A Test of Power
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

This story is still in progress.

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Stars and Garters

Chapter 2

The people have always some champion whom they
set over them and nurse them into greatness...
This and no other is the root from which a tyrant
springs; when he first appears he is a protector.

The Republic ca. 390 B.C.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning with a rich azure sky. He admired the bucolic panorama, uncharacteristically savoring the view and this rare moment of tranquillity. A slight breeze caused the tops of long blades of grass to gently sway in unison on a hilltop overlooking the Genoshan coastline. Golden beams of sunshine shown down warming his face allowing even the "Master of Magnetism" to relax, if only for a moment, before his scheduled encounter. Hardly the place or setting one would expect for a meeting of two of the most powerful men on the planet.

Magneto sat in one of the two high backed wooden chairs that his Acolytes had placed here with his specific instructions on how they should be positioned. His own chair was at the top of a gradual incline that allow would him to look down at the eventual occupant of the other chair. He considered this a small psychological advantage, maybe even petty, but nonetheless something he deemed necessary.

He allowed his thoughts to drift for a time in quiet contemplation on just who he was meeting with, but was by no means oblivious to his surroundings. He still remained vigilant by monitoring the local electromagnetic spectrum and any changes that would signal the arrival of his guest.

Mr. Sinister, he mused. Certainly a strange name, even for a mutant designation which usually described an ability or an appearance. He assumed that this was a self-ascribed moniker which might just in itself indicate a good deal about this mysterious scientist. He had compiled an extensive file on Mr. Sinister, much of the intelligence gleaned from the X-Men's own database. But while the file was somewhat voluminous, none of the information it contained was definitive enough for Magnus's liking. There was just too much supposition and not enough hard facts.

Although Sinister's activities gave one the impression that he was just another mad scientist, Magnus believed that this was deliberate deception on Sinister's part, and Sinister had some unknown purpose in mind. And as comfortable as he was with his ability to deal with anything out of the ordinary, he preferred to enter any new situation as prepared as possible.

He had never met Sinister himself, which was not that unusual when one considered Sinister's reported nature. He seemed to prefer the shadows and operate behind the scenes through other people, many times unknown to the people themselves. He came and went as he pleased, his true motives never revealed.

The array of his documented abilities was extremely impressive but was also inconclusive concerning their source. It was rumored that he not a mutant at all but a centuries-old mutate. Magnus was somewhat doubtful of this. If he was a mutate, he was by far the most powerful mutate yet conceived. But the mutate process he supposedly underwent was performed by Apocalypse -- an even stranger and more mysterious individual if that were possible. (1) And anything was possible with the alien science that Apocalypse seemed to employ.

His brief moment of serenity was interrupted by slightest disturbance in the local electromagnetic field. He would not have detected anything this subtle if he was not specifically monitoring this small an area. The disturbance was unlike any other he had experienced, and he catalogued that particular information for analysis at some other time.

Mr. Sinister stepped out from what appeared to be a brightly lit rectangular doorway that had appeared from thin air in the small clearing. He paused, remaining motionless for a moment, and seemed to be assessing his surroundings, but oddly did not look in any particular direction at first. He seemed completely at ease and slowly turned his head in Magnus's direction, an unreadable expression on his face. Magnus was impressed despite himself.

Physically, Sinister was an extremely large man, heavily muscled -- handsome even. But over the years Magneto had come across a great number of superhumans and mutants who were much larger than even the largest human being. No, it was more his bearing than any physical trait that made an immediate impression on him. It was the way Sinister carried himself: arrogant, aristocratic, regal even -- and none of it was feigned. Magnus could easily tell the difference. He had been in the presence of men of power before and could tell, after the first few seconds of seeing Sinister, that Sinister was in a category all by himself.

"I am most appreciative that you have taken the time to grant me this audience and provided me with such comfortable accommodations," Sinister said, gesturing broadly to his surroundings. "I am aware that you are currently engaged with establishing and securing your new position. Perhaps I may be of some assistance."

