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The Defenders Vs. The X-Men #2 (of 3)

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  • Flint
    The Defenders v. The X-Men #2 Hostilities October 2008 ********************** Writer: John Flint Webmaster: Liam Gibbs ********************** Ruin Island.
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 1, 2009
      The Defenders v. The X-Men #2
      "Hostilities"
      October 2008
      **********************
      Writer: John Flint
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
      **********************


      Ruin Island.

      The X-Men stared down the mystical cult-monsters before them, as the
      Defenders charged on the military unit before them. Neither team
      remembered the other; both remembered that they had been brought to
      this island to help Dr. Strange, but no further details could present
      themselves to their memory banks.

      Storm saw Clea leading the charge and barking orders to the Defenders,
      and signaled her intent to her fellow X-Men that the leader-woman was
      hers to combat. Clea recognized Storm's intentions and nodded,
      silently modifying her mystical shields, prepared for whatever spell
      the former goddess was about to throw her way.

      Instead, Storm grabbed at a thick branch from the nearest tree and
      snapped it off with a quick twist, spinning away from the tree and
      slamming the branch into Clea's face. Taken unawares, Clea collapsed
      into a heap on the lush grass as the Defenders continued forward to
      face their foes, each choosing an individual seemingly either at
      random or by hasty choice, though the suggestion might have subtly
      been placed when they arrived on the island, to keep the teams fairly
      even in their battle.

      "A crude attack," Clea said, wiping her chin and opening her jaw to
      make sure it wasn't broken. It would be sore for some time. "No
      spells? I suppose you must already know you would have no chance
      against the former disciple of the Sorcerer Supreme and Sorceress
      Supreme of the Dark Dimension."

      "A possibility," Storm agreed, "or it could just be that I do not need
      spells to defeat you." The fact that these foes knew nothing about the
      X-Men's powers bolstered Storm's confidence in the shaky mission. She
      was getting inconclusive DNA readings from Forge's analysis glasses;
      her white-haired foe was radiating unidentifiable forms of energy and
      had nothing remotely like a human or mutant genetic code within her.
      At least they were on even terms.

      "Perhaps," Clea suggested, "you don't know any spells. Perhaps you're
      mercenaries. From Marc's stories, I assumed you mercenaries always
      carry guns, though."

      "You don't know who we are?" Storm held back from striking again. Clea
      didn't appear to be attacking, or powering up. It could be that they
      really weren't expecting them, but if that were the case, why did the
      Scarlet Witch sense the Adversary's presence here? Weren't these his
      minions?

      "I could read your mind and find out," Clea said, as a sudden zap of
      electricity shot from her palms, knocking Storm off her feet. The
      attack did not hurt her through her uniform, but the force of the blow
      did knock the wind out of her, the mode of choice knocking the pride
      from her, as she could once have simply absorbed and redirected a bolt
      of electrical energy. "I think instead I might just let you taste the
      rage of the elementals. Ever fight a hurricane-strength wind?"

      Storm said nothing in response, the poetic irony of being defeated by
      someone using her own powers being too painful. She contemplated again
      using the Transmode virus within her, but she knew that she could not
      continue to rely on it. It took away a part of her soul the last time
      she'd used it, and she swore to herself that she would never willingly
      do so again.

      Fortunately, Clea was not so expert in the building of a storm as the
      leader of the X-Men was. Storm felt a wind building up, gradually,
      rhythmically, and knew she still had time before she would be blown
      away. Clea could feel the cold sweat beginning to blanket her; she was
      nowhere near so powerful on Earth as she was in her home dimension,
      but too much was at stake to let these military men stop them. They
      were the Defenders, Earth's first and last line of defense against the
      hordes of Hell!

      Storm lunged with the tree branch, and Clea barely dodged from a
      strike that would have gouged her neck. Storm had anticipated the move
      and jumped, kicking Clea in the stomach with both boots, knocking her
      back. Clea was unused to purely physical combat; she was used to
      sparring mystically or mentally. Hand-to-hand combat was not her forte.

      Storm saw this and pressed her advantage, taking up the branch once
      again and choking off Clea's air supply with it. She had no intention
      of killing her enemy, but she had to be subdued by any means necessary
      if she was working for the Adversary.

