Under the Living Fortress in Seattle…
Shadowcat fell to the ground and punch the floor in frustration as the three villains teleported away from the area. She then looked over at the blackened area on the floor where Blackheath had once been standing and she sighed sadly to herself, “Oh, Blackheath…”
Then, she heard the sound of ticking coming from the Fortress’ structure and she quickly scrambled over towards the bomb.
“Oh no! If I don’t disarm this thing, then this whole fortress will blow sky high! Alright, I can do this. I didn’t come back to Earth just to get kill by a bomb.
Meanwhile, at Market Mile near the Living Fortress…
The X-Men and the Thunderbolts were still surrounded by a ring of fire created by Hard Shell and while Beast continued to fix the wirings in Strikeback’s arm, Hard Shell started advancing towards the two teams with a look of pure menace on her face.
“Alright, I managed to connect the cords that will cause your hardware to under go a security melt down. Once that’s established, a trigger in your hardware will cause the gas to slow down Hard Shell. That should buy us enough time to get underneath the living fortress to help out Shadowcat and Blackheath,” said Beast as he connected the last few cords.
Strikeback flexed her arm and said, “Thanks. Now, I need someone to throw me at Hard Shell to knock her out.”
“Leave it to us, lady. Here’s the fastball special, X-Men style! Hey, Colossus! You up for a Fastball special?” Wolverine called out to Colossus.
“It would be my pleasure,” said Colossus, cracking his knuckles.
Hard Shell then started running towards the X-Men and the Thunderbolts, determined to put them out of their misery. As soon as they saw her charging towards them, Colossus went up to Strikeback, grabbed her from the back and hurled her towards Hard Shell as hard as he could. Strikeback flew through the fire and slammed into Hard Shell, knocking them both to the ground.
Hard Shell pushed Strikeback off of her and snarled, “You fool! Do you think that you could take me down by…?”
Hard Shell began to sway as the effects of the gas started to seep into her system and she hissed out, “What…what’s going on? What did you do to me?”
Hard Shell then slumped to the ground, too sedated by the gas to harm Strikeback any further. Strikeback looked at Hard Shell with a hard glint in her eyes and said, “Sweet dreams, you lizard freak.” Then, Strikeback fell to the ground, her brain functions shutting down as she slowly started losing consciousness.
“STRIKEBACK!” yelled out Meteorite as the rest of the Thunderbolts and the X-Men rushed over to Strikeback’s body.
Orka took Strikeback’s body and said, “It’s alright. We just need to get the back ups from the Green’s Neural Network and she’ll be as good as new.”
“I hope that she will be alright until then,” said Storm as she landed next to Orka.
“Maybe so, but right now, we need to attend to Blackheath and your ghost friend down at the Living Fortress, before the skrulls get what they came for,” said Arke.
“Then what are we standing around here for? Let’s get going!” said Wolverine.
Everyone agreed and they immediately headed down to the Living Fortress to find Blackheath and Shadowcat, while Orka carried Strikeback’s body with him.
Meanwhile, in Sao Gabriel Da Cachoeria, Brazil…
In a puff of indigo smoke that reeked of the smell of brimstone, Nightcrawler appeared at the entrance of the foundry that Armor had told him about. There, Nightcrawler spotted a group of AGM mercenaries and Right Armored Enforcers guarding the foundry, their guns gleaming in the spotlight. Nightcrawler then hid himself in the shadows, so that none of the guards would discover him and he crept towards the doorway and slipped inside unnoticed.
Nightcrawler continued walking through the building, staying in the shadows while searching for the room where the mutant laborers would be in. Finally, he stumbled upon a dark room where red lights were emitting from it and he immediately walked inside to investigate. At first, he couldn’t see anything since the red lights were blinking constantly; but when the red lights properly came back on, Nightcrawler gasped in shock and horror at the sight he saw. Several mutants were being hooked up to a large machine that was slowly pumping out their energies through some blue tubes, making them shrivel up rapidly. Nightcrawler backed up a few steps until he bumped into someone from behind.
“So, we have a new mutant laborer in our midst, do we?” a deep voice sounded throughout the room.
Nightcrawler turned around quickly and said in a low voice, “Who are you?”
The figure then stepped out into the red light and announced, “I am the Don of the Dead! One of the most deadly skrulls to ever grace upon this planet!”
“A Skrull? What is the meaning of this? Why do you have all of these mutants inside this abomination!?” asked Nightcrawler angrily.
“The Skrull Empire needs test subjects to help increase our power when we take over this pathetic planet! What better test subjects to provide us the power we need than the mutants, who are even more powerful than a mere human being!” cackled the Don of the Dead.
“You will do no such thing! Not as long as I am around!” said Nightcrawler, getting into a fighting stance.
“Then by all means, let me have the pleasure of eliminating you!” cackled the Don of the Dead as he summoned the guards to come inside the room.
Nightcrawler then vanished in a puff of indigo smoke and he immediately reappeared next to one of the guards and kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious.
