He tumbled for what felt like an eternity, falling through dozens of realities in the blink of an eye. Whatever had blasted him through the multiverse had damn near killed him and the young man clung to life as he fell from one reality to another.
He was unconscious for most of it, although he occasionally came to long enough to catch a fleeting image. Nothing he’d remember later though.
Eventually he began to slow, the realities stopped bleeding together until eventually they ceased changing at all; and then he started to fall.

Elsewhere

“Do it Cal!”
Time slowed down for Clarice as she watched the scene before her; Calvin Rankin, the Mimic, held the murderous Proteous by the throat of his ephemeral form. Everything else faded from her vision so that only her lover and the killer remained. All he had to do was punch his steel fist into the psychopath’s wraithlike head and it would be all over. Why was he hesitating?
Surprisingly, Proteous started laughing, “Ye had yuir shot at me…

In an instant it all went to hell. Cal’s steel form suddenly reverted back to scared flesh; the shock on his face was undeniable. Before anyone could act it was too late, Proteous flooded into her lover’s body with glee. She could only cry out in horror as his eyes, the eyes she loved, turned milky white.

Proteous, now controlling Calvin’s body like a sick puppet master, turned his attention to Blink.

Hullo Clariiice,” he cackled with devious glee, “Yuir boyfriend died and angry man!”

Blink awoke with a gasp, breathing heavily. The sheets were sticking to her sweaty pink skin, which was icy cold. For what felt like an eternity she sat there, trying to control her breathing, as the images of her dream faded from memory. They never truly faded though, as that fateful day would forever be burned into her memory; the day her lover died. No matter how hard she tried to forget though, her subconscious would remind her each and every night. A part of her hated herself for trying to forget any memory of Cal, even his traumatic death, but this was starting to become too much.
It had been two months since Calvin died, since she had found his dried up and discarded husk of a body lying on the ground in a far off world. She had laid him to rest with his family and said her goodbyes but still he haunted her memories every night.

Not able to get back to sleep she decided to go and fetch a glass of water. She shivered as her feet touched the cold crystal floor but they acclimatized quickly. Thankfully they had figured out early on how to adjust the lights in the Crystal Place, or else no one would get any sleep. The lights were kept dim enough in the hallways to create some miniscule semblance of night which, according the Heather, would keep everyone a little less crazy.
“Hey ‘rice, fancy meeting you here,” said someone jovially, causing Blink to nearly jump out of her skin. It was just Morph, walking down the hall with a cup of steaming cocoa.
“What has you up and wandering the halls in those fetching Hello Kitty PJ’s?” his face suddenly turned hopeful, “One too many hot dreams of the old Morphmeister finally driven you into my manly arms?” he laughed.

Blink couldn’t help but cringe at how close to the truth Morph’s words were. In a way, she had been dreaming about him, since his body now served as a prison for Proteous’ essence. She couldn’t help but feel ashamed that the man she was talking to was no longer her dear friend, but a body snatching psychopath who only thought he was Morph.
“N…no Morph, keep dreaming,” she replied, without looking him in the eyes.
A look of concern quickly formed on Morph’s face, “Hey is everything ok?” he reached out to place a comforting hand on her arm but she pulled away on instinct. She caught the hurt look that briefly flashed in his eyes.
“I’m fine, really. Just a bad dream, its silly really,” she reassured, “you go on to bed, I’m just getting a glass of water,”

“Oh I’m not going to bed; me and Miggey are going to have a Family Guy marathon. Apparently the Doc has a thing for ‘historical’ TV shows,”

“Miggy?”

“Doc O’Hara,” he referred to Spiderman of the year 2099, “a loveable nickname is the first step to making him funny,”

“Ooookay, well I’ll let you get to it then, good night,”

“G’night babe,” winked Morph as he continued up the hall to the make shift lounge room.

Blink didn’t know whether to chuckle or burst into tears. He sounded exactly like Morph but in the back of her mind she knew what dwelled within him, below the surface. Until they found a better way to get rid of Proteous they would always be wary around Morph.
She continued on to the kitchen, now starting to feel a little peckish as well. The kitchen was really just a small room with a few fridges and a pantry they had teleported in. It took a surprisingly large amount of food to feed seven grown adults; Heather had a system down pat for teleporting a few food items in from each reality in the multiverse. They didn’t want to cause anyone financial harm after all. None of the Exiles had figured out what the instectoid Timebreakers ate yet.

One peanut butter sandwich and a glass of water later she felt a little better. The dream had mostly faded and picking the peanuts out of her teeth proved a pleasant distraction from her thoughts. Footsteps behind her forewarned her of someone coming and she quickly pulled her fingers from her mouth.   If it was Morph he would likely make some crude joke, and Zarda would probably look at her like something she scraped off her boot. Not exactly the way a leader wants her team looking at her.
Thankfully it was Heather; she didn’t really have the energy for dealing with Morph or Zarda right now.

