Chapter One: Sentinel
The bustling streets of New York were unusually quiet other than the booming crash of falling buildings and the howl of sirens. Everybody was either shivering with fear inside their homes or had evacuated the city. The source of this fear was a raging sentinel: a colossal robot designed to target and eliminate mutants. However, the sentinel was not programmed to protect normal human life, and would go to extraordinary lengths just to destroy a single innocent mutant. It was painted with mostly fluorescent pink and dark purple, but its happy colors were deceptive. With a loud whir, the sentinel sent a blazing beam of energy from its mechanical palm, incinerating a car, transforming it into a pile of red-hot debris.
Logan, or Wolverine as he was nicknamed, zipped up his new uniform as the X-Jet (or Blackbird, as it was better known) soared through the cloudy sky. Unlike his old black one, this outfit was blue and yellow, with a mask that covered some of his face. Much to his distaste, it was made of spandex, and made him look quite ridiculous, but Professor Xavier had insisted on him wearing it because it coud prevent scanners from detecting that he was a mutant. This would be a great advantage against the sentinel. Seated beside him was Kurt Wagner, also known as Nightcrawler, and on the other side was Ororo Munroe, better known as Storm. Scott Summers, or Cyclops, was at the controls, piloting the Blackbird down to New York, where a rogue sentinel was destroying buildings. Scott was still grieving over the recent death of Jean Grey, who had sacrificed herself to save the other X-Men from a flood at Alkali Lake. Wolverine smelt the distinct salty flavour of a tear running down Cyclops’s cheek.
"So, think we can handle a giant robot?" Logan asked Nightcrawler, who flashed him a nervous look.
"Maybe, but…" he trailed off.
As the Blackbird descended, the sentinel scanned it for life. Inside its robotic brain, the sentinel calculated that there were four sentient beings, three of which mutants, and it sent a missile rocketing from its metallic shoulder. The missile slammed into the engines, detonating them and blasting a hole through to the cockpit. Wolverine leaped through the hole, plummeting to the ground. He impacted hard, tearing the flesh from his cheek and right arm. However, his mutant healing power kicked in, and in a mere twenty seconds he was back on his feet, the wounds completely healed. Following him, Nightcrawler teleported with a loud bamf sound to the sentinel’s shoulder, where the missile had been fired. He flipped, landing on its head, then somersaulting on to its back. He pounded the plating with his fist, only to recoil in pain, for the sentinel had given him an electrical shock. He tumbled from his perch, hurtling towards the hard asphalt road beneath, only for Storm, who had also just left the Blackbird, to swoop down and snatch him. She gently lowered him down into Wolverine’s hairy arms."What do you want me to do with ‘im?" Wolverine protested, shaking his head.
Rather than debate what to do with the unconscious Nightcrawler, Storm soared back into the smoky air. Suddenly, the sky turned dark as Storm used her powers. A sizzling bolt of bright blue lightning flashed, striking the sentinel hard. It stumbled backward into a nearby skyscraper, and the building began to topple toward the ground. Cyclops flicked the Blackbird onto autopilot and leaped from the cockpit, unleashing a scarlet force beam from his visor. The beam hit the falling building and deflected it back to the sentinel. The skyscraper collapsed onto the sentinel, crushing it beneath over thirty tonnes of shattered bricks, twisted metal, broken glass and smashed furniture as Storm plucked Cyclops from the air and slowed his fall. The Blackbird piloted itself down to land several hundred meters away, and Wolverine didn’t hesitate to climb aboard. He dumped the still-unconscious Nightcrawler onto a small white bed in the back of the aircraft and grabbed the controls. The moment Storm and Scott settled into their seats, Wolverine took off, and the Blackbird ascended into the cloudy sky.
Back at the X-Mansion, a frown crossed Professor Xavier’s face as he watched the incident with the sentinel on the news. The setting sun shone on his bald skull, reflecting the light onto the wall. Sensing that his X-Men had returned from their mission, he rolled down the hallway on his mechanized wheelchair and out to the elevator. He took it down to the subbasement - a section under the X-Mansion containing Cerebro, a machine that could amplify his telepathic (mind reading and controlling) abilities, and what was known as the 'Danger Room', a training area that used hologram technology to simulate battles. Professor Xavier moved down the tiled corridor to the hangar, where the Blackbird had just landed.
