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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

Follow Me Until the End of the World: A Place Worth Saving? - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Sandman
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 4

The humming inside Hank McCoy’s head was becoming worse. He had settled into a dark corner of the roadside honkytonk that he entered on this night. A troubadour half-full of promise strummed along to Lay Lady Lay on stage. The singer’s deep bass voice stirred repressed emotions within McCoy, who was embroiled in a new stage of self-pity and loathing. Gripping the side of his beer mug, his hand trembled like a junkie desperate for a fix. What vicious seed have you planted in me, Nathaniel. The pounding in his head was becoming relentless-the anticipation of what he was about to do was forcing him to fall slowly into madness. Several weeks ago, he led his friends into an ambush. One that failed, resulting in the deaths of two of Essex’s precious Hunters. Tonight was the only opportunity Hank had to redeem himself, though not to Essex, but to whatever was causing the unmerciful pain. The more he resisted, the more it hurt, and the voices would become very loud indeed.

The woman finally showed an hour and a half late. Hank stood and removed his fedora and smiled his most cordial grin.

“Rogue, my dear…its been…a very long time.”

“You look like hell, Beast,” she said, smiling, slipping off her weathered leather bombardier’s jacket.

He extended his unsteady, oversized hand in a gesture of friendship, and she declined it, only to wrap her arms around his ogre-like torso.

“Ah can’t tell you how good it is to see you again, Beasty,” she said. While they embraced, she could not see his face clench in agony or hear his teeth grinding. He fought back tears and the urge to tell her to get the hell away from here-just to run and never look back-to protect her, from both him, and things much worse…instead, he responded in a somewhat labored tone

“it is good to see you as well, dear.”

He quickly seated himself and then wiped the film of sweat from his brow. Rogue caught a waitress and ordered a beer for herself.

A few minutes of silence followed while she listened intently to the musician, who played a series of folk classics from the likes of Arlo Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen. Beast could only bring himself to watch her briefly. She doesn’t deserve this…

Rogue finally turned to him and leaned closer. Here it comes…

“Hank, we need to talk outside.” Damn you…why are you making me do this…?

They entered the chilly spring night. Outside, a group of traders whistled as Rogue walked by, inviting her back in for a drink. She smiled and shook her head, walking over to the car she had driven here. She opened Hank’s door and he got in the car. He watched the vapor from his breath exhale from his mouth-it did not matter. The pounding was becoming worse as his head throbbed in perfect timing with his heart.

Rogue sat in the driver’s seat, and turned to him, with her deep-green eyes nearly blazing.

“Hank…what happened?”

He took a deep breath, thinking back to the stories that he had rehearsed in his mind for this one question. Instead, he told the truth. At least he could give her that.

“Rogue…what I’m going to tell you might be hard to hear. Essex flew into a rage when he learned about what you did, and sent many of us out to find you. He caught Gambit in his quarters…

“He stayed behind to cover our tracks…” she interrupted, becoming visibly shaken.

Smirking, he continued “it was abundantly clear at once that he was involved.” Hank paused, then spoke more loudly, “Creed conducted an interrogation where Gambit fed him misinformation. When it became clear that he was not cooperating, Essex stepped in. I don’t know all the details of it, though it lasted for hours. I think he suffered greatly, that night.”

Though her face was turned the other way, Hank could tell that Rogue was crying.

“Rogue…I have to ask. Where did you take Charles?” You’ve done it now- she’ll see right through you. She’ll recognize that you’re setting her up and then she’ll leave in a hurry…thank God.

“Hank…even if I would tell ya’, I couldn’t. I had him wipe that part of my memory,” she said between sobs. “Hank….is Gambit dead?”

This was the first time tonight that he looked into her eyes. “Yes, Rogue. I’m afraid so.” It wasn’t the truth, though in a matter of days, it would be. Telling her this was an act of mercy. No sense in letting her hope…

She turned the engine, and the car roared to life. Wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her flannel shirt, she turned to look at Hank again. “Ah’m goin’ to end this, Beast. And ah’ want you to help me. If not, please get out now.”

