Chapter 12: The Future and the Present
Sentinel Facility – Main Hub
Pierce was poised to finish what the Hellfire Club failed to do twice. His army of mini-sentinels had their sights locked on the X-men and Magneto. They were powerless and drained due to his enhanced power dampening machine. Even they couldn’t escape this time. He left absolutely nothing to chance.
“It’s over, X-men. You lose,” he taunted.
“Go to Hell, Pierce!” spat Rogue.
“You first,” grinned Pierce, “And please give my regards to Selene and Shaw.”
He was about to give the order. Cable turned to Scott, whose plan would have to come through now. Surrounded and outnumbered, he nodded to give the signal.
“You can tell them yourself,” grunted Cable, “NOW!”
Pierce looked at him strangely. Then suddenly, a small bat flew out from the rafters above him and went straight for him. It let out a deafening screech, which drew the attention of the mini-sentinels and Pierce for that matter. And before he could react, the bat shifted into Mystique’s full form and she attacked with a flying kick to the chest.
“Hrrrraaaaahhhhh!” she yelled as her foot made contact with the cybernetic man.
“Augh!” he grunted, dropping the small controller in the process.
Mystique quickly picked it up and hit the red button in the center, causing the power dampening device to deactivate.
“No!” exclaimed Pierce, “You bitch!”
“You don’t know the half of it,” grinned Mystique, feeling a new rush now that she got to play the hero for once.
With the device off, the X-men and Mutant Liberation Front felt their powers and energy return to them. It took a moment to shake off the fatigue, but they were back.
“Ugh, my head,” groaned Bobby.
“Shake it off, Iceman!” said Logan, drawing his claws, “You can rest after we send these things to the scrap heap!”
“Guess that means we won’t be needing this,” said August
August then waved her hand and an image of Mystique that had been with them since they entered the area faded. It was then Pierce realized what they had done. That girl must have been a mystic and cast a spell that created a fake image of the shape shifter to make him think he had them all right where he wanted them. It was classic deception and it worked. Now he was really angry.
“You deceptive little…” he began.
“Just returning the favor, Pierce,” said Cable as he cocked his gun, “For once, this is going to be a fair fight.”
He then charged his weapon and fired at the power dampening column, blowing it to pieces along with a few mini-sentinels. It effectively took away Pierce’s trump card and he knew it. But he was far from defeated. He still had an army of machines and he would use all of them in order to protect Mastermold.
“You pitiful excuse for pond scum!” exclaimed Pierce, “Sentinel army, attack!”
The mini-sentinels obeyed without hesitation and aimed their armaments at the group of mutants. They all fired at once, but this time Jean and Magneto had the strength to put up shields that deflected every incoming round. And to break up the formation, they each delivered a burst of electromagnetic energy and telekinesis to knock each mini-bot back. Now that their organization was disrupted, they could fight back.
“X-men, attack!” ordered Scott.
“Mutant Liberation Front, attack!” ordered Magneto.
“I thought he’d never give the word,” grunted Laura, who wasted no time in tearing into the mini-robots.
“Finally, a chance to break some of his toys,” grinned Gambit as he charged some cards and began his barrage.
“Don’t get too cocky, Remy,” said Scott as he fired a barrage of optic blasts, “We’re vastly outnumbered in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Oh please,” he scoffed, “When are we not?”
Every one of the X-men and Mutant Liberation Front fought with their full collective power against Pierce’s army. Piotr shifted into his metal form and did a ramming charge at a cluster of mini-sentinels that were firing at him. But their blasts had no chance against his metal skin and he blasted through them like bowling pins. Those unlucky enough to survive the onslaught were shorted out by Kitty, who ran behind her boyfriend and phased through anything unlucky enough to get in her path.
Rogue and Warren took to the air, flying up to draw fire away from their friends and leave the mini-sentinels open for attacks from their friends. Warren’s wing was still sore, but he toughed it out and played his part. This time, Betsy made sure nothing hit her boyfriend again. She used her psionic blades to cut through and dismember every mini-sentinel that got in her way. Logan and Laura fought close besides her as well, ripping apart every robot in a berserker style rampage.
