Fan-Fiction-Dawn's Last Threnody

Generation Next: Dawn's Last Threnody by Tapestry

Disclaimer: Every member of Generation Next belong to Marvel. Dawn, however, belongs to me.

Author's Note: This story takes place just before X-Men: Alpha and intercepts Gen Next number four. In this story Dawn, whom you may recognize from First Contact, has taken up the name Threnody (quite accurate when you consider her power) and joined Generation Next. She's fundamentally the same with a few changes to her past. I hope I didn't screw up the characters too much, it was only on the shelf for four months. This is kind of what ifish, too, because it explains what happened to Generation Next after Colossus abandoned them. Many thanks to bum for giving me the idea, because if I hadn't read her story I'd never have thought about writing something that took place in the AOA. PS, port is short for teleport, (it SHOULD have had a apostrophe in front of it, but the computer cut it out. Oops.) Well, here goes.


//It was a nightmare. The burning buildings. The heavy smoke. The blood running through the streets, being diluted by the rain as it streamed into the gutters. The cold, unyielding hands of the towering prelate who dragged me towards the transport pod.

"Mommy! Daddy! Don't let him take me away! I don't want to go with them!" I struggled harder as the prelate continued to pull me away from my parents and towards certain doom at the Gene Pens.

"Don't squirm, girl," he snapped. "You're lucky to get out of this pit anyway."

"Let go of her, you freak!" my father shrieked as the prelate approached the transport.

"Shut up, flatscan!" the prelate snarled. He made a throwing gesture with his free arm and the remains of my house exploded. Both my mother and my father were consumed by the flames, as were several of the other houses on our block, or what was left of it after the first culling. I screamed in fear and horror as my parents were incinerated before my eyes.

"Quiet," commanded the prelate, giving me a shake. "Stop sniveling, you're better of without them. Now, get in the transport quietly and MAYBE you'll live long enough to arrive at the pens."

"You KILLED them!" I screamed, slamming my leg into his shin. "I'm NEVER going to work for Apocalypse! NEVER!"

"HEY!" the prelate exclaimed, dropping me. I made a run for the ruins of a nearby house, hoping desperately that it would hide me. This the worst culling yet, and the worst part was that *I* was a mutant too. I'd never suspected I could have been one of THEM, one of the freaks that were responsible for the cullings and the death and the pain. I was terrified and angry at myself, but all I could think about was running away, as fast and far as I could. My lungs started to burn and my legs ached, but I kept running for cover with a single thought in my mind: Escape.

But I wasn't fast enough.

The prelate grabbed my shoulders and spun me around to face him. "That was a BIG mistake, girl," he growled. "It was ALSO your LAST. Get ready to join Mommy and Daddy in genetrash Heaven." He raised his arm, preparing to use his power to destroy me.

"NEIN!" came a heavily accented voice. "You shall not claim another life tonight!" There was a flash of brimstone and steel and a bamf of imploding air and as a blue furred man appeared directly above the prelate... and sliced his head off with a sword before he landed.

Before I had time to react to the man's sudden arrival another prelate appeared silently behind the blue furred man. He raised a grotesquely enlarged fist and prepared to smash the stranger's head in.

"NOOOO!!!" I cried. Something snapped inside of me, and I lashed out with all the fear and loathing and hate I could muster. It splintered the prelate's mind like wood, leaving him a mindless shell. However, it also had some unfortunate side effects on me. I felt my awareness suddenly expand a thousand fold, taking in all the death and pain of anyone and everyone in the surrounding area. Thousands of thoughts battered my psyche so badly I was hammered to my knees.

"Girl?" the blue man said, looking down at me. "Girl, are you all right?"

"No please stop I can't take it no stop hurting stop the pain no I'm dying someone help me have mercy please don't you killed her I can't believe you killed my baby I hate you no no stop it the pain is tearing me up inside someone make it stop what's happening to me these aren't my thoughts this isn't my life I can't take it anymore!" Words spilled from my mouth like water, and only half of them were mine. I continued to rant about death and hate while the stranger tried to comfort me. He took me to a man dressed in red and asked his advice.

"She stopped the prelate?" I remember the man asking.

"With a psycho-blast, I think," the stranger told him. "She seems to be a telepath, and unable to shut it off."

"It must be sheer torture for her in a world like this," the man in red agreed. "However, since Jean left us I fear there is nothing we can do for her."

"Not so, Magneto," the man said. "One of the children Piotr is training, Know-It-All, she is a telepath, is she not?"

"Yes..." The man called Magneto paused for a moment. "But we must ask the girl if she would like our help, we cannot simply draft her into a war she knows nothing about."

"She hardly seems in the right state of mind to ask," the stranger said. "But you forget, she DOES know about the war, she's lived in it for nearly all of her life. We ALL have."

His leader turned to me again. "What do you say, girl? Would you like to help us defeat Apocalypse? We can help you control your psi powers, if you will let us."

"You can... stop the pain?" I asked, struggling through the fog in my mind to make my voice legible.

"Yes. Do you accept our offer?"

"I... do."

The man called Magneto, leader of the rebel band of mutants called the X-Men, took me in his arms and away from the culling site.//

I woke up sweating. I had been having That Dream again. I did my best to remind myself that it had been nearly four years since Kurt Wagner, the X-Man Nightcrawler, and Erik Lensherr, Magneto, had taken me back to the training site of Magneto's Generation Next, the next generation of X-Men. Claudia, or Know-It-All, had been helping me control my psionic powers, which in turn helped me blunt the trauma my most painful memories caused, but it would occasionally break free and overwhelm me again. I shook my head and flipped the hair out of my eyes. I'd never be a true X-Man if I kept getting spooked by mere memories.

:Threnody?: came a psionic voice.

:Jonothon?: I replied.

:None other. But tell me, gel, were yer havin' the dream again?:


:Don't worry 'bout it, kid. Yer'll get over it, an' you're not ten anymore, either. Just remember that an' yer'll be fine.:

:Thanks, Jono. I'll try.:

:Good. Remember, yer have a trainin' session with the bloody claws in the mornin'.:

:Oh, yeah...: My lip curled in distaste. :If Shadowcat rakes me with those things one more time, I think I'll explore the damage I can do when I "put my mind to it.":

:Nah, the Russian'd have yer hide if yer did. But just relax fer now, okay? You're safe here.:

:I'm doing my best. See you in the morning, all right?:

:Right. Night, Thren.:

:'Night, Jono.:

He slipped out of my mind quietly, leaving me alone. Y'know, I never DID tell them my real name. In fact, the others were the ones who nicknamed me Threnody because of the way I kept ranting about death the first few days. A song of mourning; how appropriate. Well, it was better then "hey you", anyway. It seemed to make a lot more sense then being called Dawn. This whole stupid decade had been nothing but a nightmare, why be called something that implies a beginning? Besides, it fits my powers perfectly. I'm not only a telepath, I'm a medium as well. Well, a partial medium. I could kind of summon the essence of any deceased mutant, enabling me to use their powers, but not the WHOLE of them. In other words, I got their powers, but not THEM. I was just a channel, I couldn't actually talk to them. Not yet, anyway. Claudia said I had the potential to be able to communicate with the dead, it's just that I haven't learned how yet. Of course, Claudia also spent most of her time hooked up to a large computer (literally) so it was hard to tell if she qualified as sane enough to trust.

