Chapter Ten: Enter the Horsemen
Disclaimer: All belongs to Marvel. etc, etc, etc. Damn it all.
Groaning, Rogue rolled over and opened her eyes. "Wha'happen'd ta me?" she mumbled, rubbing her aching head. She pushed herself into a sitting position and looked around the huge rock chamber. She frowned, remembering…
"Logan!" she was up in seconds and stumbled over to the unconscious man. "LOGAN!"
"I hear ya, kid, I hear ya…" Wolverine's eyes opened and he gave her a grim smile. "You okay?"
"Ah… Ah don't know," Rogue confessed, helping him to his feet. "Ah don't understand what happened," her eyes were troubled. "Except Ah think Ah did somethin' _awful_," she trembled as her memory restored. "Did Ah really wake…"
"Apocalypse," Wolverine supplied. "Yeah," he added. "But you were under Mesmero's control, it ain't your fault."
Rogue's head drooped, her hair falling forward to hide her face. "Where are the others?"
Wolverine hesitated. "I left Irene and Gambit in the outer chamber..."
"Irene?" Rogue's head shot up. "Irene!"
Rogue ignored him as she sprinted towards the exit. Just before she got there she jerked to a halt, staring in horror at the statue that stood before the door.
"Mystique?" She whispered.
Reaching out, she gently prodded the statue. "Is that...?" She turned as Logan came up behind her.
"Mystique," he nodded grimly. "Looks like Mesmero tricked her too."
Rogue shuddered, then shook it off and stepped through the door. "Irene!"
Silence met her call and she saw the sprawled figures of her foster mother and Gambit lying on the cold stone floor.
"Are they dead?"
Wolverine shook his head. "Nope, still breathing."
"Oh thank God," Rogue knelt beside Irene. "Irene? Can you hear me? Please wake up."
Wolverine nudged Gambit with one toe. "Hey, anybody home?"
No response. He sighed, "They're out cold, kid. Let's check the rest of this place."
Reluctantly, Rogue tore herself away from Irene and joined him. The sight that greeted them stunned them both briefly.
"Erik? Oh mah God, Erik!" Rogue rushed over to Magneto. "Erik? Can ya hear me? Erik! Professor! Erik! Kurt!"
Wolverine rolled his eyes. "Good to see her priorities are still intact," he grouched briefly, before going over to Xavier.
Logan's head snapped around. He saw the young Russian climb slowly to his feet.
"What happened?" He snarled.
Colossus blinked at him groggily. "Apocalypse."
More of the others began to come around.
"Rogue! You're okay!" Kurt lurched over and hugged her tightly. "I'm so glad."
"Ah'm glad to see you too, Kurt," she hugged him back. "What happened?"
Quickly, Kurt explained about the tomb beneath the Sphinx, the strange guardians, and the alien ship that had transported them here.
"... and then Apocalypse came out and _wham_. Game over, man! He knocked us aside like we were flies, and then he stole our ship! Well, his ship, but finders keepers, right?"
"Rogue? Child?" Irene, supported by Gambit, hobbled over to her. "Thank God you're safe."
"Safe's kind of a relative term," Kitty said, and was shushed by Jean.
"Irene!" Rogue enfolded her foster mother in a warm hug. "Ah'm so glad you're alright! But what are you doing here?"
"We will discuss that later," Destiny told her. "Our first priority..."
"Is to retire to a safer location," Professor Xavier finished, from where he was being supported by Hank. "Erik needs medical attention and we all need to plan our next move." He looked at Irene. "Can you help us?"
She frowned and put her hand to her forehead. "The future is unclear. I can see flashes of possibility, but nothing concrete."
"Well that's kind of promising, right?" Pyro asked. "So let's get back and get to planning!"
"And _how_ exactly are we going to get home?" Wanda demanded. "We have no ship, no other means of transport, and it's long walk back to America!"
"You know, Erik is _heavy_," Pietro complained.
