by Nancy Lorenz.
Rating: PG-13. Some violent, disturbing themes. Swearing.
Archive: XMMFF, WRFA. All else, all ya gotta do is ask.
Classification: General, L/R UST, S/J content.
Series: Manus Mortiferum
Spoilers: The Movie.
Synopsis: Continues on after the movie. The Mutant Situation is
worsening and Erik Lenscherr escapes from prison. Rogue suffers
a terrible mishap during the mission to stop him that shakes the
foundations of her psyche and changes her life completely.
Disclaimer: All characters copyright Marvel and Fox.
Feedback: Enjoyed, responded to, adored and worshiped. Respond
to the email above :)
Author's Note: This is beta read, but not to the fullest extent
that it can be. Some comma and semi-colon confusion occurs. Does
that really bother you? I figure it's only fan-fic, and I have a
comic to ink so I don't have the energy to break my back over
this thing. But I did get rid of the spelling mistakes and the
grammar mistakes. Most of them anyways :) Very big thank you
to my Betas - JennyEdu, Jennifer Hallmark, Shaz Nolan, and I
swear there must be someone else. I can't remember right now.
E-mail me, smack me up the side of the head and I'll rectify it
in the next chapter posting. Love ya's alls mates! Oh - and I
know I said I'm releasing it a chapter a day, but I'll forget to
do that I think, so I'm just doing it bunch by bunch :)
Dedication: To the WRGrrls. You've been around for over a year,
and the fandom is still going. That's majorly cool. Without
your support, your enthusiasm and love, I'd be nowhere. This
tenacity and companionship has helped me improve the crafts that
I want to take into a career. For that, I thank you and love you
always. Thank you girls.
With complete inconsistence, in this chapter, '//' denotes
telepathic thought. Sorry 'bout that.
Their approach was stealthy, needlessly so. Like the carnage at
the prison block where Magneto was detained, the lab was in a
state of chaos. Policemen were scattered about the place - shot,
burnt, and crushed. The lab burned, the ceaseless bleating of
emergency vehicles knelled in the distance, crying out their
approach. The X-Men parked the Blackbird on the helipad on the
roof of the lab and upon exiting the black streamlined jet a
nervous wind gusted.
The choking smell of smoke, chemicals and burnt flesh engulfed
them. Dust could be seen in the air, clouding, debris littering
the roof. Scott strode forward to the edge of the roof, and
looking down, his heart twisted.
Bodies, about twenty in all. Who knew how many people were
inside, at the mercy of the madmen responsible for this. He set
his jaw in resolve, turning around and pointing to the sky whilst
staring dead ahead at Ororo.
"Storm," he muttered quietly, "Do something about the fire, will
She nodded, slinking forward silently, arms rising. Her eyes
flickered to life, glowing that eerie white, tendrils of
electricity licking from her fingertips and pupils.
Cyclops and Jean stepped back, Hank joining them with a careful
gait. He had a first aid kit in his huge clawed hands, and as
the rain began to spatter down in large heavy droplets, he
touched Jean's arm. She looked to him, then to Cyclops.
"Come on," she said.
The upper levels of the place were largely deserted. The stench
of spilt chemicals choked them at every turn, and seeing as they
were amongst offices rather than laboratories, it did not bode
well for what was taking place in the sub-levels. Cyclops looked
"Beast - I want you to check these upper levels and make sure
there are no injured."
"Yes sir," he replied, loping off down the hall in a swift and
elegant gait. Scott looked to Jean.
"Doesn't look good..."
"There's nobody here," she said. "It could be worse."
He knew what she meant. There could be dead here, scattered in
the hallway and outside. Thankfully this strike had been made at
night, when minimal staff were present. Certainly no office or
administrative personnel would be here at this time. A stiff icy
breeze fluttered Cyclops' fringe, and turning he saw his platinum
haired team mate approach.
"It should last a while," Storm said, referring to the rain.
"Enough to douse the flames."
"Good work, Storm."
Cyclops motioned them on down the hall, at the end of which was
an unassuming looking elevator. The closer to the elevator they
got, the more choking were the smells of burning and chemicals.