“Guess Pierce hasn’t worked out the kinks to these things!” grinned Betsy.
“Just like ripping apart the danger room,” grunted Logan.
“Only more satisfying,” added Laura as she decapitated another mini-sentinel.
The mayhem escalated as Vincent joined Piotr in running head first into clusters of mini-sentinels, drawing fire away from others who weren’t invulnerable and smashing these mechanical monsters to pieces. He soon joined Rogue and Warren in the air as the coordinated flying swoop attacks they had practiced in the Danger Room to clear out clusters of robots so they wouldn’t be able to organize and concentrate their fire.
Ororo soon joined as well, summoning her weather control powers to create whirlwinds around the confined area to form clouds that unleashed bolts of lightning. These powerful sparks arced across clusters of mini-sentinels, shorting them out and even causing a few to explode. They tried retaliating by firing on her, but they were made sitting ducks as Bobby froze them into giant blocks of ice while August melted them away with fire blasts.
“Eh they aren’t so tough,” said Bobby with growing confidence.
“I agree,” grinned August, “Fire and ice are definitely not a machine’s best friend.”
“Amen to that, shelia!” grinned Pyro, who still wouldn’t leave August alone.
August suppressed another groan as she stuck to burning through the onslaught while Pyro summoned massive balls of fire and torched large numbers of the mini-sentinels. His maniacal laughter showed he was enjoying himself a little too much. But that was just the pyromaniac in him. Lance tried to keep him in check, but that was not really possible with someone like Pyro. He had sympathy for August, but could do little to help her so he focused on making tremors that would knock the mini-sentinels off balance so they were easy targets for Bobby and August.
The most intense fighting continued in the central area where Scott, Jean, Cable, Alex, and Beast stayed close to the Professor. With no attack capabilities of his own it was up to them to protect him. Cable was especially determined to see to it that he was unharmed because should they fail, Xavier would still be the best hope for the future. But failure was the last thing on their minds as wave after wave of mini-sentinels poured into the area.
“Jeez, how many of these things are there?!” exclaimed Alex as he and Scott kept up a steady barrage of blasts.
“Knowing Pierce, plenty,” said Scott, as he shot another sentinel that tried to leap towards the Professor, “Just keep shooting!”
“And then what?” grunted Alex, “We do have a plan, right?”
“Of course,” said Scott, “We improvise.”
“That’s not much of a plan, bro.”
“Until you think of something better just go with it!” said Jean, who kept putting up telekinetic shields to protect them.
It didn’t seem like much of a strategy to him, but Alex kept fighting none-the-less. They had gotten through these things without much planning before. He trusted they could do it again.
With Cable, however, it was becoming increasingly apparent. Just fighting off Pierce’s drones wasn’t enough. They had to take it to the next level and attack the heart of Mastermold. And that meant going on the offensive.
“We can’t keep this up!” he said as he blasted another sentinel’s head off.
“I agree,” said Beast, “And I’m very much open to suggestions.”
“As am I,” said Xavier, who could only watch as the melee escalated, “Where can we attack Mastermold’s main programming?”
“All AI is routed in a neural-computer in the head,” said Cable, “I’m guessing that’s where all the data is.”
“Then that’s where we’ll have to go,” said Beast as he smashed the two heads of a couple of mini-sentinels together, “If I can get there, perhaps I can hack the mainframe and delete the primary files.”
“That may take a while,” warned Cable as more robots tried to attack, “These systems are pretty advanced.”
“I’ll go with you,” said Xavier, “We can work faster together.”
“That may be a problem given your mobility,” said Beast.
“We don’t have a choice,” said the Professor strongly, “We have to destroy this monstrosity from within!”
They were brave words from someone who couldn’t walk. Cable couldn’t help but admire that, but it was still risky. If something happened to the Professor, there was no telling what that could do to the future. It may even make it so he didn’t exist and they never even began this assault in the first place. But there was little time to debate. They had to make their move.
“You’re a bold man, Professor,” said Cable, “Here, take this!”
