X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Four

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X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Four

Post  AndyWright on Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:52 pm

X-Men: Special Threats
Issue Four

Xavier’s voice was patient, but the expression on his face showed he was at least slightly irritated. “Illyana, I need more than a hunch. Mr. Takahashi has been an excellent host. I won’t entertain suspicion just because you think—”

“I know he’s up to something.”

“How?”

Illyana stepped away, anxiously combing her hair back with her hand. Memories from last night flushed her mind, of Takahashi’s hand running through her hair, the tips of his hand brushing lightly against her scalp as he whispered in her ear. She put her hands down at her sides. “I just do. I overheard him talking with someone on his cell phone. Or sat phone.”

“What did he say?”

Illyana was pacing nervously. Her memories were a mess. “He said to wait a month. They said—”

There was a pause. Xavier waited a long time, his eyes on his folded hands. Finally he spoke, his voice very soft. “They said what?”

Illyana’s forehead tightened up. She slowed her breathing. “I don’t remember. But I know he said something about driving you into frustration. And something about interference. Or intervention.”

Xavier sighed and then nodded. “If you want, I can probe your memories.”

Illyana’s eyes went wide. “No! No, I don’t feel—I don’t want you to.”

He nodded. “That’s fine. But I will not be able to do anything about your worries until I have a real, concrete reason to not trust Mr. Takahashi. Be patient. If he is false, he will reveal himself.”

* * *

Twenty teenagers and adults stepped forward and threw their elbows out at head level in union. Sweat flew off their arms.

Illyana floated around the formation, hands behind her back, watching each person carefully. She put her foot under the bent back knee of Eric, a thirteen-year old that always had sloppy stances. She lifted up to straighten it. He looked at her but she was already walking away, about to call the next movement: “Look right. Turn, down-block. Ha!”

The formation executed the movement.

“Step forward. Inside-outside middle block, punch. Ha!”

The students began to step forward, tucked forearms under the opposite elbows. As their feet landed, the arm went up in a block and then pulled back just as the other arm shot out in a punch immediately afterward.

Illyana approached Sarah. She looked far more exhausted than anyone else. Many were short of breath, but she was taking in full, deep breaths with each move. The upper half of her “uniform,” some sweats that were too big for her, were drenched. But her head was up and her eyes were focused dead ahead.

After three weeks, Sarah looked like she’d been training for three months. Or three years.

Illyana, standing next to her, called out the last move of the form. “Double roundhouse kick, one low, one high. Middle knife-hand block. Clear and spear-hand.”

There was a second’s hesitation. This combination was a bit advanced for them, so they executed it awkwardly. The kicks, one that was supposed to be knee-high followed by the foot pulling back just enough to snap out again head-high, were more like ankle-high, waist-high.

And they barely kept their balance as they followed up with the double knife-hand block. Only Sarah did the clear-and-spear-hand move correctly. She put everything into every move she made. She also yelled ten times louder than anyone else as her hand shot forward, fingers tightly together and pointed forward.

The only person faster than Sarah, of these new students, was Kristin, the lizard girl. She was fast, but sloppy and with no power. But, she spent a lot of time with Sarah, so she took the training seriously because Sarah did. It wasn’t really fair. Sarah could become an outstanding martial artist someday. She probably would. Kristin, on the other hand, could become one of the most devastatingly powerful fighters in the world. If she gleaned just half of Sarah’s dedication and focus.

Illyana walked to the front of the class, listening to the sound of them breathing. This wasn’t an army, but regular training them from being as afraid. Only the few with combat-useful mutant abilities would be of any use if they were attacked, and only after a few more months of training.

Takahashi had been giving marksmanship classes. He had brought in more guards—and more guns. More than enough for everyone. Xavier had asked him to take messages to other X-Men, asking them to come if they could. Some of them couldn’t afford the trip. Some had other obligations. Some hadn’t replied. So far, no one else had shown up. Xavier refused to believe this was a sign of Takahashi revealing his falseness.

Illyana had been watching Takahashi carefully, keeping her distance. He’d got his; he’d had his fantasy screw with his favorite of the X-Men. He had little interest in her now.

“Relax.”

The formation returned to the ready position. Sarah looked like she was about to pass out.

Illyana dismissed the class. They slowly filed out of the sparring hall, picking up their shoes from the orderly rows.

Sarah stayed behind, catching her breath. Illyana came over. “You’re learning really, really fast.”

“I told you.” Sarah smiled. “They called me The Mutant. I just learn stuff like this really fast.”

“I remember you saying you didn’t want to kill people.” Illyana looked down at the drips of sweat all over the woven straw floor. “For a pacifist you’d make an incredible fighter.”

“Fighting and killing are two different things.”

“Sometimes.”

