Every day, all day, inside of my head, my imagination runs wild with thoughts and concepts about my most beloved Comic Book figures. Sometimes I just take mental note of interesting notions and think, “Wow, that would be great. They [Marvel] should do this…” and other times I create pages of word documents with elaborate plots, themes, events, and the characters that take the lead in the story. These fanfics or musings are almost never read. Until now…
We are honored to bring you our guest pitch and very first story.
Tyler Wing and Michael Brower proudly present:
The Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
The scrying revealed nothing. It’s not often that what I seek remains outside of my possession for long after. Divination is a common enough technique, even for those with the least modicum of talent but the skill grows progressively to match the strength and power of the caster. I have never felt blindness before.
Whatever is watching me is beyond my sight.
Normally the only sound that can be heard is the sharp click of heeled boots as the echo through the corridor. Now bare feet slap clumsily against the stone beneath matched by labored breathing.
Nova Roma has long since been abandoned. In its years of glory, it was the true seat of my power. In ruin, it provides me the perfect place to remain hidden. I am alone. Or I was until mere weeks ago. A malevolent angry presence has taken root here. Not because of any lore tied to its former grandeur. No, the feeling is unmitigated and intent, driven toward one purpose. Me. It knows like this place, I am weak. Though my senses are dulled I am not careless. With a simple yet effect abjuration, I erected a mage’s aegis around me, a barrier to prevent me from harm. Despite its impenetrable nature, I can still feel it’s touch on my shoulder. A biting ice that burns the skin and stiffens my bones to which I can hardly move. In order to be free, I have no choice.
Whatever is here has bound itself to me.
The cracked walls and protruding jagged stone made only more small tears in a gown that on any other occasion she’d rather be caught dead before wearing as it catches the rough surface. It’s been weeks since the presence emerged and with her strength fading, corsets, capes, and thigh boots simply are out of the question. What was once a silk night down is nothing more than tattered rags. The sad figure slumps against the white marble wall and with her shoulder she slides against it as she inches forward.
Calm yourself. Frustration will do nothing but cause irrational behavior. It’s exactly what this thing wants. At times it hunts me, others it chides me. If I were able to rest I may have been able to regain some degree of my abilities. But despite how often I feed on the few remaining slaves in the cells, their life refuses to nourish my body and leaves me. No is taken from me. The infernal thing is unaffected by my numerous attempts at conjuration and will not be summoned. Now all I want is sleep. Impossible.
Between the wailing or incessant whispers, whatever is here refuses to give me peace.
As if lips pressed against her ear, she heard the unmistakable words.
[????] In what world do you think you would ever deserve peace?
With a sharp twist, I looked toward the taunting. A snap decision that would prove to be a mistake.
[Selene] WHO ARE YOU!!? I AM THE… YOU WILL…
Before she could finish her proclamation, exhaustion overcame her as she plunged into darkness.
I have no idea how long it was before I was able to open my eyes again. My head swam with a sharp pain as the light of the torches stabbed my eyes. I didn’t need my sight to know that from the stench of blood sacrificed for thousands of years on this very floor that I had been brought to my own temple. Being a prisoner in it, however, was certainly a first.
[Selene] Enough cloak and dagger. Whoever you are I believe you lack in proper reverence. It’s customary to announce yourself before a queen.
The voice was a combination of a whisper and shrill shriek submerged in black torment that seemed to swirl around her from every direction.
[????] You all always loved your titles. Though your arrogance and your own egos made each of you little kings and queens bent on your own twisted schemes, I’d wager your self-serving ambition exceeded far and above the rest.
[Selene] Still, why hide in the shadows? I am clearly at your mercy so what purpose is there for the charade?
[????] You may be bound both physically and mystically, but I am quite familiar with how quickly that can change. I’m not about to take any unnecessary chances. After all, this could be the only one. The pretense was necessary in order for you to be rendered in your current and rather humiliating condition, which I promise you that I’ve spent years in misery by your hand. For the first time, I am truly overjoyed to see you shackled like the hag that you are.
I had a mind to launch another verbal barb but knew that this would only prolong the situation and time was essential if I were going to formulate a plan to regain my freedom. With what little strength I had left I tested the bonds of my captivity. My freedom would not be won by a slip of the wrist.
[????] Feel free to tug and yank away at the chains. You aren’t going anywhere. But you already knew that, didn’t you? They are after all yours.
She’s right. The chains were ensorcelled. Used to pin down those who were to be sacrificed to me in the early days of humanity so I could live through the ages. Much more enjoyable days. They would struggle naturally, the “servus” as we called the local civilians, nothing more than sheep for the slaughter. But when their heart was ripped out and held before them, I could never decide which held more pleasure. Watching the spark drain from their eyes or the terror on their face as I began my feast.
[Selene] Despite your best efforts, I’ve known many souls throughout my lifetime, Your voice has a familiar ring to it.
A figure emerged from the darkness and quickly took a knee. An overly exaggerated show with thinly veiled contempt below the surface.
[????] You recognize me? How truly honored I am to have remained in the memory of the coveted Black Queen after all these years. A feat certainly considering that because of your long illustrious life makes you geriatric even by the standard of gods. Though you have always been exceptional with necromancy and illusion, you’ve been reduced from near omnipotence to a withered dying husk. It’s quite the sight to behold!
[Selene] I may be bound and unable to move but you are in the heart of my sanctum and I have other means at my disposal to kill you where you stand. I’ll ask once more who are you?
The slim figure hidden underneath the cowl began to laugh. I suppose the emotional response was the cause as to why her shade began to blink and blur rapidly only reforming after her hearty fit reached its conclusion.
[????] Forgive me. I know that your love for cruelty is matched only by your obsession for games. As you are the world’s oldest mutant and myself, well dead, I thought the entertainment would be mutually enjoyable. But if you’re so keen on identifying me I believe it’s time that I obliged.
The gaunt shadow stood and reached up with hands that looked more like bone than flesh. As she slowly removed her cowl and locked eyes with me, I knew that before me stood death itself. Despite my best effort, the shock overtook my normally ironclad control.
[Tarot] You look surprised Selene. I don’t know why. You’ve already brought me back from the dead once. When I finally figured out where you had escaped to after your humiliating defeat by the X-Men I knew that if you had the dark magic to achieve such a feat once, you most certainly could do it again. I knew you wouldn’t be cooperative but haunting you, delightful as that is alone, I’m capable of so much more.
[Selene] My reaction is a simple observance. You look nearly as bad as I do Tarot. How is any of this possible? When the techno-organic virus was purged from your corpses you should have left little more than dust and your souls returned to the realm of death.
[Tarot] Selene, I am genuinely surprised that you of all people, a sorceress who has cheated death for thousands of years would find my own escape from the afterlife so unfathomable.
[Selene] Don’t mistake me child, I…
I wasn’t frightened, especially of creatures of the infernal realms. But I wasn’t prepared for her sudden and murderous reaction. Tarot’s face twisted in anger as her she radiated a powerful black aura. Her body seemed to revolt as her form began to blink and shudder violently. Her hollow black eyes locked with mine and her hand met my chin. Once again the ice burned my face and despite my best effort, a small whimper slipped from my lips. From a child in life who would spook herself at the sound of her own voice, her feral veracity was quite astonishing. That girl is most certainly gone. Before me stood something else entirely. Clearly, I will have to choose my words more carefully. She held me there for a moment, eyes fixed with mine and teeth clenched so tightly as she growled.
[Tarot]I am not your child!
Her backhand stuck me like a thunderclap. Despite the extraordinary pain my ire was beginning to exceed its limits. Thinking clearly was becoming more strenuous.
[Selene] No, your right Tarot, you’re right. You were never one of my own. You belong to Frost.
Tarot whipped around and I swore she was preparing for yet another strike. After a brief moment, her armed dropped to her side and she stayed her hand.