Cable then reached to a holster built into his cybernetic leg and pulled out a small side-arm. He then armed it and tossed it to the Professor. It didn’t pack the power of his main gun, but it should give him some protection in case they faced any major obstacles.
“I know it’s not your style, but you may need it,” he said.
“Understood,” said Xavier, “Hank, I don’t think this chair will do us any favors so I’ll need to hitch a ride.”
“Very well, as long as you don’t mind getting fur on your suit,” said Beast as he picked Xavier up and hitched him over his shoulder while Cable covered him, “Now we just need an opening.”
“You’ve got one,” said Scott as he, Alex, and Jean got together and prepared a full attack.
Together with Cable, they concentrated their firepower and blew away an entire legion of mini-sentinels that were charging them from afar. Jean used her telekinesis to create a wide ram to knock them back while Scott, Alex, and Cable blasted away to keep them from regrouping. They had been blocking the ladders and elevators leading up the rafters and onto Mastermold. Pierce probably programmed them to keep anybody from getting that close, but with the combined power of the X-men the onslaught would be halted.
“Hang on, Charles! This could be a bumpy ride,” said Hank as he leapt up onto the rafters.
“I would expect nothing less,” said the Professor as he gripped Hank’s uniform tightly.
They began making their way up just as the mini-sentinels regrouped and concentrated their firepower. This forced Scott, Jean, Alex, and Cable on the defensive. Cable and Jean stood up front, blocking for the others. Cable used his cybernetic arm as a shield and took a few rounds that dented his appendage, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Jean was already nearing the point of mental fatigue from all the shielding she was making. Sweat poured down her face, but she never let up.
Then a lone shot from a mini-sentinel from her blind side fired a shot that grazed her shoulder.
“Ahhhhhhh!” she cried, falling to the floor.
“Jean!” yelled Scott, catching her before she hit.
“Mom…” grunted Cable with a new wave of anger.
Cable made sure that mini-sentinel paid. He used his own telekinesis to rip off every limb and fling it at other robots that were unlucky enough to get in the way. Alex had to cover him for a moment, but he didn’t complain. He would have done the same for anything that hurt his sister-in-law.
Up in the rafters, Pierce was in a bitter fight with Mystique. After the shape shifter landed the first hit, the half-man half-machine tyrant went on a vicious attack. He had been so close to finally ridding himself of these pestilent X-men. He should have known they wouldn’t be so foolish as to come in without a plan. That was naivety on his part and he was determined not to make the same mistake twice.
He showed early on that his strength was far greater than Mystique could hope to muster. Pierce smashed his fists at her, breaking iron bars on the rafters and putting dents in the floors. Mystique could only duck, dodge, and jump in order to avoid the punishing attack. She tried countering with a few kicks and punches to the face, but Pierce showed remarkable speed for someone who was part machine. Those upgrades were more advanced than she thought.
“I’ll make sure you and your kind pay for this!” howled Pierce as he smashed another rail.
“Funny, I used to say the same thing,” said Mystique as she did a back-flip to avoid another punch, “Now I see how annoying it was.”
The shape shifter finally began to counter, finding a window and attacking the parts of this man that were still flesh and blood. Her anger was driven by the knowledge that this man had been part of the group that inflicted so much pain on her children. The rest of the Hellfire Club wasn’t around to take her anger out on, so this man would have to do.
She landed a few good blows on his face, but they did little to slow Pierce down. Now he was getting really annoyed. For a blue-skinned woman, this freak was really testing his patience. Looking down at the fight below he saw that his mini-sentinels weren’t making much progress either. But he refused to give in.
“I will not be denied!” exclaimed Pierce as he charged the shape shifter.
This time Mystique wasn’t fast enough to get out of the way. Pierce tackled her and grabbed her by the neck, knocking her over the guard rail in the process and sending them falling to the hard ground below.
“Ack!” choked Mystique as she braced for impact.
“Mama!” exclaimed Rogue.
“I got her!” said Jean, catching the falling duo with her telekinesis while clutching her shoulder.
