Chapter Nine: And So It Begins...
Disclaimer: All belongs to Marvel. etc, etc, etc. Damn it all.
Words in //slashes// indicate telepathic conversation.
Words in *asterisks* indicate thoughts.
With a frustrated sigh, Erik lay down on his bed and frowned into the darkness. He still couldn't believe it Nothing. With all their searching, the Acolytes found nothing on Apocalypse that they didn't already know and the location of the third key remained a tantalising mystery. What was even more irritating was the plain fact that Charles, Beast and, Erik had to admit, himself were unsurprised by this disappointing news. *It was a vain hope to think that a secret this old could be easily discovered,* Erik shut his eyes. Still, he had so wanted his men to uncover something. But Charles was right (again!), there was no point hashing the matter over and over again tonight. Tomorrow morning they would re-examine the evidence they had already and attempt to extrapolate another theory. Besides, after the hectic night, Erik was only too glad to get some sleep.
Hands brushed his cheek, soft and warm hands. A gentle, caress that held no threat, but tugged lightly at the low bio-magnetic shield he constantly maintained. Sleepily Erik cracked open his eyes. He could barely see her in the dark, but he knew who it was. "Rogue?"
She didn't answer, just leaned in closer and gently kissed him on the lips, hands continuing to stroke his face. Erik's eyes almost closed again as he enjoyed the sensations her touch evoked within him, but then common sense intruded and he pulled away. "Rogue... What are you... ?"
She leapt back with an agility matching Kurt's. Erik started to rise, but then she vanished, leaving only a faint sulphurous scent behind. He blinked. What had just happened? Why was Rogue playing games? That wasn't like her.
Suspicious, he got out of bed and poked his head out of the door, listening carefully. Nothing seemed indicate any sort of disturbance. Erik frowned and walked silently to his nearest neighbour's bedroom door and opened it, peering at the bed's occupant. Evan looked to be sleeping peacefully and Erik withdrew, carefully shutting the door behind him. He stood in the corridor for a while, puzzled. Had he imagined Rogue's appearance in his bedroom? He pressed his fingers to his lips, still feeling the warmth of hers. Shaking his head, Erik went back to his own bed and lay down, arms behind his head, staring once again into the darkness until sleep pulled him under.
"Oh SHIT!!! We're gonna be LATE!!!"
Erik awoke with a grunt and raised his head as the loud yell from Evan's room penetrated his brain. The boy thundered down the corridor, his footsteps joined by others, all equally as frantic.
"Kids..." Erik rasped and reached for his alarm clock. He stared groggily at the numbers.
Five minutes later, Erik breathlessly arrived at the breakfast room door. "How could I have forgotten to set the alarm? And why didn't anyone wake me?"
"It wasn't just you," Rogue yawned as she walked up to him, "_Everyone_ overslept."
"It seems a little odd that..." Erik paused and looked at her. He recalled seeing her in his bedroom, something that seemed to be a dream in the light of day, but at the same time... "Rogue, did you come into my room last night?"
She frowned at him. "No."
"Are you sure?" he pressed. "Because I'm certain that you came and kissed me."
Rogue snorted. "Erik, Ah think you've been dreaming! And while Ah'm real flattered that it was a dream about me..." she pushed open the door. "Ah think you're confusing fantasy with reality and... oh mah God."
Erik was about to argue with her when he saw the chaos that had captured her attention. All the X-kids were running frantically around, eating and drinking, bumping into each other (which was why there were about eight Jamies in the room) and generally causing a mess.
"Ah think Ah'm skipping breakfast," Rogue groaned, turning away.
"I think I'll join you," Erik agreed.
//Erik, I would like to speak to you.//
"What's up?" Rogue asked seeing the faint look of annoyance cross Erik's face.
"Charles wants to see me," he said. He smiled at her. "I'll see you at school later then."
"Sure," Rogue grinned back at him and wandered off. "See you in Chemistry!"