I rolled over on my stomach and tried to go to sleep. Tomorrow I had a training session with Katya Rasputin, the wife of our other teacher, Piotr. They're better known as Shadowcat and Colossus, and they HAD been fairly mild about teaching us until they both snapped. It hadn't been too long ago, in fact. It had been less then two years from when they both donned battle gear and went nuts. Katya (Russian for Kitty, I'm told) decked herself out in black leather and acquired some mechanical claws, which she uses because she has no real offensive power (unless you count being able to make something intangible, phase it into the ground, and solidify it again.) Piotr, on the other hand, could change into an armored form of organic steel. Built like a tank with the temperament of a bull, that's Colossus.

I made a small, frustrated noise as I tried to wipe the sweat off of my face and discovered my bangs had snagged on my neuro locks. AGAIN. The two small devices that Claudia had designed to help keep my powers in check were attatched to either side of my forehead. I needed them because my powers had been catalysed before I had been ready, and so had caused irripairible damage to the control section of my brain. Without them I could neither screen nor send thoughts, I could only receive. I shuddered to think of what would happen if I ever lost them; the idea of becoming a beacon for pain and having to die over and over again as lives that weren't mine ended did not appeal to me. So, when I looked at it that way, having short hair was a small price to pay for sanity.

Ha. Like sanity really counted in a world gone mad...

I sighed and went to sleep, hoping I would survive tomorrow's training session. It's not like I had much to live for, but I desperately wanted a chance to kick Apocalypse's butt back to whatever hell he came from. I swore to myself I WOULD get him for what his flunkies did to my parents, and when I did, I WOULD make him wish he'd never been born.

The next morning we girls had our training session. "We girls" consisted of Paige, me, and Clarice with Katya as the instructor. Clarice was my age, with lavender skin and hair and pointed ears. She looked rather like a purple elf. Well, a purple elf with some facial tattoos and a bunch of metal spikes in a quiver slung over her back, but an elf nonetheless. She could spatially displace someone or something, and infuse the spikes with her power for greater range. Actually, she was a full X-Man, having been found and raised by Sabertooth, another X-Man, but she stopped by once in a while to polish up her combat skills. Paige was a Southern bred red head (well, not actually a red head, she had just used her power to change her hair a bit after she and Jonothon got together) who could husk her skin and change into any substance, be it solid, liquid, or gas. All in all a pretty powerful group, when you put us all together. They never said it, but I think our teachers thought I had the most potential power wise. Clarice porting behind me? No prob for a natural telepath. Paige turning into some air born acidic compound? I just borrow one of the dearly departed's t.k. shields to keep her from getting to me. Of course, physically I wasn't as strong as Paige, who was three years older then me, or as agile as Clarice, but I was getting there.

"All right, kids," Katya said, folding her arms in front of her, "Time for a little game of tag."

We gasped. The LAST time we had played tag Angelo had broken his arm and Paige her jaw. And we aren't talking kiddie tag, either, THIS game was lethal. The one who was "it" had to take down the others as quickly and efficiently as possible, by any means necessary. Naturally I was one of the most difficult to catch, but I usually gave the others a chance, because if they COULDN'T take us down, then either Katya or Piotr would beat the lesson into them. We had to take turns at it, and none of us liked it very much.

"Threnody, you're it," Katya said firmly. "And if you DON'T take the others down, then..." her claws sprung loose from their sheaths with a *slikt*. I gulped. The others would do their best to take me out first, because if we didn't give it our all we'd almost certainly get mauled by one of our "teachers".

"Do I have to..?" I asked. As soon as the words left my mouth I knew I had just made a HUGE mistake. Both Paige and Clarice gasped slightly, and I paled.

Katya turned around to look at me slowly. Oh yes, I was very, very dead.

"'Do I have to..?'" Katya said slowly. "'Do I have to..?'" She reached out and punched me in the face. I reeled backwards and my vision blurred momentarily. I spat blood onto the grass and looked back up at her. "That was for your own good, Threnody," Katya said, grabbing me by my costume and holding me close to her face. "If you want to survive in this world you must learn to fight, or you'll end up in the Pens or worse. Do you think you can escape the Apocalypse? Well, let me tell you something, girl, no matter WHERE you go, you'll NEVER be able to escape him! It's my JOB to teach you how to survive, and if I fail--if I can't TEACH you how to survive--and something happens to the rest of the X-Men, then there will BE no more X-Men, and two decades of hoping and planning will be dust!" She threw me onto the ground in disgust. "Now, are you going to train, or do I have to give you a few more lessons?"

I rubbed the bruise that was forming and got to my feet, nodding slowly. "Good," she said. "Husk, Blink, you have FIVE SECONDS to get into the woods and prepare. Begin."

My two friends took off, eager to get away from our teacher. I soon followed, determined to give Katya a good show. I reached out with my telepathy and quickly located Paige. She was huddled behind a pile of stones, searching the woods for me. Unfortunately for her, she was searching in the wrong direction.

"Yo, Hayseed, guess what?" I said, tapping her on the shoulder.

"Uh-oh," Paige muttered.

"Uh-oh indeed," I grinned. "You'd better have something flame resistant under your skin right now, otherwise this is gonna get REAL messy." I began to channel a pyrotic's power, igniting my right leg.

"Aw no," Paige said, her eyes going wide. "Not the--"

"Yep, the flame kick," I finished, spinning my flaming leg around and into her face in a perfect roundhouse. The skin from Paige's face had burned off, revealing the stone form I knew she had been preparing to husk into. I will not hesitate to say that it was pretty disgusting, and for all my wise cracks I was still EXTREMELY uncomfortable about taking out my friends.