This sudden change in the fall startled Pierce enough to loosen his grip on Mystique’s neck. When she felt this, she made her move and kneed him right in the gut where he was still flesh. The former Hellfire elite gasped at the blow and let her go. From here, Mystique turned him around so that now he was the one falling. When they hit the floor, he bore the blunt end of the punishment and Mystique nimbly leapt off.
“That was for my kids,” she said in a stern tone.
Pierce groaned as he forced himself up. His limbs were fine, but the rest of his body was stinging. Maybe he should have had more work done to make the rest of him machine. Flesh was still very painful.
Upon seeing Pierce fall, Magneto’s gaze narrowed. This was the man who was directly responsible for so much suffering in both the present and the future. This man not only hurt his kids, he also dared to use the mutant race as his pawns. As leader of the Mutant Liberation Front, he was going to make sure that didn’t happen. He would give Pierce a real reason to fear mutants.
“Donald Pierce!” said Magneto sternly.
His fists clenched as he summoned the maximum force of his magnetic powers. Everything metal, including Pierce himself, shook at the sudden rise in magnetic activity. The X-men noticed the remaining mini-sentinels and even parts of those they had already defeated started to shake. They then looked over at Magneto and saw what he was doing.
“Oh boy, why do I get the feeling this isn’t a good thing?” said Alex.
“With Magneto, when is it ever?” said Piotr, who was forced to revert to his flesh form.
“Relax X-dorks,” grinned Pyro, “The boss man is just doing the hard part for us.”
Magneto rose into the air, kicking up a whirlwind of dust in the process. Then every mini-sentinel in the area levitated as well. Some of them kept trying to fight and some tried to aim their weapons at Magneto. But it was too late for them. They were made of metal and they were nothing but scrap for the master of magnetism.
Then to Pierce’s dismay, Magneto used his powers to mash every mini-sentinel into a warped ball of metal. And with that ball, he rammed it into the tunnels and entry points where the mini-sentinels had been pouring out in the first place. The destruction that resulted was severe. Gas tanks and oil lines ruptured, causing leaks of chemicals all throughout the area. This effectively stopped him from summoning reserves and left Donald Pierce defenseless against an angry Magneto.
“Uh…should we be rooting for him?” said Bobby.
“He got rid of dem annoying robots, didn’t he?” shrugged Magneto.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Cable, “Without Pierce, the future will be changed.”
“Will it stop Mastermold?” asked Vincent.
“I don’t know. We may already be too late for that.”
Cable did nothing to stop Magneto and neither did the others. While killing was not part of the X-men tradition, Magneto had no qualms about it. And as he floated towards Pierce, the former Hellfire leader got the message.
“Your toys are useless against me,” taunted Magneto, “Now you will pay for all the pain you’ve caused and the havoc you are destined to inflict.”
Magneto then used his powers to levitate Pierce by his limbs. Since they were made of adamantium, they could be magnetized. Pierce probably should have gone with the anti-magnetic coating, but he had no idea he’d be facing his enemies this soon.
“Let me go you mutant freak!” he struggled, “I swear my machines will…”
“You’re machines will do nothing,” said Magneto coldly, “It all ends now. Today, your insane plot ends. And I’ll see to it that no machine will allow you to function when I’m through with you.”
Pierce still maintained a cold gaze in the face of this powerful mutant, but there was little he could do. This freak had him trapped and powerless. It seemed to be the end of the line for him. He only hoped that Mastermold would be able to carry out his plans.
Magneto was just about to rip Pierce apart by his own limbs. Then suddenly, a figure shot out through the tunnel they came in and fired a lone shot at the hovering master of magnetism. Cable was the only one who reacted fast enough to recognize it. Nimrod had found them. He didn’t know how, but it found them. It all happened so fast. He had little admiration for Magneto, but he couldn’t allow him to die for the sake of the future.
“No!” he exclaimed, using his telekinesis to shove Magneto out of the way.
But he wasn’t fast enough. The shot still hit Magneto right in the lower left torso. It wasn’t the lethal shot it could have been, but it tore into a significant level of flesh that sent him falling to the floor in agony.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” howled Magneto.
