The Xavier Institute…

Samuel Zachariah Guthrie stood in the remains of the Xavier Mansion. The rubble which had been there had all been taken away and scrapped by the mutants who once lived there and humans contracted to take it away.

Sam looked around. The walls were gone, the ceiling and the floor were gone but still the foundations and metal pipes and poles jutting from the floor marked out what had once been a room. It was what had once been his room.

Sam had first came to the Xavier Institute at the age of 16. The area he stood in had been his room. The mansion had been partially and completely destroyed several times since that day and Sam had left its safety to pursue his own path but always returned. It had always been his second home. No matter where he had went whether it was the Massachusetts Academy, with X-Force or globetrotting with Storm and the X.S.E. The Xavier Institute was his home.

If there was in each generation of Xavier students a poster boy for Xavier and his dream Scott Summers AKA Cyclops was the first and Sam aka Cannonball was the second. He was from the second generation of recruits taught by Xavier (rather than 2nd gen of X-men.)

This was no longer his home. It was not the demolition which removed it from him or which removed him from it but rather what came before it. The Decimation.

He and his family survived M-Day unscathed unlike so many others. He came from a big family with the highest proportion of mutation in any (though the children of Angel and Beak may have knocked them from that record) family known to science and all of them had managed to survive the destruction of their species. Jay survived just long enough to make them think they were ok.

Joshua was Sam’s younger brother and in truth they often didn’t get along…most of the time they didn’t get along. He was however Sam’s younger brother and so his responsibility both with him being an X-Man and Jay being a student but also and more so because he was his brother. He was the reason his brother had been sent to the mansion and if not for him Jay would not have fallen prey to William Stryker.

Sam blamed himself. It was for this reason when Rogue came and offered him a place on her team he took it. He got away from the mansion as fast as he could. It felt to him no longer like his home but rather the place that his brother died. A constant reminder of how he had failed his family.

Sam had not been at the mansion on the day it collapsed to rubble, destroyed by an enemy of the X-Men. The dream smashed to pieces and the X-Men disbanded. There were roughly a few thousand mutants left (198 categorized) on the planet, they were an endangered species and a genetic dead end. What was the purpose of them without a species?

They had come together one last time. The one last time was to say goodbye to those they had most recently lose. It was for this reason that Sam stood in the remnants of his room. The skeleton of his old life. He said goodbye to Cannonball, the X-Man and then he would say goodbye to the friends he had lost during the events with Sinister and the child.

“Sam?” the voice was hesitant behind him. Soft and inquisitive as if it was testing the water. The tone and accent of the voice had changed much since he’d last heard it but he recognised it none the less. She was one of his closest friends and he had known her for years. He turned and with a weak smile greeted Rahne.

Rahne’s arms wrapped around him tightly. She was in human form. Her short almost shaved head was in contrast with the feminine dark but flouncy dress she wore. “I’m sorry Sam, I heard about Jay but I could’na get away to come and see you”. Sam noted the brief tinge of Scot which snuck into her practised American accent.

“It’s ok Rahne. You’re hear now, that’s all that matters. You can visit his memorial.”

“Already have,” she blushed slightly. “I visited all the children who died in the attack.” Rahne was the youngest of the original New Mutants. She had often been treated like the baby of the team. That plus the fact for years she had had a huge crush on Sam Guthrie meant that often despite her maturity now she blushed as she first did when she joined the Institute. Of all the New Mutants other than Sam (who made it to being a staple of the X-Men roster) she had probably had the most success and growth of all the New Mutants in the world of X. She went from a disturbed child due to her upbringing where she was constantly told she was evil to being the poster child for mutants in the government and media mutant team known as X-Factor.

The two pulled each other close and linked arms as they picked their way out of the ruins walking along the length of corridors and through the remnants of doors rather than walking straight through ‘walls’. They walked the paths they had for years. “Jay will be happy you prayed for him,” Rahne smiled and exhaled slightly as Sam spoke, the truth was she hadn’t prayed in weeks. This for the devout catholic girl meant something, she didn’t want to acknowledge what. “How are you holding up? You and Ric were close.”