“Bad dreams again?” asked Heather as she entered the room in the baggy flannel pyjamas and old maid slippers.

“Mmhmm,” replied Blink with a nod.

Her friend gave her a big warm hug, which actually made her feel a little better. With Morph the way he is now, Blink felt grateful she still had Heather to confide in. Sure she had Victor as well, but he would always be Mr Creed to her. Plus how could she ever talk to him about a boyfriend he never liked?

“I…I just don’t get it Heather. I spent twenty years of my life in a living hell. I lost my parents, my friends, hell…I even thought I lost my own world, how is it I can’t get over Cal’s death?”
“Cal was a constant in your life honey,” Heather wrapped her arm around Blink’s shoulders and held her warmly, “no matter how bad things got wherever the Exiles went he was always there for you. It’s completely natural you might feel a little lost without him,”

“I miss him so much,” tears began to well in her jade eyes, “why did he have to hesitate, if he’s just killed Proteous he’d be here with me now,”
She immediately regretted saying it as soon as it escaped her lips and the guilt set in quickly. How could she feel angry at Cal? It wasn’t his fault. But grief did strange things to people and she still wasn’t over hers, despite the front she put on for the rest of the team.
“It’s ok Clarice,” said Heather as Blink began to sob, “Cal wouldn’t be angry at you for thinking that. He’s gone and it left a hole in your life. What’s more you’ve barely had time to process your grief with all the missions you’ve been going on…” she went a little quiet, as if she was considering her words carefully, “I’m sorry Blink, I thought maybe the distraction of so many missions might be good for you. Clearly all I’ve done is help prolong your pain.”
“You’re a good friend Heather, it’s not your fault. Despite my problems the multiverse still needs us. I guess I just-”

BOOM! Something crashed through the crystal roof of the kitchen before smashing through the wall no more than two feet from the pair. Shards of crystal rain down on the women but Blink reacted quickly and teleported them into the hallway.

Ear piercing alarms started ringing and an intelligible alien voice echoed through the palace. Blink had no idea what the source of either sound was; it was completely new to her. The voice sounded mundane, like a recording. Perhaps this was a Timebreaker fire drill?

Worker class bugs appeared out of nowhere and began scurrying around wildly. Many carried bizarre looking meters, like Geiger counters.

“What the hell was that?!” yelled Heather over the ringing in her ears, as she brushed shards of crystal from her hair.

“I don’t know, lets find out,”

Clarice ran back into the kitchen and examined the gaping hole in the wall. As the dust cleared she gasped in shock.

“What is it?” asked Heather.

Through the hole in the wall was a bruised and battered man, breathing shallowly but very much alive.

Later

“Any idea who our John Doe is yet Heather?” asked Miguel O’Hara, aka Spiderman.
He and Heather had done their best to stabilize their patient who had yet to be identified. Thankfully the crash through the Crystal Palace’s walls had only inflicted a few broken bones and minor internal injuries. Despite this though, he showed no signs of waking up and the Timebreaker’s equipment was detecting a strange energy signature from the mystery man. Add this to the fact he had slammed through the wall of somewhere outside time and place and they had a real conundrum on their hands; Heather was loving it.

“The bugs are working on it Dr O’Hara,” replied the woman, “they’re running his features and sub atomic resonance through their scanners,”

“Multiverse Google?” joked Miguel.

“I don’t see why we can’t just turf him out of here into the first reality we find,” grumbled Sabretooth from a nearby stool.

Since their unexpected visitor had arrived Creed hadn’t left the makeshift med bay, for fear he was some sort of Trojan Horse. Despite Heather and Miguel’s constant assurances that the patient wouldn’t be waking up anytime soon, Victor was on edge.

“How about the effect he may have on that reality?” Heather argued, “We can’t possibly gauge the effect that might have, however miniscule, so our safest bet is to keep him here with us for now,”

“Fine, but when the time comes to say ‘I told ya so’ I’m sayin’ it,”

At that moment, a worker class bug scurried into the room excitedly, brandishing a small handheld device. Heather took the device with a thank you and read the writing on the screen with great interest. Her features betrayed great surprise.

“What is it?” asked Miguel.

“Well I certainly wasn’t expecting this…” she replied.

The Desert Chamber

Longshot ducked a powerful blow; one that could have taken his head clean off if it had struck true. He retaliated with a sharp kick to his opponent’s ribs, which proved ineffective.

“Come Longshot, you’re holding back!” cried Power Princess, as she swung her right foot out and sent the blonde man flying.
“I always have great difficulty hitting a lady,” he spun in mid air and allowed the sand and his back side to cushion the landing, “especially one as beautiful as you…”

“You spend too much time on your words and not enough on your strategy,” she charged towards him as he quickly leapt to his feet and stood his ground. Longshot couldn’t help but liken it to a man trying to stop a charging elephant.