“I don’t go to the marksman courses.” She said it with her eyes on the floor. “I mean, I don’t want to get in the way of, I mean, I think I would fight to protect the people here. I just don’t think I could shoot someone. Or—”

“Or what?”

Sarah frowned. “I dunno. Maybe I don’t go to the classes because I don’t like Takahashi. The guy gives me the creeps. And he takes himself way too seriously.”

Illyana’s eyebrows went up. “You’ll get no argument from me on that.”

Kurt walked past the door just then. He looked in. He and Illyana made eye contact. He nodded. She didn’t. He walked off.

Sarah watched the whole scene, frowning. “What was all that?”

Illyana sighed. “Long story.”

* * *

“It hasn’t been long enough.”

Fox didn’t turn around as they walked through the parking garage to his SUV. “Six, this isn’t a discussion. It’s an order.”

“Xavier needs more time before stage two. You said that before.”

Fox hesitated with his hand on the lever to open the driver side door. He looked to her and smiled. “I did, but we can’t wait any more.”

Six stood beside the vehicle, slouching slightly as Fox opened the door and got in. He looked at her. “Don’t get cold feet, Major. We have a job to do.”

* * *

“Hello! Is anybody there?”

Illyana woke up. She was sitting on the second roof, staring out. She had apparently fallen asleep in the warmth of the sunlight after going out for her afternoon break. Right now it looked like it was coming on evening. She looked down at whoever was knocking on the front door. She saw a large man in a big coat and a fedora. The fist knocking on the door was covered in blue hair.

“Hank?”

A blue, furry face looked up, the eyes concealed by fogged-up glasses. The face gave a big smile that showed off large fangs. “Miss Rasputin! How are you?”

She smiled back. “Better now that you’re here.”

* * *

“Fascinating, but I’m curious.”

Hank McCoy was sitting in an old, creaky office chair as he browsed through the notes on Xavier’s laptop with one hand, flipped through pages of a spiral binder with the other, and occasionally looked at the reference volumes lined up in a short bookshelf against the wall.

“I see many pieces to a vast jigsaw puzzle, but it isn’t for the picture you say you’re looking for.”

Xavier took a volume from the shelf, closed the laptop, and set the volume down in front of Hank at a specific page. He tapped his finger on one line of text. “The data is eclectic, but I’m working off this premise.”

Hank frowned and read the line. There was a diagram of a brain next to the text. “But Richards abandoned that notion years ago. He said the bridge between a mutant’s genetics and hyperspace was at the quantum level, something along the lines of quantum genetic memory. As if the genes had innate knowledge of how to transduce energy into the mutant’s abilities.”

A crooked smile crept up one side of Xavier’s face. “Richards is a genius, but even the best are occasionally wrong. Einstein invented his cosmological constant as a blatant way of fudging the numbers to make his equations work. It wasn’t until decades later that we found out he had accidentally given us a way of explaining—”

“—The acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Yes, yes. I know.” Hank was frowning. He picked up the volume and paced the lab, his eyes not leaving that page. “The discovery of dark energy. You’ve always—dabbled in mutant genetics. You’ve never engulfed yourself in such an ambitious task before.”

“Dabbled?” Xavier frowned. “I have a PhD in genetics!”

Hank shrugged and then laughed with his mouth closed. “Come now, Charles. You’ve always been more the teacher than the researcher. And I meant no offense. I only wanted to point out the shift in passions, not a lack of ability. Perish the thought.”

Xavier smiled. “Fair enough. But I do have a reason for bringing back an idea that was rejected, quite literally, by Mr. Fantastic.”

“It is an elegant theory.” Hank finally tired of staring at the page and set the volume down. He leaned against a wall, folding his arms. “Manifest of abilities is controlled via an interface between the brain stem and the cerebellum, facilitated by quantum tunneling. Something that isn’t there in normal humans. Instead of being purely innate, it makes the abilities something that can be influenced by the psyche.”

Xavier tapped two fingers together. “It does a much better job of explaining the events that took place after the Decimation. Why most mutants lost their powers, but many seemed to get them back later on. It allows for more of a top-down model for the manifestation of the abilities. They are innate, but the emotional and mental being of the individual has significant effects over if or how they appear. If I can extrapolate a pragmatic understanding of the mechanics of this structure, we might be able to find a way to switch the powers back on. For all mutants.”

Hank scratched the side of his face and then brushed the hair back down smooth against his cheek. “I guess so. But there is a problem. No one has been able to point out where that strange interface takes place. I heard there were a few promising FMRI results, but nothing that couldn’t be explained away with clever theories.”

Xavier re-opened his laptop, went to a particular document, and began typing. “All innovative ideas can be explained away by clever theories.”