"You're telling _me_?" Scott demanded. "I had to carry him halfway down the mountain."
"And _I_ was carrying him the other half!" Pietro retorted.
"Excuse me, _we_ helped," Pyro indicated himself and Gambit.
"Yeah, well I'm sure Erik wasn't _half_ as heavy as a stone statue of Mystique," Jean growled. "I have such a headache."
"Yeah, but you're not just gonna _leave_ her in the fountain, are you?" Toad asked.
"Do you have a better place for her?"
"Well at least you guys got to _do_ something," Evan interjected. "_I_ got stuck at the mansion with the kids!"
"Who are you calling kids?"
"Yeah, Bobby got to go!"
"Well that just proves I'm better than you!"
"Enough please, there is no need to fight," Colossus tried to intervene. "We should be working together, not fighting."
"Well thank you, Xavier _junior_," Lance snapped.
"He's right though," Scott admitted. "We have bigger problems right now."
There was a short silence and then Amara spoke up, "How is Erik doing?" she asked.
"He's going to be fine," Storm walked into the living room. "He woke up a few minutes ago and is all ready to take on Apocalypse… single-handed."
"Well, good luck to him," Pyro said from the window seat. "Except we have no idea where the blighter is."
"If only Mesmero hadn't escaped while we were unconscious," Jean sighed. "We could've found out from him."
"Yeah," Scott looked glum. "And Destiny can't give us any clear information either."
"So we have to sit around until he attacks?" Gambit snorted in disgust. "Merde! It was easier being the bad guy, no?"
"You can always _leave_," Wanda glared at him. "We can handle Pocky by ourselves."
"Oui, you did _such_ a good job last time!" Gambit glared back.
"Pocky?" Pietro raised an eyebrow.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Rogue hovered anxiously.
Erik smiled at her and patted her hand. "I assure you, I'm fine."
"Oh. Good," Rogue squeezed his hand. "Not that Ah was worried of course."
Erik turned to Xavier, "Have you had any luck locating Apocalypse with Cerebro?"
"Unfortunately not. Either his mind is shielded, or he is in the ship, in which case it is unlikely we would be able to track him by any means. He could, quite literally, be anywhere in space or time."
"Just think about it," Rogue mused. "What if he were to go back in time and change things, like maybe making sure that the X-Men weren't formed. Ah wonder what the world would've been like."
"Let's not," Erik said flatly. "We have enough problems without going into what ifs."
"Can you see anything?" Hank asked Destiny.
"Why is everyone asking Irene if she can see anything? She's _blind_ , people!" Rogue said in exasperation.
"Didn't you know?" Erik asked.
"I can see the future," Irene said. "I am a mutant like yourself."
Rogue stared at her. "And you never told me?!"
"You never needed to know. You didn't need Destiny, you needed Irene."
"But if you knew the future, you would've known that Mystique was Risty, that she was going to betray me," Rogue said tearfully. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"The future is not an open book," Irene said gently. "It seems the closer I am, the more I care about a person, the more clouded their future is to me." She sighed. "I did foresee some of Mystique's actions and, in hindsight, perhaps I should have said something. But it is hard when you are caught between the two people you love the most."
"Oh no, Ah wasn't going to cry anymore," Rogue attempted to stem the tears. "You... and Mystique? Was Ah ever gonna find out about this?"
"I thought you had enough problems to deal with. I am sorry."
"Okay I guess," Rogue did not look fully convinced, but Erik's arm around her shoulder was probably helping her relax more.
"What can you tell us?" Xavier asked. "Anything would be useful."
Destiny sat up straighter, closing her eyes.
"The Great Lord Apocalypse has returned, and desires dominion over all life. He will call forth his Horsemen. War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. And his Herald will proclaim him to the world. The Horsemen will ride, and chaos will follow in their wake."
"Well, that was cheery," Logan muttered. "Do we have any idea who these Horsemen are going to be? Or the Herald?"
