The Ties That Bind, part 3
Disclaimer: All Marvel characters are Marvel's. Anyone else is mine.
Author's Note: Yeah yeah yeah, I know what you're all thinking, but yes, Onslaught does appear. Quite prominently, in fact. But fear not, there is an actually reason for this story line (three, to be precise) which you'll find out in due course.
"What IS this?!" I exclaimed, looking up at the huge robot that was standing in front of the alley we were in.
"I'm not sure," Verney replied, looking up at it.
"Maybe we should--"
Before I got any farther then those three words a wave of energy hit us both with such force that we were thrown back into the alley. Debris of all kinds fell on top of us, leaving barely enough room for me to breathe (well, if I had still had to breathe, anyway). I lost sight of Verney and hastily retracted my wings to prevent them from beingsnapped in half from falling stones. It was all I could do to shield my face from all the flying debris, let alone try to scan for Verney. Instinctively I tried to grab hold of a spirit that could help me, but I grasped nothing. I was born down by the weight of the things that had been flung at me and on top of me and was held motionless at the bottom of the pile. I tried to get out, but everything was too heavy for me to shift.
"Dawn, where are you?" I heard Verney calling me from above.
"Under here!" I called as loudly as I could. I heard a scraping noise overhead and within moments a crack of light formed. It was quickly widened as Verney burrowed through the solid mass above me until he had finally widened it enough to let me climb out.
"I dug my way out," he explained. "You're fortunate I found you under all that rubble."
"Very," I agreed. "By the way, thanks."
"You are welcome," he nodded. "What caused this?"
"Energy... a lot of psionic energy mixed with something else," I told him. "There's still traces of the psi print hanging over the city like a cloud. It's something immensely powerful, and probably what's causing the disturbance in the astral plane."
"What can we to do help?" Verney asked me.
"I really don't--eh?"
"What is it?"
"There are people buried..." I told him, touching my head. "They're screaming. We've got to help them out."
"Where--" he started, but I had already taken wing and was soaring above him and out into the ravaged streets. My telepathy led me to a half dozen people who were trapped in an office building's elevator.
"Get out of here, ya flamin' mutie!" a man snapped angrily as I stepped up to try and help him and several other people pry the doors open. "This is all YOUR fault!"
"Excuse me, I'm just trying to help," I retorted. "I thought that MAYBE not having electricity to open the doors would make getting these people out of there before something worse happens a top priority. Of course, if my offer is irritating your mutaphobic tendencies I could always just leave them here." I turned to walk away.
"No--wait!" a woman cried, tugging on my arm. "My husband's in there! Please, if you can help, get him out! Please!"
"I'll try," I promised her. I pulled the door, but it wouldn't budge for me any more then it had for the others.
"May I be of assistance?" Verney asked as he faded in beside me.
"If you can get the door open..." I said.
"Of course." He lifted a razor sharp hand and ripped it through the doors, totally obliterating them. I looked down the shaft and said, "Uh-oh, they're a floor and a half down. I hope the shaft is wide enough..."
"For what?" Verney inquired.
"This," I replied, jumping down the shaft, spreading my wings so I could glide. They just barely fit, though they scrapped the sides a good bit. I slowed my descent and landed on top of the elevator, then pried the emergency hatch on the roof off. I looked inside and said, "All right, I'm here. Who's first?"
The people were momentarily startled, but then a man held up a little girl. "Here, take Gloria!" he pleaded. I took the little girl in my arms carefully and said, "I'll be back for the rest of you in a minute."
"Are you an angel?" Gloria inquired as I pumped my wings. It was hard to avoid the elevator cables, but I could manage.
"Well... close enough," I replied. I set her outside the shaft and said, "Here you go. Wait here with my friend while I go get your daddy." I looked to Verney and said, "Take care of her for a bit, will you?"
"Of course," he replied.