[Tarot] We did once. But no longer. She let us die. We were only children.
I’m tired. Not because of the mysterious physical malady that has taken root in my body but by then insipid whining about days long since passed.
[Selene] I gave you your troop a shot at Frost on Utopia. She was alone. You had her. If only you didn’t drag it out. But the viper has made many new allies and before long they swooped in for the save. You with the rest of her prodigy blew it.
[Tarot] As has always been the case, Selene, your grasp has always far exceeded your reach. You are infamous for laying too many plots on top of one another and losing track of all of the threads until everything unravels. Plans among plans that never amount to victory do they? Now you’re nothing more than a rat, hiding here in Nova Roma, an extinct city among the ruins and skeletons of former glory. The irony really is truly beautiful.
Now let’s get to it, Selene. Where is the Codex that holds your spells? Every witch has one. A codex, grimoire, tarot cards, given your history you’ve amassed quite a rich collection haven’t you? If you lie to me and try to convince me that only you can use it I promise you that you’ve only just begun to taste the pain I bring. The spell I want is the casting you used as the catalyst for the mutants you brought back from the dead all over the planet during your failed ascension on Utopia. I know it’s here. I’ve roamed these halls for months. I can sense the potency. But you’ve warded it. It would be in your best interest to retrieve it. Now.”
[Selene] There is one massive component missing. It cannot be done without the technologies of the TO Virus. The techno-organic compound provided the shape but the magic gave it life. Without either you have nothing. Beyond that, you don’t possess the skill or power to perform my black arts. The spells and rituals aren’t of just one school but a combination of black magic, necromancy, and my own mutant abilities. You came all this way for nothing I’m afraid.
[Tarot] That’s where you’re wrong witch. I’ve learned a few things during my time being stuck between the living and the dead. There are powers, forces that even the most gifted cannot possibly fathom. As such we are all too aware of the necessary element to make a substitution in lieu of the TO Virus and truly return anyone in death back to life.
The TO Virus was only a means to an end and readily available. Humans simply couldn’t withstand the urge to use it by any means necessary without the slightest insight as to its true power. I supposed that includes me above all others. I don’t apologize for it either. After my bid for godhood was lost my thoughts were solely dedicated to survival, and of course the next opportunity to grasp my birthright. But as one of the paramount magic users on the planet, it’s inconceivable to me that this girl has access to forces undiscovered and whats more the ability to use them. Something she said stirred my attention.
Although she ignores the inquiry It became all too apparent that Tarot wasn’t acting alone but instead in concert with another threat. Selene began to use her telepathic talent to sweep the area. Nearly as soon as she began, she screeched in agony.
Something, no someone is blocking me. But who?
[Tarot] Something wrong Selene?
Don’t give her the satisfaction.
[Selene] What are you proposing for a substitute Tarot?
[Tarot] A powerful tool. Something that manipulates and conducts magical energy and bonds with its host. A unique, eldrich metal. Your spell will be cast to reopen the gate you created and free our life forces from the Nether. With the metal I can utilize it to pull our souls from oblivion. Of course, as you well know, powerful magic comes at great cost. Laws of equivalent exchange and all that. Lucky for me we already have the first lamb ready for the slaughter.
As her gaze settled upon me it didn’t take a scholar to discern her meaning. Her newfound confidence is nauseating. Time to test her resolve.
[Selene] Eldrich metal? You and I know only one brat who possesses it. There have been others but for what you’re suggesting you will need the original, the most powerful of them all. How do you plan to take the Soulsword? Every time you confront her, she ends you.
[Tarot] I don’t need Illyana’s pathetic blade. She retorted sharply.
A light flashed with a brilliance that blinded and delivered yet another cruel torment to the ancient sorceress. Blue fire erupted from Tarot’s outstretched hand. When the glare burned away and Selene’s sight was restored, she couldn’t mask her disbelief.
[Tarot] Let me save you the trouble of asking the obvious. What you see before you now can only be fashioned by a caster of great power. You doubted my abilities before. Clearly, I have surpassed my former mystical limits. But magical ability isn’t enough. The key condition of forging a weapon of the soul is the loss of your innocence. That prick Fitzroy handed us all our deaths. Now he just handed us back our lives, through this!
Tarot swung her hand and blue fire erupted again from the accursed weapon. Its power was undeniable and likely one that would rival not only the Soulsword but every other mystical brand. The Soul Scythe moaned, a sentient weapon that ached to consume the souls of others, starting with my own. I wondered how she came into possession of such a great power but deduced that while Tarot has been bound between life and death there are any number of ways she could fashion the weapon.
Beyond anything, I knew that if I gave her what she wanted, my use would cease as surely as my life. The haunting is somehow draining me. I’ll be dead either way if this doesn’t end.
[Selene] That settles things doesn’t it? There. On the back of the textile hanging on the wall… is what you need.
I had barely enough strength to lift my hand and point in its direction. Tarot boldly strode toward the wall intent on the red tapestry embroidered with the hellfire symbol. A trophy to enjoy for bringing upon its destruction. I always loved that damned thing. A shame really.
Tarot stopped abruptly a few paces away from it.
[Tarot] Here Selene?
[Selene] Yes. All you need do is to turn it over… and the spell is written on… written on the other side.
Damn her. What is she waiting for? I can feel her again. She’s enjoying this. It’s making her stronger.
[Tarot] You know Selene, now might be poor timing but throughout the years I’ve known you, especially these past weeks, I’ve had a wonderful chance to observe you. I’ve gained a great deal of insight.
Something is wrong. If I only had even a bit of strength I could leech my stolen power away from the wretched wench. Instead, she’s using my own vampiric abilities in some twisted paradox which has given her the power to nearly cross the dark threshold alone. But all I could do in my current state was muster a short response.
[Selene] Do… tell.
[Tarot] Well, I’ve always thought it was interesting that being a member of Hellfire Club, its Inner Circle and one of the four highest ranks as its Black Queen, the pinnacle of privilege, you almost never took any special interests within the club itself. Each of the lords cardinal had their own special interests. Everyone but you. What with Shaw and his Sentinel program and back deals with the government. Pierce with his never-ending cybernetic body modifications. Magneto and his cliche’ bid for mutant supremacy. Leland with his obsession with food, booze, and breasts.
Do you actually know that Roulette maintained a constant good luck disc with her at all times so the female students could avoid his disgusting leering and pawing? His sudden midnight appearance in our dorms? Everyone always assumed she was trailer trash. But in truth, she certainly saved us from him. Most of the time anyway. She couldn’t be around every minute of the day. His hands always smelled like bacon grease…
But we had no other alternative. Our families sent us away or outright rejected us and Frost made it appoint to remind us that Xavier’s rejected our transfer requests. She said the X-Men thought of us as deviants who weren’t good enough for them. We eventually just stopped sending them.
[Selene] What doesss… it matter Tarot? By the sound of it… he… clearly preferred… chicken.”
That was a slip. She’s getting to me. Taxing my body and my mind. My physical condition is deteriorating rapidly. My normally keen mind, my emotional control diminishing.
[Tarot] Oh! Well played. The vampire has a sense of humor! Who knew!?
She knows I can’t take much more of this. I’ve seen them before and should have known the signs. She’s not just a wayward spirit. Tarot is a Reaper. As my gift allows me to feed on mortals for sustenance so too does her curse. With each soul taken the more powerful she becomes. I can’t reach my source of power in the pens below, but I’m all she needs. Why does she keep staring at the wall? I told her exactly where it is.
[Tarot] But you. You remained aloof. The students, especially the Hellions always wondered why you never bothered being a part of it. That is until everyone became gravely aware of what you were really up to, but by then it was too late wasn’t it? Thinking back now, it’s strange. You kept your ambition secret but never bothered with the dirty work and made us all awarded points in some little game in which a bunch of bored mutants with privilege had nothing better to do than fight over immortality. A prize you couldn’t even deliver. So unlike Emma. She spent her time always probing the others, digging into their skulls, learning secrets schemes while cultivating a small army in her Hellions to inevitably use us as a shield or a weapon against the rest of you. You two couldn’t be more different.