      Clea, beginning to panic, realized one possible advantage and calmed
      herself down for a nanosecond long enough to blast Storm with a light
      anti-technology spell, which momentarily shut down the Transmode virus
      within her.

      Storm continued to press down, unaffected after the initial shock of
      the light-burst.

      [Changeling v. Werewolf by Night]

      Andrea Margulies had limited experience against supernatural creatures
      of the night. She had been with the X-Men the latest time Kulan Gath
      transformed New York City, and she heard some of the stories that the
      Scarlet Witch had told everyone around the kitchen table, but she had
      never run into anything so blatantly supernatural as a werewolf before.

      Jack Russell, meanwhile, had absolutely nothing on his mind save for
      the hunt, the rending of flesh, the tearing and the chewing and the
      consumption of meat and tasting the last second as his mighty jaws
      crushed the life out of some weaker creature.

      Suffice it to say, the man had issues.

      The Changeling, daughter of the original of that codename, who
      sacrificed his life so that Charles Xavier might live, opted to remove
      her X-jacket and held it tight between her two hands, then telescoped
      her arms out, effectively clothes-lining the beast before her.

      The werewolf howled, knocked for a loop but unharmed. Changeling
      pounced on him before he could shake his confusion and pounce on her,
      and began to hug the shaggy, murderous monster, her body stretching to
      swallow him up entirely.

      The werewolf scratched and clawed, and Changeling found herself having
      to bend and flow more than usual as the claws of the beast actually
      scratched her arms and face. The creature continued to struggle
      against her hold, and before she could tighten herself up to cut off
      all oxygen, the werewolf found an opening and burrowed his way out of
      her armpit.

      Changeling returned to her normal shape as the werewolf circled her,
      snarling and standing on all fours. It could smell her blood, but her
      skin was pliable like some sort of plastic. She infuriated the
      werewolf beyond all reasoning, if the simple brute had any to begin
      with, and he charged her again, hoping to strike the neck with his
      fangs and strike deep and taste the hot blood hidden within.

      "Oh crap!" Changeling said as he hurled himself at her, and she
      reshaped her fists into large sledgehammers and delivered a right
      cross before slamming her left sledgehammer down on the werewolf's head.

      The werewolf whined in pain, then crawled away to recover. Changeling
      returned to normal and moaned. "I wish I'd brought something silver
      with me. This could take awhile."

      [Moon Knight v. La Nuit]

      The two former mercenaries immediately selected each other, as though
      they recognized each other on some ephemeral level. Their battle went
      on from one end of the clearing to the other, as Moon Knight ran and
      threw his silver crescents, and La Nuit slid on a Darkforce-slide and
      countered his opponent with shadow-fists which crashed against mighty
      trees instead of the lonely Defender.

      "Do I know you?" La Nuit asked, after several minutes of striking and
      retreating. Though he could no longer remember anything about why they
      had been brought to this island, save that Dr. Strange needed their
      help, there was still something in his memory, something in the very
      back of his skull, something which refused, due to external forces, to
      dislodge itself.

      "I doubt it," Moon Knight replied, as he came in closer to stab at La
      Nuit with his silver staff. La Nuit dodged without using his powers,
      then slid further away on a shade.

      Moon Knight tried desperately to place their uniforms; they had to be
      some sort of military or mercenary outfit, but the big yellow 'X'
      wasn't ringing any bells all of a sudden. That seemed like an obvious
      sort of logo, the sort of thing you would use when you wanted to
      announce your presence, not the sign of a secret organization.
      Wouldn't he have known about them, then?

      The accent was obviously French, but that didn't mean much as there
      were French mercenaries the world over. Moon Knight's own pilot was
      one such example.

      "I am certain that I have seen your moves before," La Nuit promised
      before jumping into a roll to avoid three more silver crescents, which
      lodged themselves into the tree behind him. He would have thought a
      mercenary with an all-silver motif and superhero-styled costume would
      not have been so easy to forget. Apparently, not knowing of the
      Adversary's influence on his memory, he assumed he was wrong.

      "It does not matter," La Nuit announced to his foe, as they jogged
      further away from the rest of the battle, neither any closer to
      victory or defeat.

      [Strong Guy v. The Silver Surfer]

      "You appear to be the strongest member of the team," the Silver Surfer
      said as he flew towards Guido.

