Takes place 2 years after Apocalypse, 1 year after the Phoenix. The mutant problem has grown and a obscure general named William Stryker thinks he has a solution. Has Scott/Jean, Wanda/Kurt, Kitty/...
Chapter 11: Surviving the Hunt
The clouds that had hung over the sky during the night had given way as the morning sun now shined in the sky. But for Eric Lensherr and his associate Piotr Rasputin, this was the dawning of a much darker day. Throughout the night, Magneto had been flying all over the New York landscape, dodging and avoiding the determined tracking of whomever had been the one to destroy his home along with the X-men and the Brotherhood. While he was uncertain if any X-men were even alive or if Xavier himself had perished in the blast, the one thing he was confident about was that his children had escaped from the blast. Their bodies had not been among the dead at the Brotherhood and he had been searching for them through the night...Determined to protect them from whatever monster was responsible for this. His search now led him to New York City, where he hoped to find some answers.
"New York City..." said Colossus as he looked at the famous skyline in the distance, "Magneto, why are we here?"
"Information Piotr," answered Eric, "We have no idea where Wanda and Pietro may be...But I know how we can find out. One of the Morlocks, Caliban, has a mutant ability that allows him to locate other mutants. If anyone can give me some information about my children, I believe he can."
The two men flew above the tall buildings over Manhattan and made their way over towards Queens and the more improvised areas between the suburbs and the city limits. It was here where Magneto knew the Morlocks resided, but as he neared the area...An all too familiar and horrific sight greeted them.
"No...They got to them as well..."
Magneto abruptly stopped in mid air as he and Piotr took in the sight below. An area covering several city blocks had been cordoned off by military forces and every sewer duct had been covered with an industrial sized pump and air compressor. The use of this device was unknown at first, but when they looked over towards an area outside one of the manholes...The use became clear.
"My god..." said Piotr in a strained tone, "Is there no end to all this death?"
Like the Brotherhood and Xavier's, dozens of body bags were lined up along the streets in bloody stains. Some had young children in them no older than five years old while others contained full grown men and women. It was truly a ghastly sight. Unable to hold his concentration and absorb such horror at the same time, Magneto lowered himself and Piotr on top of an unoccupied roof overlooking the area. There, they got a better look at what had been done to these poor outcasts that had been forced to live in a sewer because of their genes.
"Those bastards...They gassed them..." said Eric, recognizing all the signs from surviving the holocaust, "They trapped them within their own homes and made them suffer an inhumane death. I don't know who did this...But whoever had committed these atrocities shall pay dearly for this!"
"Magneto...Now is not the time to go on a murderous vengeance," said Piotr as he promptly stopped the master of magnetism from going off on and angry rampage.
"But look at it Piotr! Look at the faces of human hatred! The Morlocks were a band of mutants cursed to live in such dire environments because everyone feared and hated them! Now look at them...Look at the Brotherhood...And Xavier! If this does not prove me right then I don't know what does!"
"This doesn't prove you right any more than it proves Xavier wrong!" shot Colossus angrily, "What evidence do you have that this was caused by humanity as a whole?"
"Look at those faces Piotr...Look at the pain and suffering caused by those impotent soldiers! The Morlocks were no greater a threat or danger to mankind than the rats that they were forced to live with...Yet they were forced to die a slow, painful death simply because of the fact that they were mutants."
"Have you not learned anything from this?!" replied Colossus, who was getting angrier by the second as Magneto began to babble more incessantly, "Why don't you look down at those faces Magneto...This is what YOU wanted...War. This is what war brings...And I know you don't want this upon anybody. Think back to 2 years ago when you were under Apocalypse's control...Remember what you felt...Remember what you saw...Because that's the kind of suffering that you'll bring to people just like the Morlocks, mutant or human! You don't know who did this, why they did it, or even where they are. Blaming a whole race on the actions of a few...My, doesn't that sound familiar...Eric?"