[Selene] Thank god for that…
[Tarot] You’re right. At least we can agree on that. But still, I think you missed a lot of opportunities. In a way you’re really to blame for your own failures, and my, that’s a real list, isn’t it?
[Selene] Get… to the… point Tar… I’m fading. I have minutes at best.
[Tarot] You never even knew my name did you, Selene?
[Selene] A Queen has… no need … to know the … name of a peasant…
[Tarot] Hmmph. Well, personally it was a real gaffe by not getting to know who we were. I even thought eventually you’d take notice of me. Both of our mutant abilities allows us to utilize magic. I thought we had a lot in common. Do you know once I asked Frost if I could ask, that’s it, just ask you if you would be willing to tutor me in advanced magic? You were so powerful! Nothing like how frail and pathetic you are now. Do you know what her response was? I’ll never forget it. That damned Horsewhip she used to carry around with her. That little bondage toy, who knows where the filthy thing had been. She stuck me straight across the face with it. When I came to what must have been minutes later on the floor. I had no idea she could use it on someone physically and mentally at the same time. But still, I admired… no envied you. I wanted to be as powerful in sorcery as you were.
Despite being at flat on the ground myself and about to die it’s amazing how one can still be absolutely furious at the same time. She was replaying her own little traumas on me!
[Selene] The ssspell…
[Tarot] What’s that Queen? Here don’t try to talk. You’re so close to death. Even me being this close to you is sapping what little life force you have left. Here I’ll just bend down and tell me what you want to say softly.
[Selene] Tapesss.. tryyy. Ressserr.. rect…
Having your tongue fall out of your mouth and onto the floor is humiliating. When your eyes dry up and roll out of their sockets is downright disgraceful. I didn’t need my eyes anyway. I could hear her abruptly stand and shift her attention back to me. No. Down upon me. Repugnant.
[Tarot] It was a really big error, Selene. You should always know what your enemies are capable of.
Finally. I could hear the hissing of the fire start to burn as the rod fell to the floor. I could hear the flames lick the dried cloth like thirst in the desert. But nothing was more pleasing than the bitch’s wail. Perhaps it ended too abruptly but then again who wouldn’t want their revenge to last a little longer? I knew then it was done and she had taken the bait. I could only manage a ragged sound that I suppose should have been laughter.
But in between the roar of the flames, I could hear her mania. A cold, hollow, echoing laughter the continued long after mine had ended. One that certainly was not my own. I admit that dread is not a feeling I’m accustomed to. I could only surmise that the sound of wood that hit the floor before me came from a torch after striking the wall.
[Tarot] As I was saying, I’m not naive Black Queen. For example, you told me before that the spell I need was behind the ugly curtain. You explicitly chose the word need, didn’t you? But not quite what I wanted. I would say you should have known better but how could you? Like I said before you were aloof. You never bothered to know any of us. Well, here we are again looking at failure. We both wield magic. But your arrogance assumed that was all and unworthy of an afterthought.
Like you, Selene, I am more than just a one-trick pony. Sure, naturally I assumed you would make some desperate play to escape or end me.
The sound of her feet shifted again. I can only assume so but I’m positive she was pointing at the flaming cloth.
But I don’t assume anything. I’m a precog you dumb cow! I’ve seen this little show of yours hundreds of times already!
THAT was a glyph trap designed to completely destroy anyone, living or dead who reads it in hellfire. Really? I mean don’t you think the spell meant to destroy me written on the back of the Hellfire Club’s emblem is a bit on the nose? (*Sigh.) You know Bitch Queen letting you die after giving me what I wanted was an act of kindness. More than you ever showed us. But no matter how many timelines this plays out you try for the exact same thing every time! I mean, sometimes you change it up here and there. The tempest of daggers from the walls, the void runes beneath the carpet, the nasty acid rain from the chandelier, all very creative, but useless every time. I was prepared to give you mercy but no matter how many times I offer it the end is always the same and you turn it away. Well at the risk of being as cliche’ as you, I’m not left with much choice. I suppose we’ll have to do this the hard way. Go ahead. I already know what you’re about to do.
I knew it was now or never. I didn’t have the magic to cast spells. I would have to kill her quick with the element of surprise by using talismans of stored magic that I always keep for occasions as rare as this one. Without my tongue I’d need to use a telepathic voice. A danger with another psi talent here but a risk I have no choice but taking.
[Selene] “I offer up this contract. I call forth the shadows.”
Grey dust mounds began to swell and wraiths, creatures of despair trapped and unable to move on lose their consciousness and in its place instinct and vengeance take over. With a mental command, Selene orders them to kill. Black wolves with blood red eyes emerge from the ground cover and at once the pack began to move in.
With a sudden crimson flash tarot cards, too many to count appeared in the air and circled her like a cyclone. One of the wraiths lept at her but exploded upon contacting the storm of cards. As the others backed away in hesitation the maelstrom came to a stop and the cards hovered in the air. One, in particular, hung in front of her face. Though I couldn’t see her eyes, her wry smile was the telltale sign that my attack was about to fail. Her finger pressed against the card like as if it were a button. It flipped sides and quickly blinked out of existence. A sudden explosion of white fire had produced one of her famed magical summons. Summoning a Strix, a roman bird of ill omen and the product of metamorphosis that fed on human flesh and blood was no mere coincidence and undoubtedly the spark behind that wicked smile. It was irony. The hell bird cocked its head from side to side as it took note of my own summoned beasts and screeched so loudly the air warped in waves as they cascaded toward me and blasted the wraiths back into the void.
Checkmate. With its goal accomplished Tarot waived her hand and dismissed the creature. Though her stride was calm, the murderous intent in her eyes was one the Black Queen knew all too well. Selene looked up, blood gushing from her eardrums determined to look her executioner in the eye as her finger traced a sigil into the ground. Tarot raised her Soul Scythe above her head and prepared for a single downstroke that would finally bring an end to Selene’s long string of lifetimes. And why not, they have all of the information they need for the ritual, As the weapon began its descent Selene could feel it stop just short of her forehead followed by a series of curses from the Reaper. A second figure emerged from just beyond the darkness.
[????] Enough games Tarot. End this. End her. We are running out of time.
[Tarot] It’s not that simple Empath.
I should have known. Manuel de la Rocha, Frost’s little manipulating bastard. He countered my psi sweep before by jamming it with his own empathic abilities.
[Tarot] It appears Selene just received a stay of execution.
Tarot bent down and put her face close to mine.
[Tarot] For the moment anyway. In order for me to remain fixed here and to carry out our plan to resurrect the other Hellions, Selene’s vampiric life force has coalesced with my own. That was the sigil you just drew on the floor wasn’t it? Very very sneaky.
Her attention swung back to her accomplice.
[Tarot] Even after the ritual, she will anchor the others as well. Until we win the End Game, with the pawns off the board we’re going to have to keep her locked away, but alive.
Empath looked back at the fragile woman who once stood so much taller than all those around her.
[Empath] This wasn’t an accident. I can sense her emotions and the smug satisfaction is dripping off from her. I guess this would be as good a chance as any to test my newest abilities. Don’t worry, I have enough of the Mothervine for the others.
Empath’s eyes flashed followed my an intense shade of violet colored energy that radiated from his left hand. He said only one word: “Hysteria.” His hand plunged for my heart but stopped just short. Tarot intervened.
[Tarot] That will kill her. You have no idea how powerful that ability is. If you swallow her in its madness in her current condition she will die without a doubt. No, for now, she must live. But that doesn’t mean that it needs to be in any semblance of comfort.
The last memories I have was the sudden feeling of biting, knawing cold through every fiber of my being, my body wracked with pain beyond measure, and the feeling of my rage burning the insolent witches name, Marie-Ange Colbert in my mind forever.
