DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized
work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by
Marvel Comics Group. No profit is being made on this story,
so I'll invoke The Marvel Readers' Bill of Rights (for the
full text see Stan's Soapbox in some of the May 1998
comics, e.g. Generation X #38):
"8. The right to practice scripting and drawing our Marvel
characters for your own pleasure and amusement."
The story is (c) Tilman Stieve (Menshevik@aol.com).
You can download this and copy it for your entertainment,
but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers
on you. Please do not archive this on your website without
informing me first.
Hang On To Your Ego belongs to my series, the Tales
of the Twilight Menshevik; as it is the first story
of a new timeline, Twilight Yet to Come, it should
be understandable on its own, but maybe it will also pique
the interest of readers new to the series enough to take a
look at some of the others (see notes at the end).
You can find the other Tales archived on "Fonts
of Wisdom", "Down-Home Charm", "MissyRedX:
The Average Website", and "Stacy's
This story features references and brief descriptions of sexual
acts between consenting adults. If you are too young to read
them or if such descriptions bother you, I must ask you to
wait until you're old enough.
Twilight Yet to Come
Hang On To Your Ego
1. I Know Perfectly Well I'm Not Where I Should Be
"Representatives of the federal government and costumed crime-fighters
from the United States and all over the world gathered in
Washington today to bid farewell to Dr. Valerie Cooper, chairwoman
of the Commission on Metahuman Operatives and deputy head
of the Bureau of Mutagenic Affairs. Dr. Cooper was one of
the most well-known officials in the Federal superpowers affairs
hierarchy under three Presidents. She first came to national
attention as an assistant to the Senate Committee on Mutant
Affairs in 1992. Shortly afterwards, she was appointed Deputy
National Security Adviser for Parahuman Affairs and became
a member of the President's Commission on Superhuman Activities,
which oversaw costumed Federal operatives. But to the public
she was known best as the overseer and spokeswoman of two
Federally sponsored mutant teams. The first of these, Freedom
Force, was raised late during President George Bush Senior's
Administration around a nucleus of former members of the so-called
Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. After a number of operatives
were killed or went missing in action, Freedom Force was superseded
by a second team, code-named X-Factor, which Dr. Cooper assembled
from freelance crime-fighters, containing as disparate elements
as a few survivors of Freedom Force and some former members
of the X-Men, an independent team that had once been arch-enemies
of the 'Brotherhood' since their first inception. Dr. Cooper
did not confine herself to the day-to-day committee work and
the liaison with government agencies and public representation
of her teams, she also frequently accompanied X-Factor on
field missions. It was on one such mission that Valerie Cooper
was killed Tuesday last week. She leaves behind two young
daughters and her life-partner, Mystique, seen here accepting
the condolences of NBC's Trish Tilby and her husband, Dr.
Henry McCoy, the X-Man and Avenger known as the Beast. The
private partnership between Valerie Cooper and Raven Darkhölme
may actually have caused more headlines than Dr. Cooper's
official activities, due in equal parts to Ms. Darkhölme's
terrorist past and to the medical sensation of her fathering
both of Dr. Cooper's children. The mourners were addressed
by X-Factor's field leader, Mr. Alexander Summers, better
known as Havok..."
Katherine Pryde-Stuart, a mainstay of the British team Excalibur
both as the metapowered Shadowcat and as one of its resident
scientists, was surprised to be among the guests who were
invited to the Darkhölme townhouse after the funeral. She
had not really known Val Cooper all that well, and as for
her widow, even after Mystique had reformed, Kitty found their
rare meetings a little awkward. She never knew what to say.
Granted, she was a good friend of Kurt Wagner, Raven Darkhölme's
long unacknowledged son, and also knew Rogue, her foster daughter,
fairly well, but that much could be said of a number of people,
some of whom had not been invited to the funeral.
The gathering in the Georgetown brownstone was not quite
what Kitty expected -- for one thing, none of Valerie Cooper's
relatives were present, not even her brother, the FBI agent.
