The assembled group of X-Men was huddled closely in the back of a truck that was too small for all of them. Most of them sat somberly, looking at the floor, wondering what fate awaited them at the sinister hands of Dr. Doom, their captor. But worse than the fact that he had outsmarted and defeated them was the fact that, with a weapon of his own devising, Doom had nullified all of their mutant abilities. Now they sat wondering how long it would take their abilities to return, or whether they would live long enough to find out.
“Hey, wait a second,” Havok said quietly, and then repeated it louder, “Wait a second!”
“What?” Polaris asked, looking up from her stupor.
“When the second Dr. Doom appeared, I looked over to Jean to see if she could sense an actual human presence in that one and not just a robot. And she gave me the nod that it was a human.”
“So?” Polaris asked. A few of the other X-Men looked up, glad to have something to relieve the bitter tedium of the trip, but none seemed to attach any importance to it.
“Well, ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a big deal,” Havok explained, “but it happened after Doom fired off the big nullifier blast. All of our powers were gone then. So how could Jean have sensed whether that Doom was really human or not?”
“But I did,” Jean said slowly. “I saw into his mind; it was bitterly evil. It’ll take me a long time to get that psychic impression out of my head.”
“So you’ve still got your mutant powers!” Havok said.
“No,” Jean replied thoughtfully, “Not most of them. Not anything that would really help us.”
“But you do still have the psychic ability?”
“It’s weakened,” Jean responded, “I can sense the thoughts of the people driving the van, but I don’t think I could go much further than that.”
“Can you give them thought suggestions?” Havok asked.
“No,” Jean replied.
“Hm,” Havok said, grimacing. “Well, maybe the nullifier’s not as effective against psionic powers. Anyone else feel like they’ve still got something? You...” Havok began, pointing toward the Stepford Cuckoos, and trying in vain to remember their names, “...girls, you got anything?”
The girls looked back at him, stricken. “We’ve lost the mind link!” One of them said.
“I can’t even hear my sisters’ thoughts any more!” Another said, at the same time as the first one. They looked at each other, shocked at the new experience of stumbling over each other’s words, and looked as if they were about to cry.
“Oo-kay,” Havok winced, “Psylocke, anything?”
“Sorry; I’d love to tell you I had something, but no.”
“Alright,” Havok said, “scratch that. Maybe it has something to do with the Phoenix Force? Marvel Girl, how about you?”
Rachel shrugged. “I got nothin’. If I still had any powers, I’d have blown out of here a long time ago.”
“I still have my powers,” a high-pitched voice said softly, somewhere in the shadowed corners of the nearly unlit compartment. Havok looked around until he found the owner of the voice. It was the new girl; poor thing was just in her pajamas because she didn’t even have a costume yet. Havok opened his mouth to comment, and then stopped. An awkward pause hung in the air, until Kitty sat back shyly.
“No, that’s good,” Havok explained, “It’s just...I’m really bad with names.”
“Kitty, right, right. What’s your codename?”
“I don’t have one yet.”
“Oh. Cool,” Havok said, mentally noting the absurdity of that line of conversation in their current, dire situation. “So, how do you still have your powers?”
“My power is to make myself intangible, right?” Havok nodded. “So, I just went out of phase as soon as I saw the blast wave coming, and then it didn’t hit me, so my powers weren’t nullified.”
“That’s great!” Havok exclaimed, “Why didn’t you say something earlier? We can definitely use a power like that to escape!”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about that,” Kitty began hesitantly, “See, I’ve never really used my power in a moving vehicle before. I’m pretty sure that as soon as I went intangible, I would stay here and the van would just keep on moving. So, I couldn’t phase out to the back and unbolt the lock, or phase out to the front and take out the driver. ‘Cause as soon as I phase out, this van will be zooming off into the distance.” Kitty lowered her head. “That’s why I didn’t say anything. I’m an X-Man. We stick together, right? I’m not gonna just fly the coop and leave you guys holding the bag.”