That last part struck a dangerous chord with Eric Lensherr...Not Magneto. As a man that survived Nazi persecution...Piotr knew that he was hitting him where it hurt. As a slave to Apocalypse, Magneto was forced to live and relive the pain he suffered as a boy under Nazi hatred. And what Colossus had just said...Reminded him all too well the men who had done such atrocity to him. Suddenly, he felt like one of the soldiers that killed his family all those years ago...He felt like one of the generals ordering the mass extermination of 'undesirables' in the minds of a single group. The more he thought about it, the more torn Magneto felt between the old feeling he had once believed in 2 years ago and the lessons that he had learned since then.
"I...Don't know anymore Piotr..." conceded Magneto as he felt a slight pain in his head as he recalled the callous Nazi soldiers of World War II and the heartless actions by himself over half a century later.
"I think you do...Eric. But you are just not willing to admit it because of all the anger and bitterness you feel," said the Russian mutant, "Then again what do I know? I'm just a poor farm boy from Siberia. You don't have to listen to me...You just hired me to be a soldier."
Colossus's resentment for Magneto showed as he scoffed the broken man struggling with himself unlike ever before. The venom in the Russian man's words was harsh and cold...Much like Magneto himself had become over time, but now in the face of such inner turmoil, the master of magnetism just wasn't so sure.
Then...As Magneto and Colossus stood in silence on the roof, a distinct chattering was suddenly heard from the soldiers below. Forgetting his pain ever so briefly, Magneto moved closer to the edge of the roof to get a clearer view and hear the conversation going on below them.
"Any more of em down there?" said one of the soldiers, sporting a slightly different military uniform that standard issue.
"Nope...I think that's the last of em! This time, we got every last one of them! No survivors here!" replied the other soldier wearing the same kind of uniform as his associate.
"Ha! That's more than the other divisions can say mind you!"
"Yeah, all that firepower and planning and some of those freaks STILL got away! Pathetic!"
"Definitely brother! Did you hear who made it out?"
"Nah...I don't bother looking at that target list the field captain gave us. I mean...It's not like we had to face any of em around here except for that Spyke guy that used to be an X-man."
"Well I heard that big bad Magneto made it out along with that metal guy in the mountains."
"Magneto? Damn, that's not good! He's the reason why this whole strike was necessary in the first place!"
"I know...I hope they get him! The world will thank us for getting rid of a mutant Hitler!"
"Amen to that!"
Upon hearing this, Eric's fists clenched with fury...Not at the soldiers, but at himself. It earned him a confirming look from Colossus, but Magneto chose to ignore it as they listened on.
"But he's not the only guy who made it out," added the soldier as he and his associate continued to converse.
"Shit man! How many freaks survived this thing?!"
"Out of all the dozens of targets...About seven others in all."
"Seven huh? Well, I guess that's good considering the numbers that the mutants had."
"Yep, and that includes both Brotherhood and X-men. So even if they have survived, their luck is pretty much fucked now. We got have the United States military searching for their asses in upstate New York."
"Do you think they'll find em?"
"I sure as hell hope so. I hear they've got it narrowed down to a 500 square mile area near the Canadian boarder. It's big...But there's no way they can hide forever! I know we'll get em all if it's the last thing we do!"
At this point, Magneto had heard enough. 500 square miles near the Canadian boarder was a lot of ground to cover...But if his children were there, that was all the motivation he needed. The feelings and emotions that had been causing him undue stress since arriving here were set aside for the time being in hopes of finding Wanda and Pietro and taking them to a safe location away from all this danger.
"500 square miles...We may never find the children in such a large area," mused Colossus as he heard what the soldiers had said.
"Large or small...I'm still going to find my kids. I don't care how long it takes...I WILL find them."
With that last determined remark, Magneto once again used his powers to life both himself and Colossus into the air and into the sky. This time, they had an idea where to look...But a lot of ground to cover. But this would not dissuade Eric Lensherr from finding what was left of the family that he had neglected for too long.
In Washington DC at the famous Watergate hotel, Professor Charles Xavier and his friend and bodyguard Logan remained prisoners in their hotel room. General William Stryker had left them to process what had happened in the span of a single night. He had also left a small army to guard each and every exit to the hotel so that there was no escaping. In addition...The general had left behind the gruesome pictures of their dead friends and family for them to look over. Each one of them was truly an awful sight...And now they lay at the mercy of a fierce and determined man bent on wiping every last mutant off the face of the Earth.
