Marvel Mayhem: X-Men/Thunderbolts #1 - With Friends Like These...
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Last Issue the Astonishing X-Men faced down old enemy Krunn and defeated him but not before his Skrull ally Zargot escaped to Earth. Now free of his captors the Skrull has big plans for Earth and her people.
Over in Seattle the Thunderbolts lost friend and teammate in an ambush by the Smuggler. Just a day later an attempted ambush by the Confessor was thwarted by the team only for it to be revealed that he was a sleeper agent for the Skrull Empire
Melissa looked into the pool of liquid glass that served as a mirror in her room and realised she didn't recognise the woman staring back at her. With cropped hair that had dyed black with the charismatic pink streaks shining like neon serpents against a nest of blackthorn twigs. Her elfin ears were, for the first time visible and were complete with amber studs that matched her new contacts, the orange lenses giving her a predatory stare. To top off the new avian makeover she also wore a choker studded with a single amber gem, removed from her sonic harness, surrounded by stylised swan wings, the copper wings overlaid with matte black paint.
With a sigh Melissa turned away from the mirror and walked across the moss covered floor to the elegant honeysuckle strewn door. With a gentle push she opened it and walked out into a blonde wood corridor complete with handrails carved from the living bark that made up the walls. Following the pathway to the end Melissa stepped onto the top stair at the end of the corridor and held onto the rail as the stairs glided down in a spiral to the floor. Walking away from the stairs Melissa headed along the neon fungus lit street that was the Living Fortresses' mercifully empty entertainment district before heading into a side room marked with a lightning bolt.
"Mel you made it." Sara stated as the door closed behind her. "Okay did that Goth girl you took up to your room last night throw up on you because your looking particularly gloomy."
"Shut it." Melissa spat back. "I'm only here because Abe said it was urgent."
"Wow somebody woke up on the Mimi side of the bed today." Sara chirped as she sat down at the conference table in the middle of the room followed by Melissa who glared at her with angry eyes.
"Okay we are all here." Sara called out as the ground opened up and vines pulled the chairs down into the earth before stopping at a grotto of moss covered rocks complete with a stream winding its way through the boulders, the walls lit with glow-worms and more neon coloured fungi that gave the room a beautifully eerie essence.
"Mel it's good to see you back in the game." Abe stated as she put her hands on her hips, her body coated in a jade unitard that covered most of her cybernetics. "So what do you think?"
"Hey Seven of Nine just get down to brass tax and tell us what's going on." Melissa snorted in reply.
"She must be in heat." Orka whispered to Blackheath.
''Do Meteorite and I have to give you the talk again?" Blackheath asked as Melissa glared at them.
"As you know we have a Skrull prisoner that was masquerading as the Confessor in the Labyrinth Super Max facility under the Living Fortress." Abe announced, "As of yet we have been unable to fathom what he was doing here."
"Are Skrull uncommon on Earth?" Meteorite asked. "I remember reading a lot of conspiracies on the forums about them."
"There are thirty Skrull registered as living legally on Earth, mostly around Roswell where they run stores to capitalise on the UFO craze." Chen told her, "The Chinese Government watches American-Alien relationships very closely."
"Those thirty are all accounted for." Abe continued, "And this guy is a warrior not a merchant. I have been hacking into SHIELD and their feeder networks for the last two days and found one other report that featured a Skrull or similar shape shifter."
"So just what was in this report?" Melissa asked, "And who reported it?"
"The X-Men and as of yet I don't know. They have a closed network which means data can only be accessed at their mansion." Abe answered.
"Then we MUST claim it." Melissa announced. "It is imperative we retrieve it."
"Calm down Wednesday Adams." Meteorite stated. "We had a vote and sent Arke to deal with the data reclamation."
"Arke?" Melissa asked, "Who's Arke and where is Victoria?"
After spending a whole day teaching the students to control their mutant powers, the X-Men went into the computer room to discuss some matters of importance.