* * *

Illyana hummed to herself as she ran the dust mop over the tatami floor of the sparring hall. Down one side, turn around, go back the other way. She wiped it down after every training session. She couldn’t stand working out on a dirty floor, getting that black film on her feet. She chuckled as the mop caught some long, blue hairs.

In just the last two days of Hank being here spirits had lifted. Illyana’s had, anyway. Maybe she just felt safer when she knew hairy men with sharp claws were nearby.

Someone awkwardly cleared his throat by the door. Illyana looked up from the floor and saw Kurt, leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded. He was looking at her, a nervous smile on his face. She just looked back for a long moment before resuming to sweep the floor. She also seemed to have a weakness for blue men. “Hey.”

He returned the monosyllable: “Hey.”

She kept working. She heard him sigh.

“I’ve been terrified of talking to you about. About the night, about three weeks ago.”

Illyana nodded without looking up.

“I’m not even sure why! I was just—a coward, I guess.”

Illyana nodded again, still not looking up.

Kurt checked his feet, which never wore shoes, to make sure they were clean, and stepped out onto the mat. “I was—an ass.”

Illyana frowned. “Wow. I don’t usually hear you swear.”

His eyes went wide. “I know, but in this case the word applies. Stubborn and uncommunicative. My first idea was to say that I wasn’t in a good place to start a serious relationship, but I realized how pathetic a cop-out that is.”

“Usually is.”

“Then I thought I would say I just wanted to take things slow, but then I realized that makes it sound like I’m calling you over-aggressive. Or that I’m trying to trick you, because I’m only interested in being friends because I’m not attracted to you.”

Illyana shrugged. “Not necessarily.”

Kurt didn’t hear her. He was pacing, his eyes on his hands as he gesticulated in rhythm with his words. “Then I just—don’t say anything! At a time when you were clearly upset. Then I got jealous because of the way Takahashi was looking at you for the first few days and felt incredibly stupid. So, I just don’t talk to you at all. Because I don’t know what I want.”

Illyana was pushing the dust mop in his direction. He stood in front of her, his hands at his sides, his face looking pretty pathetic. She sighed and looked up at him. “Well, now I don’t know what I want either.”

“Oh come on!”

Both of them turned to the side. Illyana’s eyes narrowed. “Sarah?”

She came out from a side door to a compartment where some protective sparring gear was kept. She shook her head heavily. “You guys are lame.”

Kurt frowned. “Lame?”

Sarah chewed on her lower lip as she looked at him disapprovingly. “Yeah.”

Kurt’s forehead was tight with confusion. “We’re working it out.”

Sarah walked past them, rolling her eyes. “Whatever.”

Kurt, his mouth cracked open, watched her go toward the exit.

Sarah turned around right as she came into the doorway. “I told you to sweep her off her feet. Not, whatever it is you’re doing?”

Illyana turned to Kurt. “She told you to talk to me?”

He looked mortified. The dark blue skin of his face was turning a light blue/gray. “Yes.”

Sarah mumbled as she walked out into the hallway. “He didn’t say what I told him to.”

Sarah stopped half way through a step as three of the guards ran down the hall at full speed. Sarah called out to them: “Hisato-san! Nani?

One of them fired back in lightning-fast Japanese, then gave a dry chuckle and ran off.

Kurt took a step toward Sarah. “What did he say?”

A deep wrinkle formed on Sarah’s forehead as she concentrated. “A person and a robot are outside, in long coats. The person is a woman, wearing a white mask. Takahashi is angry and no one is sure why.”

Kurt and Illyana spoke at the same time: “A white mask?”

* * *

Six sighed as she walked through the snow. Graze, the Valkyrie that had taken Wolverine’s claws to the face, was right behind her.

She looked up at the multiple levels of the facility, seeing men with weapons trained on her. She counted eighteen, some with assault rifles, some with submachine guns. Two had sniper rifles and one was holding an RPG, of all things.

Graze looked at them. “They prepared quickly.”

Six shook her head. “They’re not the ones I’m worried about.”

Six and Graze stopped about a hundred yards from the front door. They waited. Their long coats rippled in the wind. They looked similar right now, except that Six’s coat was a silvery gray and Graze’s was dark brown. Both had the hoods over their heads.

The front door opened and a short, stocky man stepped out with Ororo Munroe, Storm. The man was holding a carbine, possibly a modified M-4.

Six turned to Graze. “Stay here.”

Graze nodded as Six walked alone toward them. They walked toward her.

Storm’s strong voice carried clearly through the cold wind. “So you know where we are.”

Six nodded. “Of course we do.”

Storm’s eyes were piercing as she came up and stopped a dozen paces from her. “Did you send the men that killed an unarmed woman and several others of our people?”

