Down the Dark Path– by Victor Moore
DISCLAIMER: Marvel owns everyone, except Sakura, Agent Li, and the old woman, they're mine. No money will be made from this. This is for enjoyment purposes only. Yada, Yada, Yada.
A light misty fog crept through the city of London. It snaked its way into Merlin's Mews and around the old cobblestone townhouses within. They were spaced far apart and were surrounded by tall trees, whose leaves were wet with dew. Still just a few hours until sunrise, the scattered streetlights provided the only source of illumination. There was barely a sound to be heard. A dog barked in the distance, some birds chirped for a bit, and so forth. Natural sounds, but nothing mechanical, nothing man-made.
Suddenly, a loud ringing could be heard from one of the townhouses. It stopped for a few seconds, then rang again. Inside, the noise had stirred Katherine Pryde from a deep sleep.
"Would somebody please get that." She mumbled as she covered her head with a fluffy pillow. The ringing continued. "Guys! Phone!" It kept ringing. She groggily got out of bed and wandered over to the telephone. The events of the past day slammed into her memories as she checked out the surroundings. "This isn't the train," she thought to herself, "I'm in a real house! Then it's true, I'm separated from my teammates. It happened during the fight with Jamie and falling through Widget's dimensional warp, I finally ended up here at Brian's townhouse. They're still trapped in that other dimension, and I have no way to help them."
The ringing brought her thoughts back to the telephone. As she reached for it she notice that she was wearing a green nightgown. "My clothes are different, how did that happen?" Shaking her head, she told herself, "a mystery for another time, Kitty." Her hand passed harmlessly through the telephone. "I HATE THIS!" She screamed. After the incident with the Marauders, which nearly killed her, and Doctor's Doom and Richard's cure, intangibility had become her natural state. She was recovering, and the cure worked, but it would take a long time before she could be truly solid again. It made her crazy. Now, it took a lot of concentrating to become tangible. Sometimes, it would cause her immense pain.
Slowly her had grasped the receiver of the old rotary telephone, "Hello?"
"Who is this?" a female voice asked in an English accent. It was the same dialect as Brian Braddock's, the owner of this townhouse. "Never mind, is Brian there?" She sounded troubled when she asked.
The voice sounded familiar to Kitty, but she just could not place it. "'Fraid not. Brian Braddock is… is out of town at the moment. Anything I can help you with?"
"Katherine is that you?" The shocked voice asked.
"Yep. Do I know you?"
"You should, this is Elisabeth."
Kitty's eyes widened. "But that's… that's impossible. You're dead. All of the X-Men are dead." She said in a small voice.
"We were. Long story and we do not have the time. We need help, desperately."
"We? You mean the others, Storm, Logan and the rest, right?"
"I mean a young girl and myself. I can not tell you much over the phone, but we need a retrieval fast."
"Okay, I'll have someone get you, but you owe me an explanation, big time."
"You will receive it, truly you will."
"Where are you?" Kitty asked.
"We are in Fukuoka, but only for the next twenty-four hours. After that we move on."
"It sounds like you're in trouble."
"Yes, we are being hunted by some old enemies of Logan's. Hurry please. I do not know if we can keep this pace up much longer."
"Do my best, even if I have to steal a plane myself! Where in Fukuoka do I pick you up?"
"I will find you." With that, the telephone went silent.
In the kitchen, a minute later, she made herself some tea, and thought about whom she could contact that had a plane. As far as she knew, the blackbird was still in Dallas, Texas, impounded by the authorities. So, that was out. X-Factor was in space, the last she heard. After a quick call to Muir Isle, she discovered Banshee and Forge were missing and Moria had no aircraft to loan out. Moria sounded strange to Kitty over the telephone. She was harder and very curt.
Sipping on her tea, she discovered that it was cold. Her options for rescuing Elisabeth dwindled as ran over who she knew that had a plane and could be in Japan in less than twenty-two hours. Shivering due to the cold, she went into the living room and started a fire in the old brick fireplace. As she watched the flames dance to life, a thought sprung to her mind. "Of course. They could do it. It would mean that I'd owe them, but I could live with it."