"The Herald will be the most beautiful. A fallen angel."
Warren Worthington paced around his library, re-reading the printout of the email he'd just received from the Xavier Mansion:
Mission unsuccessful. Apocalypse has risen. Rogue is fine. We may need your help. Will call with more details soon.
"Come on, ring already!" Warren glared at the phone.
The security system buzzed.
"Yes?" Warren turned on the video monitor and examined the FedEx man. "What?"
"Delivery for Mr Worthington," the young man held up a package.
Warren sighed, "Alright, I'll meet you at the door." He pushed the button to open the gates and headed down to the front door. Pulling out a pen to sign for the package he opened the door. The FedEx man fell in a heap at his feet and Warren found himself staring into the eyes of Mesmero.
"My Master requires the presence of his Herald."
Inside the house, the phone rang repeatedly.
"He's not there," Wolverine hung up. "I think we were too late."
"Oh no, Warren," Rogue bit her lip. "Wait. Could we track _him_, since we can't track Pocky?"
"Who?" Erik stared at her.
"Pocky. Wanda came up with it."
"Oh, of course, let's refer to the most powerful mutant in the world as a Japanese biscuit," Erik glared at Wanda.
"Well we'd have called him 'Buckethead' but it was already taken," she deadpanned.
The entire mutant population of the Xavier mansion was currently in the main meeting room. It was a bit cramped, and the smokers were sulking, but generally everyone was behaving. Ideas had been thrown out from all sides but so far nothing useful had been suggested. Xavier was once more trying to track Apocalypse with Cerebro.
"I think Rogue's come up with the best idea yet," Wolverine said. "I'll go pass it on to Chuck. You guys keep thinking."
"So," said Ray, "What exactly are we gonna do once, if, we defeat Apocalypse? I mean, are we going to kill him? _Can_ we kill him?" He looked at Irene.
"It is unlikely," she said after a short pause.
"Unknown, try again later," Sam muttered to Roberto. "My magic eightball would be better in this case."
"Well if we can't kill him," said Scott, "I suppose we have to get him back in the chamber."
"Oh is _that_ all," said Lance. "Piece of cake. NOT!"
"And isn't the chamber, like, unsealed now? And wouldn't work?" Kitty pointed out. "Do we have to like, build a new one? And how do we that?" She looked at Beast. "You read all the hieroglyphics right, Dr McCoy?"
"Well, theoretically, I suppose it is possible," he mused. "But we'd need a combination of mechanical know-how and magic."
"Oh, well if you need magic," Wanda smirked, "Hello, Scarlet Witch here."
"Um, without wishing to be in any way insulting, we need warding spells and someone with more experience than you have," Hank said delicately.
Everyone held their breath waiting for Wanda to go ballistic.
"I suppose you have a point," she said at long last, surprising everyone. "In that case, what about Agatha Harkness, the woman who taught me?"
"Now _that_ is a good idea," Pietro said. "Do you remember how to get in touch with her?"
"I know Agatha," Irene spoke up. "She is an old friend of mine and Raven's."
"And on that note, what are we going to do about my mother?"
Everyone turned to look at Kurt.
"I don't know blue boy, she makes a pretty good garden ornament," Tabitha said with a laugh.
"That is not funny," Kurt said flatly.
"Don't worry Kurt," Scott said comfortingly. "We'll figure out something. For now, let's worry about Apocalypse. I think Mystique is safe enough as she is."
"But we don't know if she's dead or alive."
"She's alive. Just dormant." Irene told him. "Do not fear, you will see her again."
"We should just leave her as she is," Rogue's voice was low and fierce. "She deserves everything that happened to her… _everything_!"
Kurt gave her a pained look. "Rogue… you don't mean that, she's our mother!"
She looked away, her expression thunderous. "She screwed up my life, Kurt… she helped Apocalypse wake up… Ah hate her."
