WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK
Cannonball stood frozen. His mouth ajar as the body of Sophia Frost was thrown from the balcony, dispersing into a cloud of dust that washed over several students upon impact with the tiled floor of the foyer. Even worse, and more incomprehensible to his mind, was the brazen way in which Kevin began to descend the staircase as screaming students rushed from his reach. However, even at a distance, the light of the foyer caught the gleaming streams of tears that ran across his flushed cheeks. There was something unwilling about his walk, the vacancy in his eyes almost hypnotic, but Cannonball knew he had to act. He’d taken a step when the sweeping, gravelly fists of Rockslide pummelled into his chest and sent him skidding into the common room. He crashed through the sofa and collided with the television which fell atop of him and smashed.
In the distance, Cannonball watched as his sister, Husk, weaved beneath the fists of the walking mountain and rushed towards Kevin. She tore her skin as she ran, shimmering into a metallic form, but as she neared the murderous youth, Rockslide caught a hold of her and slammed into the ground, tiles shattering beneath her durable but not impervious form. Standing, Cannonball was forced to ignore her groans as he allowed his lower body to explode with thermochemical energy that propelled him into Rockslide’s chest and sent them both across the foyer and through another wall. The blond Kentuckian roused himself as Rockslide grumbled, regaining consciousness after a momentary lapse.
As he turned, Cannonball watched Husk approaching Kevin with a tenderness he hadn’t witnessed in her since the disappearance of their brother.
“Hey,” she said softly but clearly. Her eyes trying to offer comfort to the rotund student who was cowering, frozen in his fear, at the foot of the stairs, he’d fallen and Kevin now stood above him menacingly. “It’s Kevin, right?” She took another step forward, slowly. She couldn’t help but think she’d never received enough training to be a hostage negotiator. “I’m Paige. I don’t know what’s happening here, or what started all of this, but I promise you, Kevin, I’m here to help.” She exaggerated the last word, hoping it would resonate with him.
“Kevin,” said Cannonball authoritatively as he walked across the foyer. “Buddy, step away from the kid. We can fix this. We’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Kevin took a step backward, fighting against the possession in his mind, but Garrison remained too strong, and in control. A faint golden glow echoed in his eyes. His momentary retreat was met with a jolting movement as his hand caught the cowering Jeffrey Garrett. It was instantaneous. The moment contact was made, Jeffrey activated his own mutant ability to teleport and the two students disappeared before their eyes. Cannonball yelled out but they were gone.
“We have to find him?” said Paige as she looked across the hallway. “And we need to get the students out of . . . Look out!”
Her warning came too late as Cannonball once again found himself skidding across the foyer. He recollected himself quicker this time. His body was becoming accustomed to the low-rank wrestling style of Rockslide. It hadn’t been several hours ago that he’d watched the rocky student display them all in his first training simulation. It was clear that there was something happening here, something dire, that was transforming the students into weapons. One, possibly two, students were already dead and Cannonball was responsible for them. As he readied to propel himself into Rockslide, the student caught a hold of him and flipped him backwards through the window and across the lawn.
Husk was about to react when she suddenly found herself distracted.
“Megan?” queried Victor, the reptilian mutant reaching out for his fairy-winged friend but she shrugged him off and moved forward until she stood directly in front of Husk.
Pixie rubbed her hands together as a fine dust formed between them and Husk stepped back, staring at her curiously, until she noticed the same vacant expression in her eyes. She reacted too slowly as Pixie leaned forward and blew the dust from her hands into the X-Man’s face. Pink glitter formed in Husk’s eyes as she stumbled backwards, her mind was becoming incoherent and chaotic as she looked around the room and every stood seemed to blink in and out of her reality, taking the form of an over-exaggerated anime character. Pixie tilted her head as Husk fell to her knees.
“But I don’t wanna ride the unicorn,” mumbled the X-Man in the seconds before Pixie lifted her foot and drove it into Husk’s metallic face. Her head snapped backward as she crashed onto the tiles and lay unconscious.