"We’re back!" growled Logan as he stalked into view. Cyclops followed, holding Nightcrawler in his arms. Storm came next, cape flowing behind her.
"I've seen better performances." said Xavier, glancing at Nightcrawler.
"He's out cold, but breathing." assured Cyclops, taking Nightcrawler into the medical ward that had previously been run by Jean Grey. A tear rolled down Scott's cheek as he thought of her. Wolverine's keen senses suddenly detected a familiar scent. He raced into the elevator and ascended two levels. Sabretooth... Logan thought as he unsheathed his gleaming adamantium claws.
Chapter Two: Sabretooth
Sabretooth glared at the X-Mansion when he arrived. Contrary to everybody’s beliefs, he had not been killed several months earlier when that fool had blasted him off the Statue of Liberty, and he had been tracking him ever since. With a growl, Sabretooth leaped over the brick wall with ease, and bounded toward the front door. Several weeks ago, he had discovered his quarry’s name at an airport terminal. Scott Summers. Sabretooth’s eyes narrowed with rage as he came closer to his goal. His acute hearing picked up many sounds, including the voice of Scott arguing with another man. Sabretooth grinned wickedly as he shredded the front door into splinters. He sped up the stairs, pushing frightened students aside, until his path was blocked by a hairy man about five and a half feet tall, with a strange wolf-like haircut and three metallic spikes poking out of each hand. There was no doubt that he was facing...
"Wolverine!!!" Sabretooth howled as he was stabbed in the chest. He grimaced in pain as Wolverine lifted him up and hurled him into the ground a story below. The floorboards creaked under his weight. Sabretooth rolled to his feet and grabbed hold of the wooden railing alongside the stairs. He used it to haul himself within reach of a magnificent chandelier. Grasping the chandelier in one hand, he somersaulted over Wolverine’s head and behind his back. Sabretooth ducked a wild slash at his eyes and reached for Wolverine’s throat. He was so caught up in the vicious battle that he didn’t even notice one of the younger students rush off to alert the other X-Men. Moments later, Cyclops, a lady with tan skin and long white hair, a furry blue man with a tail like a devil, a boy with ice all over his body and a teenager made of steel burst into view. Several younger students also came his way, fists raised. One student, who left flaming footsteps, ignited a fireball around his hand. Quickly realizing he was outnumbered and outgunned, Sabretooth released his grip on Wolverine’s neck and bounded back the way he came.
"Spread out! Search the grounds and surrounding area! We must find him!" said Professor Xavier's voice inside their heads.
Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Bobby Drake or Iceman (the boy with ice all over his body) and Piotr (also called Peter) Rasputin or Colossus (the steel teenager) dashed out of the front door and began to scan their surrounds, except for Wolverine. He simply sniffed the air, trying to detect Sabretooth with his acute senses. Wolverine smelled him and immediately raced in his direction. Within moments, he was past the gate and was rushing down the street, sniffing furiously. He turned a corner and glimpsed Sabretooth sprinting down an alleyway. Wolverine bolted after him, dashing past several grimy bins. Eventually, Sabretooth's scent grew thin, and difficult to follow. Wolverine pursued him for another minute, before giving up and collapsing onto the ground, exhausted. About thirty seconds later, the others arrived, panting heavily.
"He got away!" Wolverine growled, chest heaving.
"Great, another immortal enemy!" Cyclops said sarcastically. "Why can't he just stay dead? You know what, to heck with this whole thing. I quit."
"No, wait Scott! We can talk this through, work something out!" pleaded Storm, shaking her head.
"No, I'm sorry. I've had it. First J-Jean, now Sabretooth is back!" he shouted. "I can't take this anymore!" With that, Cyclops stormed away, tears streaming down his face.
Little did they know that Sabretooth had already got in touch with Magneto, and he was making his way to his base. Sweat was pouring down his face, drenching his animal-like beard and long hair as he ran down the filthy alley. He passed a subway station before reaching the other side of the alley. He sighted a bus about two meters away, and with a tremendous leap, he landed atop it.