“What need do I have for strategies when everything seems to fall into place for me?” he grinned and leapt aside at the last minute. Zarda glimpsed his signature eye flash as her boot caught on a hidden stone, causing her to trip. Five hundred years of fighting experienced wasn’t wasted on the woman though; she rolled as soon as he hit the ground, grabbed a handful of sand and flung it at her opponent.

Longshot was momentarily blinded as the sand caught in his eyes and Zarda took the opportunity to punch him in the face, knocking him to the ground. The fight wasn’t over though; Longshot kicked out with both feet, faster than his opponent could react, knocking her flat on her back.
In an instant the tables we turned, and the former X-man straddled training partner, pinning her. His cocky grin was wiped from his face once again when Power Princess head-butted him. She once again took advantage of his distraction and rolled them over, so now she held him pinned.

“Luck goes both ways Longshot,” she said, her face inches from his, “you need to plan, and know your enemy.”
“Perhaps defeat by such an enemy as you is worth more than victory?” he smiled, as Power Princess realised the position they were in and pushed herself off him.

“Don’t let appearance fool you Longshot,” she wiped the sand from her armour, “if this battle was real I would have killed you three times over,”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps I would have fought a lot harder to hurt you,”

“Don’t hold back next time, I can-”

Everybody to the control room, I have news on our visitor,” called Heather’s voice from everywhere and nowhere.

A few minutes later all seven members of the Exiles were assembled in the control room of the Panoptichron. Dozens of screens lined the walls of the massive chamber, depicting various realities. Morph was intently watching one world where everyone on Earth was an ape. He shifted into the form of a chimpanzee wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat and said, “I love this show” as an orang-utan Captain America and chimp Baron Zemo fought on screen.

Ignoring Morph, Blink looked to Heather, “What’s the story with our party crasher?”
“His name is Axel Asher and he’s, get this, a linkage between this multiverse and another,” She let that information sink in for a moment, counting down the seconds until someone asked…
“Another multiverse?” asked Zarda.
“Yes, our intel is sketchy at best but it seems that the cluster of universes that we’ve been working to fix all this time is just one of many. There’s at least one other major multiverse that we know of so far, and Dr O’Hara and I hypothesize that there’s many more out there.”
“Wait, do these others need fixin’ too?” asked Creed.

“Timebreaker damage localised to this multiverse Exile Victor Creed,” assured a sovereign class Timebreaker.

The stick insect like creature handed Heather another data pad and she continued her report on Axel Asher.

“This Asher guy acts as a kind of…Guardian I guess, ensuring these two multiverses don’t overlap and cause problems. In a way he’s a lot like us, except his abilities are derived from the fact he’s a fragment of a former, conjoined multiverse.”

“So what happened to him? How did he end up here?” asked Longshot.
At Heather’s request the Timebreaker worked at a nearby console and brought up a holographic display. The thing was complicated to look at but it appeared to be a diagram of the multiverse; thousands of universes, themselves filled with hundred of galaxies, stacked on top of each other like a giant record collection.

Miguel stepped in to take over the explanation “Now this is just a simplified diorama of the multiverse, an actual display would likely be so complicated it would drive you all insane just by looking at it,” he looked to Morph who gave him a thumbs up and said in a stage whisper, “That wasn’t very funny but it’s a good start.”

Miguel blushed and continued; “Now we believe something struck Mr. Asher with such force that it sent him hurtling through the multiverse. We’ve managed to somewhat track his path through various realities, starting somewhere between universes six-ten and six-twenty, until he finally exited time and space and crashed into the Crystal Palace,” a line displaying Axel’s path through the multiverse appeared on the diagram.
“Mystery solved then, now let’s dump him in whatever reality he came from and get back to our own business,” said Sabertooth.
“It’s not so simple I’m afraid Victor,” replied Heather, “see Axel caused major damage to the timeline of each reality he passed through. In the simplest of terms he cracked time. If we don’t get in there and fix those realities fast it’s going to create a domino effect which may very well destroy the entire multiverse.”

“We just dealt with a damn domino effect and now we have to do it again?” groaned Victor, referring to the quick succession of realities they saved recently.

“Is no one else concerned that the apparent guardian of two major multiverses is named Axel Asher?” asked Morph, seemingly oblivious the impending doom of thousands of realities, “I mean, he sounds like a biker.”

“Morph, this is serious,” Said Blink a little too sternly. She could see the hurt in her friend’s eyes, “Sorry, but this is no time for jokes. How much time do we have Heather?”
“It’s hard to say, but the sooner we act the better. I’ll work on giving you a clearer answer while the team fixes its first world. Which brings me to Earth two-eight-eight…”

Earth #288
 
His breath was coming through in ragged gasps and a painful cramp knifed down his left calf. The man’s body told him he couldn’t run anymore, but his mind forced it to keep putting one foot after the other; if he didn’t he was dead.