Erik ducked a random paper plane as he headed in to third period chemistry and looked around at the chaos with disgust. *What a mess,* he thought to himself. *Just because it is the last day of school is no reason to relax discipline. On the other hand, I don't have to endure lessons, and that is a good thing.* He smiled and headed over to the bench he usually shared with Rogue.
Who was not there.
"Scott, where's Rogue?"
"Huh? What?" Scott looked confused and Erik sighed. "Rogue. Female. About so tall," he indicated. "Auburn hair, white stripe, Goth makeup?"
"I _know_ who Rogue is!"
"Well, where is she then?"
Scott blinked. "She's not here? I thought you guys were usually joined at the hip."
"I had to go and talk to Charles about the whole big A thing," Erik gritted out. "I haven't seen her since this morning."
"Oh. Well maybe she's just skipping class. It's not like anyone's going to notice if some students don't show up to everything today."
"But she said she would see me in chemistry, which implies she intended to be here."
"Maybe she's afraid she'd crumble to death in the sunlight," an unwelcome voice interjected.
Erik shot a cold glare at Duncan, who was now smirking triumphantly at finally managing to make a dig at Erik. Duncan hadn't messed with him for a while now, but clearly the last day of school was making him overconfident.
"I notice that you only say that where _Rogue_ can't hear you," Erik retorted. "Frightened?"
"As if," Duncan snorted. "I could break her with one hand!"
Scott and Erik both burst into laughter. "Riiiiighttt..." Scott managed to choke out. "Please, she'd hand you your head on a platter."
Duncan stormed off as they continued to laugh at him. Erik waited for him to get out of hearing range and then sighed. "Alright, now that we've got the childishness out of the way, where _is_ Rogue?"
"Look, don't worry about it," Scott said. "I'm sure she'll turn up. Maybe she got side-tracked by Wanda or something."
Erik considered this. "True," he murmured. "I guess I'll see them at lunch then."
However when lunchtime rolled around, neither Rogue or Wanda could be found in the cafeteria, or the surrounding area. Erik spent half an hour searching before swinging around to Kurt, Kitty and Evan's table.
"Have _any_ of you seen Rogue since this morning?" He demanded.
Kurt frowned. "Now that you mention it, I haven't seen her since we were walking in to school this morning. I'm sure she was behind me, but I haven't seen her since."
"You know, I haven't seen Lance today either," Kitty piped up. "I didn't really think that was weird because, after all, this is _Lance_. But, I would have expected to see him for the last day."
"Pietro hasn't been around either," Evan added. "Actually, I don't think I've seen _any_ of those guys today."
Without another word, Erik turned on his heel and marched out of the cafeteria, heading for the Brotherhood house.
Rogue settled back into the limousine and turned to Mystique. "I got them all," she said in a wooden tone of voice.
"Excellent," Mystique smiled. "And the Acolytes and the X-Men too?"
"Yes. Except for Magneto."
"I was unable to take his power," Rogue said blankly. "He is shielded against me."
"Damn," Mystique leaned forward. "Is this going to be a problem, Mesmero?"
"I do not think so, My Lord is more powerful than Magneto."
"So now what?" Mystique asked.
"Now we go to awaken him."
Erik stared in shock at the bodies littered around the Brotherhood of Bayville Boarding House. "No..." he whispered. "They can't all be..."
He knelt beside Wanda's sprawled form and felt for her pulse.
"Oh thank God," he said. "Alive."
Nearby, Pietro moaned.
"AAAAHHHH!" Pietro screamed and sat up. "Rogue! Don't touch me!"
"Rogue?" Erik grabbed his son and shook him. "Where is she? What happened?"
"You! You set her on us! You're trying to get rid of us!"
Erik rolled his eyes. "If I was doing that, why would I be here trying to help you now?"
Pietro blinked. "Oh, point. But then why would she attack us? I thought she liked Wanda, at least."