Sabretooth stayed on top of the speeding bus for several miles, until he bounded off and onto the top of a large oil tanker that was turning down another street. Sabretooth continued 'hitch hiking' until he reached a huge forest. He made his way into the heart of the shrubbery, towards Magneto's new base. Eventually, he came across a small patch of earth that looked somewhat unusual. Of course, it was Magneto's lair, and as Sabretooth approached, it slid open, revealing a ladder down to a steel corridor. He entered and strode down a passageway. Sabretooth turned down another corridor before emerging into a large iron chamber with a steel desk and chair in the center. Magneto sat at the desk, wearing his typical crimson helmet and scarlet cape. Mystique, Magneto's blue shapeshifting lieutenant, was standing by his side, yellow eyes constantly scanning the room. Toad, who was also believed to have been killed during the battle on the Statue of Liberty, was crouched on the ceiling, grinning maniacally, and Pyro, Magneto's newest recruit, was standing next to the doorway. He had a pair of flamethrowers strapped to his back, and was wearing a set of yellow goggles to protect his eyes from the heat and smoke he would inevitably cause with his powers. A yellow and orange fire-proof suit covered the rest of his body, so that he would not be burned by his own powers.
"Welcome back!" greeted Magneto.
"I hate the X-Men! I swear, I will kill Wolverine AND Cyclops, or die trying!" Sabretooth roared.
"I take that to mean that you failed." said Magneto, eyes narrowing behind his helmet.
Sabretooth nodded, glowering.
"I was hoping you would get your revenge, but no matter. I have something... big planned." Magneto dramatically announced.
"Like what?" Sabretooth growled.
"Pyro! Toad!" called Magneto. Toad bounded down from the ceiling to land in front of Magneto, and Pyro strode next to him.
"You know what to do." Magneto instructed them.
Chuckling, they left the room. Their clinking footsteps echoed throughout the eerie metallic lair.
"Well?" demanded Sabretooth impatiently, wanting to know what was going on.
Magneto chuckled evilly, before saying, "A prison break!"
Chapter Three: Breakout
Toad decided to use Sabretooth's 'hitch-hiking technique' to quickly reach the mutant prison called The Vault. Pyro, however, had to arrive there on foot, and came nearly two hours after Toad. They reunited and briefly argued over whose powers they would need more to free the mutant criminals, before finally agreeing that they were both needed. Toad easily leaped over the barbed-wire fence surrounding the prison, while Pyro burnt his way in. Pyro sprinted towards the prison, launching a blast of hot flame at a guard, who perished. Pyro quickly pulled on the guard's scorched uniform, in a clumsy attempt of disguise. Toad didn't bother. Pyro pulled a security access card out of the pocket of the uniform, and used it to open the double-thick adamantium door.
"Split up!" commanded Pyro to Toad. "We can release more prisoners and do it faster."
Pyro gave the security card to Toad before striding down one way, using blasts of flame to melt open cell doors. Suddenly, a wailing alarm split through the air, causing Pyro to clamp his gloved hands over his ears. He spotted the speaker emitting the siren, and he destroyed it without hesitation, ceasing the blaring sound. However, it had alerted the entire complex to the fact that he was helping mutants escape, and within moments a platoon of security guards were pounding down the corridor. Pyro glanced at the five or so other mutants that he had freed, and they returned his determined expression. When the guards rounded the corner, they were instantly roasted with a jet of heat from Pyro. He plucked another security access card from the pocket of one of the smoldering guards, and stashed it in his own pocket. Pyro freed more and more prisoners, until he had a small army helping to break mutants out. Of course, more guards came, but Pyro and the others killed them with ease. Eventually he came across five huge cells with thick adamantium doors. They each had a place to slot a security card and an electronic combination lock. Pyro strode forward to swipe the card. The control panel beeped, and he took a guess at the code. Like he expected, it didn't work.
