|By : marvelmaster616|
Category: X-men Comics > General
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The Erotic Phoenix Saga: Dark Passions
Chapter 7: Diverging Destiny
Years From Now – The Ruins of the Xavier Institute
The sky darkened, shrouded by clouds and dust.
The ground trembled, rocked by tremors and eruptions.
The very fabric of time and space ruptured, like a tattered sheet being torn to shreds.
It felt like the end. The past, present, and future were collapsing in a storm of chaos. Everything that was and would ever be hung by the thinnest of threads. The final link between the timeline remained in the ruins of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, but time was running out. All had been lost in the present. All remaining hope resided in the past.
Kate Pryde might have been the vessel for that hope, but Rachel Grey-Summers was the conduit. However, that critical connection was about to give way.
“Hurry up, Kate!” said a focused, but exhausted Rachel. “You’re doing it. I can already feel it…the past and present affecting one another. But it’s still not enough!”
She kept her eyes on the unconscious Kate, still lying motionlessly on the table. Even as Rachel projected the older woman’s mind into the past, she could sense the chaos approaching. Despite the heavy reinforcements of the Cerebro chamber, the onslaught of demons, Sentinels, and time fissures shook the structure. What remained of the structure on the surface had been completely destroyed, but the damage went beyond the chaos.
Since sending Kate’s mind back, Rachel sensed a major shift in the nature of the chaos. Only those who took part in influencing the past could notice, but Kate had already made significant changes to the timeline. Whereas timelines of demon armies and Sentinel armies once clashed, only the demons remained. Like a mist fading under the morning sun, the Sentinels rapidly vanished from time and space. That meant Kate had successfully changed one critical part of the past.
However, as was often the case with time travel, such change invited more violent time fissures. They ripped through the area, the world, and beyond with increasing severity. In some areas, a new horde of demons appeared, attacking anything and anyone in their path. In others, they disappeared, lost to the shifting sands of time. Each timeline was so fragile. One wrong move and they could all rupture.
Through that chaos, though, one figure remained. That same figure definitely noticed the disappearance of the Sentinels. She also surmised the source of the time fissures.
“It’s all coming apart! Everything…here and there…then and now! Complete oblivion! I love it!” proclaimed the Apocalypse Queen.
Her maddened cries echoed through the chaos. A chorus of shrieks followed from every demon and goblin that descended upon the desolate landscape. More and more turned their attention towards the ruins of the Xavier Institute. The imposing figure of their queen, now donned with armor once worn by Apocalypse, cast an ominous shadow. Even as more time fissures opened, consuming existence like a plague, she stood poised to attack.
“I see you. I know what you’re trying to do. I won’t allow it!” she yelled.
The Apocalypse Queen’s eyes flashed and a portal opened. From it, an imposing masculine figure emerged. He had white hair, a muscular frame, a large gun, and body armor similar to hers. His eyes glowed with the same menacing energy, his will and desires completely aligned with hers.
“Mother,” he said distantly, “what’s the mission?”
“The same as it has always been, my darling Nathan. Deny them what they desire…just as they denied me!”
The imposing man, named for the Apocalypse Queen’s own creator, nodded with perfect obedience. Clutching his oversized gun, he rode a telekinetic wave to the surface with an army of goblins following close behind. Any remaining Sentinels were shot down with ease. All remaining forces converged on their queen’s desire.
Inside Cerebro, the air became thick with tension and dread. Rachel, channeling every bit of strength and then some, kept her hands near Kate’s temples. She could already hear the Apocalypse Queen’s forces breaking through the final barriers above. It wouldn’t be much longer before they reached the sub-levels. At that point, all would be lost.
“There’s not enough time…not enough to change what needs to be changed,” Rachel lamented.
Sweat covered her brow and a tear streamed down her face. Looking down at Kate, she sensed the ripples of change emanating from the timeline. They just weren’t happening fast enough. If Kate’s efforts weren’t sufficient, then that left her with one final recourse.
The fiery halo of the Phoenix Force flared around her body, as if sensing her dread. It already knew what she knew. The lingering embers of this cosmic force understood the larger perspective better than anything or anyone. It was the most important insight that her parents, and the Phoenix Force’s former wielders, had imparted to them.
Now, they had to channel that perspective for one last act.
“Life, love, and connection,” Rachel said, even as more time fissures formed around the chambers, “it saved us once before. I’ll make sure it saves us again…whatever the cost.”
Sinister’s Lab – Present Time
“You sure you know where you’re going, Frost?” asked an anxious Captain Marvel as she flew alongside the former White Queen.
“We’re dealing with telepathy and a cold-hearted bitch, Danvers,” Emma Frost retorted. “You can trust my expertise.”
“Guess that goes without saying,” she muttered.
Emma chose to ignore Carol’s remarks. She sensed they were near their destination. Since they were inside the facility, she could lock in on telepathic signatures that had been hidden by the robust psychic shielding. If Storm and Wolverine’s unique foresight was correct, then this was a necessary step towards confronting the Goblin Queen.
She’d already planned on taking down any psychic defenses that kept her from her redheaded adversary. The X-Men’s assistance just helped point her in the right direction. They didn’t give too many specifics, going so far as to guard their minds from sharing them. It left the former White Queen curious and anxious about what awaited.
‘We cannot tell you exactly what you’ll face, they said. You’ll know why when you see it, they said. Could Storm have been more annoyingly vague? She claims she received knowledge from the future. Why the hell would she hide the details? Does she not understand the kind of bitch we’re dealing with?’
Emma would’ve preferred more foresight, but didn’t have time to fume. She could sense a powerful psychic signature just up ahead.
The cavernous corridors of the facility widened as they reached the westernmost wing. The alien façade along the walls, each bearing the distinct patterns and style of the Celestials, became more active. Circuit-like structures lit up, humming with immense amounts of power. They all connected to a large chamber door up ahead. The walls were extra-thick, bulging with mass to contain whatever or whoever remained within. That level of shielding helped confirm what the former White Queen already sensed.
“There!” Emma pointed out. “That’s where the psychic disruptions are coming from!”
“I see it,” said Captain Marvel. “Should we knock first?”
“No,” she replied plainly.
Carol nodded, knowing what that entailed.
Clenching her firsts firmly, Captain Marvel unleashed a concentrated photon blast from afar. She hit the heavy chamber doors with the kind of force she usually reserved for a Kree attack ship. It was risky in such a confined space, but Celestial technology was notoriously tough. She took that into account when she hit it again with a follow-up blast, which helped blow a sizeable hole into the chamber.
Before the smoke and dust cleared, Emma ran out ahead of Captain Marvel and entered. What she saw, however, made her freeze where she stood.
“My God,” she said in a mix of shock and disgust.
“What is it, Frost?” asked Carol as she caught up. “Why did you…”
Captain Marvel ended up stopping too. She landed right next to Emma when she saw what stopped the White Queen so suddenly. Even for someone who had seen interstellar wars and war crimes, it was disturbing.
The chamber bore a strong resemblance to Cerebro, the telepathy augmenting technology that Charles Xavier used to enhance his powers. It was shaped like a sphere, but in the center was an elaborate setup that looked like something out of a torture chamber.
It consisted of five elevated gurneys, each with a female figure strapped to it. Those gurneys were attached to an elaborate series of wires that went into each figure. From there, they connected to a large helmet that covered half their heads. Those elements in turn connected to a large cylindrical device that hung over the chamber.