"Rogue likes all of you," Erik said absently. "She just doesn't show it." He turned away and looked thoughtfully around. "But you're right, it doesn't make sense. There's no reason for her to go around randomly absorbing people. Did she say anything?"
"Not a word," Pietro said. "And that was the scariest thing. It was like it wasn't her. I mean, I turned around and she tele ported like Kurt does, and then she grabbed me. And her eyes were just empty."
"Teleported like Kurt? Are you _sure_?"
"Sure I'm sure. I _saw_ it."
"Alright, I believe you. Help me wake everyone up, We're going to Xavier's mansion."
Gambit flipped a card idly into the air and yawned. "How long do we have to stay here and wait?"
"As long as the boss wants us to," Pyro said cheerfully. "Are _you_ gonna go against him?"
"I ain't afraid of him," Gambit retorted. "It only suits me to obey his orders."
"Oh la di da," Pyro mocked. "Sounds like you got up on the wrong side of bed this morning."
"I believe we all did," said Colossus. "It has been a long time since I slept so late in the morning."
"Actually, now that you mention it mate, I had the weirdest dream last night."
"Did it involve anything being on fire?" Gambit asked suspiciously.
"Are you implying something?"
"Moi? Nooooo... Just the last time you had a dream I woke up to find the curtains alight."
"I keep telling you, that was an accident."
"Oh, you _accidentally_ tried to burn me to death in my sleep!"
"I thought you were a monster!"
Behind them Colossus sighed the sigh of someone who's heard this argument way too many times.
"Did you all oversleep this morning?"
They turned to see Erik standing in the doorway.
"Pardon?" Gamit asked in confusion.
"Did you all oversleep this morning?"
The Acolytes exchanged glances.
"DAMN!" Erik stormed away.
"Okay, that was strange," Pyro said.
"Charles!" Erik flung open the door to Xavier's office and strode straight inside. "We have a problem!"
Xavier, Storm and Wolverine all stared at him in surprise and annoyance. "Didn't you ever hear of knocking, bub?" Logan growled.
"It's all right, Logan," Xavier said, his eyes fixed on Erik's face. The emotions rolling off Erik were more than enough to convince Charles that something serious had happened. "I'm sure he has good reason."
"Rogue is missing. She absorbed the powers of all the Brotherhood members and I strongly suspect that last night she absorbed the powers of everyone living in this house."
There was a stunned pause.
"How do you know this?" Storm asked finally.
"Because Pietro told me that she attacked them," Erik said bluntly. "And in this case I believe him," he looked at Xavier. "I've brought all of the Brotherhood with me and their individual stories match, Rogue attacked them without warning using powers remarkably similar to Kurt's and the other X-Men."
Logan frowned. "I thought it was strange we all overslept this morning," he said. "And were exhausted as well. Didn't really think too much on it, but now if she did absorb all of us then that would explain things."
"But why do we have no memory of the incident?" Storm queried. "When Rogue uses her power the victim feels it quite strongly."
"That I can't explain," Erik admitted. "But last night, I woke to find her..." he paused. "Touching my face..."
Three pairs of eyes fixed on him and he coughed. "I thought it was a dream," he muttered.
Xavier steepled his fingers. "Hmm, and now she has vanished?"
"This is nuts!" Wolverine growled. "Rogue wouldn't do something like this!"
"No," agreed Xavier. "_Rogue_ wouldn't. But..."
"Mesmero would," Erik finished Charles' sentence, a horrified expression on his face.
The two old friends met each others gaze as the same thought flashed through their minds.
"Mesmero needs Rogue to acquire the final key!"
"What? No way!" Kurt wailed. "We've got to find her!"
"We are trying Kurt," Xavier assured him. "I promise, we are looking for Rogue as best we can."
"But where is she going?" Kurt persisted. "We have no idea."