"Rogue…" Kurt started to try and reason with her, but Irene laid a hand on his arm and shook her head.
Beneath the table, Erik gripped Rogue's hand and squeezed it gently.
"So, we ask Agatha Harkness for the magical support, but who will construct the chamber? You. Hank?" Storm asked in the uncomfortable silence that followed.
"I'd like to say yes, but I cannot do it alone, not in such a short space of time," Beast said reluctantly.
"Forge!" Kurt shouted. "That guy knows _everything_ about machines. _And_ he owes us."
"Forge is an excellent idea," Storm nodded. "I will go and call him immediately." She turned to leave just as Wolverine came back.
"Chuck managed to pick up some of Angel's trail. He was heading towards Egypt."
"Oh great, and I'd only just gotten the last of the sand out of my uniform," Kitty moaned.
"Do we know _where_ in Egypt?"
"No. Worthington's mind was blocked just before he entered the country." Wolverine looked grim. "We're just gonna have to handle this the old-fashioned way – with our eyes and our ears."
"So you're saying that we, all of us, have to go to Egypt and scour the entire country?!"
"Oh. Just checking."
"Yeah!" Jamie yelled. "Field trip!"
"You're not going!"
"Yes I am!" He said. "You need everybody you can get. And there can be more of me than there are of you. I can search the whole country by myself!"
Even Logan smiled slightly at this. "You're on, kid. But this ain't no field trip. This is serious, this isn't a game, and if any of you are going to treat it like one then you're staying behind however useful your powers would be!"
There was a solemn silence as his words sank in and all the mutants nodded their understanding.
"Alright," Wolverine clapped his hands together. "Everyone get some sleep. We're going to be leaving at 4 am in the morning and you all need to be ready for anything. Get to bed!"
"4 am?" The wails rose from multiple throats.
"Good night all!" Wolverine smirked and waved them out.
Xavier and Storm arrived just as the last few were leaving. Only Wolverine, Destiny and Beast remained in the meeting room.
"I have called Forge, and he is ready to help," Storm said.
"So is Agatha," Irene said calmly.
"How do you know?" Beast asked. "You haven't called her yet."
Irene smiled slightly.
"We'll divide into three teams," Logan outlined his plan of attack. "Me, Storm and Erik as team leaders…"
"Erik?" Ororo raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure, Logan?"
"The Acolytes are more likely to obey him," Logan explained. "And he wants to destroy Apocalypse as much as all of us, I think we can trust him."
"I'm not arguing with you there," Ororo smiled slightly. "I'm just surprised that you suggested it."
"AH!" Irene screamed and clutched her head.
"What can you see?" Xavier demanded.
Irene sobbed. "Apocalypse has called his Horsemen, and three have come gladly. He now casts his eye towards the last." Destiny raised her sightless eyes and looked straight at Xavier. "You must not let Rogue go on the mission."
"Rogue is one of the Horsemen?" Beast said incredulously. "Why didn't he grab her at the beginning?"
"He is not omnipotent," Irene was starting to calm down. "It was not until he utilised the abilities of his vessel that he located them."
"The cerebral-interface!" Xavier realised. "Of course, it must act like Cerebro."
"So he went scanning for four powerful mutants?" Wolverine cursed. "Shit."
"You cannot let her go on the mission tomorrow," Irene repeated. "It would be exactly what he wants."
"Yeah, but at least we'd know where she was. I have a bad feeling about just leaving her behind. Especially with Mesmero on the loose. If we give her a mental block tomorrow, and dump her with Erik's team, he'll make sure that nothing happens to her. I trust him with that," Wolverine argued.
Storm looked at Irene, "Your words make sense Logan, but I do not feel comfortable sending Rogue to certain danger."
"Nothing is certain," Irene tilted her head. "It is possible she may tip the balance in your favour," a small smile curved her lips. "And she will not take kindly to being told to stay behind."
"Ain't that the truth," Logan muttered.
