|EVENT: Dark Mirrors: Part III - Black Hole Sun|
|What: Our group of heroes head out to stop the third and final Evil Lord of Another Limbo to help save the world.|
"The world we suggest is a new wild west. A sensuous evil world. Strange and haunting, the path of the sun..."
-- Jim Morrison
Much of Limbo's landscape is dry and barren, cracked red earth with rock outcroppings dotted by the occasional scrub and low brush. In the distance in one direction the faint outline of mountains can be seen, clawing their way towards a blood-red sky that has no moon. No sun. No stars.
But here, Limbo is different. An invisible line in the sand where the nature of the realm changes. Parched earth suddenly gives way to dense jungle in a wide green belt. Beyond that green however, buildings rise. Thick and dense as the jungle, made of stone and wood they press tight against each other and climb to precarious heights, higher and higher towards a central sort of spire that juts up into the clouds. And beyond that, high in that other-Limbo's sky blazes a sun, a perfect mirror to that on Earth.
As Illyana's stepping disk flares wide, falling softly towards the ground and leaving her champions in its wake. She stands in the center of them in the white costume mostly known from her time with the Titans. The point of her Soulsword set between her feet, her hands rest on the pommel as she looks upon this encroachment with a frown.
"This is the last one." Illyana tells those assembled. "If we can break its connection, I should be able to close the more minor tears. "Whoever rules here, they've had to come close enough that our realms overlap, meaning they don't have access to their full power. I need to stay here, but Wiccan knows the spell. You're looking for a small crystal, about the size of my thumb. That's the focus for the spell that's trying to merge our realities. You need to get to it and guy Wiccan enough time to reverse the spell, so that it separates instead. As a Plan B, shattering the crystal should also disrupt the spell, but it could have some messy consequences later, so try to avoid that."
A gust of wind blows in from that other reality, heavy with the scent of green growth but also the sickly-sweet scent of decay. "Once the crystal's dealt with, get out fast. I'll try to keep my scrying focused on you to teleport people out but my abilities are a bit more iffy the deeper into that other realm you are." Her grip on her sword shifts, lifting it and using it to point upwards to where that spire disappears into the clouds. "It's there. I can feel it." She knows that Wiccan can as well, to let them home in on it as they get closer.
Colossus was in metal form from before they started collecting the assault team. Perhaps the duffel bag hanging from one shoulder explains why as it sags in such a way that it's obviously full and very heavy. A second bag hangs from his other shoulder that seems to be much less heavy. When they get into Limbo, he shrugs them both off and unzips the lighter one. Domino will instantly recognize the RG-6: a Russian, rapid firing, multi-shot grenade launcher. In the same bag is a German MG3: a very high powered machine gun that usually needs to rest on the ground or hood of a vehicle when it's fired. The heavy bag? Ammo belts and he threads one end into the machine gun. Glancing up at Domino, he gives her a quick grin. "Grigoriy."
As the group appears... As one member of the group smell that unique mixture of healthy plant life mixed with what is probably a unique version of decay, Laura Kinney a.k.a. X-23 frowns.
To be honest, she wasn't sure what, if anything she should of expected upon arriving. But this is not it. Even as the female clone in a sleeveless body suit and combat boots lands, she sniffs and glances about, already on guard.
In fact, there's even a *SKNIT* is her claws, two from each hand and one from each foot, pop out, indicating that she's ready for what ever comes her way, even if she is not carrying any other obvious weapons.
Just what has Domino signed up for -this- time? It's definitely no friendly game of capture the flag. For as much globe-trotting as she's done over the years she's never once set foot into a completely different plane of existence. As far as first impressions go, this one's plenty memorable.
Hopefully she leaves a similar impression upon it. Her standard arsenal has been pushed toward its upper limits, not willing to take any risks which she doesn't have to. It meant calling in a favor to get her hands on the belt-fed machine gun that's hanging from a sling across one shoulder, the benefits of having such a weapon at hand outweighing the setbacks. Yet, finally being here and seeing what this place has to offer? She's already feeling less than prepared.
"So much for Kansas," she says to no one in particular, racking the bolt with a meaty, mechanical report. The climate was expected to be hostile, sure, but words do not prepare a person for the reality that is Limbo. It's quickly followed by a low whistle as Colossus brings out two very big toys of his own, earning an appreciative smirk from the white-skinned woman. "Have I mentioned lately that I like the way you think, big guy?"
Hopefully she can focus on shooting the demons instead of worrying about Laura over there.
Jet black, so black that he's absorbing the light around him and leaving just a shadow in his place, Roberto da Costa only knows a couple of those present, but he's prepared to do what it takes to separate Illyana's domain from those trying to encroach upon it. The jungle, though, makes him wonder. This reminds him too much of home on some level -- and there are doubtless nastier things in this rainforest than there are in the Amazon. He says nothing, just watching, waiting, and taking stock of those around him. Seems, to him, the best plan for the moment.
As a stepping disc once ore drops Wiccan into Limbo the teen can only stop and stare at the jungle and tower before him. Almost under his breath he mutters, "And they said 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name.'" Hearing Illyana speaks he shakes his head and then nods. "Yeah, the creepy scary spell that made me feel like my tongue came unattached. Shouldn't be a problem to do again..." He really really hopes.
Red shawl like cape fluttering in the wind Wiccan raises floating a few inches over the ground as he prepares himself for yet another journey into someplace he would really rather not be going. The dark haired teen grips the short club like staff in his right hand as the smell of ozone that tends to follow him increases and mixes with the smells of live plants and decay.
"Definitely not the stealthy approach, hmm?" Illyana teases her brother and Domino both. Her smirk fades, expression becoming more serious. "Be careful." She advises them, and then raises her sword over her head as she summons a stepping disk, leaving the five of them behind to make their assault.
"You have reminded me about the benefit of overwhelming firepower." Colossus tells Domino. Usually that's Cyclops' department but he's not here and it's tactically wise to kill as many enemy as possible before they get up close and personal. "Those with need to, stay behind me." Hooking the duffel bag over an arm, he takes a weapon in either hand and hooks the duffel bag so he can drop it easily once action begins. "We shall be stealthy until the firing begins." he tells his sister then starts forward. Colossus is not built for stealthy, it should be noted.