Suddenly I was aware of a subtle change behind me. It was Clarice porting in to get me from behind. See, another aspect of her power of spatial displacement is that she can arrange it so that when she ports you it can take you from a few seconds to a few hours for you to recover. I remembered the beating Katya gave me the last time I let it happen and I... well all right, I panicked pure and simple. Before Clarice had a chance to port me, I ported MYSELF.

Thirty miles south, to be exact.

"LOVE-ly," I murmured to myself. "Maybe I should change my code name to Overkill."

But then it hit me. This was a culling site. I could smell it before I saw it. The smell of death and suffering and oppression. My first instinct was to get out as quickly as I could, but I couldn't. The adrenaline surge I had had when I teleported had worn off and I was severely drained. In fact, I was so weak I could barely stand, let alone make another jaunt. I only had enough power to do as Katya and Piotr had told me to do when caught in a situation like this and used my powers to arrange it so that I would scan as a normal human on both physical and psychic tests. It was tricky, but by tapping into the right souls I could manage. The second thing I did was remove my belt buckle, which bore and X in the middle. If I got caught by anyone working for Apocalypse and they found out I was an X-Man I would be royally screwed.

Then I heard the screams. It was more like FEELING the screams, actually, but it was the same thing. I looked over at the remains of what must have once been a town, and discovered that there had just been a major explosion. Without a thought for my own safety I ran over to it as quickly as I could, keeping track of the survivors with my telepathy. There were only two of them, one a boy and one a girl, both barely over five. The moment I entered the burning building I poured my strength into my legs and a borrowed t.k. shield. However, I was dangerously weak from the teleport, and the shield was weak. I could still feel the intense heat around me, and I was getting scorched. Even so, I kept moving as quickly as I could. If there was even a CHANCE I could save those children then I HAD to keep moving.

"Anna, Billy, where are you?!" I called, picking up the children's names from their minds.

"Here! Here!" came a girl's voice. I ran over in her direction and discovered that both she and Billy were huddled in the corner. Billy was unconscious, probably from inhaling too much smoke, but Anna seemed all right. I ran through the flames and picked the two children up, extending my shield as much as I was able.

"Who are you?" asked Anna. "Why aren't we getting burned?"

"I'm an X-Man," I told her. "This is my job, and I'm not about to let us get burned up on the way out after I fought so hard to get in."

"You're a mutant?!"


"But... but mutants only hurt and kill. Why are you helping us?"

"Because some mutants actually WANT to help, me included. But whatever you do, DON'T TELL *ANYONE* who I am, because if you do my chances of survival go from unlikely to nonexistent."

"A-all right," Anna said, clutching my arm tightly as we ran through a wall of flames.

After what seemed an eternity we emerged from the inferno. I staggered outside and fell to the ground, taking Anna and Billy with me. I was just alert enough to remember to shield myself from the scans again.

"Are you okay?" Anna asked, shaking my arm.

"Yeah," I gasped, coughing a little. Some of the smoke had gotten through my shield and my lungs felt raw. "I'll be okay, just let me... catch my breath."

"Well well well," came a voice from above me. I glanced up to discover an Infinite floating above me. "What have we here? Three little flatscans, and one of them has even made it to adolescence. No mean feat when Apocalypse runs routine cullings. McCoy will like you, he likes experimenting on would-be heros."

"We're in trouble, aren't we?" Anna said.

"Abso-freakin'-lutly," I agreed.


"Sorry we ran out of room in the flatscan cells," the Infinite said as he tossed me in a room. "You'll have to stay with some of McCoy's private stock of turn coat mutants."

"Are you insane?!" I shrieked, feigning terror and rage. "They'll rip me apart!" Actually, I was pretty sure I could handle whatever they threw at me, but I had to carry on the "bitter straight gene" act in front of the Infinites and prelates. The Infinite laughed at me and closed the door.

"Acch, ye too?" came a soft, accented woman's voice. I looked over to see a young girl, perhaps two years older then I, sitting against a wall. She had short, red hair and looked a bit the worse for wear. "Ye're a human, aye?"

"Um, yeah," I replied, wondering if it were safe to tell her I was a mutant. "Who're you?"

"Rahne Sinclair," the girl said. She moved a little more into the light, and I noticed she had some strong canine attributes, such as rather pointed teeth and ears. Nothing too major, but it was a little strange to look at.

"Pah!" came another girl's voice. "Catseye say new girl smell wrong for flatscan. Catseye think new girl lies."

Uh-oh, this could be trouble. The girl, Catseye, was a little older then Rahne and had lavender hair and a... tail? Oh well, I'd seen worse.

"Acch, Cat, tha's no' verra polite," Rahne scolded her friend.

"Catseye speak truth," she retorted. "Catseye--" suddenly she stiffened. "Guard come with quiet boy," she announced.

The door opened and someone was tossed in, along with several packets of food. It was a boy of perhaps nineteen, with brown hair and eyes. He didn't look so good, either. He had the look of someone who'd just been through something truly awful about him.

"Are you okay?" I asked him. He just looked at me passively, as if he hadn't heard or seen me.

"Dinna bother talkin' ta him," Rahne said, shaking her head.

"Why? Is he autistic?"

"Nay, worse--psi shocked. He was uncooperative the first time the prelates came ta deliver him ta the Beast, an' they saw it fit ta subdue him."

"Too bad, too," Catseye said, rummaging through the food packets. "Catseye like quiet boy."

"What's his name?" I asked Rahne.

"Glenn, I think," she told me. "But why do ye want ta know? What could YE do?"

"More then you think," I murmured.

Later that night, when Catseye and Rahne were asleep, I crawled over to the boy called Glenn and took a deep breath. I placed my hands on his forehead and began to concentrate.

I entered his mind and gasped. It was as if someone had just splintered it with a psychic hammer. Never had I seen such a damaged psyche, or anyone who had stayed ALIVE after receiving such damage for that matter. This guy must have been a fighter to have lived this long. I sighed to myself and began to repair the damage, slowly piecing his mind back together. The strain was indescribable, because I hadn't had much practice in using my powers for healing someone's mind as opposed to destroying it. It was difficult, but I kept pushing myself. My every instinct was crying out for me to help him, and I'd be damned if I let another one of Apocalypse's lackeys claim another soul.

Finally I collapsed from sheer exhaustion, but not before having restored the boy's mind. At least, I hoped I had.

Glenn shook his head slowly, as if waking up from a long sleep. He felt his arms and face, as if to make sure they were still there. Then he looked at me and said, "You? Did you do this?" He had a distinct British accent, and I wondered what he was doing in America.

