The Clan Askani: The Askani Wars part 3

Disclaimer: Everyone you recognize is Marvel's property. Anybody you don't is probably mine.

Author's Note: All right, as you can tell, this is going to be pretty fast moving, as compared to "First Contact". Of course, it's a bit difficult to build character in the middle of a war zone, but fear not, for any of you who liked character building the next part, "It's Always Darkest..." will have plenty of that, especially regarding Dawn having to--um, never mind. You'll see.

"You know I love you but I just can't take this/ you know I love you but I'm playing for keeps/ although I need you I'm not gonna make this/ you know I want to but I'm in too deep." Genesis, "In Too Deep."

In Too Deep

I woke up the next morning strapped to a table in what looked to be a laboratory of some sort. I surmised that my food from last night must have been laced with sedatives to keep me asleep while they did whatever it was they had wanted to do before I awoke. Being strapped to a table summoned horrifying memories of the last time I had seen my parents alive; Sinister had had them both strapped to tables like this. I had a feeling that what I was about to experience was going to be just as painful as what had happened to them.

"You're awake?" came Apocalypse's voice from the doorway. "Your system has burned out the sedatives faster then anticipated. It matters not to me, but you will soon wish you had stayed asleep."

Oh yeah, THAT was an encouraging sign. "Why do you say that?" I asked nervously.

"Because," he said, "I am about to preform the delicate task of psionic surgery. Of course, it shall take several steps to accomplish all of what I plan, but one must start somewhere, after all."

I began to sweat as his face tensed and eyes glowed again. I felt his ancient mind probing mine, poking and prodding into all my memories and feelings. Then, with incredible ease, he slipped completely into my mind.

My perceptions dulled and spun as I withdrew into my own mind to confront him, abandoning my body as he had his to face him in the astral plane. When I readjusted myself I discovered that I was in a field; a peaceful one with the Massachusetts Academy and Bio-Sphere in the distance.

"But... the geography is all wrong," I said aloud. "There's no field around the Academy, there's woods."

"That is because we are where you are most at home." I whirled around and discovered Apocalypse standing behind me. Here he was different, though. There was no exoskeleton, and he was in a large, powerful man's body as opposed to the woman's that he had worn in real life. "From what I have gathered, this is the field behind your home. Your mixed feelings about your home and school have merged the settings, creating an amalgam of surroundings. But that is irrelevant at the moment."

"Oh, really? And what IS relevant? You're on MY turf now, I could beat you with one hand behind my back." To demonstrate I manipulated the landscape and a large crack appeared beneath Apocalypse's feet. It continued to widen into a chasm of at least twenty feet across, but Apocalypse didn't seem to notice it. He stood, hovering in the air, laughing at me.

"Did you really think such petty tricks would have any effect on ME?" he asked scornfully. I was suddenly reminded of Sinister, and how "disappointed" he had been in me when I didn't kill him. "Girl, I have lived for centuries. I have seen empires rise and have crushed them beneath the heel of my boot. There is nothing you can do to me here or in reality. Submit and a minimal amount of harm shall come to you. Resist and you shall soon wish you were dead."

For an answer the sky clouded over and it began to rain. Large, jagged spears of rocks jutted from the ground every which way, lacing around me like reeds being woven into a basket. Threads of adamantium began to grow around Apocalypse, binding him tightly as the stone hid me. I had no illusions that it would hold him, I was merely buying myself time. Time for what, I had no idea, but I was going to do my best to beat the jerk at his own game. I ran behind the web of stone that I had created and made the whole field sprout with obstacles which would hopefully slow him up. I ran for the school as quickly as I could, still manipulating the surroundings. I could feel Apocalypse struggling against the metal threads I had encased him in and knew they wouldn't hold him long. I reached the school's door and slammed it shut behind me, then caused it to merge with the wall and reinforced the wall with steel, adamantium, diamond, and cement in that order. Maybe all that hardness would keep him out... but I doubted it. I made the outside of the walls grow spikes to boot and then ran further back into the school.

I reached one of the emergency exits that led to several underground tunnels as Apocalypse made it to the front door. I raced down the hatch and covered it over with regular floor to blend it in and perhaps make it harder for him to find me. I ran through the tunnels and erased them behind me, leaving only solid rock. Apocalypse broke through the outer wall of the school and entered the mansion, searching for me. Somehow, through all the rock, I could hear him speaking to me. "Come out, girl," he roared as he searched for the hatch I had escaped through. "You are delaying the inevitable. I shall find you sooner or later, and when I do you shall regret not having listened to my generous offer."

"Like heck I will," I muttered, reinforcing the stone in the tunnel. I conjured up my psionic armor again, hoping it would protect me. I also called up my sword, doubting it would do any good against Apocalypse.