Unlike Colossus, X-23 is built for stealth. And she's also very well trained at it. Thus by the time Magik does what she has to do, and he's moving ahead, the young clone slides into what cover she can, and tries to move along in the proper direction.
All though she also does try to keep all of the members of the group she can within her sight. Especially Domino.
Once more the Iron Russian shares Dom's thoughts on the matter. "From what I gather, we're going to get surrounded sooner or later. I'd like to be prepared for that moment." Until then, the quiet approach remains their best. As usual, don't attract any more attention to yourself than absolutely necessary. When things go a little sideways? Make sure you're holding onto the biggest stick. To Colossus, she says "Happy to help."
Alright, the resident tank is taking point. Laura's ..where the hell did Laur--oh, over there. Mmh. Fair enough. "I'll cover our asses," Dom offers, making sure that the gunners all have as clear a line of fire as possible. "Don't spread out too far, kids. You get lost around here there's no telling when you might get found again."
Though 'Berto is not so stealthy as Laura, he knows this forest, he's a shadow, and he's fairly athletic. Rather than staying back and behind Piotr -- which is, frankly, his first instinct -- he slips into the jungle and into the shadows, making his way through and toward the spires of the city beyond as quietly as he can -- though not so far from the others that they're not within earshot of him, nor he of them, because that would definitely be a bad idea.
Wiccan can't help but grin at Illyana teasing her brother a little, that much is enough to remind him of his friends and even his own family. "Lets pray that stealth does better for us than in my last trip to do this sort of thing."
While wiccan is not the stealthiest of people, he has a few tricks up his sleeves. One of those being that floating above the ground means no foot steps, no change of stepping on a twig or something like that to alert anyone they might be sneaking up on. As X-23 disappears into the foliage Wiccan moves to follow behind Colossus mostly because of all of them he will be the easiest to find and keep an eye on if...no when things get interesting.
Heading into the thick jungle growth, stealth is harder than it looks. There aren't any paths, vines and ferns and other foliage choke the ground-level. It would be faster going with a machete. Or a bulldozer. For those skilled in it, it can still be managed, though it makes for slow going. The ground is moist, giving beneath those that walk and in Colossus' case, sucks him down to mid-calf from his weight. It's hot, and sticky and bugs buzz their heads like Maverick and Goose did the tower in Top Gun. When they're not trying to bite at any exposed skin.
Trudging through becomes more and more difficult, undergrowth grasping at feet and legs. In the lead, Colossus is forcing his way through a particularly thick section of vines when he feels them press against his knees. Then his thighs. As he looks down, the vines aren't just impeding his way, they're starting to climb up his body, wrapping around. A heartbeat later, they're doing the same to those following behind. Some shoot upwards, trying to snare Wiccan from the air to drag him back down to the earth. The fleshy green vines ooze some sort of red sap that starts to eat like acid through anything metal. Like the big shiny guy up front.
Colossus curses fluently in Russian. He HATES Limbo. He's always hated Limbo and he's told Illyana so on numerous occasions. He also hates magic since it's one of the things that can actually hurt him. "Wiccan!" he hisses. The 'Do something!' goes unstated as he starts trying to back up and rip himself free of the vines. He's not quite ready to start making lots of noise and firing.
It might not be easy, but it is do-able. Or at least it should be. It might not be the fastest way, but a lot of the time being stealthy isn't fast.
Just ask Laura. She knows.
All thought every now and then she does use something that could be considered /better/ than a machete to slice through vines as she moves ahead. That thing... Correction, things, are her adamantium claws.
Then again, as she glances back at the others, she notices those vines do start to lash out, causing the female clone of Wolverine to let out a faint growl. That is before she tries to leap out and slash at the vines going up after Wiccan.
"Anyone bring a flame thrower?"
Did you ever get that feeling where something just isn't right..? Like there's something in the very air that you breathe which just feels ..off? Domino's doing her best to avoid the bugs. Doing her best to plow through the muck and the dense foliage. She's been here less than ten minutes and already she's miserable. The jungle's playing tricks on her eyes, toying with her senses, even feathering upon her very emotions.
And trying to turn her into a tree.
"What th--!" she stops short, both in speech and in motion as something takes hold of her leg and doesn't let go. She's fortunate enough to have brought a machete, tucked over the back of her right shoulder, but the blade is made of metal. These vines are dissolving metal. There's a potential problem at some point here, but until then...
Thank the gods her armor's not made of metal, but every single one of her weapons are! In short order there's thin wisps of smoke coming off of that wicked blade of hers, hacking through the vines while she scrambles for higher ground just as quick as she can. "Sorry, left it with my other set of armor!"
Recognizing there's trouble with the others, 'Berto is quick to go after the vines, seeking out their roots and crushing them under his feet as best he's able. "Welcome to Limbo, Senhora," he observes drily as he rips a plant from the ground and heaves it skyward and away.
Wiccan does not give into his desire to kvech about the situation as his allies for this mission trudge through the underbrush. Although he would really really like too as yet another biting bug gets fried while trying to eat a small part of him. *zzt* Hard to control electric powers at least have a small good side when they make you a living bug zapper.
Being a few feet in the air Wiccan does not notice the creeping vines at first. That is until he hears colossus call out to him. Thanks to that call he quickly realizes what’s going on and manages to dodge the first few vines that make a grab for him. "My parents my never forgive me, but I wish I had some agent orange." He says at first before starting to chant, "WoodburnsVineswither, WoodburnsVineswither, WoodburnsVineswither!" It's not a flame thrower, not that he can't replicate the effect but doing so and aiming it at friends is not a good idea. What he tries is to set off fire, or something like it, inside the vines enough so that the ones grasping at people die and hopefully don't burn anyone.
Part of Wiccan wants to follow up on Roberto's comment by saying things could be worse, but that part of him deserves a smack in the head cause doing so always gets answered by being proven right.
Buttons, fasteners, weapons. They all start to get slowly eaten away as the vines move like the tentacle of some beast. They leave shallow gouges on Colossus' metal skin as they're ripped away by Colossus' strength.