"Yeah," I replied. I studied him carefully. Now that he had his mind back he looked... different. More vibrant. It was as if something had been added even though he still looked the same. He was really quite handsome, actually, even though he looked a little worn from whatever had been happening to him when the Beast had been using him for some twisted experiment or another. The odd thing was, it was as if we had known each other for years, even though we had said less then seven words to each other as yet. Was it the time I had spent repairing his psyche? Maybe... but this was a deeper bond, and I could tell he felt it too.

"Do I... know yer?" he asked.

"Um, no, I don't think so," I answered. "You're Glenn, right?"

"Yeah. Who're you?"


"A song of mourning," he said musingly.

"I'm impressed," I said. "Few people know what it means."

"Sounds appropriate fer this day in age. What're yer, an X-Man?"

"One in training, actually. How'd you know?"

"When you were fixin' me mind yer seem to 'ave let me in YER mind as well. An' the black leather costume kinda tipped me off, too."

I blushed a little. It had been a while since anyone had commented about my costume, which was basically the same as the ones everyone else in the next generation of X-Men wore. Tight black leather, leather vest, and face mask were the norm. I was a little surprised I could still blush, as a matter of fact. I hadn't felt modest in a long time.

"Well, I guess that'd explain it. But don't tell anyone, okay? I'm supposed to be a flatscan, and if you blow my cover I'm dead." I paused. "Um, you want some food?" I asked, offering him a food packet. He nodded and opened it with a sigh.

"I miss coffee," he said.

"Coffee?" I echoed. "Lessee, it's been about a decade since his royal One-Who-Can-Never-Die-ness took over America, so you were like, what, nine?"

"How'd yer guess?"

"Just a hunch. You sound British, though. I should know--one of my best friends is too. Why'd you come here?"

"Me parents were visitin' friends when the cullings started," he told me. "Transportation of any kind was cut so we couldn't get back t' London. You?"

"Oh, I've been here forever. Born and bred in Oklahoma, that's me. Well, born yes, but maybe not bred. After my parents were killed when I was ten I got hooked up with Magneto and the X-Men, or at least the X-Men in training. Been hanging out with 'em for a good four years or so, so by now I'm pretty adept at using my powers."

Glenn sighed. "I wan't nearly as lucky," he said. "Me folks died in the first culling, so I ended up in the San Fransisco Refuge. I got kicked out when me powers surfaced, even if I DID kick an Infinite's butt in the process." He looked at me and said, "If yer don't mind me askin', what are those things in yer head?"

"Hmm?" It took me a second to realize he had been talking about my neuro locks. My mask usually covered them, but I had removed it because it had gotten a little hot. "Oh, these. Well, I have a little trouble controling my powers, and these are inhibitors. Without them I'm more or less a raving vegtable."

We chatted for a bit longer and then agreed that we both needed some sleep. I smiled privately. I liked Glenn, there was something... special about him. He was a special person, and he made me feel special too. I liked him a lot.

Then I realized the impossible had happened. I had a crush on a complete stranger.

Was I happy? Was I sad? Did I care? I had shut myself off from my emotions for so long I wasn't sure how I felt, or how I was supposed to feel. I couldn't tell if this was the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end.

The next morning I was awakened by the sound of a prelate flinging the door open.

"Get the wolf and cat," he commanded his underlings. "Take them to the Kennel."

I didn't like the sound of that, and I could tell Rahne and Catseye liked it even less. Catseye hissed at them, but all she got for her troubles was a slap on the face that sent her sprawling. Rahne growled, but could do nothing as the prelates dragged her and her friend off to the Kennel, where the Beast kept all mutants with strong animal attributes, as I learned later.

"Poor Rahne," Glenn said sadly after they had left. "I think McCoy's got his eye on her. He's been subjectin' her to periodic tests every week or so, and each time they get worse an' worse."

"Like what he's been doing to you?" I asked softly.

"Yeah," Glenn said somberly. "In fact, I'm due fer one in an hour or so."

"Do you know what he's doing to you?"

"Testin' me thresholds o' pain, stretchin' me powers to their limits, that sort o' thing."

I winced. That sounded extremely uncomfortable at the least. He sighed. "Nothin' I can do 'bout it, either. One o' these days he's gonner push the tests too far, an' I'll be out o' 'ere fer good."

"Don't say that," I snapped. "Don't you EVER say that. We'll find a way out somehow."

"Prob'bly too late fer me, though."

"Glenn, I--"

A prelate flung the door open again. "Your turn," he said to Glenn. Glenn looked at me helplessly as the prelate dragged him out the door. I wanted to help him, I swear it, but there was nothing I could do. The Pens had power dampeners, and they diluted my powers considerably. Even so, I could sense my only friend steel himself against the agony that he was subjected to, and I could feel his healing powers get stretched to the limit and beyond. In the end it was too much for him; he finally gave up the fight.

When they returned him hours later he was very sick. His body had been put under unbelievable strain, and he was dying. In its prime his healing factor could have saved him, but thanks to the Beast he was far past that point.

"Won't be long now," he coughed when the prelate left. "Gonner be outta 'ere in a few days, tops."

"Glenn Keaton, don't you DARE leave me!" I snapped. "I'll get us out--"

"With all these power damp'ners? Heh heh heh >cough cough< heh heh. Don't make me laugh, it 'urts."

"Glenn, you CAN'T die. You fought this long, why're you giving up now?"

"Maybe 'cause I'm tired o' fightin'. An' why SHOULD I fight? The whole flippin' world is ruled by Apocalypse, what's the use?"

"Because if we don't FIGHT to make it better it's never going to happen!" I exclaimed. It seemed I'd taken Katya's lesson to heart, much as I loath to admit she that was right. "Just hold on, okay? I'll get you out of here."

"Guess it wouldn't hurt t' hold out fer a little bit longer," he sighed. He was silent for a while, then said, "Thren, I'm so cold... are YOU cold?"

"No," I replied. It was baking hot in there as it was, and that worried me. It was surely a bad sign. "Here," I said, removing my vest. "It's not much, but it might help."

"Thanks," he said. I touched his forehead lightly and discovered he was burning up. I offered him water, but he refused it. He wouldn't eat, either, and he had trouble sleeping. This went on for three days, and each day they came in to pick him up for experiments again. Each time he got worse and worse, and no matter what I tried I couldn't help him. I considered teleporting us out, but I knew that wouldn't work. If you're not in peak condition when you teleport you can end up worse then you were before, or even dead. I knew that any port, even a short one, would almost certainly kill him, so I held off. His fever continued to rise, and his condition worsened by the hour.