“Alright, so you all know about the situation that is happening in Seattle with many mutants possibly being hurt by this mysterious threat. Now that we are finished with business on the Shi’ar Empire, we can concentrate on finding Emma and the students,” Scott stated.
The other X-Men nodded their heads in agreement and Hank immediately pulled up a holographic map of the world in the middle of the table. Across the entire surface were a number of scarlet lights that occasionally shifted as the map continued to update itself.
“So, what are we looking at here, Hank?” Scott asked.
“This map traces genetic anomalies and any trace left by them. My close work with Dr. Pym and Reed Richards allows us to track criminals who are either mutants or mutates through the use of their powers,” Hank explained. “In theory, I should be able to skew the criteria to search for Emma and her missing students.”
“How come we cannot use Cerebro to track down Emma and the students?” Piotr asked.
“Because using Cerebro would require telepathy and since Emma is not here, we have to settle with using this holographic map to find the students,” Hank told him as he ran his hand over the map.
“Humph, this is taking too long,” Logan growled. “We should be out in Seattle and tracking them down in the field.”
“I think Logan may have a point. The students have been missing for too long and I fear for their safety,” Ororo agreed. “Even under Emma’s supervision the world is full of danger and I sense strange weather patterns happening in Seattle. We should make it our priority to find the missing mutants.”
“Okay, I know this might sound weird here, but what about the possibility of that Skrull surviving the explosion on the Shi’ar Empire Cruiser? He could be on Earth right now and we wouldn’t even know about it until it’s too late,” Kitty stated with growing concern in her voice.
“Looking for the Skrull is important too, but for now, since there are no signs of Skrull sightings in New York so far, we have to focus our attention on saving the mutants in Seattle. Alien issues will have to wait,” Scott stated.
“You sure about that, bub?” Logan asked as he started sniffing around the area. “Cause I’m smelling something rotten in this Institute and it ain’t no mutant protesters.” Extending his claws he got up out of his chair and started heading for the door. “It smells like Symbiote.”
“Symbiote? Aw, don’t tell me that my evil doppelganger hired Venom for his X-Force team?” Hank groaned.
“Nah, this ain’t Venom. This scent is different and yet, I’ve smelt it before and it’s sitting pretty in our sever room,” Logan growled. “Hank go to the third floor maintenance closet. Deadpool had some nice toys stored there that we can take this guy down with.”
“And you know about the weapons in the maintenance room, how?” Scott asked as he crossed his arms.
“Hey, I got my own secrets to keep, bub,” Logan growled as a mischievous smile spread across his face.
With a sigh Scott got to his feet, “Alright X-Men, everybody gear up and head to the sever room! Whatever this thing is, we have to confront it before it confronts us.”
The Institute’s server room was dark, save for a single blinking light on the main tower unit. Wolverine quietly crept through the hallway and when he opened the door to the room, the scent of burning plastic and oestrogen wafted through the air. Spotting the gleaming silver protrusion sticking out of the active tower unit and he pointed to Shadowcat and then back to the silver protrusion to signal her to move up and remove the device. Shadowcat nodded and she walked quietly towards the tower unit and pulled out the USB drive. But, just as Shadowcat retrieved the device, she looked up and her eyes were wide with surprise.
“WOLVERINE! LOOK OUT!” Shadowcat shouted.
Wolverine quickly looked up just in time to see a humanoid silver shape drop from the ceiling, it’s jaws dislocating as it landed with the teeth embedding into his neck.
“Nurgh! Get off of me ya freak!” Wolverine yelled as he stabbed his claws into the Symbiote’s legs. The silvery shadow then flew off of Wolverine and landed on all fours, its eyes gleaming scarlet as it let out an angry hiss.
Shadowcat then ran towards Wolverine and asked worriedly, “Wolverine, are you alright?”
“I’m fine kid. Nothing but a good old healing won’t do,” Wolverine grunted as the ring of teeth marks around his neck began to heal.
