`..the jinns...made from a smokeless fire...'
-- the Noble Quran.
THREE HUNDRED & SIXTY DAYS AGO:
Methos walked through the alleyway. He'd left the parking lot a
while back. He supposed he could have called a cab, but he'd wanted
Ironically, as much as he worked to keep fit, he didn't need to: his
Immortality kept him in much the same shape now as he'd had five
thousand years ago. But for him, it was a matter of self-honor, that
and a way of keeping busy. Those who didn't keep busy, slipped up,
and lost their chance at The Prize -- after five thousand years, he
was proud to be still a contender.
It'd been Talent Night at Joe's tonight, and the world's oldest
Immortal man had been juggling. Hadn't won any prizes, aside from
the complimentary bottle of beer. His reflexes were as good as they
were, because he'd honed them over millenia. Most Immortals didn't
live long enough to refine themselves to a similar degree, and
Methos shook his head. Best not to consider that alleyway of thought.
In backing out of that alley, Methos' mind found itself ducked into
another one: one filled with memories of when he had last encountered
Kronos and two other Horsemen. There were strange feelings in there,
as though it had only been partly real. As though the old tricksters
had worked with Methos without his directly realizing it.
Could they? Of course, he told himself, it was part of their
gift...at their age, a talent.
A tiny dart struck at his neck, fired from the approaching van.
Methos slipped to his knees, briefly not having control of himself.
His body quickly neutralized the toxin. There were reasons he drank
so much beer.
The van parked in front of him. Its sliding side door slid open,
disgorging troops in night-camoflage. Immortal troops, all unarmed.
Methos could see them clearly: he'd often fought at night, and had
lived as much by day as dark.
But Methos played along. He'd been incapacitated often enough over
the course of his five thousand years of life to know how to act.
He kept his limbs limp, and let the troops pull him forwards
roughly. The ancient man knew how to handle them, should the need
Meanwhiles, to see who they were working for.
Their master was the one exiting the van; the troops might have tried
to conceal that information, but Methos had spent millenia studying
humanity. One could not easily trick a trickster.
"You must be one of those Immortals," the van man said.
"Pardon?" Methos asked, not about to beg for his pardon, literally or
"Deny it if you want, I don't care myself."
"If that's so, can I go now?"
"Oh, and by the way, my name, is William Stryker. He caught a flash
of Stryker's wrist: a fourteen-star Watcher. Alarm bells rang in the
oldest Immortal mind. Panic set in. Lightning could dream of the
reflexes Methos used then and there, sliding out of the grips of the
troops, ramming them aside and turning around so he could --
"W?" Methos asked, looking at the arrowtip that was sticking out of
his gut; it'd slid right next to his spine in that fraction of a
second. Turning around, Methos thought he saw an archer in the van.
Lowering a hand, Methos touched the arrow, brought the chemical up on
his fingertip, tasted it. South American, in part. Curare and
something else. Something that was loosening his mind. He could
feel his identities slipping, sliding away into the deepest depths of
the abyss where he kept personalities. Even the mind of Death, among
the oldest of the old, went numb.
Blackness enveloped him.
ON THE HIGHWAYS:
This was the second time in her life that she'd relied on the
kindness of truckers. The first time, long months ago within the
year, had introduced her to the Wolverine.
Marie watched the power lines go by, pole after pole after pole after
pole after... Sleep overtook her.
=She was standing on the shoreline of a lake. Nice flat ground all
around, no plants anywhere. Aside from the lake itself, the land was
=And the Earth was without form and void= Kurt's voice. =And the
spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters
=The thing next to her was a kitty cat...and a crocodile...and a
hippo. It was all those things, yet it was its own thing. It was
itself and it was others.
=In the water, from the surface, there rose a snake's face. And a
snake's neck, a very very long neck that tapered into the body,
equally long if not longer.
=They were old. Marie could feel their age in the air.
=Without turning their heads or necks or bodies, they looked at her,
focusing their attention on her. Marie felt but did not become very
=New= =Familiar= =You= =Us= and Marie had the feeling that there
were other things here, just barely out of sight. In the dim half-
light, she could only make out outlines, bright features. =Join=
=Win= though from that concept/word, Marie could feel was more
uncertain, something that was in doubt even now.
She woke up.
THREE HUNDRED DAYS AGO:
"Thanks for letting me tag along," Joe said.
"No prob." Detective Pete Harding said. His dad'd been an old friend
of Joe Dawson's, so he didn't mind the company on this trip.
The landlord unlocked the door to Methos' apartment. It was a mess,
but not the sort of mess brought about by the place being ransacked.
More of the mess from someone not being completely neat and tidy as
they lived in a place. Joe wondered if the old guy did that
deliberately, leaving evidence that he'd actually existed.
"Not my weirdest tenant to date," the landlord was saying, "but he
was realll close."
