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EVENT: XMN: Worth Fighting For
Event-icon Who: X-Men: Cyclops (Emitter), Colossus, Angel, Shift, also Domino and Pete Wisdom
Where: Rural Mureybet
When: Nightfall
Emitter: Cyclops
Tone: Gritty
What: The X-men (and friends) go on a rescue mission to save the scientist recently kidnapped in Paris. They get more than they bargained for.




"Ernest Hemmingway once said, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.'

"I agree with the second part." -- Detective Somerset,"Se7en"


Rural Mureybet

When the hydraulics release the bottom ramp from the Blackbird, a rush of dry heat warms each of their faces almost immediately. Cyclops descends the ramp and looks over his shoulders at the assorted X-men. "The vans will be here shortly. We'll rendezvous with the others at the designated meeting place."

The others are a group of, as of yet, unnamed soldiers looking to accomplish the same thing. Later it would be shown that the others were Pete Wisdom and the mercenary known as Domino. The Professor had made contact with them via means Scott was not sure of, but the field commander was assured they'd have similar objectives and that their ability to follow orders would not be a concern.

Within a merely a few moments, the headlights of a group of vans can be seen in the distance. Cyclops remains quiet as they wait, until the outlines of them can be seen with the eye. "Everyone stay alert. Let me do the talking."

Recently, the press had been filled with stories about a daring raid on a French hotel that resulted in the kidnapping of a brilliant Berkley scientist, Martin Guth. What the press failed to mention or realize that the victim was a high-powered mutant whose ability to work with computers made him one of the leading research and developers of technology in the world.

Guth also became a person of interest for the nation of Mureybet. Small and located along the Dead Sea, Mureybet has long been ruled by the Munqid family dictatorship. Less commonly known is the regime's use of mutants to control their population. Currently the nation was embroiled in one of its usual rebellions, but this one seemed to take hold with better organization and successes. While investigators for Interpol and the FBI search all over Europe, the X-men know exactly where Guth has been taken and are intent on taking him back.

Still, there have been unforeseen troubles. Cerebro tracked Guth to Mureybet with ease, but shortly after arrival he simply disappeared. The Professor was fairly sure that it was the work of another power telepath at work, but could not be sure. Instead, the X-men would have to go in using intelligence from the rebellion Xavier had made contact with. The X-men are set to be carried by the rebellion forces to a rendezvous point in the village of Qassid. There they'll meet their contact and be taken the short distance to the military base where Guth is being held.

Cyclops converses with one of the drivers for just a few moments and then gives the team the go ahead to join in one of the three vans. After about a 15 minute drive, the X-men can see a village approaching via the vehicle lights. Small, it probably only holds a couple of thousand people, it's quiet and sleepy here in the middle of the night.

Once they arrive, they're ushered into a three story compound; one of the largest buildings in the village. The team is led down into the basement where there looks to have been a makeshift meeting room. Chairs, tables, and comfortable looking sofas are all about. After about 20 minutes of silence, the door opens and a middle aged man with dark, temple-graying hair enters. "Greetings, I am Saladeen. Thank you for coming." With him he carries a tray with tea, coffee, and assorted breakfast items of cheeses, cucumber, hummus and pita bread. "Please, you must be very hungry after your long journey. Please! Eat!"



Apparently Wisdom-- who looks like a completely ordinary (albeit skinny and wild-haired and smelling of cigarette smoke) man in a black suit and tie, for those who haven't met him-- has absolutely no trouble accepting hospitality. He's also British, by the way he talks. "Ta much, sir," he says gratefully, like he hasn't eaten in a week. And he helps himself to tea and a lot of cheese and pita. A bottomless stomach amount. He also starts stuffing his face with it.


Piotr's been silent for most of the trip so is quite happy to let Scott do the talking. These missions are rarely enjoyable and given the alleged use of mutants to control Mureybet's population, they're almost certainly going to end up having to fight their own. That's not what he signed up for but, unfortunately, it's so often what it comes down to. The humans need protection from mutants as much as the reverse. he's staying in flesh for the time being and wears his black costume with little identifying insignia. When refreshments arrive, he just shakes his head and stays where he is, propping up a wall. They're in enemy territory regardless of how friendly the rebellion is supposed to be.


Not far from where Wisdom is settling in is the inky black outline of a smaller woman with a ghostly white face and a big ol' ebony spot surrounding her left eye. With the shift to warmer climates she's opted to leave the usual trench behind, keeping all of her big, nasty gear stowed away in a duffel bag that never leaves her shoulder. The offer for coffee is accepted without a word, deliberately holding herself back and away from the rest of the group at large. If there's a shadow to lurk within, lurk she shall. Hopefully they didn't make a mistake in bringing her along, while she's generally good at following orders there are times, now and then...

Always for good reasons, however.


Warren spent a bunch of the trip either reading, doing work, or napping...anything to deal with the discomfort of the Blackbird's seats to him. Once they exit, he's already stretching his wings and trying to stretch the kinks out of his back..."I'd rather do some aerial scouting if possible..." but if they're going to have to into a basement he follows. The gesture of the food is noted but he waits to see if Pete reacts oddly to anything that could be hidden in it.


Now, this was an operation unlike anything Kwabena Odame, codenamed 'Shift', had been a part of. Throughout the flight to the middle east, he'd remained quiet, keeping to himself. Only when the Blackbird has landed and the heat strikes his face does he show some signs of emotion, and it seems to be a combination of relief and homesickness.