“Oh shit…Nimrod,” groaned Logan.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!” exclaimed Lance, “This thing again?”
“At the worst possible time as always,” said Cable, having to catch his breath, “Hurry guys! Protect Magneto!”
“Oh this is bittersweet,” groaned Piotr, who didn’t like the idea of protecting a man who once threatened his family.
Now that Magneto was wounded, his hold on Pierce was loosened. It took a moment for him to process what was going on, but when he saw the strange robot humanoid flying around the area his eyes lit up.
“Well I’ll be,” said Pierce, a grin forming on his face, “I just finished a sketch of you this morning. That could only mean…”
As he began piecing together the puzzle, Nimrod analyzed the situation. Its shot against the target Magneto had been right on, but the target moved at the last moment. He was injured though, so much so that his powers shouldn’t be a factor anymore. But the rest of the targets quickly gathered around to protect him. And the pestilent interferer known as Cable was already firing relentlessly at him.
“Come down here you bucket of bolts!” he yelled, “Come down and face me!”
This was not a tactically good situation. Cable and the targets were well-coordinated and in a good position to counter any attack it unleashed. In addition, they were in close proximity to its creator, Mastermold. This made the situation far more volatile. Emergency measures had to be taken.
“Situation assessment complete. Potential time disruption identified. Objective: neutralize threat and guard creator.”
With Cable still firing at it, Nimrod ascended higher into the hollowed out mountain complex. At first Cable thought it was getting out of range of his blasts, but then he saw how close Nimrod was to the compartments where inactive sentinels were being stored. It was then he realized what it was doing.
“Oh no,” he grimaced, “Guys, we may have a problem.”
“Oh what now?” groaned Kitty as she helped Lance tend Magneto’s wound.
Everybody looked up to see Nimrod’s eyes flashing. Whatever it was doing, it required a healthy level of computing power.
“Acquiring signal access. Override code analyzed. Initiating activation command.”
All around the high-tech killing machine, eyes of inactive sentinels lit up. Pierce’s remote for activating them may have been destroyed, but it was nothing Nimrod’s advanced computing power couldn’t handle. There were over two dozen complete sentinels ready for battle. Dozens more were near completion and would be ready to fight soon. To ensure their numbers would be steady, Nimrod also activated the automated construction mechanisms. This way there would be no end to the sentinel onslaught and the targets would have no escape.
“Good God…” gasped Scott as he and the X-men watched the sentinels descend on them, “Guys, I think we’re in serious trouble.”
“Thank you captain obvious!” exclaimed Pyro.
“Cable, if you have any bright ideas now would be the time,” said Jean.
Cable just stared at the descending sentinels with a hard gaze. All his life he had fought against these things and never before were the stakes so high. This was the fight he was groomed for. This was the mission he was sent back in time to complete. His gaze was fixed on Nimrod as it led the attack. He promised his friends and family, past and future alike, that he would undo the carnage done by these monsters. And if there was one thing a Summers always did, it was keep his promise.
“Yeah…I have one,” he said, cocking his gun, “We kick their robot butts!”
Hank and Xavier
While the fight against Pierce and the mini-sentinels raged below, Hank used his ape-like reflexes to nimbly scale the rafters. His target was the head of Mastermold where hopefully the main systems would be located. A part of him couldn’t help but wish that Sage was with him because she was more a wizard on computers than he was, but he would have to make due. And with Xavier on his back, they definitely had the brain power.
“I think I see an entrance,” said Xavier, “Head for that door on the right.”
“I see it too, Charles,” said Hank, “Let’s hope this leads us to the mainframe.”
When they reached the door, they found out it was locked. But that was nothing a solid kick from Beast couldn’t handle. Parts of the facility were still old and it looked like Pierce cut corners in setting it up. His lack of foresight was their opportunity because the path ahead looked clear.
They continued down a dimly lit stretch of hallway. This facility’s history of being and old Weapon X lab really showed. There were piles of laboratory junk and barrels filled with chemicals every step of the way. There was also the distinct smell of mad science. Hank and the Professor knew it well and it was all the more important they put a stop to it. They just had to see if Mastermold’s mainframe was as vulnerable as they hoped.