It was pitch black, the dense pine forest blocked out most of the moonlight, and yet somehow he managed to avoid ever tripping over or being hit in the face by a low hanging branch. It looked like things were finally starting to go his way.
“Rrraaaaggghhh!” the beast leapt from the bushes, tackling the middle aged man, “I’m gonna got you like a pig, runt!” it yelled.

FWWWOOOOMM!

A radiant blast of superheated plasma hurled the bestial figure backwards screaming in rage and pain.

Standing just a few feet away were two figures, a man and a woman, who surely must be angels. The man’s chest radiated a glowing circular light, casting their faces in shadow, his hands also glowed brightly. Each with an outstretched hand, the saviours helped the middle aged man to his feet.
“Are you hurt?” asked the woman, up close she was quite unique; she was strikingly beautiful, but it was the lime green hair and lipstick that was the most attention grabbing.

“Only my pride babe,” replied the man as his features melted into that of someone twenty years younger, “but seriously, thanks for the save.”
“No problem Changeling, lucky for you that Alex got word Sabertooth was working for Sinister or you’d be dead…”

“He already is Kermit,” yelled Sabertooth, leaping from a hidden location nearby.

“Dammit, lookout!” yelled Havok as he prepared to fire off another plasma beam.
Someone else was too quick for him though as twin red beams of concussive force slammed the enraged mutant sideways, quickly followed by a shower of razor sharp icicles. Creed was on his feet immediately, he was breathing heavily but his wounds were already healing rapidly. From the darkness a hand of telekinetic force grabbed the savage and hurled him through a tree and into the path a winged man who landed him a massive punch to the jaw.

Sabertooth plummeted to the ground below and the winged man was on him in an instant. For any other man to grapple with Creed would be suicidal, but this was Calvin Rankin, the Mimic. The previous four attacks were not from separate people but from him; he was a veritable army with the powers of the original five X-men, not to mention anyone else nearby.
“I’m gonna rip your head off pretty boy,” growled Sabertooth, with his formidable hands wrapped around Mimic’s throat. Surprisingly, Calvin seemed unfazed.

“I’ve got your strength Creed, and I’ll heal just as fast as you, so give up,” said Mimic.

“Not gonna happen pipsqueak,” he squeezed Calvin’s throat like a vice as his razor sharp talons penetrated flesh. Cal grimaced but shrugged off the pain; the wounds were healing already.

“Get out of the way Cal, I can take him out!” yelled Havok.

“I’ve got this,” he replied.
 
Gradually, Sabertooth’s flesh started to freeze. It became a race; would Cal suffocate first or would Creed freeze? With his healing factor it looked likely that Creed was going to be the victor so his opponent tried a different tactic.

“So…you’re not going to surrender then?” he managed to choke out.

“Nuh-uh,”

“And…you’re definitely going…to kill me?”

“Oh yeah,” he grinned wickedly.

“Well then…you leave me…no other choice…I’m sorry,”

Creed noticed the red glow in his opponent’s eyes but it was already too late; twin crimson beams of concussive force burst forth from Mimic’s eyes. At a range of less than a foot the beams were deadly, there was no way the killer could dodge. In the time it took to blink the beams blasted Creed’s head to pieces.

The mutant’s now headless body collapsed to the ground in a lifeless heap as Calvin wiped the blood from his face, “bad kitty,” he muttered.

“You didn’t need to kill him Calvin,” stated Havok angrily, although he knew he would never get through to Mimic; he was just too sure of himself.

“Sabertooth was too dangerous to keep alive,” Calvin argued, “We certainly don’t have the means to house him. What are we going to do, hand him over to the humans?” he snorted, “and it’s not like Magneto’s going to lock away such a useful weapon…”
“Ok fine!” Alex didn’t want to hear anymore, “but I’ll have it on the record I’m not happy with this,”

“Don’t worry, neither am I,” said Calvin, too softly for anyone to hear, as he looked down upon the body at his feet.

Exasperated, Havok looked to Changeling, “did you get the information at least?”

“Sure did. Sinister’s cracked how to boost mutant powers, as well as to bring on secondary mutations,”

“With that on his side Magneto and his forces will surely overrun mankind,” exclaimed Lorna.

“Don’t be so sure,” replied Calvin, though his gaze was distant, “The humans are desperate, there’s no telling what they’ll do to take Magneto down.”

This was his life now, the fighting and killing, the constant struggle, and it was hell. It was hard enough trying to be a hero, protecting the innocent, defeating evil, that old chestnut, but fighting in a war was even harder. What’s worse was that his side, the X-men’s side, was right in the middle. America was in a civil war between mutants and humans and the X-men were stuck in between, trying to stop atrocities on both sides.