“Megan, what the hell? She was protecting us!” Anole stepped forward but noticed Pixie was rubbing her hands together one again. He slid backwards. “Sorry, Meg.” His prehensile tongue shot forward, wrapping around her ankles and flipping her into the air. He’d expected a crash but she’d recovered with ease, the gentle flapping of her wings sending a wash of air over him, removing what was left of Sophia Frost.
Anole dove from the path of her hallucinogenic pixie dust as Cannonball stormed back into the room, his body colliding with Rockslide as the two of them crashed into the stairwell. Rockslide was finally knocked out. The grimace of Cannonball’s face left his inner turmoil easy to see as he now saw Pixie had joined the ranks of the possessed. Husk was slumped, writhing against the stairs and mumbling about unicorns. He grabbed her by the shoulders, attempting to rouse her but she was gone to the world. He looked skyward sternly.
“Pixie,” he called. “I know this isn’t you. Get down, or I’m going to have to put you down.”
Anole pushed Cannonball, the Kentuckian fell and landed on the stairwell as an icy blast shot forth and threw the reptilian student through the air. He landed with a crash and groaned. Cannonball looked to his left and saw her. Idie Okonkwo, Oya. Her afro bobbed as she stepped forward, lifting her other hand as embers burst to life like flint on a campfire. He prepared to move but was shocked to witness a swirling energy force open between them. Cannonball looked above him and found the darkforce energy manipulator, Specter, standing with his arms outstretched and his eyes focused. He dodged the stream of flame that travelled through the portal. As the smoke cleared, Aero flew into it and reappeared in front of Oya. Landing and delivering a right hook, the Nigerian stumbled backwards as Aero flew upwards and smiled, the portal closing beneath her.
“That felt good,” she laughed.
Specter descended the stairwell and helped Cannonball to his feet. “Focus, Mellie.”
“Sure thing,” she nodded as she made a collision course towards the hovering Pixie.
THRALLS OF THE TYRANT
By Gavin McMahon
Laurie’s gaze turned towards the mansion as she watched her supervisor burst through the window. Stepping away from the lake, she moved towards the commotion. Out of the corner of her eyes, she caught Sean Garrison, the psychiatrist, casually walking towards her. He had a broad smile on his face that puzzled her. How could he be so happy when it sounded like World War III was erupting less than one hundred feet from where they stood? The wind caught hold of her hair, blowing it over her face as he reached her. She shot a final glance towards the school as Cannonball released his thermochemical discharge and slammed through the doorway.
“Laurie, I’m glad I found you.”
She replied. “I’d best be going. They might need the help.”
“Don’t worry about them, my sweet.”
“My sweet?” she furrowed her brow, even more perplexed than when she’d started. “Look, another time, there’s clearly something going on over there.”
He grabbed her shoulder as she made to move. She shrugged him off. His creepiness factor was off the charts.
“What are you doing, Mister Garrison?”
“You’ve grown so much. Your mother should never have kept you from me,” his tone shifted, becoming almost sinister. “Seventeen years without even knowing you existed but I’ve found you now.”
Laurie blinked, confused at what he was saying. She’d been raised singlehandedly by her mother in Connecticut. In many ways, she’d be spoiled. Her mother, Gail, had provided everything she’d ever needed, working tirelessly at her accountancy job in the city so that she could provide them with a nice house in a brilliant school district. Even when Laurie had been at her most insecure and fragile, Gail had been there to pick her up and put the pieces back together. Even with all of that, Laurie hadn’t spent hours wondering who her father may have been. Yet, there was nothing cathartic about this moment. As so many things did, it failed to meet her expectations.
She was incredulous. “I don’t understand.”
There was another explosion but Laurie found herself less willing to run to the battle.
“What are you saying?”
“You’re a smart girl, Laurie. I’m your father.”
“Gail is a lying whore,” he snapped venomously. He was so intense that she felt frightened. His hands reached out and clamped her wrists tightly. “I have had seventeen years stolen from me and I intend to make that right. To be a father. This is all for you, Laurie.”