Then the wall behind me crashed down, revealing Apocalypse standing among the rubble. He was laughing at me, and I could see that he had hewn his own tunnel through the solid rock. I stood in a defensive position, ready to fight him as I had Emplate. Apocalypse looked at me and said, "You think a petty weapon such as that can hurt me? This is insulting. However, since you are new to this era I shall forgive your ignorance." His arm morphed into a huge, curved sword and he slammed my own out of my hand. I backed against a wall as he held the blade even with my throat, painfully aware that he could kill me with the slightest twitch of a muscle. "I offer you one last chance," he said, the sword blade glinting. "I extend my offer for the final time. Will you join me willingly, or must I MAKE you?"

"Go to h--" I began. The sword was drawn back and--

--I woke up back in the Academy, drenched in sweat. I looked down at myself; I was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, my regular nightclothes. I felt my neck--no blood. I flopped down on the bed with a huge sigh of relief. It must have been a dream. I glanced at the calendar hanging on the wall and discovered it was the day before I had gone to the Hellfire Club's gathering. I got out of bed and stretched out; I felt a bit stiff. Wow, that had been a beauty of a nightmare. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep again after THAT. I pulled on my leather jacket and shoes and decided to go for a walk in the Bio-Sphere.

Strolling across the campus, my thoughts began to wander. Literally. My telepathy ricochetted from person to person, starting with the students. They were all asleep and I knew enough to keep out of their dreams, least I find something, er, embarrassing. Then, quite suddenly, I locked onto Emma and Sean. They were both awake, and talking with each other in the main building. Inadvertently I began to listen to their conversation.

"An' the lass suspects nothin'?" Sean was saying.

"No. I've made sure of that," Emma replied. "I'm done with her friend, tomorrow I'll move onto her."

"Be careful, Emma. She's a psi as well, ye know."

"She can't be any greater challenge then M was. She may possess as much raw power as I do, but she sorely lacks my skill. By the end of the week she'll be seeing things exactly the way I want her too. MY way."

"OUR way."

"Your way IS my way." Emma grinned daemonically. "Yes, Sean, I daresay having my own little group of super powered mercenaries will help my reputation considerably, not to mention what we shall be able to accomplish with Xavier's brood. They wouldn't dare harm their next generation, let alone one of their own. And I believe Drake shall side with me as well, thanks to the minimal amount of manipulation he has been subjected to thus far." She began to laugh.

"Oh my God..." I whispered to myself. "She's been manipulating us! Everyone! I've gotta tell someone..!" I ran towards the Communications Suit to try to alert anyone I could, my mind still linked with Emma's and Sean's. I was almost to the Com Suit when Emma abruptly stopped laughing.

"What is it, Emma?" Sean inquired.

"It's the girl!" she hissed. "She's found us out!"

"Ye wake the others," Sean told her. "I'll detain her."

I recoiled in horror. She must have sensed me through the link I had so foolishly kept open, and now they were going to catch me and do God-knows-what to me. I ran faster, but knew I didn't have a prayer when I heard Sean's sonic scream coming up behind me fast. His fist collided with my back, pitching me headfirst into the lawn. I sat up and wiped the blood away from my lip where a rock had cut it. I looked back at Sean and discovered his eyes totally blank even though his face was twisted in rage.

"I suggest ye belay yuir course to the Com Suit, lass," he told me coldly.

"Why?" I snarled. "So Emma the mind witch can use me as her personal body guard? I don't think so, Mr. Cassidy." I got up and took a step towards the door.

"This is nae an option," Sean snapped, unleashing a sonic scream that blew me into the wall. Now, you see that kind of thing happen to people in movies and they just get back up, but believe me, walls HURT. I felt like I had a concussion and found passing out a very welcome option, but knew I couldn't risk it. I struggled to my feet, which was easier said then done. My head throbbed and ribs ached, but I managed to right myself.

"Why are y--" I started. Sean cut me off with a high pitched scream that left my ears ringing and made me nauseous. I decided enough was enough and hammered him with a wave of psionic energy that managed to stun him.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Cassidy," I whispered as I knelt over him, checking his pulse. Then something hit me from behind, burning my back. I spun around and discovered the whole of Generation X standing behind Emma, Glenn included. Jonothon had unwrapped the bandages around his chest and the psionic energy inside was glowing yellow. He must have been the onewho had burned me, I thought.

:Give it up, gel,: he sent. :Yer'll be of no use t' us if yer dead.:

"Thanks a lot," I said. "But I have no intention of joining Ms. Frost's merry little band of zombies, thank you very much. I'd prefer to KEEP my brain, if you don't mind."

"We do," Angelo replied. He shot a yard of skin from his wrist and right into my eye. It was, luckily, a large portion of skin or it probably would have put my eye out. As it was it covered about five inches of my face and gave me what I suspected would become a fantastic black eye later on. If there WAS a later on, that is.

"I don't... give a flip about what YOU... mind..." I stuttered, rubbing my eye, "...because you don't really... have one anymore, do you? SHE'S your mind." I indicated Emma, who was still just standing idly by. Her face was hard and her eyes cold, which froze the blood in my veins.

"Very true," Emma replied, her tone flat and emotionless. "And neither shall YOU once I am done. Take her."