Rahne hid her blush again. Sam didn’t realise how close Rahne and Rictor had been. They were childhood sweet hearts for a while but quickly grew up and apart as life intervened but since both were brought together again by Jamie Madrox to work for him the two had grown again. They had grown together, become lovers, now he was dead.

“I’m as well as can be expected. I miss him,” Rahne closed her eyes for second. Sam continued to guide her along the now outside path as they walked to the memorial area. Rahne was pushing back the tears and when she opened her eyes Sam hadn’t noticed. He had however heard it in her voice.

“Ah know what it’s like. We’ve both lost too many friends…and family,” Sam thought of Jay and Moira McTaggert Rahne’s dead ‘mother’.

“You don’t know what it’s like…you’ve never lost someone as close. Never lost a love!” Rahne’s mind snapped. She pushed it back and inhaled deeply. She had been on edge. Since Julio’s death she had been fighting to keep her instincts back, keep her animal nature away from the surface where it had been pushing to. “I…would you excuse me for a minute Sam. I just need to…” Rahne didn’t finish her sentence she had already shifted to wolf form and bounded away. She needed to get some space between her and everyone else.

“I do hope that wasn’t me, I’ve found since our time with Storm that those with more animal mutations seem a little skittish around me…pheromones I imagine.” Sam recognised this voice also. He turned and greeted the man with less happiness than he had Rahne. The rocket powered fist of Sam slammed into the face of Henry McCoy aka The Beast driving him to the floor. Beast bared his teeth as he prepared to spring into an attack but stopped and held himself back.

“You! You stay away from me! You stay away from my family!” Sam didn’t hold back. Beast had moved himself upwards and Sam instantly grabbed his suit lapels and dragged him closer. “You brought a monster to my home! To my family and he nearly killed my brother! Didn’t you think we’d lost enough? Did you think we were just test subjects!”

“Sam I..I didn’t know he would…I thought I had him under control.” Beast was not often blind sided or ever left short for words but the fact was he knew he’d done wrong. The fact which was even worse was that the monster he spoke of was none other than a dark mirror of himself.

“You didn’t know?” Sam was glowing. His blast field extended but remained stationary. It was an effect he’d practiced for years before he could do it. “You knew exactly what he could do! He kept you prisoner! You heard the stories from the twisted world he came from!”

The Dark Beast was a twisted version of Henry McCoy from an alternate time line. He made Mengle look like your friendly GP, science without conscious. Beast was well aware of what he could do but they were against a wall, they had to do something to help mutantkind and to do this they needed the best scientists they could find. The Dark Beast was one of these scientists. Beast had not been surprised when his counterpart had performed a dangerous and unnecessary experiment on Sam Guthrie’s younger brother Lewis but rather horrified over what he had let happen.

“I didn’t think there was another way!”

Sam’s blast field picked up again. The roaring rung in Beast’s ears. Sam could now run on silent flying with no noise, he wanted Beast to hear him. He had used his family, he had hurt one of them. Sam held himself as responsible for Lewis’s condition as he did for Jay’s but the fact was with Lewis he could also blame someone else. Beast was about to feel how unhappy Sam was with himself. He had lost people before when he led his teams but he had never endangered an innocent in the way Beast had his family.

SNIKT

“Sam put the furball down.” Wolverine growled. His adamantium claws moved across Sam’s throat ready to pull back at a moments notice.

“Logan, Ah’m invincible with my blast field on. You know you can’t hurt me if y’all wanted to.” Sam cast a brief glimpse to his left as he tried to look at Logan’s face behind him.

“I can turn off your field at a moments notice Guthrie. I suggest…” Sam instantly turned off his field and released Beast. He raised his hands up in surrender and stepped away from the two. He glared at Emma Frost who had just spoken to him.

She was as ever dressed in white. The two piece suit Sam couldn’t help but think was incredible disrespectful. He’d had his problems with Emma in the past but had let them go on the request of Xavier and his sister Paige who assured him she had turned over a new leaf.

“Sam…Sam!” Beast called after the young mutant but Sam just kept walking away. He had already done more than he had planned. He wanted to come along and say goodbye to his friends. He had not meant to make a scene.