"I used Cerebro to interpret the information I gained from Mesmero the last time I faced him," said Xavier. "And I now believe that Apocalypse's location is beneath the Sphinx in Egypt."
"Then let's go!" Kurt shouted.
"Oh yeah, sure," Wanda said snidely. "Let's charged in _completely_ unprepared against a possessed Rogue with ALL of our powers. She kicked your collective butts last time, and that's when she was kind of aware! We wouldn't have a chance against her now! Not to mention Mesmero as well."
"That is the other thing," Xavier interjected. "If we are to fight Mesmero, I will have to put mental blocks into everyone's mind. I will not do this without your permission, but noone without such a block will be allowed to come on this mission."
"Volunteering for block over here!" Kurt waved his hand. Xavier smiled at him, "Thank you Kurt. I'll do you second."
"Me." Erik said firmly.
"But are we completely sure that Rogue's gone to the sphinx?" Jean asked. "It could be a trap, or a red herring."
"You must go to the sphinx," a new voice interjected.
Nearly everyone jumped and turned to see a slight, brown-haired woman standing in the doorway. She wore dark glasses and carried a cane.
"It's... Irene, isn't it?" Xavier asked. "Rogue's foster-mother."
"Yes, I am known as Irene Adler. But you may call me Destiny." She advanced into the room.
"How did you get past all of the defences?" Evan blurted. "You're... blind!"
"I see the future, _every_ future," was Irene's cryptic reply. She turned to face Xavier. "I was not going to intervene this time, but Mystique's choice has forced my hand."
"Mystique?" Several people shouted.
"What does Mystique have to do with this?" Wolverine demanded. "Is this another of her plots?"
"Only a plot motivated by affection," Irene responded. "Mystique desires the continued existence of herself and her children. She believes that Apocalypse offers the best chance for that survival. She does not know that she goes to her doom."
"And what about Rogue?" Erik demanded. "What happens to her?"
Irene sighed. "The future is not set in stone yet. All I know is that the moment that Rogue reaches Apocalypse he will rise, with catastrophic results. I cannot tell you any more than that. But I can put you on the right trail. The majority of you must go to the tomb beneath the sphinx. There you will find something that will help, but beware of the guardians. The best trackers," with a gesture she indicated Wolverine and Gambit, "must make haste to pick up the trail. I will be your guide in this."
"And I will be going as well," Erik spoke up.
"No," Irene's voice was firm. "You must go with the others. You will be needed." She smiled slightly at him. "But I am glad that you care for my daughter so much."
Erik flushed slightly.
There was a short silence as everyone absorbed Irene's words.
"Well, that all seems to be settled then," said Beast. "Scott, prep the Blackbird. Everyone else, suit up and get ready. What about the blocks, Professor?"
"They will not take long," Xavier said.
"Right, well we better get moving," Wolverine said, glancing at Gambit.
"After you, mon ami," Gambit smiled.
Wolverine cast a dubious look at Irene. "We're going to be travelling fast. Can you handle that?"
"Of course," she responded calmly. "Lead the way."
"Wow, Egypt," Kitty at the Sphinx in awe. "You really get to see the world in the X-Men!"
"I just want to see Rogue again," Kurt said miserably.
"We'll find her Kurt, don't worry," Kitty said kindly. "I promise. Bobby would you _stop_ fidgeting?"
"Well I want to get going," Bobby snapped. He looked over at where Xavier and Beast were discussing how best to enter the tomb. "How long do you think it'll take them to find the door?"
Wanda stared at the Sphinx assessingly. "Maybe _I_ could..."
"NO!" Several people shouted.
"It was _just_ an idea." Wanda sulked.
"Sis, don't do anything that'll get you sent home," Pietro reminded her. "You know that they weren't even going to let you come originally." He smirked. "Man, Lance and Evan were so pissed when they were told they couldn't come."
"You're all heart," Wanda sniped. "And I do not pose a 'structural threat' to _anything_, no matter what Beast says."