Grabbing the telephone again proved to be difficult, but she was able to do it. "Hello operator, could you get me a number for someone in Manhattan, New York, America. Good. Please connect me with…"
On the island of Kyushu, in the Fukuoka Prefecture of Japan, in the city of Fukuoka itself, Elisabeth peered at the small crowds of tourists visiting a major theme park through her dark shades. She was wearing a heavy white jacket to keep the cold off, over her black jeans and black sweater. A twinge of pain creased her brow and she fought to ignore it. Normally, she would not use her telepathy to passively scan the crowd. So many people in a small area produced a large amount of noise that was difficult to screen out in the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, this was the only way to keep one step ahead of those who were hunting her and the young woman with her. Luckily, no hostile thoughts came from the crowd. Looking at the girl, Elisabeth asked if she was all right.
"No. Can we rest soon please?" Jubilation Lee answered weakly. "My side is killing me."
"Sure, child." Pointing to a bench in a park some hundred meters away. "How about there?"
"It'll do." The young Chinese-American girl stated between ragged gasps of breath. Normally, she would talk up a storm, but since receiving a horrible wound from their pursuers two days ago, all her energy was being spent to keep running.
They reached the red wooden bench in the park, and sat down. Setting their belongings next to her, Elisabeth felt Jubilee's head rest in her lap. Just like that, the young girl was fast asleep. She was tired also, for it had been forty-six hours since she last sleep, and then it was for only four hours. Being on the run for the last week was wearing them down. But they did not have a choice, for the Hand was hunting them. As she watched a child play in the snow, her eyes became heavy.
"No. Must not fall asleep." She told herself. Breathing evenly, she began some meditation exercises that her old mentor Victoria Bentley had taught her. With her eyes closed, Elisabeth formed the image of a rose butterfly in her mind. As she explored her thoughts, she found the area that controlled her body's facilities. Ms. Bentley told her that you could not change the needs of one's body, but with some functions, you could postpone or fool that need. In this case she caressed the center for tiredness, and pushed the fatigue back. Once completed, the image faded and she opened her eyes back to the real world. She felt alert, full of zeal. The reality of this subterfuge was that her body was still exhausted and when her mind caught up with her, retribution would be required. When she finally does goes to sleep, it would be for over a whole day.
Elisabeth could not afford to be sleeping for so long, not while they were on the run. For three times she did this, that was her limit, and she knew it. If Kitty did not meet them, they would leave and work their way to England or America. As of yet, she was undecided. The telephone call was made three hours ago, so she figured that she had about three or four more to kill. Sighing to herself, her hand ran through her black hair. It was purple, but she had dyed it black to elude her pursuers. It did not fool them for a second.
A blond female in a green American flight uniform sat next to her and looked at Jubilee. "Neat trick, Betts. How come you don't do it to her too?"
"You again? It seems I have inherited you and your partner, have I not?" Elisabeth stated while rubbing the bridge of her nose under the shades.
"Yep." A gruff male voice sounded behind her. "You're stuck with us now. Accept it." She did not need to turn around to see him with that cigar of his. The wind seemed to carry the sickening scent from it straight to her nostrils.
"To answer your question, Carol, if I use the 'trick', as you called it, on a wounded person, they bleed to death."
"Oh." Carol said softly and stroked Jubilee's hair.
Suddenly, a stray thought from the streets caused Elisabeth to look around intently. Picking up whose thoughts they belonged to, was difficult at best. There were too many people on the streets and in the buildings around the park. Sensing the threat of danger from her, Carol and her partner drew their intimidating pistols.
"I got it." She said as the two followed her gaze to an old woman in a flower shop. "She's alone, and she is one of the Hand."
Cursing under his breath, the man said, "Let's take her out before she can contact her buddies."
"It's too late. They will be here in fifteen minutes. We have to go, but first…" To another telepath, the rose butterfly that emanated from her head would be brilliant, but to the normal person it was invisible. "Okay I took care of her for a time but it will not last." She gently shook the sleeping girl and quietly spoke in her mind, * Jubilee, wake up. *
Jubilee's eyes fluttered open. Rising from the bench, she asked, "They're here?"
Elisabeth nodded her head. They grabbed their belongings, walked out of the park, and headed south.
