From a physics standpoint I believe Professor Jeri Kojak’s powers of pausing time make absolutely no sense. But who cares? This is the X-Men and everything is possible.
Chapter Thirty-One: Tempest Torn Asunder
The anti-personnel bomb fell from the specially equipped US apache helicopter to obliterate the Brotherhood’s own stolen Black Hawk. It was destroyed from the force of the explosion, but Pyro did his best to contain the flames that shot up from the Black Hawk’s wreckage.
From the windows of the mansion the Brotherhood and the X-Men spied the advancing lines of camouflaged infantry, armored tanks, and two hovering apache helicopters as air support. It was an impressive display of military might suggesting the US Armed Forces might have learned something from their two previous failed attempts to gain control of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters during the Mutant Human Civil War.
Uniformed infantry equipped with rapid fire assault rifles flooded through the large gap in the estate’s barbed wire fence. Hundreds of troops were pouring through the opening and fanning out to surround the mansion.
“Dammit! They’ve got through our first line of defense. I thought that fence was supposed to have some sort of a trip sensor.” Logan said. He unsheathed his claws preparing for another fight.
Erik felt a sinking sensation of guilt well in him. He had been the one to destroy the mansion’s fence and security system. His loss of control had led to the X-Men having no warning of the impending attack. He pulled himself together quickly. Since he was the one at fault all the more reason to help the X-Men now in their hour of need. Also, the US government owed him a replacement helicopter and he thought the hovering Apaches looked like they would do nicely.
“Take the children, Storm and get them to safety. Wolverine, Beast, and Jugg-” Magneto looked around. “Where’s Juggarnaut?” Erik spotted the guilty look on Jeri Kojak’s face.
“Go snap him out of it Jeri.” Erik commanded her. Jeri paused time and ran outside to collect the hypnotized Juggarnaut who believed for all the life of him that he was a rooster. She released him from the hypnotic thought and brought him back into the mansion and upstairs before Magneto. There she un-paused time.
“Wolverine, Beast, and Juggarnaut see what you can do with the mansion’s defense system. When you’ve exhausted those options resort to what you do best.” Magneto turned to Professor Kojak. “See if you can’t buy us some more time before the troops advance any closer.”
“Who put you in command?” Storm asked obviously hesitant to follow Magneto’s orders and a bit put out to have her authority totally usurped.
“I did. Age before beauty Ororo.” And with that Erik swept past Storm.
Professor Jeri Kojak used her powers to freeze time for the troops invading the school’s grounds. The X-Men were unaffected but the ground troops paused in mid-step and the helicopters whirring blades froze.
“How long can you hold them?” Magneto asked Jeri.
“Not for more than a few minutes Erik. There must be over 300 hundred of them.” Magneto could see the strain and tension in Jeri. It was a quite an effort to hold back the tide of time.
In the face of a common enemy the Brotherhood and X-Men united and forgot their previous differences and the fight that had ended only minutes before. Storm reluctantly followed orders, herding the younger mutants towards the safety of the basement levels.
“Can we use the tunnels to get out?” She asked the others.
“I believe they already have the mansion surrounded. Take the children and fortify yourselves in the Danger Room. Do not leave until I send word.” Magneto told her.
“Help me round up the students Kitty. Make sure everyone is accounted for.” Storm ushered the younger mutants to hurry to the basement while Kitty counted everyone and then ran through the walls of the mansion doing a quick bed check to make sure no one was left behind.
Meanwhile the X-Men including Wolverine, Beast, Angel, Iceman, and Colossuses went to the basement to suit up in their black leather X-Men gear. Magneto quickly changed into his grey battle suit complete with red satin lined cape. He was missing his helmet which had been lost in the destruction of the helicopter. Juggarnaut finished getting dressed; so did Pyro. Rogue didn’t have a true fighting uniform, only a facsimile which consisted of long crimson leather/lyrca shorts and a matching sleeveless vest. The more skin exposed the easier it was for her to use her mutation.
Once everyone was suited up and prepared for battle they hurried to the Ready Room in the basement from whence the mansions security and defense system were operated. Magneto’s guess had been correct. The Armed Forces had the estate surrounded. Stryker’s invasion of the school two years ago had given the Government information about the secret escape tunnels and they would not be able to use them this time. They had no choice but to fight.
The task of calmly guiding the young mutants to their safe haven was one which was uniquely suited for her. Storm was naturally soft-spoken and even pitched. She inspired calm, confidence, and feelings of security; traits which should have made her an effective leader not only in times of peace but in times of war.