"Unless it annoys you," Pietro muttered.
"Poor Lance," said Kitty. "I wish he was here."
"Someone had to stay behind and look after the rest of the New Mutants," Bobby said, smirking. "And Lance's powers are too dangerous underground anyway."
"I know, I know," Kitty sighed. "I just wish he was here."
"Kitty!" Xavier called. "We need your help."
Kitty gulped. "We're gonna do that other thing?"
"We're gonna do the other thing, yes," Beast said, holding out a breathing mask. "Don't worry, we'll remain in contact. You remember what to do?"
"Phase down until I get to an interior chamber, then look around for the opening mechanism you told me about." Kitty nodded as she put on the mask and switched on the lights and communicator. "Okay, I'm all set."
Erik stepped up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Kitty, I want to thank you for doing this."
Kitty grinned at him. "No sweat, she's my friend too, you know?"
"Put some warm clothes on her," Mesmero said as he walked down the asle of the small chartered plane. "We'll be landing in Tibet soon."
Mystique glared at the magician's back. She _really_ didn't like the man. However, she obeyed his order and put a warm jacket on Rogue, the girl behaving like a little child. Mystique felt a pang as she looked at her daughter's blank face. For the hundredth time she questioned her decision, but then ruthlessly thrust the doubts aside.
"I'm sorry, Rogue," she murmured, aware that the girl couldn't really hear her. "But this is for the best. This way I can secure our futures."
The plane started to descend.
"Why fucking Tibet?" Logan growled.
"Apocalypse resides there," Destiny answered. She sat calmly behind the co-pilot's seat of the plane that Gambit had 'acquired', dressed in a long blue robe and wearing a golden mask.
"Great," Logan muttered sullenly. He glanced over at Gambit who sat silently in the co-pilot's seat. "Remember to follow my orders when we land, kid."
Gambit shot Wolverine an unfriendly look. "Oui, Monsieur..."
"Don't say it," said Destiny. "Even I do not have to see the future to know where that remark will take you."
"This mission is getting worse by the minute," Gambit muttered.
"'Beware the guardians'," Pyro mocked. "She could have been more bloody specific!"
"Shut up and fight!" Pietro yelled, dodging another attack by the giant statues that lined the corridors of the tomb.
"She didn't even tell us how _not_ to wake the damn guardians," Wanda complained, firing a hex-bolt at a giant Anubis.
"Maybe it was inevitable?" Kurt suggested, teleporting behind her and grabbing her just as a giant Horus swung its axe at her head. With a loud bamf they reappeared further along the corridor.
"Inevitable my ass," Wanda muttered. "Thanks by the way."
"You're most welcome," Kurt bowed gallantly.
Throughout the tomb there was chaos as the younger mutants battled furiously against the ancient guardians, keeping them busy while Erik, Xavier and Beast searched for more clues about Apocalypse's location. The three had been cut off from the main group during the initial attack and now stood in a long, many-columned corridor. Hieroglyphics filled the walls from floor to ceiling and Beast peered at them intently, trying to uncover their secrets. Already he had managed to decipher the story of Apocalypse's origin, a story of one of the first mutants and an other-worldly Pharoah known as Rama Tut, which he related to the other two.
Erik paused and turned, listening to the sounds of combat. "Do you think they'll be alright?" he asked as Beast paused to translate further.
"This is what they have trained for," Xavier replied. "They will be fine. And Storm is watching over them as well." He smiled slightly. "You are softening my friend."
Erik grumbled quietly.
"Please continue, Hank," Xavier requested.
"Then Apocalypse found the source of Rama-Tut's power deep within these chambers," Beast continued the story. "A vessel and inside the vessel a device called the Eye of Ages. He mastered the secrets of the strange technology and used it to reshape the world in his own image."
"Mutants," breathed Xavier. "He was going to turn humans into mutants... ALL humans."