Ten minutes later, members from her society greeted the old woman. In Japanese, she told them, "Over there on the bench." As she pointed, the images of Psylocke and Jubilee disappeared from her mind. "Nani? They're gone!? But that can't be! I never took my eyes off them. How?"
"You were tricked, old sister." One of the Hand stated, "did you not forget, that Psylocke could play with your mind?"
Sighing, the old woman said, "I have failed." There was only one way for her to regain her honor. She sat on her knees. "Forgive me my brothers."
The ninja, who had spoken, took out his short sword and handed it to her. Then all of the ninja turned around so none would face the old woman. A loud exhalation of air followed a quiet sound of tearing cloth and flesh. "You are forgiven, sister." Then, they left with out a sound.
As blood flowed from the wound, the old woman's body slowly decomposed into a steaming pile of ashes. Only the sword and her clothes remained intact.
Katherine Pryde looked out the window of the extremely hi-tech aircraft and watched the horizon loom into view. The airplane, if it could be called that, made the modified SR-71 Blackbird the X-Men used to fly, feel like a Cessna. To save time, the pilot shot into low-orbit and now they were starting their descent.
"How much longer?" She asked the pilot, nervously. A slight fear clenched her insides. "Time is of the essence, especially if the X-Men were still alive."
"Cripes, I know! I know! Ya only said it twenty times already." The pilot stated in a gravely voice with a Brooklyn accent. His huge frame filled the chair past its limits, it protested noisily every move that he made. Sighing, he softened his voice and stated, "we'll be there in less than twenty, Kit."
Kitty did not like that nickname, but she was not going to argue with the pilot because she needed him. Also was the fact that this man could stand toe-to-toe with the Hulk, so that helped make her decision as well. "Sorry, but finding out that they might still be alive, is like a dream come true. They're family to me, I have to know."
"Don't worry Kitty, we know what you mean." A female hand from the blond co-pilot patted the big man on this shoulder. "And you, you big lug, stop being so hard on her. Can't you see she's scared. This is a tough time for her. Especially with what happened the last time our 'families' got together, she almost died then."
"I know, Susie." He said quietly, patting her hand.
Sue took her hand back and flipped some switches on her console. "I've activated the stealth mode, just in case." Seeing the question forming in his eyes, she explained, "She said that Psylocke was in danger, right Ben? So it would be wiser to have surprise on our side just in case there is trouble."
"You're da boss." He looked back at Kitty and said, "Tell ya what Kit, I'll let ya fly this thing for a while on the way home. I've seen how ya was salivating over the controls. 'Kay?"
"Would I ever!" Kitty said, momentarily putting aside her anxieties about the X-Men. He was right. As soon as she saw the cockpit, she wanted to fly it. "That would be awesome! Thanks a lot Mr. Grim…"
A burst of foreign thoughts interrupted her sentence. She knew it was Elisabeth, but she had always been gentle with her telepathy in the past. Now, it was much more abrasive.
Seeing the shocked look on Kitty's face, Sue asked while starting to rise from her chair, "What's wrong?"
Kitty motioned her to stop. "I'm okay. Psylocke is in contact with me. It's her! If she's alive, than the others… She having trouble maintaining the link, something about interference on the astral plane… Oh my god! We have to hurry! She's being attacked and she said she can't hold out much longer… They're ten kilometers south-southwest of Fukuoka… I'm asking her about the others. She says…" Just then, a loud piercing scream erupted from Kitty's lips. Her face contorted in pain as tears rolled down from her brown eyes.
Bolting out of the chair, Sue rushed to the young girl. As she wiped the tears from her face, she saw her eyes were fearful. "What happened?"
"The link was severed, abruptly. She was in the middle of a fight when she contacted me. I fear the worst, Sue. I never felt her feel so hopeless." Turning to the pilot she pleaded, ". Please, Mr. Grimm we have to hurry. We're already out of time."
The sword cut had severely wounded her side. Every move felt like she was on fire and blood flowed freely from the deep wound. She should not have divided her concentration like that, but at seeing fifteen members of the Hand surround them on the countryside, left her with little choice. She was in no shape to fight.
Jubilee, who blinded a couple of them with her pryokentic powers, or fireworks as the young girl called it, had re-opened her wounds from dodging the ninjas attacks. Reaching out with her powers, she managed to fool some of them with an illusion that they were fleeing. That would last for a couple minutes. That left ten.