Laurie pulled her wrists free. “What do you mean? What’s all for me?”
Sean gestured towards the chaos. “This. We can go now and nothing needs to happen. This can all stop. You just have to come with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” she replied defiantly. Laurie gestured towards the Institute. “Stop this bullshit.”
“I see,” he sighed. “You feel better than me. You can stand on the moral high ground.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and shoved her to knees as his eyes began to shine. “Let’s see how you feel about things when your complicit.”
Before she could reply, Garrison used his powers and activated her own. A pheromone wave burst over the landscape.
“Throw the technopath in that cell.”
Arclight was unimpressed with the mass of unconscious yellow flesh that was carried toward her. Her short purple bob bounced around masculine, ballooned features as she observed the other captives. Jay was leaning back against the wall as she passed him with an imperious smirk. As she disappeared into the darkness, Jay moved closer to the bars and saw the incredibly mutated youth being laid down on the dirt in his cell. A guardsman delivered a kick to his chest as the startled youth bounced into a corner. Nigel was yelling expletives, as he was prone to, despite having frequently been visited by Vertigo for a fourth time in the two days since he’d arrived. The redhaired angel was less interested in the antics of Nigel but rather what Arclight had said. Technopath. Could the new kid communicate with machinery?
herever they were, it was a lab. There were plenty of machines. If he could compose himself for long enough they might have use for him to send a message. Surely, Sam or Paige would respond if he could reach out to them. Yeah, they’d fought over menial things as siblings do but he had faith that they were still searching for him. Beyond brotherly love, Sam’s responsibility was to make sure that all the students were safe. Jay was a student and he was far from safe.
“Don’t worry,” said Verity from the cell next to his. Her voice was soft and soothing and he quickly realised she was talking to the newest arrival.
Three mutants in two days. Verity. Nigel. And now this one. Sinister and the Marauders were becoming more aggressive in their recruitment for the project.
She continued. “You just need to take a minute, let it sink in, and then it’ll be easier to think. Just focus your breathing for now. That helped me at the start.”
He breathed heavily.
Jay wrapped his fingers around the bars. “Hey,” he called. “You’re a technopath, right? That mean you can talk to machines? There’s a shit tonne of them in this base. If you can get a message out then maybe we can get some help. A rescue party or something.”
He looked at Jay, blinking rapidly. “What? Why do you think I’m a technopath?” His words were accented. Unlike the other three remaining inmates, this boy wasn’t American. It sounded faintly Asian but he couldn’t differentiate it between Japan or China.
“Arclight said you were.”
He shrugged, leaning against the wall. “I don’t know who that is but their wrong. I’m not a technopath.” An idea seemed to spark in his mind. “It’s good they think I am though. It means they aren’t prepared for what I can actually do.”
He placed what Jay presumed used to be his hands on the ground. They looked more like a series of tendrils attached to a misshapen stump. Three fleshy globules tore from his skin and moved into the opening. One scurried to the left and the other two to the right. He remained quiet but Jay could hear Verity’s squeamishness through the silence. Jay was more curious than disturbed. The boy’s eyes shone.
“What’re you doing?”
He looked up. “The drones are a part of me. They’re simultaneously feeding information back to me in real time.” He paused. “There are guards to our left. A door. It’s likely the exit.” He shifted his head. “There’s . . . Wait, that’s just a wall. There’s a dead end to the right. There’s also a lab filled with scientists. Five people that look threatening.”
“Can you describe them?” asked Jay.
The boy obliged. “Two women and three men. One woman has purple hair, the other white. One of the men looks like he’s of Asian descent. The others have long hair, black and then white.”
“At least the Harpoon guy’s gone,” muttered Nigel. “He’s a bastard.”
“That means there’s only Scalphunter, Scrambler, Arclight, Riptide and Vertigo on the base though,” said Jay enthusiastically. “That’s not bad odds. Four versus five.”