Beast nodded and continued to read aloud. "The Eye was powered by Apocalypse himself, but when he activated it, his lifeforce was drained... and then he was betrayed. Apocalypse was entombed, hidden in the highest reaches of the world, locked behind three doors in the hopes that he would never again walk the earth."
"And?" Erik demanded when Beast stopped.
"That's it, there is no more."
"So, that confirms what we suspected," Erik snarled. "This ISN'T the tomb of Apocalypse and we have no idea where that is! Rogue could be anywhere and we have no way of knowing!"
"Calm down, my friend," Xavier concealed his own disappointment well. "Destiny sent us here for a reason, we must find what she said would help us."
"Her description was a little vague," Beast said. "However, I think she may have been referring to that vessel with the alien technological device, the Eye of Ages," he ran his finger thoughtfully along the hieroglyphics carved into the walls.
"And where is it?" Erik asked urgently.
"I believe it is located... this way," Beast loped down towards the end of the corridor, Erik and Xavier following.
They soon found themselves face two huge doors with no clear way to open them.
"What lies behind these doors?" Xavier wondered aloud.
"Answers," Erik replied shortly. He gathered up his power and flung it at the doors, wrenching them apart.
"Rama Tut's vessel," breathed Hank as they stepped into a huge chamber in the middle of which sat a large bluish triangular device covered in strange markings. "This is the Eye of Ages."
"It looks rather empty," Erik said once they had drawn close enough to see inside.
"But there was something there at one point," Xavier said, wheeling into the vessel. "Yes, it must have been removed after Apocalypse was entombed... or he was entombed inside it," he picked up a strange headpiece that resembled Cerebro's. "Perhaps I can uncover its secrets."
"That's risky, Charles," said Hank dubiously.
"What other choice do we have?" Erik asked as Xavier put on the headpiece.
Hank was about to reply when his communicator crackled.
"Hank!" Logan's voice buzzed over the com. "Are you there?"
"Yes, Logan. Where are you?"
"We've tracked Rogue, Mystique and Mesmero to Tibet," Logan replied. "We're close, but Destiny says there isn't much time... you all have to get here!"
"Tibet?" Erik's eyes widened. "Of course! The highest reaches of the world! That's where Apocalypse is!"
"Stop them any way you can!" Beast ordered. "Where are you exactly? M-peak? Right... we'll be there."
Xavier's eyes narrowed and, taking a deep breath, he activated the head piece.
Erik's fists clenched. Everything depended on Logan's team slowing Mesmero down and Xavier mastering the alien vessel, he could do nothing but wait.
"Come on!" Logan yelled into the wind and snow. "We have to hurry!"
"We are hurrying!" snapped Gambit, but he quickened his pace, glancing over to Destiny who was matching him, her head bowed to the wind. "Are you all right, Madame Destine?"
"I am... uh!" Destiny fell to her knees, clutching her head. Soon Wolverine and Gambit were doing the same, writhing as they fought the compulsion that filled their minds.
"Merde!" Gambit gasped, struggling to his feet. "Mesmero tried to get me to kill you both...!"
"Lucky for Xavier's mental block," Wolverine growled. "Otherwise you'd be sailing off the cliff now, boy."
"So you think," Gambit snarled back.
"Cease your quarrel!" Destiny stepped between them. "We're losing them!"
Mesmero ushered Mystique and Rogue out of the raging storm and into a spacious cave. Mystique immediately noticed the ornately painted door before her and raised an eyebrow. "Now what?" she asked.
Mesmero ignored her and stepped towards the door, raising his arms. "The day has finally come, great Apocalypse. I now deliver the final key, the shapeshifting mutant, Mystique!"
"What?" Mystique yelled. "Me? I thought you needed her!" She pointed at the expressionless Rogue.
"You are both needed," Mesmero's smile was slick.
"Then why didn't you enslave me as you did her?"
"I could not, your powers of control are quite formidable."