“Kitty,” Storm said soothingly, “Being part of a team doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice yourself pointlessly. You’ll be of more value to us if you’re free.”
“Storm’s right,” Havok replied, “I mean, hey, Doom went and collected you guys from the infirmary, but Cyclops and the others who were trying to get the Professor out aren’t here, so maybe they escaped! If you could link back up with them, you might be able to help them find us and get us out.”
“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” Kitty said remorsefully, but then she brightened up. “Hey, I can bring one other person with me!”
“That’s something,” Havok said, looking out over the group.
“How do we pick who gets to go?” Storm asked, airing his unspoken problem.
“She should take one of the Cuckoos,” Iceman offered.
“Yeah?” Northstar asked, “How do you figure?”
“If our powers come back any time soon, the mind link could be reestablished between the ones who are here and the one who went with Kitty,” Iceman explained, “and then we’d have a way to communicate with the outside.”
“Would that work?” Havok asked the girls.
“I don’t know,” one said.
“I’m not sure,” another said, at the same time. They each gave a frustrated sigh and then sat back, pouting. The third waited a moment, and then leaned forward.
“We’ve never really been separated before,” she said, “at least, not as far back as we--I--can remember. So, it’s possible that the mind link simply wouldn’t work at great distances. But I would be willing to try it. And just so you won’t have to ask, my name is Esme.”
“Alright,” Havok said firmly, “let’s do it. Jean, is there any way you can try to get the word out to the others that a couple of us got loose?”
“I can’t cast a psychic message far enough to find the Professor, much less reach him with it. But I can, at least, send up a sort of ‘psychic warning bouy,’ that will stay in this area. If the Professor’s mind goes through here, the message will reach him.”
Havok shook his head. “Psionics are so weird. This would be a lot easier if I just had my iPhone.”
“Yeah, and the GPS would be real helpful, too,” Banshee added.
“Good point,” Havok said. “Kitty, if you can do a little scouting and find out where we’re going, without putting yourself in danger, do it. But do not, under any circumstances, do anything that’ll get you recaptured. Got it?”
“Yeah,” Kitty said, trying to stifle her nerves, “let’s do it!” She moved over to crouch beside Esme, and took her hand. Then she phased out; instantly, the van sped past, and the two girls hit the ground with a bit of a jolt, like an elevator coming to a stop. The girls found themselves on an out-of-the-way dirt road, with no noticeable landmarks as far as they could see.
“The van’s leaving tracks in the dirt road,” Kitty realized. “We could use that to find out where it’s going.”
“Maybe we should focus on getting back to safety first, and then we could come back,” Esme replied.
Inside the van, Havok and the others had watched them disappear, and silently hoped they were okay.
“Well,” Havok said, “now we just have to hope that Professor X will get Jean’s message, and find those two. That’ll lead them to us, and pretty soon our powers will come back, and we’ll be able to attack our captors from two sides. By then, we’ll have it made.”
But inwardly, Havok had a feeling that it would be a lot harder than that. He had underestimated Dr. Doom once; he wasn’t planning to do it again. He doubted that Doom would allow his new prisoners to escape so easily.
* * *
Naturally, it was Havok’s inner doubts that ended up coming true. When the van finally stopped, the captured X-Men were herded through the gates of a hastily-constructed compound. The guards were clearly just local toughs that Doom must’ve hired last-minute; at first glance, it seemed like escape would be a snap once they got their powers back. But it wouldn’t be that easy, they soon realized. Doom had modified his mutant-ability nullifier into an energy field that bathed the whole camp, nullifying the special powers of everyone within its range. As the X-Men were led into one of the buildings, a large, unfurnished room with a dirt floor, Havok realized that his team wouldn’t be able to rely on their powers to get them out of this one.
“Alright, everyone,” Havok said, trying not to sound as dejected as he felt, “It’s late, we’re all really tired. I’m sure you all feel the urge to do something, to take some kind of action. But we’ll be fresher in the morning. Let’s just get some sleep and we can start working on this tomorrow.”