He was closer to his home than he'd ever been.

For this operation, he's chosen to wear nothing but his gunmetal gray suit, knit with the unstable molecules that operate in tandem with his mutagene. The mask is worn the moment he's left the Blackbird, leaving only his mouth and chin visible.

Once inside, Shift removes his mask upon the clear signs that these people were allies. His mismatched eyes look about, quietly observing those who have gathered, until they fall upon Domino. The left side of his mouth curls into the slightest of smirks, but aside from meeting her gaze for a moment, he refrains from speaking or otherwise acknowledging her. Instead, he helps himself to only a few small pieces of refreshment, before finding a place near the back of the room to stand.


"It's okay, Angel," Cyclops says. "The professor vetted these guys."

Later as they reach the basement, people are getting comfortable.

"Thank you," Cyclops says and takes some of the refreshments."

Cyclops and Saladeen sit not far from each other as the rising sun can be noticed through the small basement windows in the corners between the wall and the ceiling. "Munqid is running scared," Saladeen explains. "I am unsure of why this rebellion has been so successful. Perhaps the people of my country have just had enough. In any event, Munqid has been leveling villages all over the countryside. Anywhere he suspects treason. We must be very careful."

"And we will," responds Cyclops. "Is the military base far?"

"No, it is not far. We will wait until the next night fall. Our operatives have schematics of the military base, but they are very old. We believe that the stolen mutant was taken to one of three places within the base, which is built near the cliff of a ravine. The best entrance will be through one of the many caves along the face." Saladeen smiles, "We can get you there, but you'll have to do the rest when you get inside."

Cyclops nods, "Of course."

"This battle against Munqid has lasted many years. My father battled for our independence. I pray my children will not need to."

After about 30 minutes of eating, conversing, the door peeks open and four children of various ages hop through to see what's going on. "Ah!" Saladeen says. "Meet my children! The youngest one's name is Fatimah, she's 2 years. Then we have Mehmet, 5. Sarai is 8, and my eldest boy, Ali, is 17." The children seem shy at first but eventually take interest in the team. Fatimah's eyes grow big at Domino and the make up, as well as her hair. Mehmet seems drawn to Piotr's big muscles. Sarai takes special interest in Shift, while Ali sits close to his father stoically.

After the breakfast, the team discusses preparations before being led to a separate room of cots and a small television that gets one channel. "Rest as well as you can," Cyclops says. "This is going to be a long night."


Piotr gives the boy a smile but makes no attempt to play or talk to him. Once it does seem that the food is safe, he has a little just to tide him over as it's going to be a long night. "I will stand guard." he says and shifts to metal once they get to 'their' room, negating the need for further food or sleep.


If there are any leftovers, they'll be hummus and cucumbers; Pete *does* eat like a hoover. He may have given Warren a faintly worried glance early on, and eyed Shift and Domino, but since none of the children decided to climb all over /him/, the Briton managed to relax somewhat over the course of the breakfast. Once they're led into the room with the cots and the television, he's likely the first to discover it's got one channel, despite Cyke's instruction on sleep. It looks like there's a soap opera on. For a minute, he watches, unable to actually understand the words, and then shuts it off. "Excellent," he says to Piotr, "I'm going to sleep." And he handily nicks the corner cot.


Kids. Great, because -that- won't complicate things any. Domino's been spending a lot of energy on keeping herself distant from every other soul around her, though leave it to a child to latch onto that and become all the more intrigued by her because of it. Sometimes she just can't win, regardless of her luck.

"Hey, kiddo," she offers to Fatimah with a gentle smile. It may well be the first time that she uses the nickname for someone chronologically deserving of it.

Is it just her paranoia coming into play that she suddenly doesn't trust these people?

The guy that can turn himself into metal earns himself a moment of recognition, at the very least. "Nice trick," Dom remarks with a smirk. Beyond that her social graces are quite lacking, only barely managing to acknowledge Shift's involvement along the way. She's here to help. Here for a job. Stay focused on the job. But for now she'll lie on a cot and stare at the ceiling with an arm tucked back behind her head, lost within her own turbulent thoughts.


Warren glances over at Pete when he grabs his chosen cot and just shrugs. He then looks over at Scott when he mentions getting sleep..."I...but..." before he just looks at the cots. He then looks over his shoulder at his wings...and then pushes one cot a little off to the side and pulls the blankets and pillows off of it to the cleared spot on the floor. "A little briefing would have been nice, Cyke. Just saying."


When Sarai takes an interest in him, Shift turns and gives the young girl a smile of bright, pearly whites. He stretches out his hand as if to offer her to give him 'five', but when she takes the bait, his whole arm turns into a plume of black smoke, so that her hand goes right through. Then, when it re-forms, he holds his hand up to his face, pressing an index finger to his lips and making a shushing sound.

Otherwise, he pays close attention to the conversation, keeping mostly to himself. He steps outside just long enough to smoke a single cigarette, before casting an approving nod toward Colossus on his way to the room.


Cyclops chuckles, "Okay, Angel. Fair enough." He tilts his head. "Martin Guth was kidnapped from a hotel room in Paris, France. You may have seen it on the news. Our commander-" He looks to Pete and Domino. "Was able to track Guth here, despite the rest of the world looking in Europe. We believe he wants to use his powers to help suppress this nations rebellions, which are continual. Our commander has made contact with the rebellion to help get us inside." He looks to the cot. "Sorry. I didn't have a lot more information than that."