“You seem to be forgetting that we can’t get out of these cells, Jay,” said Verity. “Even with my strength. They’ve lined the walls with the same materials as the bars.” She looked towards the new boy. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”
He nodded. “I can see your handiwork on the walls.”
“At least someone can see,” grumbled Nigel.
“Besides, you only need brute force if you don’t have a key,” said the new boy as he moved to his feet and pressed his hands against the lock. They slithered and reshaped.
Verity words went unnoticed as the alarms of the facility blurred. However, more surprising, his cell swung open. He moved quickly. In sequence, he released Nigel, Verity and then Jay as they stepped out of their cells. He looked to his right, eyes focused and narrowed.
He said. “I doubt I need to say that they’re coming.”
“Yo, magic man, you got anything for this,” Nigel pointed to the metallic eyepiece.
Verity breezed forward. “Allow me.” She caught the eyepiece in her hands and pulled back, snapping it as it rattled to the ground. “Looks like we’re fighting our way out, gentlemen.”
“We go down with a fight at least,” said Nigel, almost ecstatically.
Jay nodded. “Better than with a whimper.”
Scrambler, Arclight, Scalphunter, Riptide and then Vertigo rounded the corner. Guardsmen filed in on their left.
Verity tutted. “Looks like your odds might not be quite so in our favour.”
The platinum blonde smirked as she stepped forward and extended her arm.
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK
Cessily stepped into the hallway. Her lips were tense as the mercurial woman moved towards the riotous sounds echoing around the Institute. Whatever was happening, she wasn’t looking forward to the slave labour as they rebuilt whatever had been broken. A blue flash caught her eye in the distance and, curious, she marched towards it. A scream caused her to quicken her step. However, keenly minded as she liked to believe she was, Cessily had never expected to turn the corner to find Kevin absent-mindedly discarding of a body that turned to ash when it hit the ground. She quickly noted his odd expression and the two cornered girls. She paced forward, concerned that someone she’d once called a friend had just murdered a student. The kid’s red shirt was still clear atop the mound of dust. She felt overwhelmed.
“Kevin. What the fuck?” she said as she approached him, crass but she’d drawn his attention. “Whatever’s going on . . . You need to calm the hell down.”
Garrison’s command still echoed in his head. Cessily had no idea what she was up against. None of them did. He was beyond saving now. Three dead. Three students had already perished under the influence of Garrison. It had been Garrison’s words but Kevin knew he was responsible. His touch had done it. Still, the command wasn’t satiated. He had to finish what he’d started. They all had to die. He took a step towards the frightened girls. Each no more than fifteen.
His hand shot out. Mercury had no time to think, she had to act. With no X-Men around to save them, she had to fill that role. The redheaded mutant stormed forward, her eyes intense and focused as she exhaled what she expected to be her last breath. If she could give the girls a couple of minutes then they would have time to escape. Recklessly, selflessly, Mercury slid between them as his hand hit her. Her eyes shut instinctively and fear set upon her. Had she been a good person? Probably not. Would she get to Heaven? Was there even a Heaven? After a moment of feeling nothing, she felt both of his hands wrap around her shoulders and she opened her eyes.
Then it dawned on her. Mercury was comprised of a non-organic substance. As his hands searched for a weakness in her armour, she smiled broadly. It was wide, toothy grin. She’d never known that his touch wouldn’t affect her. She’d been cautious around him, but not anymore.
It doesn’t work on me,” she laughed.
Balling her fist, she punched Kevin square between the eyes and he bounded backwards, his head knocking against the wall as he fell unconscious. Quickly she turned towards the sobbing girls.
“Run,” she told them. “Get to a room and lock the door.”
“What the hell is happening?” asked a concerned Loa as she allowed her eyes to fall upon Kevin’s unconscious form and the mound of dust. “I was in my room and all I could hear was crashing and screaming. Did you hit him?”
“Yes,” she replied coolly. “He did . . . that.”
Alani’s eyes widened. “Wait, what?”