Then, on the fourth day they took him away again. I could feel his agony as the test resumed, and I couldn't take it anymore. I took the energy that the anger gave me and used it to teleport myself to the lab where he was being held. That was the first time I saw Henry McCoy, the Beast. He was huge, and a very, very dark blueish grey. He had a sadistic grin on his face, and his mind disgusted me. I hit him with a psycho blast that caused him to stop in his tracks. I was at Glenn's side before he hit the ground, and began to unhook all the ungodly machines attached to him.

"Gel... don' waste... yer time," he stammer weakly. "I'm gonner... die now. Yer better off... without me."

"Shut up!" I snapped. "There's no way I'm going to leave you here for that sadist to experiment on and dissect." I took a deep breath and preformed a trick I had learned from Claudia. She said that if one gives another mutant enough psionic power to work with it can jumpstart their own powers, allowing them to exceed their limits. Well, I had just put that theory to the test by giving all my power to Glenn and his healing factor. It kicked into over drive, healing him quickly and completely. I was glad it had worked, but this was no time for self congratulations, there were prelates flooding the room. I gathered what remained of my strength and teleported us both well away from the Pens. After that I was completely spent, and collapsed into Glenn's arms. He, at least, was healed, if a little weak. He held me up and said, "Yer did it. Yer got us outta there."

"Was there... ever a doubt?" I gasped, smiling faintly. Even I had my limits, and I had just passed them.

"No more doubtin'," Glenn agreed. "Where are we?"

"About fifteen miles from the pens, but in which direction I'm not sure," I said. "Man, I'm so tired..."

"Then you should rest."

"No, I've got to find my friends first. I'll be right back."

"Where're you goin'?"

"Psi-surfing," I replied. "It's tricky, because I might get caught and end up as so much brain jello, but it'll be worth it if I can find the others. Now let me concentrate."

I settled down and let my astral form slip free from my body. I drifted around, trying to get a fix on my location. I was about seventy miles from base, which meant porting home was out of the question. So instead I just sent my mind there to make contact with the others, just to let them know I was all right.

The first person I encountered was Claudia, which surprised me. Usually she was invisible to my psi scans, but not this time. It was almost like she wanted me to find her.

:Threnody,: was all she said.

:In the flesh, so to speak. Where's Jono and the others?:

:You have missed much. Magneto has come and given them a mission to retrieve a girl capable of transcending time and space.:


:Illyana Rasputin, Colossus's sister.:

:But I thought she was dead.:

:As did he. But she is alive, and he and the others have gone searching for her.:


:The Core.:

I was so surprised I broke the link.

"They're INSANE!!" I exclaimed.

"Who?" asked Glenn, confused.

"My teammates," I replied, shaking my head in disbelief. "They actually broke into the Core! It's suicide!"

"What'll yer do?"

Good question. I went back to consult with Claudia. :Are they still alive?: I asked.


:Will they need my help?:


:Then there's only one thing to do.:

:You're going after them, aren't you?:

:Of course.:

:I wish you luck.:

:Thanks. See you around, I hope.:


I broke the link again, getting a sense of impending doom from Claudia's tone. She and I had never been close, but we had at least been civil to each other. I had a baaaad feeling about tonight, and her being so polite to me had kind of creeped me out.

"Well?" Glenn said. "What're yer gonner do?"

"What choice do I have?" I asked. "They're my friends--my ONLY friends--I've got to go down to the Core and help them escape." I looked at him closely. "Glenn... you haven't been with me too long, so you wouldn't know why I have to do this. I... I'll understand if you just want to go somewhere else and wait till this whole thing blows over."

"Thren," Glenn said, looking directly into my eyes, "yer saved me life, an' risked yer own doin' it, I think the least I could do fer yer is t' help yer get t' yer friends."

"Thank you," I whispered, smiling at him. I concentrated, trying to find the exact location of the Core. I got a fix on it, and said, "I've found it. The Core is located in the middle of Seattle, but we'll never get there in time."


"I can't port that far in one jaunt, or even in several jaunts. It's just too far away."

"I can get us there."


"I can fly us."

"But we'll be seen."

"No, I can cloak us. I figure if yer can teleport us a bit an' I fly the rest o' the way we should make it in time."

"That... it could work! All right, let's do it."

And do it we did, with me teleporting us every few miles and Glenn flying us in between. We reached the Core in a matter of hours, and all we could do was stare. It must have been miles wide, and the stench of death was everywhere. There was so much suffering inside that my psi shields were beginning to wear a bit thin. Even so, I marshaled my forces, so to speak, and turned to Glenn.

"Last chance to turn back," I told him.

He looked at me, and when he spoke there was not a trace of uncertainty in his voice. "No. I'll do me best t' help yer an' yer friends. You're stuck with me till the end, gel."

"The end..." I murmured, shaking my head. "There's a wrongness about tonight, I can feel it. Glenn... I don't think the end is so far away."

"Well, if it is, then I want t' spend it with you," he said quietly. "Take us in."

"All right," I smiled. I ported us inside...

...and into the middle of the biggest fight I'd ever seen.

It was like every single person, mutant and human, had gone totally insane. Mutants and non-mutants were fighting and screaming and ripping each other apart. It made me fear what could have happened to my friends while I had been getting here. I scanned desperately for any sign of them, praying that I wasn't too late. It was difficult because of all the different psi-patterns being jumbled about by the violence, but I finally found them. I ported us both down to the lower levels, where they were located.

I arrived just in time to see Jonothon yanked into the midst of the mini war that was going on while Katya, Angelo, Piotr, Paige, a young, blond girl I assumed was Illyana, and a wounded Vincente could only watch in horror.

"JONO?!" Paige and Angelo cried. Angelo imediatly lunged in after Jonothon, an act which amazed me.

"SKIN?!" Paige cried, wanting to help but not wanting to leave Vincente alone.

"Go on ahead!" Katya instructed her husband. "I'LL go after the boys!"

"NO!" Piotr shouted, holding her back. "Our RESPONSIBILITY is to get Illyana to Magneto! Get us out of here--NOW! We'll come BACK for the others!"

I couldn't believe it! The man who called himself our teacher was just watching my friends get mauled by the hord of people!

"You SELFISH--" Katya started wrathfully, glaring at him.

"NOW!" Piotr roared.

"Don't LEAVE us!" Paige screamed. "Vincente's stopped BREATHIN'! He ain't gonna survive another--"

Our teachers didn't wait around to hear the rest of it, Katya made them intangible so they could float out to safety. Paige stared at them with large, desperate eyes as they left her. Then the mob began to attack her and Vincente as well, and I could hold back no longer. "PAIGE! VINCENTE!" I screamed as I lunged towards the others, followed by Glenn.

"Threnody?!" Paige exclaimed over the racket.