He lies down on the cot and stretches his hand behind his head.

Later...

The road out to the ravine is smooth. The road along the cliffside is narrow, bumpy, and somewhat terrifying. It's dark now, which makes things even more difficult. After a few close calls that would have meant certain disaster, the vans pull to a stop. "We're here," Saladeen says. Cyclops shakes his hand before the Mureybetan wishes the team good luck. "Be sure to call when you need to be picked up. Your communicator will not work inside the base. If we come and you are not here, we will not be able to wait for you." Cyclops nods to the host and grasps his shoulder in a gruff, but friendly manner.

The X-men, Wisdom, and Domino, depart the vehicles and enter the caves with some trepidation. The air is dry, even in here, and the silence is eerie. As Cyclops makes his way back through the cave about 100 yeards the cave ends, just as Saladeen said it would. "Well," Cyclops says with an exhale. "Here goes." A quick blast from his optic blast later and there's a makeshift entrance into a hallway of metal and industrial style lighting. There is hallway to the left and a hallway to the right. "According to Saladeen, there are two options in this base for him to be stored. Rooms they've used in the past to store prisoners. Two teams: Wisdom, Colossus, and Angel are team Alpha. Colossus on Point. Domino and Shift are with me on Team Beta." Scott tilts his head towards Piotr. "Pick which way you want to go."


When it's time to leave the base, Piotr shifts back to flesh again so keep his powers as little exposure as possible. Being a member of the Justice League means he's pretty identifiable and this getting back to America could... create difficulties. Aside from that, he just goes where he's told to though he does ask Pete and Deomino "You are mutants? We should talk." Not that every mutant needs to be affiliated with Xavier's. They merely should be. When the choice is given to him, he considers a moment then says "I will take the left." And now that action is imminent, shifts to metal once more. After a moment, he adds with a grin "Once more, you are right because I let you be."


The Russian going left and the Cyke going right is somehow unsurprising, sort of, to Wisdom. And glancing over Warren, Wisdom silently reaches into his jacket and offers the man his service sidearm, starting to follow Colossus. "Yeah, mutant," he agrees. "Talk about which, though? I'm not much of an activist, too much global mess to clean up."


There's not much sleep for the visiting albino to find, though that's hardly anything new. One roadtrip and self-guided spelunking tour (and optic blast) later and they're being split up. It's rather helpful that she ends up working alongside Shift, there's someone she feels pretty confident in trusting as well as she's ever able to. Armaments for this outing are varied, coupling a small count of grenades, half a dozen blades, one machete that's nearly as long as her entire spine, and 'enough' smallarms in various degrees of overkill.

And yes, she's got taser rounds chambered. For most of them.

"I'll leave a calling card for you," she tells Colossus first, then offers to Pete second "Happy hunting, Wisdom." Another moment is given directly to Cyclops, the merc femme eyeing him up. The visor is a curious device, did the blast come from it or is it used to channel some other form of energy? Either way, her first real words for him are spoken with a lopsided grin. "After you, fearless leadery person."


"Colossus...this isn't really my deal, you know...so...just let me know what I should point and shoot at." Angel looks up at the ceilings and then over at the walls, "I'm better outside. But let me know if you need me to look down hallways or something."


Masked up again, Shift adopts his position with Team Beta. He hasn't brought much gear for this operation, only the earpiece communicator provided by the X-Men that remains concealed behind his mask. Should it come to fisticuffs, he's certainly capable of stealing his own weapons, should his own natural ones not prove helpful. Plus, it was hard to keep track of gear while in smoke form. Remaining in human form for now, he lets Cyclops take point and steps up next to Domino.

The temptation to use his little nickname proves... fortunately, not too great, and he keeps it to himself. "You get that card I sent you?" Of course, he's referencing the bottle of -expensive- scotch he'd left at the D&P Import Export warehouse in Brooklyn, with her name on it.


Cyclops gives a grin and a nod toward Colossus, "I'll remember that. I hope I'll be right again." He nods to Shift and Domino, but just as he's about to head down the hall, he stops to regard Domino. "I have a card somewhere. It looks very official.

Meanwhile, Colossus heads down the left with his team. The hallways are an exact replica of each other. Soft industrial lights above, with concave walls on either side, made from metal. Below the feet is a grate that has been laid above the dirt.

Both teams move slowly but surely to avoid loud footsteps.

Team ALPHA (Colossus, Wisdom, Angel)

As the deep hallway comes to a corner, voices can be heard in the distance, bouncing perhaps off the walls. The language is Arabic, so the words aren't decipherable. It seems, however that their presence is not noticed.

Team Beta (Cyclops, Domino, Shift)

Down the hallway to the right, there are a couple of bends and then there is a short staircase leading down into a room that seems to open up very wide. From their vantage point, they can only see the bottom half of the people therein, but they seem to be wearing military type fatigues.


Colossus gives Domino a nod then asks Pete the mutant "What do you do?" He starts down the left corridor, commenting "You were here before me, Angel." Presumably 'here' is not this little country. "You know what to do and how to do it to the best of your ability. Use the judgement we all trust." He must have learned something being one of the original five, after all. As they get to the point they hear voices, he holds up a hand and slows. "Soft now. Slow. Angel, sinc eyou volunteered to scout, please do so." He's a little heavy to move quietly.