The war had begun when the Mutant Registration Act had become law. Magneto immediately went on the offensive, destroying an air force base as a call to arms for all mutantkind. A few terrorist acts later and the president ordered all mutants to be rounded up into concentration camps. This left mutants with little choice; join Magneto or go to jail.
Mutant forces now held a third of the United States, despite being outnumbered. Every mutant was a weapon, and Magneto knew that well. Not wishing to choose a side, the X-men had created their own; two weeks ago they had destroyed a human lab doing horrific experiments on mutants, another fortnight before that they prevented Magneto from murdering a hundred humans. It was a never ending battle and Mimic was growing weary of it; so much death and pain weighs heavily on the soul.
“Come on, we better get back to base, Banshee’ll be getting anxious,” stated Alex.

Blooonk!

Six bizarre looking figures appeared before the quartet in a flash of blinding light. One of them, an attractive pink skinned woman in a green dress, looked directly at Calvin with a look of anguish. Mimic didn’t notice her though, as all his attention was focused on her big companion; Sabertooth!

Without a word he fired his optic blasts at the feral mutant. He had no idea how Creed had managed to heal from his extreme injury and right now he didn’t care; the beast had brought backup. Sabretooth was knocked backward through a tree by the blast and his team mates leapt into action.

“We’re the good guys!” Exclaimed the white faced man, as he turned his hands into oversized boxing gloves.

“Is that the Chameleon?” Alex asked Lorna as he fired a plasma blast at the group.

“Please, Chameleon’s a hack!” yelled Changeling.

“I know!” agreed white face, “Hey do I know you?” A ball of ice struck him in the head, diverting his attention.

“We mean you no harm, Calvin Rankin,” said the blonde man in the leather jacket. He quickly dived below one of Mimic’s ice blasts, which struck the pink woman behind him.

Contrary to Leather Jacket’s placating words, Sabertooth came charging through the forest from where he had been blasted. Mimic recognised the wild frenzy in his eyes; the man had gone berserk.

“Blink! Rrrraaaarrrgghhh!” he roared as he ran straight for Calvin. Mimic wasn’t afraid though, he’d defeated the beast once already today and he could do it again. With several flaps of his massive wings he was airborne, out of Creed’s reach, and fired an optic blast. The madman leapt aside, which unfortunately brought him very close to the vulnerable Changeling.

Much to the X-men’s surprise one of Sabertooth’s companions leapt to their aid. A tall, muscular woman in purple armour pounced on Creed from behind and held him in a bear hug; she clearly had above-human strength. The rubbery man with the white face quickly wrapped himself around their feral team mate, until he was completely ensnared. After sparing a quick, uncomfortable glance Cal’s way, the pink woman in the green dress held Creed’s face in his hands and spoke softly.
“You need to calm down Mr Creed, there are no enemies here. That ice blast just winged me.”

The fury quickly faded from Victor’s eyes and his team mates hesitantly let him go. Mimic and the other X-men watched the whole scene in confused surprise.

“Umm, what just happened?” Changeling scratched his head.

The pink woman turned his way, determination painted across her features. “We’re here to help you. You might want to get comfortable; this is going to take some explaining.”

Twenty minutes later, fifteen miles west

“Alternate realities?” I still don’t buy it, said Havok warily.

“He’s right, it’s a load of bull,” replied Changeling, “Magneto sent them to lead us into some kind of trap.”
After teleporting the group to a safer location away from Sinister’s lab, and explaining their story to the X-men, the Exiles felt like banging their heads’ against a brick wall. It was understandable that they were cynical, but it was starting to be a drag. Sabertooth proved he wasn’t their world’s Victor Creed by sniffing out the corpse and showing it to the group, and once they had all teleported to safety he asked heather to show them all a vision of their work through the Tallus. Still they were unconvinced.

“Oh come on!” exclaimed Morph, “you haven’t heard of Kang? What about Bishop? Dark Beast? Travel through time and reality is so common you could take a vacation to the bikini babe world.”
“Morph, there’s no-“started Spiderman.

“Ooooh idea time!” a light bulb grew out of Morph’s head, “Mimic, it seems like you have the powers of the original X-men. Do you have Jean Grey’s telepathy?”

“Yeah,” replied Calvin.

“Well then read my mind and you can see that we’re telling the 100% all natural truth,”

“No!” exclaimed Blink, “I mean, read my mind. I’m in charge; the responsibility should be with me.”

“Are you sure about this?” asked Mimic. Blink couldn’t bear to look at the man who was identical to her dead lover, let alone let him in her mind, but she had no choice. If he had looked within Morph’s mind he would have seen the monster trapped inside.

“Just do it, and be quick,”

He nodded and placed his hands on her face, the familiar feeling sent a shiver down her spine. “Sorry, I’m not as skilled with these powers as Jean was, physical contact helps me.”

She tried her best to focus on their missions as Exiles, from the day they were all brought together in that alien desert to the moment when Axel Asher smashed into the crystal palace. It was her hope that by bringing these memories to the surface Mimic would miss the memories of her Calvin, as well the other secrets the Exiles hid. Truth be known, though, she didn’t have much experience with telepaths and had no real idea what Mimic would see in her mind.
He pulled his hands away abruptly as the glazed look in his eyes faded. “I’m sorry for doubting you…Clarice.”