"I failed them..." said Logan solemnly as he looked at the gruesome pictures of his dead students, "This is all my fault Chuck. These kids are dead...Because of me."
"Don't say that old friend," said Xavier as he forced himself to look away from the pictures, "This is not at all your fault...Stryker is the one who did this. He is the one who is responsible."
"But I should have been there, damn it!" shot Logan as he turned away from his friend, his eyes once again falling upon the picture of the dead Ororo Munroe, "When you first accepted me to the institute as teacher...And gave me a chance to do something...I made a vow right then and there that I would never let any harm come to any of the kids. You trusted me to protect them...They trusted me to protect them. And I betrayed them...I wasn't there when I should have been."
Xavier was about to respond, but he soon felt himself unable to as he looked back at the pictures once again. A choking feeling formed within his throat as he soon felt the sting of what had happened to these children. He now understood why Logan felt this way...And in turn, it made him feel guilty as well.
"I know how you feel Logan...Believe me I know," said Xavier with a remorseful sigh, "I...Told the parents of these kids...At least the ones that still had parents...That my school would help keep their children safe. I gave them my word that...No harm would come to them. If anybody should be feeling guilty...It's me old friend. Don't blame yourself for this..."
Logan's mind failed to process the Professor's comforting words as he looked back down at a picture of the dead body of Storm. He didn't want to face Xavier now...Because for the first time in what seemed like forever, tears were actually forming in his eyes...Tears for the innocent woman whose dead body was now staring him in the face...Sure to haunt his dreams forever now. His best friend...The only person that ever saw him as more of a man than an animal...Was dead. He thought back to the time when he persuaded her to stay at the mansion and rest while he took over helping Xavier in Washington. Being a man who never liked to show too much emotion or affection out of fear for somebody getting hurt, he never took the time to show her how much she meant to him. She was a goddess...A kind, loving person that could take the beast from within him and turn it into a man. And because he had insisted that she stay at the mansion and rest...She was now dead. Had he let her go instead of him...She might still be alive now...And he might have had a chance at surviving the blast because of his healing. But none of that mattered now...She was gone...Just like the rest of the students. And he was powerless to do anything about it.
"So it's over now..." said Logan as he tried to stop the tears from forming in his feral eyes, "The X-men...The cause...It's all over."
Those words struck deep with Professor Charles Xavier, who had never before felt so helpless. In seeing the deadly efficiency of Stryker's attack and the horribly bias news reports being blared all over the news, he actually began to consider whether or not Logan was right. For so long now, he had been fighting for a goal and preaching his cause even as mutant/human relationships deteriorated in the aftermath of Apocalypse. Was all of his work in vain? Was it all a scheme that Stryker allowed to happen? Had he simply played into someone else's hands? Then, Xavier remembered why he had done those things...For his students...For mutants everywhere. Once again, he looked at the photos of the dead children...And he refused to allow such a murderer like Stryker to destroy his dream.
"No Logan...It is not over," said Xavier, trying to sound strong.
"How can you say that at this point?!" bellowed the Wolverine as he turned to face his mentor, but trying his best not to show that he had shed tears.
"For all this death...For all this horrible hatred...It was caused by one man Logan. It was caused by the efforts of only one man...Driven by a force that we may never hope to understand. William Stryker...Not the human race...Killed our friends and family."
"What difference does it make now Charles?" said Logan as he felt an intense hatred for that monster that did this brewing inside him, "Stryker or not...He's won. He destroyed our homes...Our friends...Our enemies...And he's turning the whole world against us. Face it Chuck...We've lost."
It pained Xavier to see his friend in such despair...Especially when part of him agreed with his words. However, Charles was determined not to give in to such hopelessness.
"In some ways...You're right Logan," conceded Xavier with a heavy heart as his eyes drifted back towards the pictures, "We have lost...We failed to see something like this happening...We failed to recognize the signs...But we mustn't give up hope. I know you too well for you to give up the fight when there is still a breath in your body old friend."
Logan forced himself to swallow his anger and hatred as his thoughts drifted back towards the kids and the rest of the mutant world as a whole that he was such a big part of.
"I don't see how there's any hope left to hold on to at this point Chuck..."
