Xavier Institute Sublevel Stairwell…
Noriko Ashida slowed her speed, only doing short bursts here and there. She could only maintain super-speeds if she had electricity to absorb and metabolize, but there wasn’t much going around in the destroyed school these days.
She tried not to think about all the memories that came with being back here. Instead she shifted her mind to worrying about David. Sure, he was good in combat but he’d also already died. Their friend and healer, Josh, was still in a coma and wouldn’t be able to bring him back if it happened again. She tried to brush these thoughts aside as she came to the stairs.
She looked at the door to the stairwell, worried about the close quarters that waited inside. She looked down at the bulky mechanical gauntlets that adorned her forearms. They were definitely running low. They were also the only things that kept her from overloading and going insane. She scanned around for any errant sources of electricity. She found none.
She pulled the handle of the door and tried to open it quietly, but it creaked about midway through. She stopped for a minute, cursing the door inside her head, before opening it fully and continuing through.
She stopped just inside and drew in a sharp breath as the naked boy walked down the stairs. His eyes glowed in hunger and the mouths on his palms snickered and snacked. His frail malnourished body was disgusting to Surge. His pink hair stuck to his face as he smiled at her deliriously.
“Really, Quire? Is this some kind of civil disobedience bullshit? You’re fighting against the tyranny of clothes, right?” She scoffed as a spark flew between her thumb and index finger.
“Witty banter. It’s all coming back to me now,” the boy hissed. He stretched his hands out toward her. He was only a few feet away. “I’d indulge, but I’m on a strict diet of X-Men.”
She noticed the difference in his voice. “So let me guess, you’re playing the part of Renfield tonight?” She put up her fists, ready to go. “Didn’t you hear? There are no more X-Men. There’s just me, and the total ass kicking you’re about to receive.”
“So confident but I still smell fear.” Q-Plate gloated. His eyes flashed and they were no longer glowing but brown again. He looked down at his hands and back at Noriko. “I can’t – I don’t want-,” he stuttered. “RUN!” he screamed as he lunged toward her.
“This is for Dean Boswell!” Nori shouted as she landed a kick between Q-Plate’s naked legs. He screamed in an unearthly voice as his hand grabbed the exposed part of her arm just above her regulating gauntlets. She cried out as she felt the unnatural mutated teeth pierce her flesh. The barbed tongue sought through blood and bone to find the X-gene, the special genetic quirk that allowed her to be born with such “gifts”.
“You taste like a blueberry. Blueberry Punch!” Q-Plate laughed as he wrapped his other hand around her face. She felt the mouth suck into her cheek.
She closed her eyes and let loose with a few bolts of electricity. Q-Plate was knocked back and fell onto the stairs. He wailed and grasped at his body. Suddenly he was still. His eyes sparked with electricity as he glared at her.
“Nice power. Mine now.” He thrust his naked body from the steps again, his palm mouths licking at their teeth as he came down upon her.
Surge was just about to discharge the last bit of her stored electricity at her at attacker when he stopped in mid-jump. Drool dribbled down his mouth has he held his hands to his ears.
“The screaming! Stop it! It’s echoing in my head make it stop!” Q-Plate’s voice slowly transitioned to Quentin Quire’s normal, high-pitched and rather annoying voice during his cries.
In between them, a seemingly psychic mist appeared. Nori stepped back as she felt a familiar mind comfort her. The mist coalesced and Nori looked on the psychic projection of one of the Stepford Cuckoos.
Quentin dropped his hands to his side as he stared at the astral girl. “So-Sophie?” he asked. Tears started to form in the corner of his eyes and he choked on a sob. The projection gave him a wormy, rotting smile.
“Ewe.” He could here her disgust in his mind.
The dead Cuckoo looked over her shoulder at Nori and raised her eyebrow. “We’ve got this,” she heard the combined voices of the Three-in-One assure her. Quentin shrieked again as blood started pouring out of his nose. He collapsed to his knees and reached out for Sophie Cuckoo.
The external hull of the Tomorrow Institute
The giant techno-organic pyramid of violet and indigo hues hovered directly above the dilapidated wreckage of the Xavier Institute. The pyramid was made up many panels and some of these panels at the base of the pyramid began to shift and swirl.
A small aircraft, distinctly resembling a royal purple bumble bee, shot out of the open spaced and then hovered above the estate as well.
Inside the Danger-created aircraft, two women sat in oval seats facing each other.
“I’ve been going through Xavier’s files,” Danger hollowly informed Emma Frost. “Most of the information in them was provided by you, it seems.”
“His younger sisters, the twins,” Emma began, “somehow used their immense mutant abilities to curse him into another dimension for harming their other sister, Monet. For a time, he forced her to be his food source.” Emma watched Danger’s eyes tinker away as she computed the new data. “All three girls came to be in my care. Given that he was obsessed with them, I naturally encountered his schemes and malice more often than Charles.”
“Is this as humans say “personal” for you?” Danger asked inquisitively. “Will you enjoy defeating this opponent?”
“I want to recover my students,” Emma snarled. “I want my bloody Cerebra and I don’t want him to use it to enslave another unfortunate mutant.” Emma lowered her voice and straightened her back. If only she could have a cocktail and a little helper. “Yes, I will “personally” enjoy breaking every square inch of his self-entitled degenerate face.
Emma wasn’t sure but it appeared as though Danger may have smiled. “However, if we can remove the students and Cerebra without encountering him,” Emma sighed. “That would be keen.”
“I’m analyzing the readings from the probe that accompanied you,” Danger changed the subject. “I believe I can isolate the frequencies in which he resides while phased in this other dimensional space. If so I can engage him. When necessary.”
“If,” Emma reminded.