"Yes! Just hold on, I'll help you!"

"Who's that with y-ooffff!" Paige's question was cut off as someone slammed a fist into her stomach. I promptly fried the culprit's mind as I ran towards her.

"Here!" she cried. "Help Vincente!" she barely had time to point to where he had fallen before she was overwhelmed by flatscans and guards alike.

"PAIGE!" I screamed. "Glenn, help her! I have to get to Vincente!"

"I'll try!" he promised, running towards her.

I ran over to Vincente. He had stopped breathing, but I threw up a t.k. shield anyway and began to give him CPR.

:Dammit, Vince, breathe!: I screamed mentally as I blew air into his lungs. :BREATHE! We CAN'T let them win! BREATHE!: I gave him a good jolt of psionic energy for good measure in my desperation.

:It's... Vincente... please,: he thought weakly as he coughed up his breakfast.

"You're alive!" I cried.

"Yeah... but a little... the worse for wear... I'm afraid," he said, wiping his mouth.

"Stay in your gaseous form for now," I told him. "I've got to help Paige!"

"S-sure," he replied, his body losing it's cohesion as he discorporated. Good; he would be safe that way. I turned back to Paige, who had morphed her arm into some form of energy and was blasting away at whatever happened to be in her way. Glenn was holding his own, and I was about to join him when I saw a large, greyish object located in the middle of the fight. I recognized it as Angelo's distended skin, which he was somehow using as a shield. I could barely move in all the chaos, so I ported over and into the object.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw next. It was Angelo, all right, and a lot of his skin had been shredded and there was blood everywhere, but he was still doing his best to take care of Jonothon. Jonothon wasn't in any better shape, either. He had bruises on his bruises, and there was almost as much blood coming from his wounds as Angelo's. The device which kept the psionic energy that filled his chest in check was cracked and broken, allowing the energy to spill out freely.

"'Bout time, chica," Angelo said. "Can you throw up a shield? I'm not sure how much longer my skin's gonna cut it."

"Of course!" I exclaimed. I quickly threw a telekinetic shield around us and Angelo withdrew his skin back to it's normal position. I glanced over at the door, which was nearby, and discovered that Piotr was looking in through it. He was looking in Paige's direction and seemed frozen in place. I quickly psionically checked on Paige and discovered she was being born down by the sheer weight of the mob. Piotr slowly let the doors close, leaving us alone.

"NO!" I cried. "Don't leave us here!" but there was no time to cry about it, I had to save Paige and Glenn. I threw a psionic shield around both of them, but I knew I couldn't keep it up indefinetly. I searched for a power that could help me, and found it. It fed off of death and pain, which there was in abundance here. With a supreme effort I located and shielded every human within range, and then cut loose.

It was an explosion of pain and rage which ripped through every mutant guard within a sixty foot radius. The smell of seared flesh filled the room, and when the smoke finally cleared it revealed that the humans I had been able to shield had been spared while the mutants that had been exposed were piles of dust. It made me nauseous to think about how many people I had just killed, and so, coupled with exhaustion from using that much raw energy, I fainted.


I wake up. Was all that a dream? Did I really just kill hundreds of mutant guards? I look around and discover I'm laying in the charred crater that was ground zero. No, it wasn't a dream, I was just having a flash back of everything that had happened up to that point, and now the present has come back with a vengeance. I rub my head in a daze and notice that the others are standing over me.

"Those were some fireworks, gel," Jonothon remarks. "Never knew yer had it in yer."

"Don't be impressed," I sputter, spitting soot out of my mouth and wondering who it had been. "It makes me sick to think about it."

"It's more'n Rasputin did for us," Paige says, shedding her wounded outer form by ripping her skin off with a *shrrripppp*. "He was looking right at us, an' he jus' let the door close an' abandoned us."

"Yeah, well, you guys might be comfortable killing people, but I'M not. I don't like killing someone--anyone--whether they deserve it or not."

"It's called a conscious, chica," Angelo tells me. "It's somethin' you have to get rid of in this world."

That reminds me of something. "Guys... that plan that Magneto had? What was it?"

So they tell me about Magneto's grand plan, to gather a crystal shard, and little Illyana, who was the key to the time travel. The seerer, Destiny who would help confirm the man, Bishop's, story. I gasp sharply and say, "Guys, do you know what'll happen if they pull this off?"

"We can guess," Paige answers. "Lessee, the total destruction o' this world, right? Well, AH say good riddance, this place is irreparably corrupt, an' it woulda happened sooner or later."

She's probably right, too. If it wasn't one of the Horsemen trying to usurp Apocalypse then it would be the Human High Council or some other outside force. This world just didn't cut it when it came to survival.

"You're right," I sigh. "It's inevitable. So, how long have I been out?" I ask, changing the subject.

"'Bout four hours," Angelo replies.


"Yeah, you were pretty spent," Paige says. "Ya keep this up, gal, an' yo' gonna burn yourself out."

"Spare me the lecture, please," I say, getting up.

Suddenly I'm assaulted by a thousand different thoughts and feelings as a huge charge of psionic energy is released. It hammers me to my knees, and Jonothon follows. I KNOW what it is. It's death. Thousands and thousands of people have just died.

:I feel it too, gel,: Jonothon murmurs, clutching his head. :It's horrible...:

:But... what could have... caused it?: I ask, my teeth gritted in pain. :So many people... dear God, what could have killed so many people?:

:I don't know, Thren,: he replies. :God, their screams...:

"Threnody?" Glenn says, touching my shoulder. "What's wrong?"

"Millions of people..." I stammer. "All of them dead... BURNING..."

"Get a hold o' yorself, gal," Paige says, "What is it that's attackin' you an' Jono?"

"It's not an attack, Paige," Jonothon tells her. "It's a backlash of death, an' there was so much o' it overwhelmed me an' Thren. We'll be okay."

But the people won't. They'll still be dead. I wipe a tear away from my eye and attempt to regain some composure. It's a difficult thing to take the psionic death screams of half a nation, but I think I'll be fine in a second.

Or more.

Then I notice someone's missing. "Where's Mondo?"

"He--didn't--make it," Jonothon whispers.

"Oh... oh my God," I murmer. Millions of people and now THIS? I don't need this. Not now. I had really gotten to like the big lug after a while, despite his always talking in third person, and I just couldn't imagine what it would be like without him. I begin to cry, and Glenn gives me a hug, which I desperately need. When I stop I just wipe my eyes and say, "Vincente? How are YOU?" In truth, I'm half afraid that HE'LL die on us too.

"I'm fine," he assures me with a smile. He's solid again, and does indeed look better. I'm glad I did SOMEthing right.