Base of Operation:
The Hellions have returned to the long since abandoned Massachusetts Academy. Since Frost and Banshee’s Generation-X students have since moved on, the facility has long since been off the radar of the X-Men, Frost, and what’s left of the Hellfire Club. Luckily for the Hellions, the building and grounds have remained maintained. Every bit of the rival it always was to Xavier’s, the Massachusetts Academy has all the technological advancements needed to assist the renegade group to exact their vengeance on those who they feel were responsible, directly or indirectly for their deaths as students.
Mutant Ability: Microwave Manipulation: The nature of Firestar’s power grants her the capacity for large-scale destruction. She typically limits how much of her own power she accesses for fear of permanently damaging the planet, its atmosphere, and electromagnetic field. In space, she is far less inhibited and can access greater levels of ambient electromagnetic energy to fuel her powers. She easily produced an attack that injured Garthan Saal when he possessed the energy of the entire Nova Corps and also used her enhanced abilities to power a massive Shi’ar interstellar transport gate with very little effort.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- Zenith: Transformation into pure energy rendering her invulnerable to nearly all methods of physical and mental harm and granting her extended abilities.
- Teleportation: via creating wormholes.
- Conversion: Enhanced energy absorption, conversion, and output with little physical effort.
- Psionic / Emotional Immunity: Must actively use her power for prevention.
For years Firestar has outright rejected her history with the school, the Hellions, in addition to the mental abuse and trauma she suffered at the hands of Frost. In recent years she seemingly made peace with Frost, believing that she had turned a corner after becoming one of the X-Men. She went so far as to lend her support to her former mentor and joined her to defend New Tian. But after the events of Secret Empire, Angelica is convinced that Emma has once again strayed back into the darkness.
Upon learning that the Hellions have been resurrected by intel from former fiance Justice, Angelica is horrified to learn that they have gone from victims to homicidal killers having begun their murderous rampage for information. This time there’s no X-Men to stop them. With their mysterious disappearance, the responsibility falls on her shoulders. She confronts the Hellions before they make their first move on Sebastian Shaw and after a furious battle where she emerges the victor, she forces them to concede that she will not only join them but assume leadership. Firestar wants to see Emma Frost brought down as badly as the Hellions do but she makes it clear that her leading the team is to prevent them from killing their enemies and instead face justice. The Hellions begrudgingly accept her as their leader but have other ideas about their version of justice and constantly test her resolve.
The Hellions have no idea that Angelica has joined them for her own not entirely unselfish reasons as well. After her recent time with Frost, it’s discovered that Angelica was one of the Mothervine’s first test subjects. As a result of the drug Firestar has grown even more powerful, so much so that she can barely maintain her control and should she use too much of her power, she could decimate the entire planet or even evolve into something else, a being of a limitless power and the ability to become a being of pure electromagnetic microwave energy. She’ll never forget Emma’s words in her youth, “I always knew you’d become one of the most powerful mutants in the world.” Firestar hopes that after Frost is captured that there is a means to remove the Mothervine drug and with it the danger of ending the world and the terror of losing herself to her own power.
Mutant Ability: Empathic Manipulation: Empath possesses the psionic ability to sense and manipulate the emotions of others. He can affect large groups of individuals at a time and can exert varying levels of empathic control over them, ranging from subtle manipulations that others are generally unaware of, to a complete negation of emotion that reduces them to a zombie-like state in which he can command them with little effort. His power operates by means of Empath’s own brainwaves overriding the parts of the brain that govern emotion in others.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- Hysteria: Similar to telepathic weapons, Empath’s hand can induce madness to the point of sensory overload and even death as well as scrambling others capability to use superhuman abilities.
- Bliss: Simply by touch alone, Empath can overwrite the consciousness of another and bind their will, creating permanent slaves who will serve him until death. The bonds of which are extremely difficult to reverse as the independent persona has been utterly void and possession is based on emotional empathy and not mind control.
Empath has blurred the lines of right and wrong even more in the years as a student and is now a full-blown addict with his drug of choice being his own mutant ability. Manuel’s empathic abilities are constantly active and he has lost the ability to shut them off. With the introduction of the mothervine drug into his system he is totally consumed by his feelings and the emotions of those around him, leaving him both emotionally and mentally unstable and incredibly powerful. Empath’s mutant ability isn’t the only change we see in him. As a result of the endless emotions he feeds of others, his sexual preference has evolved from simple heterosexuality to a complex pansexuality, lusting more for the emotional feedback he receives than the physical pleasure. The concepts of masculinity and femininity have blurred as Manuel has adopted genderfluid traits, constantly shifting between both male and female psychology. Empath is currently engaged in a highly volatile emotional charged sexual relationship with Beef leaving some to question whether or not Empath is utilizing his power on Buford making his willing involvement highly subject to ethical and moral implications.
Though never the official leader of the Hellions, Empath has long been the one pulling the strings of its members since his introduction to the academy as an adolescent. As the only living member of the original team who escaped the slaughter at the hands of Fitzroy and the subsequent “Younghunt” during the Child’s Play storyline, Empath blames both their assailants and supposed protectors.
Always the narcissist, Manual feels that had those events not happened, he would have taken control of the Hellfire Club, supplanting Sebastian Shaw as Black King, and living the life of luxury and indulgence he deserves. With his vengeance so near, Firestar’s sudden involvement throws a wrench into his plans. He has no intention of leaving anyone who could possibly thwart him again alive and despite conceding the lead role to her, Empath plots to utilize his power to nudge Firestar, gently pushing her to act in with less ethical and moral consideration and more aggressively until she reaches a point in which he can overwrite her inherent personality and emotional traits on a permanent level, turning her from an interference into an accomplice by forced attrition.
Mutant Ability: Ailuranthropy: Able to transform into either a housecat or a human-panther hybrid (a werecat). In her panther form, she has superhuman strength, speed, agility, reflexes, coordination, balance, and endurance in addition to hyper-keen senses, razor-sharp claws and fangs, a prehensile tail, healing factor, and the ability to crawl up walls. Catseye originally believed she was a cat with the ability to transform into a human.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- The Pride: Secondary mutation allows her to mass-shift into a full-sized pride of independent panthers.
- Nine Lives: Allows Catseye to suffer nine critical injuries before a true fatality.
- Sixth Sense: Allows Catseye a ten-second intuition that danger is imminent.
Formerly Catseye was a fairly docile and affectionate cat and unlike her classmates was typically indifferent to events that swirled around her. Since her resurrection, Sharon has changed. Like any abused animal Catseye suffers from posttrauma and maintains a large berth between herself and others and is never to be cornered. Though not required due to accessibility, Catseye hunts and kills all of her food from rodent, bird, or in some rare cases men. It’s believed that most cats would kill their masters if they were the same size. In this case, Catseye fully explores the impulse with ferocity as she is unable to immediately direct it to those who she believes lead her and her friends to their deaths. Further, Catseye utilizes her secondary mutation called the pride when sleeping to maintain watch and attain safety in numbers, determined forever to always be the huntress and never again the hunted.
Mutant Ability: Thermochemical plasma energy conversion emitted through skin cells providing him the ability of high-speed flight. Since his resurrection Jetstream no longer requires the use of his modified jetpack to control his power.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- Target lock: Jetstream can cause objects, when set in motion, to home in on a target and invariably reach it. It can be used to hit the target from miles away only by causing it to “lock on” to the user’s intended target.
- Scatter Shot: Able to generate and launch kinetic projectiles energy in missile form that can split up into several smaller ones, enabling them to hit a wider range of targets.
- Sonic Boom Generation: Jetstream can break the sound barrier, creating sonic booms that can cause severe internal and/or external damage on objects and beings. Can cause a massive shockwave by landing on any surface at supersonic speed without self-injury.