"SHIELD," Wisdom answers Colossus quietly, "special ops." That is, after all, what he does. Since there's no smirk to go with it, it's apparently not occurred to him that the JLA member might have meant to ask what his power is. But since he easily handed his gun over to Angel, his power's probably offensive. As they get closer and Colossus sends Angel ahead, Pete presses against the wall; his voice goes even quieter. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike."


"I did," Domino answers Shift without elaborating on it much. "Was a good call, thanks." She's already put a healthy dent in the bottle, at that. It pays to have a decent whirlpool tub in at least -one- local safehouse. There's not much else that she can offer in return, especially not now. Previous instinct leaves her wanting to hand over a sidearm so Shift doesn't have to go empty-handed, but given the group that he's running with right now..?

Oh, screw it.

Pulling an all matte black pistol from its holster, she flicks it around in her hand to offer it grip first to Shift. Y'know. Just in case. For old times' sake. Right in front of Cyclops. "Well then, your man's welcome to contact me if he likes." A job is a job is a job. Even better if they pay.

Once things get moving Dom keeps things silent but swift, walking in a low crouch with a stubby, suppressed number braced against her shoulder by a thin polymer stock. The stairs pose a slight complication, what with people being down there and all. How subtle are they trying to be, here? Fast and hard, wait for the targets to be located, all or nothing..? Keeping her sights trained at the top of the stairs she passes a quick glance back to Cyclops. His operation. His call.


"I'm usually air support, Colossus...not ground," Angel scowls but moves forward some to try and do that scouting. He may not be able to move terribly quietly, but he just needs visual and he can see a good distance.


"Sure." Lips curl into a half smirk when Domino hands over a sidearm. Shift tucks it away into the gearloops woven into his gunmetal gray coverings, then slows up when the stairs are spotted. Wordlessly, he looks toward Cyclops while pressing back silently against the wall. His ability to turn into a gaseous state has become well trained by now, all it would take is a simple signal and a place to go... either down the stairs to scout things out, or onward down the corridor. He, as well, waits for that direction.


(TEAM ALPHA)

Colossus' words seem unnoticed; perhaps their lower level did not carry in reverse in quite the same fashion. The words continue with mixtures of laughing and a slap that sounds to come off someone's back.

Angel peeks around the corner unnoticed and perhaps is surprised by what he sees. Four mutants (Well two of them at least, probably) sit at a table playing cards. Behind them is a doorway that's blocked by a set of bars. One looks big, the other has 6 arms, then there's a female and a male who bear no particular apparent mutant abilities.

(TEAM BETA)

Cyclops holds a hand up to tell the other two to hold. Slowly he gets down on the ground and checks to see if he can get a better view. "There's four of them," he whispers. He looks up to Domino and Shift, "You two take the furry one and the female. I'll take the ones on the right." He pauses.

"Shift, see if you can use your abilities to flank. You've got 20 seconds." He breathes. Surprise is the best option. He breathes again, going through several contingencies and counting in his head. Reaching 20, he pops open and goes, leaping down the flight of steps in one fell swoop. Before anyone realizes, he's opening up a shot from his optic blast, which smashes into a man dressed all in black and flings him against the far wall. Hopefully Shift got there in time.


Colossus motions everyone back a bit so Angel can relay the information on what he sees. Keeping his voice low, he says "The two without any obvious powers make me nervous. We need to take them out quickly. Brute force can be handled with a bit more leisure." Which is what he assumes the big one and the six armed one have going for them. "Whatever it is you do, Wisdom, take out the woman. Angel, the man." Him? Turning, he moves back to the corner and then starts running. Once he's close enough, he leaps, spreading his arms and legs wide as if he were skydiving to try to snare all four but especially the two 'normal' looking ones. Course, the card table will be toast. Hope no one had a really good hand.


Right. Right. 'Take out' doesn't mean 'kill', Wisdom had that emphasized pretty thoroughly in his initial contact with the X-Men's 'commander'. So: instead of answering, as soon as Colossus takes off running in, Pete's darting in behind him and hoping that the 'OH SHIZZZZZ' factor of a giant metal man running straight at them and *pouncing* is distracting enough he won't even be seen. Provided he *does* make it over there without notice, he goes for the woman, having a go at bouncing her head off the closest ungiving surface. Which, in point of fact, could even be Piotr himself.


There's the gameplan. Domino glances back to Cyclops and nods once in acknowledgement, silently counting the seconds down while Shift has his window.

The instant that Cyke dives down into the room, Dom's right behind. Rather than drop down on the floor and engage her target she decides that it works better to cling to the railing with barely a sound. By her legs. She leans out and over the heads of the rest of Team Beta while lining up the red dot within the weapon's reflex sight, identifying her target and gracing the trigger with a half-gloved finger. The stutter of suppressed bullets is barely any louder than the sound of the machine pistol's action cycling, sending a tiny cluster of electrically charged slugs after the opposing mutant. Despite deliberately making the odds worse for herself, her aim is as true as can be.

In fact, it might even be -better- because of those odds.


"How?" Angel starts to ask but then gives a sigh as he looks to the gun. "This is going to cost so much in therapy." He flicks what he hopes is the safety on the thing and follows Piotr and Pete into the room to try and 'take out' the six-armed man. "I'm signing up for Karate when we get back..." he mutters as he pulls his gun back to try and pistol-whip the guy.