Professor Xavier had made her a leader, hand-picked her to be his successor. Yet she found her authority constantly appropriated by those around her. Usually it was Logan who was at fault. Wolverine’s habit of being an impatient loner made him an unlikely but oddly effective leader. He led whether he realized it or not and the mutants followed him. They only seemed to view Storm as a headmistress; a glorified version of her previous role as instructor.
Now it was Magneto who had usurped her power with his effortless charisma and mesmerizing voice. Damn him! She had seen him work his magic when he had broadcast that speech on the national evening news about a week ago. Everyone had watched in the common room and eaten Chinese food. The younger mutants, heck even some of the older ones who should have known better, had clapped for him when he concluded his speech. They clapped for Magneto! A killer! A terrorist! Rogue had even jumped ship to join his side under her watch.
The incident had cauterized Storm’s pride. It hurt to see her authority and worth questioned and degraded yet again. She had been right to think that Magneto would steal her position out from under her: now he had her seeing to the children’s safety rather than leading the battle like she should have been.
So that night, after seeing his speech broadcast, she had followed the advice of anchorman Brian Williams and called the FBI with a tip about the whereabouts of wanted fugitive and terrorist Magneto. She had bargained and made arrangements with the US Government to trade Magneto for the X-Men’s immunity.
Storm wasn’t blind. She had seen the two previous government raids on the mansion and knew that the X-Men could not exist openly during the Mutant Human Civil War without making some type of a bargain with Homeland Security. So in exchange for the most wanted mutant terrorist in the United States the government had sworn to leave the X-Men alone as long as they posed no threat to humans and submitted to close surveillance. Storm was just happy peaceful mutants would still have the mansion as an asylum during the conflict.
However, Storm had told them to send a small force, specially equipped. She had given them details on the extent of Magneto’s powers and had promised not only the X-Men’s compliance but active help in his capture. The Government wasn’t supposed to send a major army assault battalion equipped with artillery and air support that was even now pummeling the above ground levels of the mansion.
When Storm had safely ensconced the children in the cement bomb shelter below the Danger Room, she had Kitty stay and watch over them. Storm took a moment alone to call her FBI contact using her Nextel ‘X’ phone.
“What’s going on? I thought you were just going to send some Navy Seals or something.” Storm whispered into the phone, lest another X-Men or Brotherhood member should over hear her.
“Plan’s changed. We’re not just after Magneto anymore. We are rounding up all non-registered mutant terrorists.” The government considered any non-registered mutant (per the Anti-Mutant Registration Act) to be a terrorist.
“All non-registered mutants? I thought we had a deal.” Storm grew quieter still as she angered over the realization that the US meant to take them all into custody.
“We don’t negotiate with terrorists Ma’am. You should have known that.” The FBI agent said before Storm clicked off the line.
Darn it! She should have guessed this would happen. Nothing had gone right for her since she had taken over as leader of the X-Men: Rogue had left to join the Brotherhood and war had broken out between mutants and humans. What would the Professor have done in this situation? Storm was at a loss.
She hurried to the Ready Room to help the others defend the mansion. She could not decide whether she was a good leader placed in difficult circumstances or a terrible leader who had caused the X-Men’s downfall.
Professor Kojak’s ability to freeze the troops ran out and she joined the rest of the mutants in the basement security center. Dr. McCoy and Logan were experts at working the school’s security system which included laser turrets and Danger Room-style combat robots. However these turned out to be of little effect against so large a force as was assembled against them. The system had been designed to repel covert operations by the likes of an organization such as the Brotherhood. They were no match against a traditional army with artillery and air support.
The army’s guided ballistic launchers made short work of the turrets and robots which were not capable of fending off a force with such overwhelming numbers. After only a few short minutes it became obvious the X-Men and Brotherhood would have to head outside the mansion and meet the army head on, using their powers to resist capture.
Although the numbers were stacked against the mutants (there were 12 mutants vs. 300 plus troops) they did have Magneto whose powers helped to even the odds from impossible to only near impossible. So the X-Men and Brotherhood headed back up to the first level of the mansion, Magneto giving orders on the way.
“First, I’ll take down the helicopters and artillery. Beast, Wolverine, Colossus, and Juggarnaut: you are in charge of wading through the troops. Pyro use your flames to soften them up. Storm you create cover for them. Jeri and Catalyst can help to slow down their advance. Iceman: See if you can freeze their advance around the perimeter of the mansion. We don’t want them sneaking up behind us. Mystique: you pilot one of the helicopters as air support after I take control of it.” Erik ordered as everyone gathered in the foray of the mansion, about to head out into combat. (Kitty was back guarding the young mutant children. Angel was unable to fight because of the bubble gum in his wings.)