"And you'd better remember that!" Mystique snapped out. "All right... fine. I've come this far. What do I have to do?"
"You must go through there," Mesmero used his staff to indicate a small opening in the door. "Once on the other side you will see the engraved sign of Apocalypse. Place your hand on it and the door will open."
It sounded so easy, Much too easy. Mystique hesitated. She could still walk away now, over power Mesmero and wake Rogue from her trance. But outside was Wolverine and whoever else he had brought with him, and they would not let her go so easily. She looked at Rogue and nodded slightly. For her daughter's future, for their future, she would open Mesmero's door.
Mesmero watched gleefully as Mystique morphed into the form of a snake and slithered through the opening. "Be ready," he ordered Rogue, motioning her to stand before the doors. There was a rumble and the doors quivered slightly and then slowly pulled apart. Above the sound a scream of rage and fear rang out and was quickly silenced. Mesmero chuckled and pushed Rogue towards the opening. "Go and waken your master, girl."
Rogue walked through and past the statue of Mystique that stood, hand still on the sign of Apocalypse, mouth open in a permanent silent scream. She walked down the steps and towards the large round object at the very bottom. Markings covered it completely and near the top was another seal in the shape of a hand. Pulling off her gloves, Rogue stepped closer to the object and placed her hand on on the seal... it fitted perfectly. The object shuddered and glowed faintly. She took one step back and watched as the object opened to reveal the stick thin figure of a man dressed in ancient Egyptian robes. He lay in what looked like a coffin, his eyes closed and his hands crossed on his chest.
Slowly, raising her hand, Rogue moved closer.
"Fire in the hold!" Gambit cried, ducking to one side as the rock door to the cave glowed. With a bang it exploded, showering pieces everywhere and leaving nothing behind but an empty space. With a roar, Wolverine charged inside, followed closely by Gambit.
"Begone!" Mesmero blocked their path. "You cannot stop this!"
"Yeah? Make me, bub!" Logan leapt at the magician, his claws extended.
Mesmero blocked with his staff that sent a powerful electric bolt surging through Logan, knocking him back.
Ignoring a shouted warning, Gambit charged, swinging his bo staff. The two staffs met with a sharp ring, but it was Gambit who was forced back, his staff broken.
Wolverine leapt to his feet and once again charged Mesmero, who smiled and bellowed, "Do not interfere! Destiny has dealt its hand."
"Yes it has, but she chooses life, not you!" Destiny shouted. "Logan, hold _down_ the staff!"
"Fool!" Mesmero sneered as Logan's claws pinned the staff. "You will only suffer more!" he crowed as bolts of electricity ripped through Wolverine's body.
"You're de fool!" Gambit cried, charging in from the left and swinging the remains of his staff so that it struck Mesmero a full blow to the head, knocking him instantly unconscious. "Bang, M'sieur. You be dead."
Wolverine struggled to his feet. "Well done, b... Gambit."
"ROGUE!!!" Destiny screamed. "NO!"
Rogue staggered as a great fog lifted from her mind. She blinked and looked around at the huge cavern and the corpse lying in the strange coffin before her.
"What the hell? How did Ah... Where am AH?" she cried frantically.
The anguished cry reached her ears and Rogue stared up the steps towards the opening. "That sounded like... Irene?"
She turned, ready to run towards the voice, but a dry, rasping movement halted her. She looked back and gasped. The corpse's eyes were open and staring straight at her. "Uhhh..." Rogue froze.
With astonishing speed a skeletal arm shot out and grabbed her hand in a viciously tight grip. Rogue screamed and struggled in vain as the impossible happened and power was sucked from her.
"Hey," Kurt exclaimed, peering into the neck of one of the Guardians that they had finally managed to destroy. "These guys are robots!"
"Robot Egyptian Gods? Great, we're in an episode of Stargate," Pietro complained.
Kitty hopped onto the leg of one of the robots and phased it into the floor. Jean then added her kinetic powers to Colossus's jump and the large mutant plowed directly through the chest of the Guardian.