Laura attacks the vines going for Wiccan while Domino holds off her own and 'Berto works on trying to deal with them at the source, giving the witch time to cast his spell. The vines start to twitch, and then release those they're holding to flail about wildly a moment before a change of color can be seen running from base to tip. The vines go from green to grey-green, then to grey and then finally ash that falls around them like snow, sticking to clothing and skin.
Another benefit of burning the vines away, the edge of the 'city' can be seen, as abrupt a transition as it was from barren Limbo to jungle, there are trees and then suddenly the city. And this city is not deserted.
The streets have people moving on them. What look like actual people. Their clothing is dirty, worn. Their heads are bowed as are their backs and they shuffle down the streets, some carrying parcels. Others simply lie against the buildings and it's hard to tell if they're alive or not. Their skin, no matter the shade, holds the reddish tinge of sunburn and on many it peels. On some it cracks, oozing, attracting more insects from the jungle.
Colossus nods his appreciation as the foliage dies off and he lowers his arms which were raised to keep the weapons away from the vines. He'll heal, the guns won't and they'll be needed soon. Like... as soon as they see the city. Which unexpectedly has people in it. "Wiccan, could this be illusion?" He was ready to kill demons. People are another matter.
And as the metal eating (dissolving?) vines are dealt with, Laura lets her gaze drift from each member of the 'team' to another. To be honest, she wasn't exactly sure what to think of most of them, but now...
Now she's starting to get ideas. Especially since she's seen a little more in regards to what they can do. And what she has seen is enough to make her hesitate, at least for a moment.
A moment that gets longer as she in turn notices the city and its people.
Domino's going to go ahead and place this experience higher up on her list of things which she doesn't enjoy. Hacking away at the vines works ..more or less.. up until the metal becomes too riddled with holes to hold up any longer and snaps in half. "Shit. Could use a little help--"
Vines turn to ash, crumbling apart in gentle clouds of grey.
"--Here." The wrecked machete gets tossed into the jungle with an irritated flick of the wrist. She goes through more of those blades lately... Rrgh. Can't hang onto her own gear for fifteen minutes anymore.
The city. Urban environment. Different set of combat rules and tactics. Dom's well versed with this sort of thing, though all of the people milling about has her jaw tensed as that irritation only wishes to grow. "Won't be able to find anything in this crowd," she says in a low tone, watching everyone with slightly narrowed eyes. Suspicious. Untrusting.
Whoever these guys are, they had better not get in her way.
"Meu deus," mutters 'Berto as he looks on at the people in the streets. Is that leprosy? It looks like leprosy. He's not exactly as jaded as Domino, but he doesn't trust what he sees ahead either.
Wiccan's eyes stop glowing with bluish white light as the plants trying to destroy anything metal with them die off. "It...could be but I don't think any demon ruler is likely to use illusions of broken oppressed people to trick us. Healthy happy good looking ones maybe or horribly corrupted evil versions of our selves definitely, but not people in this bad a shape." He shudders thinking about the fact that more often than not the kinds of people that end up ruling places like Limbo are the ones that would find it easier and more fun to just torture real people than trick enemies with an illusion of a broken and tortured people.
"That does give me an idea though..." Wiccan says before closing his eyes and spreading his hands. "Makeuslooklikethem, Makeuslooklikethem, Makeuslooklikethem!" He chants gathering power around himself and bending it to create an illusion around himself, and everyone in the group, till they appear like the red burnt skinned people inside the city to everyone but each other.
The faint outline of the illusion only visible around him with back held straight and arms out while his cape gets caught by a gust of wind there for an instant Wiccan could almost look like a much younger version of Magneto just before he drops to the ground and stumbles a little. A master of grace and poise he is not. "It's in the tower, and knowing the kinds of people that want to rule Limbo it's probably going to be at the very top. There is just something about megalomaniacal loonies and high places."
The people milling through the streets look familiar to those that have been in large cities in more developing countries. To 'Roberto, it's very familiar. Straight out of the slums of Rio but turned up to 11. The people haven't noticed them yet, and as they move forward after Wiccan casts his spell they don't pay them any mind, either. Heads bowed, their eyes rarely raise enough to even notice as the group moves among them. The stench is awful, a mixture of garbage, human waste and death. Moving further in, they spot bodies that have had large portions of flesh eaten away by insects, rats, and maggots and the thought is surely they are dead. Until the stir, twitching, as if to try to fend off the vermin that consumes them. But to no avail. No one helps. No one even seems to notice. Occasionally, one of the shambling figures will look up and meet the eyes of someone in the group, and that is a sight almost worse than the half-eaten bodies lying along the streets. It is looking at a broken, tortured soul laid bare and that despair tries to creep into them. Drag them down. What's the point? They can't win. It's so far away to the tower, to the spire.
It takes a moment for Colossus to decipher exactly what Wiccan is chanting but once he does he nods his approval. "Very good." Turning back, he looks over the city and shakes his head. He'd almost rather face demons. "Remember" he says quietly, "The lord of this place has absolute power over everything here. Those are his servants to command no matter what else they might be. If we do not succeed, all the worlds will be lost to evil. We must do what we must, no matter what. Da?" Even if it means killing every last one of those wretched souls. Which might be the best thing anyone's ever done for them. After the first time he meets one of their eyes, he makes sure not to do that again. "We must go on."
While Laura hasn't exactly been talkative (when it she ever?) between what Wiccan chants, and then what Colossus says about who ever rules here, the young clone is given enough to think about that she has more of a reason to be silent. And while she will not hesitate to kill if it comes down to it, she does not want to have to if she can avoid it either.
Thus, there's no words from X-23 as she moves on along with the group.
Of course the whole thing with the smell threatens to overload her senses. For now anyways. Which is why she may be even slower than before.
Something's very not right here. What, aside from the sad remains of these people as they endlessly mill about, or the fact that everyone is in -Limbo- trying to prevent realities from colliding or some such catastrophe. The thing which isn't right is much closer to home. It's Domino's emotions.
Years of dark, violent, soul-tearing experiences and memories lurk within the depths of her mind, shoved back and locked away never to be freed. The memories need not be released for their emotional impact to bleed out, seeping beneath the proverbial doors that bar them from the rest of her world. Anger, fear, paranoia, rage, remorse...