“Its true?” asked a surprised Lorna.
Mimic nodded, “This group has done a lot of good, and I think we’d be lucky to have their help,” he sighed deeply,” because we’re really going to need it.”

Forty-five minutes ago, the Crystal Palace

“Which brings me to Earth two-eight-eight…” said Heather ominously, “a world where humans and mutants are in a state of civil war for control of the United States. From what little information we can gather, the original X-men were killed early on in a battle with the Super Adaptoid.  Without the X-men to stand in his way Magneto grew in power until his action led to a nationwide control order being placed on mutants. You can do the maths from there. Needless to say, things have escalated to the point where humans and mutants are at war.”

Blink couldn’t help but think about how Magneto seemed destined to walk the path of a megalomaniac on so many worlds. The Magneto from her world was a noble man, who fought against oppression, although perhaps he would have taken that path if not for a friend’s dying wish.
“When Axel crashed through this timeline it caused a slight change in reality that will lead to the destruction of that world.   Mr Sinister has unlocked the secret to amplifying mutant powers and inducing secondary mutations,”
“Amazing, even in my future our scientists haven’t unlocked that secret,” Miguel’s eyes glazed over as his love of science dominated his thoughts.
“Once Sinister amplifies Magneto’s power’s he’ll lose control and destroy the planet. To set the timeline in check we need to stop this from happening. The Earth must survive or the crack in time it creates will lead to the eventual collapse of that reality.”

Earth #288, present

“This is very bad news,” sighed Banshee as he perused the files Changeling had retrieved.

The X-men had taken the Exiles back to their secret headquarters; a bunker set up beneath the ruins of Manhattan by the late Charles Xavier. At first cynical, the X-men’s scarred leader eventually accepted the Exiles’ story.
“Even if Magneto doesn’t destroy the world, he cannae be allowed to hold that much power,” The Irishman was starkly different from any other Banshee the Exiles had met. Changeling told them how Professor X had called out to Sean after the death of the X-men; he was the only protection Charles had when Magneto eventually came for him. When the pair refused to join him he showered them in metal, killing Xavier and seriously wounding Banshee. He lost an arm that day, but more importantly his throat was damaged beyond repair, costing him his sonic scream.
“We believe Sinister is going to amplify Magneto’s abilities tomorrow in a special ceremony,” stated Blink.
“The nutcase is going to make a show of it, the first mutant to ascend to his maximum potential,” said Morph as he changed into Oprah, “and then free ascensions for everybody in the audience!”
“Needless to say, we need to stop him,” said Power Princess.

“Xena’s right,” said Changeling as he took the form of Hercules, the Kevin Sorbo version, “that did go without saying,”

“You are really familiar,” said Morph, “but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“Enough!” Banshee’s voice croaked under the strain, “We need to think strategy but we’re all tired. Go and get a few hours rest and then we’ll talk plans.”

Without another word the one armed mutant left the room, followed by the rest of his X-men.

“I could’ve been watching Family Guy and instead I’m sleeping in a hole in the ground,” grumbled Morph.

“Doesn’t the prospect of adventure excite you friend?” asked Longshot naively.
“Not as much as the prospect of hot cocoa and the chance of seeing Power Princess in a towel as she heads to the showers,” he winked at Zarda.
“It’s not very honourable to gaze upon a lady in such a vulnerable position,” replied Longshot.

“Oh the both of you can just bite it,” Zarda pushed past the two men and left for her room. Morph quickly followed after her, wearing nothing but a towel and shouted, “Wanna hit the showers with me Powerbuns?” Longshot and Spiderman left also, leaving Clarice and Victor alone.

“How you doin’ pup?” asked Sabertooth, “And don’t try lyin’ to me.”

She sighed and fell against he adoptive father’s chest, “It’s so hard being here. He looks and sounds exactly like him. Every time I think about reaching out to touch him I have to remind my self that he’s not my Calvin.”

He placed his arms around her and held her warmly, “It must be hard Clarice. I can’t imagine what it must be like. Don’t worry pup, we’ll be out of here in less than a day.”

She pushed herself away from him gently, “Thanks mister Cree…Victor, but I think I just need some time alone.” Victor wasn’t one for discussing feelings so she really appreciated the great effort he had just gone to, but she really didn’t want to appear weak anymore.

They had each been allocated small rooms, walk in robes with camp beds really. She really just wanted to go and have a good sleep and forget for a moment that there was a living reminder of what she had lost one hundred feet away from her.
“Blink wait!” Calvin jogged up the hall behind her and she groaned internally.

“Look…Mimic, I’m really tired and I’d like to get some sleep please.”
“Sorry, this’ll only take a minute,” he looked nervous, like he wanted to say something but couldn’t get it out, “When I looked in your mind, I saw something I don’t think you wanted me to see. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for your loss. I can understand it must be hard seeing me and I appreciate that despite that you’re still willing to help us out.”
“Oh…ok,” she really didn’t know what to say.