      "That's why they call me the Strong Guy," Guido agreed, hopping onto
      the Surfer's board and smashing a super-strong fist into his face. The
      Silver Surfer watched, without so much as blinking, as the fist
      connected, doing no damage to the former herald of Galactus.

      Guido's face turned red as he drew back his hand, massaging it with
      his left. "Oww! What are you supposed to be, Adamantium Skin Man?"

      "I am the Silver Surfer," Norrin Radd explained as he continued to fly
      higher and higher over the forests of the Rune Island, much to Guido's
      chagrin.

      "Never heard of ya," Guido said, "but we're the X-Men! We started the
      whole X-Team thing, so you know we're the baddest!"

      Guido centered his tiny feet on the silver board as it continued to
      fly in circles over the island, never going very far from it. The
      Silver Surfer stared at him, confused, as he almost broke through the
      spell over him upon hearing the name of his adversaries, but then
      Guido threw himself at the Silver Surfer, his great bulk as much as
      his mutant strength taking the Surfer with him as his board flew on.

      "Brace yourself, Statue Man," Guido said, "this might hurt. A little."

      Strong Guy and the Silver Surfer slammed through the trees, cracking a
      boulder upon landing and bouncing off into the waterfall beyond it.
      Half the boulder came down after them.

      The Silver Surfer emerged from the waters, no more refreshed or
      shining than he always was. He had walked out after landing on the
      very bottom of the pool, increasing his personal gravity so that he
      would not have to float and swim to shore. As he flew regularly
      through outer space, he had no oxygen requirement.

      "To me, my board," the Surfer commanded, and it was already on hand.
      He listened for his opponent over the roar of the crashing water, and
      heard a faint heartbeat.

      Manipulating the iron in Guido's blood, the Silver Surfer brought him
      up from the lake and back down on the earth, where he utilized his
      Power Cosmic to resuscitate his dying heart. In this moment, he could
      have used his power to alter Strong Guy's genetic code in such a way
      that his power would no longer distort his muscles and cause him such
      bodily pain.

      The Silver Surfer saw this, and thought the better of it. These were
      his enemies, probably working with whomever it was who was responsible
      for briefly killing him and depowering him. They had succeeded in
      shaming him, and he was in no mood to help them. He knew he would
      probably feel guilty about it later, but for now, it seemed a fair
      reward to him.

      The Silver Surfer got on his board and, annoyed with the entire
      island, took his time flying back to the scene of battle, leaving
      behind an unconscious but still breathing Strong Guy.

      [Blink v. Topaz]

      Clarice Ferguson found herself powerless as soon as she had teleported
      the team onto the island. While the others went to battle with the
      presumed cult members, she ducked behind a stone monument and watched,
      experiencing a fear greater than she would ever have admitted to anyone.

      She looked around, checking behind her that no one was sneaking up on
      her. She didn't want to die. She had only so recently returned to the
      right dimension after months of traveling, only to become a
      brainwashed pawn of the Foreigner for several weeks, helping him
      against Spider-Man, Captain Britain, and a burning man whose name she
      forgot.

      Blink turned and looked back to the battlefield, and saw an Indian
      woman in purple cloth and golden jewelry, looking on as she did upon
      the scene of battle, an outsider to it. She didn't demonstrate any
      powers; she would be Blink's target. Maybe, if she was lucky, she
      could hold this woman hostage and the others would stop fighting her
      teammates.

      Blink sneaked up on the woman as carefully and quietly as she could.
      When she came close enough to touch, the woman turned around and
      looked at her sadly.

      "I could have felt your fear from miles away," Topaz told her. "Why
      are you with these people, child? Don't you have a home to go back to?"

      "N-no, I don't," Blink replied, as she looked around for a weapon to
      fight Topaz with. There were blades of grass and naught else within
      reach, and she could no longer teleport to another location to grab
      something. She had her uniform, jacket, and glasses, but she couldn't
      very well throw her sunglasses at someone hard enough to hurt them.
      Maybe she could smother her foe in her jacket?

      "Sweetie," Topaz said, scared for the terrified girl who'd been sent
      into battle against them, "I wouldn't do that if I were you. I'm
      trying real hard to be nice, but the truth is, I'm a bit of a demon on
      the inside."

      Blink stepped back as Topaz punched the ground, causing flaming sparks
      to spit up as the ground split and nearly threatened to open up
      beneath Blink, as a flaming ring erupted in the air between them.