Slender fingers curl tighter around the polymer grips of her MG4, the tensing in her jaw now translating into a dull ache. Any sane person wouldn't expect these lost souls of the city to be a threat. From where Dom's standing, -everyone- might be a threat. Including her own team. Tension only grows as her attention snaps from one person or darkened alley to the next, though with her pulling up the back end of the group it could easily become overlooked by the others. "Da," she agrees in a low, dark tone.
Go on, somebody make a move. She's got a hundred rounds on a belt ready to get her point across.
Yes, there's definitely something not right here, and what's not right is that this, more and more, feels more and more familiar. The jungle, the city, the people. Part of 'Berto wants to ask, is there another Brazilian mutant around, somebody who Illyana's known before? Part of him doesn't want to, because he suspects he knows the answer already. And he thinks he knows who's in charge here. This is not good.
Wiccan is not going to throw up, he is not going to throw up, he is not going to throw up. Who knows, if he keeps repeating it to himself it might end up being true, or at least true enough that he can make it till after they beat the bad guy and get home before he does. The shame of the fact that even stopping the master of this place will only cease him spreading this kind of horror to their world, and do nothing for this one, makes it near enough to impossible for Wiccan to even meet their eyes once. He would rather be fighting the older evil version of himself than this right now.
Confidence, power, being a reality shaping mage that can do things like make a forest full of evil vines burn from the inside out, none of these things are apparent in Wiccan as he follows on the ground with the others headed for the tower. Of the lot of them he is probably the one acting like the illusion around him should, like a teenager that is in over his head. The clawing depression and hopelessness coming from the native people's of this Limbo is not helping much either. Under his breath he whispers, "Give me strength. At least Nifelheim did not smell..."
As they move further towards the spire, the people seem to be in a bit better shape. Not quite so bowed over. Less lying still in the gutter.
Suddenly there's the sharp crack of a high-powered rifle and one of the people that seem to be wandering so aimlessly around drops with a splatter of blood on dry, thirsty stone. For those that might have the skill, the shot was fired from a fair distance. And from above. Way above. The other lost souls don't flinch at the sound, or the body dropping. They just move around it as it twitches on the ground, the headshot apparently not actually killing it.
Getting closer to the spire, the people start to look better off. Their clothing cleaner, the manner quicker. They bustle about and now they're talking. Portuguese. Every once in a while, those shots ring out, but no bodies nearby them drop. Presumably they're farther out. The group has made it to the base of the spire without attracting attention thanks to Wiccan, and now they can hear singing. High and clear. Far above, they can see a woman sitting on the edge of window, one leg dangling down. She has the rifle and as she chambers a new round, the spent brass falls down, down to hit the ground at Domino's feet with a high tinkle. It's a song that Domino knows well. A voice they might all recognize, even if they can't make out the paper-white skin and dark spot on her face.
When the first shot rings out, Colossus starts and looks around, moving to stand in front of whichever of his less bulletproof companions is closest. He doesn't know where it came from but 'somewhere ahead' is usually a good bet. By the fourth, he's mostly ignoring it. When they get to the spire, he looks for the entrance but as a casing falls, looks up at the marksman then shakes his head. Another double. "Inside. The shard is the only goal. We must get as close as we can before they discover us and attack. We will do this." He's telling himself as much as the others, fighting off the feeling of hopelessness.
Much like the people of this city, Laura doesn't flinch, jump, or otherwise react to that gun shot or the body falling. There are many reasons why that might be the case. But many of them boil down to the same thing. Be it due to training or experience, Laura has been desensitized to violence and its effects. For the most part anyways.
On the other hand the /singing/ does catch her attention as they approach the tower. In fact that voice alone causes her to glance at one of her companions for a moment before she makes a fist. But she doesn't comment. Not as she picks her pace back up and follows along after Colossus and the group.
Last Dom heard, Limbo didn't have a whole lot of snipers... That first shot causes her to duck behind cover, those paranoid eyes leaping from detail to detail across the city. Main spire. Probably thirty caliber. Spacing of shots, bolt action. ..Not trained on them? A high-powered marksman rifle had been way low on her list of things to bring along, even if she got a lucky shot off with her MG there's very poor odds of getting a kill at this range and a second volley would be out of the question.
"What kind of sick, heartless bitch would take potshots at these people?"
For a time her question goes unanswered. When they reach the base of the spire, everything becomes clear. That barely restrained rage and paranoia becomes acute. Domino is staring up at herself.
"This is -so- not happening, you little fu--"
Dom--the real Dom--looks down at her machine gun with resentment. "Of course." First shot? Misfire. "I got this," the albino growls while dropping the MG to the ground. This..is going to get interesting.
"Right," says 'Berto. He doesn't really know Domino at all, but this pretty much says 'par for the course' far as he's concerned. "I think," he says quietly, "that we're gonna have to deal with me, too. That's my jungle. This is my city." At least he's just really strong. He gets the feeling that Domino or Laura could drop him in a heartbeat if they tried.
Wiccan jumps at the first shot, and looks around. The sudden thought and immediate threat of danger help to snap him out of the worse parts of what he was feeling making him stand up straighter and look less...victim and more like the heroic type he strives to be. When they are close enough to hear the singing Wiccan finally manages to figure out where the shots are coming from although he should have guessed to start with because where else would a sniper pick to sit but at the top of a tower?
"Oh...nuts. Of course, more alternates. If this is anything like the last one, we are all going to face evil twisted versions of our selves. Just remember, it's not you. Just some...twisted sick reflection of what whoever is in charge here thinks you could have become. And...if you see me up there, a evil me that is, take me...him...whatever down hard and fast. First if you can do it. Oh man...I really hope this is not going to be as disturbing as last time." Of course he knows it will be, probably more so, complete with bloody hands fresh hearts ripped out of people and leopard prints.
So sue him, Wiccan is the Norse fan boy, all he really knows about South American Gods is the whole leopard skin cutting hearts out stuff.
High above, the Other Domino doesn't seem to notice the worn figures at the base of the spire. She's busy drawing a bead off into the distance.