“I think we’re near the head,” said Xavier, “All these wires seem to be leading to that door over there.”
“And judging by the poor lighting, it’s probably taking up a healthy amount of power,” said Hank, “Let’s hope we can pull the plug and get back to the others.”
The door leading to their goal was more secure than the last one. This one was too heavy even for Hank to knock down. Thankfully, the handgun Cable gave the Professor offered help. While still holding onto Hank’s shoulder, the Professor aimed the gun at the locking mechanism near the handle. It took only one shot to blow it off. Since the weapon was from the future it had a lot more kick to it. Even the Professor was surprised by the recoil, but then again he wasn’t used to using firearms.
“I think this is it, Charles,” said Hank, his anticipation growing.
He entered the room with Xavier still hitched on his back. This area was much better lit than the rest of the facility. It was also noticeably cleaner, most likely as a safeguard for the sensitive computing hardware. From what they could tell it was pretty advanced. It was right up there with their systems back at the institute, if not more so. There were dozens of servers stacked on top of and next to each other running at full throttle. Whatever they were doing, they were using a lot of computing power.
“My word, this is some hardware,” said Hank, brushing his hand over a couple of servers, “Advanced quantum supercomputing with a touch of pulse protected, fiber optic AI.”
“Admire it later, old friend,” said Xavier, “We have to find the main terminal.”
“Yes, of course,” said Hank, shaking out of his state of mind, “If my computer knowledge serves me right it should be on the biggest, most active machine.”
Following his instincts, Hank scanned the area. He didn’t have to scan long because Pierce made the main terminal pretty big. It was built in a similar fashion that the main terminal was constructed at the institute. Either Pierce had a fetish for bigger, better tech or he was compensating for something. It was probably a combination of both.
“Ah, there it is,” said Hank, “Mind if I set you down, Charles?”
“Of course not,” said Xavier, “Do you think you can hack it?”
“It may be a while,” he said as he set the Professor down, “These systems are running at full throttle. Whatever they’re processing it must be very large.”
Hank didn’t waste time. He turned on the monitor and began going over the processes. And what he found didn’t bode well for their timeframe.
“Oh no…” grimaced Hank.
“What is it, Hank?” asked the Professor anxiously as he held himself up next to the terminal.
“Pierce has already started loading Mastermold’s AI! He’s effectively locked the systems so I can’t hack the data.”
“Can you unlock it?”
“I can try, but…”
But just as Hank began typing on the computer, a figure snuck out from behind a server and attacked them.
“Get away from my life’s work!” yelled Bolivar Trask as he charged the two mutants with a metal pipe in hand.
Xavier hadn’t sensed him. Hank didn’t hear him. He stayed quiet until he saw what those freaks were trying to do. Even if he was just a human and they were mutants, he couldn’t let them destroy his masterpiece. So he summoned all his courage and attacked.
“Hank, look out!” shouted the Professor.
But it was too late. Hank barely turned around halfway when the pipe struck him on the head. And with a hard clang, he fell to the floor with a pained yell. Xavier fell as well, having lost his grip on the console. His paralyzed legs offered no escape as he tried to pull the gun out.
“Oh no you don’t!”
Trask swung the pipe again, hitting the Professor in the hand and knocking the gun out. Xavier grunted at the pain, but tried to crawl towards the weapon none-the-less. But Trask beat him to it, dashing across the room and picking up the weapon before Xavier could get to it. And with the weapon in hand he pointed it right at the Professor, his finger trembling on the trigger.
“Surprised, Xavier?” said Trask with a look of rage on his face, “I know a thing or two about freaks like you. I know how to guard my mind now thanks to Pierce.”
“Trask…” said Xavier, not expecting to see him here.
“That’s right,” he said sternly, “I, a lowly human, have the upper hand on you, the world’s most powerful telepath. And I won’t let you destroy my life’s work! Face it, Xavier…it’s over. You and your kind lose. Now…you die.”
Up next: Nimrod and Pierce lead the sentinels against the X-men for a final onslaught.