      Blink blinked her eyes, and saw another world inside the ring. It was
      a world of flames and torment and demons and mutilated souls. It was
      the world from whence Topaz originated. It was the world to which she
      was destined to eventually return for all eternity.

      "Have you ever been to Hell, sweetheart?" Topaz asked, sincerely.
      "Even for just a minute, if only in a dream? That's where I come from.
      That's where I was born... spawned... whatever. I don't want to hurt
      you, but if you try to hurt me, I can't promise your safety. Physical
      or spiritual."

      "I, I," Blink stammered, walking backwards, and tripping on a loose
      stone and hitting her head against the solid soil. Topaz closed the
      portal and ran through the empty air where it had been a moment
      before, to check on her opponent's wounds, immediately healing her of
      any injuries.

      "What kind of group," Topaz growled, "would send such a fearful child
      into battle to die for them?"

      Her eyes began to burn with hellfire as she stepped away from the
      unconscious youth, towards the fray.

      [Scarlet Witch v. Rintrah]

      The Scarlet Witch, the only member of the team with an individualized
      costume, as her uniform was red-and-black rather than
      black-and-yellow, faced off against the other mystic, a green-furred
      minotaur in a blue cape with what looked like the amulet of Agamotto
      on his chest.

      "You're going to tell me what is going on," Scarlet Witch promised him
      as they circled, sizing up each other's mystic and physical and mental
      might, sparring on astral planes while staring each other down in the
      corporeal plane.

      "I was going to suggest the same of you," Rintrah admitted, as he
      began to weave a spell, which the Scarlet Witch just as quickly countered.

      "Huhn," Rintrah snorted, "I assumed you people were military, not
      magical. You obviously know a great deal more than the average human
      to propose that exact counter-spell. You didn't get it quite right,
      though, I'm afraid; I can still break through."

      Scarlet Witch smiled as Rintrah raised his right hand and released a
      ball of orange energy, which at first smashed through the Scarlet
      Witch's invisible barrier but then, upon striking against the inner
      folds of the barrier, bounced back out, striking a tree just beside
      Rintrah, close enough to cause him to fall, as the tree exploded into
      flames.

      "I'm," Scarlet Witch began, then paused for effect as she walked
      closer to the large minotaur, "unpredictable." She stopped just out of
      reach for Rintrah, as she began to weave another spell which he
      immediately recognized.

      "Not today," Rintrah replied, removing himself by way of levitation by
      cloak, just before the crimson bands of Cytorrak would have bound him
      up. Something was wrong, he sensed; she seemed familiar, as though he
      should have realized who he was fighting with.

      "Curious," Rintrah said, "I cannot place it, but I swear that your
      energy signature gives me a striking sense of déjà vu."

      The Scarlet Witch began to fly after him, shakily, as she was still
      working on control over the spell; she would never be able to fly far
      or fast or very high, but she could use it to survive if the ground
      fell out from under her, with a little more practice. At the moment,
      she just wanted to reach Rintrah.

      The amulet of Agamotto opened up; the Scarlet Witch, believing these
      to be agents of Chaos, could only assume it was not in actuality the
      amulet of Agamotto, but instead some lethal weapon forged after its
      shape. As such, she could not afford to allow it to shine its light on
      her, and she blasted Rintrah with a quick hex which caused his cloak
      of levitation to react to the energy fields at play on the island and
      sent him shooting away from her, the solid white light-beam streaming
      through the sky as a beacon.

      "I hope the others are holding their own," Scarlet Witch said, fearing
      what might come to a team of mutants in mortal combat with a team of
      experienced mystics like the one she fought. "I need to find Doctor
      Strange. He can help us turn this tide."

      [The X-Mansion.]

      Professor Charles Xavier paced in his office as he tried to think of a
      solution. A short time ago, he sent Storm's X-Men team to a remote
      island to assist Dr. Strange on a grave mission. As soon as they had
      arrived, something closed the island off from his mental probes. Even
      amplified by Cerebro, his power was useless to connect with them.

      He viewed the incoming information beamed via satellite from their
      uniforms; he knew they were all alive. Given their heart rates, it was
      certain that they were engaged in combat, but against whom and how
      many, he had no idea.

      He was completely unable to help them in any way, just as he had been
      so recently, before Proteus had restored his powers as well as his
      ability to walk. If only there were some way...