And the signing continues. The spire is less a building and more long staircase that spirals up, up, up into the sky. It already feels like they've been walking through the city for hours. Hell, it feels more like days but the sun is still high. In fact, it hasn't moved. One thing that being inside the spire does give is relief from the harsh sun. Moving upwards, the singing gets louder and clearer. She's not at the top of the spire, just high up. The center is open, the stairs about ten feet wide that attach to the inside of the spire and there is no rail to keep anyone from falling. The stairs are empty, just them as they climb. As they're still about fifty feet away, the singing stops and the Other Domino stands, turning to look inwards now, instead of outwards, stepping from the window's edge to the landing.
"Took you kids long enough." She has the rifle cradled comfortably, but doesn't lift it. Instead, in a blur of easy motion she draws a large-caliber handgun and squeezes off a shot in a single motion. At Wiccan. Guess she's familiar with the 'geek the mage first' strategy.
As if the shot were a signal, sounds can be heard below. Clamoring, clambering, and peering down there is a rush of bodies. Peeking out the windows to the city without, the people that had been in the streets sprint towards the spire. They're coming.
"In case you were wondering," The Other Domino says cheerfully, "They don't get fed real often."
Colossus will see her shot and raise her several hundred. Not having used any ammo to get here, he's got a lot more than he figured he would have and doesn't do short, quick burst. He's on full rock and roll baby and sprays the entire landing in a random pattern to try to make dodging impossible.
Considering how Laura slowly ended up towards the back of the group, it might be a good thing. Or a bad thing.
As a bad thing, it means that she's probably in-between the others as they try to fire their guns.
On the up side, that does mean that...
She can charge at anything that does make it up the stairs (or to be more precise lunge at) and become a whirling deverish of claws, training, and close combat experience. Because she's perfectly willing to not hold back, and to let go with everything she can right now.
The scary part might not be facing herself like this. It's more the matter of how close it feels like Domino is becoming this other version of herself. Where's that conscience? Not present. Boiled away to the tough base compounds, the sludge of what remains of her morality. Become the monster to face the monster. Also, that's an awful lot of stairs to climb. With the masses outside suddenly rushing toward the spire she has all the motivation she needs to haul tail up those steps. The others can ..do..whatever they have to in order to end this.
Colossus has a good idea, in theory. Dozens of rounds offer solid cover, giving the 'good' Dom a chance to close the gap. Up top, however, the 'bad' albino dances around the stonework windows and pillars, letting those bullets tear the ceiling into ribbons. It's like a game to her, just like gunning down all of those people outside. All it takes is a few select shots from her large pistol to bring part of the roof crashing down toward those assembled below.
"Heads up!" she yells out, though flinches slightly as an incoming shot drills a hole through the brick beside her head. "Woo, watch it there, Tex!"
Playing the odds isn't so easy when the odds shouldn't be possible. With chunks of masonry raining down and cratering the floor, mercenaries collide. "I got this!" one of them screams out. Which one isn't so easy to tell!
"Like Hell you do!"
'Berto mutters under his breath, "Va-se foder." And, even as he says it, he's leaping to push Wiccan out of the way. Because he also knows you -protect- the mage. In most cases that'd be Illyana, but any port in a storm. He has his own ideas anyway. Not at all confident they're good ones, he nonetheless rises, giving Billy a hand up. "Think we can drop the top half of this tower into the street, maybe?"
'Geek the Mage' is a common enough battle strategy in nerd circles, right up there with taking out the healer first, that Wiccan is at least ready for it. Ok, he was expecting lightning bolts or maybe the large metal fist of an angry evil Colossus instead of bullets. Which is why that first shot misses anything important, but still hits.
As the bullet goes through where Wiccan looked like he was, and ends up only scratching along his shoulder instead of imbedding in it thanks to Berto, the illusion around the group fade. For once Wiccan is kinda glad his illusions tend to overcompensate for the fact that he tends to feel short. "Thanks man." He says as he gets up and then ducks back again as parts of the roof start to fall. At Berto's question he gets a wicked grin. "I don't know, but we can always try."
Wiccan's eyes start to glow and wind starts to blow around him as he calls out, "Everyone hold on...Breakthetower, Breakthetower, Breakthetower!" He chants willing his magic to reach out and try to do just that, break the tower up above them and send chunks of brick and stone falling down the inside, and all along the outside of it.
The first rush of the city's citizens, whatever they might be, reach Laura and she starts to cut them down. Blood pours, thick and slippery, coating the stairs and those that come behind. The bodies that fall are shoved aside, to fall down the center of the spire to the ground far, far below. The attackers never pause. There is no fear in their eyes, just an empty hunger as they try to overbear Laura and tackle her off the side of the stairs.
Wiccan's chanting reaches out, and cracks start to form in the spire, followed by a large snapping noise, and then it starts to rain stone and mortar in huge, car-sized chunks. They crash into the stairs, blasting away bits before hitting the ground and turning those below into so much paste. The stone rain smashes into the buildings around the base of the spire as well, some sections as big as a house. Wiccan can feel the crystal. Feel it drawing closer. But not with the speed of falling. Looking upwards through the dust, a pair of figures can be seen descending. One is shadow-black, a bit taller and broader than Roberto with long hair. In one hand, floating above his palm is the crystal. On his other arm, a beautiful woman that Roberto knows all too-well. "Such a mess you've made." Comes the voice of an older Roberto da Costa, hovering above them and out of reach. Burning red eyes, different from Roberto's white ones turns towards Wiccan. "You. Boy." He speaks a word and bands of energy bloom at his feet like a hungry flower, thorned tendrils whipping upwards to try to entangle him, the bite of those thorns sapping away magical energy.
Domino and Domino continue to fight each other, managing to avoid the falling debris by sheer dumb luck as they're more focused on their own personal battle.
Once Domino and... Domino start getting into it, Colossus stops firing in order to avoid hitting his. The falling masonry is mostly ignored except when he needs to block a piece from hitting those taking semi-refuge behind him. Those same people pretty much keep him from aiming at the zombies coming up toward them so it's not till the evil Roberto shows up that he does anything. And then it's to switch to the grenade launcher, firing all six rounds not directly at the King of Limbo but around and above him. Fire in the hole!