"I can take care of that," said a mutant in a deep, raspy voice. He had transparent blue skin and strange symbols etched across his entire body. Placing a hand on the control panel, he squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated. It beeped again, and all five cell doors slid open. Out of the first cell stepped a muscular mutant with a large brown helmet. From the second cell, an extremely obese mutant with huge folds of flab waddled out. He had dark brown hair and a blue skin-tight suit in extra extra extra large. A cyan and white blur sped out of the third cell, whizzed around Pyro's gang of escaped mutants and skidded to a halt. He had white hair and a lightning bolt on his costume. The entire facility trembled (literally) when a mutant with dark skin and a white skull-like mask strode out, mouth twisted into an evil smirk. Finally, a beautiful woman in a crimson garment stepped out of the fifth cell, dark eyes glancing around the room. Pyro had heard of them all before: they were the Juggernaut, the Blob, Quicksilver, Avalanche and the Scarlet Witch. They would all be fine additions to the Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, Toad leaped down the other hallway, swiping his security card at various cells. Soon, he had nearly fifty escaped prisoners following him, helping him to release other mutants. Often he would come across a security guard or two, but with his own powers and help from the other mutants, it was easy to defeat them. After another fifteen minutes of releasing prisoners, he reunited with Pyro. Altogether, they had liberated over two hundred mutants, and nearly all of them wanted to join the Brotherhood.
"Well, are we gonna keep freeing mutants or leave the rest behind?" asked Toad from the ceiling.
"You go back to base, and take half our followers with you. I'll stay here, and my group will split into five. We'll storm this place, free everybody here and annihilate every guard in our way!" Pyro cackled maniacally.
"Okay," said Toad before shouting, "Come on, half of you come with me!"
He bounded towards the door, with one hundred or so mutants lumbering, dashing, trudging, teleporting or even slithering after him. He made his way down beside the road, until reaching Magneto's base. He entered, along with all the others, to tell Magneto what had happened.
Back at the X-Mansion, Professor Xavier was using Cerebro. It was a machine originally designed with the help of Magneto, and it could be used to amplify someone's telepathic (mind reading and controlling) abilities. Using Cerebro, Professor X could instantly find the location of almost anybody on the planet - with the exception of Magneto, who wore not only a thought-proof helmet to protect himself from Xavier, but had also somehow cloaked his base, meaning that Cerebro couldn't find anyone inside it, or its location. Suddenly Professor Xavier detected something, like a warning siren inside his head. Xavier reached out with his thoughts, extending a mental probe. Cerebro amplified it, and Xavier quickly discovered the possible danger: Two members of the Brotherhood of Mutants, Toad and a former X-Student, Pyro, were releasing mutant criminals from the Vault. Including, he realized with a gasp, his old half-brother, the Juggernaut...
X-Men! Prepare to meet me in the War Room immediately! Xavier said inside their heads.
Several minutes later, Professor X explained what was going on.
"... and they have released my half-brother, a powerful foe called the Juggernaut," he finished.
"So, we fly over there and bust some heads?" asked Wolverine, shooting out his claws.
"Yes, but don't be foolish and I suggest you watch yourself. Pyro and Toad alone are mutants to be reckoned with, but with the assistance of Quicksilver, Avalanche, the Scarlet Witch, the Blob, my half-brother and the countless others, they could pose a deadly threat. You should take everybody available."
"You heard the man, bub!" growled Wolverine, stalking off to the hangar where the X-Jet was kept.
Chapter Four: Brotherhood
Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Iceman zoomed through the air in the Blackbird, cutting through the billowing clouds. Though Wolverine and the others had desperately tried to convince him to come, Cyclops had refused to participate on the mission. Rogue, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee, three of the younger students, were already on a recruitment mission along with a long-time friend of Xavier's called Beast, and none of the other young mutants, such as Chamber, Siryn, Beak, Husk, Berserker, Magma or Cannonball were old enough to go on such a deadly mission. Thus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Iceman and Colossus were quite nervous as they approached the Vault. To break the silence, Colossus spoke.
"So, have any of you ever battled any of these guys before?" he asked.
"Yeah," responded Wolverine. "Storm's fought Toad, and we've battled Pyro in the Danger Room before. However, I have no idea what to except from any of the others."
"We're landing!" called Storm from the front of the Blackbird.
The X-Jet touched down gently onto the grass, and the five X-Men rushed out to face Pyro, Toad and all of the escaped prisoners. Wolverine quickly discovered the place where Pyro had burnt through the wire fences, and they cautiously proceeded towards the prison compound. Suddenly, a blue blur sped past them.
"What the he-" Wolverine was cut short as the ground beneath them rumbled and began to crack.