The portal closed around Sinister. He leisurely walked the ten feet to the chair, his footsteps not making the slightest sound, and gracefully sat down. His expansive cape automatically retracted, disappearing into his body.

Another thing was made immediately evident to Magnus now that they were face to face: He did not like Sinister. He felt an almost instant loathing to the very core of his being. Perhaps it had to do with his knowledge of some of Sinister's ventures that had jaded him to some degree before actually ever meeting him. His reputation for experimentation on mutants was almost common knowledge. Also, his central role in the "Morlock Massacre" and affiliation with the Marauders would alone earn him the disgust and animosity from even people like himself.

But the feelings he had for Sinister became much more palpable upon actually seeing him. The man exuded a malevolence that was almost tangible. And something about this man, reminded him of other men he had known -- callous, pitiless men. Individuals who would kill just to learn a fact or test a theory. Men, women, and even children were considered expendable to these butchers, all for the pursuit of scientific gain. He had killed people before and had no qualms about killing again, but that was out of necessity or self-defense. Somehow he got the definite impression that it was quite different with Sinister.

At another time, he would have considered it a poor strategy to let an adversary see and hear his emotions. But he saw no reason to withhold his feelings about Sinister. He almost felt it would be inappropriate. This was his island, his world, and his people. He was master here.

"Spare me your platitudes, Sinister," Magneto said contemptuously. "Before we go any further, your reputation as a manipulator of events and people is intimately known to me. I warn you, I am not someone who can be coerced or compelled to do anything that I do not wish to do. Attempt any subterfuge or participate in any skullduggery against my country or its people, and I will track you down and kill you. I know you are a self serving leech. I assure you, none of your sleight of hand will work with me. I also know the information you sent me to gain my interest was nothing more than bait. If this is a trap, it is a poorly conceived one. What do you want?"

Sinister let out an exasperated sigh, like a man who was used to being repeatedly misunderstood. "I would think that even you would agree what a poor stratagem it is to conduct this meeting on your 'home turf,' if I may use the vernacular. I am also aware of the several mutants and their abilities that have me currently surrounded. I believe three telepaths is a bit excessive. I am not sure whether I should be insulted or flattered. This is hardly a trap of my making."

Magneto was again impressed, and he was certainly not an easy man to impress. Despite his rather confrontational speech, he was extremely wary of Sinister and the damage he might be capable of in Genosha now and in the future. His abilities were nothing short of astounding. As a precaution, he had blanketed the surrounding area with a low-level EM pulse the instant Sinister had arrived, in the hopes that it would render any electronic devices that Sinister would have on his person inoperative. Certainly, EM shielding was possible but effective EM shielding for any electronic device was usually somewhat cumbersome. A scientist of Sinister's caliber could certainly have developed better and less intrusive shielding, but he could detect no electronic devices whatsoever -- neither active nor passive. He was also in constant communication with three of his best telepaths, who he had assumed were well-hidden in the surrounding tall grass. They were on guard for any telepathic activity. They had reported none. How Sinister was aware that any of his Acolytes, let alone who they were and what their powers were, he did not know. What he did know was that Sinister was not someone to be trifled with.

"State your business quickly so I may return to my home and wash the stench off my clothes."

Sinister's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. "As you wish. The disk I sent you is a memory recording the time traveling mutant named Bishop who is currently a member of the X-men. It is a chronicle of his experiences in an alternate reality..." (2)

"I am familiar with this so called "Age of Apocalypse," Magnus interrupted.

Sinister's eyebrows rose slightly expressing mild surprise.

"You are not the only one who values information."

"Of course," Sinister nodded.