Elsewhere…

Rahne sat at the lake side. Her paw dangled over the dock into the water. The rain which had came only that morning had raised the level of the water and made the fresh water in the lake taste ‘chemically’. She thought it odd that in her wolf form that she had the most trouble controlling her emotions and instincts but it was also much easier for her to calm herself and when she was at her most serene.

Her head jolted upwards and she sniffed the air as she felt two familiar scents approaching. She began to shift back to human form but stopped part of the way there. Her head was still very much that of a wolf but the rest of her body took a human form. It was the transition she had been using most recently rather than her human but fury form. It allowed her to distance herself from people when she wanted plus at the current state she lacked tear ducts.

“Rahne,” The two women said almost in unison as they passed the boat house a few minutes later. Rahne was ready and hugged them both. They were both dressed in black. They too had come for the funeral. “You should have come and found us when you arrived,” added Xi’an.

“Sorry Shan, I found Sam and then I just needed some time.” Dani eyed her friend carefully. One of Dani’s mutant gifts had been animal telepathy. It had meant for many years that Rahne and her always knew what one another was thinking. Her powers were gone thanks to the decimation but she could still tell her best friend was hurting.

Dani Moonstar and Xi’an Manh were also members of the 5 founding New Mutants along with her and Sam.

Dani had been the most rebellious of the group but soon proved herself as leadership material and ended up along with Sam calling the shots for the group throughout all of their adventures. In more recent years she had been an agent of SHIELD and then a teacher at the Institute. Her relationship with Rahne had been stretched to breaking point when she had had a relationship with Dani’s ward Josh Foley but they had repaired it and come back stronger. Come M-Day Dani was forced to leave the mansion and had joined The Initiative as a teacher.

Xi’an was the original leader of the team and as the oldest with two young siblings to look after she was the mother figure of the group. Life led her on a very different path quickly and she was forced to leave the group for a while and then fall under the thrall of The Shadow King. Her life after that had gotten back on track as she raised her siblings Leong and Nga, graduated college and got a normal job away from the X-Men life. She was very much a prime example of the Xavier dreams of peaceful co-existence. The fact she was a lesbian still raised the hackles on Rahne’s back but she didn’t judge, she loved Xi’an like a sister.

“It’s okay we’ve found you now little sister.” Xi’an smiled. “We should go, the service will be starting soon and I’m sure James will be about ready to strangle Leong and Nga about now.”

“You left them with Warpath?” The thought brought a smile to Rahne’s face. She could not easily imagine the large native American warrior handling the twins without strapping them down.

“Xi’an can we catch up with you in a second?” Dani flashed her friend a look and motioned with her eyes to Rahne. Xi’an smiled, nodded and hugged Rahne again.

“I’m sorry for everything,” Xi’an pulled away from Rahne and kissed her gently on the forehead before turning and walking away.

Dani turned back to Rahne as she watched Xi’an disappear from sight and earshot. “How are you really?” Dani was the only one in the world who had known about Julio and Rahne. She was the only one who knew about Rahne’s control issues. The two had remained in contact mostly everyday since they last parted. They were platonic soul mates and had lost one another before and after reconnecting they were not prepared to do it again even if Dani’s loss of powers made it harder.

Rahne shifted fully back to human form. Her short red hair bristled against Dani’s face as she embraced her. She would cry for Julio at his funeral but she would not show anyone but Dani her true grief. To know how she truly felt would be to know what she had done with Rictor. “It hurts,” she cried, the truth was she really loved Rictor. It was not for her to know that her love had been spurred on by the powers of the Terrigan crystals which had been embedded within him but she loved him with all her heart.

‘Shhhh’ hushed Dani as she stroked the head of her friend. “It’s ok, just let it all out. It’s okay.” The tears swept to Dani’s face she had not been as close to Rictor as Rahne and she lacked her link with Rahne at the moment but her friend was in great emotional distress and it hurt Dani to see her in such a way.