"How so?" Detective Harding asked.
"Well, for a while, he would bring in these statues of women, some of
them looked like they might be marble or something. I almost called
you guys, thought he was a museum thief.
"And he paid for his first month's rent -- along with another five
years' worth. Said his job might require him to be gone for a few
months or a year or two at a time, and would I leave his flat in
trust for him." Shaking his head, "Weird guy."
Joe was walking around, looking at the paintings on the walls, at the
magazines lying scattered across the floor. It was like looking at
the mind of someone who wasn't sure who he was. Or the mind of
someone who wasn't just one person. Joe wasn't sure which one scared
"You okay, Dawson?" Harding asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks."
"No prob." and walked over to look through the magazines. "Hey,
could you look at this," then remembered that Joe limped, so he took
it over to Joe to see. "Guy seems to enjoy squiggling in National
Geographics. There's a pile of them back on the coffee table covered
with these marks."
Though Joe hadn't been a desk-working researching Watcher for a
number of years, he could still read snippets of Greek. As far as he
could tell, Methos had written, on a picture of an aid worker in
Afganistan -- back during the Soviet Invasion -- the
name `KRONOS'. "Its all Greek to me," Joe joked, wondering if the
names of other Horsemen were in the other issues.
Then his eyes fell upon a gold-bronze coin, one inscribed with a
name. Methos had mentioned this to him, in one of his stories. It'd
been a gift from an Ottoman sultan. Joe pocketted it, just in case
Joe couldn't explain it, but he didn't think Methos was dead. Gone
to ground, maybe. But still alive. It was the gut feeling that
combat had bred in him.
He was the one who had joked about my kind's capacity to be both
frigid and impotent. He was the monkey who had explained to Danael's
pregnant choice about my kind. He had explained to the monkey
Magdelena about how Daniyel was not entirely a monkey.
I should correct myself: `my kind' is a misnomer. I am a different
sort of angelic being, unlisted on any Papal chart. I have/am/will
exist for only a moment. But that moment is a moment to myself -- it
is a moment that passes through every space and second; I fear I am
describing spheres and arrows to a population of dots and lines.
Perhaps understanding may arrive one day, as it has/will/is.
Returning to my narration...
The doctor, the student of anatomy, had taken sabbatical. Not
unusual, that. Unusual that he was following the description of a
note left to him by the monkey Magdelena.
TEMPLE OF KARNAK, EGYPT:
It was the middle of the night, and she was walking through the
pillars of Karnak. Some scholars had said that this temple was
larger than the Papacy, larger than Mecca. She didn't care about
comparisons; the time for those had come and gone. She was at peace,
something that showed on her face.
She had been the desert sandstorm and the sound of desert water.
She heard the flutter of wings, and a single inversion. "Whom are
you to disturb me?" she asked.
"My name is Annoguel."
"That name has not been spoken for a long time in this land."
"I was...busy. Elsewhere, doing other things." Preparing.
"Why are you here tonight?"
"I have come to ask you to take sides."
"I am Raat," she said. "I have lingered here out of curiosity. I
have no stake in your war."
"Everyone has a stake in the war."
"I could destroy this temple," Annoguel threatened. "The stones are
old, and would fall."
"And I would raise it back up again before the dawn broke," Raat said
with a bored look. "And I would make you Fall," using the noun of
the term. The term used on the more wicked of the angels.
"You could not."
"You forget that, for a time, even your Master was married."
"Not to you."
"True. But I know to whom. And She also grows tired of these
"How do you know that?"
"Some angels listen. I do more than that."
"What do you do? Talk to them?" with all the mockery that one would
give to a monkey.
"No. And I shall not tell you what I do." She sighed,
tired. "Because, to do any of that, I would de facto be taking
sides. And I shall not do that." She left.
Not for the first time in his long life, Annoguel wanted to smite.
Nothing much, just a country; that wasn't so much to ask for, was it?
ALKALI LAKE DURING _X2_:
It was a moment of weakness, one half hour when the formula was
finally wearing thin. Stryker had been overconfident just this once,
just enough for one of the personas to emerge from the depths & to
challenge Lyman. It was difficult, as Lyman had become entrenched;
the biocontroller chemical gave the Lyman personality military
defenses that would have flummoxed even Kronos for a day or two.
Benjamin Adams was the one to rise, though he felt disoriented at
this world that was so changed from what he knew. But everyone else
within him was depending on him. He had to do something.
Carefully, Adams accessed the computer. Easy enough. The rows of
project titles shone out at him...
Project Wide Awake
Using knowledge which was in his brain, Adams double-clicked on the
Patas icon. Information resulted, but he wasn't sure what the
The Patas was a small primate which had given up a life in the
treetops, trading it in for an existance on the open plains of
Africa. The creatures could, the database claimed, run as fast as a
Benjamin Adams doubted that very much.