Cyclops pursed his lips grimly, pressing the button to the
elevator. No light lit up on the console, and pressing his ear
to the door, he could hear no motion inside.
"There have to be emergency stairs somewhere..." said Jean.
"It'll take too long," said Scott. With a grunt of effort, he dug
his fingers between the closed door, gnashing his teeth. He
puffed, turning his head to Jean. "A little help?"
Jean nodded, and stepping forward she wedged her fingers in the
door. Storm chipped in, doing her own grunt-work, and after a
moment they all gave a collective growl of triumph as the
stubborn doors gave way. Scott clapped his gloved hands
"Right... let's see what's going on here..." He stuck his head
in the doorway, and gazed down the shaft. "Huh... the car is at
the bottom... " Cyclops hung from the doorway, grabbing the
cable. He pulled at it, shook it about, then shook his head with
a dark frown. "Cable's severed. I'll bet you they cut the power
to it as well."
"They were expecting an aerial defense," Jean said.
"Makes sense," said Storm. "Police, emergency services... us."
Scott looked to Storm slowly. "Yeah... but very few people know
"I know," Storm replied levelly.
Looking back into the shaft, Cyclops grabbed the cable and
sighed. "I guess now's a good as time as
any to brush up on my rapelling skills."
Jean grabbed his arm. "Scott - that's dangerous - we can find
"No time," Cyclops replied. He gave his fiance a reassuring
smile. "I'll be fine. If I slip or fall, you can catch me."
Jean sighed, closing her eyes and cradling her face a moment.
"Fine... But I can't lower myself down with telekinesis and keep
a tabs on you at the same time..."
Scott nodded. "That's why you and Storm are going down first."
"Ladies first eh?" said Storm, moving forward with a liquid
gait. Jean shrugged, patting her comrade's shoulder as they
stepped on the edge of the floor.
"Don't ever let it be said that I wasn't the sensible one," Jean
said to Scott with a pointed stare before preparing herself for
her controlled fall.
"Never," Scott grinned.
Jean stepped off the edge of the floor, her hair fluttering up as
she dropped. She let herself free fall for a level or two, and
smoothly she slowed, feet tip-toeing, ready to land on the roof
of the unattached car. As her feet touched the ground, air began
to whip around her. Glancing up, she stepped to the wall of the
shaft, holding onto a half-embedded beam. Above her, Storm began
to lower herself down, the gusts of wind whipping her cape and
hair about, supporting the woman's slender frame in the descent.
It took the Weather Goddess slightly longer to make it down.
Cyclops grabbed the cable, and after flexing his gloved hands in
preparation, he swung from the open door frame, bouncing off the
opposite wall and letting himself skid down. He could feel an
invisible force push at his body from underneath, and glancing
below he could just see Jean, lifting a hand. He kept kicking at
the wall, the noisy whirr of the cable slipping through his hands
filling his ears. It took him little time to make it down and
upon landing on the roof of the felled car with a loud bang he
looked to Jean.
"Thanks for the help."
Jean gave a slip of a smile, all she could spare for the
"Right..." Cyclops put his hands on his narrow hips, looking
under his feet. "Lets see if this thing has got a way in..." He
knelt, feeling around in the dim light, and his hands struck a
lever door handle. He pursed his lips, taking a hold of it.
"Well you know what they say..." Storm lifted a brow
expectantly. Scott spotted it and shrugged. "Open sesame."
With that he yanked at the handle, the under-used mechanism
giving a violent screech in protest. Cyke grunted, lifting the
heavy hatch, and throwing it back he coughed.
Smoke, chemical vapours and dust billowed from the hole. He
winced through it, covering his nose and mouth with the back of
his hand. With his other hand he waved and pointed at the hole.
He didn't have to say anything else; Storm knew the drill. With
a little dip of concentration in her coffee-toned brow, her eyes
flickered to their glowing white. Her hair lifted, whipped about
her face, and a sudden gust of wind blasted down the shaft.
Right down the hole.
Jean grabbed a small black comm-link from her belt and activated
it. "Hank, you there?"