The psychic energy emanating from the device was intense. Even Carol could feel it. Generating that energy caused immense distress for the five female figures. They each had the stature of teenagers and bore a distinct resemblance to Emma, which definitely added to her disgust. When the former White Queen took a step closer, her disgust turned into even greater hatred for the Goblin Queen.
“That devious bitch…she just keeps finding new ways to piss me off!” Emma said angrily.
“Those girls,” Captain Marvel said, “they look like…”
“They are!” Emma spat. “Trust me, it’s worse than you think! I’d heard rumors about mutant cloning operations during my time with the Hellfire Club. But I never thought someone would take it this far! Or use my genetics, for that matter!”
Emma’s revulsion of the Goblin Queen intensified to new heights. That sadistic woman couldn’t break her in Limbo, so she did the next best thing and cloned her. Rumors of mutant cloning operations were nothing new. The Hellfire Club had even funded some of them, but her being the source made her feel violated and used, almost as much as her first encounter with the Goblin Queen.
As Emma looked at the five bound girls, she saw more signs of Madelyne’s cruel handiwork. All five of them had been stripped naked, most likely a means of keeping them vulnerable. They were also in visible distress, but fully conscious. The Goblin Queen made sure they remained firmly under her control. They could only do what she desired and nothing more.
“I’m guessing you don’t want me to blast this place,” said Captain Marvel.
“That would be the easiest recourse,” Emma said, “but not the most prudent. And I will not fall into that trap again.”
“So, how do we shut this thing down? I’ll trust your expertise this time.”
“If only it extended that far…”
Emma stood frozen and conflict, uncertain of how to proceed. Staring at the array and the five girls trapped within it, her usually hardened soul failed her. It was one thing to push through any obstacle between her and her enemy, but quite another to go through her own flesh and blood.
As the former White Queen hesitated to make her move, the gurneys became active. They moved on their own, shifting to a fully upright position. At that same moment, their eyes shot open from under their helmets.
“Hello mother,” the five blonde girls greeted, their voices perfectly synchronized. “It’s nice to finally meet you…relatively speaking.”
“That tone…that dry, callous wit,” Emma said. “Yes, you’re definitely mine.”
“If only that were all we inherited from you,” they replied, “but we had no choice in the matter. We’ve never had a choice in anything…from the moment we drew breath.”
“That’s the Goblin Queen’s doing!” she yelled. “If you’re going to be petty and blame me…”
They silenced her with a telepathic wave that shook the room, causing Carol and Emma to fall back. Even with helmets covering their faces, they could sense the anguish in the five girls.
“Blame you? We wish we could blame you, mother!” they cried. “It would be so easy. To hate you for not knowing about us…to hate you for what the Goblin Queen desired for us. But we can’t! And we hate that we can’t! We can only do what she wishes.”
There was a pain and despair in their voices, as though they had no desire or drive of their own. It was the kind of torture that only the Goblin Queen could deliver. Emma, fuming with anger and disgust, was at a loss. She had no recourse, whatsoever.
The five girls took advantage of that. Before she or Carol could do anything about their broken state, their eyes flashed brightly under the helmets. Moments later, the massive structure above them lit up with energy before unleashing a telepathic wave that shook the facility.
“No! Don’t do it!” Emma exclaimed, already trying to shield her mind.
‘We’re sorry, mother. To all attempting to end this madness…we’re sorry.’
Meanwhile – Outside
“My head! My head, it burns!”
An eruption of pained cries filled the skies over Stonehenge and much of Wiltshire, England. It happened suddenly and painfully. Moments ago, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fought a winning battle against the Goblin Queen’s forces. The collective might of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, SHIELD, X-Corp, and various other heroes had converged around the Celestial facility that had emerged from underground.
Hordes of demons, goblins, and symbiotes fell by the dozens.
Defense systems powered by Celestial technology were destroyed, one-by-one.
Together, they were winning. They were destroying the Goblin Queen’s armies faster than they could emerge from the dozens of portals that had opened around the area. Even tenacious enemies like Magik and Carnage began to falter. Colossus and Dr. Strange had worn down Illyana. Even the Darkchylde had limits of endurance. Spider-Man and Kwannon had cornered Carnage, as well. His bloodlust and madness could only take him so far.
Then, a psychic attack unlike any other hit them from every direction. Every mind, from Captain America on the ground, to Thor in the skies above, to Nick Fury on the bridge of the Hellicarrier, felt it. The effect was akin to the worst migraine anyone could have without passing out. Even those with strong minds and powerful wills could only do so much to resist.
“Errrr! Don’t stop! Keep…fighting!” Captain America groaned, barely able to stand upright while surrounded by goblins.
“Can’t…see straight,” said Hawkeye, his bow trembling as he tried to line up a shot. “Ungh! This sucks!”
“Iron Man! Tell me…you’re shielded from this!” yelled an angry, but pained Giant Man.
“Aggh! I wish!” groaned Iron Man as he flew erratically around the skies. “The best psychic defenses money can buy, they said! You’ll be fine, they said!”
“Quiet, Iron Man!” roared an angry Thor, who had to cease his lightning attacks. “Thine voice is making it worse!”
Most froze where they stood. Others attempted to fall back in hopes of escaping the psychic onslaught. However, the searing head pain did not dissipate with distance. Many fell to the ground and clutched their heads in agony. Even within the armored protection of the Hellicarrier, the attack hit.
“Augh! Damn psychics!” Nick Fury grunted from the bridge. “Somebody…hit the facility with a bomb! An EMP! Anything!”
“Sir…we can’t!” groaned Maria Hill, leaning desperately on her console for support. “All personnel…not responding!”
“Then, activate the autopilots! Or get us some altitude…before too many pass out!” Fury ordered.
It might have been too late. Both he and Maria Hill tried to work the controls, but much of SHIELD’s personnel had succumbed. They either passed out or were in too much agony to endure. The autopilot for the Hellicarrier and the shuttles kept them stable, but the weapons systems stopped firing. It left them vulnerable to a fresh wave of winged goblins and demons, which still poured through the portals.
“Xavier…X-Corp…you dragged us here. You better…have…a plan!” Fury groaned as he tried to activate the weapons systems manually.
The entire battle plan had fallen apart under the psychic onslaught. Nobody was immune. Nobody could escape it. Soldiers, super soldiers, Asgardians, mutants, and superheroes alike felt the effects. Even the goblins, demons, and symbiotes felt it too, but to a lesser extent. They all howled out in pain, clutching their heads and stammering around chaotically. However, their reaction to pain was notably different.
Even when they cried in agony, there was a strangely gleeful undertone to it. To them, pain came with a strange kind of pleasure. Some of the demons and goblins grinned widely, the agony empowering them with a new energy. They were still disorganized and erratic, but the attack was not nearly as detrimental to them.
“Hnn…no fair!” groaned Spider-Man, having fallen flat on his face after the attack hit. “Why are they…enjoying it?”
“Because…they’re demons and goblins!” said Carnage, still grinning despite enduring the same attack. “And they’re queen…makes it hurt so good!”
Carnage laughed sadistically as he broke through the webbing that Spider-Man had used on him before the attack. He’d been cornered, but now he and the rest of the Goblin Queen’s forces had the advantage.
Not far from where he stood, Illyana Rasputin had a similar change in fortune. Initially, she felt the same pain that had rendered Dr. Strange and Colossus in agony. As it persisted, though, her demonic side processed the feeling differently. While Colossus and Dr. Strange fell to the ground, she remained upright and clutching her sword.