Calvin looked a little bit lost too, “I’ve experienced loss too. I lost my dad when I was a teenager…and then I saw the rest of the X-men get murdered by the Super Adaptoid…I…”

“How do your powers work?” she really didn’t feel like talking about death, “five permanent powers at half strength?”

“Ummm no, I’m pretty sure they’re all full strength. Also, I can drop one temporarily to mimic another.”

After a long, uncomfortable pause she made a move to get out of there, “Oh ok…well good night Calvin,” with a sheepish look she disappeared down the hall and into her tiny room.

“Well that was awkward,” she sighed. Surprisingly though, she didn’t feel as bad after talking to this Calvin. The awkwardness reminded her that she didn’t actually know him, that this wasn’t her Cal. For the first time in months she slept soundly, without nightmares.

The next day, Washington DC
 
When Magneto had conquered Washington DC and driven President Kelly into hiding on the west coast, he had made the White House his base of operations. It was only fitting really; the elegant building had been the centre of the most powerful nation in the world, now it would be the centre of the new mutant empire. Today, thousands of mutants congregated outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue waiting for the ascension of their “messiah”, and many more were still making the pilgrimage in.

The White House was nearly unrecognisable now; the entire building had been coated in steel and extended into a towering citadel. Halfway up the tower was a large balcony, more of a stage really, from which Magneto could address his army of minions. Something large was hidden beneath a red curtain, which they assumed would be the power amplifier. The eleven heroes, both Exile and X-man, watched on from the roof of a building a mile away.

“Magneto appears unprepared for a teleporter of your capabilities Blink,” stated Power Princess, “If you teleport half of us down to ground level to create a distraction the rest can easily ‘port onto that balcony and destroy the machine.”
Banshee sighed audibly, “I’m sorry lass, but that’s not going to be an option,”

“And why not?” demanded Zarda.

“Because we’re not destroying the machine,” he replied. Behind him Magneto’s most powerful acolyte, Exodus, levitated up into view.

“You are already defeated fools!” boomed Exodus.

He was right; they were all frozen in place telekinetically. When Blink tried to teleport away she found she wasn’t able to access her powers. Only Banshee seemed unaffected, he paced the roof shaking his head and refusing to make eye contact with the others.
Exodus laughed derisively, “To think you honestly believed you stood a chance against Magneto and his loyal Acolytes.” They each fell to their knees and writhed in pain as the powerful mutant mentally induced their pain receptors.
“I’m sorry friends,” said Banshee softly as he brought himself to look at his X-men, “but they promised to heal me voice!”

“And Magneto delivers what he promises,” said Exodus proudly as each Exile and x-man blacked out, one by one.

Blink was the first to awaken, a half an hour later, to find her body wracked with pain. Looking around she quickly realised she was hanging from the citadel’s balcony by shackles on her wrists. To her left hung an unconscious Longshot and to her right hung Mimic, who was now waking up.

The woman’s immediate instinct was to teleport away but unfortunately her powers were stick being blocked telepathically. A smugly grinning Exodus levitated nearby, “You traitors shall all be made examples of.”

Thousands of mutants congregated below on the White House lawns, many hurling abuse at the “gene traitors” hanging above. Suddenly their shouts turned into cheers, she could only assume that Magneto had arrived.

Without warning their chains yanked each of them into the air and spun them around to face their captor. Everyone was definitely conscious now. Magneto stood before them, his trademark purple and maroon armour polished to perfection. His was hard, showing none of the compassion of Blink’s former leader, or even the Magnetos faced by Morph or Longshot.

“So, this is the last stand for the X-men,” he said coldly, for the benefit of their ears only, “it pains me to destroy a fellow mutant but it these troubling times traitors don’t deserve to live.”
“They’re troubling times because you made it this way!” screamed Havok.
“I think I’ll kill you first,” and then he addressed the crowd, “My fellow mutants! On this, our most glorious of days, traitors have come into our midst!” The throng broke out in boos and cries of rage, “But fear not, these Juduses shall be made an example of!” Cheers broke out once again; the mob was hungry for blood.

Magneto revelled in the praise for a moment before he continued on, “But first one of our own shall be rewarded for aiding his kind!”
Banshee was lead onto the stage by a golden skinned young man, who looked in awe of Magneto. “Go ahead, reward Banshee for his service,” he said.

The teenager placed one hand on Sean’s throat and the other on the stump of his left arm. Within seconds the Irishman’s arm regenerated completely.

“Now comes the part where he turns into the Lizard,” groaned Morph.

Banshee gazed at his newly grown arm in astonishment as he wiggled his fingers, “It’s a blasted miracle,” he clutched his throat, a look of pure joy in his eyes; his voice was no longer raspy. “Yes! Me voice, I can scream again! Oh thank ye Magneto!”