“I dinnae think it’ll ever be okay Dani. He was the first lad I ever loved. I fancied Sam and had those thoughts about Alex because of the bond imprinted on us in Genosha but I never truly loved. I dinnae if you can understand me, it feels like part of me is missing. Like when I lost my powers…I don’t feel whole anymore.” Rahne stopped crying and pulled away from Dani. “I’m sorry you must think I’m mental. You lost yuir parents and then friends just the same as I have and you’ve lost your powers.”

Dani stroked Rahne’s face. “It’ll feel better in time. I know you loved Julio but it’ll stop hurting eventually and you’ll just remember the good feeling that came with loving him.”

Rahne smiled. She had missed Dani, just having her back made it all hurt that little bit less. “How are ye coping without ye’r powers?” Rahne’s accent slipped through even more than usual when she was alone with Dani.

“I’ve lost them before but…this feels more permanent. Like a tangible feeling I’ve lost something.” Dani’s hands moved away from Rahne and she looked at the them briefly. “Still I’ve been busy. Hank set me up with the Initiative training some students again and Justin has helped me apply for the FBI. He thinks with my SHIELD background I’ll have no troubles.”

“Oh I almost forgot…Dani and Justin sitting in a tree…K.I.S.S.I.N.G..” Dani’s hand jumped over the face of Rahne who was doing a voice that only a mocking younger sibling could master. Rahne struggled free. “How’s it going?”

“It’s…nice. Going well,” Dani smiled. She was now fighting back the blush. “We should get a move on, we don’t want to be late.”

The two began to walk side by side up the dock. “First comes love then comes marriage then comes Dani pushing a baby carriage.” Rahne quickly added mockingly before taking a diving step forward as Dani moved to grab her mouth again.

An undisclosed military base deep in the heart of a South American rainforest…

The General sat in his large leather chair leaning back from his desk. In his mouth a large brown cigar glowed a gently red as he inhaled slowly. The smoke from it spewed from his nostrils seconds later mingling in with his black but greying moustache.

He was General Augustine DeFalco. He was head of a secret (even to most members of the government) military task force. He was one of the most highly protected men in the whole country as most men who can topple their own government were. He knew exactly where the bodies were buried, why they had been killed and who held the smoking gun.

The task force he ran was no different than any other country. The Americans had Weapon Plus. The British Black Air. The Russians had the SSSP. Mossad had its unnamed agency…they were one of the first. The force he ran was simply known as The Programme.

The purpose of The Programme was two fold. Firstly it was established to protect the people of the country from post human threats of all kinds from beyond cutting edge technology to mutants through policing or military action. The second purpose was to use these ‘threats’ in a constructive manner to protect the countries interests in the larger world.

He grinned gently to himself flashing his yellow stained teeth to no one in particular. He was watching the closed circuit television on his computer screen. His newest acquisitions looked ready to launch. They were antiques compared to several of the other agencies and the private agencies such as AIM but it was hardly their faults. They had suffered several setbacks to their projects over the past few years.

His brainwave came when he was watching television in his villa one night. He saw how the American’s sold and donated weapons to countries they thought could use them. He had instantly contacted an old contact within the American system. Within one week they were in receivership of 15 units almost ready to go with only one proviso. The deal was obviously highly illegal in both countries as well as under international law and should any paperwork of the dealings surface everyone involved would never again taste freedom but it was worth it.

They had obviously not trusted the Trojan horse at first but with a simple wipe and then reprogrammed them their project was once again put on the right track (with the requested programming code presented in the proviso). An upgrade of technology bought from other agencies such as AIM had brought them up to scratch. It would be no time until they were online and the scanning would begin immediately. Their post-human army would be built in no time.

Ring, ring, ring…

He took another long inhale on his cigar before he reached for the phone. “Hola?”

“It’s me, I trust everything is on track?” It was the voice of his contact within the American system. A man who he trusted with his secrets.

“Sim, very soon we will be 100% operational.”

“Good, I have it on good authority that the fox is among the chickens. I trust you have remembered the proviso?”

“Sim, it will be done.”

“It had better be, you and I both know neither of us would like to displease Her. Contact me when the operation begins.” A shiver ran down The general’s back as She was mentioned. He had run across her in the past, he would not like to displease her.