“This…feels so very wrong,” said Magik in a conflicted state. “It hurts so much, and yet…”
“I know!” laughed Carnage. “Fun, isn’t it?”
“Not the word I would use,” she said, shaking her head in dismay.
“Call it whatever you want! Just remember what the Queen said. Attack anything that might inconvenience her. It may hurt…or it may get you off. Maybe both! Ha!”
Carnage’s sadistic laughter made Magik cringe, almost as much as the psychic attack. Gripping her sword, she looked towards her brother and Dr. Strange. They were defenseless. She was in a position to strike them down. That was what the Goblin Queen desired and her desires were still hopelessly tied to hers. She hated it to her core, but she could not fight it much longer.
Carnage didn’t even try to resist. He just licked his fang-like teeth with anticipation as he staggered towards Spider-Man and Kwannon. Before he reached them, he used his tendrils to bind them both so that they couldn’t escape. Even in their pained state, Carnage found a way to make it worse.
“I’m gonna enjoy this,” he seethed. “Even with a splitting headache…I’m gonna savor every last second of it!”
“Before you do…at least take a breath mint,” groaned Spider-Man.
“I agree,” said Kwannon. “I’d rather my head explode…before I gag to death.”
Carnage kept laughing. He continued stumbling about under the psychic onslaught, but the pain didn’t hinder him. It just heightened his perverse bloodlust.
Only he and Magik seemed to benefit from the attack. It showed no signs of letting up. The entire battle had been disrupted, leaving them all vulnerable. The Goblin Queen was sure to exploit that. Time hadn’t been on their side to begin with. Under this telepathic onslaught, no one was left to stop her.
Limbo – Temporal Pits
“There’s still time! I can still do this!” said a restless, disheveled Madelyne Pryor. “Maybe my purpose didn’t stop with giving birth. Maybe there was something else…one last task to fulfill my role.”
The Goblin Queen’s words and thoughts raced, even as her body reeled. She had just given birth without pain killers or anesthesia. Numerous parts ached or throbbed had lingering pain, the many strains of child rearing having a cumulative effect on her. In addition, a storm of hormones flooded her system, affecting her mind almost as much as her body.
Everything felt less coherent.
Nothing made as much sense as she’d hoped.
Her elaborate – and, at times, perverse – efforts to control her destiny still weren’t enough. This should’ve been the ultimate act of fulfillment, achieving her purpose and satisfying her greatest desire. She conceived and gave birth to the ultimate mutant, just as her creators had intended. Every fiber of her being had driven her to that goal since she awoke. To not achieve that feeling of finality wasn’t just disappointing. It was maddening.
In her tumultuous state, Madelyne scrambled to make sense of this feeling. She did so while cradling a crying newborn, which she had wrapped in the black cloth that had once been her cape.
“You are what I was meant to create,” the Goblin Queen said to the wailing mutant, “the child of Scott Summers and Jean Grey…your genes perfectly curated to maximize your mutant potential. I made sure of it! Every one of my creator’s tests confirm it!”
She kept looking back towards the monitor that stood next to the table where she’d given birth. It was linked to a genetic scanner that her creator, Nathanial Essex, had created from Celestial technology. It was capable of scanning and analyzing mutant DNA in an instant. The Goblin Queen used it several times to confirm the results. Each time they were the same.
This child was exactly what Nathanial Essex hoped to create, a mutant born of immense power and potential. Holding him in her arms, Madelyne sensed that. Essex once called such a child the cable between their present and their future. Even if that were true, it still left her unfulfilled.
“You…little Nathan,” she said, as she caressed the child’s head, “you have infinite possibilities within you. But me…I have none left. What am I now? A mere human husk around broken souls? A product of demons, desires, and agendas that were never my own?”
As the Goblin Queen asked those questions, the newborn in her arms stopped fussing. He finally settled, but his eyes remained open. It was hard to tell if he was looking at her or everything around her.
Then, in a brief hint of the vast mutant abilities within, she saw his left eye flash with yellowish energy. For a mutant, even one with such immense potential, it shouldn’t have been possible. Already, there was power within him. In seeing that power, Madelyne Pryor’s chaotic thoughts finally settled. In an instant, her tense demeanor changed.
“Yes! I understand now,” she said intently. “That’s what I must do. The power within you…the potential to shape and mold the future…I must guide it! But to guide it, I must control it. And to control it…”
As Madelyne made the connections, she rushed to the container that stood next to the mutant DNA scanner. That container had much of the equipment she required to give birth in the Temporal Pits of Limbo, but it also house another critical component to her purpose.
Reaching inside, the Goblin Queen retrieved a small cylindrical vial housed within a cooling mechanism. Inside was the silvery substance that housed the Legacy Virus, another one of her creator’s most ambitious creations. Nathanial Essex created the virus before he created her, knowing one was necessary for the other. Its usage and its purpose had been part of her plan, but now she had to adjust it.
“My darling creator,” Madelyne said as she held up the vial, “I know you had high hopes for me and your Legacy Virus. I was content to leave your precious virus unaltered, but things change…important things that you wouldn’t understand…things no one could understand.”
Her body was still reeling and her soul was still broken, but her mind was focused once more. Grinning intently, she clutched the container of the Legacy Virus and held baby Nathan a bit closer. He started fussing again, as if he sensed her manic thoughts. She attempted to sooth him as she opened a portal towards the other end of the room.
“Settle down, little one. Momma has it under control,” the Goblin Queen said as she made her way to the portal. “We just need a little more time. Dr. Warren will modify the virus. It’ll do for us more than anything its creator could possibly imagine. And when all is said and done, we’ll be something more…something beyond purpose, destiny, or desire!”
Sinister’s Lab – Psychic Defense Chamber
For much of her early life, Emma Frost had many things work against her. Her parents, her friends, and people who just didn’t trust young mutant women did all they could to crush her spirits. She didn’t let them. She endured and became stronger because of it.
Then, as an adult, Emma became her own worst enemy. When nobody else was left to undermine her, she turned on herself. Becoming the White Queen of the Hellfire Club meant attacking her weaknesses and abandoning restraints. She paid a high price for such ruthless effort. Now, it felt like that price had manifested in the Stepford Cuckoos, her five cloned daughters, who had just unleashed a telepathic attack unlike any other.
“It hurts!” said Mindee.
“So much!” said Phoebe.
“And yet!” said Sophie.
“We crave!” said Esme.
“More!” said Celeste.
Each of their voices echoed with conflict. They were in so much pain, but they desired to continue attacking. They were fully aware, but had no control over themselves or their bodies. That was a tell-tale sign of the Goblin Queen’s influence. Emma remembered that agony all too well.
“You poor…unwitting girls. My girls,” Emma mused, shielding her mind as best she could from the attack. “I know…this torment. I remember…how it felt. And I know…you want it…to end.”
The former White Queen steadily approached the bound girls, their conflicted cries getting louder by the second. Above them, the Celestial machinery hummed with activity. The systems that amplified their telepathic abilities had been purposefully overloaded. Some panels and components began billowing smoke as they overheated. The wires going into the five telepaths sparked erratically, their bodies and minds overwhelmed at every level.