"Are you an elephant?" Gloria inquired, tugging at Verney's respirator. I snickered and dove back down the shaft for more people. Next I pulled up the girl's father and then a woman. I began to tire, for I wasn't used to carrying passengers. I wished I'd still had my medium powers, in which case I could have used telekinesis or at the very least used wind to carry them up, but for now I had to settle with what I had. By the third drop off I was doing my equivalent of gasping for breath, a fact which did not go unnoticed by Verney.
"Here, maybe I can help," he offered. He lowered himself into the shaft and began carving holes in the side of it. I realized they were handholds the people could use, which would help speed up the evacuation. He climbed back up and I went down to help the other victims out of the elevator.
"Come on, we've got handholds you can use," I said, reaching down towards them. I grabbed a woman's hand and lifted her up to the top of the elevator, where I directed her to the handholds. I did the same for the other two, then flew up myself.
"Is that everyone?" Verney inquired as I crawled out of the shaft.
"I think so, yes," I replied, wiping the sweat from my forehead. Interesting that I could still perspire even though I wasn't technically alive anymore. "Everyone all right?"
"Y-yes," stammered a woman I had pulled up, a little intimidated by Verney's appearance. "Thanks to you and your... friend."
"You're welcome," I told her. "We've got be going now. Places to go, people to rescue, the usual. C'mon, Vern." I headed for the door as Verney faded out to travel in between dimensions when Gloria said, "What's your name?"
"Um, Auria," I replied, saying the first thing that popped into my mind. Auria is the Askani translation of my name, and that was about all I could come up with at the moment. Actually, it sounds a bit different then it's spelled, but that's as close as I can get in English. I'd never really been assigned a codename, so for now an alias would have to do.
"What language is that?" asked a man.
"A very new one," I said. "I've got to go now, okay? But if you need help, just call and I'll try and get to you." I stepped out of the door and took flight, hoping to get a better aerial view of the city. It was in ruins, devastated by the fantastic pulse of energy. I looked around, trying to see who I could help, and found it. A man and his son were in the path of one of the huge metal sentinels, trapped by fallen debris. The thing wasn't stopping--it was honestly just going to step on them! I sped down, straining to streamline myself so I could get there in time to rescue the two. I barely scraped through in time, yanking the two out of harm's way a split second before the robot's foot came down (a Sentinel, I believe they were called) but I wasn't QUITE fast enough, because a few of my pin feathers were caught under the giant foot. My inertia kept me going, though, so the feathers were yanked out of my wings without slowing me up too much. I ignored it as best I could and curved up in my flight, trying not to crash into anything in the process (which I a lot harder to do then it looks.)
"Cool!" the little boy exclaimed.
"*I* think it would be cooler on the ground," his father murmured.
">Urmph!< Good idea," I agreed, straining to keep us all aloft. I was still a bit tired after the elevator incident, and the added strain of the disruption in the astral plane was getting to me more then I cared to admit. I alighted in an alley and set them down.
"That was neat," the boy commented.
"That's good," I smiled. "That's what I'm aiming for: fun and life saving."
"What... what IS that thing?" the man inquired, indicating the moving robot.
"Honestly?" I replied. "I have no idea. Looks like a reject from Star Trek, though. I'm going to see if I can stop it." Cocky, yes, but I can be extremely headstrong at times. I flew up towards it and tried using telepathy to shut it down, thinking that a human mind might be directing it. To my surprise, the Sentinel absorbed my telepathic energy and turned around to swat me. I dodged, but was slightly surprise that it had been able to absorb my power. I hadn't thought that possible, at least in a machine.
:Verney, try and cut it!: I called mentally, knowing he was nearby. I saw him fade in near the Sentinel's foot and start slashing at it, but to no avail. It seemed that it was too hard to make more then a dent in the thing's armor.
"This Sentinel has a design flaw! Go for the space between the neck and helmet!"