"So why should the information on that disk interest me?" Despite his comments, Magnus was completely fascinated with the data on that disk. He had indeed obtained information concerning the M'Krann Crystal, Xavier's son David, and the repercussions that Charles' death had on this reality. But what he had obtained could not compare to what Sinister had provided him --an actual memory recording of someone who had lived in that universe -- who had fought alongside him --and the X-Men, who he led against Apocalypse. It was incredulous, but he had managed to corroborate enough of the data on the disk to conclude that it was indeed authentic.

"You felt that because of my past, my personal history, that I might find particular portions of the disk disturbing, disturbing enough to help you defeat Apocalypse as you stated in your initial transmission to me."

"Ah yes. You must be referring to the camps," Sinister said in serious tone. "The death camps he will institute will be like nothing ever seen on this earth. Billions of humans and mutants will be exterminated, fodder for his processing plants. Any future reality where Apocalypse has realized his dream, is a dead reality, devoid anything you would define as a future. I can assure you that this is what Apocalypse has planned for this reality. There are others with shall I say, more sterling reputations than mine that can attest all of my claims. Cable is one such individual who has had some first-hand experience with a future molded by the hand of Apocalypse."

Magnus snorted. "Yes I will consult Cable to vouch for the veracity of your story as soon as we conclude our meeting. You almost sound concerned. Even if I did trust you -- and I do not -- I will not need your aid in ridding the world of Apocalypse. I know the potential exists that someday I might have to confront that madman, but I will not need your help. And as far as your request for my aid, the answer is no."

Sinister rose from the chair, a menacing gleam in his eye. "I am not the diplomat I believe myself to be."

Magneto immediately rose in response, gathering his energies around him and alerting his Acolytes to move into a more offensive posture.

"I will nonetheless transmit the time and location of our little tete-a-tete with Apocalypse. I will also leave you with this little bit of information which is known only to myself. You may wish to add this to your own extensive knowledge of mutants and it may aid you should you ever come into conflict with Apocalypse. I will let you determine its value."

"Apocalypse is a mutant gifted with extraordinary abilities. Some of these abilities are obvious, while others are not. One of his mutant powers that is not visible to the naked eye is his ability to recognize and also gauge the power of a mutant, latent or otherwise." Sinister's tone changed ever so slightly, becoming a bit more malicious. "You might not be familiar that one of your former lapdogs Bennet Du Paris ... Oh, you know him as Exodus, is one such example. (3) He was able to see the quiescent power that he possessed and trigger it. He has done this to a number of individuals over the years, many times using life-threatening situations as a kind of catalyst."

A portal suddenly expanded about Sinister. Magnus immediately strengthened the magnetic force bubble around him and attempted to probe the interior of the portal for any sign that something else might be coming through. He could sense nothing, not even the interior of the portal itself. It was if his powers abruptly ceased to function right at the threshold of the doorway.

"How is your family Magnus, your son and your daughter?" Sinister asked with a look of mock concern.

Magneto gathered more energy, the air crackling about him and rose into the air with a disgusted look on his face. "So the leopard finally shows his true spots. What should one expect from someone who chooses to call himself Sinister."

"Nothing more than a bit of healthy self-recrimination. You should try it sometime. I find it rather good for the soul," Sinister said with an evil glint in his eye.

Magneto ignored Sinister's last comment. "If you seek to threaten me through my children, you are sadly mistaken. Surely you must know that they live their own lives, the lives of heroes and would oppose me at every turn. But I find the presumptuousness of your implied threat an offense none the less."

A cloud of irritation passed over Sinister's face. "I wasn't threatening your children, but there is somewhat of a link. Weren't you at all curious about my little lesson on Apocalypse's abilities?" Sinister inquired, seeming genuinely annoyed.

Curious, Magneto said curtly, "Conclude your gibberish and then we will find exactly how malleable that body of yours is."

Sinister continued, not seeming at all intimidated or concerned with Magneto's threats. "I told you Apocalypse can see men of power with his own innate mutant ability. One of the most powerful mutants this earth has ever spawned would stand out on a seashore like a beacon of light on a moonless night."