Hearing pained cries was nothing new for any former member of the Hellfire Club, but hearing the cries of her own flesh and blood hit Emma Frost in an unexpected way. Had it been anyone or anything else, she would’ve gladly fought through it in order to get to the Goblin Queen. Once again, Madelyne Pryor had to make everything more agonizing.
‘Just when I thought that bitch couldn’t hurt me more, she finds a way. She definitely did this on purpose! She knows damn well that this is Hell for any telepath! Hitting them with this much energy…making them strain their minds beyond their limits…it’s torture that no one deserves! Especially not these girls…my girls.’
The former White Queen groaned with an angry determination. That one detail made fighting this onslaught much more personal. These girls were forged from her own flesh and blood. They weren’t perfect clones. Their minds and bodies were too distinct. When they called her their mother, it didn’t feel like a mind game.
On some level, they knew their connection to her. The Goblin Queen made sure they knew, as if to make them pay for Emma’s slight. She had escaped Madelyne’s clutches. As such, that treacherous bitch made sure Emma’s daughters paid the price. Even the Hellfire Club had never resorted to such twisted cruelty
“Damn you…Madelyne! Damn you…for putting me through this!” Emma cursed.
As she shielded her mind, Emma looked back briefly. Captain Marvel had already been rendered unconscious. She tried to fight it, but she’d been so close to the amplifiers when the attack began that she passed out. She might have been the lucky one. Emma saw to it that Carol’s unconscious state protected her from further damage, but that left her on her own.
Without Captain Marvel’s firepower, she couldn’t end the Stepford Cuckoos’ suffering quickly. She had to do it herself. She had to be the one who freed these girls from the Goblin Queen’s perverse torment. It was not a burden she cared to take on, but that was the price for being the White Queen.
“This won’t stop me,” Emma said strongly, as though the Goblin Queen were right in front of her. “You think I won’t damn my soul? More than I already have? Just to get back at you? Trust me! I can be that cold!”
Clenching her firsts and gritting her teeth, the former White Queen pushed her telepathy to the utmost. The initial attack might have caught her off-guard, but she’d since recovered and re-focused her mind.
After shrouding her mind with the telepathic equivalent of vibranium, Emma went on the offensive. She fought the psychic attacks meant to paralyze the minds and bodies of everyone in their path. Like fighting a raging river, she pushed through the never-ending wave. As she endured, she inched closer to the perverse array that had trapped the Stepford Cuckoos.
Along the way, more panels on the walls and from the components blew out. Smoke began filling the chamber. Some areas even caught fire. The large structure hanging above the Stepford Cuckoos flashed and sparked with energy. The system was well beyond its limits, but it kept going. Wave after wave of telepathic energy shot out in all directions, like an antenna being repeatedly hit by lightning. Everyone inside and outside the facility definitely felt it, giving Emma all the more reason to stop it.
By the time she reached the special gurneys that restrained the Stepford Cuckoos, Emma could see their eyes. Through the helmets, she saw the torment in each one of them. It was a sight she wished she’d avoided. It would’ve made what had to be done much less gut-wrenching.
“Mother,” they all said to her, blood now dripping from their ears and noses, “help us.”
“I’m here, girls. It’s almost over,” Emma told them in as motherly a tone she could offer.
Their pained expressions now etched in her memory, Emma turned her attention to the center of the complex array. All the wires from their bodies and helmets connected to a central node. She sensed it as the source of the energy going into them. Several panels had already blown off and sparks flew erratically. It was clearly overloaded on purpose. She couldn’t turn it off, but she could redirect it.
“You turned my fears and vulnerabilities against me, Pryor,” she said. “Now, I gladly return the favor!”
Closing her eyes, Emma reached into one of the blown-out panels and grabbed a cluster of glowing wires. With her gloved hands, she pulled firmly on the wires, ripping them out from the heart of the node. A bright flash erupted from inside, followed by a loud burst that filled the chamber. More panels on the structure hanging above blew out, the smoke and fire spreading faster.
However, the energy kept flowing. It just had nowhere to go with the wires ripped out. The sudden disruption triggered a powerful reaction within the Stepford Cuckoos. The wires on their helmets sparked and their bodies convulsed on the table. Together, they let out a shared cry of agony.
“Aaagghhhhhhhh!” the give girls exclaimed.
Their voices scarred Emma’s memory even more. She still persisted, remaining focused on the central node. Even as the psychic energy erratically flowed into the system, she used her telepathy to guide it. Now, instead of going into the Stepford Cuckoos, she guided it into her where her trained telepathic talents could do the rest.
Almost immediately, she felt the effects of the surge.
“Holy shit!” Emma exclaimed. “That’s…a lot of psychic energy. Even for five skilled minds…too intense to redirect. But I should be able to…”
The skilled telepath could hardly keep her thoughts straight. As she guided more energy towards her, the overloaded array began failing even fast. Emma could sense the strained circuits on the brink of failure. The generators were still going strong, an ominous sign that Storm and Wolverine had not yet turned off the power core. That might not be at this point.
The whole system was poised to fail completely. It would’ve likely taken the Stepford Sisters with it, which was likely the Goblin Queen’s plan. That way, she didn’t have to deal with any more blond telepaths. It left Emma even more motivated to use the remaining psychic energy wisely.
“Ungh!” she groaned. “First…need to stop the attack. Or at least…redirect it. If I can use it to find that goblin-loving bitch…then I can hit her! I’ll turn her brain…into a bloody mush!”
Ignoring more sparks and bursts, Emma reached into the central node again. She grabbed the two thickest conduits she could find, which helped direct even more psychic energy towards her. Strain and agony followed, but so too did a heightened ability. In that moment, the former White Queen was likely the most powerful psychic on the planet.
Even for a telepath of her caliber, it was like plugging a hair dryer into a nuclear bomb. It felt like her brain was trying to shoot out through her skull. She could already feel blood dripping down her nose. If she lost focus for a nanosecond, her mind would be fried beyond repair. Despite that risk, Emma endured.
‘My head…my mind…so much power, but so concentrated and unordered. If Madelyn thought I couldn’t control it, she’s dead wrong!’
Gritting her teeth and clutching the conduits harder, Emma redirected the psychic attack that had been going out in all directions. That was sure to bring welcome relief to everyone inside and outside the facility. It might have been too late to fully subdue the Goblin Queen’s forces, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was attacking the Goblin Queen directly.
‘There! Now, I have what’s left of this monstrosity’s power! My mind…this energy…it’s now mine to control!’
The strain and determination quickly morphed into empowerment and exhilaration. Despite the immense discomfort that came with it, Emma grinned eagerly. Her greatest strength just got many times stronger. No army of demons, goblins, ninjas, or aliens could protect the Goblin Queen anymore.
Armed with the most powerful mind in the world, she searched throughout the facility, easily penetrating any psychic defenses along the way. Even advanced Celestial technology could not stop her. In short order, she located what appeared to be Madelyne’s private chambers. There was already a large portal in the center of the room. It looked just like the one that Emma went through when the Goblin Queen took her to Limbo.
She focused in on that portal briefly, attempting to guide her mind through it. She ultimately didn’t have to. In what might have been her luckiest break in ages, the Goblin Queen emerged through the portal. She looked disheveled and restless, her body covered in a black cloak. She also had an infant in her arms, which appeared to be asleep.
The presence of an infant caught Emma by surprise, but it did not alter her intentions in the slightest. She surmised that child was hers. Given her demeanor, the Goblin Queen had just given birth. That worked towards her benefit even more. It meant she was vulnerable. It might have been the best possible chance to strike her.