Xavier exhaled slowly. "As reluctant as I am to put Rogue through another trial, I agree with you, Logan. She will go with the rest."
In the rose garden, Erik sat in the darkness, feeling the unusual, and unwelcome prick of his conscience. *If I had listened to Charles and not destroyed that spider guardian… Apocalypse would not be threatening us now… Rogue would not have been hurt, again.*
"You're supposed to be sleeping," a voice intruded on his thoughts. Rogue sat down on the bench beside him. "Are you okay?"
"Rogue…" he could barely see her, but his hand reached out and touched hers. "I am sorry."
"Sorry? For what?" she sounded baffled. "Don't tell me ya going to do something crazy and this is an advance apology!"
"No, I'm apologising for my reckless actions that led to the current state of affairs."
Rogue sighed. "Erik, if it hadn’t happened one way it would've happened another," she laid her head on his shoulder. "Ah don't blame you one bit, okay? Ah _know_ you thought you were doing the right thing at the time."
He put his arm around her shoulders, hugging her to him, feeling grateful for this private time with her. "Thank you, Rogue. Your words mean more to me than I can express."
"You could give it a _try_ though," she snuggled closer. "After all, we may die tomorrow."
"Oh I see," he smiled gently. "Very well, have I told you lately how beautiful you are?"
"You've _never_ told me how beautiful I am."
"A terrible oversight. Allow me to repair it."
"Hey, when do we get the movie on this flight?" Bobby yelled.
"How can you be so energetic?" Amara moaned. "It's barely dawn."
"Maybe Bobby has a point," said Storm. "It would be educational for them to view the news."
"News?!" Bobby protested.
Smiling, Storm ignored him and activated the TV screens. "We should be able to pick up BBC news."
Behind Bobby, Erik and Rogue snickered as the younger mutant continued his loud complaints.
"... the mysterious happenings in Cairo and Aswan continue..."
Dead silence fell in the jet.
"Turn it up please Ororo," Xavier requested, leaning forward, eyes intent on the screen.
"Crops have literally turned to dust in the fields, creating a panic that famine will hit Egypt's population."
"Famine?" Sam asked weakly.
"There has also been outbursts of extreme violence in the streets of Aswan. Several people have been killed and the violence seems to be escalating. Downtown Aswan looks like a war zone."
"War?" Roberto gulped.
"And a mysterious new plague has broken out at Cairo's most exclusive hotel. Doctors are baffled."
"And a plague," groaned Evan.
"Pestilence actually, but yes," Xavier said. His eyes met Logan's. //That leaves Death.// Both of them casually glanced at Rogue.
On the screen, the news reporter was handed a piece of paper. She frowned at it and then looked up. "We have just received a breaking news report. We will now cut live to Cairo, where a mysterious figure has appeared in the skies."
"Oh crap," said Bobby as Angel appeared on the screen.
Warren hovered in the air, clothed in robes of white and blue. "People of the world, the day of the Apocalypse has come!" He bellowed, his voice seemingly amplified. "And he shall have dominion over all! Bow down before his might. Accept your fate. The strong will survive and the weak will perish."
"Man, who does this guy's material?" Kitty complained.
"Kitty, that's not important right now," Scott snapped. "What is important is that we have to stop this."
"Okay, so the 'to-do' list is as follows: find Apocalypse, defeat Apocalypse, save the world," Bobby ticked them off on his fingers and looked up. "No problem."
Roberto nudged Sam. "Hey, I just had a thought."
"Well if the cameras are there, and _we're_ there, don't you think people might notice?"
"Roberto, Apocalypse has basically announced mutants to the world anyhow. We might as well show them that there are some good ones."
On the TV screens, something new was happening. Behind Angel rose the triangular shape of the alien vessel. Slowly it opened, revealing the tall figure of Apocalypse.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the morning and the evening star! You will bow down before me! I am... Apocalypse!"
"And we are in trouble."
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