"What kind of fabrication are you weaving Sinister?" Magnus was extremely curious to where this was leading, knowing that Sinister had a definite reason for all this preamble.

"Weren't you listening to what I was saying before? A life-threatening situation, severe emotional trauma. These are the sparks that can ignite the flame of mutant powers. I imagine threatening a loved one, a first born child could certainly qualify as a catalyst."

Sinister's form suddenly changed. Magneto incredulously was looking at himself many years ago, clothed in a rust colored suit and slacks, a white shirt and a green ascot. He hadn't worn that ... been dressed like that since the day ... that day...

Even more shocking was that he heard his voice issue from Sinister's facsimile, his own panic-stricken voice, as he must of sounded those many years ago. "Innkeeper! My wife, my child -- Where are they?!! (4)

The air now seethed with energy and was permeated with the smell of ozone. Magneto subconsciously reached for a 10-ton iron/nickel deposit that he sensed easily, freeing and lifting it from the ground. It rose into the air, dirt, rocks, and grass, cascading off the huge mass as he positioned it 10 feet above Sinister's head.

"How could you have ... you dare?!" Magneto's voice shook with rage. "How did you obtain this ... this information," Magneto shrieked. "Did you somehow pull it from my mind? Tell me now or I'll rip your arms and your legs from your body!"

Sinister reverted back to his original form. "Even I cannot overcome your resistance to telepathy. I was simply there," Sinister said calmly. "Apocalypse was there. He orchestrated the experiment."

Blood thundered in Magneto's ears. "Experiment? Experiment!! Why I should believe you? Magneto screamed over the raging energies that he was now employing. "Show me some proof!"

"You shall have your proof." Sinister's appearance changed to that of a terrified little girl, close cropped brown hair and brown eyes. She wore a simple knee-length brown dress. "I am scared Poppa! There's a fire in my room, Poppa, I can't get away! I'm scared Poppa -- Help me!"

"Impossible," Magnus whispered. "Anya...?" Her appearance, her voice, her expression, her words, were exactly as they had been on that fateful day ... exactly.

Despite the emotions that he was now exhibiting, Magnus was not oblivious to what Sinister was trying to achieve. He knew that Sinister would use any means convince him to do his bidding. He had prepared himself to deal with possible threats, blackmail and the like. But he never believed that anything Sinister would say could hurt him. Nothing could have prepared him for this. Truth be told, no single moment in his life, not the horrific experiences in the camps, the estrangement of his wife, the enmity of his children, Pietro and Wanda, the betrayal of Control (5), could even compare with the death of his beloved Anya.

The memory and emotions came unbidden, flooding his soul. She had been everything to both Magda and himself, an angelic picture of trusting innocence. After all that they had been through, she was the only medicine to heal their scarred souls. She had redeemed him ... for a time, washing away many of the things that were done to him and the things he had done in order to survive. During the time after her birth, world issues and mutant affairs were things off in the distant future. Overnight he had wanted to change the world only for her, to make it an easier and safer place. She was to be the receptacle for all their dreams and aspirations. She had given him back his humanity, gave Magda the ability to love him again ... gave them back everything they thought they could never have or feel again ... everything the camps had taken away.

He had never forgotten that day ... could never forget. The sounds of her voice pleading for him ... her father to rescue her from the burning house. She had leapt to her death because of the terror, the pain ... The image of her charred body at his feet, the sickening smell of burned hair and flesh ... all that remained of his little Anya. The memory, the unending grief, brought such pain to his heart and mind, even now it threatened to overwhelm him.

Even with all these emotions raging through his mind, he steeled himself. He knew pain and loss better than any man ... and had survived. He also knew that this is what Sinister did ... that this was his true power over people. But he was not other people. Sinister would have no hold on him. He would not allow even this to affect his judgment. But what Sinister had shown him was so real, down to the most minute detail. Were his claims actually possible?