“There you are, bitch!” Emma seethed. “After all the hurt you’ve caused me, I will finally…”
Suddenly, the former White Queen sensed something else in addition to the Goblin Queen’s presence. While much of her focus remained on the redheaded woman who broke her, breaking through so many psychic defenses exposed other parts of the facility. That included the parts that contained two familiar minds that Emma hadn’t forgotten.
It was Scott and Jean Grey-Summers. They were still alive. However, they were not in a pleasant state.
“My God,” Emma gasped. “Scott…Jean…what did she do to you?”
It was disgusting sight, one that played out like two separate movies unfolding on two smaller screens. These two people who’d helped her so much to get to this point had also suffered the Goblin Queen’s wrath.
Scott had clearly been ravaged mentally, physically, and sexually. He laid fully naked and half-conscious atop a bed. His limbs were bound, his body was covered in a mix of sweat and sexual fluids, and his mind barely registered. He’d definitely been drugged and manipulated, likely as a means of bending his desires to that of Madelyne Pryor’s. Emma knew that feeling well. She hadn’t forgotten how awful it felt, having no control over anything.
Jean had it even worse. She was in a darker, colder room in which her powers had been completely nullified. Like Scott, she was completely naked and completely dazed from the Goblin Queen’s machinations. In that state, she was being repeatedly and savagely gangbanged.
However, the creatures ravaging her were different than the ones Emma had faced. These monstrosities had Scott’s body and stature, but had a terrifying demonic complexion. Every time the creatures climaxed, whether it was on her face, in her vagina, or in her ass, they let out this terrifying screech while looking into her vacant eyes.
That was definitely Madelyne Pryor’s personal touch. It wasn’t enough to torment Jean the same way she’d tormented her first victim. She also had to use the body of the man she loved to do it. Emma thought she had a strong stomach, when it came to cruelty. This still sickened her.
‘Disgusting…reprehensible…perverse. All in the name of domination and control. I didn’t think I could be aghast by such things, but…’
The former White Queen tried to keep her focus on the Goblin Queen, but couldn’t ignore Scott and Jean’s declining state. She could sense Scott fighting to remain conscious, at least in part. The drugs in his system and the influence Madelyne inflicted left him so overwhelmed. He could not think, act, or control anything within him. If he fell unconscious, he would likely not wake up.
Jean was on the brink, too. Her expression was vacant, her eyes barely open as several monstrous creatures continued ravaging her. One was under her, pumping his cock up into her pussy. Another was behind her, thrusting his cock into her ass, his pelvis repeatedly smacking against her butt. Two more were in front of her, shoving their cocks into her mouth, which dripped with drool and jizz. Others loomed over her, groping her naked flesh and licking around her face, neck, and breasts.
They had been stripped and broken down, just as Emma had experienced during her encounter with the Goblin Queen. However, that monstrous woman’s goals had evolved. She wasn’t trying to control them. She seemed content to just leave them in a powerless, broken state until they expired from their ravaging.
‘I knew you were gleefully devoid of mercy, Madelyne. But this…you can’t have it any other way. What you can’t control, you must torment. And if the torment is lethal, then that’s just fine with you…so long as it satisfies your perverse desires!’
Emma’s hatred of that woman intensified to a new level. No one deserved such wrath, especially Scott and Jean Grey-Summers. She barely knew them, but she’s learned enough about the life, love, and perspective they shared. They even shared it with her, despite her history and hostility.
The former White Queen had even more reasons to attack the Goblin Queen with the influx of psychic energy she had gained. She still had that woman’s mind before her. She could melt her brain where she stood. It would’ve been so satisfying. I also would’ve ended this madness once and for all.
However, it would also mean she couldn’t save Scott and Jean. The psychic machinery around her was on the brink. She only had enough time for one act in this empowered state. Her unceasing hatred of Madelyne Pryor tempted her to direct it at her enemy. Other feelings, including some she did not expect to feel, soon complicated that choice.
‘I could save them. With a solid telepathic jolt, I could break her hold on them…block the effects of the drugs on their minds. They can take care of the rest. But the Goblin Queen…’
Emma had to stop her train of thought and not just because time was running out. Even as hatred fueled her determination, a fresh memory played out in her mind.
It was the memory of her and Scott having sex back at X-Corp. It played out in vivid detail, from the way they stripped out of their clothes together to that powerful moment when Scott brought her to orgasm. That feeling she experienced, lying naked in bed with him, satisfied in the afterglow of their act, evoked unexpected feelings.
‘Satisfied. He made me feel loved and satisfied.’
As a tear formed in her eye, a later memory of her talking to Jean, who was not the least bit put off by her sleeping with Scott, played out as well. Another feeling came over her, one born of a connection made with two people she didn’t intend to connect with. It unfolded with vivid detail, as if to directly counter the cold, ruthless persona of the White Queen that once ascended the ranks of the Hellfire Club.
That would’ve had no qualms about letting two people die to serve her interests. Even though Scott and Jean did everything to help her, and then some, her hardened soul would’ve shrugged it off. It would’ve been so much easier. It might have even served the greater good, ending the Goblin Queen where she stood. However, Emma could no longer see herself as that woman anymore.
‘I didn’t want to connect with you. But damn it! You just had to be so bloody compassionate.’
Suddenly, the choice before her became painfully clear. Closing her eyes and channeling her abilities, she set aside her hatred for the Goblin Queen and assisted the subdued couple.
‘Scott Summers…Jean Grey…we need you! I’m going to break the Goblin Queen’s control over you. Just know that freeing yourself comes at a price. I just hope you’re ready to pay it.’
Outside Sinister’s Lab
“Hey! My head’s not trying to explode anymore. That’s a good thing, right?” groaned a dazed, but re-energized Hawkeye.
“Let’s assume it is and push forward!” barked Captain America, already going on the offensive against a horde of goblins.
“Good! Because now I have a headache and I’m pissed off!” said Iceman as he passed over on an ice slide with Angel and Iron Man nearby.
“You and me both, kid,” said Iron Man.
The battle against the Goblin Queen and her monstrous forces had taken yet another turn. Moments ago, everyone had been in agony. An overwhelming psychic attack had paralyzed the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and a fleet of SHIELD’s most formidable forces. Even those with strong minds, indominable wills, and demigod status had been affected. The only ones who weren’t hindered were the Goblin Queen’s forces.
Then, as suddenly as it began, the overpowering assault on their collective minds ended. Plenty of pain and discomfort lingered, but it was bearable. It allowed Captain America to raise his shield, stare down a fresh save of enemy forces, and lead another charge. Others, despite the pounding headaches, charged with him. Dozens of goblins, demons, symbiotes, and Hand sentries fell.
“Back to clobberin’ monsters!” said Thing as he plowed ahead of Captain America. “Better than a handful of aspirin!”
“That’s debatable, Ben,” groaned Reed Richards, still rubbing his head.
“I’ve given birth. There’s little to debate,” Sue Richards pointed out as she put up fresh barriers.
“We’ll discuss that later, dear. While I’m relieved the psychic attack has stopped, I’m more concerned about the defenses. Our friends should’ve shut them down, by now. Did something happen?”
“Assume it did, Dr. Richards,” Beast pointed out as he flew by on Iceman’s ice slide. “Also assume our friends are working through it.”
