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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16


Written by NicoPony
Last updated: 05/06/2007 06:22:13 PM

Chapter 10

Rogue woke when a smattering of raindrops fell from the rustling leaves above. She blinked in the bright morning sunlight. Groaning, she rolled over, hiding her face from the sun. Every muscle in her body screamed in pain. She managed to climb to her hands and knees. As she hung her head, her hair fell in snarled curls around her face. Her stomach heaved, but there was nothing in her stomach to throw up. Her stomach muscles ached painfully. Wiping the back of her gloved hand across her mouth, she finally managed to stand.

Rogue staggered a bit as she surveyed the small forest clearing. There was no sign of Death, save for the few scuffed up areas where they had fought. A glint of light caught her eye. She slowly walked over to the nearby tree, and looked at the blades embedded in the trunk. She worked the blade free and held it in her hand. She saw it was actually a surgeon’s scalpel. She dropped the blade as if burned. The world whirled, and she leaned her head against the tree, waiting for the vertigo to pass.

Fearfully, she probed her memories of last night. Her back spasmed painfully, and she clutched at the trunk to steady herself. She was terribly afraid. She realized that the fear was not her own, but Death’s. He had no words to describe what he was feeling, fear was simply his way of life. There seemed to be nothing before Apocalypse; nothing of Remy LeBeau. It was if he’d been erased. Or was an entirely different person.

In the distance, someone called her name.

“I’m here,” she tried to reply, but her voice came out as a dry croak.


“Here,” she waved her arm when she caught a flash of yellow amongst the trees. “Logan!”

“There y’are, girl,” Wolverine said, as he approached. He peered into her face. “You okay?”

Rogue nodded.

He extended his arm to help her, but she shied away.

“No, don’t touch me,” she rasped.

“Can y’make it back to the house?” Wolverine asked.

Rogue began walking, with Logan following close behind. Her long green cloak caught on branches as she walked, but she paid it no mind. “Y’didn’t happen to find a scythe out here, didja?”

“A scythe? No, just you, darlin’.”

Rogue experienced an odd feeling of loss. The trees gave way to the green expanse of the X-Mansion’s lawn. The grass was marred here and there with large craters and smoldering earth. Wisps of steam and smoke rose in the dewy morning air. Otherwise, all appeared as normal.

“Where are the Marauders?” Rogue asked.

“Two were killed: Prism and Scrambler. Though they’re not likely to stay that way for long. We had Harpoon and Arclight in lockup---.”


“Yah, but they kicked. Found ’em dead in their cells earlier this morning. We know that Vertigo, Scalphunter, and Riptide were also here, but they’ve vanished.”

“A real blast from the past,” Rogue said dryly.

“I guess Sunfire and Random have decided to throw in with that lot, as well.”

“And those crazy illusions? Lady Mastermind, I assume. I was trapped in my closet for what felt like hours.”

“Doin’ what?” Logan asked.

“I couldn’t find anything to wear,” Rogue said with a sardonic grin. “Everything had turned to polyester.”

Wolverine waited patiently as Rogue limped up the front steps and through the broken front door. “Everyone’s in Emma’s office,” he said. “What’s left of us, anyway.”

“What d’you mean? What’s happened?”

He walked past her and pushed open the office door. Rogue followed slowly. Emma was leaning against the ledge of her desk, arms crossed, her back to the broken window. Storm was seated in one of the leather wing chairs, holding a cold cup of tea in her hands. When Rogue entered, Storm moved to rise, but Rogue raised her hand to stay her.

Iceman let out a relieved breath, which came out in a puff of frozen air. “Rogue, we were worried.”

Beast rose and offered Rogue his chair. She accepted it reluctantly. Cannonball stood guard over a hunkering Sabretooth. The feral man wore a hefty collar and his hands were shackled.

“Wh-where’s Raven?” Rogue asked, dreading the answer. “Cable...Karima?”

Hank smoothed the front of his lab coat. “Raven and Cable are both in the ICU. Raven remains in critical condition, but Cable may be upgraded to stable. Raven is undergoing a treatment of activated charcoal to prevent absorption of the poison she was exposed to. My next course of action is system irrigation, but I am hoping her own regenerative abilities will help in the detoxification process.”

Rogue swallowed dryly. “What about Karima?”

“She was killed,” Wolverine said. “While we were tracking Creed.”

Rogue could not hide her expression of shock and dismay. Emma poured a glass of water from the pitcher on her desk and handed it to Rogue, which she accepted gratefully.

“What’s become of Lady M?” Cannonball asked. “She betrayed us?”

Creed snorted derisively. “Lady M? That thing ain’t no lady.”

Emma leveled a glare at Sabretooth. “Do you have something to add, Creed?”

“I thought I smelled something rank on her, and I was right.”

“Spill it, all ready,” growled Logan.

“Wouldn’t a’thought it was possible, but that dirty little mind thief Malice got its claws into your Lady,” Sabretooth said.

“And for whatever reason, you didn’t feel the need to inform us?” Emma asked icily.

“Hey, I didn’t think it would effect me any. Besides, I was locked up in that tube-thing most of the time.”

“And ya can just go back there and rot, for all I care,” snarled Rogue. Sabretooth’s gaze targeted on Rogue.