"Affirmative," the little comm-link relayed.
"Not as yet," he said. "It seems to be deserted, and I find no
evidence that anyone has been here in the offices for some time."
"Then get down here," she said. "There may be injured down here,
and by the concentration of these fumes you can depend on there
being some cases of asphyxia."
"On my way."
Jean shut off the comm and shoved it back in her belt, trying to
control her hair as it fluttered in her face. Scott waved to
Storm, and the gust died down swiftly.
"Let's hope that airs out some of the fumes."
"It should," Storm said, "If there's open vents or airways."
Cyclops nodded, and after a moment of considering the danger, he
crouched down over the hole to listen. It was quiet... too
quiet. He looked to Jean, pointing down the hole.
"You sense anything down there?"
Jean frowned, closing her eyes. They darted about under their
lids, her lips pursing, and she let out a frustrated sigh. "I
can't get a hold on anything specific. I don't know if it's
unconscious people or people far away ... it's almost as if
someone's scrambling my senses."
Storm's features grew stony as these words left Jean's mouth.
"Then we should proceed with extreme caution."
"Agreed," said Scott. "Caution or not - we gotta go down there.
Are we ready?"
Jean and Storm nodded, and Cyclops gathered up his legs
underneath him. "Then let's go."
He leapt down the hole, landing with a swift thud on the bottom
of the lift car. He put his fingers to his visor, turning his
blast up a touch. Something was very wrong around here and he
He didn't have to be psychic like Jean to sense the tension
around him, to feel the palpable aggression in the air.
The place was a mess. Test tubes and microscope parts littered
the floor. Papers were scattered about, creating a strange layer
of white over everything. Dust slipped from the odd ceiling
crack, and security lights in the ceiling flashed frantically.
The smell of chemicals was rife and the trail of destruction led
from this large lab to more down a corridor. Cyclops turned,
looking to Jean and Storm as they crawled down the hole.
"Doesn't look like anyone's about," he said, his voice heavy with
deliberation to those that knew him. He was speaking in double
meanings, a type of communication he taught to his X-Men
initiates. While he said that it didn't look as if anyone was
about, he was augmenting the fact that it was only in appearance
that the place was deserted. Stay alert, his words really said.
We might not be alone.
The women caught up to him, staying close, eyes darting about
with caution. Jean's were drawn to the papers that lay on the
desk nearby, and as her comrades crept on, she let herself read
the documents littered about like worthless trash.
Her hazel eyes widened as they skimmed the pages, and she fancied
that perhaps she was shaking at that moment.
Cyclops needed to go on, down the main corridor of the laboratory
level, but only Storm was behind him. Jean was lagging. He
turned about, a dent of a frown in his young brow.
"Jean," he said, "Stay close."
She nodded, her face pale, and with a quivering hand, she
clutched the papers she held close to her chest. Cyclops
"What is that?"
She opened her mouth, closed it, then stuffed the papers into her
uniform. "We have to take these to the Professor," she said,
"What are they?"
"We have-" She closed her eyes, then shook her head. "If they're
doing what I think they're doing here... well, let's just say
there's plenty of reason for mutants to destroy this building."
Cyclops frowned. "Jean... what are you saying?"
Jean opened her mouth to speak again, but a strange gust of wind
blasted past her. It was the slightest flash of green that
zipped by, one that nearly bowled her over. She glanced about,
frowning. Storm looked about also, the static electricity in the
room peaking with her concealed readiness. Cyclops gulped,
balling his fists. Something was definitely not right. They
were most certainly not alone. The only thing that worried him
was that someone here could scramble Jean's abilities to sense
others. That meant power, of the mind-altering kind.
The green zipped about them again, this time a low male giggle
"They seek him here, they seek him there..." The voice was cold,
female. It sent chills down their spines. It was followed with
a delicate but cutting laugh.
Cyclops grit his teeth. "You're not gonna out-psych us with
childish games!" he called. "Come out and face us, or leave.
It's your choice!"
"Hmmm," The voice was smooth now. "I choose... to play."