The Symbiote was about to leap towards Wolverine again, but Colossus charged into the room and tackled the Symbiote from behind, pinning the alien under his foot.
“I caught the intruder!” Colossus he called out to Shadowcat and Wolverine as they walked towards Colossus and examined the captive alien on the floor.
“Wow and I thought that things can’t get any weirder,” Shadowcat commented.
“Alright bub! You want to tell us what you’re doing here?" Wolverine snarled as he bent down to examine the Symbiote.
“No,” Arke hissed and she extended her free arm towards Shadowcat, the USB drive now twisting in her hand before flowing out of her clenched fists back to the Symbiote and merging with the alien flesh it was constructed from. With an inhuman scream Arke extended her wings causing Colossus to stagger back just enough to let her slither away before getting to her feet, a red optic blast hitting the ground, missing her by only a few inches.
“I don’t think so!” Cyclops stated as he prepared to fire another optic blast. Getting to her feet Arke barrelled through Wolverine into the hallway before giving him a kick that sent him sprawling across the floor to a pair of blue furry feet.
“I would implore you to stand down, Wolverine,” Beast announced calmly as he shouldered the left over a sonic canon.
“Be my guest, furball,” Wolverine grunted.
“You have nowhere else to go now.” Beast calmly announced as he charged the weapon as Colossus moved towards the doorway to block the entrance back into the server room.
“I suggest you listen to him, little one,” Colossus stated.
“BEAST! JUST BLAST THAT THING ALREADY!” Wolverine snarled as Arke looked to her left before smashing through the brick wall and out onto the rooftop below, the Thunderbolt landing on all fours before crawling to the edge. Before she could escape she was greeted by a woman hovering over the rooftop.
“You can’t outrun the forces of nature abomination,” Storm cried out as she caused lighting to strike the titles at the edge of the roof, the tiles sliding off and dragging Arke with them to the driveway below.
“Your power has waned Daughter of the First People. I remember watching the Storm Priestesses’ powers and feeling the fury of their lightning from miles away. Yours in weakened making you prey for the Falcon of Arche…urgh.” She grunted as Wolverine leapt from the roof and stabbed his claws into her back.
“I don’t know about you bub, but you talk too much,” Wolverine growled as Arke’s tongue snaked out and stabbed Wolverine in the eye before retracting back and she ripped herself off the claws and staggered towards the front lawn.
“BEAST! NOW!” Cyclops yelled out and Beast leapt out onto the rooftop and fired, the blast of energy sending Arke flying onto the front lawn causing her to scream out in pain as globs of silver symbiote matter flaked off to reveal pale flesh underneath that was full of crisscrossed marks from the bite marks where her alien counterpart had been feeding on her.
Lying naked on the lawn Victoria gritted her teeth and pulled a wooden spike out of her leg holster.
“SHE’S GOT A KNIFE, GUYS!” Shadowcat yelled out as the X-Men started closing in on Arke.
With a triumphant snort Victoria jammed the wooden spike into the earth and the ground started to ripple before a sinkhole opened up and swallowed both her and the surrounding X-Men before closing behind them. The only evidence to show anything had happened was a slight line of disturbed dirt where the ground opened up to swallow its victims.
With a scream Arke erupted from the water of the pool in the Thunderbolts grotto before Orka grabbed her hand and pulled her onto the bank.
"Did you get the data?" Strikeback asked as she extended a pair of wires into Arke and extracted a piece of Symbiote material.
"I got it." Victoria groaned as the Symbiote flowed into the usual bracelets and choker disguise. "I almost had trouble with the X-Men but we managed to loose them."
Suddenly, a set of metal claws started ripping up the earthen floor with such ferocity, that the other Thunderbolts were taken aback by it.
"You were saying." Melissa muttered sarcastically as the entire grotto floor erupted with mutant hands grasping at something to pull themselves to the surface with.