"Look harder old friend," urged Xavier, "As horrible as these pictures are to look at...They in of themselves show that there remains hope."
"But...How?" grunted Logan, not understanding what the Professor was getting at.
"For all the dead children and friends that they show...There are a few missing from these pictures. There's no Scott...No Jean...No Kurt or Kitty. I don't see Magnus in any of them, nor Mystique. The Maximoff twins are also not shown...And neither is Colossus. There are still others out there old friend...Stryker has not completely succeeded. We still have students out there...We still have allies out there...I know it. I may not be able to sense it...But I can feel it. I know things seem bleak for us all Logan...But we must stay strong. We must never lose hope...Not as long as we're still alive...We must never give up."
The time was now around nine in the morning as Stryker and his entourage made their way back to the Pentagon. To him...Everything was going exactly as he had planned it. Now that he had left Xavier and Logan as prisoner in the hotel, he had taken control of the mutant race's last real hope. He controlled so much now in this conflict and there seemed no other outcome other than victory to both him and his Friends of Humanity allies.
As he and his security force reentered the Pentagon and prepared to head back down to the main control room, his cell phones suddenly started ringing. A slow grin spread across the general's face, for he had a pretty good idea of who it probably was.
"Stryker here," answered the general as he and Magnum took the lead and entered the elevator going down to the control room.
"William...It's Kelly. I just finished watching the morning news like you said. And I must say...I'm quite impressed."
"You should have known better than to doubt me Senator. I am a man of my word and I don't easily stray from that."
"That's good to hear. So far you have kept up your end of the bargain. I've even heard my name mentioned on the news a few times as well," said Kelly, sounding all too satisfied with how things have turned out.
"Just a little recognition to the man who helped to make all this possible Edward."
"I appreciate that William. So tell me...What part of your ingenious plan are you at now?"
This question made the general chuckle somewhat as he recalled the senator's earlier disposition the previous night.
"I just returned from a little visit with Xavier and that animal for a body guard he calls Wolverine. Needless to say...I don't think that this trip to Washington was anything near what he had in mind."
"I would suspect not," laughed Kelly in response who was in just too good a mood right now, "So when will I hear the tragic news of Xavier's oh so untimely demise?"
"You shall hear it soon enough Senator...After the Professor has served his purpose."
"What do you mean by that?" responded the Senator over the phone, now sounding somewhat wearier and more suspicious.
"He and his associate are now prisoner on the top floor of the Watergate hotel. My elite Friends of Humanity soldiers are now guarding every exit and entrance in and around the building. There's no way he can get out."
"You fool!" yelled the Senator over the line, now sounding downright outraged, "You mean to tell me that you didn't kill him?!"
"Of course no, Senator. He is still a large part of the plan...For he will be an effective barraging chip in drawing out the survivors of the attacks on the targets."
However, this last comment seemed only to enrage the senator even more.
"Survivors?! You mean to say that after all the risks I took, all the laws we broke, and all the boasting you did there are survivors?! You had the greatest military in the world at your fingertips and you still weren't able to kill them all?!"
"Relax Senator Kelly, I anticipated there being survivors. I may be confident, but I am not so naÃ¯ve as to think that I can wipe them all out with one masterful stroke. You said it yourself Senator, the mutants are a resourceful bunch. Of course there were going to be survivors."
"You son of a bitch! You lied to me! You told me that they would all be wiped out by now!" yelled the Senator angrily, but it seemed to have little effect on the general's demeanor.
"That, my dear senator, is why I am a general and you are not. I don't make the stupid mistakes of underestimating my enemy and believing that they will just keel over and die without putting up a fight."
"But you said..."
"I said that they would be finished once my plan is complete. Right now, my plan is still in the process of completing our objective. I never said how long it would take to fulfill my plan ultimately...You must have patience in such matters. In the mean time, the news that I have so thoughtfully leaked will keep the public on our side and the Professor will provide a good incentive for our elusive enemies should they remain concealed for too long."
"This isn't how you said it would happen Stryker..."
"Negative Senator...Everything is going exactly as I had foreseen it. And rest assured, we will succeed. Just don't doubt me anymore or you may find yourself in a situation similar to Xavier's..."