Havok led the group to a bare patch of floor, and together they all huddled on the ground as best they could, wedged in between all of the other prisoners that had been crammed in the place. Havok closed his eyes, and tried to attain some modicum of comfort. He certainly was tired, but he realized there would be little chance of his getting much sleep this night.
* * *
Elsewhere in the compound, however, in another of the crude prisoner’s quarters, was a young woman who was much less disappointed about the loss of her mutant abilities. Her name was Anne, or Marie, or Anna-Marie, depending on which foster parents you asked; but she had come to think of herself simply as Rogue.
The moment she had discovered that mutants’ abilities were inactive within the compound, she had slowly removed one of the long gloves she always wore. Then she pensively, anxiously reached out and grabbed the arm of the guy who was sitting next to her. He turned around, and smiled his crooked, awkward grin when he saw who it was.
“Hey,” she said, with her soft southern accent, “Betcha didn’t feel a thang, right?”
“Nothing unpleasant, anyway,” the boy said, laughing. His English accent sharply contrasted her southern drawl. His name was Ian Jimson, he was another one of the interns at Moira McTaggert’s hospital. Well, neither of them were interns in the strictly medical sense, but there was a group there that Moira was giving special training on how to work with mutant patients. Some of them were mutants, like Rogue, others were normal humans, like Ian. Rogue had been learning a lot, and was very happy to finally feel like she was worth something to somebody. Perhaps, finally, she felt like she belonged…
Having been orphaned at a young age, Rogue had always felt like an outsider, as she was bounced from one foster home to another. None of her “parents” really cared her, she thought, and so she had sought belonging from boys. Well, that didn’t last long, when her mutant power started to manifest itself. There was this one boy, Cody Robbins; she had kissed him, and he jumped back like he’d gotten an electric shock. She didn’t know what to make of it, until she started having dreams that, somehow, she knew were from Cody’s memories. She touched her foster parents and got the same effect. It was almost like she could begin to read the mind of someone in physical contact, and then afterward, the memories would sometimes float back to the surface. It was just weird.
Rogue had already felt like enough of an outsider; that was the last straw. So she ran away and struck out on her own, making sure never to make contact with anyone so she wouldn’t have to deal with having someone’s thoughts in her head. Then she had met Mystique, an older mutant who helped her understand that she wasn’t the only one that was like this. Well, she was the only one with those specific abilities, but there were a lot of mutants out there with various powers that would seem freakish at first. Mystique said that she could help Rogue learn to use her powers productively, but more than that, Mystique offered a place where Rogue would belong.
Mystique became like an adoptive mother to Rogue, and made her one of the original members of a group of mutant swwho were dedicated to protesting the mistreatment of mutants around the world. Mystique’s group was inspired by the heroic actions of Magneto, who some people called a terrorist, but they knew better. He was the revolutionary leader of an oppressed minority who was standing up for his inalienable rights as a person. And Mystique wanted desperately to join his revolution.
And so it was that Magneto’s Brotherhood and Mystique’s Acolytes had clashed in the frozen north with the X-Men and Alpha Flight*. It was the first time that Rogue had ever been in a real fight, and somehow then, all of a sudden, her cause didn’t seem so righteous. She had explained her feelings to Mystique, who let her take a less active role in the organization; she could still be useful for discovering important secrets. Secrets from groups like the Hellfire Club, where Mystique had sent Rogue to gain critical information for a plan she was concocting. But Rogue had been captured, left to rot in some cell until finally, they had come to rescue her. But it wasn’t Mystique or her Acolytes that had brought her out of the Hellfire Club’s dungeon; it was the X-Men**. The very ones that she had fought such a short time ago; her own “mother,” her supposed family, had never come.
[*This took place in the first series of RPSC X-Men; #6, way back in 2005.]
[**X-Men #9, first series.]