As one assassin attacked her, she shoved her psychic knife into his brain. He slumped down to the ground, convulsing as he lost all motor control of his body. A sense of movement came from behind her and she rolled under a sword stroke. It was too close though, as it claimed a couple of inches from her hair. Grabbing a fallen katana form her previous opponent she parried a thrust as she sprung shakily to her feet. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jubilee struck from behind by a kick. The child was unconscious before she hit the ground.
Despair griped her. The only thing that kept her going for the last few days was Jubilee. Without her, she would have probably would be dead already. She tried to draw upon her inner strength for what felt like the hundredth time. Clumsily, she struck at the ninja facing her. He batted her sword away with his. The next stroke sliced her thigh, while another ninja slashed her back. She had tried to dodge both, but to no avail. Then, the first one ran the sword through her abdomen. Falling to her knees, the sword still in its fleshly scabbard, Elisabeth coughed up dark blood. Pain shot through her entire body. She tried to use her powers on him, but the pain blocked her from doing so.
"Look brothers! Look at the betrayer." He said in Japanese. Pulling the katana out roughly, a smile crept in his eyes as he heard Psylocke gasp in pain.
As Psylocke's body began to go into shock, he looked at her hard. "No one escapes the Hand." With that, he brought the sword down upon her neck.
It bounced off something hard. Something the ninja could not see.
"Didn't your mudder ever teach ya how to treat a lady?" A loud gravely voice stated in the air above the assassin, in English.
Looking up he saw three people, two women and one... thing, and an impressive looking aircraft hovering over them emitting no noise. The blond female and the male wore similar clothing, a dark blue jumpsuit with white boots, belt, and gloves covered by dark leather jackets. They had an emblem of a four on their chest. He knew them. The young brunette, he did not know. She was in a blue jumpsuit with an indigo leather jacket and facemask. The stance she used though he knew all to well. Two members of the Fantastic Four and a young ninja were their new opponents. Any hopes of winning this battle were now over.
As Ben jumped from the invisible platform, he yelled his trademark, "it's clobberin' time!" He hit the ground hard enough to toss most of the ninja off their feet. It did not last though as they sprung back up, like cats.
Sue lowered herself and Kitty to the ground. Her young partner bolted towards the fallen woman, swords slicing harmlessly though her. Sue shielded herself with her powers, and joined the fray.
The head genin silently signaled his companions. The youngest of them, disappeared into the bushes as the others covered his retreat. When he was safe, all the remaining members of the Hand dropped their primary weapons. He spoke to Ben with hatred in his eyes. "Stop. We know we can not win."
"Ya got that right."
He despised speaking in English, it was, in his opinion, the most obtrusive language in the world, but he used it. "You have won this battle, gaijin, but we will not forget this day. You have interfered with our mission. That, we will never forgive or forget." Pointing at Psylocke, he continued, "Like her, you will be dealt with in time."
As one, all the members sat down on their knees and pulled out their short swords. Kitty saw this and yelled, "No!" as she tried to stop one of them.
It was too late, he and all the others drove the sword into their bellies and cut upward in one quick efficient stroke. Their bodies slumped to the ground and began to melt into smoke, leaving only the garments and weapons behind.
"Mrs. Richards, this woman needs urgent medical attention. She's dying!" Kitty said, trying to stop the bleeding from the woman's abdomen. It was not working.
"This girl too!" Ben cried out.
Susan Richards wrapped the two injured women in invisible cocoons, and transported everyone back to the ship on one of her platforms.
"Kit, I thought ya said that the X-Men were here, Psylocke for sure. But I don't see any of 'em, just the two oriental ladies. Where are they?" Ben asked rubbing his head.
Looking at the older woman lying next to her, she stated "I don't know, Mr. Grimm. But this woman here is the key. She sorta looks like Elisabeth, except Elisabeth was British, Caucasian to boot. Hopefully, she'll have the answers we need." Grabbing her shoulders, she looked at him uncertainly. "But why do I feel that we aren't going to like them?"
He put his massive arm around her and softened his voice as much as he could, "I don't know, but we'll face it together, 'kay?"
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