It actually was more like an official meeting of delegates
from both the 'authorized' and 'irregular' mutant networks
than a family occasion. Professor Xavier sat in his wheelchair
by the fireplace talking with Sean Cassidy and Moira MacTaggert,
who had cut short their Jamaican vacation to attend. That
the various members past and present of X-Factor were scattered
all over the living-room was only to be expected, but the
other two US mutant teams were also represented in strength.
To her right she saw Scott, the X-Men's current field leader,
standing in hushed conversation with Madelyne and Alex, while
at the opposite end of the room there were three Meddlers,
members of the clandestine offshoot of the X-Men that had
been formed when the main team went public and entered into
its formalized co-operation with 'legitimate' super-teams
like the Avengers: Talking with Lorna Dane and St. John Allerdyce,
X-Factor's Polaris and Pyro, were Rémy LeBeau (who, for all
Kitty knew, was barely on speaking terms with Mystique), Logan
and Jean Grey. Near the grandfather clock there was yet another
group that caught her attention, it consisted of Forge, Psylocke,
Alpha Flight's Aurora, Iceman, and the Meddlers' Chinese member
Qilin (funny, ever since the spy plane incident, Chen Li seemed
to be causing as many worries in Washington as her most notorious
teammate, Magneto). While Kurt and Amanda soon joined that
group, Kitty walked over to the coffee table and sat down
across from the sofa where the Beast sat beside Storm. Hank
still looked a little haggard from his cure, while Ororo was
positively illuminated by her pregnancy; when Kitty asked
her, she confirmed that she was only a month or two away from
At last Mystique entered from upstairs, accompanied by Rogue
and Magneto. The blue-skinned shape-shifter stopped next to
the door through which she had entered. One by one the people
in the room fell silent as Raven Darkhölme looked them over
impassively. Then she began to speak.
"Thank you for coming. As you no doubt guessed, this is mainly
a business meeting. We called you here because Rogue and I
have news that she thinks concern you. I wasn't so sure, but
we might as well tell you all here, then we don't have to
do it several times over." She took a deep breath and, as
far as Kitty could tell from the slight movement of her head
(her eyes remained featureless golden spheres), glanced sideways
at Magneto. "Whether it is good news or bad is up for you
Rogue cleared her throat. "Well, everybody, ah thought about
ways of breakin' this to y'all, but there's no way of doin'
this smoothly. Y'all heard that Momma 'n' me were with Val
at ... the end. What y'all don't know is that Val didn't quite
die then." She waited a moment to give everyone time to react.
"Ah mean, her body is dead, it was too late to save that.
But ah could absorb her personality and memories permanently."
A wave of consternation swept across the room, while Mystique
and Magneto maintained a stony-faced expression, Kitty could
not help noticing.
Rogue continued: "So if any of y'all see me behavin' strangely
in the future, y'all will know for why."
That attempt at lightness fell flat. Too many of those present
could remember Rogue's troubles back in the days when she
had to share her skull with the persona she had absorbed from
Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel. Kitty was amazed --
she vividly recalled the near-hysterical state the Southern
mutant had been in when she first went to the X-Mansion, not
knowing where else to turn. Professor X had then been able
to help her, but Kitty knew there had been a bad relapse during
the time the X-Men hid out in Australia. That had only been
ended when the Siege Perilous finally removed Carol's personality
from Rogue's mind. And now Rogue was willingly risking to
go through something like that another time? "You really must
like Valerie," she muttered under her breath.
It probably was a mercy that Valerie's persona would not
have minded being absorbed by Rogue, quite unlike Carol who
had been torn kicking and scratching from her native body.
Valerie should cause less trouble -- for now. But what would
the future bring? Would she end up with a major case of 'cabin
fever' from being cooped up in Rogue's brain and try to take
over her host's body just as Carol had done, no matter what
she intended when the transfer was made? Immersed in her thoughts,
Kitty barely paid attention to the brief appearance of Val's
persona, and to the short exchange of questions and answers
that ensued. Not that Rogue would divulge much more than the
information she had first volunteered. Her motives and what
she expected the consequences for her life to be -- at least
as far as her life beyond her capacity as a superhero and
leader of the Meddlers were concerned -- she declared to be
too private to be discussed in open forum, at least for now.