The X-Men took her to Muir Island to work with Dr. McTaggert, and that’s where she’d been ever since. She had never really hurt anyone; the discomfort that came from her touch was too mild to cause a person any real harm unless she held on for a long time. But still, the idea of actually making people feel better, helping them, healing them, was something that she found very satisfying. And at Muir Island, with Moira, Ian and the rest, she finally felt like she belonged.
And now, even within the dank and dismal confines of some dirty, crowded prison room, she had found the only other thing she desired; to touch.
Of all the hundreds of mutants that Doom had sent to the camp like so much cattle, Rogue realized that she was unique among them. For, in all the despair, hopelessness and agony that they were feeling, in that moment, Rogue was happy.
* * *
Havok awoke from a shallow sleep and nudged Polaris, dozing next to him.
“Wake up, sleeping beauty,” he said. Her eyes fluttered open, and she sat up. Her usually lustrous green hair was dulled by the dirt that had mixed into it.
“Ugh,” she said, looking around, “what a nightmare!”
“Yeah,” Havok agreed, “I think right now’s about a good time to start working on an escape plan. Let’s get everybody up.” Havok and Polaris went to work rousing the other X-Men. Dazzler was one of the first to gain coherence, and put on her usual façade of sarcastic cheerfulness.
“Whoo!” she stretched, and turned to Iceman, who was rubbing his eyes tiredly, “You know, I did always want to take a nice camping trip, but this might be going a bit too far.”
“At least there aren’t any bears,” Iceman mumbled, too tired to match her jocular tone.
Havok looked over the group; they were all still there. And then some… “Hey,” he said to Polaris, “look at the, uh, the Cuckoos.” Polaris looked; there were four of them. “They’re not capable of, like, mitosis, are they?”
“Not so far,” Polaris responded. “It looks like they’ve made a friend.” A somewhat angry-looking dark-haired girl was nestled in with the Cuckoos.
“Hey,” Havok said, catching her attention. “Who are you?”
“Name’s Laura,” she said shortly.
“That’s great,” Havok replied, “You know them?” He asked, pointing at the Cuckoos.
“We came from the same test tube,” she answered glibly.
“Okay, whatever, just move along,” Havok said, motioning her away, “We’ve got grown-up stuff to talk about.”
“Nuh-uh,” Laura responded, taking a defiant posture, “Something tells me you guys aren’t planning to stay around here. I’m going with you.” She crossed her arms with a look of finality.
Havok turned to Polaris with a heavy sigh. “When did I become a babysitter?” He asked rhetorically, and then turned to Jean. “You still get the telepathy?”
“Yeah,” Jean answered, “It’s chaotic right now; I’m just sensing a whole lot of fear.”
“Any chance you’d be able to read the guards and figure out how to turn off the nullifier?”
“You know, I saw the guards when we came in,” Iceman said, “looks like Doom just gathered ‘em up from local gangs; they’re not exactly picked men. I don’t think they’d know how to work the heavy machinery.”
“That’s just great,” Havok said, “Well, turning off the nullifier is our best bet to escape. We’ll need to poke around, which means we’ll need a distraction. Any ideas?”
“You could let the gals go paradin’ outside,” Gambit offered, “I bet that’d distract the guards just fine.”
Havok started to talk, and then stopped, and then thought for a moment. “Huh,” he finally said, “I’m trying to think of how that’s a bad idea, but nothing’s coming.”
“What?” Jean asked, aghast.
“Think about it,” Havok said. “The guards don’t come into the buildings. My guess is it’s because there are too many people to deal with at once. The guards are grossly understaffed, which means there’s safety in numbers. So, if we leave the buildings, we’d better stay in big groups. So, if we had two or three groups, who are the guards more likely to watch? A bunch of dudes, or a bunch of…women?” A couple of the girls grudgingly nodded their assent, so Havok went on. “Plus, Jean’s still got the mind-reading, so she’ll be able to tell if the guards are planning to try anything. If they are, you can all just high-tail it back here.”