It's a lot of work. A lot of effort. And while Laura might not be 'The Best There Is', she is as close as Weapon X could make. Thus even as the 'zombie horde' tries to rush her, burry her, and push her, she just continues to fight. And slash. And kick. In fact with her kicks more often than not she tries to take the heads off of these 'zombie's.
Of course between the gunfire, the slippery steps, and of course the falling pieces of tower she has extra trouble (especially as she dodges certain /large/ chunks). But she doesn't let up. Nor does she let any friendly fire that might come her way slow her up. Of course she's so busy with them that she doesn't have much time to spare to even notice the 'new' arrival in the form of the elder de Costa.
Domino rushes in with a knife held low, ready to gut the unholy copy of herself. The blade never makes it through, a merry little *ting!* sounding out as the blade snaps free of the hilt, weakened over time by the acidic compound from the jungle. In the same motion the doppelganger’s pistol comes up, point blank at her copy's face, the hammer dropping upon a dud cartridge.
In a flurry of motion one albino grapples the gun from the other, wrenching it out of her hand and racking a new round in with the same motion.
The crumbling spire is filled with a sound like a maddened metal hornet as the slug bounces from one stone to another, finally clipping the very pistol out of the shooter's hand--
Which then falls into the other's hand, lining up yet another shot before a falling brick plucks the weapon neatly from her hand and sends the shot sparking across the floor and zinging around once more, striking a rock toward the heel of one of the women who steps back, slips, and falls--
Just missing taking the blade of another knife across the jugular. The downed merc kicks the legs out of the other and catches the blade out of the air only to have it kicked out of her own grasp, clanging across the floor.
A chunk of masonry is grabbed and thrown at the other but is swiftly dodged, the rock striking the wall behind her and causing another section to come collapsing toward them both. One Domino yells out and charges the other, tackling the copy, driving her to the floor only to get thrown around and end up on -her- back, just clearing the pillar as it collapses.
Even the odds are beside themselves.
Roberto stops still when he sees who it is with his alternate. He stares longer than he should certainly, unable, this time, to will himself to protect Wiccan from the magical vines. He's too stunned at what he sees, and what he comprehends. "O enfermo pentelho," he breathes. "What have you done?!" And with this he launches himself skyward, not flying but using the strength of his legs to propel himself upward to face the other Roberto as he descends, intent on grabbing him and throwing him to the ground below -- not even thinking about the potential danger to himself or the others.
Wiccan's eyes glow brighter as he dives away from the stairs on the inner wall of the tower and out over the empty space even before Roberto's alternate looks at him. "You want a mess, you should have seen the kitchen when I learned to bake cookies the first time."
Spotting Colossus switch weapons just in time he drops a small distance chanting, "Forcefield, Forcefield, Forcefield!" Wiccan creates a force field to deflect anything form the grenades exploding up and away from his allies as soon as soon as Colossus is done firing.
And then there goes Roberto flying past him leaping like the Hulk for his alternate self. That...Wiccan has no idea what to do about. His force field is unidirectional, its only going to stop things going down not up, and like Lady Luck watching the Dominos fall where they may he is just not sure what to do.
Fire explodes around the elder da Costa and Julianna who is decked out like a queen. For a moment, nothing can be seen but the explosions but as it dies away the pair still stand in mid-air. The ruler of this Limbo lifts one hand to brush back some of his hair that got mussed from the concussion, the edges of his own magical force field shimmering about the edges. He moves his hand with the crystal over to Julianna, who takes it in both hands, holding it in front of her heart as she smiles at her Roberto with a love that's heartbreaking to see.
As the younger Roberto leaps for his older self the latter chuckles. "What have I done? What you could not. What you failed to do. Moved heaven and earth to save her." The lower half of the elder's body explodes in those that know Cannonball would recognize as he rushes forward to meet the younger in mid-air, slamming into him and driving them back towards one of the still-standing walls. It doesn't feel like flesh that slams into Roberto, it feels like steel. "You think to stop me? How, little boy? You lack the will. You lack the fortitude and most especially, you lack the power."
The force field above does nothing to stop the magical vines from below that start to sap Wiccan's power, the force field starting to flicker in and out and tear apart. His flight falters as well, and he slips down a few feet. Below him is a writhing mass of bodies that try to climb one atop the other to reach him with wide, hungry mouths.
Laura continues to take the creatures apart, high, piteous sounds coming from them as the sheer press of bodies drives her right to the edge of the stairs and that yawning pit below.
Colossus lets the grenade launcher drop, there not being time to reload it. Reaching out, he picks up Wiccan by whatever article of clothing or body part is nearest and deposits him on his other side, closer to the crystal. "Do whatever it is you're here to do, da?" It's not a question as he doesn't wait for an answer and leaps down the stairs so he's by Laura. Aiming over her, he opens fire into the horde, using short bursts to save ammo but mostly because it's impossible to miss.
And as she gets closer, and closer to the edge, it's as if Laura knows what's happening, without even looking at it. but she doesn't give up.
In fact, possibly as she notices what Piotr is doing, she tries to find a way to press her advantage. To use his efforts to move from where she is. But by then, it's too late. She's close to... No, over the edge. But as she starts to fall, she tries to stab the ledge with her claws so that she doesn't fall all the way down. Even if it may very well leave her vulnerable to the 'zombie' mob.
The pair of white-skinned women roll across the floor until they're both on their backs with the arms of one locked around the throat of the other, two pairs of legs scrambling across the debris-strewn ledge as one woman strangles her duplicate. The dark copy's bloodied grin is nothing but absolute malice.
"End of the line for you, kiddo..."
The other Dom's vision starts to grey around the edges. Sound becomes more distant. The veins in her temples throb with an acute pain as her brain gets starved of air. One of her hands grapples with her copy. The other scrambles around for a weapon, finally falling upon the grip of the pistol holstered beneath her right arm. As a hooked finger falls upon the trigger, one thought passes through her mind. A memory from earlier, only a few hours ago. The girl with the blindfold...
"...Be careful when you die."
The shot fires out from beneath her arm, taking the evil Domino through the chest--
Only to ricochet across the discarded knife which had landed in just the right place but a moment ago--
Only to send the same bullet back up into the evil woman, piercing her heart--
Then punching a hole straight through the good Domino's chest.