I looked down to discover a young man with blond hair calling up to me from the ground. I was surprised--I hadn't sensed his approach at all, so he must have been shielded from my telepathy. Still, I could sense a little bit of emotion from him empathically, and I knew he meant well. I grabbed the remains of what might have been a flag pole and plunged it into the Sentinel's neck. There was a crackling sound as I severed wires and crushed circiuts, almost subconsciously homing in on the structural flaw. For an instant I thought I felt Will with me, using his elemental powers to probe the neck and find the flaw and guide my hand to it, but it was only for an instant. The Sentinel squawked and fell to the ground, spitting sparks and leaking oil.
"Some flaw," I remarked as I watched it crash to the ground.
"You... are the anomaly," the man said as he stared at me.
"Huh?" I said.
"Time is twisted around you... you shouldn't have any time left," he continued, as if in a trance. "You are an anomaly, so I didn't see it coming..."
"Excuse me, but what're you talking about?" I asked him.
The man shook his head, seeming a little dazed. "Sorry, it took a minute for my senses to adjust themselves. I'm a precog, I can see the future. You shouldn't even be alive now--it's against all probability. When you came near, my powers temporarily malfunctioned because they were unable to read you. Now that they've accepted you're alive they're functioning properly again."
"What's your name?" I inquired.
"Shrive," he said. "I came to help you two. I won't be able to help much physically, but precognition is a good tool if you use it right."
"What is causing this?" Verney asked him.
"A creature of psionic energy called Onslaught," he replied. "It's the amalgam of the psionic powers of Professor Charles Xavier and the dark side of the mutant known as Magneto. It possesses the powers of both but none of the compassion. It's been sending these Sentinels to block off all exits to the city and store the psionic energy the panicking citizens are generating. Soon he'll be powerful enough to spread his influence across the globe, uniting the minds of every being on earth."
"And then..?" I said.
"And then... we will all be dead," he told me softly.
I stared at him in horror.
Onslaught stood atop his citadel, concentrating on tracking the power source he had recently discovered. Young, strong, and for the most part untrained, it kept flickering on and off, making him strain to trace it. This confused him, for he knew that he was by far the most powerful telepath in the world, yet somehow the mind he sought kept evading him. Something was soaking a fraction of the psionic energy that he was dispersing throughout the city as he prepared to carry out his master plan. He scoured the astral plane for the anomaly, but couldn't get a fix on it. He concluded that the entity must be a being like himself, existing on the physical and psychic plane simultaneously, making it difficult to detect. He focused even more. A being so like himself with the power to absorb psionic energy like that was a prize too tempting to ignore!
He found the mind he was searching for. It was preoccupied, so the shields were relatively light. He tuned in to certain psychic keys in her mind, trying to divine her powers. What he found amazed even him.
Fantastic, he thought as he withdrew from her mind. With powers such as hers, I may not even need to bother with neither the Sentinels nor Gateway! I could spread my influence throughout the infinite realities of the Omniverse with but a thought! I must recover this child at once. I will have to rebuild the keys that allow her to use the power, but I am now so powerful that it will be less then nothing.
Onslaught smiled to himself. A cold, evil smile of anticipated triumph as he sensed the end drawing near and victory at hand.
And there, deep within an onslaught of his own creation, Professor Charles Francis Xavier shuddered with the realization that, not only would another innocent be taken in this mad power play, but that it was because of his own inspiration, his own dream of co-existence, that the seeds had been planted for another child to be delivered unto evil.
For a few moments I stood speechless, but then I shook myself out of it. "But that'll only happen if we can't stop him," I said. "The future isn't set, is it?"
"No," Shrive agreed. "I can see into all the various futures, and that's just one of them."
"But what can we do to prevent that?" Verney asked.
"Well, in all the futures I see, there is a huge battle involving all the heros the city has to spare. The X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four... everyone fights. But I suggest that we just try and help out as much as we can around the city for now. I'm still not getting a completely clear picture because even though my senses have accepted you, to them you're still an anomaly, but that seems to be the best way to go."
"That's find with me," I said. "These people need all the help they can g-aaaahhhh..."