“There really must be something better,” Storm said.
“Maybe there is,” Havok replied, “but I don’t think we should waste time trying to come up with the perfect plan, if we’ve got something halfway decent for now. We don’t know if Doom plans to move us to something more secure, or even execute us, so we can’t waste a minute. If you can think of something better, let me know, but until then, let’s go with this one.”
“I guess it’s worth a shot,” Jean said.
* * *
Rogue turned around at the sound of the familiar voice, and instantly wondered if it had been a bad idea to take a walk. She hadn’t realized the Acolytes had been captured as well. The voice that had called her name belonged to Dominic, or Avalanche, as he was called. He was the one, besides Mystique, that Rogue had been closest to. But since deciding that Rogue didn’t agree with Mystique’s way of handling things, it was hard to think of any of the Acolytes in the same way.
He looked good, just like she remembered. Maybe it hadn’t been such a bad idea. She waved, but didn’t smile, trying not to seem too interested.
“Hey, hot stuff,” he began when he had gotten closer, “Haven’t seen you in a while. You look good.”
“No ah don’t,” she protested self-consciously. “Ah’m all dirty, and mah hair’s all messed-up...”
“Hold up,” he broke in, “If you haven’t noticed already, we do seem to be in some sort of prison, you know? But I gotta say, you’re the prettiest jailbird I ever seen.”
“Thanks,” she said quietly, looking down at her shoes.
“Hey, look on the bright side. At least they don’t make us wear orange jumpsuits!”
“You’re not scared, are you, babe?” Avalanche asked, only half concerned.
“No…ah don’t know. It’s not like they’ve done anythang t’ anyone. It’s almost like a vacation.”
“With cattle pens for hotel rooms.”
“Yeah,” Rogue shrugged, “But at least, here, ah can do this,” she reached up and gently touched his cheek with her uncovered hand. He smiled slyly, and took her hand in his own.
“That is an upside,” he said, “So where have you been, Rogue?”
“Ah’m workin’ at a hospital now. Helpin’ people.”
“People? You mean Sapiens.”
“No,” Rogue said, pulling her hand away. “Ah help mutants, too. Ah’m actually doin’ good fer a change.”
“If you say so,” Avalanche said defiantly. “But I bet nobody notices the good you do. I think the Brotherhood’s version of ‘good’ is a lot more proactive.”
“Dom, you’re not even in the Brotherhood, fer real. Mystique was just tryin’ to follow on Magneto’s coattails.”
“Not anymore,” Avalanche retorted, “We’re in the real deal now! Magneto saw how good we were and invited us to join the Brotherhood. Mystique’s become his right-hand man--well, woman. It’s different now. We’re making a difference! People respect us--”
“And fear you?” Rogue interrupted. “How’s that gonna help?”
“Fear motivates change, little lady. They’re realizing that we won’t be bullied anymore.” Avalanche paused. “You should come back. We all miss you.”
“If you missed me so much, why didn’t you come get me from the Hellfire Club?”
“That was exactly what they wanted,” Avalanche explained. “They were using you as bait. But forget all that. The point is, we’re here now, and when we get out of this pit, you can come back with us. With me.” Avalanche leaned closer, looking her square in the eye. “We kinda had something then, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, we did.”
Avalanche started to say something else, then changed his mind and just kissed her. She returned his kiss, desperately, and time stood still, but only for a moment. Rogue pulled away and stepped back, blushing.
“Dom, ah--you’re right,” she stammered, “It’s different now. Fer me, too. Ah don’t want people to fear me. Ah don’t want to be what you are.”
“It doesn’t matter, though,” Avalanche said, moving closer again, “You are what you are. And you still have feelings for me, don’t you?”
Avalanche cupped her cheek in his hand. She started to pull back, but the warmth, the incomparable sensation of human contact, kept her there. She closed her eyes...
“Take your hands off her!”
Rogue looked up. It was Ian. “Oh, no,” she muttered.
“This a friend of yours?” Avalanche asked.