A quick nod is given to Cyclops. There is a brief moment of concentration, before the entirety that is Shift leaps into the air and poofs into a man-shaped cloud of thick, black smoke. The pistol given by Domino hovers there amongst the smoke as it turns into a single cloud. It forms up against the wall, then, as if being 'kicked', begins to soar down the ceiling of the stairwell and into the room beyond.

Sticking to the corner, the cloud stretches thin in the space between the ceiling and wall, making a move to position itself on the opposite side of the stairway. Shift's consciousness counts to twenty, and then, the cloud coalesces into the African once more. He falls to the ground, boots striking with two thuds. The pistol remains 'holstered' in his gearloops for the time being. Instead, there's a crackling sound as his body begins to harden, an angered look coming into his eyes as he draws upon those dark emotions to manipulate his mutagene properly. A beat later, he's launching himself toward the furry mutant, hoping to throw a far denser shoulder into the enemy's face. Broken nose, concussion, either way, that ought to take him out of the picture for at least a moment.


(Team Alpha)

SMASH!

Colossus collapses the card table as his body comes down upon it. His long arms reach out to ensare the man who worries him. This guy, dressed in fatigues with the sleeves torn off tries to reach a set of throwing knives on the floor, but cannot.

The rest of the mutant infantry stand up in shock. Pete Wisdom is able to bounce the girl's noggin' off of Colossus' back and the woman skitters across the floor. She doesn't pass out, however, and turns to face him with hatred in her eyes. She holds her hand to her head and suddenly, Wisdom is gripped with an unbearable sense of fear and trepidation.

Angel gets to the six armed man and does his best to pistol whip. The butt of the gun catches the mutant across his face and staggers him backward, knocking him away from all of his guns. Meanwhile, however, the brick who sat next to them reaches out to grab Angel from behind!!!

(Team Beta)

Shift takes aim at the furry, wolvish looking one. When one of the bullets hits the mutant in the leg, he howls and bellows in pain and grabs cover behind a crate.

Domino fires at the female, who takes a strike in the ankle, but it doesn't seem to bother her. She leaps back upon the far wall with wide eyes and scurries up towards the ceiling sending a vicious bit of green spittle toward Domino!

Meanwhile, Cyclops is about to turn his attention to the normal looking soldier, but the soldier is on him with his mind. The field commander's hand begins to tremble violently and Cyclops is forced to stop, unable to control it.


Colossus crashes through the table, securing his hold on the man in fatigues as he climbs to his feet. "You are fighting for the wrong team." he tells them all but doesn't wait to see if they suddenly agree and decide to switch sides due to his rousing speech. Instead, he spins, and keeping his grip on his prisoner, uses him as a bludgeon on the woman psychic. Hey, you go knife thrower in my psychic. No you got an empath in my weapon user.


Jerking away from the woman with a look of startled uncertainty bordering on -- fright? terror -- the Englishman's eyes flare bright gold and his hands glow brighter still, sending the scent of superheated air, of sizzling fabric, into the room. The hands are held up and his fingers extend until the ends are white-hot knives, all in the span of a split second--

--but Pete's fighting it, teeth gritted. It isn't /normal/. It isn't /him/. He addresses the hatred with a hissing breath, biting out the words. "Don't. Do. That. I'm not supp-- supposed. To kill y--" OH THANK GOD BLUDGEON; even if it doesn't hit it's sure to break the woman's concentration. Wisdom's gasping, holding his hands way up and back, dimmed and normalized. "Shit. Right you lot, fucking surrender or I'll kill you. /They'll/ beat you up. /I'll/ kill you because I fucking *hate* people messing with my head."


Domino's taser rounds did nothing. Why did they do nothing? She doesn't like it when they do nothing. "Fudge," she mutters while dropping away from the railing in a backward flip, barely avoiding getting struck by that nasty green goo that gets shot her way.

Old habits die hard. She's worked with Shift lots of times in the past. "Shift, switch!" she calls out, suddenly abandoning the woman that she had been targeting and, instead, going after the furry mutant. One good shoulder-roll across the floor should get her in a better attack position for dealing with that guy after he goes for cover. Those specialized bullets seem to be more effective against him, and Shift has the added bonus of being immune to ranged attacks. It's a simple enough strategy, pit their strengths against the weaknesses within their opponents.

Hey, uh..is One-Eye okay over there..?


Grabbing Warren from behind can be tricky, thanks to his very large, very powerful wings. Even the initial touch starts them buffeting at the attacker before he can try to turn around, hopefully not breaking a wing or ripping it from his shoulders at the movement. It's probably not the best space for twelve-odd feet of wings to be flapping about.


Darting his eyes about to spot the female, Shift considers his options for a moment. Decidedly, his boots accelerate him toward the far wall, and when he leaps into the air, his body poofs into another cloud of black smoke. Momentum carries it into an interception, and the cloud begins to wrap around the wall-scaling mutant in an attempt to confuse and blind her.

"Surprise!" comes a hollow sounding voice from within the cloud itself.

A beat later, a pair of hands form out of the cloud and begin wrestling with her legs in an attempt to pull her free from the ceiling.