"Dawn, what is it?!" Verney exclaimed, catching me before I hit the ground.
"All this >uurhmph!< psionic disruption is starting to get to me," I told him. "It's all right. I'll be okay in a minute." Or more. Actually, I was surprised I'd been able to hold myself together THAT long. The weird thing was, I felt a little bit stronger then I had before despite the fact that I was in excruciating pain. I brushed the thought away; I was probably imagining things. I gathered myself and got up again. "Okay," I said. "I'm all right now. Let's get some work done." I refrained from adding 'while we still can.'
"Who is near?" asked Verney.
"Let me see," I said. I initiated a block wide scan--and ended up doing a citywide one instead.
"Whaauugh?!" I exclaimed in surprise as more thoughts then I had anticipated battered at my shields. I shut my powers down quickly and massaged my slightly throbbing head. "THAT was weird," I commented.
"What?" Shrive inquired curiously.
"Well, I was trying to do a relatively small scan, but it got a bit out of hand," I told him. "I used a little too much power, I think. It's kind of strange, though, because it's never happened before."
"Strange indeed," Shrive said. "The amount of psionic interference is greatly restricting telepathy. If anything, you should have drawn a complete blank instead of covering the whole city."
"I dunno, my powers can be a little... hey, how'd you know I was scanning the whole city? I thought you were just a precog."
"Well, I--arrrrrh!" Shrive suddenly doubled over in pain, clutching his head.
"Shrive?" I said.
"I couldn't see..." Shrive muttered. "Coming... he's coming! The fog cleared..."
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "Verney, can you 'see' what he's rambling about?"
"No," he replied. "He's somehow blocking my 'sight'. I can't discern anything about him."
"Dawn, run!" Shrive called. "Get out of here before he--"
"Your warning comes too late, boy," came a cold voice from behind me. I spun around to discover a huge purple and crimson figure standing behind me. The pure psionic energy it was radiating was enough to make me want to keel over in agony, but I didn't want him to know just how weak he was making me, so I forced myself to remain standing.
"Who--?! What do you want?!" I stammered.
"Just you," he snarled. He grabbed my arm and wrenched us both into the astral plane--physically! It was disorienting, but I recovered some strength there. I also felt extremely confused. What could this man want me for?
"Your power," he answered my unvoiced question. "Your power and your mind. I sense dual personalities in you, much like those of Bishop, but you have better control over yours. From your alternate persona I shall find the secrets of her world, and from yours how you have transcended reality and death to come here. Once I fathom your secrets I shall use your powers to rebuild this world and every other in the Omniverse in my image. All things will be one, and that one shall be Onslaught!"
"For an all mighty being you sure seem to need a lot of help," I remarked. "Could it be you're not as powerful as you say, or do you just lack imagination?"
"SILENCE!" he snarled, shaking me. "Who are you to talk about weakness? You, who can do virtually anything within the scope of human comprehension and yet couldn't save your own parents when they needed you most? You, who froze, terrified, as your love was incinerated? You could have saved them all, and yet you did nothing! You are hindered by emotions--compassion, fear, love! Of all the foolish, petty things, THIS is what hinders humanity the most. Emotions cloud your judgment, they make you weak, they prevent you from reaching your full potential! Onslaught has no such weakness, which makes me the perfect ruler."
"But... what about co-existence?" I asked. "You... Professor Xavier's dream was that humans and mutants could live together. What happened? What changed that?"
We dropped out of the astral plane and into a dark room. I gasped as I caught sight of the window on the far side. It overlooked the whole city, and even the tallest skyscraper seemed like a stump in the presence of a redwood. Onslaught turned to face me and said, "In all ways that matter, child, Charles Xavier is dead. There is only Onslaught, and he is a force you cannot begin to comprehend. A primal force of raw power. I am a god made flesh, and to impudent, unworthy weaklings such as you, I am a VENGEFUL god." He plunged a clawed hand into my mind, and I screamed.