“What am Ah supposed to do?” Rogue asked Erik after he was done speaking.
“You’ll stick close to me.” Erik said, avoiding her gaze.
“But Ah can fight. You don’t need any support; I won’t need to fight at all if I’m back with you.”
“Precisely. I don’t want you to use your mutation until I know you can do so safely.” Erik recoiled at the idea of Marie’s head being flooded with memories and personalities that were not her own. He would not see that happen to her again.
“But Erik-” She pleaded with him. Rogue hated to not be useful. She wanted to contribute more than anything.
“No ‘buts’ Rogue.” Erik turned to her and said in a low voice the others could not hear. “I know how much this means to you. But you’re not ready yet. Soon my dear.”
He was tender to her and his blue eyes betrayed his concern for her. She gave in without more of a fight.
“Ah love you.” She mouthed the words to him, so the others would not hear. He brushed the white streak back from her face and tucked it behind her ear.
“Und ich liebe dich.” He whispered back and Rogue who had all his memories understood him easily.
Without further hesitation, Magneto used his powers to push open the doors to the mansion and the united mutants burst into the fray.
Already, Storm had filled the skies with a vicious thunderstorm and rain was falling sporadically as what would have been a sunny morning turned dark and dangerous. Magneto made quick work of the circling Apache helicopters. He used his magnetism to pull the birds to the ground. The pilots tried to buck the helicopters against their downward trajectory but their efforts only resulted in slight damage to the choppers which landed on the ground near the mansion. Wolverine ran off with his claws out and took out the pilots and gunners in mere seconds. Mystique followed behind him and flew one of the copters back up into the air and turned its guns on the advancing troops.
Everything was going according to the mutants plans until Magneto attempted to crush the tanks that were slowly lurching towards the mansion. Erik kept extending his magnetic fields but he could not feel the hum of the metal in the machines that he saw hastening toward them. The tanks got off a round of ordinance that flew toward the mutants. Magneto raised his hand to stop the incoming ammunition but again he did not feel the hum of metal.
“I can’t stop it. Take cover!” He yelled as one of the tank’s 10in shells hurled towards his vicinity. Reacting quickly Rogue ran into Erik and pushed him out of the way. The two landed on top of each other as the shell streaked past them impacting with the front of the mansion and blowing a three meter wide hole in the entrance way.
Erik got back up and dusted off his cape and battle suit. Without his powers Erik was nothing more than an old man. Perhaps he did need Marie. He helped her up and directed the others.
“The tanks are made of plastic.” Magneto extended his powers and searched the field of battle for the telltale of vibration of metal. He found little other than a few small pieces in the troop’s apparel and the two aluminum helicopters. “It appears so is much of the ammunition, ordinance, and armor. My powers are useless against them.” However, Erik was a master strategist for good reason. “Catalyst is there anything you can do with the explosives?”
“Like say explode them before they are fired?” Catalyst asked and Magneto nodded his affirmative. “Yeah, if someone gets me close enough.”
Erik looked to his heavy hitters: Beast, Wolverine, Juggarnaut, and Colossus to clear the way for Catalyst. They knew what to do and set off wading into the enemy. Storm produced a low-lying fog to shield them. Her lightning bolts rained down on the enemy and hit several of the plastic tanks, but she could not direct her powers far enough to affect targets on the other side of the estate. Pyro’s flames were useless against armored tanks, so he turned his attention to the advancing troops along with Bobby and together the two kept troops from nearing Magneto’s location near the front of the mansion.
Magneto took metal from the mansions structure to fashion a small shielded area for them near the cement benches in the garden. Behind them the mansion continued to take hits from the plastic tank ordinance which Magneto was helpless to stop. Professor Jeri Kojak used her power to freeze time to slow down the advance of troops; however, she was only able to pause about ten at a time. She concentrated on the ones that were firing rubber bullets at the group.
“I don’t understand how the government guessed I was here.” Magneto said as he took cover with Rogue. “I made sure to keep our whereabouts a closely guarded secret.”
Rogue noticed how Storm flinched as Magneto spoke and one of her lightning bolts missed its target. Marie said nothing.
“If they planned ahead to produce plastic tanks and armor, surely they’ll be equipped with other anti-mutant measures.” Erik finished and Rogue’s eyes met him. That meant only one thing: They would be armed with the Cure.