(Team Alpha)

Wisdom's words seem to distract the woman, who cannot understand him. She tilts his head in surprise and a bit of disgust. But it's enough to distract her until Colossus does his thing.

Colossus reaches around the man's body and swings him in a semi-circle, crashing the first foe into the second's solar plexus. What little hope she had of holding her lock on Pete Wisdom has now officially been fully broken.

The ogre-brick has Angel by the back of the neck, but is distracted as his wings go either way. He says something intelligible, but it appears to be something along the lines of, "Pretty bird." He is transfixed and tries to turn Angel around to face him.

(Team Beta)

Domino ditches her original target for the Hyena lookin' fellow. It takes her a moment to get the shot, but when she does, she fires, hitting the mutant right in the chest and knocking him from his feet (which he had just gotten up to.) The furry body wriggles with electricity.

Shift wriggles with the sticky gal and gets her loose from the ceiling. Unclear or not, he's unable to hold on to her and she drops the 15 feet to the grate below, smashing down into the ground with a cry. Looks like she was susceptible to blunt force drama, not ranged attacks.

But the other mutant is still up and going and now it's not just Cyclops' hand that is shaking. It's moved up to his entire arm. The leader lets out a scream and seems to be completely out of control on that side of his body.


Leaving the woman to Wisdom, Colossus rushes the guy on Warren, pausing only to throw his human club hard at the six armed mutant. A steely hand clamps down on the ogre's wrist and yanks him foward, hopefully into the steely fist heading toward his head.


And Wisdom? Unceremoniously punches the psychic in the head. And no, he doesn't pull the punch. While it might not be like getting hit in the head by God or Colossus, it's at least got the wiry strength of S.A.S. training behind it. He's moving with the abbreviated motions of someone keeping a tower of fury in check while he does the job in front of him; once he's punched her, he turns to kick the used-to-be-knife-guy-blunt-object-man matter-of-factly, just to make sure he stays down. "Angel! Make sure Shiva's down, I dunno if this idiot hit him hard enough--"


Okay, that would be a -no,- One-Eye is -not- okay over there. Domino watches Mister Hyena collapse where he had stood, giving him another half second of her attention before her eyes, and her aim, twist about to fall upon the last one standing. The one that seems to be doing something unseen yet awful to Cyclops. On the upside, both Shift and her are now free to deal with this last one. As previous scenarios have proven to them both, she can shoot -through- the guy with no ill-effects. Always handy, that.

"Go right!"

Like snapping one's fingers Shift is back into a smoky haze upon the air, falling upon that last mutant like a storm of flies. It's a distraction move, meant to do nothing more than disorient the guy while the local albino lines up her shot and goes straight for the temple. His power seems psionic in nature. She's not going to screw around and leave anything to chance. Who knows what he's doing to Cyclops? Whatever it is, it has to stop!


"Thanks..." is offered to Piotr as he punches the brute off of him. Still gripping the safetied gun, Angel looks about to see just what he should do with these guys here. When Wisdom calls out for him to work on attacking Shiva, he shrugs and steps forward to pistol-whip him again. Maybe second time is a charm?


When the goo-gal drops to the floor, Shift falls with her, but Domino's words are registered. Instead of landing on goo-gal, a nudge against the air surrounding and filling his shifted form sends him spiraling to the right, where it tangles itself in similar fashion around Cyclops' foe.

When Domino's bullets pass through him and the electrical current begins to flow, Shift reflexively bounces away from the mutant and collects into human form again. "Guaaah!" he cries out. A burning pain flows through his costume for a moment, leaving tendrils of white smoke that drift up into the air. A curse is spat out in his native tongue, but a moment later, he's taking stock of their surroundings, ignoring the pain inflicted by his suit.

With no movement in their enemies, he darts over toward Cyclops, reaching for their leader's shoulder with gloves that are a bit warm to the touch. "Scott, you still with us?"


(Team Alpha)

Coming to Angel's aid, Colossus delivers a hard punch right to the face of the ogre who staggers back a few feet, before releasing his hold on Angel. The six armed man staggers backward Colossus effort, knocking him back and onto the ground, this time with Colossus' ragdoll laying motionless on top of him, out cold.

Speaking of out cold, Pete's punch knocks the woman straight away and she's done for. Wisdom kicks the would-be knife wielder in the teeth for good measure.

Whack! Angel disdainfully knocks the 6 armed man senseless. The back of his head cracks heavy along the metal and he's out.

Now that all of the mutant enemies have been taken care of, there's nothing between Team Alpha and progress but bars, which look to be easily passable by any of the powered, victorious creatures.

Behind the bars they're most likely shocked as to what they find. The area is a makeshift jail of government enemies. All are behind bars. Some are shackled to the wall in chains, others are huddled in the fetal position with soiled clothing. Others are dead and have yet to be taken care of. From the smell they've been dead a very long time.

In the distance, Angel will notice one who bears a striking resemblance to Guth.

(Team Beta)

Domino's shot is true and knocks the mutant with the cellular disruption powers straight back. He falls to the floor and wriggles around much like the other mutant Domino took care of.

"Yeah, I'll be okay, Shift." He looks over to Domino and gives a nod. Cyclops' arm hangs limply by his side and he seems like he's unable to move it. Nevertheless, he seems relieved that the battle is over.

In the distance is an overhead door you might see in a garage. Cyclops holds his good hand up to his visor and blasts the lock away. A second later he's lifting the door, but stops halfway up in shock.