The green flash swept past knocking over Jean and Storm in the
process. The women sprawled on the floor, coughing as if they'd
had the wind knocked out of them. Okay, Scott thought. Now I'm
"I hope you don't mind an additional piece in this game, then?"
The deep well-spoken voice was music to Scott's ears. Glancing
behind him, he saw Beast lope forward deftly, purpose in his
clear blue eyes.
"Beast," he said, "That's quite a sense of timing you've got
"Thank you," Hank replied, "How many?"
"No idea," droned Scott darkly.
"One hundred?" said the woman's voice once more. "One? Who can
The green flashes and gusts of air came to a flurrying stop in
front of Cyclops.
Icey blue eyes. Familiar features. Impish grin. And then a
set of knuckles upside his jaw. It was too fast for Cyclops to
understand what was going on before the strike hit him. He
sprung back, bent over, nursing his jaw. He sprawled over just
in time to see Jean clutch her skull, wincing in agony.
She cried out, shaking her head, tears streaming down her wrought
"Poor Lady of the Red Locks," came that voice again, "Her mind is
racing, racing, racing. No match for mine, now..."
Hands threw Cyclops back to the floor, and he could feel punches
pound him, faster than imaginable.
"Fight Jean!!" he cried, "FIGHT!"
Jean crumpled to the floor, anguished cries ripping through her
body. Storm raced on, searching the rooms for the source of her
comrade's agony, and Beast struggled with the ghost of dark green
atop of Cyclops, only managing to get himself hurt in the
As Cyclops felt blackness struggle to claim him, he knew that
they wouldn't be alone for long. He had to hang on, just till
help got here. It would get here, because if Jean's mind was
feeling the torment it seemed to, then Cerebro would certainly
pick it up. Xavier would send the cavalry.
The thump that resonated throughout the brushed steel table
echoed off the walls of the television screening room. It also
caused Logan to pull back his hand and wag it with a wince.
"Careful Kid!" he pouted, "You whack one hell of a punch now,
Rogue smirked. "Aw, now since when were you such a pussy-cat?"
Logan scowled and fingered the few cards he had remaining in this
childish game Rogue insisted upon playing. They'd been sitting
in this room for what seemed like hours, truth be told, it'd only
been one at the most. The walls were lined with television
screens, each one tuned in to all the different major news
networks. Logan kept half an eye on them as they went. So far,
it was repeats of Joanie Loves Chachi and Cheers, but he knew
that the media wouldn't be able to ignore the shit that would be
going down at that lab for much longer.
"You awake in there?"
Logan looked up and nodded. "Yeah, just worrying."
Rogue's features softened, and she nodded. "Yeah, me too." She
sighed, throwing down the cards. "I hate waiting like this."
Logan just nodded at that, spreading his cards in his hands.
He looked up to meet the confused look on Rogue's face, and
shrugged. "Genetics lab. It's an odd thing for a bunch of
mutant terrorists to break into."
Rogue snorted darkly. "Not really, not if they've been doing
some anti-mutant experiments there."
Logan's hazel eyes grew sharp. "See, that's the thing. Your
clever terrorist wouldn't risk themselves for an 'if' situation.
They know something we don't."
Rogue gazed at the cards in her hands. With a decisive shrug,
she looked back to Logan. "I guess we're going to find out what
they're so eager to get their hands on then, won't we?"
He nodded back at her, but not without looking harried. He
didn't want Rogue to be a part of that 'we,'
but by the way his hand had been throbbing from the last slap
she'd given him, he had a feeling she might just be okay this
time around. He'd damned well make sure of it either way. Rogue
was still shuffling the cards in her hands, and she looked up to
smile at him. The smile paused on her face, her eyes gleaming,
staring straight past him.
"Oh mah God..."
Logan turned about, his whole body tensing at the sight that
shocked Rogue. Fire, dead bodies, upturned police cars... Rogue
had jumped to her feet by this time, and her stance wavered along
with her balance, her hands gripping the table.
"I think we're bein' called to duty..."
Logan nodded, and grabbing Rogue he raced out the door, the
Professor's words echoing in their minds.