It seemed like a safe assumption. If the telepathic attack had stopped, then the rest of the facility’s defenses might follow soon after. They were still going strong. Energy barriers and turrets bearing Celestial technology remained active, shooting at incoming aircraft and supplementing the attacks of more creatures, who kept descending through open portals.
Without the onslaught on his mind, Dr. Strange turned his attention towards some of those portals. He had to start closing them if they were to end this battle sooner. However, his attention remained divided between aiding Colossus’ fight against Magik and keeping the barrier up that protected them from getting swarmed.
“Colossus! More portals are opening as we speak!” Dr. Strange called out. “I must close them to shift the fates in our favor!”
Colossus clearly heard his message, but the powerful Russian remained distracted when Magik hit him with a mystical blast from her Soul Sword. It hit him hard, knocking him back a few feet, but he pushed through it.
“Errr! First…we must…help my…sister!” said Colossus, using his arms to deflect the blast.
“I’m sorry, Big Brother,” Magik cried. “I cannot be helped.”
“I refuse to believe that!” he shot back.
“Then, find an alternative, my friend,” said Dr. Strange as he shot a flying demon out of the sky. “With each second that passes, the fates turn against us.”
“Oohhh it’s gonna turn faster than that!” seethed Carnage, who was still nearby.
The crazed figure had not let up, even after the attack stopped. He had Spider-Man and Kwannon in his tendrils. He was ready to end them with torment that would’ve made the Goblin Queen horny. Then, as soon as they got their strength back, Spider-Man broke out while Kwannon sliced through his tendrils with her psionic blade. It was frustrating, but Carnage wasn’t the least bit dissuaded.
“You guys are just making this harder than my dick at a blood bath!” he said as Spider-Man and Kwannon evaded another attack. “Haven’t you figured it out, already?”
“What? That your voice sounds like two cats puking through a megaphone?” quipped Spider-Man.
“I’ve battled lost souls from Hell. They’re far more pleasant,” said Kwannon as she cut through Carnage’s attacking tendrils.
“Ha! You two are dumber than my old shop teacher. And he let me work with power tools before I killed him!” Carnage laughed. “You think that nasty mind-fuck was the worst of it. Trust me! The Goblin Queen has plenty more coming!”
“We’ll face it. We’ll defeat it. And ultimately, she will fall!” Kwannon said strongly.
“Famous last words, babe! Just you wait! She’s still in control. This battle…this is just the tip. Your asses aren’t ready for what comes next!”
They were ominous words from a raging psychopath. He clearly knew something they didn’t and that was a distressing thought. They could still only focus on the battle before them.
Carnage kept laughing as he shot out a barrage of spiked shards from his body, forcing Kwannon and Spider-Man to fall back and evade. It was frustrating, especially with pounding headaches. They still prepared for another attack.
Then, a series of deafening sonic booms echoed from the sky above.
“They’re late, but their timing is perfect!” laughed Carnage.
“Oh boy,” groaned Spider-Man. “Please tell me that’s just SHIELD’s super-secret, super-powerful reinforcements.”
“No. It is not,” Colossus, who recognized that noise all too well.
More sonic booms followed. The thick clouds that hovered over Stonehenge and Wiltshire gave way. Something was approaching.
Winged demons flying through the air took notice. Some even tumbled out of the sky. The dozens of SHIELD transport ships experienced turbulence. Those who had been launching attacks from the air, including Thor, Iron Man, Angel, and Iceman, noticed as well.
“More legions of monstrosities approach? Fine! Thor is ready!” said the Thunder God proudly.
“Whoa there, blondie! Keep the hammer in your holster. This might not be what you think,” said Iron Man, who was already getting information from his suit.
“It isn’t. Not this time,” said Angel with a half-grin.
Others throughout the area also took notice. While the forces on the ground kept attacking, led by Captain America and the Fantastic Four, most looked up and braced for what approached. Given how rapidly the clouds parted, it must have been big.
From the bridge of the SHIELD’s lead Helicarrier, Nick Fury and Maria Hill had just recently gotten everyone back on track. They all still had pounding headaches, but they pushed through it, as any trained agent would. They also tracked the incoming presence.
“General Fury, sir!” said one of the female analysts. “Radar is picking up a whole fleet of bogies.”
“Are they demons? Goblins? Flying monkeys with swords?” General Fury asked.
“No, sir. According to their signature, they appear to be Sentinels .”
That was usually cause for great concern. Sentinels had historically been the blunt instruments that certain people with agendas used to attack mutants. They often brought more chaos and destruction to a battle.
This time, however, General Nick Fury cracked the slightest of grins. That was exceedingly rare for him, especially in the heat of battle. It told everyone that the situation was not as it seemed.
“Never thought these things would be a sight for sore eyes,” he said, still grinning. “Hill, open up a com link to everyone in the field. They’re gonna want to hear this. They’re gonna want the Goblin Queen to hear it too.”
“Already done, sir,” said Maria Hill, shoving the analyst aside to carry out the command.
A strange calm came over General Fury and the Hellicarrier as hundreds of Sentinels descended from the sky. They flew by the Hellicarrier and the SHIELD transports at high speeds, quickly surrounding the entire area around the pyramid-shaped facility just outside of Stonehenge.
From afar, they looked menacing. They could’ve easily overwhelmed every last one of their forces, ensuring no one else got to the Goblin Queen.
“Hahaha! You all are so fucked now!” Carnage laughed as he watched the Sentinels fill the sky.
Then, as numerous Sentinels settled into a steady hover, a communications link to everyone on the field opened up. In addition, the loudspeakers built into the head of every Sentinel came online and a familiar voice came out.
“Attention! This is Charles Xavier. By order of Senator Robert Kelly, Project Wideawake has been restructured. These Sentinels will henceforth operate under new protocols. To all those fighting against the forces of the Goblin Queen, help has arrived!”
It was strange, hearing that message from a Sentinel. Everyone, especially the original X-Men, knew them only as the giant robots tasked with hunting and killing mutants. For once, they were on their side.
After Xavier’s message went out, the vast legions of Sentinels flew in, passing by SHIELD transports and the Hellicarrier in the process. Together, through perfectly coordinated maneuvers, they attacked the Goblin Queen’s forces.
“Protect! Protect! Protect!” they robot humanoids proclaimed in unison.
“Wow! That just sounds so weird,” commented Iceman as a Sentinel flew by him.
“I concur. I’m not used to Sentinels shooting at someone other than us,” said Beast.
“I don’t mind!” said Angel as he flew by. “I welcome this change.”
“And I suspect it’s the first of many, my friend,” added Beast.
It was a jarring, but satisfying sight, watching the Sentinels overwhelm the seemingly endless hordes of monsters below. Using their hand-mounted blasters, dozens of Sentinels took aim at the many goblins, demons, Hand ninjas, and symbiotes that surrounded the facility.
Most of the Sentinels focused their efforts on the portals, finally stemming the tide of creatures pouring in from Limbo. A select few landed on the ground where they provided support for the Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and SHIELD. From that position, they made use of the powerful canons in their chest, targeting the Celestial defenses and blowing through defense barriers. For the first time in the entire battle, the Goblin Queen’s armies were vulnerable.
“Hey! Professor X!” Thing shouted out while punching through some symbiotes. “Tell those things to leave some for the rest of us! I ain’t done clobbering!”
“Grimm, I’m starting to think you have a problem,” said Hawkeye as he and Black Widow took out several winged demons.