Cessily didn’t have time to explain the minutiae of the situation. She had to get back to the main ruckus. She was feeling high on adrenaline. As she moved away from the intricately patterned Hawaiian, she caught a glimpse out the window towards the lake. She prepared to move off but stopped suddenly. Straining her eyes, she watched as that psychiatrist man forced Laurie onto her knees as he seemingly seized control of her.
“Alani,” she said. “You have to go.”
“Cessily, come on, I can help.”
Mercury groaned. “Yes. Yes, Alani, you.” She grabbed her and pointed her towards the window. “But I don’t need your help and she does. You’ll get there quicker, so you grab Laurie and I’ll go and help with whatever’s happening down there.”
Loa nodded. “Stand back.”
The Hawaiian took several steps back as Mercury moved out of her path. Exhaling, Loa rushed forward and jumped towards the window. Her mind focused on every atom in her body as it shifted and parted, maintaining a humanoid appearance but taking an almost spectral form. She passed through the window as it dissolved behind her. Her tawny hair was flying behind her as she fell towards the lawn.
Mercury was already charging towards the fray.
Cannonball landed triumphantly. He turned to the voice and found Sophie Stepford, although he’d never been able to tell the so-called Stepford Cuckoos, staring at him with her head cocked to the right. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was rustling against the collar of her neatly pressed shirt. The four of them were identical and almost inseparable, particularly after the eldest Esme had died in the previous school year, so Cannonball was amazed to find of them standing alone. It was like spotting a mermaid from the shore. He furrowed his brows as he looked down on her.
“I’m kinda busy,” he replied breathlessly. Rockslide was proving to be relentless since he’d regained consciousness. “I’m sure this can wait. Best head back to your dorm before you catch whatever’s spreading.”
“This can’t wait.”
He bit his lip. “Yes, Miss Stepford. What is it?”
“Doctor Garrison is behind this,” she said uniformly. “I sensed his chaotic mind as he passed in search of Laurie Collins. He’s come for her. They share a gift. While he stands, this can’t end. The students, they don’t feel the pain your inflicting. I was going to hide until this was over, like my sisters, but I felt it was our responsibility to let you know.” Sophie began to walk up the stairs, her tartan skirt ruffling around her hips. “I’m going to hide now.”
As Sophie made her ascension towards safety, Cannonball reeled from the information. He’d not been involved in the appointment of Sean Garrison but all his interactions with the man had been civil. He thought he’d learned to read people, to sense a threat. His training under the maverick Cable alongside X-Force had placed him amongst some unsavoury people. He would have to find Laurie and Garrison but he would have to get the situation under control with the students. Husk had roused and was confronting Oya, enduring a flamethrower in her metallic form.
Aero and Pixie fought mid-air. Anole, having become swayed by what Cannonball now knew as Garrison’s powers, was battling against Specter. The latter of whom pleaded for him to see reason. Pixie spun, her wings smashing into Aero’s face as the flyer crashed to the floor. Storming towards Rockslide, Cannonball was caught off-guard when his student grabbed hold of him and slammed him into the ground. His gravelly fingers enclosing around his neck, trapping the air from reaching his lungs as he spluttered and choked, gasping for air.
“Santo,” called a soft voice from the top of the staircase. “This is not you. You must stop.”
Sooraya Qadir, Dust, took a singular step before her body exploded into a sandstorm and rushed towards Rockslide as he attempted to swat her away. Cannonball inhaled heavily as Dust continued to bombard the mutant with granules of sand as her teacher jumped to his feet. A wave of emotion swept over them all. Cannonball, Husk and Dust seemed to be the least affected. Those with impervious forms. Specter, swayed, threw a blast of darkforce energy that Cannonball narrowly managed to avoid. He dove beneath the swatting arms of Rockslide just in time to watch Husk knock Oya onto her ass. He began to feel drowsy, as if voices were echoing in his head, the command to fight. Until a second voice emerged, clearer than the commander, a female voice.
Fight it, Mister Guthrie, it echoed. Sophie. Sophie had somehow managed to work her way into his head. Her hiding place must have been beyond Garrison’s reach. Follow my voice and fight back.