Then, `For further access to file, enter password'.
"Shame shame," Stryker said as he pressed something to Adam's neck.
Adams' grip became undone, and he rejoined Methos and the others.
Lyman stood up, at attention. "Afternoon, sir," he said to Stryker,
as though nothing had been happening here, nothing wrong at all.
MODERN ALKALI LAKE:
Oxygen is a close cousin of Florine, which monkeys used for etching
glass. Hundred of millions of years ago, when the plants began to
spew out free O2, it brought about an ecological holocaust: though
much of the life up to then was single-celled or slime molds and
algae, there was still a great deal of winnowing done before the life
adapted to survive in the now-oxygen-rich enviroments.
There are some mutants who can survive in the oxygen-poor
enviroments, but their time is not yet.
Zeniozyel was smaller in stature than most angels, but had been the
one to come down to Alkali Lake and pull the monkeys out of the
water. First was the heaviest one, the monkey filled with
adamantium, which didn't weigh much by Zeniozyel's reckoning. As the
pair of them rose in the water, closer and closer to the surface, the
lake in that area began to steam. No frothing bubbling stew, but
just a little bit of steam rising up.
The heat was natural, or as natural as a mutant could be. Or most of
it was. Some of it came from the angel's grip.
Adamantium, once cooled, was unalterable, implacable, undamageable.
But within the body of a regenerating mutant, there was enough heat
from constant oxygen consumption and a nearly cancerous growth rate.
There was just enough heat to allow for the joints in the wrist,
fingers, and knuckles to have full flexion.
But when one regenerator had infilled another regenerator with
several quarts of Adamantium, the body had been overwhelmed.
Mobility had halted . . . for a time.
Zeniozyel placed the monkey down on the makeshift beach, between pine
trees that were still trying to shed the excess water that'd splashed
onto them when the dam had let loose. Then the angel leaped and
dived back into the glorious water, to pull out the other ones. When
submerged, Zeniozyel's wings -- all four of them -- glowed with a
brilliant white light.
Here, now, alone, Yoriko began to think once more. It was a slower
thinking, based on anoxic chemical reactions: her body could only get
oxygen through her skin right now. Time passed, but she couldn't
measure it. Even when she was able to think and see again, she could
not sweat just yet. One gland at a time. Patience. There was all
the time in the world, or so it felt like.
Her mind flickered. Coherent thought was not possible yet. But
flickering images could work. She saw the face of the Wolverine, of
Stryker, of Lyman, and of...a woman who looked like her. An army of
fellahin raced through one image in her mind. There was Lyman again,
but he was different.
Yoriko could now open her eyes. Immobile eyes, her gaze fized in one
direction. She stared at the sky, at the treetops. She did not
watch as the seasons passed, for events took place before that could
Underwater, Sergent Lyman was waking up again, his lungs protesting
at having to work with water once again. But, like all Immortals,
breathing was possible underwater, to a degree.
The persona of Lyman was sticking, clinging with fervor, as the
biocontroller chemical took time to wear away. A special potency had
been needed to control even the youngest Immortal troop soldier, and
an enhanced version to keep Methos in line. Lyman and Death fought
for control, with Pierson and Adams and a thousand others waiting
Time exists in two states: subjective and objective. Objective is
the cold and implacable march of time, stampeding any resistance.
Subjective is the trick played on you by your mind, when time seems
to move slower or faster than you thought it was -- many monkeys
observe this phenomena in the early morning when they should be
Lyman/Death\Methos/Adams\Pierson let himself settle into a slow pace,
living in subjective time. He had once taken seven hundred years to
climb five hundred feet to the surface of the Black Sea, and he saw
no reason to do differently now; he reasoned that, if Joe and anyone
else noticed his dissappearance, they would provide a cover story &
shelve his things for sufficiently long. He was going to miss Joe; a
With both struggling-to-focus-again eyes and with his own Buzz,
Methos detected a glowing thing in the water. Drawing his Buzz in
close to him, Methos stilled himself. He'd been the attention of
angelic creatures before, and had not enjoyed the experience. He had
no desire to repeat the performance.
Zeniozyel flew-swam right over Methos, paying no heed to the
Immortal; the limp body of Jean Grey in two of the angel's four
hands. It flew out of the watery lake with its captive.
Methos exhaled a sigh of relief, though the water in his lungs made
it less than impressive. And, as he was making his way towards the
shoreline, he felt the dawning of a new Buzz. Even with a thousand
years between now and when he had last gone in the water, Methos
could swim. It was not Olympic material, but he'd never cared.
The pace had been changed: when angels moved, Methos was wary, and
less inclined to go slowly. He had personal experience to back him
on that account. When Lyman tried to look at the reason for that, he
was simply encouraged to go along with the masses, to be obedient to
the others of himself for once.