Aside from Empath’s manipulation with those of means, Jetstream has become the group’s primary source of funding. Having originated from the Rif Region of Morroco, Haroum upon resurrection was urged by Empath to return to Morroco to see his parents both of whom immediately rejected him and labeled him as an unholy apparition. Furious at their rejection, Jetstream grabbed hold of his father and flew him into the highest peak of the Rif mountains and abandoned him, leaving him for dead. Upon his return, Haroum announced that his mother would be exiled and he would be taking over his father’s substantial narcotics business, one in which receives little hindrance from the government and an abundance in cash flow.
With his newfound means, Jetstream affords the Hellions the ability to maintain their operations at the Massachusetts Academy and pays for the expenses associated with the school and staff most of which are hired mercenaries as Jetstream has a newfound understanding and appreciation for tight security.
Though he has a vast hatred for all those involved in their initial downfall, Haroum despises Selene and takes every opportunity to extract intelligence from the captive, sessions which in some cases last for hours and result in extensive physical beatings but always stopping just short of killing her.
Mutant Ability: Bioelectrical generation, storage, and manipulation able to channel this energy into radiant discharges of high-voltage energy from his hands.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- Hyper Acceleration: Bioelectrical current allows Bevatron to run with super speed and to ignore the laws of physics. While in these conditions Bevatron is capable of traversing vast distances while overriding gravimetric pull allowing him to dart up verticle surfaces.
- Static Field: Able to create electromagnetic fields that allow Bevatron to adhere to walls and ceilings. Able to disrupt or jam nearly all electrically dependent systems and technology. Capable of detecting the presence of anything within the static field with pinpoint proficiency.
Fabian is highly intelligent and has made it a sole priority to plan tactical strategies to be used in the Hellions upcoming conflicts. In doing so, Bevatron has created the training facility “Maximum Force,” the Hellion’s answer to the X-Men’s Danger Room except in this program, there are no safety protocols and the risk is very real. Fabian took obsessive measures and programmed a Sentinel simulation that is a duplicate encounter to the fateful fight that cost them their lives. Additional specialized programs include encounters against the Upstarts, New Warriors, X-Men, New Mutants, and the Inner Circle itself. Bevatron knows that time is of the essence and the Hellions must act quickly if they are to kill all of their marks as the X-Men could resurface at any time and will inevitably try to stop them.
Bevatron believes that Donald Pierce was the catalyst that leads to the deadly encounter in UX #281 and trains religiously in single combat simulations against him in the effort to exact revenge.
Mutant Ability: Roulette’s ability to create discs which alter the probability field around the person or object by throwing the disc with acute accuracy at any target. Her black energy discs create “bad luck” while her red energy discs bestow “good luck.”
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- Path Killer: Roulette’s secondary mutation provides the ability to irreversibly remove one of the possible pathways/methods to do something.
- Path Maker: The antithesis of her path killer ability, Roulette also has the ability to create any possible pathway/method to do something.
- Snake Eyes: In a desperate situation, Roulette can possibly unlock abilities related to variables as events occur and the surrounding environment gaining the affinity and enhancing the existing powers. The power to affect probability by rolling a die or many dice at once with entirely random results.
Roulette was always far more sexually liberated as she emulated the strength exhibited by her mentor Emma Frost. In rebirth, Jennifer takes the behavior to the next level and uses her appeal and charism in conjunction with her powers of probability manipulation to always gain the upper hand. However, Jennifer is no harlot. Having spent years evading molestation by the Inner Circle’s White Rook Herald Leland, she despises sexual assault and pushing her too far is a death wish. Jennifer is charged by Firestar to obtain intelligence on every upcoming or potential encounter with the aid of Tarot’s precognitive instincts pointing her in the right direction. Having honed her skills as a spy Jennifer has infiltrated numerous groups such as Lydia Nance and the Heritage Initiative, S.H.I.E.L.D, and even the Avengers with the dual aim of collecting information and throwing the various groups into chaos allowing the Hellions to operate under the radar.
Mutant Ability: Superhuman strength able to lift up to 75 tons, enhanced durability, endurance, and durability.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- One Man Army: Able to fight against seemingly, overwhelming odds with ease, Beef’s secondary mutation grants him the ability to induce a trance-like state in which he is devoid of all thought or emotion and instead acts upon raw instinct bestowing him with the aptitude capacity to fight any number of enemies for a limited amount of time with little adverse effect. Beef has become a capable warrior on the battlefield, decimating the enemy single-handedly and with near supernatural finesse that pars with the skill of more experienced fighters. While in this state Beef is incapable of feeling pain as his neuroreceptors are disabled and can survive grave injury until the state passes. Upon the conclusion of its use, Beef’s injury can be dispersed evenly among those present allowing him to recover and avoid death.
Beef has changed immensely since his revival. Unlike the others, Buford was content in the embrace of death before being wrenched from it by fellow Hellion Tarot. Having been bullied often because of his perceived slowness and learning disabilities since early development, Buford has finally known peace. In life he is enraged and violent. Only through Empath’s calming influence can Beef retain any semblance of control. However, the act of regulating Buford’s emotion by Empath is put into question as the Hellion’s, particularly Firestar and his best friend Bevatron, suspect that Empath is the one truly in control. Further suspicion is raised due to Beef’s sudden homosexuality in which he seems to have a singular and obsessive attraction for Manuel alone. When Empath faces danger Beef is fiercely protective of him and is rarely more than a few steps away.
Beef wants nothing more than to snap Emma Frost’s neck for her own part in demeaning his intelligence and as Empath so often reminds, treating him like a boorish moron.
Mutant Ability: Summoning Magic capable of calling forth a figure from a deck of tarot cards which provides command over the being to act upon her will in any manner.
Transcendent Embodiment: Provides user to become or are an embodiment on a Transcendent level, granting them a transcended state of being coupled and immense power on the concept they represent. Because of the transcended levels from their concept users can do more and greater feats than normal embodiments, such as allowing them to create more embodiments of the concept they represent.
Precognition and Postcognition: grants the power to perceive future events before they happen and the sight to discern events of the past.
Mothervine Enhanced Abilities:
- Soul Scythe: Magical weapon created from a piece of a lost soul combined with innocence granting enhanced magical abilities and to cause massive harm to both physical and magical beings.
- The Reaper: A portion of the cosmic entity, Death inhabits the user and providing a direct connection as a host granting the ability to collect and utilize energy from souls, speak and summon the dead, and access to the dark force and transforms the avatar into death’s physical representation of the Grim Reaper.
Marie, the true catalyst behind bringing the Hellions back to life was the only one who refused to stay dead on her own. Through multiple attempts, Tarot’s bid for a second chance has been denied every time. Through a deal with the cosmic entity Mistress Death, Tarot has been granted life once again. In doing so provides Death itself has secured a physical host to possess at any given time and a gateway to the mortal plane. Her second life does come with conditions. Paramount of which being that in order to remain among the living permanently she will need to slaughter and deliver the souls of her killers and hand them to death itself in exchange of her own. Unknown to Tarot, this will permanently merge her with the force of anti-life and consume her. Tarot was loyal to her fellow alumni and felt that their death was entirely unjust and more importantly the fault of numerous parties. As such she has used her connection with the primal universal force to revive them under the same condition in which mortality will only be granted when vengeance has been exacted on their killers and their souls are sent to into the dark.
First Arc Summary
Years have passed since the Hellions were killed at the hands of Trevor Fitzroy and the Upstarts. Having been given a second chance, Tarot has informed them that their lives come at a cost and have only one year to meet death’s ransom. In order to survive, others must die. Namely, those who are responsible directly or indirectly for their initial demise. For each of the six that have been granted temporary life, six of their mortal enemies must forfeit theirs. In their way stands two major problems.