//I've lost Jean's thoughts. They need you now.//
Grey. It was all he could see as pain pattered all over his body
in broad splashing strokes. It had become so fast and furious
that it was beyond identifying it as the individual strikes of a
person and their fist. Shifting pain is what it was now. The
grunts and howls of his comrade Beast were above him, and he
could feel his body hair spiking gently in his skin. The crackle
and hiss of electricity played in the room, but poor Storm
couldn't *see* her adversary. He was too fast.
Jean grit her teeth, crouched in a ball, fingers digging into her
hair, into her skin, fighting invisible tendrils of energy that
tickled and writhed on her brain. They were pure noise, painful
and blinding, like a thousand minds inflicted onto hers.
Her thoughts were a mantra now... Leave me alone... leave me
The same elegant voice spoke to her and her alone. It was cold
and crystal, this voice, like ice. It said she wasn't strong
enough, that she wasn't strong enough when she was fourteen and
shut in her room with the voices and she wasn't strong enough
now. Never would be, never.
"What are you thinking, Jean?" she said coolly. "You're not a
leader. You're not a doctor. You're a freak, wrapped in leather
and toting your little tinker toys that bleep. You can't even
stop me from reading your petty little mind like a book! Oh,
that's right, you make things move. You call it telekinesis.
Any real master of the mind calls it child's play."
Jean let out a breathy sob. "No.... leave... me..."
Storm glanced down to Jean as she began to form a fog. "Jean..."
The telekinetic didn't even glance to her comrade. Her eyes were
clamped shut, head cradled in her shaking hands.
Storm concentrated on making the low fog she had started, hoping
that it would reveal the tracks of their invisible attacker.
She ignored the voice, focusing on her task at hand to save her
"Did they call you that? Or did they call you Goddess?" It was
a thickly accented voice, female, gentle and silky but with a
vicious edge of derision. "I will call you nothing," the voice
said, "Because that is all you are to me. I will not allow you
to bring harm to my comrade."
"You will have to stop me!" Storm said, brows drawn as the fog
began to swirl around Cyclops, something running above him, back
The tendrils of electricity that danced around her eyes,
heralding the use of her abilities, suddenly snapped and waned.
She tensed, fighting to keep her mind on the fog. A tight pain
gripped her, lifted her, spoiled her skin with crawling fire. It
settled in her stomach and shuddered ill and shock through her
organs. She whimpered, and as her head grew limp on her neck,
she looked to the corridor she had checked a moment ago. Someone
was there now.
The woman was decked in dark, gel-like red pleather, the
high-necked sleeveless zipped up top matched by pants of the same
make, tight enough for personal appeal and yet loose enough for
combat. Not that this woman seemed to really need the liberty of
movement. As her blood-red cloak billowed around her, the scarf
tied around her head keeping long curled dark hair from her
painfully pretty face, her hands were alight with balls of
energy. The energy danced and grew, waned and expanded. It
licked out at Storm and tormented her body.
Storm pressed her lips together, closing her eyes and summoning
her powers with the very depths of her being. Winds
comply...winds rush and fall...
The woman in red frowned as a small gust of wind pushed at her.
"You're not being difficult are you, Weather Witch?"
Storm said nothing, her eyes glowing their eerie white.
With a bursting roar and rush, wind blasted into the room from
the elevator shaft, the doors buckling and tumbling into the
room. One door fluttered past her, narrowly missing the woman
The voice was a man's and suddenly in front of the woman was the
green ghost. It wasn't a ghost, however. He was very human,
young and fit, silver hair wild on his head. He glanced at
Storm, glaring at her as if she were the very devil. He gnashed
his teeth, and abruptly disappeared.
Barely a second later Storm felt her legs being kicked from under
"Sweet Jesus, this place is a mess."
Her words echoed his thoughts as they both climbed off of the
motorcycle haphazardly parked on the lawn nearby the sieged
genetics lab. The contours of the front of the squat, seemingly
innocent office building were blinking blue and red in the light
of hordes of police cars. Logan ticked a nostril, wincing a
little at the results.