Sinister was reputed to be hundreds of years old, his master Apocalypse, thousands of years old. Could Apocalypse have been aware of his existence and had sown the emergence of his mutant powers? He had to know more, needed to know more. One thing he did know was that he would kill Sinister, he swore that to himself.

"If you were there, tell me more," he said menacingly but surprisingly in a calm tone of voice.

"You have regained a certain measure of composure. I applaud your control over the recounting of such a tragic event," Sinister said without any trace of mocking in his voice. "I will give you the proof or allow you to arrive at the truth yourself. Think back to that day. The men holding you, restraining you from attempting to rescue your daughter. You were in an understandably hysterical state and yet these men -- actually only one held you, easily. Surely you are familiar with the strength that normal human beings are capable of during times of extreme stress. Five such men could not hold an adrenaline-fed father from getting to his child. How was this one man able to accomplish this?"

This immediately struck a chord in Magnus bringing him back to the events of that day. It was something that had perplexed him that he had never been able to reconcile. The fact that the events of that day were so overwhelming had allowed him to put it into the back of his mind, but he had never forgotten.

There were two men who had first grabbed him to restrain him. He had thrown one of them to the ground easily. But the other man ... a single man had stopped from going to his daughter. He had been held -- not held, but rendered completely immobile. He had struggled like a crazed lunatic but had not been able to move, not even fractionally. He remembered the man's face ... expressionless, soulless eyes, studying him. The man hadn't even been straining. He could even now feel his crushing grip around his wrists. He had felt like a small child in those hands. "How...?" He looked back at Sinister.

Instead he saw a man dressed in a long blue coat, a short brown club in one hand, a fur cap with a single white star that denoted him as an officer of the state. The man who had held him from Anya those many years ago. The form suddenly changed into a blue hued giant with metallic skin and the hideously terrifying face of..."Apocalypse!" Magneto growled through clenched teeth.

"Better to teach this dog some new tricks, Dimitri," Sinister said as he returned to his true form. "Those were the words that Apocalypse spoke as he beat you, were they not?"

Magneto descended to the ground to a spot ten feet in front of Sinister and dropped his magnetic shield, but the rock still remained suspended in the air over Sinister's head. "It has occurred to me that this person that you claim was Apocalypse could have just as easily been you," Magnus said with a terrible quiet anger in his voice.

"I knew that possibility would occur to you, and it is and was certainly in my ability to impersonate any of these people. But I would not threaten the life of any child in this fashion."

"That is your defense?!" Magnus exclaimed in disbelief. "This coming from a man who had innocent mutant men, woman, and children murdered. Do you think I am unaware of your hand in orchestrating the massacre of Morlocks?"

"A necessary evil," Sinister said with a placid expression on his face. "I am sure you have had to make similar decisions because of your power and position. But let us dispense with talk of my past actions. It is impossible to provide you with any further proof. You only need to meet at the coordinates I will provide you and you may ask Apocalypse yourself. I assure you he will answer and substantiate what I have said."

"It makes no difference. Both you and Apocalypse had a hand in murdering my daughter. You both deserve to die," Magnus said with pure venom in his voice.

No, no, you misunderstand me. I never said anything about murder. As a matter of fact, you owe me a great debt of gratitude. Apocalypse transported Anya out before the collapse of the house. He of course did not care for the life of the child -- after all, another child needed to be used in order for the experiment to be, shall we say, effective. I actually convinced him that the offspring of such a powerful mutant as yourself could certainly result in another powerful mutant."

"What ... what are you saying?"

"Apocalypse placed her in a stasis chamber ... alive and completely unharmed. Although I never did get the opportunity to examine her. He and I had a bit of a falling out," Sinister said with a small smile on his face. "But I assure you, the Celestial technology used is unfailing and can easily function for thousands of years. Help me and I will return your daughter to you."