Sighing, Hank pulled the seatbelt across his burly chest. You poor fool of a girl…you have no idea what you’re walking into…

Essex would grant him a reprieve for bringing Rogue to him, Hank was sure. Perhaps he would even shut down the voices that drove him on-though he feared that without the white noise, he could think clearly enough to realize that he hated himself for what he had done.

Adjusting to living with four men was a bit of a struggle for Allison Blair. After Wraith had unexpectedly come back into her life, she had invited them into her massive apartment, though Cyclops worried that her notoriety in the area as the immensely popular Dazzler (her stage name) would bring unwanted attention to them. Perhaps the biggest problem was Peter, who had become quite loving of the New York nightlife. The burly Russian would disappear all night and come home inebriated, smelling (as Gambit often said) like a French whore, stinking of a mixture of perfume and booze. The Russian often made her feel a bit awkward as he walked about the apartment in his underclothes, scratching his crotch and drinking straight from the milk carton.

The week passed sleepily. When not out with Colossus, Gambit spent much of his time sprawled out on the living room floor constructing a retractable quarterstaff from metal piping. Cyclops and Wraith, the unofficial leaders of the group, discussed plans occasionally, but nothing substantive, until now. They notified everyone that a meeting would be held tonight, designed to clearly state some long-term goals.

They gathered in the living room, and Peter brought the beer, reasoning that whatever decisions they came to tonight would have to be sealed with a toast. The giant Russian spread across the couch comfortably, and even jokingly offered Allison a seat on his lap, who simply told him that he wished.

Dazzler was the first to speak, explaining what happened to the remaining resistance fighters in New York.

“After the Southern Cross invaded, only a handful of fighters remained alive. They fled north into the Canadian wastelands and found the city of Quebec, which had been hit by a neutron bomb. While every living creature in this city was vaporized, every structure was left intact. The survivors occupied the city and under the leadership of one of the few living rebel commanders, Eric Lenscher, built a device which essentially cloaked the city from the inside-out. It is nearly impossible to find now, and it provides a safe haven for everyone, particularly mutants, fleeing persecution. I chose to stay in New York to help others by sending them that way. If you listen closely to my songs, you’ll hear subliminal messages hidden in the lyrics.”

Wraith then stood, and made the suggestion that they headed to Calgary next on a recruitment mission, which seemed to be very well received.

“We’ll get some mode of transportation, maybe a giant van er sumthin’, and we’ll go around and hit their containment facilities and conduct a guerilla campaign gainst’ the Southern Cross. I figure it may take years and kill every one of us off, but we’ll at least take a few of them with us.”

Colossus came to standing, raising his chin high. Balling his hand into a tight fist, he said “we will crush our enemies without mercy.”

“Alright big man, I take that to mean you’re in. How bout’ you, Cajun?”

“Do you need to ask, mon ami?”

“Allison? Will you be joining us?” Wraith inquired.

“I suppose, as long as you boys respect my privacy,” she innocently replied.

Scott Summers finally came to standing. “That’s fine and good, but you’re missing the whole point of it.”

The room suddenly shifted to him.

“We can fight the Southern Cross, perhaps even for years. No matter what, they’ll continue to grow, but they’re not the problem. They’ve duped everyone into believing that they’re rebuilding the country. Hell, most of them probably even believe that garbage, too. But the enemy is far more insidious. He is a single man, and I hesitate to call him that. Nathaniel Essex-I know you all have heard of him but you really have no idea what he really is.”

Gambit’s eyes burned with unbridled ferocity.

“The world is being shaped according to his vision. There’s a lot about the guy that I won’t tell you tonight. Just know that we have a past together, and that he’s been trying to kill me all of my life. He’s been around a long time, though I’m not sure how long. Maybe a couple hundred years. What’s worse is that he’s damn near immortal. Over the years, we….the resistance, I mean… tried to finish him off through a number of assassination attempts. Come to find out that nothing hurts him, except me, and my brother Alex. Only our mutant powers can hurt him, and maybe they can even kill him. Though it seems that he somehow reached Alex and convinced him to betray us. Whatever happens, it needs to come down to him and I. Once he is dead, then it is over.”