The Master of Magnetism ignored the newly healed man and turned back to his captives, “I think I’ll let you watch my ascension first, before I destroy you.”
“Don’t do it Erik! The power will be too much for you, you’ll destroy the planet!” screamed Blink, to no avail.

Her pleas fell on deaf ears as he ascended the stairs towards the power amplifier. The red curtain had been removed to reveal what was essentially a large tube surrounded by lots of other computers and machines. Sinister was there too, though in this world he was frail and hunched over, a far cry from Blink’s former tormentor.

Sinister, guided his master into the machine and sealed it shut with an audible hiss.   Within seconds he had the machine activated, as it began to whir and hum. Below the entire crowd had gone silent, as if they were holding their breath, waiting for their saviour to become all mighty. Soon he was engulfed in a brilliant blue glow, so bright that they couldn’t see him within. Blink prayed to whoever was listening that the machine would fail.
Once again the light surged, this time it was so bright it stung the eyes of any who hadn’t the foresight to look away. Those on the balcony had been hardest hit; Exodus clutched his eyes and cried out in pain. For the briefest moment he lost concentration to which Longshot saw his chance. As his eye flashed one of his shackles miraculously came undone. Stunned by the light, Exodus drifted too close to the lucky man, who grabbed him around the waist with his legs and wrapped his free arm around his throat in a chokehold.
This distracted the mutant long enough for Blink to teleport free, along with the others. Longshot held his captive a moment longer, allowing Power Princess to punch him in the face with devastating force. Needless to say, the mutant went down like a sack of bricks.

“Oh s#!%” cursed Banshee, but before he could scream, Spiderman webbed his mouth shut.

“Lorna, do it!” yelled Mimic, over the noise of the machine.

“With pleasure,” with a look of cold determination on her face, the emerald haired mutant ripped the machine to pieces. Sinister ran for his life as the device exploded in a shower of metal and blue light.

As the light faded and the smoke cleared, Magneto was revealed Alive and well, kneeling in the centre of the rubble. His armour and clothes were gone, vaporised by the machine, and his body glowed with an intense blue-white light.

“You failed X-men,” his eyes glowed with barely concealed power. With a casual gesture of his index finger Polaris was vaporised.
“I manipulate the magnetic field so finely now I can scatter ever molecule of your being!” he laughed maniacally, like megalomaniacs do. A wave of force burst forth from the mutant, but Blink reacted in time to teleport the team behind the villain. They attacked in unison, firing energy blasts, hurling blades and charging in for a physical assault but nothing could touch him.

All around, the storm clouds as black as pitch were forming; dozens of thunderbolts assaulted the city, many of which struck the citadel. The mutant crowd below scatter when the ground started to rumble and break open. Unknown to Magneto, he was actually drawing the iron core of the earth towards him, throwing the planet into turmoil. Within a few short minutes the Earth would be destroyed.
Realising there was no other way to stop the madman, Mimic charged towards him, shedding his wings on the way.   Magneto attempted to scatter his molecules like Lorna but he blocked it with the villain’s own powers. Calvin’s body radiated energy, he could literally see the Earth’s Magnetic field and how warped they were around Magneto. Reaching out with his mind he cleared the villain’s magnetic shield and fired an optic blast, knocking him flat on his back. Mimic didn’t give him a chance to gather his senses, he pounced on the fallen villain and pounded on him with iced up fists. He didn’t let up until Erik was bruised, bloody, and very stunned.
The storm was raging intensely now, sheer hurricane winds pelted the citadel. Quakes shook the ground so fiercely that it was only Mimic’s sheer force of will that kept the tower upright. Gradually he mended the damage caused my Magneto to the planet’s electromagnetic field, and slowly shifted the core back into place, though he nearly collapsed under the strain.

Though the storm still raged above, its fury had decidedly lessened, along with the quakes shaking the ground. There was only one thing left to do, and the thought of it made the bile rise in his throat. He had to kill Magneto. The villain was quickly regaining consciousness, he had to act now or it would be too late.

“Forgive me, just one more time,” he placed both hands on the man’s head and prepared to break his neck, but the strength just wouldn’t come. He couldn’t a defenceless man in such a way, there had to be a better method.
“Do…it…” gasped Magneto, “I nearly…I was wrong…kill me before…I end it all.”
Mimic nodded, focusing his tremendous mimicked powers he scattered Magnetos atoms to the wind, essentially ending his life. Blink watched the scene and shed a tear for the man; it was like she was back on Earth six-one-six again watching Calvin agonise over taking another’s life. This time though, Mimic had done the deed, and whilst he had saved a lot of lives had he tarnished his own soul?
Neither way sounded like a true victory.

The Crystal Palace

As Heather watched the scene unroll on earth two-eight-eight, Axel Asher dreamed. He dreamed of a colossally huge creature made from hundred of giant black crystals surrounded by a raging white storm. It radiated malevolence so dark it scarred his soul.

It was coming to destroy everything.