And with that, the general abruptly hung up on the Senator...Leaving Edward Kelly in an anxious and unsure state. But he knew that he had to trust the general. So far, he had accomplished much of what he said he would. He was a man true to his word...And he would have to trust that...For he did not have much of a choice in the end.
Mystique and Jean pulled into the general store on the motorcycle just as it opened around 9:30 in the morning. This would aid them by keeping the amount of observers to a minimum. After a quick visit and withdraw from and ATM machine from one of Mystique's many bank accounts, both women entered the store. Luckily, there was nobody else in there except the shopkeeper. Not wanting to waste too much time, Raven and Jean quickly went to work getting a decent supply of food and some medicine for Pietro. As they gathered supplies, the shopkeeper then turned on the TV and a news report started blaring throughout the small store.
"We now return to our continuing coverage of the historic discovery of a mutant plot against humanity. In a momentous day that the press had dubbed mutant D-day, the military released within the last hour a series of photos and documents found within the rubble of the famous mutant training facilities known as the Xavier Institute, the Brotherhood boarding house, and the mountain based complex of the feared mutant tyrant known as Magneto. More images and evidence is being released every hour, further confirming the initial discovery by the military of a mutant conspiracy organized by both Charles Xavier and Magneto. Evidence proves that their faÃ§ade for peace was a mere plot to slow government reaction down in order to buy them time to assemble mutants everywhere and rally them against humanity. So far, nobody has come forward disputing these claims, saying that they speak for themselves. And according to our immediate web poll, and overwhelming 90 percent of the people believe that the pre-emptive strike by the military was justified in wake of seeing so much evidence that proves what men like Senator Kelly tried to warn the public about when he first took office two years ago. An emergency version of the once highly controversial Mutant Containment Act is already working its way through Congress and is expected to pass within the week and the President has already vowed to sign it in order to protect the public from such menacing threats as mutants."
"Well it's about damn time!" said the shopkeeper as he watched the news report.
Mystique looked back at the man with bitter distain on her face, for he was praising the people who had blown up her home and murdered her daughter. The news report went on, making seemingly verified claims that mutants everywhere were plotting against humanity and that Apocalypse was just a ploy to hold the public at bay and keep them divided so that they wouldn't be able to stop the war that mutants were supposedly preparing to start. Jean, however, put a hand on Raven's shoulder, shaking her head and dissuading her from letting her anger and remorse for what had happened to her and her daughter get the better of her. The shape shifter swallowed the bitter lump in her throat as she and Jean finished gathering what they could. In addition to the food, they also picked up several newspapers. They would have to know more about the world and the events unfolding around them if they were to ascertain why such a thing had happened in the first place.
"We're done here Raven. I'll pay," said Jean as she saw Mystique's face cringe as she heard more of the news report.
"Thank you...I don't know how much longer I can stand being in here," said the shape shifter bitterly as she quickly made her way out of the store.
The news report continued even after she left, further blasting mutants. It was all out character assassination now, making men like the Professor seem like deceptive, manipulative, radicals that wanted to destroy the world. They even went so far as to say that Apocalypse was one of their weapons that just went wrong and was used as a tool to make them all look like heroes. It was a horribly bias report...Almost too bias for it to be one of true value. Jean knew there was something more about it...But she just couldn't quite put her finger on it at this point. She made as few suspicious actions as she possibly could while she went up to the counter and paid for her rather large purchase.
"You ready to go?" said the shopkeeper, not really tearing himself away from the news report.
"Yes and I'm kind of in a hurry so..."
"Yeah, yeah...I'm coming," said the burly, middle aged man as the news report went on commercial.
As the shopkeeper began to scan and bag the numerous items that Jean and Raven had gathered, Jean took out some of the money that had been withdrawn from one of Mystique's many bank accounts. She was surprised that it was actually quite large for someone that changes identity so often, but she would have plenty of time to learn about that later. Being the psychic that she was, Jean could sense that Raven had no intentions of leaving them as long as Pietro, Wanda, and her son remained. The redhead was careful to use small, inconspicuous bills. Even though it seemed somewhat paranoid of her, given the situation she felt it would be better to be too careful than not careful enough.
"So what do you think of all this mutant crap goin' on?" said the shopkeeper as he looked back at his mini TV to see that the news was still on commercial.