“You say that he is not a man. Then what is he?” Allison asked him.

“Honestly? I think that he may be the devil himself. Even as we speak, he is strengthening his grip over the world. It’ll be only a matter of time before its too late to stop him.”

Colossus then said, “then we must waste no time. We leave tonight.”

They heeded the Russian’s suggestion. While Wraith found a suitable vehicle to take them across the desert (and hotwired it), they packed their belongings in preparation for the journey. Around 3am, they loaded the SUV that Wraith procured and began the trip. Colossus insisted on driving while Wraith rode shotgun.

The streets were virtually deserted, save a homeless person or two snuggled uncomfortably underneath a newspaper quilt. Peter took the drive very slowly, but found himself breaking quite suddenly when he saw a man on fire in the middle of the street. Actually, he was walking towards the car.

“What the fuck!?” Wraith bellowed, reaching for his shotgun.

Instantly, everyone in the backseat jumped to attention.

Flames danced off the charred body of the man, igniting everything within close proximity. He reared back and launched a fireball at the car.

Everyone abandoned the SUV in a fluid motion, making it just far enough away to avoid the explosion that followed the fireball’s impact.

The Horsemen known only as Pestilence advanced upon the scattered party. Wraith’s shotgun rang out as he pumped three solid slugs into its body. It flinched each time, but continued advancing without further interruption.

Growling, Colossus turned into metal form and charged, only to be intercepted by Famine, the aged behemoth, who broke through the street. Its massive body sprouted six arms, each as powerfully built as the Russian’s, and it snarled as it caught him. The two battled fiercely as Gambit charged to assist his companion.

Cyclops blasted at Pestilence, knocking off his feet. Fire erupted from his fallen body, sending flames in every direction. It rained hot sparks upon he and Dazzler, who were forced to shield their faces. Wraith disappeared to gain a better angle, though he still did not know how to combat the thing.

The third Horsemen, Plague, walked out from an alleyway-a gray-skinned widow with serpents for hair. She unslung her composite bow and readied a crooked arrow, taking aim at the Cajun. Firing, it seemed dead on for his neck. Reacting, Gambit swung his quarterstaff out, retracting it, catching the arrow. It disintegrated upon contact.

From one knee, Cyclops blasted at Plague, knocking the living corpse on her back. Her bow was sent flying backward.

Meanwhile, Pestilence came to standing and began lobbing fireballs at Cyclops and Dazzler. Scott turned his head and watched as one came directly at him, before Dazzler tackled him into an alleyway.

Famine had thrown Colossus threw a building. Off in the distance, the whine of police sirens hummed. Gambit stood face-to-face with a creature that stood at least two feet taller then him. He didn’t even want to begin to guess how much more it weighed. It swung wildly at Gambit, who tumbled backwards. Reaching into his coat, he unleashed a salvo of charged playing cards into the beast. Each one detonated with the power of a bomb, breaking pieces of his armored flesh off. A gooey-white substance began to flow from its open wounds. Enraged, it lobbed a manhole cover at the Cajun, who easily dodged it. C’mon, Peter….I can’t fight dis thing alone much longer…

Fire barricaded Scott and Allison into the alleyway. Shrugging, he jumped through the fire, and was slightly scorched. She followed him, tumbling across to the other side. Pestilence released a fireball at the rooftop above them. Bricks began to tumble down upon the two, but Allison fell to her back and channeled soundwaves upwards, vaporizing them into dust. Cyclops bent down to pull her to her feet, and was caught in the torso with an arrow. Dazzler turned in a panic and screamed, firing wildly at the archer, tearing her skin from her crooked bones.

