A shot of bright blue telekinesis flew at him, flinging him backwards. Neal instinctively reverted to flesh and blood, skidding painfully across the floor as the fresh new skin was burned by the friction. He rose quickly, looking up at the trio behind Karima, blue flames scattering around the one in front as she froze Karima in place.
“Give me a reason why I shouldn’t just let Neal kill you, Omega. Or whoever it is you are today.”
Rachel Grey’s raised hand wavered unsteadily, but to Neal, there was fierceness in her emerald green eyes that was undoubtedly inherited from her mother.
There was silence, the brown haired man behind Rachel holding their other companion, also a redhead, back as she made to reach for Rachel. Plasma burst into existence around Neal’s hands, Rachel’s eyebrows raising in surprise at Neal aimed his open palms at her. The man behind her balled his hands into fists, as he shoved the other woman behind him.
That was when Karima spoke.
Karima paused, staring ahead blankly as if in a stupor. Neal thought he caught the reflection of a tear running down her cheek as she turned her head from within Rachel’s telekinetic prison.
“Because…I’m not the only one left.”