The two bodies slowly come apart. The 'good' one rolls out onto her knees, coughing, holding pressure to the wound with the sidearm still clutched within her other hand. Just missed the heart... Lucky her. The other woman's in much worse shape, losing blood faster than she can try to stop it. -That- one Dom managed not to miss.
Unlike his future self, Roberto has no armor against being slammed into walls with such power. He has only his strength. And while there are ways that that could have helped him, he was not prepared. Not prepared for the other Roberto to fly, or have armor of his own. Not prepared for Julianna. As he's slammed into the wall he feels something break -- not something seriously important, he's fairly sure, but that doesn't mean it's a pleasant experience. "You destroyed everything she stood for," he growls back in the other's face. "You destroyed everything we had together. You should have moved on, caralho, should have lived for her memory. Because now... now we will take her away from you. We must." And then he slams his open palms over the other Roberto's ears, hard as he can. Maybe this him is made of steel... but there must be vulnerability within that steel head, mustn't there? "Colossus! Claw-girl!" He has no idea what Laura's name is. "Julianna! Take out the blonde!" He feels as though he's damning himself for uttering such words -- but they must be uttered.
Wiccan forgot the vines. Dumb move, and potentially a very dangerous one when there are vines sapping his powers while he flies above a mass of angry cannibalistic people. He is about to try and fly to the other side of the tower, away from the power sucking vines if he can break free, when he gets grabbed by the scruff of his neck, or at least the back of his cape, and dropped in front of the giant metal man. Right, fine, big bad is distracted by Roberto and strange chick that is making the same face he does when he thinks about Teddy has the MacGuffin of Doom.
Wiccan starts sprinting up stairs to get as high as he can before launching himself at Julianna hoping to grab her, or at least the crystal. He knows if he grabs the blond, or even just the crystal, he is going to have to deal with her fighting him to stop the spell he has to cast to end this. That’s why whatever measure of success he has there he lets loose as much power he has left that is not going to be needed for the spell in the form of electricity coursing from every part of his body.
Weird words in a tongue modern man was not meant to know or use trip lightly from Wiccan's lips. There it is again, the power dark and weird and frighteningly familiar and scarily good feeling welling up inside of him as he weaves the spell that Illyana taught him.
Laura manages to slam a claw into the stone stairway, those that pushed her to the edge falling over as well but without anything to arrest their free-fall. Some do manage to grab onto Laura, but it's less about keeping themselves from falling and more about getting to *her*. Fingers dig in to hold on, and teeth come down, trying to bite pieces of her living flesh free to devour.
Colossus leaps down, landing a moment later and the heavy-caliber fire knocks the zombie-things back, giving Laura a chance to climb back upwards though she still has some extra passengers attached at the teeth.
The evil Domino's eyes have time to go wide, and then she's falling... falling. Down into that seething mass that Laura's managed to avoid so far. Arms reach up, screeching in excited anticipation, snatching her down and biting in, trying to devour her even before she disappears beneath the sea of bodies.
The older Roberto's face is right in the youngers as he speaks, "Ours is True Love, and that... that conquers all. There is no moving on. There is only her." Roberto's hands slap down, the pressure popping eardrums that don't have the protection of armor, disrupting the concentration to keep him flying and so the pair of them fall down, hitting the stairs below. The ruler of Limbo rises to his feet, a little wobbly as his balance is off but only for a moment. A shake of his head and he suddenly seems fine. Like he might have a healing factor. He looks down where Colossus is firing into the mass of bodies and his red eyes flare brighter and a ruby-red beam of light punches outward, slamming into Colossus with the force of a semi-truck before he reaches out and grabs for Roberto's throat. "Give up. I can show you power beyond what you have now. Strength. What good alone is it? It got Julianna killed. But you could have it all. His, hers, all of them. Feel it pulse in your blood." He grins then, teeth so very white against all that shadow. "But start with Magik. Seeing the life go out of her eyes with our hands around her throat and her power flowing to us... Now that was sweet."
Wiccan's flight is still wobbly and he lists to the side a bit, but he makes it to her since he cut down the distance. He starts to chant and she turns her head towards him, not fighting, just holding the crystal. Eerily, the spell the casts doesn't seem to care about the drain on him, it gains power. Feeds from the land around them, the writhing mass of bodies below. No, the blonde holding the crystal just looks at him with great sadness, tears sliding down her face. "Please." She says, whisper-soft. "No more."
When the evil Roberto's beams slam into Colossus' back, he flies forward into the mass of zombies, losing his grip on the machine gun as he does so. Which really puts him back into his element. Breaking stuff. Breaking stuff he doesn't need to go easy on. "Hurry!" Ignoring teeth and claws, he tears off limbs and heads if he can reach them and guards the stairway like the last soldier at Masada.
Even as she's bitten, Laura tries to kick the zombies that have gotten ahold of her, trying to sever their heads, arms, or whatever she can with her feet claws, so she can pull herself up.
Hopefully though, between what is most likely starting to happen, and her own healing factor, she doesn't have to worry about becoming an extra on a hit AMC TV series.
All though, as she pulls herself up, she manages to see Colossus blasted about, and catches what Roberto says, but regardless of how fast she pulls herself up onto the ledge, it'll still take her a moment to scramble onto her feet. And then another moment or two before she can try to run, and jump at the flying blond, claws extended in front of her. And odds are by then someone else might do something, or who knows what else might happen.
Words still seem to be a hundred miles away, but through that mental fog Domino can still make something out. 'Julianna! Take out the blonde!'
She tries to pick herself up but stumbles, catching the abrupt shift of balance. She can see the blonde, alright. Tears in the eyes, saying something that her ears fail to register. It seems as though they have a new target. In the words of a long-lost buddy of hers: If you're going to go down, take one of 'em with you.
Heavy hands bring her stained pistol up, taking a moment to narrow her eyes down the open sights. If one of the others fail to make it in time...
Julianna, may something better than this be waiting for you on the other side.