Wraith came up behind Pestilence and leveled his shotgun directly at his eyes, and fired. The flaming bastard’s head snapped and he reeled, letting out an inhuman groan before trying to disengage. Most of the street was now on fire. Wraith saw Dazzler holding a fallen Cyclops and feared the worst. He rushed through the fire towards them.

The behemoth traded blows against Gambit’s quarterstaff, knocking the man around like he was as sickly child. Finally, Colossus emerged from the building, and began to charge at the beast. Smiling, Gambit reached for a handful of cards and charged them. Before releasing them at the creature, it stomped its massive foot onto the broken street, forcing it to tear under Gambits feet, sending the cards spilling out of his hands. They exploded around him, and two detonated directly by his temple. When he hit the ground, he retained consciouness, but felt as if he was underwater. His vision was blurred-all he saw the red of fire creeping across the street. No matter where he walked from here, he could not avoid it-he was too disoriented to control his movements well. Staggering, he waited for the beast to reach him and end it.

Famine charged him, shrieking a vicious war cry. Just inches before reaching Gambit, it was lifted off the ground, and thrown. Peter followed, and jumped on its chest, pummeling its face. Soon, his metal fists were covered in the creature’s blood. When the Horseman seemed to recover, he stood up and ran for Gambit, intending on getting him away from the danger.

When Wraith reached Cyclops and Dazzler, he screamed for her to run. Nodding, she ran down the street, finding the first car and breaking it open.

“Wraith! I need you to hotwire this!” she screamed down the street.

Leading Gambit, who had suffered a severe concussion, Colossus raced towards her.

Wraith picked up Cyclops and placed him over his shoulders. He ran as quickly as he could through the small fires that stood in the way between him and his companions. Up ahead, Gambit was busy hotwiring the car.

Wraith was then knocked off his feet and sent flying several feet. His lip had been busted cleanly open. He turned to face his attacker, only to see the fourth and remaining Horsemen.


Its metallic wings spread into a threatening arc. Wraith pulled a .45 from his belt and began firing, but the creature simply shielded itself with its wing. The behemoth was quickly moving up on his flank.

“Godamnit Wraith, get the fuck out of here!” Cyclops yelled before hitting Famine with a fully-concentrated blast. The behemoth toppled over. For the moment.

“You’re outta your gourd! I’m not leaving you here!” Wraith yelled, beginning to drag Cyclops. The arrow had sunk deep into Scott’s chest and blood continued to pour out, bubbling and drenching his torn shirt. The man’s face had become ice-blue. Wraith stared down at the dying man, before realizing that he was firing an empty weapon. The Archangel began towards them first at a run, and then took flight, soaring down the street.

Cyclops said to Wraith in a whisper, “you’ve got to lead them…get them out of here, Wraith. I’ll cover you…all of you…”

William McTavish would have traded anything to switch places with the dying man laying at his feet, who had charged him with an impossible role. Wraith knew that he could not replace Cyclops. He caressed the side of Scott’s face, and exchanged a glance that only warriors who have shared combat could understand. You will be avenged, my friend…I swear it…

Releasing Cyclops, he began running for the car. Behind him, the sound of optic blasts filled the night. He did not turn back, knowing that if he did, he would return to his fallen friend and leader. When he finally made it to the car, he squeezed in, screaming for Allison to hit the accelerator. Peter demanded to go back for Cyclops, but Wraith would not let Allison slow down.

“There’ll be another day, Peter,” Wraith assured him, trying to be strong. His heart faltered and he felt a coldness creeping through his soul. Peter sat stone-faced, staring ahead, clenching his fists tightly.

They drove into the night without saying a word. Allison took the backroads that led them outside the city. Escaping the place was made all the much easier as all Southern Cross soldiers were responding to an “incident”. She wondered what exactly they would find when they got there.

Police blocked the street while firefighters worked the blaze. While extinguishing an isolated fire, one noticed a pool of blood next to a broken arrow shaft. Nudging his partner, he pointed at it. His partner shrugged, wondering where exactly the body had gone.


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