“You seem t’have forgotten who was it that saved your sorry chicken-fried ass from that Pandemic* freak. If it weren’t for you borrowin’ my healing factor, you’da been dead in minutes. By the way, you ain’t lookin’ so good,” Victor Creed smirked in the corner. “You need another dose of my kinda medicine?”

Cannonball gave Sabretooth a sharp kick. “Shut it, you.”

Sabretooth held a manacled hand over his grinning mouth. “I hear you’re single now. Maybe this time, we can get a little more personal? C’mon Roguey, give us a kiss.”

Wolverine’s claws flashed out, but Rogue beat him to the punch. She grabbed a side-table and hurled it in Sabretooth’s direction. “You sick...degenerate...freak!” The table smashed over Creed’s head and shattered into splinters. “I’ll kill you myself!” She screamed and threw herself at the feral mutant. Beast seized Rogue by her arms to prevent her from pummeling Sabretooth into a pulp.

Rogue flailed her legs and shrieked in fury. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” she cried over and over again. The other X-Men were surrounding her, trying to urge her to relax. She freed one of her arms from Hank’s grip and swung at him. Wolverine grabbed her swinging arm, and together the two men dragged the manic woman to her chair and forced her to sit. Rogue sank her teeth into Wolverine’s shoulder, and lashed out at the two men with her legs. She was deaf to their pleas for calm. Black veins crawled across her face. Her pupils shrank to pinpricks and her eyes burned red. She began to shout profanities in ancient and long-forgotten languages.

“Stand back!” Emma cried, and both Wolverine and Beast leaped back as Emma threw the water from the pitcher into Rogue’s face.

Rogue spluttered, her eyes wide as water dripped from her face and hair. “Wha-what?!” Rogue gasped. She looked around at the other X-Men who were staring at her with mixed expressions of fear and worry. Cannonball had dragged Sabretooth from the room during the melee. The image of a long handled spear flashed in her mind; it swung down at Sabretooth, cutting a bloody swath from shoulder to groin. She felt an intense paroxysm of pleasure at this fantasy, and shook her head violently to try and rid herself of it. She buried her face in her hands.

“Rogue, can you hear me?” Beast crouched before her and she looked up at him.

“Yah, sugah, I hear you fine,” she replied. She saw that he had a split lip and a lump forming over his eye. “Sorry, Hank.”

“You tried to---absorb---Gambit?” Iceman asked incredulously.

Rogue shook her head again. “No, not Gambit. Death,” Rogue said, shuddering at the thought. “He kinda forced me into it.”

Storm was by her side. “Are you hurt?” she asked. “Would you like to rest?”

“No, I think I’m fine now,” she replied and drew a deep breath. “If we could get back to business. Is there anything else I should know about?”

Emma resumed her position, sitting on the top of her desk. She kept her hands tight on the desk ledge to keep her fingers from shaking. “Pulse was also killed in the confusion last night,” she said finally. “And three of the de-powered Institute students were taken by Random.”

“Taken alive?” Rogue asked.

Storm nodded. “Yes. Random had trapped them within his body. I was attacked from above, I assume by Lady M---or Malice, rather. When I awoke moments later, the pair had vanished along with the children.”

“Do you have any idea why they would be kidnapping these kids?” Iceman asked Storm, but he glanced at Rogue as he did so.

Rogue rubbed her temple. “Something to do with a vaccine...” she muttered. “Sinister’s doing some kind of research with them.”

“A vaccine?” Hank asked, alarmed. “For what?”

“I’m not quite sure,” she replied. “I only know he needs them alive. And that they have to be protected no matter what. At least, that’s the impression I’m getting from Death’s memories.”

Hank sat back on his haunches and considered Rogue for a moment. He then reached into his lab coat and produced a card from an inner pocket. “Rogue, does this mean anything to you?” he asked, proffering the card.

Rogue took the card and looked at it. “It’s a Catholic holy card,” she said. She knew Remy had several of them tucked away in his Bible, to mark certain places in the scripture. He’d once joked that it was kind of like collecting baseball cards; if only the Yankees could perform miracles. He’d meant it as a self-deprecating joke, but she knew how seriously he took those prayer cards. The memory of it brought tears to her eyes.

“Does it have any significance to you, or rather, to Death?” Hank pressed.

“Well, I know this is one of the one’s they usually hand out at hospitals. But other than that, I don’t know much about it. Why? Where’d you find it?”

“While Emma and I were both incapacitated by an oneirogen** gas, several blood samples were taken from my lab. I found this card on the empty shelf.”

“You think Death left it for you? That it might mean something?” Iceman asked, skeptically. “Seriously, Hank, the dude is whacked out of his mind. You saw what just happened with Rogue, didn’t you?”

The communication link on Emma’s desk beeped. As they turned, they spotted an O*N*E transport landing in the front lawn. “That’ll be Cooper,” Emma said. “I have a feeling I’ll have a lot of explaining to do.”

“In the meantime,” Storm said as she rose to her feet, “we can ready our dead for burial. It seems this is becoming all too familiar to me.”

“If y’all don’t mind,” Rogue said, shakily standing, “I think I’d like to go visit Raven.”

The remaining X-Men left the room, one by one.

(*X-Men #196 again, Pandemic infected Rogue with Strain 88).

(**sleeping gas. Haha. You learned a new word).


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