She just said: "Val will be helpin' me with the Meddlers and
X-Men, she's got all kinds of useful experience. She's also
probably goin' to stay a kind of unofficial adviser for X-Factor,
but that depends a lot on how much time ah'll be able to make
for that sort of thing."
The evening of that same day, Kitty sat down in a Mexican
restaurant on N Street with Ororo, Alistaire, the McCoys,
Logan, and Jean. Over a light meal, they reviewed the day's
events -- Alistaire and Trish, who both had not been at the
meeting after the funeral, had plenty of questions to ask,
and the other five still had not entirely digested the revelations
Alistaire was skeptical. "Do you believe that's really Dr.
Cooper inside Rogue's cranium? I know she absorbs people's
personalities and memories, but I never thought of it as her
actually being in possession of their, for want of a better
word, souls when she does it."
"As a wise man once said: The theological implications alone
are staggering," Hank interjected.
"It is a puzzler," Trish said. Her looks, like those of her
husband, still showed the outward signs of their past illness.
"From the way you explained it, I always assumed Rogue's power
works a bit like transferring a file from a hard disk to a
floppy or another computer. Now if you still have the file
on the original computer, it seems clear that the other file
is a backup copy, even if it is totally identical. But if
you select 'transfer data' and you erase it from the original
hard disk, don't you then behave as if the file was transported
from your c: to the a: drive?"
"Hey, I thought I'm the computer nerd here!" Kitty giggled.
"But seriously, I never saw first-hand what that Carol persona
in Rogue was like, and, well, when she let 'Val' come to the
surface this afternoon, it was too short for me to say that
really was her. What do you say, guys? You were with her when
Rogue and 'Carol' kept fighting for control of her body."
These last words were addressed to Logan and Ororo. Storm
replied first. "In Australia, whenever the Carol in Rogue's
mind came to the fore, we somehow fell into treating her as
a real person. It felt natural, but possibly we just didn't
reflect on it enough."
"But did you think this 'person' was Carol Danvers?" Jean
wanted to know.
"Perhaps not the same as Carol," Ororo replied, "but as hard
to distinguish from her as the Phoenix in your shape was from
yourself. Wouldn't you agree, Logan?"
"Well, it was scary how much like Carol she became with that
persona in control," Logan reminisced. "It was in Genosha
and my senses were on the blink, but I could almost smell
her old scent. And there were times I coulda sworn her eyes
were blue instead o' green. Yeah, my instincts told me that
was close enough to bein' her."
"Would you have been as certain if Binary had been there
as well?" Hank wondered.
Logan grinned. "I've known Carol for ages. The woman who
sprang me from jail in Genosha was her, and Binary is her.
I never had the time to ponder about the reality of the soul
or what happened to Carol's when Rogue absorbed her personality
'n' memories, but I guess the way I see it here is actually
quite near to what your dear wife just said." He waved his
cigar at Trish with an ironic smile, acknowledging their past
Ororo mused: "Well, on reflection I'm not as sure as I was
then. Maybe there were minor differences between the Carol
in Rogue and the one who became Binary. I felt the Carol I
knew in Australia was angrier, but that could have been after-effects
of the Inferno ... But I did not know Carol Danvers before
Rogue absorbed her powers and memories, so I can't really
say if the Carol in Rogue or Binary was more similar to what
Carol had been like when she still had all her memories and
the related emotions. Maybe we could say that both of them
were Carol or both were not, with equal justification."
"Oh, come on, Binary surely is Carol," Alistaire protested,
"she's got the body and everything!"
"Which was fundamentally altered both when she lost her Ms.
Marvel powers and when she became Binary," Logan interjected.
"And she herself said that something was missing because Charley
was only able to restore her memories, but not the emotions
that went with 'em. She once told me her own mother sensed
the difference when she saw her then."
"Well, Rogue kept saying that what she did to Carol is tantamount
to killing her," Kitty ventured, "which I thought really weird,
because although she had tried to kill her, Carol Danvers
is still alive. But if you put it that way, maybe she thought
that after her attack the real Carol no longer existed..."
"...or existed only in the persona that lived in her skull.