Six frowned. “No.”

Ororo nodded. “Scott Summers is dead, as well as this man’s wife, due to an assault team attempting to storm the facility.”

Six sighed. She was immediately angry at Fox. He had to have known about this, but he’d withheld the information. Now her job was that much harder, because these people were now even more desperate and frightened. “Look, I didn’t send them. I don’t know who did. I’m just here to bring you and the rest of the refugees back under US protective custody.”

“Protective?” Storm was angry.

“Look.” Six took in a deep breath. “I didn’t expect you to agree to this easily. I’d rather this go smoothly, but we will take you in by force if necessary.”

Storm smiled. “You sound very sure of yourself.”

“I am.”

Storm shook her head. “No deal.”

Six shrugged. She walked back to Graze.

Graze put her hands behind her back. “Ma’am?”

Six sighed as she turned around to face the facility. “Do your thing.”

“What about the girl? The one Chief Fox calls Alchemy?”

“Don’t let her touch you.”

“Yes ma’am.” A clicking sound came from Graze, then flickers of light flashed from the clouds above.

Valkyries fell from the sky, down from above the clouds, all wearing long coats like the one on Graze. They shot straight down, slamming to the ground, the impact throwing bits of snow into the air around them. And they kept coming, until there were three dozen of them. Some landed up hill from the fortification, others alongside it, others around the front yard with its small trees.

Takahashi and Storm looked at them and then ran back inside.

* * *

“Where is that bag of pennies?”

Illyana turned and frowned at Ororo. “What?”

“I brought a bag of pennies onboard the Blackbird, but they weren’t where I left them and I need them now!”

Illyana stood with her mouth cracked open. “Xavier had them. Why—”

But Ororo was already running off. Illyana shook the moment off and continued heading for the stairs.

Illyana knew why Takahashi was angry. Or she had a very good guess. Three weeks ago he’d told someone over the phone to wait a month. Now a woman in a mask and a robot, probably a Valkyrie, were outside.

Someone’s timetable had been sped up. Illyana looked at her arms, wondering if she should go grab the armor that had formed on her during the last fight with Valkyries. As she started up the stairs, she wondered if she should go to Kurt, ask that they work together again.

“Miss Rasputin. May I come along?”

Illyana looked down at the base of the stairway to see a large blue figure in the low light, a big, bright grin on his face. He was holding something that she couldn’t make out in the dark. She nodded.

She reached the top and climbed up onto the top roof slowly, cautiously. She noticed the Valkyries standing uphill. She looked around, at the ring of them surrounding the fortress. At the lowest point, nearest to the fortress’s front door, stood the woman with the mask.

Then Hank jumped straight up, out of the hatch, and landed loudly next to her, holding a huge hammer. The shaft was as long as he was tall. The head was as big as two of his and looked like it was made of stone.

He had been examining the field of opponents, but caught Illyana looking at the hammer. He slapped the stone block. “I figure, we’re up against technology used to make a robotic version of Thor. Why not using something a little—Thorish?”

He was smiling, but suddenly frowned and held up the hammer in front of his face. A bolt of lightning struck the hammer.

Light exploded around him. Illyana shielded her eyes a moment, but then turned around to see who was nearby and who might be readying to blast her as well. Some of the Valkyries had their hands raised, electricity sparking from one to the other. Then the masked woman was yelling out a command. The Valkyries lowered their hands.

The roar of the lightning faded, and she turned back to look at Hank. He was fine, but all his hair was standing on end like he’d just come out of the dryer.

He adjusted his glasses. “Good thing I put a carbon fiber handle on this thing.”

Just then Ororo and Kurt climbed up to join them on the roof. Ororo was holding the bag of pennies. She walked over to a far corner and poured them out onto the floor in a ring around her feet.

Kurt walked sheepishly up to Illyana. He raised one eyebrow. “We worked together well last time. Want to give it another go?”

Illyana nodded. “Yeah.”

Hank, looking at each of them, laughed deeply. One side of his mouth curled up in an almost malicious grin, revealing fangs. He took off his glasses, folded them up, and put them in a pocket. “Let’s go!”
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AndyWright

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Awesome read Andy

Post  Mechajared on Sun Aug 19, 2012 5:37 am

Your take on the X-men I think has been brilliant, you make the reader feel these characters, they aren't just cookie cutter versions of what has been written before, well done.

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Re: X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Four

Post  AndyWright on Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:47 pm

You guys have no idea how awesome is it to get this kind of feedback (well, I dunno...maybe you do). It's amazing to be able to pour myself into my writing and have people enjoy it.
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Re: X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Four

Post  Mechajared on Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:29 pm

I feel the same way Andy, I too love it when I will get a compliment from a fellow fan. They always mean a lot.

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