Anya alive -- This is inconceivable, Magnus thought. "Even if I believe you, how do you know she is still alive?" Magnus could not help the sound of desperation that had crept into his voice.

"Oh I didn't mention that, did I? I have seen her ... as recently as six months ago. She is in the exact same stasis chamber and in perfect health. She has not aged a day since she was acquired. I have developed ways to keep track of Apocalypse as well as ways to visit him -- unobserved and unannounced of course.

"You may not be aware of this, but Apocalypse has already visited Genosha ... during the recent change in government," Sinister said with a smile. (6) "Judging by the level of death and carnage you've managed to generate, you may have already earned his favor."

"Tell me where she is, you unholy bastard, or I swear I will devote my entire life to killing you." During his conversation with Sinister, Magnus had not been idle. He had continually attempted to form a magnetic force bubble around him, had his telepaths attack him psionically -- even telekinetically. All of it had been to no avail. He was no longer even sure that Sinister was really even there.

"And what would you do if I gave you this information? You could not get within a mile of one of Apocalypse's strongholds without his knowledge. The defenses are so far beyond your comprehension that you and your entire mutant following would be killed instantly without any need for Apocalypse to even involve himself. You also would be unable to revive your daughter without my help. I respect your scientific abilities, but the Celestial technology is alien in nature and perhaps on the order of billions of years ahead of what is considered the current standard. (7) It would be completely incomprehensible to you and is safeguarded as well. During my tenure with Apocalypse, I have come to understand this technology to a small degree, and have used and operated these very same stasis chambers. Only I can restore your daughter to you safely. But since you can not be convinced -- or what was one of the words you used ... 'coerced' -- to help me, I will take my leave." With a sweeping gesture from Sinister, the doorway suddenly closed and he was gone.

There had been no battle. The meeting had transpired in the place of his choosing. Sinister had come alone while he had the full support of several of his most powerful followers. Yet without raising a hand, Sinister had accomplished exactly what he had set out to do and had soundly beaten him in every respect. The impudent pig. Sinister had indeed successfully manipulated him. He would most assuredly make an appearance at the appointed time and place to battle Apocalypse. Sinister was an overconfident fool, though, if he thought that he could be controlled. I will do this only because there is a chance, no matter how small that what he says may be the truth and Anya ... Best not to think of Anya, better to think and plan of how to kill Apocalypse and Sinister.

Sinister collapsed in his lab. The energy he had expended to maintain the open doorway had almost killed him. What Magnus had not known was that Sinister had never closed the dimensional doorway after his arrival. He had never really stepped out of tesseract space but only closed the doorway enough to conform to the size and shape of his body. (8) What Magnus also did not know was that the physical laws in tesseract space were completely different from the laws in this universe. Things like gravity, magnetism, and even time would not operate the same in this strange environment, rendering all his attacks against him ineffectual. Sinister had spent a better part of the last century studying and defining all the scientific laws of tesseract space in order to use this wondrous milieu to his best advantage. Recent breakthroughs on his part had expanded how he could use tesseract space to maybe aid him to defeat Apocalypse. He needed to rest and recoup his mutant energies. He was pleased in the manner his plans were progressing, but there was so much more that needed to be accomplished.

Sinister struggled to his feet and slowly walked over to a large vat of gelatinous blue liquid. He immersed one hand into the pool and proceeded to literally pour himself, completely dissolving into the restorative bath. A small ripple on the surface of the viscous fluid was the only trace left of the man known as Sinister.

Continued in Chapter Three.

[1] The Further Adventures at Cyclops and Phoenix #3
[2] Magneto Rex #3
[3] The Black Knight: Exodus
[4] Classic X-Men #12 - subsequent dialogue also quoted from that issue.
[5] Classic X-Men #19
[6] Magneto Rex #3
[7] X-Factor #50 - First time Apocalypse states that he capable of using technology taken from "Ship".
[8] X-Men #34 - use of tesseract space revealed.