      Xavier turned away from his window as the air reverberated in his
      office. A slice of air opened up to another place, as though the very
      fabric of the universe had been slashed open by a sword. Indeed, it
      had, as two familiar faces stepped through the tear in space to enter
      the room.

      Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, looking supremely ill, was joined by
      the Valkyrie, the very last of her kind. It had been her sword,
      Dragonfang, which pierced through time and space to bend them to her will.

      "What are you doing here?" Charles asked.

      "I've lost contact with my team," Dr. Strange explained, as Valkyrie
      helped him to a chair. "I was wondering if you had experienced the
      same problem or if you had re-established contact with the X-Men. If
      you have a back-up team you could send, Val and myself will accompany
      them to--"

      "You are not in any shape to enter any fight, Stephen," Valkyrie said,
      tenderly. She turned to Xavier with cold fire burning in her eyes.
      "Xavier, what mad realm have you sent the Defenders off to?"

      "Me?" Xavier was taken aback. "I sent the X-Men to help you, Stephen,
      as you surely must remember!"

      There was a brief silence as the trio stared at one another in
      silence, each quickly realizing the true danger of the situation and
      beginning to formulate their plans.

      [The sick bay.]

      Dice Preston, the mutant no one remembered until the Scarlet Witch
      intervened, brought a tray of food down for Longshot. Though Wanda had
      healed him from his injuries, he was still to remain in the medical
      lab for a day or two to rest. His meals were to be brought to him to
      give him no excuse to leave, and Dice had volunteered for the job as
      an excuse to meet another of the legendary X-Men.

      "Mr. Longshot?" Dice called out, as the lights were dimmed in the
      area. That was unusual; he'd never seen the lights dimmed in this
      area, he didn't even know you could dim them. Must have been so
      Longshot could take a nap.

      "Get out of here, kid," a woman hissed from behind the table. Dice set
      the food down and came forward, still confident in his ability to get
      away far enough if there was any danger that he would be forgotten by
      his pursuer.

      He found Psylocke struggling on her knees, as her body convulsed,
      fingers turning to talons, teeth to razor-sharp fangs, skin shedding,
      leaving behind red scales, horns beginning to protrude from her forehead.

      "Something's happening down here," Psylocke warned, "go, now!"

      Before Dice could overcome his momentary paralysis, Longshot sprung,
      knocking over a medicine cabinet with ease, snarling and foaming at
      the mouth, his clothes ripped and his skin blood-red.

      "Kill! Kill everyone!" Longshot laughed.

      [To be continued...]
    • Flint
      The Defenders v. The X-Men #3 Collision November 2008 ********************** Writer: John Flint Webmaster: Liam Gibbs ********************** Ruin Island.
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 1, 2009
        The Defenders v. The X-Men #3
        "Collision"
        November 2008
        **********************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        **********************

        Ruin Island.

        Changeling began to sweat as, her body an almost perfectly ovular
        cocoon, the werewolf trapped within her began to slow down his
        slashings. She continued to pummel him with hardened hammer-fists
        formed from various parts of her body, mass tightly packed in the
        absence of any muscle or bone as her pliable bodily cells contorted
        and twisted to her will.

        "It's about time," She finally said, as the werewolf stopped and
        passed out with a thud. She reshaped herself, returning to normal
        human form, and looked down at the unconscious man at her feet,
        wearing nothing but a torn pair of pants. He was a bit skinny for her
        tastes, but not bad overall. The scar on his face was oddly
        unsettling, however.

        "Changeling!" Storm's voice; Changeling turned her head and with it,
        her neck stretched out, her eyes widening to take in more light. The
        X-Men's leader was fighting with a white-haired white woman who was
        throwing electricity at her, scorching the trees and grass with narrow
        misses.

        "No problems, boss-lady," Changeling said as her legs telescoped to
        send her hurtling forward towards the two combatants. Until the recent
        team reshuffling, Andrea had never known Ororo. She quickly found that
        she enjoyed working with Storm and admired her greatly. Even without
        her powers, if she was having trouble with her foe, it was a foe worth
        caution; Changeling landed several yards away, collapsing into a
        puddle as her legs zipped forward to catch up to the rest of her,
        before she reconfigured herself back into a human shape.