“Indeed,” Danger raised a sharp mechanical eyebrow.
The Danger Bee began to vibrate and hum.
“Prepare to enter the Xavier Institute,” Danger warned Emma.
The Danger Bee shivered underneath the Tomorrow Institute before slowly dipping and pointing toward the Institute. With a great burst of power it shot directly down through the Institute’s roof. With the power of a wrecking ball it crashed through floor after floor.
“Oh,” Emma swallowed as she lurched forward and then braced herself. “I forgot how much I disliked rides with Samuel Guthrie.”
Impact rocked the already shaky foundations of the Institute when the Danger Bee made contact with the steel enforced concrete layers that separated it from the sublevels. It began to burrow.
Xavier Institute Sublevel 4 – Far away from the Cerebra Chamber and underneath Dr. McCoy’s lab…
Rockslide lumbered along, the firelight had left long ago. He could barely see anything in the darkness. He felt along the wall with his giant granite fingers. Santo came to a door he recognized. It was the door to the Blackbird Hanger where the X-Men would deploy for missions.
Rockslide remembered that McCoy’s lab was just above the hanger. There had been a special entrance from the hanger in case the X-Men came back with injured teammates or allies. If the big bad mutant eating boogeyman was looking for that runt punk Quentin Quire, he’d likely be there.
Santo began to punch at the door until he felt it give way under his strength. He tore through one side of it as he entered the large and echoing hanger. In near pitch-black darkness he sought out the staircase that lead to Beast’s old lab.
Rockslide didn’t have a body for Emplate to damage, not really anyway. He was just a bunch of rocks collected around his mind. The only thing Emplate would get from him was a stomach full of gravel. He was going after Emplate alone because it killed him to think of another friend getting hurt. One benefit of not being a real person anymore was the he could probably never die. If he couldn’t die, then nobody else should have to.
He’d seen too many massacres and deaths in the last year. Forty-two had died in one day. The face of Brian Cruz smiled at Rockslide in his mind’s eye just as his foot stubbed the first stair. The metal creaked and moaned as he began to make his way up. He hoped Emplate didn’t have super-hearing. He tried to tippy-toe but that only made it worse.
He remembered the bus exploding. It had almost knocked him out. He remembered Julian Keller yelling at him to get up as Brian called out for help. He recalled Julian’s screaming Brian’s name in excruciating agony as the final explosion seared across his face. Neither Santo nor Julian had been fast enough.
Rockslide closed his eyes, but the images didn’t fade. He had no ears but the sounds wouldn’t stop. Words from Brian’s funeral echoed back to him in Professor Wagner’s voice. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen for things that are seen are transient.”
Emplate was transient, shifting between some other dimension and theirs. Santo was going to have to be sneaky. He had to, because no more mutants died ever. Except for Emplate if he touched one of his friends.
He came upon a landing at the top of the stairs. Santo flexed his mineral muscles and tore away the square hatch. He walked through the short tunnel to the door to Dr. McCoy’s lab. Strange orbs of light glowed in the ceiling. Santo wondered what kept them lit when everything else in the school was long dead of power.
He placed his head against the door, again wondering why as he had no ears. He could hear the clanking away of metal, talons scraping, and a hissing respirator. The Man of Rock steeled his nerves as he leaned back into a punch.
As he plowed through the door he noticed that McCoy’s lab was in complete disarray. A dark cloaked figure with matted hair and dreads was hunched over a working table. For a moment, Santo wondered why the creature wasn’t startled by his dramatic entrance. Rockslide squared his shoulders and made to charge at the monster.
Without moving the rest of its form the creature merely extended its hand and one talon upward. “Sssssstttttoooooooppppppppppppp,” hit hissed with a telepathic command.
Santo found that he could not move. He couldn’t shift his granite muscle. He could barely even think. He’d lost all control.
“Just a few more tinkers and my favorite new toy will be complete,” the creature heaved. Rockslide heard what he thought might be something powering up. “With the combination of the Quentin boy’s brilliant hyperspeed telepathy and the old man’s compulsive yet inventive ingenuity I have finally comprised a way to keep myself anchored to this, my home reality, permanently.”
Santo couldn’t help but wonder why the thing was telling him all this. This was like a Bond movie. He needed a Bond Girl.
The creature turned around. Slinking cables dangled from the respirator device clinging to its albino face. In its razor sharp talons it fondled a strange techno arcane device. “My sisters’ curse will finally be broken. At the time of my choosing, of course.” He hissed and gargled as his glowing eyes seemed to come closer to Santo.
“For now, my non-corporeal form has its advantages. It will be so much easier to kill all of your friends.”
“You Monster!” Rockslide was surprised to hear his thoughts reverberate throughout his mineral structure. Maybe Emplate was losing his grip.
“Monster?” Marius St. Croix laughed. “You, Pot, are black as night. I’m a monster? You’re nothing more than a tiny ragged little psychic spirit playing with rocks and dirt to pretend you’re a real boy.”
Santo’s psyche shivered as he felt a few pebbles in his cheeks loosen. Two of them wiggled out and clanked down onto his shoulder. One rolled down before hitting the floor. Santo began to panic as he felt more rocks begin to struggle against gravity.
“I can’t even eat you. Worthless, really,” Marius placed the bracelet on the worktable and then approached Santo.
Emplate smelled of sulfur, but Santo was unsure of how he knew that. He really couldn’t be bothered to think too much on it as he felt himself begin to lose cohesion.
“Let’s pick you apart. Rock by rock, memory by memory. I have some time to kill before the winter Frost arrives.”
NEXT LAST: The wrath of the Cuckoos and the Judgment of the Phoenix have come for Quentin Quire. The wrath of the Jubilee has come for D.O.A.