“Don’t bother with an intervention. He’ll just wanna clobber even more!” said the Human Torch as he flew over.
With the Sentinels providing support, Thing charged through three dozen angry symbiote creatures that tried to pin him down. He clobbered through them with ease while Captain America took care of the goblins and Hand Ninjas. The Human Torch, Thor, Iron Man, and Iceman took care of any that managed to escape.
More defenses fell.
The Goblin Queen’s forces were decimated faster than they could be replenished.
This was not how it was supposed to play out. Even Carnage and Magik couldn’t hide their shock. This was the first time their queen’s control on the situation had faltered.
“That…is not fucking fair!” Carnage shouted.
“I agree. And I’m…relieved,” said Magik, having to divert her attacks to several incoming Sentinels.
“Aw, what’s the matter, Carnage?” taunted Spider-Man. “Do things have to go your way to be a competent psychopath?”
The wall-crawler coordinated with Kwannon to get in closer. Carnage couldn’t go on the offensive anymore. Three large Sentinels flew by and fired with a barrage of energy blasts, forcing him on the defensive. He fell back, leaving him vulnerable to a series of slashes from Kwannon. Spider-Man finished it off with a web blast that pinned him up against a nearby wall.
“Errrr! This is bullshit!” Carnage roared out. “This was our endgame! Those things are supposed to be shooting at you! And while you ran and cried like babies, I was gonna-AHHHHH!”
At that moment, the psychotic creature was silenced. Two Sentinels hit him with concentrated blasts before he could free himself from Spider-Man’s webs. The blasts were so intense that it caused parts of his alien flesh to burn, leaving over half his body charred. It even exposed parts of Cletus Cassady’s face, which also appeared bruised and wounded. He was still breathing, but very wounded and in no position to fight anymore.
“Not gonna lie. That was very satisfying,” Spider-Man commented.
“I agree,” said Kwannon.
“I also know it’s in poor taste to take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.”
“Make an exception,” she told him.
“I just did.”
Spider-Man completely encased the barely conscious Carnage in webs for good measure. With him now out of the battle, more Sentinels came in and turned their attention to Magik.
They started with a barrage of energy blasts, which the young Russian deflected with her Soul Sword. She attempted to evade them, shooting mystic bolts at any that got too close. She managed to hit a few, but more arrived and cornered her. She eventually fell back towards Colossus, who refused to attack.
“Please, big brother!” Magik told him while deflecting more blasts. “Now is your chance! Take me out! End this!”
“Nyet, Snowflake. I will do no such thing,” Colossus replied.
“You must! This is the only way…to end this. And I want it to end…so badly.”
“I know you do, Illyana. And in another time…a much darker time…it did end here. But this is different. Today, we change how this ends.”
Magik cast her brother a look of confusion and dismay. He offered only a nod and a confident smile. In her state, still under the control of the Goblin Queen, she couldn’t understand. She didn’t have to.
Colossus turned towards Dr. Strange, who nodded as well. Thanks to the Sentinels, he did not have to maintain the barriers surrounding the entrance to the facility. Still hovering in mid-air, his body surrounded by mystical auras, he waved his hands in preparation for a new spell. As he made his preparations, the Russian mutant ran out ahead of his sister and deflected the last few round of Sentinel attacks.
“Do it now, Doctor!” Colossus called out.
“With the Chains of Krakkan…by the Light of Agamotto,” the Sorcerer Supreme chanted, “I purge thee Darkchyle of thine perverse influence!”
The spell was cast. Its effects took hold quickly. A series of glowing chains, conjured by magic, formed around Dr. Strange and shot out towards her. Magik, still stuck fighting the Goblin Queen’s battles, gripped the Soul Sword in anticipation. She tried to swat them away, but they surrounded her too quickly. Guided by the Sorcerer Supreme’s hands, they wrapped around her body and bound her completely.
She fell to the ground, dropping the Soul Sword in the process. Magik still struggled, but that didn’t stop her from looking up towards her brother and Dr. Strange with a mix of desperation and anguish. Then, as the glowing Eye of Agamotto narrowed its gaze on her, a hot burning sensation consumed her from her skin to her tainted soul.
“Aggghhhhhhhh!” Magik cried out.
It started off as pain, like being burned alive. It quickly morphed into something else. The young woman felt it as those dark desires that Madelyne Pryor had instilled in her – desires that years in Limbo had only made worse – burned away like cinder. It still hurt, but it was incredibly relieving. It was like a burden had been removed. She still had the markings of the Darkchylde, but her desires were finally her own.
“I feel it again. What I never thought I could feel anymore…it’s back,” Magik said weakly. “My soul…what’s left of it…is mine again.”
Tears formed in her eyes. She even smiled for the first time in years. That smile grew even wider when Colossus knelt down and picked her up in his arms.
“Shh. Rest, Illyana,” he said to her. “You are safe now.”
“Relatively speaking,” Dr. Strange pointed out. “It is still not over.”
“Da,” Colossus said in agreement, “but we are close. There is but one more fate we must change.”
Dr. Strange nodded in affirmation. It didn’t take the Eye of Agamotto to see how much had changed already. An army of Sentinels was fighting alongside the X-Men and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The armies of goblins, demons, symbiotes, and undead ninjas that had overwhelmed them moments ago were faltering on every front. The tide of the battle had turned definitively in their favor.
However, that didn’t mean the day was won. To fully defeating the Goblin Queen required more than brute force. Moments after Magik fell unconscious in her brother’s arms, the final key to that feat arrived.
“Make way! Protect! Secure!” said one distinct Sentinel that flew in behind a squad of SHIELD transports.
“That’s them,” Colossus pointed out.
“Them who?” asked Spider-Man.
“The ones who will help us end this,” he answered.
That single Sentinel descended through the chaos, avoiding the facility’s defenses and attacks by flying demons. Angel and Iceman flew by to add additional protection. Thor and Iron Man offered it too, ensuring the Sentinel made it to the front entrance without a scratch.
That was critical because this Sentinel contained passengers. Secure within the chest compartment, Nightcrawler and Kitty “Kate” Pryde sat with anxious anticipation. Kate, still in the body of her teenage self, hovered close to her blue-skinned friend as he held a metal container. She kept glancing at her watch and out over the battle unfolding below. As it played out with the Sentinels supporting her friends, she felt her future memories clashing with the past.
‘It’s strange. I used to have nightmares about this day…this one moment in time. This was where it all went horribly wrong. The Sentinels arrived. The X-Men fought back. Their new allies fought with them. But that only sealed their fate…convincing the Sentinels that they were a threat too.’
Kate looked on in awe as several Sentinels flew alongside Iron Man, effectively taking out a large portal that had been spewing winged demons. Several more supported Captain America and the Fantastic Four as they took out the facility’s remaining defenses. If it weren’t so chaotic, it would’ve been beautiful.
‘This is the part where Iron Man fell. That’s where Ben Grimm fell moments later, followed by Spider-Man and Kwannon. Half the X-Men died on this day too. Bobby, Angel, and Colossus…they were just the first of many. Their deaths, combined with the murder of Senator Kelly, turned the entire world against us. Mutants, Avengers, superheroes, anyone with powers…all potential threats that had to be neutralized. Then, when the Goblin Queen entered the picture…’
Kate shook her head, avoiding those dark memories that continued to linger. So much had already changed. So much more was set to change, but it still wasn’t enough. To fix what the Goblin Queen broke, a much bolder act was necessary.