First, most of the Upstarts are dead or missing. In the years since they have managed to get themselves killed, victims of their own greed and egotism. To make matters worse, the Inner Circle has disbanded and each of the former royals have begun new chapters. Still reeling from all the changes in this new world, this will make their objective difficult to achieve.
To compound matters, Firestar, Emma Frost’s star pupil has wrested leadership of the group in a last-ditch effort to keep them under control. Though the Hellions of kept their true purpose for their murder spree concealed, it will only be a matter of time until she learns the truth.
Far from innocent, Firestar is also keeping her own secrets. Since the Mothervine was injected, her mutation has run rampant with more power than she can contain and threatens to incinerate her, the planet, or worse, change her into something else entirely. Desperate for a cure and with the X-Men gone she cannot turn to the Avengers or New Warriors for help and knows full well that she may need to use lethal force against Frost. The Hellions are her best and only hope.
Tarot, Catseye, Beef, Bevatron, Jetstream, and Roulette require six souls in order to make the exchange complete and satisfy death’s bargain. The battle will be more than just child’s play. As the Upstarts sought immortality, the Hellions want nothing more than their own mortality returned. With their game in the wind, their remaining targets must be found quickly. So begins the Hellions Issue #1: End Game.
The Upstarts were part of a secret competition founded by Selene, the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, who wanted to test potential members for her own Inner Circle. Overseen by the Gamesmaster, the Upstarts would each try to kill as many mutants as possible and the Gamesmaster would award points based on the mutant’s power, skills and general importance in the world. At times he would raise the value of certain mutants so that the Upstarts would all try to assassinate them. At other times Gamesmaster would also reward the death of non-mutants. To gain entry to the Upstarts competition the requirement was to kill a member of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, but later members were not required to do so; usually, the Gamesmaster claimed that their participation would make the game more interesting all in the name of gaining the ultimate prize, immortality.
Although the Club appears to merely be an international social club for wealthy elites, its clandestine Inner Circle seeks to influence world events, in accordance with their own agenda. Additionally, the hierarchy of the Inner Circle is modeled on the pieces of a chess set, with Black and White sets of Kings, Queens, Bishops, and Rooks. The Hellfire Club counts among its members the most famous, wealthy, and influential members of society. Membership is passed on to descendants and can also be earned through wealth or influence. While many accept the invitation simply for the pleasures that the Club offers, others seek wealth and influence. In fact, the purpose of the Hellfire Club is to obtain and exert power through politics and economic influence instead of outward conquest and domination. Since its foundation, the Hellfire Club has been involved in wars and assassinations to further the agendas of the Club’s most powerful members. Although the hierarchy of the Inner Circle goes through constant upheaval due to the competing egos and political motives of its members, it continues to exist in the same basic structure today.
The Hellions are coming but that doesn’t mean the Gamemaster is out of moves.
Victims, Villains, Anti-Heroes… Hellions
Walking the Gray Line:
It’s Time to Raise Some Hell…
[Roulette] This didn’t go exactly as planned did it?
[Firestar] Empath, how did we not know about an entire group of weirdly misplaced Mutants surrounding us right now?
A voice echoed from all directions.
[Gamemaster] Don’t be too hard on the man Firestar. After all, without him jamming our psionic attacks you would have all been defeated by now.
The Gamemaster at long last reveals himself, appearing only feet away and hovering slightly above the floor.
[Catseye] No smell. He’s not here. Coward.
[Bevatron] No he’s not. Astral projection, something we all are quite familiar with.
[Astra] I’ve been watching you all for some time.
[Zaladane] Since your summoner and the heartbreaker took the Black Queen off the board.
[Wildside] You call this the End Game.
[Justice] It wouldn’t be fitting if I made it easy for you would it?
[Roulette] Actually I wouldn’t mind…
[Firestar] Alright Gamemaster. I’ve seen this play do yours already once before. Taking control of others to fight your battles.
Another voice echoes in their heads.
[????] True. And had he not stayed his hand then you’d be dead now.
Slowly their other main target slowly emerges from her hiding place around the corner.
[Jetstream] And there she is. From what we hear Frost the hero life didn’t suit you well and you’ve gone back to skulking in the dark.
[Emma] You’ve all grown so much yet still so naïve. There is no good and evil only the gray that lies between.
Indeed Frost’s new found beliefs reflected as much outwardly as they did in her words. In place of her white garments, the Grey Queen modeled her newest look. Long gone were her corset and stockings and in its place was a grey bodysuit and cloak that started from just above the lower back and feel knee length. It was clear that this new look was a statement. Above all one that shrugged off her former eroticism and conveyed power.
[Firestar] You don’t want to cross the line, Emma. I came here to reason with you.
[Emma] You’ve always been such a martyr Angelica. Tell me, just how heavy is that cross on your back?
[Firestar] I warned you with the Warriors and again with the Avengers about what would happen. After this, there’s no going back. Ever.
[Emma] You’re right. Please give me a moment to pretend to consider your advice.
[Tarot] This is all a big joke to her. The Gamemaster killed us and nearly killed her. Now she’s in bed with the enemy. I’d say I was surprised but she was never really that selective to begin with.
[Roulette] Oh. Burn…
[Emma] Enough of this Angelica. You’re not stupid. You know you can’t win. The only hope you have is you bringing my Hellions back to me.
[Beef] Back to you? We’re here to kill you bitch!
[Firestar] We’re not here to kill her.
[Beef] I am.
[Firestar] No, you’re not.
[Beef] Sorry not sorry…
[Empath] Beefcakes, pump the breaks love… Listen Emma darling, you go ahead and keep playing patty cake with Angel here, but your intentions are obvious. I suppose the random mix of mutants circling us are here for our really long overdue graduation party?
[Gamemaster] Oh no. Apologies Manuel but they are indeed here to kill you. But each of them is here for a larger purpose. Every game has to have a theme. But you misunderstand, there’s nothing random about any of them at all. It’s unlikely any of you actually know the Mutants standing before you. That’s is with the exception of Justice and Silhouette here. Emma brought them especially for you Angelica. But the others, unlikely.
The Gamemaster began to rotate mid-air as he took a verbal inventory of his pawns each of whom devoid and hollow spoke with his voice
…. Adam X
[Gamemaster] You see, like you, they’re all forgotten and like all of you, they’re nothing more than pawns in a much larger game!
Red lightning sparks from Bevatron’s eye and begins to arc throughout his body.
[Bevatron] I’ve heard enough. (zzZikt!)
Suddenly in an instant, the war had begun.
Speeding beyond the encircling Mutants Fabian’s head begins to pound as he races for his target. Arriving before his brain begins to melt, Bevatron unleashes a bioelectric blast wave that strikes the floating Astral menace and subsequently explodes. Nose bleeding, Bevatron crumpled to the floor.
[Firestar] (screams) Give them hell!!
The one known as Dragoness takes to the air. Acting on pure instinct Catseye and Beef race for the other. Grabbing the nape of her neck Buford spins and launches the violet panther into the air.
[Roulette] (to Empath) Did we just jack the X-Men’s fastball special?
[Roulette] Oh Jesus.
Beef’s aim finds its target as Catseye latches onto her target, her razor sharp claws bypassing her scaled flesh. With a scream, Dragoness retaliates with her own sharp fangs tear away bits of fur a and flesh. She realizes she can’t maintain the advantage of air and emits a flaming jet of energy directly into Catseye’s face. Though Losing her grip, her feline claws extend a trail of her rendered dragon flesh, removing it by the pound as she plummets to the ground below. Screaming, bleeding, Dragoness resumes her intended surveillance.
Though blinded a cat doesn’t need sight to land on all fours. As she searches her next target Beef locks onto his own.