"C'mon," Jonothon says, waving his hand towards the door. "Let's get outta this pit."

"I can port us out," I offer, my voice still quavering ever so slightly.

"No, you're too weak," Jonothon tells me. "Let us do the heavy stuff fer a while, all right?"

"That's fine with me," I smile. Jonothon smiles back and blasts a hole in the door. We walk out and I notice a grotesque stain on the path.

"What... what WAS that?" I ask.

"Colossus's work, I'd say," Angelo decides as he stares at it. I can feel myself turning several interesting shades of green and turn my head away, then begin to vomit on the side of the road. It's kind of embarrassing, but I'm one of the more sensitive people on the team.

"Can't cut it, girlie?" comes a harsh voice. I wipe my mouth and turn around quickly to discover a thirtish man standing in the path. He has wild, black hair and looks a little out of it.

"And you are?" I ask impudently, spitting the bile out of my mouth.

"Tempest," he answers. "I was the fourth Horseman before that fool Abyss took my place."

Oh yes, we're in it deep now, folks. Tempest is an elemental, who's talent lies specifically in weather. He's ten times more powerful then the X-Man Storm, and his coming chops down our chances of survival considerably.

"And you're here WHY?" Angelo asks.

"Because," he says, "if *I* am the one to destroy the next generation of the X-Men Apocalypse shall restore me to power!"

Yep, definetly nuts.

"You're crazy," Paige scoffs. "Even if ya DID kill us, Apocalypse would NEVER give ya back yo' position as a Horseman. He believes in survival o' the fittest, remember? An' it 'pears ta me that ya jus' didn' cut it."

"You lie!" he cries. A storm is building, and it's gonna be big. I search for an elemental power and manage to latch onto one. I try and calm the harsh wind that's ripping into us, but it's a strain. I've used too much power up lately, and I'm running on empty. See, one of my biggest flaws is that I tend to over do it a little, which can be deadly if you're in a long fight. I have a feeling that this'll be the last time I have to worry about it, though.

"You guys try to take out Tempest," I call over the pouring rain that has suddenly started up. "I'll try and keep the weather under control."

:Yer sure, gel?: Jonothon sends. :Yer used up a lot of power lately.:

:Yes,: I insist. :I'll be FINE. Now shut this guy down fast or we're gonna have a full scale tornado on our hands!: That's very true, because there is indeed a funnel wind starting up. Already debris is being whipped around, and soon it'll intensify to the point where WE'LL be carried off as well. In fact, were I not holding it back the wind, it would already BE at that point.

"All right, yer bloody maniac," Jonothon exclaims over the tempest. "Turn off the bleedin' hurricane or we're gonner make sure yer end up in worse shape then those two guards lyin' in a puddle by the front stoop."

"Not in this life time, Chamber," Tempest laughs. A bolt of lightening sears a path through the darkened sky and will almost certainly hit Jonothon if I'm not able to change it's course a fraction. Jonothon looks rather stunned when it hits the ground right in front of him, but quickly recovers. He sends a blast of psionic energy towards Tempest, but he dodges it easily. As he prepares to send another bolt of lightening Jono's way Paige enters the fray. She rips the skin off of her arm, revealing raw energy, which she uses to blast Tempest. The maniac shrugs it off and sends a blast of wind at her, which blows her right into the Core wall.

This is pointless. We can't hurt him, and as long as I have enough power to stop him, he can't hurt the others either. There's only one way I can think of that could stop him, and that's to attack his mind. I COULD do it, but there are two little problems with that. First of all, I'm a little busy at the moment. Second of all, I'm too tired to be even a minimal threat to him. Jonothon can't do it, he's not a full psion, or, in other words, he can't hit an enemy's mind as well as I can. But the only other psion on the team is...

Suddenly there's a blur coming straight at Tempest, and within milliseconds it collides with him; I can hear the bones cracking from here. As painful as it looks, however, Tempest will not be stopped. He turns the storm's power up another five notches and I begin to sweat even more. I won't be able to keep it up much longer, and when I let go there's going to be one heck of a wild weather pattern that's released. If only I could somehow get in synch with Tempest's power levels then I MIGHT be able to stop him. It's worth a try, if nothing else. I reach out and try to harness a soul that can help me do exactly that and...

Something clicks. For the first time, not only do I feel the person's power flowing through me, I feel the PERSON as well. It's a boy, I KNOW it's a boy, and his name was... Everett Thomas. His power was to use a sympathetic aura that would put itself in synch with any mutant within a certain area. Now, as I feel his power building inside me, it's as if our MINDS are in synch with each other.

:Everett?: I ask in mentally.

:Yes,: he replies. :You need help, right?:

:Yeah... can YOU help me?:

:Wouldn't be here if I couldn't.: He looks through my eyes and gasps. :That man... the Horseman Tempest... HE'S the one who murdered me. Jubilee escaped, but he KILLED me. I have a score to settle with that guy.:

He fills me with his power, and then with Tempest's. My power over the weather increases and the storm subsides. I let Everett return to limbo, then turn to the others, a tired, satisfied smile on my face. I discover, to my surprise, that the blur that passed me and tried to k.o. Tempest was, in fact, Claudia. She had felt the need to leave the computer she had been a part of for years? This MUST be major. I'm about to call out to her when I feel a crunch in my ribcage and fall to the ground.

"Thren?!" Glenn exclaims. "What's wrong?!"

I can't answer, I'm in too much pain. My ribs seem to have been snapped in half, and it feels as if they've punctured several internal organs.

:Threnody, the pain you feel is NOT your pain, it is Shadowcat's,: Claudia tells me. :You've been around her and Colossus for so long a subconscious link has developed. You must overcome the pain if we are to defeat Tempest.:

:Claudia... she's dying...: I send. :It hur-AAAAARRRRRGH!: Another wave of pain fills me, a burning, searing pain that sends it's fiery fingers through my back. I KNOW it's not mine, but I can't help but screaming. Piotr... it's Piotr, I know it. He's dying now, and his last agonized moments are burned into my mind. Forever.

:Fight it, Threnody. We NEED you.:

:I'm... trying...: I gasp. I strengthen my shields, building up my resistance to the horrible pain. Then--it stops. I know this can only mean that they're dead--both of them. Even though they were hard on us I know they were just trying to protect us as best as they could. Tears leak down my cheeks as I wipe my burning eyes and turn back to the task at hand.

"Claudia... Jono... let's waste this halfscan," I say. With a nod from both of them we pour all of our pain and terror and loneliness into our attack, our bitterness at the deaths of our friends and family and teachers. We break down the shields around Tempest's mind and focus all our energy on destroying the mad man once and for all. By the time we're done there is nothing left of his mind but a memory.