Back on land, the thoughts were less flickering and more coherent.
But there was a large question in Yoriko's mind: who was she?
She could remember names and faces from...surely that couldn't be
right. From throughout her life; most of it, some of it, bits of it?
Yet her memory was blank when it came to herself. She wasn't even
sure `Yoriko' was her real name. Hadn't Stryker first called her by
that name? Just as he'd called the `Wolverine'.
Yoriko tried to move. Thus far, she couldn't even sit up, much less
push herself away. But she could hear. She could hear the water
steaming again, and then she heard the sound of something breaking
the water surface. The sound of four wings flapping steadily.
Adamantium was a solid material once it hardened, of that there was
no question. But on the molecular and cellular levels, the material
had dozens of adamantium bristles, vibrassae, irregular shards. It
was these that gave Adamantium its strength: greater gripping power,
and increased durability, like a superdiamond. And these picked up
sounds and vibration alike, from the earth and the air.
From out of the woods came Marie, who, upon seeing Yoriko's state,
ran over and knelt by her. "Are you okay?" Marie asked. Yoriko
didn't, couldn't answer.
There was still adamantium droplets in the corners of her eyes.
Marie saw them, realized that this woman was like Logan. "You'll be
okay," she told Yoriko.
Yoriko tried to speak, but it came out a gargle instead. Progress
was being made: her airways were clearing.
Marie sat down a few yards from her. She could wait; everyone in her
THE BRONZE AGE:
JUST WEST OF THE NILE:
It was the reign of Cyrus over Persia, and he had conquered Egypt
only a few years ago. Rome was a minor city-state among the other
Italic city-states on their penninsula. Carthage and Tyre were the
trading capitals of the known world. A Macedonian named Alexander
had not yet been born.
And a desert oasis, a holdout which denied Cyrus' rule in Egypt, had
cursed his name. That was not something that Cyrus, king of kings,
lord of all men, tolerated. And Cyrus had taken it as divine
movement that brought Kronos -- one of the legendary Horsemen --
into his court, offering to destroy the oasis for Cyrus. Kronos had
claimed to be defecting from the Horsemen.
That was recent, prologue. This is presently now. The future is
So now Kronos walked into the tent which Cyrus had granted him for
this conquest of the desert oasis. And in here he found that he was
not alone. It was not one of the slaves or soldiers or cooks or
attendants, or anyone else whom had been sent with the army.
"Who are you?" Kronos demanded.
"I am the daughter of time," she replied. "I am a point in the
heavens. I am the compass of your life."
Kronos remembered hearing those words once before: when he was only a
few days old. "Am I to perish now?" Even the Horsemen had legends,
tales from their respective childhoods.
"No," she said in a voice as fragrant as the desert's water. "Your
time is not for a long while, even as things are measured.
"Your act with your brethren shall succeed, yet again. And so shall
your next act." She hesitated.
"But you shall not be brethren together between the two acts. You
must wander the world apart."
"For what reason?"
"Because," she said, her voice turning dangerous, much as the Nile's
flooding can be both help and harm. "Because your survival depends
upon it. Because your faith, and your world, depends upon it." A
pause, then, "Because the survival of your brethren depends upon it."
"What must I do?" Kronos asked.
MODERN NEW YORK:
She was sitting on the island. The island that was the lid to the
Brotherhood's base, the facility they had used while planning the
events for Liberty Island, and the place that had held the Senator
for a time. The island's surface rose swiftly, like an impending
tsunami rising above the waves.
Mystique sat on the grassing back of the geological quirk that was
this island. She was watching the dolphins, and the whale that they
were accompanying...the marine mammals almost acting as though they
were a single creature.
Not for the first time, Mystique wondered if Erik's mutation machine
a few months ago had affected the sea-faring organisms.
"He wants to see you," Sabertooth said flatly. Unsurprisingly, she
hadn't heard him approach: for all his mass, he could move
surprisingly quietly when he tried.
There was no arguing with the man -- if she tried, he'd just pick her
up and carry her inside, irregardless of whose form she took to
Mystique stood up in one almost-fluid motion. "What's that?"
Sabertooth asked, pointing out at the whales.
Or, more accurately, just above the whale and dolphins. Flying
through the air, diving down like hungry falcons. "Mutants?"
Mystique could hear hungry cries, panicked cries, shrill sounds, and
bloodlusting sounds. "No," she told him. "Not mutants."
"They don't look like hanggliders," Sabertooth retorted. "What are
"Dangerous and hungry," she answered. And, disloyal as she felt it
to be, she hoped that they sated themselves on the possible cetacean
mutants out there, rather than approach the island.
`God does not play dice with the Universe.' --Albert Einstein.
`Albert, stop telling God what to do!" -- unknown.