The bay is filled with a half dozen missiles that look to be scud in design. The warheads of which all glow a green hue.

"Dear God," Cyclops says, flummoxed. "These are chemical weapons." Almost immediately he begins to make his way around the weaponry, looking to diffuse them with his blast. His arm, still numb, prickles with pins and needles, but he's able to change the frequency on his visor to a very fine blast. He takes a shot without hesitating, trusting his knowledge about Eurasian weaponry. There's a hiss, but the green glow dies out. "Five more. Let's hope Colossus found Guth."


Colossus makes short work of the bars and even shorter work of the chains. "See to the prisoners as I free them. We will need a lot of transport We might need to steal his trucks." There is, of course, not even a passing thought of leaving any of them behind.


Nor in the angry little Briton's mind: his fury turns his eyes to molten gold at the suffering down here, but his hands remain merely the feverish warm that's normal for him. One by one, he helps people up, tries to communicate with them in Urdu, the closest to Arabic he's got; communicates with hand motions and human empathy. Gets the ones in better shape to help the ones in worse shape, ignores the foul smells, pulls scraps of fabric over the faces of the dead. Wherever he can, he makes room, makes the sickest and worst-injured obvious to Angel.


Eheh, whoopsie. "Sorry, kid," Domino says to Shift after effectively zapping him right out of his smokescreen. Mental note, electricity still works. That's good, she gets tired of having to resort to that bulky plasma rifle whenever they have a significant disagreement.

To Cyclops, 'Scott' apparently, she bows her head slightly in turn. She's got his back. More or less, anyway.

Next stop: The garage. Letting the tiny automatic hang from a shoulder, Dom hops up into the next room and stops short, pale blue eyes growing wide as she stares at the warheads awaiting them all on the other side. "I don't think God had anything to do with this one," she monotones. "You sure you know what you're doing there, Sparky?" If he does, more power to him, she'll keep her hands to herself! If not, she does know her way around military ordnance.

..Yeah, he's got this. Dom finds the best vantage point to cover from and returns the MP9 to her shoulder, firmly braced within both hands. Anything that chooses to disturb these three is going to have a very bad day.


Warren's eyes narrow some as he tries to peer through the dimness and the watering of his eyes from the stench, "Isn't that the one we're supposed to find?" He nods off into the distance before he looks back to Piotr, "For those still living...if they're injured..." The metal-guy knows what he can do and since he's point, it's his call. As Pete starts to point some of them out to him, he pulls out the sharp little blade he always carries for this sort of thing. "Don't know how to get in touch with the others if the comms don't work," he offers to his teammates as he crouches down to try and help those he can.


Shift levels a warning finger toward Domino. "Don't even think about it," he warns her, providing a bit more proof to Cyclops that they -just- might have had a working relationship before his induction into the X-Men. "Just a scratch, anyway."

Maybe a few first degree burns. That counts as a 'scratch', right?

Once inside the other room, however, Shift goes coldly silent. Thinking likeminded to his patch-eyed counterpart, he takes up a position of guard near the garage door, while reaching to press a hand against his masked earpiece. Hopefully, the electrical current that touched his smoke form hasn't completely damaged the earcomm.

"Team Alpha, report," says the Ghanaian with a note of bitterness in his words.


(Team Alpha)

As the hostages are freed they all mumble their thankfulness in tones of Arabic that no one can understand. Eventually after hand movements and motions, it's clear that they're supposed to follow the group of X-men (and friends). None of them understand anything close to Urdu, unfortunately. But Wisdom gets his message across.

When the group gets to Guth he seems surprised. "Wh-who are you?" When it's clear they're releasing prisoners, his mood brightens, "Oh thank God!"

When Angel gets to him, Guth throws his arms around the mutant. "Thank you so much! Thank God!"

(Team Beta)

Dom's cover is appreciated, but unneeded. It doesn't seem anyone's coming, yet. Cyclops finishes with the last missile and finds himself wishing he had a way to carry out the chemical weaponry to destroy. Can't do it. Too risky.

"Let's move back to the entrance. Quick. Move."

Almost as soon as he says it, warning klaxon's begin ringing out through the building, and cut off Shift's message to Team Alpha. The Regime knows they're here.

ELSEWHERE, ON THE ROAD TO QASSID

As Saladeen's caravan makes its way back to the village of Qassid, the driver's eyes go wide. "Sir. Behind us." Behind them indeed, a the first set of headlights can be seen. Then another, then another.

"Go faster," Saladeen says, the panic not yet having reached his voice. The driver steps on the gas and the van hurtles along even faster, but when he sees headlights coming at them as well he knows it's over.

Within minutes they're pulled over to the side of the road without much other option. Armed men leap out of in old Soviet style vehicles with submachine guns drawn. Saladeen works quickly to take his communicator apart. He pulls out one of the pieces and throws it on the floor and smashes it with his foot.

Saladeen exhales as he's pulled from the van violently and dragged out into the dusty field. There, he and the other drivers are made to kneel and put their hands on their heads.

His last thought before the sound of the gunfire, and before the bullet pierces his brain is for his family.


"We have got the target." Colossus says over the comm. "And many of former prisoners. Some are not in good shape. We will probably need more transportation that we arrived in." So many means LOTS. "We do not have time for that now, Angel." The klaxons going off make that clear. "Help those who need it. We can use the cots to carry those who cannot walk. Those still able can help carry them." Once everything gets organized, they start back for the cave.