Remember what she said at the debriefing about the Siege Perilous,
"Yes, when the Siege removed the Carol persona from Rogue's
psyche, it gave her a body of its own, which was just like
Ms. Marvel's. Only the life force wasn't enough for both of
them, but Rogue could not bring herself to kill this new Carol,
not even in self-defense. So she thought of her as
Carol. So it is clear why she would think that she was saving
Valerie by absorbing her psyche."
Hank then began to compare the cases of Carol Danvers and
Valerie Cooper with those of his fellow Avengers Vision and
Jocasta -- whose personalities and memories were largely,
but not completely, based on those of Wonder Man and the Wasp
-- but that did not bring them nearer to unraveling the puzzle
than they had been and after a while the conversation turned
to other matters.
It was not long before midnight when the party broke up into
its component groups and left. In the morning they would be
leaving for their various destinations: Kitty and Alistaire
would accompany Ororo and Hank to Westchester and then fly
on to Britain, while Trish had to stay behind for the official
press conference. Logan and Jean would meanwhile return to
the Meddlers' Appalachian base. As they said their good-byes,
Ororo told them half-jokingly: "Look after Rogue, you two."
But her eyes betrayed the concern her nonchalant voice tried
2. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
"It's no use," Magnus sighed in frustration, "we might as
well give up trying for tonight."
"But that's so unfair. You found a way to, er, pleasure me.
You sure there's nothing ah can do to return the favor? Won't
you let me give it another try?"
"I fear part of the reason is that we tried too hard, my
love. That and ... well, ... you know."
"The Val Cooper thing? But ah'm still the same. Apart from
the times when ah let her take charge for a moment." Her hand
flew to her mouth when she registered that afterthought did
not exactly help her argument. Rogue decided that to continue
trying to overcome her lover's current problem was futile
and crawled up the bed to lie beside him.
"No, you're as impulsive as ever, my dear," Magnus said with
a smile. "In my head I know that you are still the same woman
with whom I fell in love back in the Savage Land. But, as
your brother Kurt would say, my stomach tells me there's a
difference. Not in your behavior or your looks. But something
is different. Something that spooks me."
"Maybe you're nervous about us makin' love 'cause you feel
... she's watchin' you."
"That could well be ... Doesn't it bother you?"
"Well ... Val told me she wouldn't intrude on my ... private
matters, kinda try to take a break durin' the awkward times."
She put her hand on his bare shoulder reassuringly. "Ah've
been through worse. This time ah'm still in control of my
power, an' it ain't nowhere near as bad as it was with Carol
Danvers. If you had known me then..."
"But I did know you then!"
"Ha! You were always too busy to notice me. And found Rachel's
problems more interestin' than mine!"
"I was a fool?"
"No, actually you just saw me in a phase when Carol gave
me no real grief. It was totally different around the time
ah joined the X-Men and later in Australia. Besides, you then
had Lee Forrester, and when she wasn't around, you always
were so focused on the really important things." She kissed
him full on the mouth until she had to stop for breath. "Your
intenseness has always been one of the things ah loved most
about you. But seriously, you should've seen me a year or
even half a year earlier. There were times when ah tried to
put off goin' to the toilet long as possible 'cause o' the
Carol in my head. Compared to that, ah'm havin' an easy ride
"Yes, so far. But then ah'm not such a pessimistic ol' worryguts
like you." She kissed him again. Seeing that nothing more
was going to happen, she went to the bathroom for a quick
shower and then prepared for bed while Magnus brushed his
Before Rogue had learned how to control her power, she had
to cover herself from head to foot most of the time as a precaution
against absorbing other people's powers and personalities
by accident. Then going to bed was one of the few occasions
when she could afford to undress without risk. These days
going to bed had a somewhat higher risk, because she now no
longer slept alone. But now things might be more risky than
before, because Rogue was not sure if Val would be able to
control her absorption power if she woke up while Rogue was
still asleep. So to be on the safe side Rogue put on one of
her lighter body suits and gloves before tucking in.
As they lay side by side in their double bed, watching the
late news, their thoughts turned to the days before them.
"Ah have to go to Washington next weekend."
"Alex 'n' Forge have to discuss who's goin' to be Val's successor,
and they wanted Val to be there."