It wasn’t the razor cuts that hurt but the real pain began when his blood began to boil. Beef made eye contact with his beloved Empath as if acknowledging and ask for permission at the same time to do what must be done. Empath only nodded. Smiling in unspoke understanding. Winking with the promise of reward. Buford’s happiness fades as his eyes fill with the color of blood red. Activating his secondary mutation, a one-man army, Beef feels no love, no hate, no emotion. There is only nothing. A void of emptiness with only one task. To kill everything he can see. Friend or Foe. In the throws of the deadly ability Beef’s attention fixes on the man known as Adam X. The Xtreme as he was known was incredibly agile. Beef’s swings are fast, nearly faster than the eye can distinguish. But his size makes his mobility slower, limited. Or so Adam thought. Pivoting swiftly, Beef launches a nearly vertical kick at 12 o’clock and sends the alien fighter flying. The ground shook with every step Beef took. Fighting to retain consciousness, Adam X whispers one word. “Burn…” Suddenly Beef bursts into flames. Satisfied the berserker is gone, Adam’s eye’s widened with shock as Buford not only walked through the gouts of flame pouring from the hundreds of cuts all over his body but that the attack had none of the trademark pain that came along with it. Taking to his feet once more Adam closes the distance and with axes in hand swung wildly opening only more grave wounds. Simply standing there Beef’s eyes locked onto the mutant whose dire moment became too clear. Beef used three hits. One snapping the knee to bring Adam to his feet, the second to the stomach causing him to reel forward and with mouth ajar, both hands swiftly found their target and lock onto his bottom jar. With a swift and sharp tug, his jaw tore from the remainder of his face. In shock and only able to manage gurgles through the spray of blood, the man who defined himself as the Xtreme became the Xtinct.
Beef felt no satisfaction, remorse, joy, or regret. Only nothingness. A large squad of heavily armed Hellfire guards took position. If he could have heard them scream “fire!” It would have made no difference. The bullets cut into his skin and sunk into his flesh.. turning only to acknowledge the effort, Beef simply flexed. Every muscle ripples in his body and dislodged the hundreds of rounds as they made a sharp “ting” to the floor. The hellfire guards abandoned their guns and held batons of conducted electricity with enough lethal voltage to kill with one strike. Beef launches himself into the raid party and all that could be seen were the electrical shocks and the bodies as they sailed through the air.
Wildside and Catseye stalked one another taking note of one another’s strengths while attempting to determine an advantage. Losing patience Wildside launches the assault. This was the first time Catseye fought jumping from one perch to next but it felt as natural as the ground itself. Morphing into her half werecat form gave her the ability to match Wildside and counter his strikes. For each one landed another shot back with equal ferocity. Wildside understood then that winning wouldn’t be determined blow by blow and with one swift strike, Sharon’s jugular sprayed blood like a firehose. Unwilling to let the moment pass, the former MLF soldier, trained in suicide battle shoved his claws through those hypnotic cats eyes’ and followed by a swift kick, Sharon lost her balance and plummeted to the ground. Wildside stayed for a moment watching the panther to assure there was no further movement. As he began to turn away he could hear a hiss as distinct his. As his gaze returned the deadly panther was on all fours again thanks to her secondary mutation Nine lives and swung her head to dislodge the blood covering her eyes that had already grown back in. Furious Wildside, convinced he could still press his advantage while she recovered left his own perch atop a light pole and propelled himself directly toward the cat. By the time he realized his error it was too late. Adjusting his direct attack and stopping just feet away, his sense of warning quickly became panic. Multiple growls and hisses surrounded every escape. It wasn’t long before one panther lept and sunk its claws into his flesh, knocking him off balance only to have another repeat the same from behind. The head of the Pride just sat and watched as her cats rendered him limb from limb. With the threat now the prey, the panthers lazily gnawed away at the dismembered wild man taking satisfaction that when they were finished there were plenty more hunts ahead of them.
By all accounts, fortune as it always does smiled upon Roulette. Surrounded by yet another throng of Hellfire guards Jennifer materialized a simple white disc. Just the one, her own lucky charm. With that Roulette rushes into the crowd. One elbow shattered the mask and a nose, followed by her body leaping into the air with a switch kick that hurled another into four others. Catching the electrical baton that on contact sputtered out Roulette cocked her head and spoke, “Such a shame,” just before her palm met the guard’s face. Hearing the unmistakable sound of assault rifle clicks Jennifer smiled and simply stood still. Activating her secondary mutation, pathmaker and pathkiller, the combination of the two allowing for any outcome to be possible and others potential to lose a variable of distinct possibilities. Roulette tossed a black disk behind accompanied by the simple statement, “Hold this a second please.” The hail of bullets began. Jennifer didn’t even flinch. If she did anything at that moment the potential outcome would certainly change. She knew what she wanted. It was up to the pathmaker and pathkiller to do the rest. Best to just go all in she thought. Trusting in her power, Stavros simply closed her eyes and surrendered to fate. The sound of gunfire made her ears ring. It seems to go on forever. Finally, when it stopped slowly and nervously Roulette opened her eyes and met the gaze of Astra.
[Roulette] Now how did you get here?
Unable to speak Astra slowly lifted her hands and opened them revealing the black disc, her probability-altering bad luck she had gifted the woman.
[Roulette] Ooo. Teleportation huh? Tough break chick.
Blood seeped from Astra’s lips before she fell into a heap on the floor. The circle of guards around them each mirrored her bloody act and dropped.
Surveying the scene satisfaction, Roulette turned about and as she began to walk she said under her breath “Eat your heart out Domino.”
Bevatron hurt. Bad. The bioelectric explosion combined with the Gamemaster’s psychic backlash made his head pound and despite how hard he shook his head he still saw stars. I needed to get back in the game. As he stood he took note of the seven purple panthers bounding in his direction.
[Bevatron] Catseye! Fight her mind control!
She ignored him. The pack leaped into the air. Julian took a knee and covered his head and to his astonishment, the roar of the cats came from behind.
[Catseye] Minty bad smell. Smelled on your grandmother. Smell on you.
Emerging from the shadows Bevatron’s fear turned quickly into gratitude. Somehow Catseye knew that Silhouette had drawn close without being detected.
[Darkling] What about me?
A dark figure trailing jets of black liquid fell from the ceiling above. The one Firestar called Darkling.
Two the went to work quickly. Silhouette stepped back into the shadows while Darkling faced Bevatron.
Flood water black as tar rushed toward Julian. Red lightning kept him ahead of the torrent. Using his secondary mutation Julian climbed the walls and cling there waiting for the dark one to make his next move. There were no words, only surprise as the darkforce crept up the walls and to his position. Launching a blast of red energy into the liquid showed no signs of stopping it or slowing it down as its advanced upon his position.
Catseye found herself in equal trouble. For a crippled woman with Braces, she was as skilled a fighter as any she’d seen. Whirling and leaping by pushing off her braces each of them met one of her cats with a poison-tipped dart at the end. Before long only three of the Pride remained. Weakened, Sharon reabsorbed her pride into her singular entity and decided to face her head on. Before could react tendrils of dark force latched onto her purple mane. Despite her revolt, they wouldn’t let go and instead dragged her closer to her would be killer.
Bevatron tried anything he could. With his secondary mutation exhausting itself he knew to stay ahead of the flood was something he couldn’t sustain. He’d never encountered the dark force before, only read about it in the hacked Avengers database. So when he stopped and simply turned to meet it, Bevatron knew that his only chance would be to fight with sheer willpower and let it wash over him.
Catseye and Bevatron had lost but found salvation as the unmistakable sounds of the air ripping itself apart and heat to melt adamantium poured over them. And it hurt like hell. Moreso for their attackers who both collapsed to the floor. Firestar landed.
[Firestar] You two stay back and guard them. Tell me immediately if they wake up. I’ll deal with them. And if the girl comes to any harm, one of you will pay for it.
With a hot flash, she took to the air again. Bevatron and Catseye simply exchanged looks.
[Catseye] Flame hair very bossy…
[Bevatron] Just be glad she saved us or we’d be puppets right now.
[Catseye] Catseye still has black in her fur.