        Not caring to be double-teamed, especially against such physically
        aggressive enemies, Clea threw a quick vertigo spell at the Changeling
        before she could engage her. Changeling squirmed and squished as she
        lurched, trying and failing to maintain her equilibrium. She
        collapsed, slinking down and unraveling.

        While Clea watched her successful spell, however, Storm took the
        opportunity and delivered a roundhouse kick to the face which
        effectively knocked the sorceress out. Storm ran over to her teammate,
        finding her body sluggish now that the Transmode virus was dead-weight
        on her body, thanks to Clea's anti-technology spell which momentarily
        disabled it. The mechanical parts in her body weighed more than she
        realized.

        "How are we doing?" Storm turned to see the Scarlet Witch walking up
        to her.

        "Andrea is down," Storm and Scarlet Witch both looked down to see the
        Changeling's fluidlike chest moving up and down, "but she and I have
        subdued our combatants. Can you get in touch with the others?"

        Scarlet Witch attempted a quick mental-scan of the island; though no
        world-class psychic, mystics learned to develop whatever meager
        psionic talents were theirs. "Guido and Clarice are out cold. Antoine
        is still dead-even with his opponent, halfway across the island."

        "Can you--" Storm started to ask.

        "Read their minds? No," Scarlet Witch admitted, looking down at Clea.
        "Their mental shields are just as strong as ours. Maybe even stronger.
        We would have to bring Charles or someone of his caliber along to
        unlock their secrets."

        "Ahem," A woman cleared her throat, and the two X-Men turned to see
        Topaz standing with her arms crossed. "I take it that you are two more
        of this group who sent a child out to fight for them?"

        "Be careful, Ororo," Scarlet Witch whispered to her teammate, "I can
        sense that this one is much stronger than she looks. Magic;
        hell-spawned magic."

        Topaz smiled. "You soldiers are outclassed."

        She gave a quick look up into the air behind the X-Men, and the
        Scarlet Witch and Storm could both feel the change in the air, the
        static hiss of energy.

        The Silver Surfer had returned to the fray.

        [The Xavier Academy for Higher Learning.]

        "Cable has the children safely hidden away in the Danger Room,"
        Charles Xavier announced, as sweat slid down his slick head. "I
        realize this may not be the best time, Stephen, but if you could
        explain what we're dealing with..."

        Doctor Strange held out his arms before the doorway to Xavier's
        office, a field of red energy replacing the door which had just been
        shattered in the demons' attempt to enter. "I'm afraid not at this
        moment, Charles. It requires my full concentration to maintain this
        barrier."

        "They... they just went nuts," Dice Preston explained, hunched over on
        the carpet, back against the desk, arms wrapped around his legs pulled
        up to his body. "I went down to bring Longshot his food, and... and
        they were... demons?"

        "That appears to be the case, yes," Valkyrie said, sitting beside him,
        holding Dragonfang on her other side. Though she craved action, she
        understood that Dr. Strange was attempting to avoid any unnecessary
        bloodshed, and that this boy, in his current state, would not last a
        minute in battle with the demon-possessed mutants on the other side of
        the door. "Have no fear; there is good reason Dr. Strange is the
        Sorcerer Supreme of this realm, and I am the Chooser of the Slain!"

        "You... you what?" Dice's face widened in horror. "You kill people?"

        "Only if they deserve it," Valkyrie replied, "but my primary duty is
        to escort those who die in worthy battle to Valhalla, to await Ragnarok."

        "Those who die in worthy battle," Dice laughed, nervous and afraid of
        things both outside and within the office, "must not have much of
        that, huh?"

        "Sadly, no," Valkyrie agreed, and gave him a gentle grin, as it seemed
        to lift his spirits somewhat.

        "I can't contact their minds," Xavier informed Strange, "something is
        clouding it over, whatever it is that has possessed them."

        "I'm not surprised," Dr. Strange said, as the corner of his cloak of
        levitation wiped his brow for him. "I'm going to attempt a
        counter-spell which might serve to--"

        The power of the force-shield weakened for a split-second before it
        was pummeled with a beam of solid ice which smashed through it and
        hammered the frail Dr. Strange, sending him flying back into Xavier's
        desk, sliding past its surface and slamming into his swiveling chair.

        "Hey, Baldy," demon-possessed Iceman snarled, licking his icy lips
        with a long, forked ice-tongue, "Guess what we're having for dinner? You!"