Then, he vanished once again and kicked another guard in the back, knocking the guard into another guard. More guards then started coming towards Nightcrawler, but Nightcrawler vanished once again and reappeared underneath one of the guards and kicked the guard’s foot from underneath him, causing to trip and fall to the floor.
Nightcrawler was taking out each guard with ease, until one of the guards came up behind him and used an electric rod that shocked him. Nightcrawler screamed out in pain and slumped to the ground, unconscious.
The guards immediately surrounded Nightcrawler’s body and one of the guards asked the Don of the Dead, “Sir, should we finish off this mutant?”
“That isn’t necessary. Take him to the holding cells at the lower level. We’ll use him as bait to get the other mutants to come to this facility!” the Don of the Dead laughed evilly.
Meanwhile, at the Xavier Institute…
Remy LeBeau, also known as the X-Man GAMBIT, was standing around the office of the headmaster’s office, playing around with his deck of cards while sulking the whole time.
“Humph, blue boy ruined all of my fun with the young women of this Institute. Time for me to find another good game to play,” grumbled Remy.
Suddenly, Hisako came running towards Gambit with a panicked expression on her face and she cried out, “Mr. LeBeau! Mr. LeBeau! Something terrible has happened! Mr. Wagner has been captured in Brazil! You got to help him!”
“Sacre bleu! Blue boy got himself captured already? Don’t worry, ma cherie, I’ll get him back. Besides, he still needs to give me back my lucky deck of cards,” said Remy.
Remy tucked the cards inside his long coat, whipped out his staff and ran outside of the Institute. As he ran further outside, he said to himself, “Now, where can I find a ride to get to Brazil?”
He then spotted an extra jet plane in the landing strip next to the Institute and he smiled to himself, “Since the X-Men are away, I can’t see why I can’t use this ole jet to get to Brazil.”
Remy then ran towards the jet, jumped inside and started up the engines. As soon as the jet was hovering in the air, it zoomed away from the Institute, towards its destination.
From the headmaster’s office, Hisako watched Remy take off in the jet and a cruel smile played upon her lips. She then shifted her shape into that of a green alien and she walked towards the telephone that was sitting on the desk and picked it up. Then, the skrull dialed a number and said into the phone, “The mutant known as Gambit has taken the bait. He is now heading towards the facility to rescue his little demon friend. We will now have another mutant to give us the energy we need to take over this planet!”
The skrull then put the phone down and quietly exited the office, leaving no proof of his presence behind.
Meanwhile, back at the Living Fortress…
Shadowcat was still trying to disable the bomb, using a sharp knife that she had found lying around the structure, while putting all of her concentration in figuring out which cords to disconnect.
“Okay, I can’t just phase through the bomb because I could disconnect the wrong cord and the whole place will blow. Now, if I remembered correctly, the blue cord would be the one that sets off the bomb and the red one…”
Shadowcat then cut the red wire and the timer stopped ticking. She smiled to herself and said, “Yep, it’s the red wire, as always.”
Suddenly, Shadowcat heard the sound of footsteps coming towards her and she immediately stood in a battle pose.
“SHADOWCAT!” a couple of voices yelled out from the entrance of the Living Fortress and the X-Men and the Thunderbolts all came running towards Shadowcat.
Shadowcat relaxed her stance and smiled, “Hey guys!”
“Are you alright?” asked Colossus with concern in his voice.
“I’m fine. Just disabling the bomb that that Confessor Skrull set up,” said Shadowcat hugging Colossus back.
“And Blackheath?” asked Orka.
Shadowcat shook her head sadly and the Thunderbolts hung their heads in silence.
“Well, he will be well remembered for the sacrifice he made,” said Meteorite.
“And Strikeback would be truly grateful for his sacrifice,” said Arke looking over at Strikeback’s prone body.
Suddenly, the sounds of explosions were heard outside and the Thunderbolts and X-Men immediately ran outside to see what the commotion was.
When they finally got outside, the X-Men and the Thunderbolts were horrified at the sight they saw. All of Seattle was set in flames with citizens screaming in terror as bombs exploded all around them.
“Oh my god! What’s going on?” gasped Shadowcat.
“It seems that Pagon and those two skrulls have managed to attack the city using the weapons found in the Living Fortress,” snarled Arke.
“We must save the citizens from these madmen!” said Colossus.
“Couldn’t agree more, Colossus. What’s our next move, leader?” Beast asked Cyclops.
“What we do best. Take these guys down! Alright everyone, INTO BATTLE POSITIONS!” yelled out Cyclops.
“Like you need to ask?” said Wolverine, sheathing his claws.
“What about Strikeback?” asked Storm.
“Don’t worry, I’ll put her back into the Living Fortress for now. She should be safe there,” said Orka and he quickly ran back to the Living Fortress and put Strikeback on a table and ran back outside to join the others.
The X-Men and the Thunderbolts then immediately ran into the battlefield, preparing for the fight of their lives.