[Bevatron] What are you doing!? Gross stop!
Sharon looked puzzled. Laying on her side with her leg meeting her head, the French boy looked truly shocked and unhappy.
[Catseye] Catseye clean herself. After I groom you to yes?
[Bevatron] Just keep your legs together and your eyes sharp. And no you’re not licking me.
Firestar met with Jetstream in the air. As Justice and Dragoness raced towards them the two already had a plan in motion.
Dragoness targeted Jetstream and sent a blast which he dodged easily. As she turned Haroum was already on her tail. He knew his speed easily outmatched hers but kept his distance in lieu of another tactic. After activating his secondary mutation Jetstream launches his own counter, a barrage of missiles that scattershot and sought his target no matter where she went or how often she changed course. But that’s what he wanted. The intent was never a direct strike but to force her to circle back and rejoin Justice for safety. And she fell for it.
The missiles exploded harmlessly against Justice’s telekinetic shield. That wasn’t a shock. But to cover Dragoness, it spread his shield just a bit thinner weakening it just enough. Firestar gave the signal and went first. A massive microwave blast slammed into his shield. Alone it wouldn’t be enough to break his protection but Haroumm’s missiles took Justice by surprise. It was weak enough now for a final attack. With a stronger microwave burst and scattershot, Justice’s shield fragmented. Another blast from both took them out of the game and falling to the ground.
Angelica descended and ran to Justice holding his hand and cradling his head in her arms.
[Firestar] You made me promise that if you ever went out of control again that I’d do whatever I had to stop you. (Tears streaming down her face.) Even if it meant I had to hurt you badly. I’m sorry Vance.
Tarot frankly didn’t care about having to face two opponents at once. Like Beef she too was empty of any semblance of joy or pride but unlike his mutation, Anne Marie was filled with darkness and death. Shrill and Zaladane could relate in their own ways. Still, she knew to fight the two alone would test the limit of her power and in battle taking chances is rarely the smartest option. But Tarot was never alone. Summoning a card Tarot unleashed a horde of gargoyles. Like a pestilence, they swooped in on the one they called Zaladane. Metal shrapnel surrounded her and kept the horde at bay. With a flip Of her hand, her magnetic mastery turned the shield into daggers slicing through the beasts too quickly. Tarot was prepared. Read ravens descended upon her while her focus was on the stone beasts. It was too late before the countless holes and slices from sharp beaks forced her to break away. Tarot nearly gave chase but stopped after a scream and the unmistakable sound of bones smashing on the floor. Looking down her eyes made contact with Roulette who stood next to Zaladane’s blood covered body. With an approving wink and nod, Tarot faced her other attacker who was already nearly finished with her spell.
Shrill’s soulsteel eye flared as dark orbs of magic hurled toward her. Brandishing her own soulsteel scythe Shrill cursed as each blinked out, ripped apart by the accursed weapon only to have horror and dread replace her anger.
Shrill could tell something else resided in Tarot. No mere witch, the consciousness, and power of the being had merged with her own. The dark cloak and hood descended to the ground and calmly sauntered to the sorceress. Shrill quickly calls an Aegis but its power paled compared to the cosmic force residing in the summoner and swatted it away with a blink of an eye.
Shrill is desperate but fear will not prevent her from speaking the truth.
[Shrill] I’ve known, seen, other soul bearers like you. It’s a heavy burden. Nothing but pain and anguish as it brings nothing but destruction to those you hold dear. See yourself for who you are Tarot!
The soul steel eye brings a brief pause to Tarot’s forward motion as the memories flood back. The moment she laid eyes upon Thunderbird and knew he would die, that Firestar was being used to murder the inner circle, the Empath was being forced by Selene to manipulate Magma. All lies she didn’t have the courage to speak their truth. Instead, she hid in the back and prayed that one day her visions would be wrong, but they never were. She knew of the attack on the Hellfire Club. It was the first time she spoke to Frost and pleaded with her to listen. But she also knew it didn’t matter. She couldn’t change that she dropped her cards and summoning a witch to counter the Sentinels that cut her down. Not even the years or torment being pulled back and forth from the dead to living over and over.
But then the Mistress of Death said she’d be free for her realm, along with her friends. All it would take was a sacrifice. She’d know it when the time came. But now is not that time…
Tarot resumed her forward momentum. Shrill had lost. Her eye normally showed the deepest secrets, darkest desires, hidden truths, and greatest failures that would leave her foe disheartened and rocking back and forth. Shrill screamed as the soul scythe ripped into her face. The question is how, with it now in Tarot’s hand, would she do without it?
Despite the fury of battle swirling around them Emma Frost and Manual de La Rocha never moved, hardly spoke, and held a fixed gaze on one another.
[Empath] I don’t know about you Em’s but I’m getting quite tired of the psychic standoff. Your pawns have lost. And by lost, I mean asses kicked. You can’t afford to just stand there anymore. So while we can, let’s dance!
Throwing back his cloak Empath found the item he sought. Quicker than he ever used to be, Empath swung and stuck, opening a deep gash in Emma’s face. Following the cords momentum, a pivot turn redirected and found its mark, wrapping around Frost’s exposed neck. With a step back and quick jerk, the Gray Queen sailed forward and landed on the floor before his feet.
[Empath] I always hated this thing. You used to wear it on a belt but it always seemed like it was in your hand more than at your side. Even touching it makes me want to take a round of antibiotics.
Empath jerked the ivory whip to drive the point home. Frost made a hacking sound and clutches against it.
[Empath] I thought once about having it DNA tested but it dawned on me that there probably isn’t a profile big enough for the queen who humped her way up the Hellfire Club. Such a nasty girl.
[Emma] Still… Nasty… now.
Emma’s skin shifted into her own secondary mutation. Her diamond form. Empath didn’t think that she’d be able to do it with a lack of oxygen but she’s always been full of surprises and perhaps he may have overplayed his hand. Emma grabbed ahold of the whip and with unexpected strength launched Manuel off his feet and to the floor several paces away.
[Emma] How could you all? I loved you, all of you! After you died it nearly destroyed me! I can understand you wanting Selene dead. Shaw, Fenris, especially Fitzroy. But why me?!
[Empath] You forget I’ve watched you all these years. I didn’t have the luxury of dying and being at peace. You threw me in a brig on Genosha. Instead of trying to help those of us left alive or avenge your dead, you decided to shack up with the X-Men! Only that didn’t work, did it? No. It’s a hallmark of yours, isn’t it? You killed even more kids!
[Emma] You deserved what happened to you, Manuel. You refused to ever learn.
[Firestar] If that isn’t calling the kettle black I don’t know what is. Emma, you’re right back to playing queen again. Had you stayed on the better side of things I wouldn’t be here. Hell, I trusted you in New Tian and look what you’ve done!! I can barely control my power because of Mothervine! You did this!
[Emma] … after Scott. I’m sorry…
[Empath] Enough of this. Time to die.
Empath raised his hand fully intent on whipping her to death. They all knew where her flaw was.
Empath screeched as the whip burnt his hand. Angelica stood there shaking. If she moved she had no idea what she herself would do.
Empath regained his composure and stood next to Firestar.
[Empath] I think you need to be reminded about how deep her sins really are Angelica.
Empath activates his secondary mutation, Hysteria, and whispers into Angelica’s ear a name…
[Empath] Butter Rum.
Firestar turned her head to Empath slowly. When her gaze locked on his her eyes spilled with deadly radiation and said only two words.
[Firestar] Go. NOW.
Empath and the others began to run for the exit. Firestar looked back at the White Queen. With tears in both of their eyes, Emma looked up to her again.
[Emma] He’s right. God help me…
Emma Frost has long walked the path of power. Sat among the kings and queens of evil and fought as one of the heroes of the world. Now the assassin she corrupted so long ago and trained on her rivals was taking aim at her. During that time she never felt dread, never acted in panic, and above all, never knew true fear.