As the Blackbird neared its destination, Beast's nimble fingers shot across the keyboard, accessing information about their goal.
"Appears to be an abandoned scientific complex," he stated, at the same time enlarging a view from a satellite picture on the monitor before him. "No name out front." He gave a surprised noise then, odd enough in tone that Psylocke leaned over his shoulder to peer at the display.
"What is it?" she asked calmly.
"Picking up another mutant signature," he said, as the screen beeped at him. He brought up the minimized window, within which a red circle, target-like, was glowing. "Pretty active, too. And in the same location as Joseph."
Remy, standing at the rear of the cabin, only chuckled to himself, earning a poke in the ribs from Rogue. "You know what's goin' on, don't'cha?" she demanded. He glanced down at her, a fond, amused look on his face.
"Let's just say someone's catchin' up on a few memories."
"Lee?" Joseph repeated, blinking rapidly in an attempt to adjust his eyes to the sudden light that filled the small cell.
There was no response from the redhead. Her thoughts were focused entirely inward for the moment. Of course... it all makes sense now, was the gist of the mental conversation she was having with herself. Odd occurrences, gaps in her memory - the reason for her sudden move to New York a few months back, even why she had been stumbling along Fifth Avenue in a daze - all thanks to manipulation, and a temporary mindwipe, by the Gamesmaster.
She looked up at Joseph suddenly, becoming aware of the world around her once again.
"Are you... all right?" he asked slowly. It was difficult to be sure; he could hardly see her, for the glow that surrounded her.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she said, a slow smile creeping along her face. The glow suddenly damped down, and she chuckled. "Sorry about that. I don't have a whole lot of control over my power right now, so it's reflecting my mood."
"Your... power." The words came out slow and heavy.
She knew, in the back of her mind, that this would change everything between them. Being occupied with trying to figure out a way to escape, however, she ignored that part of her brain.
"Yeah. I'm a mutant. I used to do the superhero thing, went by Imagerie - if you ever heard of the Bloodhawks, I was with them - but I quit a while back."
"So why haven't you told me this before?" Joseph ignored the dull, muffled explosion that sounded at that moment. His head was beginning to feel less like a swollen balloon and more like itself, finally.
"Because I couldn't remember. That guy--"
"The Gamesmaster," he interceded.
"Him, yeah," she nodded. "He mindwiped the parts of my brain that contained my memories of even being a mutant. As far as I knew, I was just an ordinary human. But--" She glanced up, suddenly, as if seeing something he wasn't, then resumed her chain of thought. "Must not have been total, I guess."
Suddenly, she disappeared. Joseph blinked. "Lee?!"
"I'm still here," she hissed, the sound of her voice emerging from empty air. "It's an illusion. Shut up!"
Stunned, he glanced down and saw only the floor of the cell where the manacle holding his arms should have been. Before he had time to do more than draw in a startled breath, the door of the chamber swung open and a guard pounded in, coming to an abrupt halt. Absently, Joseph noted that he was dressed in light armor vaguely resembling the power suits of the men who'd kidnapped them, though this was not nearly so sophisticated. The guard also carried a simple semi-automatic rifle, and wore a vastly confused expression.
"What the f--?!" His words trailed off as he stared around the seemingly empty cell. Bringing his wrist to his mouth, he began to speak into what was probably a radio of some kind, rapid-fire syllables shouting for backup. Halfway into the sentence, he let out a cry of surprise and slumped to the floor.
Lee reappeared then, standing over him. From the way she held her arms before her, it seemed apparent that she'd used the heavy manacle to blindside the now-unconscious guard.
"That went easier than I thought it would," she commented with a wry smile. "Now we just have to get out of these restraints."
"That, it seems, does not appear to be a problem anymore." The pounding in Joseph's head had subsided to a more than tolerable level, and with its waning, he found himself in control of his own powers once more. Easily, he unlatched the manacles, crumpling them into so much scrap metal. Lee's restraints came free of her arms and ankles moments later, and she gave him a grateful smile while flexing her arms.
"Oh, that feels good. Let's went, shall we?"
Joseph's only commentary to that was one raised eyebrow. Without any further words, the pair exited the chamber posthaste.
"Recognize the armor?" Cyclops shouted over the comm-link to Beast.
"I am afraid that I must reply in the negative, O fearless leader," was Hank's quick reply. The sharp sound of fists being applied to someone's face followed before Hank resumed. "Everything is quite anonymous. No serial numbers, no identifying marks."
** But something about them seems familiar, ** Psylocke noted. Rather than using the comm-badges, she was tracking the conversation via a light psychic link that she easily maintained despite being in the midst of sustained battle.
Gambit's voice was punctuated by a series of explosions. "Dey're acting jus' like dose people th' Gamesmaster controlled - 'member, Rogue?"
Her affirmation came over the comm-link, slightly staticky. "Betcha anything he's got somethin' to do with this little tear-down."
Collectively, the X-Men were far from swamped by armored guards, the bulk of whom had swarmed out of the complex at the moment of the Blackbird's touchdown. Still, the men - whom Rogue referred to as 'cannon fodder' - had managed to separate the team, and each member of the group had their own little squadron to tackle. While everyone was handling themselves adequately, they were definitely being prevented from getting any further. Cyclops planned on fixing this, however, with Archangel as his wild card.
Gambit, however, hadn't wasted any time in firing kinetically-charged cards at the building itself. Seeing his intent, Cyclops made sure his blasts hit the walls as often as possible, in the same places already weakened by the explosive cards. They knew from the scanner that Joseph and Lee were being held much deeper within the complex, so the damage wouldn't harm them, but this would give them an escape route and hopefully flush their adversary out in the process.
But no one was expecting it when one whole side of the complex went up in a massive cloud of fire and light. The outward pulse of heat caught everyone by surprise, scattering guards and X-folk alike. Within the heart of the burst could be seen - barely - a pulsing sphere, nearly transparent and vaguely purplish in hue. As the residue of the explosion began to die down, the sphere rose free of the building and moved without hesitation towards the field of battle.
Two figures could just be seen inside the sphere, and though their appearance was masked by the pulsing electricity surrounding it, Gambit recognized both. Dodging bullets and a spray of some kind of laser attack - some of the guards were too slow to realize they'd been beaten - he shouted, "Dat's dem! Dey're out!"
"That's what we came here for, right?" Cyclops grinned. Above him, Archangel neatly took down a pair of guards with flung wing-blades. "Then what are we waiting for, fearless leader?"
Scowling at Warren for that comment, Cyclops barked the order to fall back over the comm-link. Only Gambit had to be forced back to the Blackbird, as he wanted to search the complex and find whoever was behind this; fortunately, when informed by Joseph and Lee as to just who their captor had been, he subsided. They all knew that the Gamesmaster was someone who wouldn't be caught unless he wanted to be.
Hank had nearly finished the takeoff procedures by the time the team was on board and in place, and as the Blackbird lifted into the air, a final series of explosions began to take apart the complex, from one end to the other. Bursts of fire and smoke clouded the air, leaving little more than a ruined shell where the complex had once been.
this page last updated on 18 january 2003