"Alright!" Kitty yelled in triumph, "What a team!"
"Incoming!" Iceman called. "Anubis at two o'clock!"
"Which one's Anu... AAAAHHH!!!!"
"Don't worry, Wanda, I've got you!"
"Right. So _that's_ Anubis."
"How are you doing Professor?" Hank asked worriedly.
Erik turned as he heard a large crash. Part of the wall was blown apart, and he saw the X-Men charging through, being pursued by giant statues. Blinking somewhat, he quickly focused his energy and tried to throw the Guardians back.
Behind him, Xavier continued to think aloud; "This was made... not in this time... another time... the future? I know what it is... a transport... it moves instantaneously... and I know how to operate it!"
Hank grinned in triumph. "And I know where we have to go! Erik, get everyone loaded onto the vessel!"
"EVERYONE OVER HERE!" Erik bellowed, before magnetically hurling the two giant statues back. Once a small safe space had been cleared, Scott, Pyro and Storm turned and focused their blasts on one of the statues, which finally exploded under their combined attacks.
Erik moved to one side to make way for the rest of the team, shooting a quick smile at Pietro and Wanda as they passed him. "Come on!" He yelled. "We're leaving!"
The three remaining combatants turned to join them, just as the remaining statue, Horus, he noted, lurched back to its feet and after them.
"These creatures are strong," he muttered to himself. "Too strong."
Again, he managed to hurl it back, and this time he smiled with triumph as Scott turned and scored a critical hit on a leg joint and the Guardian slumped to one side. Once inside the vessel, Scott managed to get another shot in that took off one of the Guardians arms. Erik watched it crawl towards them even as the vessel hummed and closed around them.
*Come on Charles, we don't have much time.*
The vessel glowed, and then disappeared, just as the last guardian's weapon came down in the place that it had been.
At Destiny's cry, Logan was already running through the open doorway. He paused only once, when he saw the statue of Mystique, but otherwise continued to hurtle down the steps. Rogue's scream spurred him to move faster, but he was only in time to see her collapse in a heap on the ground and a strange figure rise from the strange coffin beside her.
Wolverine stared at the being before him. It... his skin was a pale grey, his face was grim and heavy, square-jawed with odd blue markings. He also wore the regalia of Eqyptian pharaoh's - head-dress, kilt, sandals and jewelled collar. Wolverine growled, realising exactly who hovered there. Apocalypses.
"Rrragh!" Wolverine leapt, slashing down with his claws.
Apocalypse didn't even flinch as the mutant came at him, he simply gestured and Wolverine was flung aside like a piece of trash. And without a second glance, Apocalypse moved on towards the exit.
In the main chamber, there was a bright flash of light as the transport vessel arrived.
"Xavier!" Destiny cried. "He's here! Apocalypse has come!"
The mutants poured out of the vessel, coming to a halt in front of the glowing figure that advanced out of the tunnel. As they fell into battle readiness, each one ready to launch an attack, the figure clapped its hands together in front of it.
A powerful force coruscaded away from the clasped hands of Apocalypse, and smashed into the mutants, throwing them aside like twigs. Even the mighty Colossus was sent flying, as though he weighed nothing at all. With the path to the transport vessel cleared, the figure spared none of them even a second glance as it entered.
Xavier and Erik were the only two able to launch any kind of attack. For a moment, hope flared as Erik managed to prevent the vessel from closing entirely. But then Apocalypse rested his gaze upon the Master of Magnetism, and with a flick of his fingers slammed him hard into the floor.
The vessel glowed once more and disappeared. Erik and Xavier stared after it blankly.
"We have failed," Erik whispered.
Behind them, Destiny put her hands over her mask and pulled it off, revealing her sightless eyes. "Apocalypse has come, and he will create a future more terrible than anything we could ever have possibly imagined: The Age of Apocalypse."
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