"I see." After a pause he asked: "Will Mystique be there?"
"Probably. Ah'll be visitin' her and the kids anyhow. Does
it worry you?"
Magneto had the sense not to hesitate when he said "No, of
course not," but, feeling somewhat paranoid, Rogue still felt
she had to address this matter.
"Look, Magnus, Val ain't gonna use my body for hanky-panky
with Momma, ah'm sure of it. Even if she wanted to and ah
couldn't prevent her, it'd be too ... icky for Raven." She
paused, listening to an unheard voice. "And now she
says the idea is makin' her feel queasy. Sorry Val."
In spite of himself Magneto had to smile at the thought of
the bickering going on in Rogue's mind.
"All that's gonna happen is that Val will speak at the conference,
and afterwards she and I are goin' to look in on Reney and
Hope together with Raven."
"Poor things. They lost their mother, that rather puts our
situation in perspective, doesn't it?"
"Yes. It'll be good to see them again. We talked with them
just before the funeral, but it still was a bit much for them."
"It should be hard for anyone to grasp," Magneto mused. "Their
mother being dead, yet not really, still there, but not as
often as they'd like, and in their big sister's body."
"Irene's a bright li'l thing, ah reckon she understood. But
Hopey's only just turned two, that's way too young..."
"I'd like to do what I can to help them..." She looked at
him quizzically. "Well, I do have child-rearing experience,
even if it was half a century ago!"
Spring had given way to early summer when Rogue and the stowaway
in her mind arrived for the conference at X-Factor's Georgetown
building. Mystique still looked more than a little concerned
when she welcomed her daughter, but there was no time for
private talk as they had to go to Forge's office almost immediately.
Havok, X-Factor's field leader, opened the proceedings. "Thank
you for coming, Rogue, and, er, you too, Valerie. Forge here
says he isn't sure that's really you, but of course he has
to say that 'cause it's too close to being possessed by a
ghost and all that." He winked at the two women after Forge
gave him a dirty look. Since his lover had once been possessed
by the non-corporal Marauder Malice, Alex had been a lot more
open to the idea that it really was Valerie between Rogue's
ears. "But obviously Uncle Sam has to work on the assumption
that Val is really and totally gone, so her positions will
be filled with new people. Now Raven has taken some, achem,
unofficial soundings on the Hill and she told us that they're
thinking of separating her two hats and appointing different
people as X-Factor's government liaison and to the Bureau
of Mutagenic Affairs. I'd like to say that this is because
Valerie's shoes are so hard to fill, but it seems some people
in the administration think the team has some kind of corrupting
influence on their liaisons, and they want to prevent that
from spreading any further into the Commission on Metahuman
There was an derisive snort from Mystique, but then Forge
took over: "Well, Rogue..." He paused uneasily. "Uh, Valerie,
we basically want to talk about the prospecitve candidates,
and since you know most of them better than we do, we'd like
"...benefit from your rich repository of experience." Alex
completed the sentence.
"I'll try to do my best. Well, things were rather hectic
lately," the others dutifully smiled, then Valerie continued
through Rogue's mouth. "I've given the matter some thought.
They're not likely to promote someone from the office, I mean
Baldrick is dangerously close to his level of incompetence
in his present position. And the others have a strike or two
against them because they were appointed under Billy-Jeff.
They'll probably take someone from the Commission on Superhuman
Activities of the last year of George senior's administration."
Mystique raised a half-amused eyebrow at such informality
with her two former commanders-in-chief at this official meeting.
"Well, dying does put a certain perspective on things," Val
dryly remarked as she shuffled her notes. "Well, let's see.
Orville Sanderson's retired, I'd say he's too old to be considered."
"That's what I'd have said too until I saw some of Dubya's
cabinet appointments," Raven could not help interjecting.
Forge had an odd expression on his face as he observed the
long-familiar interplay now acted out with a slightly different
cast. After his brief affair with Raven -- ages ago, before
Valerie -- he still cared for her well-being, and he wasn't
sure what to make of her behavior. She had been so morose
ever since the fight and funeral, and now she was acting most
laid-back. Was this a good sign or bad?