"It's Avalanche and Quicksilver!" yelled Storm, pointing a gloved finger at the two smirking mutants. Before anybody could do anything, Quicksilver started to race around them in circles, trapping the X-Men. The cracks began to widen and converge where the five X-Men were huddled.
"Everyone grab onto me!" commanded Nightcrawler, before teleporting them out of the raging blue circle and into the Vault.
Inside, they were greeted by about a hundred charging mutants. The steel walls were peppered with scorch marks and dried blood.
"Bring it on, bub!" yelled Wolverine as he lunged at the Juggernaut. Juggernaut roared and charged, gathering momentum. When they collided, Wolverine was sent flying nearly fifty meters. Wolverine slammed hard against the solid metal wall, and grunted in pain as his healing factor kicked in. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler was attempting to take on Quicksilver and the Blob at once, and having little success. It took all his acrobatics and teleporting skill to prevent himself from being pounded into a bloody mess, much less land a blow on the speedy Quicksilver or Blob, and Blob probably wouldn't feel the punch or kick through all that fat anyway! Storm had decided to engage Pyro, and was summoning up whirlwinds to try and reflect his flames back onto his teammates. Iceman was taking care of the nearly infinitesimal amount of minions, and was easily freezing them into a massive, glistening ice-block. That was until Avalanche calmly gestured upwards, causing a huge chunk of rock to explode out of the ground. The piece of stone smashed Iceman off of his ice-slide, causing him to plummet to the ground. He landed hard against the cold prison floor - and about to face the wrath of all the escaped mutants that had not been frozen. They all crowded around him, and he created a dome of ice around himself to protect him from their attacks.
"I am coming, tovarisch!" responded Colossus in his thick Russian accent. He charged through the crowd of villainous mutants, tossing them aside like pieces of cardboard. He quickly cleared them away from Iceman, punching through their bones and hurling them into walls.
"Thanks, dude!" chuckled Iceman as he burst out of his icy dome and sent shards of frost flying everywhere. The icicles were like freezing knives, piercing through enemy mutant flesh with ease. When a few shards hit Colossus, they merely rebounded off of his shiny metallic chest. With the minions dealt with, it was time to help the others.
Iceman slid towards Nightcrawler, unleashing a beam from his palm that froze Quicksilver solid inside a frosty cube.
"Thank you, mein freund!" laughed Nightcrawler as he delivered a sharp kick to Blob's flabby chin.
"You can't hurt me, I'm the Blob!" roared Blob, swinging his chubby arms like maces. Before he could land a blow on Nightcrawler, the teleporting blue mutant had leapt atop his head and was repeating slamming his fist into it. In between punches, he said,
The Blob just mumbled something incomprehensible and slumped to the ground, alive but unconscious.
Returning his focus to Quicksilver, Nightcrawler found that only chunks of ice lay where Quicksilver had been frozen.
"Uh oh..." Nightcrawler muttered to himself, just as he was knocked off his feet by a lightning-fast blur.
"Didyoureallythinkthatpatheticlittleicecubecouldkeepmeforlong,didyou?" Quicksilver taunted in a very fast voice that made it somewhat difficult to understand what he was saying.
Nightcrawler never had time to respond, as Quicksilver had slammed his fist into his face and was off again.
Scarlet Witch was standing about a yard away, silently observing the battle. Occasionally she would fire off a bolt of energy or cause a chunk of metal to fall from the damaged ceiling, but other than that she did not participate in the fight. Quicksilver suddenly raced up beside her, his white hair blown back across his forehead.
"ComeonWanda,dontyouwanttobeatupsomestupidX-fools?" he asked.
"I'll fight when I am needed. Can't you do it yourself?" she replied in a no-nonsense voice.
"Fine, I'll do it," she snarled. "Get out of my way, or you'll join them." Scarlet Witch warned, before unleashing a wave of sparking azure energy. It shot forward and slammed into Colossus with enough force to throw him about a yard, to Quicksilver's amusement. Colossus smashed into a wall so hard that he lost consciousness and his organic steel casing receded and was replaced by vulnerable flesh. He lay still, badly wounded by the blast.