He allowed her echo to persist as he regained control of his own body. Autonomy had never felt so good. He blasted forward, knocking out both Anole and Specter in a singular movement. The languid, mercurial form of Mercury poured from above, catching Pixie’s wings and forcing her to the ground. Mercury formed ahead of her, delivering a roundhouse kick that knocked the cotton candy-and-black haired mutant unconscious. She easily disposed of Aero as she started her attack. As Dust continued to distract Rockslide, Cannonball turned to Mercury and Husk.
“It’s Garrison,” he informed them. “He has some hold over them all. Sophie told me that he had Laurie’s powers.”
“Well, that can’t be good,” replied Mercury. “Because he has Laurie too. Alani has gone to face them but she might need some backup if he’s this powerful.” The chink in her armour was once again exposed. “You should see what he made Kevin do until I took him out. He’s stronger than before if he’s affecting this many people. I think he’s using her to amplify his powers.” She was nothing if not observant.
Cannonball was solemn. “We’ve seen. Where does he have Laurie?”
“Go,” said Husk. “I’ll keep Rockslide busy.”
As she launched her assault, Cannonball and Mercury made for the door.
Loa approached slowly, every footstep causing the earth at her feet to crumble as she remained in her spectral form. When the wave had commenced, she’d been astounded to find herself unaffected and she assumed it was because she hadn’t been tangible. Moving toward them from the far side of the lake, Loa took her chance to draw her hand through the bark of a nearby tree and caused it to collapse. Garrison dove from its path, pushing Laurie, and the wave ceased to exist. In the distance, Loa could see Cannonball and Mercury closing in on them but there wasn’t time to wait. The brunette rushed forward, solidifying as she jumped and bringing her fist down on Garrison’s face as he hit the damp grass. She stepped back, assuming a defensive position that Cannonball had taught them but he merely looked at her. He seemed ready to strike but he stalled.
“You’ve been in my head,” said Wallflower sternly, walking toward him. “Now let me show you how it feels.”
As her powers assaulted his brain, Garrison lost his grasp of the student body. He fought her back, attempting to reach out and control her as he had done before, but he found himself unable to as she pushed him to the brink. Slowly, Garrison stood and walked to the each of the lake. He dropped in backwards as Wallflower stood above him, unforgiving. Loa could only watch as bubbles danced on the lake’s surface, the oxygen escaping his lungs as he began to drown. Wallflower’s face bore no remorse. She’d known her father for less than ten minutes and he’d already turned her into a pawn in his elaborate games. Cannonball and Mercury caught up to them. The teacher moving to her side.
“Laurie,” he said sternly. “Don’t do this.” When she didn’t adhere to him. He ordered her. “Wallflower, stand down.”
Wallflower released her grasp as Garrison’s hoisted himself out of the water. Before he could even catch his breath, Cannonball caught him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him to the land. On land, the teacher delivered a right-hook that rendered the psychiatrist unconscious on the ground. Anger filled their teacher’s normally tranquil blue eyes as he focused on all that had occurred that day. Time would bear answers but, until then, he had a pastoral role to fulfil. He took control of the situation.
“Mercury, Loa,” he continued. “Get Garrison back to Paige. Tell her to ensure that he stays out for the count.” His gaze became softer. “Laurie, I think we need to have a talk.” The girls did their best to half-carry, half-drag Garrison’s body to the mansion as Sam rested his hands tenderly on Laurie’s shoulder. “You alright, kid?”
“He’s my dad,” she said. “I never knew. I didn’t even think about him. And now that he’s here . . . It’s just a mess. Everything about coming to this school has been a mess. I’ve lost my friends, Joshua, and now the one person I never thought I needed in my life has proven just why I never needed him.” Laurie wiped away her tears. “I know I shouldn’t have almost drowned him. I don’t know if I would’ve gone through with it. I guess I hope there would have been mercy following the torture.”
She offered a stifled laugh.
“Not exactly X-Man material, eh?”