"In any case, he doesn't have the necessary clout," Valerie
added. "The 'Conservative Revolution' passed him by. The same
probably also goes for George Mathers. And Colin Powell will
most likely want to keep Haywerth in the Foggy Bottom office
where he put him in February."
"That does narrow down the field somewhat," Alex observed.
"Any more we can strike off the list?"
Rogue grinned and Val continued: "Oh, sure. Wesley Werner
never showed any indication of initiative, he shouldn't have
a chance against the likes of Gyrich and Sikorsky. And Adrian
Sammish won't leave his cushy job at OctoCom. He'd get less
than a third of what he makes today in my position."
"So it'll probably be a choice between Raymond Sikorsky and
Henry Gyrich?" said Alex.
"Most likely. There's no one else around anymore to match
their experience, apart from your own good self," Val said
as Rogue's green eyes winked at Forge, "but unfortunately
you're a Clinton appointee as well as an M-U-T-A-N-T. I noticed
that Raymond started attending church again about half a year
ago. Wonder if he thinks that can give him an edge in the
"Somehow I doubt it," said Forge, who had dealt with both
men in the past. "He never was as good as Gyrich at building
a bureaucratic empire and creating the impression of his own
"Very much so," Valerie replied, "and Henry had more political
backing in the old days. Now if I know my Raven, I'd say she
can enlighten us on the current situation?"
Mystique smiled. "Yes, there have been a few mysterious visitors
on the Hill and at 1600 Penn. Ave. and what I heard as various
lobbyists and Senators tends to confirm what Val just said.
The cabinet and White House staff are keeping mum, but Bob
Kelly's friends and allies are definitely pushing Gyrich.
And Kelly's still the chairman of the genejoke committee,
that's going to count for something."
"I hope you were discreet and didn't lock up any of the people
you impersonated," Alex said, not quite sure if he should
be amused or worried.
"I'm not an amateur, boy," Raven smugly retorted. "As a matter
of fact, one Senator was tied up, but I had nothing to do
with that. He was in a session with his dominatrix."
"So we're going to be saddled with Gyrich?" Alex asked lest
the discussion was sidetracked.
"Not necessarily," Valerie offered, "we could try to bring
a wild card into the picture. What would you think of putting
forward Janet van Dyne? As an ex-chairwoman of the Avengers
she should be trusted by our lords and masters, and since
she has experience in co-operating with the X-Men, I don't
think you and the rest of the team should object?"
"I'd prefer her to Gyrich, if that's what you mean. Not that
I've had much to do with her personally."
Forge too sounded interested. "From what I hear the Avengers
don't plan on having a new election for chairperson soon,
so this might be an attractive proposition for her."
"Yes, after her leave of absence she's itching to get into
a position of responsibility again," Valerie said and jokingly
added. "And with the current deadlock in the Senate she's
bound to find bipartisan support considering she's designed
dresses for both Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton."
"I think it will work wonderfully," Mystique smiled sarcastically.
"She owns a big business, and since both parties are in the
pockets of big money, we'll be cutting out the middle man."
"Raven dear, it's probably just as well that you're not under
consideration for the job. We have to work with the people
we have," Val's smile however said 'maybe you're right (not
that I'll ever admit it), but give them time.' Seeing that
familiar smile on her daughter's face that made it necessary
for Mystique to avert her eyes for a couple of moments.
But Raven recovered somewhat and changed the track: "You're
a business tycoon too, Forge, are you sure you don't want
to try for the job?"
Forge smiled: "I don't think so, Raven. After I became more
discriminating about the government contracts I accepted,
some representatives of what President Eisenhower and you
after him insist on calling the military-industrial complex
accused me of disloyalty. And my company's interest in environment-friendly
technologies probably has my fellow Texans suspecting I voted
"And who did you vote for?"
Much as the others would have loved to hear the answer to
Alex' question, Forge declined to do them the favor, and Mystique
quipped: "Aw, he's embarrassed! Choosing the lesser evil doesn't
do much for a super-hero's self-image, does it? Well, at least
that's something I didn't have to worry about, not being allowed
to vote at all."
"Hmm, didn't you tell me last November not to bother to go
because they would have abolished elections long ago if they
actually changed something?"