        "Stay here," Valkyrie advised Dice, as she hurled herself into battle
        with the demon-possessed Iceman, rushing him with Dragonfang to keep
        the others, Longshot, Psylocke, and Chamber, out of the office.

        [Meanwhile.]

        "It won't be long now," Baron Mordo said to the half-delirious woman
        strapped to the table. She had no idea where she was or what was going
        on; she barely could remember the essential details of her own life,
        as they seemed like a long-forgotten dream now. All she knew was the
        burning pain inside her, the disgusting, deviant lifeform growing
        within her rapidly expanding belly.

        Unknown to the baron, the Adversary watched him and the pregnancy he
        observed. Being a mystical entity, he could see with a sight beyond
        the ocular, and saw the demon-fetus developing within her. He saw what
        it was and what it would mean, if it were allowed to survive.

        The baby was Dormammu, lord of the Dark Dimension.

        If allowed to be born, he would gain a powerful foothold in this
        dimension, this dimension which the Adversary had been looking to turn
        to his own advantage for so very long. He struggled with the
        implications as he looked on it.

        He could not simply kill it himself, as he had made an agreement with
        it, through the baron. Their deal was to mutual benefit, to destroy
        the X-Men and the Defenders, those foes most likely to undo their
        current plans.

        Now, the Adversary realized, it was in his best interest to see the
        Defenders live and thrive, to stop Dormammu from hatching in this
        dimension. Thus, he concocted a plot; Chaos is Chaos, but a being who
        was Chaos as the Adversary was could easily manipulate Chaos towards
        his own sinister ends.

        And thus it was that the improbable was made probable and the
        invisible strings that kept the Adversary and Baron Mordo's macabre
        spells entwined began to vibrate and eventually to unravel.

        The spells burst forth, spitting apart, and the Adversary looked on in
        approval as he faded from one scene to reemerge in another time and place.

        [Ruin Island.]

        The Silver Surfer and Topaz advanced on Scarlet Witch and Storm, who
        stood back-to-back with nowhere to go, the conclusion seemingly
        inevitable.

        Scarlet Witch faced the Surfer, and began to use her hex power to make
        the improbable much more probable around him. The Silver Surfer could
        feel the changes in the dynamics of the space around him but thought
        little of it.

        "What can you do against me?" Topaz asked Storm. "Without any powers?"

        Storm tried to lunge, but had to roll away as fire spat forth from the
        ground before her. Topaz tried to suppress a wicked laugh, a light
        chuckle emanating from her throat with unusual gravel. "You're
        finished before you've even started. You should have at least thought
        to bring guns."

        "I need no such weapons to deal with you," Storm announced as she
        suddenly pounced with the grace and speed of a wild cat, tackling
        Topaz and sending them both rolling down a hill before Topaz could
        react, the rolls keeping her disoriented.

        "I am returned," Rintrah announced as he set down for a landing near
        the Scarlet Witch and Silver Surfer. He prepared to open up his amulet
        once more upon her, when he was suddenly tackled from the side by a
        dripping wet, suitably annoyed Strong Guy.

        Elsewhere, Blink had awoken and was looking for her teammates.
        Following a trail of destruction, she came across Jack Russell just as
        he was groaning back to consciousness, the pain in his head erupting
        into a full-scale transformation into his were-beast form.

        Blink did not move as the werewolf howled and scrutinized her. She was
        to be his next meal. He could smell the fear on her as, powerless, she
        could not flee in any direction. The werewolf leapt, jaws wide to snap
        at her neck...

        Blink closed her eyes and winced, ready for the pain to come.

        The werewolf yowled in pain and Blink took another two seconds to open
        her eyes again.

        The werewolf rolled on the grass, clawing at a silver crescent lodged
        in his chest. It would leave a scar.

        Blink smiled as she saw her newest teammate, La Nuit, striding
        forward. She paused as she saw the silver-armored foe he'd been
        fighting for the last twenty minutes walking by his side.

        "Do not worry," La Nuit advised her as he formed a cushy chair of
        Darkforce energy for her to slump down into, "this is the Moon Knight.
        We have been tricked, Clarice. We are fighting the Defenders."

        "Oh," Blink said, relaxing in the chair while Moon Knight took the
        fight to the werewolf, punching him repeatedly in the face and telling
        him what a bad dog he was. "Who're they?"