"They know it's a rebel raid," Wisdom says shortly to Guth, "save your happiness until we're all out of the country. Colossus, is there any way we can relocate Saladeen's kids on our way out? Provided they haven't already been shot." Given his experience, he knows how unholy this sort of thing is, and how it works." Given that there was some time before the klaxons sounded, Wisdom *is* able to help Angel with the last of the people he has time to heal-- and then he's shaking his head violently. "No time for cots." He picks up a frail man on his own skinny back, gestures for the healthier people to do the same for others, and follows along grimly.


Warren scoops up Guth to carry him if he's unable to walk...he can probably carry another if needed as well. He nods his thanks to Pete when he helps him with the others...even if there's no time to try and really heal the folks.


When a piercing electronic scream answers his earcomm, Shift doesn't care to guess at whether it was broken or jammed. The klaxons are all he really needs to hear, and after ripping the earcomm free and pulling it out from under his mask, he wields the borrowed pistol and makes for the staircase once more.

Briefly taking point, he bounds up the staircase, poofing into smoke briefly, until colliding with the opposite wall in the corridor beyond. A flanking position, similar to how he'd entered, he reforms and quickly scans the corridor in each direction, looking for hostiles that might need to be taken out, while waiting for Domino and Cyclops to join him.


Shift covers the rest of his Team, but no one has gotten to them yet. The base is still in a state of confusion, buying the X-men (and friends) enough time to begin their escape.

"GO!" Cyclops yells to Domino and Shift as he bounds down the hallway, running to get back to the spot they entered.

Both groups come together at roughly the same time. Cyclops looks with eyebrows raised as he makes visor contact with Colossus' eyes. "Looks like we got more than we bargained for. I'll explain more on the way back home." Indeed, Saladeen wasn't expecting more than one more than they came with. Better get the Blackbird. Before it was a risk. To land the Blackbird blind knowing that mutants were assisting the Regime was dangerous. Now, there was no risk of being uncovered. They were already uncovered.

As everyone gets through the opening into the cave, Cyclops stays behind and looks upwards at the cave above where he blew the hole earlier. He reaches his hand up to his visor and lets his optic blast go, creating a rubble pile where they came through and buying them precious extra time.

On his wrist, Cyclops checks to see if he can communicate yet with the Blackbird. Finally as the caves open up a bit, communication with the outside world comes back online. He taps on his wrist, and many miles away the Blackbird roars to life. Within a few minutes it starts to approach the caves, crossing the 30 miles at top speed in very little time.


Colossus nods to Cyclops then leaves the others behind to double time to the cave entrance. He will make sure none of the enemy enter in case they figure out where they are hiding. "I do not see the jeeps."


"Luckily, your lot brought a jet, mate," Wisdom huffs out at Colossus as he gently lowers his burden to the ground. His attention's completely on the prisoners' comfort (where possible) and safety (all-over) for a few moments while people are sorting themselves out and keeping an eye out for things. "But yeah. That's why we should check on those kids. Alarms are off, whole mission's bollocksed up, safe to assume everything we weren't personally babysitting's compromised. Cyclops? Can we do that?"


"Just tell me where and I can fly...to meet the jet, to try and get the kids..." Angel is trying to be helpful. "I just can't carry Colossus when he's all metal..."


As for Shift, he keeps silent, covering everyone's escape rather than taking up and helping any of the prisoners. He moves fast, keeping his eyes vigilant for hostiles until they have gotten outside.


Cyclops looks to Pete Wisdom and Angel with a nod. "Go, Angel. I think we could probably beat the Regime back to Qassid, but I don't want to be wrong. Go and go now. Get those kids and get them to safety."

It doesn't take long for the Blackbird to get there, but it arrives in time. Cyclops nods to Colossus and tries to hail Saladeen, but to no avail. "Get the people on, Colossus," He nods to Angel, "By the time we get there you'll need reinforcements. Go now. I'm betting we get to Qassid before the Regime does, but I don't want to be wrong. Get to them and get them safe."

It hovers above the ground, outside the cave and lowers the ramp. The hostages make their way up into the cargo hold first, graciously thanking their hosts with words that are not understood. Cyclops waits to make sure everyone on the mission gets up and into the Blackbird. "Colossus, take the controls. Once I'm up, get us the hell out of here."

And up he goes. Instead of his normal place at the controls, Cyclops makes his way to the scanners.

As the Blackbird pulls up, everyone in the cockpit section, all six of the heroes who made the journey, can see it. There, along the road, a couple of black vans lay burning. It's clear that Saladeen never made it back. Worse, Cyclops' scanners are picking up movement of large scale military forces.

Cyclops grits his teeth and allows the terror in for five seconds. Then he acts.

He moves up toward the pilot seat so he can look back at them.

"Things have not gone exactly as planned. It's not clear what happened to Saladeen, but I think we can all guess."

Cyclops licks his lips and grimaces as the Blackbird hurtles along through the air, racing toward Qassid.

"I realize that our mission is completed and that you've done what we have asked you to do. But those people down there. They need us. The decision is yours, and you're welcome to accompany these hostages to the border in the Blackbird. But I'll be staying in Qassid and helping the people of that village."

"I hope you will, too."

TO BE CONTINUED. . . . .

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