Sam smiled weakly. “It’s been a rough day and X-Men know a thing or two about those. We get dealt shitty cards and we need to be mindful of our actions and the consequences they might have.” He stepped back towards the mansion. “Come on, I need someone to help me clean-up this mess.”
He was being optimistic but he knew that when he went back through those doors it was worse than just a paint job and some varnish. The property damage was one thing but he’d seen Kevin completely devolved into the monster the youth had always thought himself to be. It was one crisis after another and finding and restraining Kevin was his priority. The emotional support could follow.
Nigel nudged the person nearest him, Verity, as he smiled broadly, his eyes still shut.
“You point, I’ll shoot.”
She grabbed a hold of his shoulders. “Sounds good.” Verity pointed him directly at the Marauders. “Shoot.”
As Nigel opened his eyes, beams of white energy shot forward and struck the wall as the Marauders scattered. Arclight was the first to recover as she moved to the left and clapped her hands together, unleashing a violent blast of energy that rushed over them all. All four of the captives hit the ground under the pressure of the blast. Scalphunter pulled a handgun and mentally shifted it into a rifle as he began to fire without precision, screaming with glee as he did. The captives scattered apart from Verity. She barrelled forward and tackled him to the ground. Punching him square in the jaw.
“Boy, you’re back,” called Jay.
Scrambler attempted to creep up on the techno-organic mutant but Jay’s warning allowed him time to spin as his tendrils bore into Scrambler’s flesh and overloaded it with sensory information.
“It’s Kenji,” he grunted, releasing his hold on Scrambler as Scrambler hit the ground, his eyes still rolling,
Arclight prepared to launch another assault as the red-winged mutant moved from his cover and unleashed an ultrasonic screech that smashed her into the wall. When she attempted to regain her footing, he unleashed another blast that caused blood to run from her ears and she passed out. Vertigo hit him with a blast as he fell to his knees and held his ears. The entire world was spinning around him. Verity was punching her way through the guardsmen to their rear. Kenji moved forward as Scalphunter targeted him, bullets ricocheting off his fleshy shield. Nigel was haphazardly attempting to strike Riptide, using the disturbances of the air to aim for the spinning mutant. He lacked precision and missed. A shuriken, created from Riptide’s resin, launched out and struck Verity as she hit the last of the guards.
“Ow,” she screamed. Instinctively, she pulled it from her shoulder and launch it back at him. Riptide was struck in the forehead as he fell into one of the cells. Verity quickly pulled it shut as he screamed at her.
Nigel moaned venomously. “I want Vertigo.”
Verity hoisted him up, her hands catching him by the armpits, and she aimed him toward Vertigo as he opened his eyes. It was a direct strike. As Scalphunter shot and hit Verity, Vertigo was frozen in place, screeching like a harpy as her skin boiled and bubbled. Nigel could have shown mercy but he was reminded of every time she’d tormented him. He’d been tortured, his throat was raw from what she’d forced him to endure, and he wanted her to suffer. He held his eyes open, preventing himself from blinking, until the screaming stopped. As he closed his eyes, her corpse dropped to the ground. The smell of burnt flesh filling his nostrils.
Recovered with Vertigo’s demise, Jay shot an ultrasonic scream at Scalphunter and disorientated him enough for Kenji to drive his tendrils through the man’s flesh. As the Japanese man warped his mind, the marksman slumped into a catatonic state. Verity, holding her bleeding wound with one arm and taking Nigel by the arm in the other, nodded towards the others. Jay was the first to step over the bodies of the fallen guardsmen. The four made for the exit and pulled the door, stepping into the open terrain around the base.
“What now?” enquired Verity, still panting from their escape.
Jay inhaled the fresh breeze almost hungrily. “We find a city and we contact the X-Men. Like I said, they’ll help us.”
With that, Jay led Verity, Nigel and Kenji away from the base that had been their own, personal hell.
Next in New X-Men: The students of the Institute attempt to recover from the assault as they face what they’ve done and who they’ve become! Also, Jay’s free but what now?