        "They are the foot-soldiers of Doctor Strange," La Nuit said with a
        grin, "they came for the very same reason that we came here for. I
        think that we need to find the others."

        "I think you and I should be able to handle separating the two teams,"
        Changeling said, as she strolled up to them, rapidly shifting forms.

        "It is getting dark," La Nuit said, looking up at the sky, "I do not
        believe that shall be a problem, Changeling."

        "You can call me Andrea," She said.

        "Very well," La Nuit corrected himself, "Andrea."

        [The Xavier Academy for Higher Learning.]

        "Keep moving!" The Valkyrie practically carried the semi-conscious Dr.
        Strange out the front door with her, as Charles Xavier and Dice
        Preston ran through the lawn towards the front gates. The
        demon-possessed X-Men had blocked off the other exits with
        ice-barricades, apparently wanting them to go this way.

        "Something is wrong," demon-Longshot said, "I feel my presence slipping."

        "I feel it, too," demon-Psylocke growled, "filthy mutants! I'll tear
        your--"

        "No," Charles Xavier said, planting his feet firmly on the soil, "I
        don't believe that you will."

        The demon-possessed X-Men strained against the mental assault, as the
        Adversary and Baron Mordo's magics began to dissipate and the demons
        found their hold on the mutants slipping by the second.

        "Why?" Dr. Strange asked in a voice barely above a whisper. "What
        was... oh."

        The Adversary appeared at the gate, nearly twenty feet tall. He held
        out his palms and the demons' essences were sucked into them in a
        mighty swirling spiral of smoke.

        "The charade is over," Adversary declared, "I have come for my prize."

        Iceman, Chamber, Psylocke, and Longshot all collapsed, exhausted from
        the demon possession. Dice looked on in fear, barely able to maintain
        consciousness, while Dr. Strange considered spells, Valkyrie prepared
        to send her allies to Valhalla, and Charles Xavier steadied his mind.

        Suddenly, a portal interrupted the showdown, screeching, exploding
        with light and energy and darkness and truth and lies and hellfire, as
        the combined forces of the X-Men and the Defenders burst forth, their
        combined resources working to overcome the still-degrading spells of
        Ruin Island.

        "The Adversary!" Scarlet Witch immediately recognized him as they
        returned to the earth.

        The Adversary laughed. He could fight them all off now, of course,
        with everyone in such a weakened state, but it would not suit him to
        destroy the Defenders, and the baron would be on to him if he were to
        leave only that non-team alive.

        "A misdirection," He announced, before vanishing in a burst of yellow
        light.

        [Sometime later.]

        "I am sorry we could not help you," Rintrah told Storm, as his own
        spells proved useless against the Transmode infection in her body.

        "It is alright," Storm said, "I have had to weather worse curses, and
        I have persevered. I shall do the same now."

        "Can I borrow your board sometime?" Guido asked the Silver Surfer, who
        was not amused.

        "My powers are back," Blink announced before blinking out.

        "So," Dice asked the Valkyrie as they walked towards the others, "are
        we going to team up again in the future?"

        "Perhaps," the Valkyrie said with a sad look on her face, attempting
        to make a smile. "We shall see."

        "Cool," Dice said.

        The rest of the X-Men and Defenders socialized as Xavier and Strange
        shook hands, apologizing for the confusion. "We'll have to configure
        some way of verifying a mental summons," Xavier suggested, "something
        our enemies would not think of."

        "I agree," Strange said, "We'll discuss it on that mountain pass
        beyond Celephais?"

        "Certainly," Xavier agreed.

        The Valkyrie sliced Dragonfang through the air before her, opening up
        a new tear in the fabric of space and time, and the Defenders made
        their way to it. Jack Russell made a longing face, as though he had
        something to say before thinking the better of it, and they walked
        through the hole before it sealed itself back up as though by magic.

        "So," Strong Guy started, "Umm... what was that all about, again?"

        "The Adversary is toying with us," Scarlet Witch said. "Nothing more."

        "I think he has something big planned for us," Storm said, looking up
        into the sky as thunder sounded, a few moist droplets quickly becoming
        a shower. "We shall be ready for whatever fate has in store for us."

        [To be continued, in The Uncanny X-Men & The Defenders.]
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