"And what happened after really proved me wrong, didn't it?"
Thankfully the official part of the day was over fairly soon,
then Mystique could take Valerie to her home next door. Lorna
was waiting for them with the children, whom she had just
picked up from kindergarten. The reunion began awkwardly.
Raven had spent some time explaining what had happened to
their mother in the preceding days; Irene, the elder, was
on top of the situation, but two-year-old Hope took a while
to overcome her shock at hearing Val's words issuing from
their sister's lips. But after lunch and their nap they were
eager to go out for some outdoor games in Dumbarton Oaks Park.
Raven was relieved how much the two children enjoyed playing
with their parents, it was almost like in the old days. After
supper Valerie oversaw her daughters brushing their teeth
and then she sat down in Irene's bed to read some picture-books
with them before she and Raven tucked them in. The only fly
in the ointment was having to hand over to Rogue for the good-night
It had been a longer day than expected -- Val had found it
impossible to insist that the two went to bed at their proper
bedtime -- and by the time the two women had finished picking
up the toys strewn not just all over the nursery and started
the dish-washer, it was already beginning to turn dark outside.
They sat down together on the living-room sofa, and Valerie
carefully snuggled up to her woman, laying her head against
For a while they sat in silence, looking outside into the
garden, but although she was glad of this intimacy, it became
too much for Raven. All sorts of questions were forming inside
her mouth. How do you really feel, Val? Is this what you wanted?
Where do we go from here? But these were questions that she
did not want to say out loud, so in the end she resorted to
the escape of switching on the television so they could see
the news together.
Not that Valerie did not recognize the evasive maneuver immediately.
But she waited until the bulletin was finished before picking
up the remote control and pushing the 'off' button. "Well,
today went off rather well, don't you think?"
"Pretty much," came Raven's guarded response. "And Irene
and Hope are happy to see you're still there for them, that's
"But you're still a little spooked by the situation, aren't
you? In the morning at the conference you were the most relaxed
person at the table (I'm convinced Alex was just overcompensating).
But now that we're alone, it seems you're a little more nervous..."
Raven sighed. "I can tell no lie," she began, which got her
a loud giggle from Valerie.
"Well, okay, I could if I wanted to," Raven began again with
a rueful smile, "but I don't want to. Val, yes, so far your
presence in Rogue's mind seems to work out as well as can
be expected, maybe even better. But I care for ... no, I love
you both, so of course I worry about what could go wrong.
I'm not like Rogue, I don't get her kind of rose-tinted episodes."
Valerie smiled. "Come on, Raven, she may be an optimist,
but she's not naive. And you're not a total pessimist either.
You say you like to think the worst of people, but you know
you can trust her and you can trust me. And trust us, we three
can make it work."
"Yes dear," Raven said resignedly, in parody of a henpecked
husband, but with tenderness.
Valerie kissed the tip of her gloved right forefinger and
extended it to the other woman's lips. It was as much as they
could hope for given the responsibility towards Rogue. "I
love you, Raven; although we can only have a shadow of what
we had before, I'm grateful we have that."
"But do you really believe we can preserve it in future?"
"Hush," whispered Val and repeated the finger-kiss procedure,
"I don't know if we can always stay together, but we'll give
it our best shot."
Mystique took her gloved hand and tenderly pressed it against
her own cheek. Somehow she felt reassured, maybe because Val
had not mentioned the children just now. That could mean that
she loved her for own sake, that she had embarked on this
risky venture in part because she could not bear to be entirely
separated from her.
Since nothing was on TV, they put a DVD of one of their favorite
movies on and watched Being John Malkovich. After a
while Val put her head in Raven's lap, and towards the end
of the film she became rather drowsy. Satisfied that the ending
was once again to her liking, she fell asleep.
Raven waited for a couple of moments, then she slipped out
from beneath her head and rose. Just when she lifted her up
to carry her to bed, her eyes opened.
"Hi Momma." The voice was once again Rogue's.
"Hi yourself," came Raven's slightly hesitant reply. "Is
everything all right, child?"
"Of course ah'm all right, why shouldn't ah be?"