“I said take your hands off of her!” Ian repeated, running toward them.
“Oy!” Avalanche said, imitating Ian’s English accent, “Why dontcha mind yer own bleedin’ business, you silly tosser?” He dropped the accent as he approached Ian belligerently. “You trying to be chivalrous, little boy?”
“Dom, stop,” Rogue said, knowing that there wasn’t much chance of that now.
“You picked the wrong crowd to mess with, punk,” Avalanche said. Ian looked around, and realized that more of the Brotherhood were gathering behind Avalanche.
* * *
“I just want to state for the record that this plan is ridiculous and chauvinistic,” Dazzler said with mock cheeriness, as she tried not to imagine how many people were staring at them.
“Who’s arguing?” Callisto asked.
“And yet, we still haven’t thought of any better ideas,” Storm noted.
“I suppose we could have Dazzler put on a free concert for the guards,” Psylocke said. The others looked at her, trying to decide if she was joking or not.
“Ooh, yeah,” Dazzler replied sarcastically, “and we could have the Brotherhood sing backup! Well...speak of the devil,” Dazzler added, as the group turned a corner and saw the gang of Brotherhood members, with Avalanche in the middle giving Ian a shove.
“There’s an idea,” Laura said, “I think a big fight would make a really nice distraction.”
“Hate to say it,” Storm said, “but I think she might have a point.”
40 R M&M Cuckoo #1 (Esme)
40 R M&M Cuckoo #2 (Celeste)
40 R M&M Cuckoo #3 (Sophie)
40 R M&M Cuckoo #4 (Phoebe)
47 AW 061 R Dazzler
53 SN 076 R Meggan -1 health due koed.
50 DR Jean Grey
45 R AW55 Psylock
40 DR Storm
10 ** With Armor Piecing
39 Sn 31 R Tessa /Sage
35 MM030 X-23
47 Utl LE Morlock Leader
90 MU042 V Unus the Untouchable
55 MU043 V Black Tom Cassidy
117 MU052 U Mastermind
21 MM005 E Vanisher
76 UL069 V Sabretooth
42 UI111 V Pyro
32 CT033 V Avalanche
51 CT036 V Blob
41 CT113 LE Mortimer Toynbee
BC: *POWER DAMPENING FIELD (Fantastic Forces #005): Damage values higher than 3 become 3 instead.
Special Rules: All characters cannot use any of their abilities, except for the following: Perplex, Outwit, Leadership, Charge and Flurry. All characters have zero range, and characters with have instead.
*** I posted the dials in post #7 next to yours.
I am easy going... can use dire roller or your own dice
My email is [email protected]
1) 40 R M&M Cuckoo #1 (Esme) W8
2) 40 R M&M Cuckoo #2 (Celeste) W9
3) 40 R M&M Cuckoo #3 (Sophie) W10
4) 40 R M&M Cuckoo #4 (Phoebe) W11
5) 47 AW 061 R Dazzler W12
6) 53 SN 076 R Meggan -1 health due koed. W13
7) 50 DR Jean Grey W14
8) 45 R AW55 Psylock W15
9) 40 DR Storm W16
10 ** With Armor Piecing
A) 39 Sn 31 R Tessa /Sage W17
B) 35 MM030 X-23 W18
C) 47 Utl LE Morlock Leader W19
1) 90 MU042 V Unus the Untouchable (6,6) B13
2) 55 MU043 V Black Tom Cassidy (5,5) B6
3) 117 MU052 U Mastermind (6,6) B18
4) 21 MM005 E Vanisher(4,4) B19
5) 76 UL069 V Sabretooth (7,7) B17
6) 42 UI111 V Pyro (6,6) B14
7) 32 CT033 V Avalanche (6,6) B7
8) 51 CT036 V Blob (8,8) B12
9) 41 CT113 LE Mortimer Toynbee (6,6) B5
Hvy Objects: G10,J17, J13
Lgt objects: K12, F10, I 16