Just then Storm let out an “Awwwarrrh!” and fell to the ground next to them. Rogue turned her over and found the Cure dart sticking three inches deep into Storm’s stomach. Rogue pulled it out of her as quickly and painlessly as she could, but already Storm was twitching and shaking violently in her arms. Immediately the rain stopped and the darkened sky began to lighten. The fog lifted revealing all the mutants’ locations. Storm’s whitened eyes rolled back to their usual brown. She would be fine in a few minutes but her powers would be gone for several months.
“None of the X-Men have taken the vaccine against the Cure. They’re all vulnerable.” Rogue said to Erik.
“For that matter, neither have you.” It was a sore point between them. Rogue had been against the distribution of the vaccine in the first place. Later she had come to see Erik’s way of the thinking and even been critical in the vaccine’s distribution. Yet she had never volunteered to take it herself. If she had taken the vaccine, she would never have been able to benefit from the Cure again. Rogue had not been ready to give up the freedom and hope the Cure had originally offered her.
Meanwhile, Wolverine, Beast, Juggarnaut, and Colossus had done their best to plow through the three hundred plus troops invading the school’s grounds. They had been successful in punching a hole through the line of army troops and allowing Catalyst to explode a few of the plastic tanks’ shells before they could be used against the mansion. Mystique, flying the stolen Apache, fired round after round into the troops making small but notable progress in thinning their ranks.
However once Storm went down and their fog cover was removed the five mutants came under intense fire. The military had come prepared and unleashed tear gas around them. Although it took down some of their own troops, it also proved very affective against all but Logan. Colossus was able to resist its effects temporarily when he shielded himself in his metal and he helped both Beast and Juggarnaut to safety.
Catalyst had not been expecting the tear gas and before she could slow it’s absorption in her eyes she was already very affected by it. Logan, for whom almost every weapon proved useless against, picked up the fallen Catalyst and ran with her back to the shelter of the cement benches where Magneto, Rogue, Ororo, and Jeri were gathered.
Logan lay Catalyst down next to Storm. Immediately Jeri bent down to see to her friend who was coughing, her eyes blood red and tearing furiously. Juggarnaut and Beast were a little better off, although their eyes were tearing and they were having difficulty seeing.
“Logan you’ve been hit!” Rogue said as she saw the Cure dart sticking out of Logan’s back. Logan’s eyes went wide and he wrapped his arm around his back and pulled the dart out quickly.
“I think I’m alright Marie.” He said and extended his claws. Rogue watched closely as he sheathed them again. It was a little delayed but Logan’s healing ability kicked in and closed the wounds in the skin of his knuckles. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“Your body heals so fast it doesn’t give the Cure a chance to take effect before it processes and expels the foreign substance from your system.” Beast explained, in between a few coughs.
Logan was happy to hear the news he was still able to fight but it was beginning to look as though that would not be enough. Magneto’s powers were routed by the use of plastic; Catalyst and Storm were out for the count; Juggarnaut and Beast were at only half capacity from the tear gas. That left Wolverine, Colossus, Professor Kojak, Iceman, Pyro, Mystique, and Rogue to fight over 300 troops.
Although they tried to rally their powers, the X-Men were still greatly at a disadvantage. Only Iceman, Pyro, and Kojak had long range powers. Kojak paused troops in place for Wolverine or Colossus to take care of; while Pyro and Iceman kept the troops back with fire and ice. However, Mystique’s pilot operated helicopter guns were useless against the plastic tanks and soon the artillery was lobbing a new type of ordinance in their direction: grenades.
The grenades had the effect of scattering the mutants and breaking their ranks. The tanks were able to fire the grenades with so little down time that it was impossible for the mutants to regroup, and soon they were each being separated and surrounded. Logan attacked the surrounding soldiers furiously, completely ensconced in his Wolverine bestial rage. He moved swiftly, his claws slashing with deft accuracy and fluid power. Still he took numerous rounds of rubber bullets and despite his healing ability, he was being worn down.
The others were in far worse circumstances, but Marie focused on Logan. If he was unable to hold his own in this battle they did not stand a chance. She had to do something. She had to contribute something. But what? What could she do? Unlike Logan, she was a just a whiff of a girl, small and not-particularly muscular. But she was a small girl with very deadly skin.
She stood up from behind the metal and cement shelter Magneto had fashioned, preparing herself to do the only thing she could think of to save her friends.