I slump to my knees, crying. Not for Tempest, he got what he deserved, but for Piotr and Katya. It hurts to think about them, but I can find some solace in the fact that they died nobly, as they had always wanted to.

Oh no... wait a minute. I can FEEL something wrong. A strange tremor in the air, and terror in the minds of the few who are alert to it already.

"Oh my God," I whisper, my eyes going wide. "BOMBS!"

"Thren, what're you talking about?" asks Vincente.

"She is correct," Claudia affirms. "The Human High Council has succeeded in launching a few dozen nuclear warheads, which are what is responsible for the deaths of everyone in the southwest."

There is silence. I can feel my heart pounding in my ears. We all look down, and then Jonothon says, "Well, we all knew it would end sometime, jus' not this soon. But tell us, Claudia, did the plan work?"

"Yes," she replies. "When the bombs obliterate this world then the rightful reality will resume and we will be little more then a memory."

"Claudia," Paige says fearfully, "Can ya see what the other world's like? Are Jono an' Ah... together?"

Claudia concentrates for a moment, as do I. By tuning into the two people who had returned from the heart of the crystal known as the M'Kraan we can see what they had seen from the facets that foretold the past and present of the other world. I scan little Illyana Rasputin's mind and search for the memories of her time in the crystal. I see Jonothon, but his face is scarred and ravaged by the psionic energy pouring from his chest. Paige, a bookworm student wanting to join another version of the X-Men. Mondo, more laid back and talking in first person. Everett is there too, alive and well. The girl Everett called Jubilee is there with them as they are taught by the X-Man Banshee and a woman I have never seen before. Claudia is... different? More secretive, stranger past... and Vincente is a... a villain? Working for Claudia's... brother? Katya and Piotr in two different teams, less harsh, more willing to be wrong. And the team is under the direction of... Charles Xavier? Magneto's idol, who's been dead for twenty years? This is so different from OUR world... but where am I? Oh... I see... I'm still in Oklahoma, with my mom and dad. Dad, one of the founders of a group called the Friends of Humanity? It figures, he never liked mutants, even before the first culling. But what about me? Where am I? Oh... I'm at a boarding school, and my best friend is... Glenn? Is it a coincidence, or something more..?

"You are together... but not as you are now," Claudia tells Paige and Jonothon, "though you ARE currently infatuated with each other."

"Better'n nothin'," Jonothon smiles wryly.

"How much time... is there left?" Glenn asks.

"Aproximatly four minutes," Claudia tells us.

"Long enough," I murmur. I turn to Glenn, biting my lip a little. How do you tell someone you love them? Especially when you're both about to die? :Glenn...: I start telepathically.

:Do yer know... how I feel about yer?: he inquires.

:About... the same way I feel about you, I would hope,: I smile.

:And... how is that?:

:Do the words "For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part," mean anything to you?:

:Yeah...: he smiles at me warmly. :I jus' regret that we're gonner die before we get a chance t' put it to the test.:

:No, I've seen snatches of the other world, the RIGHTFUL world. We're best friends, and slowly growing closer. This is a world of distorted reflections, we'll have a better chance in the real world, where we have time--and each other--on our side, with no Apocalypse to destroy it for us.:

"Two minutes," Claudia declares. Paige and Jonothon look at each other and clasp hands. Angelo and Vincente talk to each other quietly, but I can't hear what it's about.

:Tell me,: Glenn sends after a time, :Threnody isn't yer real name, is it?:

:No, it's a nickname. My real name is Dawn. Dawn Embers.:

:It's... beautiful. The beginin' of a day. The beginin' of what should've been, and now will be once again.:

"One minute," Claudia chimes somberly.

We look into each other's eyes. Mine are leaking tears, but it doesn't matter anymore. Feeling irrational, I say, "Well, are you gonna kiss me or what?"

He smiles again, then tentivly puts his arms around my waist. I draw up close to him, and we touch lips in a final kiss tinged with sorrow as oblivion yawns before us. Our tears mingle with each other as we embrace for the first and last time.

"One minute," Claudia says.

"Well, this is it, mates," Jonothon says. "See yer in Heaven, or wherever X-Men go when they die."

"Don't try an' joke, Jono," Paige whispers. She kisses him softly on the lips and runs her hand through his hair gently.

"I'm gonna miss you, mi amigos," Angelo tells us.

"Me too," Vincente admits. "I wish I'd gotten to know you all better."

"I am proud to have been a part of Magneto's dream," Claudia says. "And... I'm proud to call you my friends."

"I wish I'd known you all longer," Glenn says to my friends. "You seem like a nice group o' people, I'm glad I got a chance t' meet yer."

"Guys..." I say, "I'm sorry for being a pain, and for always refusing to really kill anyone, aside from psi blasting them, even an Infinite. God, this sounds SO corny, but it's how I feel."

"It's not corny, Thren," Jonothon tells me, resting a hand on my shoulder. "An' fer the record, you were never a pain, an' I can't fault yer fer bein' compassionate."

"Thanks," I whisper, biting my lip. "And... my name's Dawn. I'm sorry I never told you before, I just didn't think it was so important. But it seems to be now. I don't know why, but I just want you guys to know."

"Five seconds," Claudia informs us.

"Well, Charles Xavier," Jonothon says as we gather together in a group, waiting for the end to come, "Wherever you are, I hope yer happy that a dream o' yers could survive so much. If yer were half the dreamer Magneto said yer were, you should be proud o' yerself for inspirin' so many people t' fight fer yer dream."

I'm glad I fought for your dream too, Charles Xavier. It brought me light in a world of darkness, and it gave me a sense of purpose. The bombs are coming, I can see the light from the explosions in the distance, and I wonder, will my other self appreciate your vision as much as I do? Will she try as hard as I did? Is she willing to sacrifice as much as I have? I hope she is, because the dream deserves it.

"Zero..." Claudia whispers, barely audible.

I embrace Glenn as the world is engulfed in a brilliant, burning white light. Visions of the past, the present, the should-have-beens, could-have-beens and would-have-beens flash before my eyes in a dazzling light show that stretches my awareness across all planes of existence. Our world dies with neither whimper nor bang, but in a silent, cleansing, all consuming fire, destroying everything in its wake, like a terrifying wave of light. We, the last generation of X-Men, bear witness as all that ever was is washed away and the Age of Apocalypse ends. And I? My last thoughts as the flames roll over us is that I am, for the first time in years, at last at peace.

Never the End.

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