Rage suffuses Roberto's face -- if onyx can be suffused. The glowing white at his eyes burns hotter than before, trails of light streaming upward from them like glowing steam. "You are not me," he says, for all that he's grabbed by the throat. His words are strangled, but audible, comprehensible. "I do not kill. Not for pleasure. And it would not bring me any pleasure to see that. No. What you have done is insane. Sick. To bring back Juliana, that is bad. To kill Magik..." He raises one hand, his index and middle fingers extended, pointing toward his alternate self. "You are not me. You are not human." His eyes turn upward to see the expression on Julianna's face. He would never have wanted to see her look like that. "You are a monster." He slams his fingers forward, not caring in the least that he may injure himself further -- he's fairly sure he will not be walking home. His fingers are aimed, though, for the other 'Berto's eye, glowing as white hot as his own no doubt. Because maybe he can stop this grotesque copy of himself here and now. Maybe. He's not counting on it, but maybe.
Wiccan's eyes glow brighter as his power, and power from elsewhere around him, feeds into the spell. He is going as fast as he can because Mephisto knows what will happen if he mispronounces something. The look on blond girl's face, and the tears cause his face to harden as he nods to her. As he finishes the spell and releases the power he whispers, "No more."
May God stand between you and harm in all the dark places you must walk. The words come to Wiccan's mind as the spell that should save reality goes off and he lets loose all the power he has left. Whatever happens now, happens and even if he would stand up and help again if asked his last thoughts before things change are still to damn Illyana for getting him involved with this, and to pray for her sake.
'We walk in the Dark places no others will enter, We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass.' Colossus sets his feet, and does exactly that. His armor is tough enough that the teeth and fingers of the attackers can't puncture his metal skin. He's strong enough that no matter how many barrel into him, push against him, he stands steadfast. Again and again, he throws them back and the return, like waves crashing upon the shore. But the Colossus does not give.
As Roberto calls out, painting a target on the girl he loved so dearly, the others act. Laura shakes free, clawing her way back up on top of the stairs.
The older Roberto's mouth pulls wide into a grin. "Well. Yes. I am. One cannot rule Limbo and not be. The price I pay..." His hands tighten around Roberto's throat, starting to crush his windpipe when the younger drives his fingers into one of those few other unprotected spots on the elder Roberto. Stiff fingers backed by superhuman strength drive into soft, squishy organs and Roberto is suddenly free as the Lord of Limbo lets out a roar of pain, blasting backwards and away. Blood falls, the pitter-patter of rain as it leaks out past hands that clutch at his face, and the masses below leap, trying to get a taste of their master's blood.
It all happens at once, the elder Roberto's roar turning into chanting that makes the world tremble and shake, gathering in power. Domino's shot goes off, taking Julianna in the back of the head and turning her face into red ruin just as Laura leaps for Julianna's floating figure, claws leading the way as they punch into her chest, coming out the back side, Domino's shot painting the clone in blood.
Wiccan's spell comes off, the power flowing through him in a rush, a giddy high, and the color of the crystal shifts from red to white and then pulses. Even those without magic can feel the shift, the change, as the realities start to separate. The crystal seems to fold inwards on itself, growing smaller and smaller until it winks out of existence.
The elder Roberto blinks a few times, and his glowing-red eyes are back, his voice rising to a crescendo when suddenly portal open with a sharp *zzzzrak!*.
Each of the invaders to Roberto's Limbo falls through those pools of light a heartbeat before whatever spell he was casting could complete, and a moment later they hit the floor of the Xavier medlab. Illyana is there, face tight with worry. "Thank you." Is all she says, and then she's gone in another portal of light. Their job is done, but she still has work to do.
Colossus, braced against the zombies, loses his balance as the stairway under him disappears and he ends up on his back in the medlab. A quick look accounts for everyone but then Magik is portaling out again. "Illyana!" he shouts and leaps for the circle but it's already gone. You can be certain she's going to hear about that. Lacking any way to follow her, he takes stock of the others and then summons the medical types. Emergency!
Being covered in blood and gore is not new for X-23. Flying through the air and stabbing people in the chest is not new. Teleporting... Well, it's unusual, but considering how they all got here, it's not new.
All three one after another though? That's different enough that as she crashes into the ground, Laura blinks, especially as Illyana says what she does, then vanishes.
All though odds are once no one is looking directly at her, she's gone too. After all, she's not even suppose to be in this part of the Institute. not that anyone has told her that.
Hopefully whatever just happened is something which was -supposed- to happen...
When Domino's eyes pull themselves open it takes a moment to figure out where she now is. Where they all are. Why, the last time she was in here she came across Kurt laid out from his own excursion to Limbo. Being here now means that she doesn't have to worry about that whole staying conscious thing, too. Which means..they won..right? "Guh... I just kicked my own ass."
'Berto finds himself falling to the floor, and he utters a scream as his broken leg hits the ground. But he knows that he struck a serious blow to his alternate self -- and that goes a little way toward making him feel better... even as Illyana teleports away. That's okay for the moment. He thinks, perhaps, he needs a little time to grieve.
Wiccan is falling as the poor blond woman gets shot, stabbed, and whatever else might happen to her body hopefully releasing her from the Evil Roberto's hold. Then there is the stepping disc. Then there is pain as Wiccan lands flat on his back on the hard floor of what from the bits of it he can see from this angle has to be a hospital, or possibly the only school nurses office he has ever seen with its own surgical suite. Being back in the real world is all great, and nice, and wonderful but there is something that he has been putting of for a while that needs to be done right now. Ignoring the pain in his shoulder, as well as the blood, from where the Evil Dominos bullet took out a small chunk of flesh he scrambles to his...hands and knees cause he is not getting on his feet soon and crawls for the first thing that looks like a trash can he can spot. Once there he loses his lunch, and breakfast, and just about everything else he has had to eat in the last three days. That done, he just lays on the ground and passes out. Tired, traumatized, and bleeding he knows Illyana would not leave him someplace dangerous or worse that would lead to people calling his parents. Right?
As the medical staff rushes in to help those that are injured, Laura disappears and Piotr is left grasping at air as his little sister is already gone. Off to complete this mission that many signed onto and risked life and limb knowing only that the pretty little blonde said, 'I need you'. And now those that are still conscious can only sit back and wait for confirmation that all is well, and that the X-Men and their allies, some of whom don't even know who the X-Men are, have saved the world once again.