"Nein!" shouted Nightcrawler as he rushed to Colossus's aid. In a burst of navy-blue smoke, he teleported straight to where Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch stood. With astonishing speed and agility, he thrust his fist into Quicksilver's face, knocking him off his feet. Nightcrawler backflipped, and prepared to round-house kick Scarlet Witch in the face - but she lashed out with her powers, flinging him into the metal ceiling with a bright blue torrent of electricity. Nightcrawler recovered and teleported away just before he hit the ground.
"Logan, we must retreat!" called Storm over the noise of the battle as she dodged a fireball sent her way by Pyro.
"No, it's not over!" Wolverine shouted back whilst he was head-butted by the Juggernaut.
"They're just too strong! We have to regroup!" she responded.
"I'm sorry mein freund, but I have to agree with Storm. With Colossus out for the count, we cannot hope to defeat them!" Nightcrawler commented as he teleported between them, carrying the unconscious Colossus.
"All right," Wolverine grudgingly agreed as he ducked to avoid a punch from the Juggernaut. "Start up the Blackbird, I'll fetch Iceman!"
"No need," Iceman said, skating into view on a slide made of ice.
"Okay, time to go!" Wolverine yelled. In a puff of smoke, they vanished and reappeared beside the X-Jet. Storm started up the engines and they piled aboard, lifting into the air and zooming out of sight.
Chapter Five: Alkali Lake
Professor Xavier rolled down the tiled blue hallway to meet with his X-Men.
"We fought 'em," Logan began after striding in. "But we had our heads handed to us. Magneto's Brotherhood is becoming very powerful. If they gather any more members, I don't think we have much of a chance at all."
"That's unfortunate. Magneto must be dealt with. However, I do have some good news. After extensive use of Cerebro, I've discovered where the sentinel you defeated came from. Alkali Lake."
"What?!" Logan blurted.
"Stryker had backup plans in case his Dark Cerebro failed. Someone has activated the sentinels, which means that someone is probably down there now. That's why your next mission will be to go to Alkali Lake. I know it may contain dark memories for all of you, but you have to investigate what's there, and make sure you're cautious. Stryker may have more unexpected surprises. I'll contact Scott, I have a feeling that he may want to come."
"Right," said Nightcrawler.
The five X-Men and Professor X entered the elevator and ascended to the dormitories, where blissful sleep awaited.
The next day, a roaring noise split the air as Storm fired up the engines on the Blackbird. With her were Wolverine, Iceman, Nightcrawler and Cyclops. The previous night Colossus had regained consciousness, but he could still barely stand, let alone fight. When Scott had been told that they were going to Alkali Lake, he had firmly decided to come (after fifteen minutes of crying), and Logan was certain that he intended on mourning Jean. Sure enough, when Cyclops strode up the ramp he was holding a bunch of fragrant crimson roses. The X-Jet ascended out of the basketball court and into the sky in a thin cloud of jet exhaust and dust.
Alkali Lake was an unpleasant place. A dam had once been situated at one end of the lake, but after the battle there the dam had been destroyed, and the lake had overflowed. Somewhere within the swirling, murky water was Jean Grey.
The Blackbird landed on a flat snowy plateau. The air was very cold, and Wolverine watched his breath curl in front of his face. The X-Men trekked through a forest, before emerging at the entrance to the wrecked dam.
"Oh my god! Is that what I think it is?!" gasped Iceman, pointing to the shore of the lake. Sprawled across the rocks was none other than Jean Grey. Her damp lava-colored hair had almost doubled in length since the X-Men had seen her. Her X-Men uniform was faded, filthy and soaking wet.
"Jean! JEAN!" called Cyclops as he rushed across to her. He laid his shaking hand on her neck to feel for a pulse.
"She's alive! SHE'S ALIVE!" screamed Cyclops with joy. He hugged her limp body to his chest as tears poured down his cheeks. Iceman broke into a shocked grin.
"Get her to the medical unit immediately! She could have severe injuries!" commanded Storm to Nightcrawler.
"Take me too!" requested Cyclops.
In a puff of blue smoke, Nightcrawler, Cyclops and the comatose Jean were gone. Several seconds passed, and Nightcrawler teleported back without Cyclops.
"Where's Scott?" inquired Wolverine.
"He insisted on staying with Jean. I can barely prise him off her, let alone convince him to come." answered Nightcrawler, shrugging.
"We'll have to complete the mission without him. X-Men, move out!' ordered Storm.