"Chemicals," he said, "And small fires... stay close, Kid."
Rogue nodded silently, ruffling her hair after pulling off her
helmet. Their approach was one from the small brush that
surrounded the lab, keeping low and watchful of the police cars.
Television vans were also parked akimbo, gutted and smoking. All
in all, the vehicles were empty, and the place was eerily void of
moving people. Logan let himself stalk in the lead, and finding
a locked emergency exit, he unleashed a claw and quickly gutted
the steel mechanism. It made a harsh crunch that Rogue flinched
at. Logan touched her arm reassuringly before kicking open the
Smoke billowed out, and the chemical smell grew stronger. Rogue
coughed, covering her mouth. Logan looked up the stairwell, then
"Well... follow the reek of burning formaldehyde, I guess," he
He knew they thought he was unconscious, because the beatings had
stopped. For a moment, he took advantage of this. He could hear
Jean whimpering still, and the whoosh and grunting of Storm
battling the strange woman 'Scarlet' mingled with that of Beast's
struggles with the fast man in dark green. He closed his eyes,
letting his mind grow strong, making an effort of directing his
thoughts towards his wife to be.
Hear me, Jean... don't let them hurt you... be strong!
Jean still writhed, no difference in her behaviour visible.
"Big blue man!" nattered the dark green ghost, "Strong, sure, but
too slow, too slow!"
He had to do something; this was getting ridiculous. With a
grunt, he rolled over. Pain lashed out all over his body. Ow,
he thought. That was not a smart thing to do. Slowly, he
dragged his arms underneath his body, and with a tremendous
effort he pushed himself up off the floor.
The green streaks around Beast stopped, the tall limber man in
green eyeing Cyclops with intrigue. The corner of his mouth
"Oh, back for another round eh?" His voice was accented thickly
like the woman called Scarlet, and his eyes gleamed. As Cyclops
crouched a little, catching his breath, he laughed. "Going to
fry me with your terrible laser beams?"
Cyke looked up and deftly touched his visor. A beam shot out,
blasting the green man in the chest and batting him away across
the room, over the cowering Beast's head.
"Kick your ass with concussive energy, actually," Cyclops
At that moment the emergency exit door rattled and burst open,
just in time to make way for the flying man. Logan and Rogue
ducked the hurtling body, eyes wide in alarm.
Logan looked from the door to Cyclops, a questioning wince on his
"One down," Cyke cried over the furor around him, turning to
Jean. His hair was whipped about by the frenzy of forces being
creating by the dueling women floating in the air. Chunks of ice
and spatters of rain hurled themselves at the scarlet woman, and
glowering orbs of energy glowed and clung to the Weather Goddess'
frame. Rogue ran forward, glancing at the women then at Jean.
"What's wrong with Jean?!" she cried.
"Dunno!" he called back, kneeling next to his fiancée.
"Telepathic onslaught, I think!"
The sound of twisting steel rattled the building, and the room
shook. Logan sank to the ground suddenly, covering his ears and
howling in agony. Rogue's eyes widened.
He shook his head, clutching it, sweat breaking out on his skin.
Okay Rogue, she thought. Freaking out isn't going to help
anybody. She clenched her jaw, decision seizing her.
"Somethin's comin'," she said to Cyke. "And this all don't add
Cyke looked around himself and nodded. "This is a distraction."
Rogue glanced to him. "Permission to break up?"
Cyclops pressed his lips together in hesitance, but after looking
quickly to a pain-stricken Logan, nodded. "Hurry back if you
don't find anything."
Rogue nodded and ran.
He turned, looking to Scarlet. Perhaps he could do something
about the energy-spouting woman. He sharpened the focus of his
beam just slightly, and scooting down along the wall for a good
shot, Cyclops let it fly. The beam hit a ripple of energy, slid
around it and blasted a hole in the ceiling. Pulling Jean from
the hubbub to underneath the safety of a desk, he growled under
his breath. The last time he'd seen an energy field have that
effect was when he took a shot... at Magneto. Rogue was right.
Something wasn't right here at all.