Earth #170983. The alley.

“Mister Creed!” Screamed Blink as her father figure was pulled into a shadow like it was water.

In a flash of pink light she disappeared and repapered up the wall where Sabertooth was taken. She hung from the windowsill and probed the shadow only to find nothing but solid wall.

“Dammit!” she cursed; without Victor they had no way of communicating with Heather. Although they all felt reassured she was watching from the Crystal Palace and was doing what she could.

“What do we do now?” asked Spider-Man.

“Obviously we learn as much as were can about this world to discover where those creatures have taken Creed and the girl,” stated Power Princess matter-of-factly.

“Any suggestion Zarda?”

The powerful Amazon had none; her world was too dissimilar from this one, just like the majority of the Exiles.

Morph sighed, “It looks like it’s up to me once again to save the day,” in his time with the X-men and Avengers of his world he had learned a thing or two about gathering information.

“I know just the person to report some answers to us,” he smiled.

Unknown location

Victor awoke with a splitting headache and a slight sense of nausea. As soon as that creature had pulled him into the shadow he had been overwhelmed with a sheer sense of…wrongness as if he didn’t belong there. It knocked him out cold.

From the looks of it the trip had the same effect on Tatiana, who was back in human form and unconscious beside him. She looked so fragile, but he knew she had strong determination and ingenuity, much like Clarice had when he first met her. He was so proud of Clarice.

He scanned the room and quickly ascertained they were locked in a three foot square cell with walls on three sides. The forth side had bars, but they weren’t made of steel, they seemed to be formed of shadows. Experimentally, he reached out and grabbed one of the bars…and immediately wished he hadn’t; an unnatural coldness sent painful chills down his arm, causing it to go numb. He snatched his hand away and it went limp at his side.

“Don’t worry, we all tried the same thing,” said a voice from nearby.

Creed looked around and noticed a boy in a cell diagonally opposite to his. He looked about fifteen, with short blonde hair, tattered clothing and a little malnourished. He didn’t recognise the boy’s scent so it wasn’t anyone he had ever met before.

“What’s your name kid?” he asked.

“They call me Freakshow, well at least they did” the kid smiled ruefully, “Even in the ruins of Genosha we weren’t safe,”

“Don’t worry kid, we’ll get out of this, I have friends in high places,” he spoke into the Tallus, “Heather, can you hear me? I need you to teleport us out of here.” Silence was the only response, “Heather?”

It looked like he was on his own. He looked back to the kid, Freakshow, “Who’s behind all this?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “Only the Shades come down here. Every day to take some of us away, and they’re not very talkative,”

“There’re more prisoners?” All the cells Victor could see, save Freakshow’s, were empty.

“There aren’t many now, just us and a few others; an emo chick and a flaming guy. I can’t see the burning guy but I can make out his glow.”

“I’m not emo, I’m Goth!” cried a girl’s voice.

“Whatever,” Freakshow rolled his eyes.

“Don’t any of you have powers?”

“We all do. I was trashing this cell in monster mode before I hit the bars. Now I can’t transform.”

Great, thought Victor, if the Exiles didn’t come soon it was him and a bunch of powerless kids against and army of shadows and god-knows-what else.

The Daily Bugle

Although it was well passed midnight, the Exiles quarry was still toiling away. His name was Ben Ulrich, star reporter for the Daily Bugle. The other Exiles thought Morph was taking them to see some sleazy criminal or information broker, but as he explained it, reporters were very good at gathering information.

“Hello Mr. Ulrich,” said Blink as the team appeared around his desk. His coffee mug flew into the air as he jumped in fright. Thankfully it was caught expertly by Longshot and miraculously not a drop was spilled.

“Her you go,” he handed the coffee back to Ulrich with a warm smile.

“Ummm….thanks,” the reporter looked at the coffee like it might bite his hand off before putting it down on the desk.

“We’re here for information,” said Morph, while dressed like a stereotypical reporter, “We want to know about these shadow creatures, what they want?”

“What’ve you been living under a rock?”

“Yes, a very nice pink rock, with a very nice spa. And if we don’t solve this mystery and rescue our friend I can’t go back and watch these two lovely ladies here wrestle in that spa over my affections,” Blink slapped her forehead in frustration and Zarda looked about to pop Morph’s head like a pimple.

Ben threw up his hands in defeat, “Fine, it all started a year ago; heroes started going missing. First the high profile ones like Spider-Man and the Avengers, and then the C and D listers like Darkhawk and Moon Knight. With the heroes gone, supervillain activity went through the roof, but then they started vanishing as well. It was as if someone used the hero’s absence to draw the villains out. And now with all the big players out of the game other people have started going missing, mainly young mutants just discovering their powers.”

“But why?” asked Blink.

Ben shrugged, “It could be any number of reasons; someone could have a grudge against superhumans, preparation for an invasion or take over…”

“Or experimentation,” said Miguel grimly. In his future, major corporations ruled the world and they would stop at nothing to one up the competition, even if it meant kidnapping and experimenting on superhumans.

“Where do the do the shadows take their victims?” asked Blink impatiently; they could already be out of time.

Ben’s eyes widened in fear, “I…I don’t know…you need to leave now…”

She grabbed his arms and looked deep into the older man’s eyes, “Please, my friends been taken, along with an innocent young girl. You have to help us. If you know anything please tell us.”

The reporter’s shoulder’s slumped, he couldn’t let innocents suffer, even if it meant putting himself at risk. “No-one knows anything for sure but I have my suspicions, most people do, but they’re afraid to voice them. Just before the first heroes started going missing, something new appeared on the skyline of New York City. It’s too big of a coincidence don’t you think, especially once you see how bizarre it is.”

“Where is it?” asked Blink.

Ulrich pointed out of the office window to one particularly tall skyscraper illuminated brightly in the light of the full moon. Atop the building sat a bizarre black structure with multiple “horns” extending from both sides.

“What the hell is that?” asked Spider-Man.

Morph’s jaw dropped to the ground, literally, “Oh crap!”

The Sentry’s Watchtower. Cell block.

Tatiana came to with a fright; seeing Sabertooth leaning over you can have that affect. She tried to crawl away but had no where to go due the size of the cell. When she foolishly reached for the shadow bars Victor snatched her hand away, only to receive a punch in the nose.

He couldn’t help but laugh; the girl had spunk. His laughter seemed to steal the wind from the girl’s sails, as she stopped trying to escape and asked him, “Who are you?”

“Call me Sabert…call me Mr. Creed. My friend’s and I have been trying to protect you, but you don’t seem to want protectin,” he gestured around the cell, “Look where that got us,”

Tatiana slumped to the ground, “I just wanted to find my friend,”

Creed placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, “If she’s alive I’ll help you find her, but first we have to get out of here.”

As if on cue the room shook as a massive BOOOOOM resounded in their ears. Victor smiled to his comrade, “Sounds like the cavalry has arrived. Took ’em long enough.”