"I...Really don't know," responded Jean, trying hard not to sound too suspicious.
"You don't know?! Just look at the news kid! It's all over the place! I knew those stinkin' muties were no good! Now this proves it! They were all plotting to wipe us all out! Well I say...Good riddance! First time our government has actually done something right for a change!"
Jean just mumbled something incoherently as she handed the man two twenty dollar bills to pay for the food.
"What's the matter with you anyway? This is a historic day in the history of mankind!"
"I...Had a long night," replied Jean, partially speaking the truth.
Thankfully, the shopkeeper seemed to buy it as he just laughed.
"Ouch...I guess that'll do it. Leave it to teenagers to stay out all night and not appreciate history in the making!"
Jean felt the urge to respond to this man's callous remarks, but she knew that she couldn't risk making herself seem suspicious. As the man gave her the change, she took the two bags and promptly made her way out.
"Thank you," she said casually as she saw the man go back to watching the news.
"Have a nice day lady...I know I will!"
Jean then exited the shop, feeling as though she hadn't left a minute too soon. That man didn't know that she was a mutant...But the mere thought of every person in this country being swayed by the news into that kind of mindset was almost too harsh to think about. Not once in the report did they mention the dead bodies of their friends...Who were not soldiers, but students and teachers. They used terminology like 'contained' or 'neutralized.' Stuff definitely sugarcoated for public consumption.
As Jean made her way over to the motorcycle, she saw Mystique resting her head on the handlebar staring off into the sky. The look on her face was one of great turmoil and the woman who once had unbeatable psychic shielding actually began to project. It was clear that she was still in a great deal of pain...And that news report that only further defiled the death of her students and daughter did little to help.
"Raven...Are you going to be okay?"
The shape shifter then snapped out of her daze upon hearing Jean's voice and turned away so as to hide her pain.
"I'll be fine..." she responded as she started up the motorcycle.
She was a bad liar...Of that much, Jean was certain. Thoughts and projections, many of them images and memories of Rogue, still prevailed within her mind. Jean placed a hand on her shoulder, hoping to do something to help her sad demeanor.
"I'm sorry about Rogue..."
"Don't be...You have nothing to apologize for Jean. It is I...That should feel regret."
And with that, the two women sped off into the winding back roads back towards the cave...Not at all noticing the suspicious look that the shopkeeper gave them as they left.
As the remnants of the X-men and the Brotherhood held up in the isolated forests of upstate New York, a large amount of military activity began to take place to the south at the airbase that had launched the planes that had attacked the mansion and the boarding house. After a single order from the general, the hundreds of soldiers gathered and prepared to carry out and implement the general's orders that had been issued less than a half hour ago. Now, dozens of modified Apache Longbow helicopters lined the runways while E-767 sky eye reconnaissance planes and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles prepared behind them to take off once the helicopters were in the air. Many of the craft were fully armed with rockets, 30 caliber machine guns, and hellfire missiles. Such firepower was ordered and required by the general as the higher ranking field commanders began going over the plan outlined by Stryker.
"Okay listen up people!" said the field captain to the pilots that would fly these craft and carry out this task, "By direct order of General William Stryker, we are to search and locate seven missing mutants...All survivors of the X-men and the Brotherhood. Now Magneto is still a factor in this...However, according to intelligence from the Pentagon, he is already in the process of searching for the survivors as well because his kids have been confirmed to be a part of them. So if we encounter the survivors...We'll most likely encounter Magneto as well and whatever other henchmen he's got. We have linked all surveillance and radar detection equipment with satellite and sky eye aircraft, so be sure to use every ounce of technology at your disposal to find our targets. The orders are shoot to kill...These freaks got away once before...They will not get away this time! Now...Let's go hunt some muties!"
AN: Well, that's it for now! The hunt has once again begun. Stay tuned to see how it turns out as what's left of the X-men and the Brotherhood try to seek and avoid being hunted down like their friends were. There's plenty of action to come! So what do you all think? Has this story been a good read so far? Please tell me! Send me your feedback via email or post them on the fanfiction website! I love getting reviews and they really provide a lot of inspiration for me to keep writing! Thanks for reading and I wish you all the best!
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