Gen X swarmed around me, each of them powering up. Husk became a being of solid steel and lunged at me, fists outstretched. Luckily, I had sensed her intentions before she had made them and had gotten out of the way in time. I did a quick scan of Emma's mind for possible ways to stop them without hurting them--and hit the jackpot. Most of the others had powers they had to activate psionically, like Jubilee's pyrotechnics and Everett's aura. By shutting down the right part of their brains I could theoretically prevent the use of their powers.

Well, Jubilee was about to launch a pyrotechnic attack, so I figured now was a good time to try it out. I reached into her mind and shut down the part that triggered her powers. The sparks disappeared, confusing her. I continued to do this with Angelo, Everett, Paige, and Mondo, and I managed to k.o. Jonothon with my telepathy, but was balked by Monet and Glenn. They both had physical powers, and they were both coming at me at an alarming rate. I ducked as quickly as I could, but Glenn's fist scraped the top of my head. Monet administered a side kick right into my jaw and I felt it shatter like glass. Glenn hit me in the stomach, which cracked a rib or so. I choked out a few words, hoping to get through to him. "Gl...enn, s-stop..." I pleaded. "Why... are y' me? I t-thought y'..."

"Shut up!" he exclaimed, punching me in the face.

"N-no..." I whimpered, feeling as if I was about to pass out. "Thissss... isn't r-real... it c-can't be..."

"It can," Monet replied, suspending me in the air by my neck. "What should we do with her, sir?"

"Just hold her," Emma told them. "This won't take long." Through my mind's eye I saw a corona of psionic energy and knew she planned to take over my mind like she had the others. I couldn't even work up the strength to scream.

Then a huge, blue grey form appeared. He knocked Emma into the realm of the unconscious with a wave of his hand, leaving the others mindless shells. Without Emma to guide them they didn't know what to do. I looked at my savior and gasped as I got a better look. It was Apocalypse.

"You see how I forgive you, child?" Apocalypse said to me. "You have run away and refused my help, but still I come to your aide. Why not cast your lot with me, as others have done before? Your friends, I am afraid, are bound forever to their teacher. The moment I depart they shall resume their attack and destroy you. Come, join me, and perhaps we shall find a way to free them, and at the very least I shall be able to heal your wounds. Come with me, or you shall face a fate worse then death at the hands of your former allies. With me, you shall have at least free will. What will you have with them?" He stretched his hand towards me and, after a moment's hesitation, I accepted it. A tiny part of me screamed out in despair, but after what my "friends" had done to me it seemed the lesser of two evils. The scenery swam around as if underwater and Apocalypse laughed in triumph. I remember a tiny part of me bowed its head in appalled shame when I realized what I had done, but it was too late. I was in far too deep to back out now.

When I woke up the restraints were off and Apocalypse was in the far corner of the room talking with someone. I couldn't move a muscle, and I realized it was because most of me didn't want to. Apocalypse had wreaked irreparable damage to my mind, and I wasn't sure if I would ever be the same again. I could feel the injuries I had received in my mind had surfaced on my body, since what happens to your mind is reflected on your physical form, and wished I had stayed asleep. I listened to what Apocalypse and the other man were saying about me, my face redwith shame and anger at myself for have accepting his offer. Sure, mymind had been clouded over by his brainwashing, and I had been in a terrible amount of pain, but it was no excuse.

"You have to results of the testing?" Apocalypse was saying to the other man.

"Yes," the stranger replied. "The genes are strong because they are not the result of inbreeding, as we have been forced to do these days if we do not want to pollute our gene pool. We would normally be able to make good use of them, but..."

"But what?"

"...We would need HEALTHY genes. These genes are diseased."


"Then we shall cure her. We have cures to every disease of that era, and I have invested too much time and power into her to give her up."

"Not an option. The cellular deterioration has been in progress for some time now, judging from the looks of things, and it has become terminal. She has perhaps another two months left to live, but that's being optimistic."

"Was it a failsafe implanted by Sinister? He has been known to do that."

"No. It is natural, and we lost the cure long ago. My lord, the child is going to die soon, and there is nothing I can do about it. I suggest discarding her before it causes any... unpleasantness."

"No, she could do much in those months," Apocalypse said. "In another day or so she shall be thoroughly subverted, and I would hate to waste one with so much potential unless I have to. She shall be useful when we go to attack the Askani. We must gather the last of Xavier's flock before it causes untold damage. It is a shame, though. I had so looked forward to the many possibilities I could have used her for." The two left the room, not suspecting that I had heard the entire thing. My eyes were wide with horror as the full meaning of the man's words sank in. I was going to die within two months, and not only were they not even going to go through the trouble to stop it, they didn't really care, either. Not that I should have expected that much from villains, but it was a real slap in the face. My mind, confronted with too much horror to cope with, shut itself down. I slipped into the blissful darkness gladly.

TEASER: No, it's true, she has contracted something, but what is it and when did she get it? And how will she cope with it when she finds out? Next up is "Legacy of Hatred," and if that doesn't give it away I don't know what will.

Continue To Chapter Four

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