The second the Sentinel landed, Kate and Nightcrawler stepped out into the scene to greet Colossus. He, along with Spider-Man, Kwannon, and Dr. Strange, were all alive and well. Just seeing them alive evoked some unexpected feelings in her. She had to keep her emotions in check as they met up with them.
“Whoa! Uh…when you said they’d help us end this, were you referring to a Junior High School dance?” Spider-Man said upon seeing Kate in her teenage form. “Because I think there’s been a scheduling conflict.”
“Funny,” Kate said with a half-grin. “I almost forgot about your wry sense of humor…Parker.”
“Wait, what?!” Spider-Man gasped upon hearing that name.
“Take it easy. I won’t repeat it,” Kate said, putting her hand up to silence the wall-crawler. “Just trust that I know more than my puberty-induced acne would imply. And thanks to Nightcrawler, we have the last piece of the puzzle.”
“Indeed, Frauline,” said Nightcrawler, still clinging to the container, “although, I am not yet sure what I am holding.”
As he held it up, the small container shook briefly. Around the top, traces of fiery light peaked through, hinting at a vast power within. It raised some concerns with Spider-Man, Kwannon, and Colossus. Only Dr. Strange and Kate seemed unsurprised.
“The energy within…is that what I think it is?” Dr. Strange asked.
“That and slightly more,” said Kate as she took the container from Nightcrawler. “You don’t need to know the specifics of the M’Krann Shard. You just need to know that we were too late when we found it in my time.”
“Your time?” questioned Kwannon.
“Please tell me you’re referring to grade school,” said Spider-Man.
The container shook again, this time more violently. Kate and Nightcrawler both held onto it while Dr. Strange cast a spell to quell it. He appeared convinced of its importance. Its growing instability indicated that time was running out.
“We need to get to Scott and Jean now!” she said with poise beyond her youthful appearance. “Colossus, stay out here with Kwannon. Guard Carnage and Magik. We can’t have them coming after us.”
“Do not worry. We will keep an eye on them,” said Kwannon, pointing her sword at the unconscious Carnage.
“And I will not leave my sister’s side,” said Colossus, still holding her unconscious form protectively.
“For the rest of you,” Kate continued, “follow me! If memory serves me right, the Goblin Queen just got back from Limbo. And she’s about to make a choice that will doom us all!”
Sinister’s Lab – The Goblin Queen’s Private Quarters
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. So many things had gone horribly wrong. The Goblin Queen had worked for so long, securing and controlling every aspect of this moment. For it to falter like this wasn’t just infuriating. It was maddening.
“This is impossible!” Madelyne kept yelling as she stammered around her private quarters. “It’s like up is down…left is right…gold is shit. My control was absolute! How could it fail?”
The Goblin Queen’s outrage closely mirrored her impatience. Her mind and body were still vulnerable. She still felt the effects from having just given birth, her legs weak while hormones flooded her body. She’d returned from Limbo, her child in hand, hoping to see that her many machinations had failed her.
Madelyne expected the allies of Scott and Jean Grey-Summers to arrive. She even expected the collective might of the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and SHIELD to fight hard to save their friends. That was why she prepared numerous safeguards, from the attacks by the Stepford Cuckoos to hijacking Project Wideawake from Bolivar Trask. At least one of those provisions should’ve thwarted or hindered their advance.
Then, she found out the Stepford Cuckoos had been neutralized.
Then, she found out that Mystique had failed.
Then, she found out the Sentinels arrived, but were actively aiding her enemies.
That shouldn’t have been possible. She refused to believe it, at first. Then, she saw it on the monitors she had set up in her private quarters. The tide had turned. The Sentinels that were supposed to deliver a death blow to mutants were helping the X-Men and their allies. Even Limbo didn’t have enough demons and goblins to keep attacking.
Time was no longer on her side. It wouldn’t be long before they got to her. In her current state, she had no hope of fighting them off. Her only chance now resided in the child she’d just birth.
“How much longer, Dr. Warren?” the Goblin Queen asked anxiously.
“I’m working as fast as I can, my queen,” said the anxious, disfigured man. “What you’re asking me to do to this virus, it’s…I’ve neither the words nor expertise to describe it.”
“You don’t need to write me an essay! Just finish reprogramming the Legacy Virus like I asked! I need it in overdrive to finish what I must.”
Dr. Miles Warren’s nervousness showed. Even in his tattered lab coat, he worked feverishly with the equipment the Goblin Queen had set up in her quarters. Much of it consisted of a genetic recombinator, not unlike the ones he used for his cloning experiments. He’d used it before when he initially programmed the Legacy Virus to his queen’s specifications. The updates she requested proved far more challenging.
She’d asked him to do the biological equivalent of turning a steam engine into a rocket. It was no longer enough for the Legacy Virus to unlock her child’s potential gradually. It had to accelerate it in ways no mutant or human had ever experienced.
Even for someone who’d engaged in less-than-ethical cloning experiments, it an egregious act. However, the Goblin Queen remained determined. She just kept pacing about, holding her newborn child in her arms while maddened frustration consumed her.
“Just a little bit longer,” the Goblin Queen told the child. “All this chaos…all these choices I’ve made…even the perverse ones…they’re about to pay off.”
The infant in her arms became restless as well. Her child, baby Nathan, began to fuss and writhe in her grasp. It was as if he could also sense the chaos, another indication that his mutant abilities were already manifesting. That was promising, but not nearly enough to complete her purpose.
That desire still fueled her, the unescapable drive to fulfill the task she’d been created to fill. The prospect of failing was unthinkable to her. To have no purpose was tolerable. To have a purpose and fail was not. She had to finish what her creator started.
“Don’t worry, Nathan,” Madelyne told the fussy infant. “No matter how many things go wrong…no matter who comes after me…they won’t stop me! I won’t let them!”
Nathan cried harder while Dr. Warren worked faster. The small glass test tube containing the legacy virus was already glowing. Within the special dome-shaped synthesizer, it shook with increasing instability. The silverish fluid sparked and shuddered, like a restless creature being poked repeatedly from every angle. The entire machine began blaring with errors and alarms, but it remained intact. It just needed to stay that way a little bit longer.
Then, as the reprogramming of the Legacy Virus entered the final phase, a sharp tremor rocked the whole facility. The lights illuminating the Goblin Queen’s quarter flickered erratically. The multiple monitors on the wall that allowed her to observe the chaos outside turned to static. The last ones to go out were the ones that had been observing Scott and Jean Grey-Summers. As soon as that occurred, the Goblin Queen got a sinking feeling that shook her to her broken soul.
“No! Oh no-no-no-noooo!” she exclaimed.
Moments later, the whole room went dark for a brief moment. Dr. Warren finally stopped working, his obedience to the Goblin Queen having finally reached its limit. As he struggled to make sense of what was happening, the lights and viewing monitors turned back on.
However, the facility kept shaking. It shook more violently. It also got considerably hotter, as though a fire had broken out between the walls. As the ominous feeling intensified, two booming voices echoed in the distance. The sound of those voices could be heard outside of the facility and beyond, revealing to the world the full scope of the chaos that had arisen.
“X-Men…Avengers…friends and adversaries, alike! Hear us! Scott and Jean Grey-Summers have fallen. From their place, we have risen! Together, we are fire and ash! Together, we are life and death incarnate! We are no longer just Phoenix! We are DARK PHOENIX!”
Up next: Ashes of Fate
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