Erik grabbed her wrist, trying to pull her back down beside him.
“You can’t go out there Marie. I don’t want to see you hurt.” He pleaded with her. But unlike usual his words held no sway over her. They rolled off of her; a quaint, sweet admonition from her lover, but far too late to be heeded. She knew what she had to do. Or at least that she had to try.
“Everybody get back!” She yelled as she cleanly pulled her wrist from Erik’s grasp, slipping away before he had the mind to try to stop her. She stepped out from behind the shelter and walked as close as she dared to the raging battle.
“Fall back! You’ve got to fall back!” She called not wanting her powers to drain anyone of her friends. Her voice didn’t carry over the loud battle surrounding her, but Professor Kojak heard her.
‘Don’t do it Rogue’ Jeri voiced in her head, guessing what Rogue had planned.
“I’m going to try whether you help me or not.” Rogue said her voice so steady and determined she scarcely recognized it as her own. Where had this new found resolution come from? When and how had she left her quivering, fearful teenage years behind to become a strong, forceful woman? She had little time to ruminate on such considerations; she was going to save her friends the only way she knew how.
Kojak acquiesced and used her telepathy to plant the thought in the head of all the mutants to pull back and regroup nearer to the mansion. Meanwhile Rogue crept farther and farther onto the field of battle. She had no clue if her idea would work, or if she would be able to pull it off, but she had to try.
When all the mutants were behind her she stood up and spread her unclothed arms wide. She knew how to control the pull of her skin now; how to pull with her mutation so intensely her power escaped her skin and began to suck from the air around her. She pulled harder and harder, willing her power to go further to search for sources to feed.
“No Marie!” She heard Erik call out from a distance that seemed like a million miles away.
“Wolverine you’ve got to stop her.” Erik yelled to Logan. Logan saw what Marie was doing and moved as quickly as he could to stop the girl he loved. But it was too late. Rogue’s powers had already found purchase.
As she willed her powers to pull from further and further away she encountered soldier after soldier and drained them, feeding off their life force. As their energy flowed back to her she consumed it instantly, using it to fuel the ever widening expansion of her powers. Magneto had told her could be more powerful than the Phoenix and for the first time she could feel that near infinite power coursing through her veins, strengthening her to continue what she was doing.
The more troops she drained the easier it became to push her powers to the limit. She could feel the soldiers hundreds of yards away and pull from them as though she had her hand on their skin. The harder she pulled the easier it was to get through materials the troops might have used to shield themselves. Even the soldiers occupying the tanks were vulnerable to her as she willed her power past the plastic.
The more men she drained the more energy poured into her and she felt her heart quicken rapidly and her breath come in fierce gasps. She felt like she was free falling, like she was standing at a cliff about to go over the edge, like everything was rushing at her, yet away from her at the same time. Somehow everything seemed more real for those few minutes. The ground beneath her, the air around her pressed heavy against her as her nerves sped in overdrive. Her mind flooded with images, feelings, emotions, and memories not her own. Yet the immense power she was controlling helped her to stem off the flood’s drowning effect. She kept her consciousness above the tide of her victims and pulled with all her might.
Finally when she had reached so far across the battle field she could feel no other sources of energy, no other men, she stopped her pull. Without the extra energy flowing into her, she could no longer hold back the enormous obliterating ocean of memories that filled her head. Grasping helplessly at the remaining fragments of her consciousness she felt the ground sway beneath her and her vision blurred as colors brightened and then bled into blackness. She heard pounding and screaming ring in her eyes as she gave way to the assault.
Rogue collapsed to ground. Logan and Jeri were there instantly, the others followed behind running as quickly as they could to her side.
The battle was over; Rogue had drained the attacking troops and their fallen forms lay scattered around her.
Logan put his fingers on Marie’s neck.
“She’s not breathing.”
Professor Kojak put her hands on Rogue’s temples and tried to locate her consciousness.
“I can’t find her in there. She’s gone.”
Notes: You may not be too happy Storm tried to betray Magneto. But think about it, Storm completely disagrees with his philosophy and it must be loathsome for her to have him visiting at the mansion. So she does something stupid and turns Magneto in.
Translation: “Und ich liebe dich” is German for “And I love you.” I hope I got that right; I used an online translator.
Lol, I had Logan carry Catalyst in his arms, because well Catalyst is my character and Logan is hot. I had to give poor Catalyst a little action ya know.
Rogue has sacrificed herself for her fellow mutants. What will her death do to Erik?Go to Chapter 32