by Andrea

/clink clink clink/

The babble in the room died down as Professor Xavier tapped on his glass. Everyone turned their attention to where he sat with Scott and Jean by his side. The X-Men's founder cleared his throat. "It doesn't seem like so very long ago that I first gathered a group of young people here to be my first X-Men, but I look out across the room today and see many new faces. All of us here were brought together by our common devotion to the Dream--a world where humans and mutants live in peace, where we can feel free to raise families. Scott Summers and Jean Grey have been fighting for the first part of that dream since the X-Men's inception, but today they begin to strive for the latter."

He raised his glass in a toast. "To Scott and Jean, and the fulfillment of their dream."

"Here here!" the rest of the room chorused, raising their glasses in turn.

"And it's about time!" Warren called out, eliciting widespread laughter.

"You know, after as many problems as those two have had getting together," Bobby commented, taking a swig from his glass, "this is probably going to be the most interesting engagement in history!"

"Look boys, a party," a new voice interrupted. Heads turned to the doorway, where Scalphunter stood flanked by his fellow Marauders. "And we weren't even invited. I'm hurt." He cracked his knuckles deliberately. "What say we make them hurt, eh?"

"Ya just had to say that, didn't you Drake?" Tabitha asked disgustedly.

"Killers such as yourselves are never welcome here," Storm proclaimed grandly. "Remove yourselves from this place at once.

Harpoon grinned. "And if we don't, Windrider?"

Logan jumped out in front of the group, unsheathing his claws with a /snikt/. "Then we make ya, bub."

Peggy watched the battle unfold with wide eyes. She'd read the files about the Marauders. They were vicious killers. She knew she wouldn't stand a chance if she entered the battle, so she tried to stay as far out of the way as possible. Back pressed firmly against the wall, Peggy observed the battle closely, hoping to see some way to help. Watching so closely, she was probably the only one who noticed a new figure enter the fray.

Sinister teleported in behind Cable. The mutant warrior didn't appear to notice the villain's entrance. Sinister raised a device and pointed it at Cable, who promptly screamed in pain and collapsed. Grabbing his prize by the scruff of the neck, Sinister reached for a control pad on his belt. Peggy's eyes widened as she realized he was about to escape.

"Cable!" she shouted, jumping from her hiding place. Her intent was to push the man out of the range of Sinister's device, but unfortunately she didn't quite succeed. She felt a tingle pass through her body as she came into contact with Cable--and then her world went black.

Warpath lifted the long table back into place with a grunt. Next to him, Siryn was shaking debris off the tablecloth. All around them, the other members of the X-Men and X-Force were cleaning up the remains of their recent battle with the Marauders.

"This is certainly an auspicious beginning to our marriage," Jean said wryly, telekinetically sweeping a load of rubble outside via the new hole in the wall. She only narrowly missed hitting Domino as the co-leader of X-Force dashed in from the lawn. "Domino, what's wrong?"

"Where's Nate?" she asked urgently, looking around the room.

"We thought he was with you," Theresa offered.

"Something's wrong. I felt it through our psi-bond."

Jean put a hand to her temple and closed her eyes in concentration. "I'm not sensing him anywhere on the grounds."

"The attack was a decoy!" Scott exclaimed, pounding his fist into his palm. "I knew they backed down too easily. Sinister must have been after Nathan all along."

"Do not jump to conclusions, my friend," Storm said. "Is everyone else accounted for?"

"Ah think so," Rogue answered her. She looked around the room, tallying up the total mentally. She frowned. "Hey, where's Peggy?"

Cable regained consciousness all at once, awareness flooding back into his senses. He immediately began to assess his situation. His back was against a cold, hard surface; most of his weight was straining at his wrists and the metal cuffs restraining him. An inhibitor collar was fitted snugly around his neck. His suspicions about where he was were confirmed by the smooth voice interrupting his thoughts. "I know you are awake, Dayspring."

"Sinister," he growled, opening his eyes to meet the dispassionate gaze of the white-faced scientist. "What do you want, you madman?"

Sinister clicked his tongue disapprovingly as he walked over to the wall where Cable hung. "Now now, is that any way to talk to your beloved grandfather? And after I arranged such a nice family reunion."

"You're no family of mine!"

"Ah, but I was referring to your dear sister," Sinister countered, waving his hand behind him.

"Ray?!" Cable exclaimed, twisting in his restraints. "Peggy?" His confusion was evident as he saw the unconscious girl lying in the cage across the room. "What do you want with her?"

"My plan was only to capture you. My neuro-scrambler was calibrated to your specific brain waves. The girl was an accident, but I'm sure I can find some use for her. For you, however, I have something special planned. Sinister bared his teeth in a smile and strolled back towards the door. "I'll leave you to contemplate your fate."

After the door slid shut behind the scientist, Cable swore inventively. "Why is it that villains always feel the need to gloat once they've captured you?"

"Oooh... what happened?" Peggy moaned, shaking her head weakly.

"What happened is you let yourself get captured like a flonqing idiot!" Cable exploded. "Oath, girl, I thought even you would have enough sense to stay out of Sinister's way."

"I just wanted to help."

Cable suppressed a surge of annoyance at the girl's tearful voice. "What is, is," he said tightly. "Now just be quiet and let me think of a way out of here."

He scanned the room, which was set up like some sort of laboratory. "If I could just get to those controls," he muttered, thinking out loud, "and shut off this collar..."

"Cable?" Peggy interrupted his thoughts eagerly. "I don't have an inhibitor. There's just this cage, and it looks pretty weak. I'm real strong in my pegasus form. I can break through it, I know I can."

"No, wait--" His warning came too late; she'd already begun to transform. The cage was barely big enough for a human, so the pegasus quickly filled it. When her sides touched the cage walls, though, an arc of electric current jumped across the bars. Peggy screamed in pain and quickly returned to her human form, smoking and trembling.

"Use some sense, girl!" Cable exclaimed angrily. "Think before you act!"

"I--I'm just trying to help," Peggy apologized.

"You've 'helped' enough already. Now I have to worry about getting you out of here as well. Just be quiet, and let me think!"

Escape plan number twenty-three didn't work either.

Cable slumped back into his restraints, racking his mind for another brilliant plan. He glanced back to check on his fellow prisoner for a moment. She'd been very quiet since her botched escape attempt. "Oath!" he swore when he saw her. What had that girl gotten herself into now? He almost suspected his mind was playing tricks on him for a moment--the air around her was shimmering as if from heat, and the lines of her body kept shifting in and out. His eyes hurt just watching. "What are you doing?" he hissed. She didn't reply.

A sound at the far end of the room attracted his attention. He looked over towards the computer bank in time to see the consoles start to smoke and spark. The cuffs holding him to the wall silently opened, dropping the Askani unceremoniously to the floor. "How did you do that, girl?" he demanded of his fellow prisoner.

"I was shifting--just enough to be able to control a mouse, and had him chew through the wires" she replied weakly, putting a hand to her temple. "I didn't think it would be this hard." She was sweating and out of breath from the exertion.

"Good job," he told her brusquely, unlocking her cage with his tk and helping her out. "We've got to get moving."

"I can walk," she protested, pulling away from his steadying arm.

"But not run," he countered. "Now let's get going." He palmed open the door and half-dragged her down the hallway, keeping alert for guards. "We need to find a ride. Keep an eye out for anything."

Peggy nodded. They crept through the hallways, meeting little resistance. Surely Sinister would notice they were gone soon, and their escape would become quite a bit more difficult. Suddenly she caught sight of something as they passed through a cross-corridor. "Cable!" she whispered urgently. "I think I saw a hanger bay," she explained, indicating the direction.

He nodded sharply and backtracked, peering cautiously around the corner to check. His left eye glowed as he used his telepathy, and he nodded again. "Good. Stay here while I take care of the guards."

"I can help."

"You can help more by staying out of the way. There aren't that many guards." Peggy lowered her eyes and nodded. Satisfied, he left her and skulked down the hallway. Skulking wasn't really Cable's style, though, and before he made it more than halfway down the corridor he gave up and just tackled the guards with a shout. Yanking their weapons away telekinetically, he quickly dispatched the first guard with an Askani technique. The others weren't prepared to fight a maniac without their guns, and tried to flee. He couldn't let them alert Sinister, though.

Wiping his hands in satisfaction as he regarded the unconscious bodies, Cable muttered, "That felt surprisingly good."

"An excellent display, Dayspring," Sinister said coolly. Cable whirled around to see the geneticist stroll casually around the corner--holding Peggy aloft by the throat effortlessly. Peggy kicked uselessly at the air and pried at the hands around her neck, trying to breathe. "But you seem to have forgotten something."

"Sinister," Cable growled, advancing a step towards him.

"I don't think so. Would you throw your compatriot's life away so casually?"

"Harm her, Sinister, and I'll--"

"Save your threats," he interrupted. "Surrender now, or this child has drawn her last breath." Cable looked at the girl beginning to turn blue and swore in defeat. "That's better," Sinister continued, gesturing for more of his guards to come forward. They snapped an inhibitor collar around his neck and put restraints on his wrists, then led him away.

Next chapter--What does Sinister have in store for Cable and Peggy? Or will they kill each other first?

Continue To Chapter Three

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