With no further words, just a slight sigh of relief, Raven
embraced her daughter. And since Rogue was once again in charge
of her own body, they did not have to worry about their cheeks
touching skin to skin.
3. The Little Girl I Once Knew
It was a glorious early August afternoon, and Ororo and her
visitors had decided to gather on the lawn behind Xavier Mansion.
Amani, Ororo's baby daughter, was contentedly sleeping in
her cot. Yukio, who was on an extended stay since shortly
before her lover had given birth, lay spread out on a straw
mat next to Ororo, who sat cross-legged in the grass. The
two new arrivals from Britain, Kitty and Alistaire Pryde-Stuart,
had made themselves comfortable in a pair of the Professor's
deck-chairs. A gentle breeze came in from Breakstone Lake
and it was quiet enough to hear the buzzing of a passing dragonfly.
Kitty and Alistaire had already gone through the first parts
of their visit -- the welcoming hugs, the oohing and aahing
over Amani, the handing over of presents and the verbal reports
about the latest happenings at Excalibur's home base on the
northwest coast of England, of Errol Wagner's and George Braddock's
Teletubbies obsession ("It may be a pain now, but just think
of the blackmail potential in years to come!"), and gossip
about their teammates and various other British superheroes.
Now Kitty was reminiscing about the old days, telling her
spouse about the time when a baseball game among the Xavier's
students was interrupted by the unannounced appearance of
the Impossible Man in the guise of Galactus, and about the
madcap pursuit that had ensued. The way she told it made Alistaire
chuckle a couple of times, and she half-seriously chided him:
"It sounds funny to you because you weren't there. I suppose
if you told Ororo about our chase across all those realities
when you first hooked up with Excalibur, she would find that
just as amusing."
Ororo gently laughed at that remark, but Kitty had to think
of how much had happened in the nine years since the Popuppian
had stolen the Mansion on his intergalactic scavenger hunt.
"Scott and Madelyne had only just gotten married," she recalled,
"and now they have three kids with a fourth on the way..."
Kitty had just thought out aloud, but Yukio reacted as if
she had announced a change of topic. "Yes, not the usual planning
ahead on Scott's part. He'll really want to spend more time
with his family soon, but now Ororo is too preoccupied to
take so much of the work-load off his manly broad shoulders."
"That won't be that big a problem," said Ororo, "there are
others who are capable of leading the X-Men for a while."
"I expect Paige has already thrown her hat in the ring?"
Kitty asked. That Husk saw it as her destiny to lead the X-Men
one day was an open secret ever since her early days with
the second New Mutants (or 'Generation X', as they were sometimes
known at the Mansion).
"She'll be in the running, have no fear," Ororo replied,
"but she probably won't find it easy going -- Henry is quite
keen on a greater role in the team after wrapping up the Legacy
cure this last winter."
"Probably just as well that Rogue is still running the Meddlers,
or you'd have a three-cornered contest on your hands," Yukio
interjected with a grin.
"Speaking of Rogue, how is she these days?" Kitty had giggled
at Yukio's quip, but now her face mirrored her concern. "Is
Val Cooper's personality giving her trouble? Kurt said that
Mystique was worried about her, but that was just a week after
"She is able to handle herself and the Meddlers as far as
I can tell from what the others tell me," said Storm, "but
the X-Men cannot really see if there are problems in her life
at home as they only meet the Meddlers on missions. Maybe
Jean will tell us something when she drops off Amiko in an
hour or so."
As Ororo had foretold, Jean Grey arrived seventy minutes
later with two children in tow -- her six-year-old son, Warren
Kenneth Worthington IV, and her adopted daughter Amiko Yashida,
who at fifteen looked very much a young woman. Jean was on
her way to deliver Warren at his father's (her ex-husband's)
home. She embraced Ororo and greeted the others warmly when
she came up to them.
"Amiko was to have joined the Worthington family outing again,
but when she heard that Yukio's here there just was no stopping
her until we agreed to let her stay with you instead," she
explained; since Yukio had been Amiko's surrogate mother for
the better part of five years, it was only understandable.
Jean also was able to shed some light on the current state
of her team leader: "Oh, Rogue's doing well enough on the
team, the Valerie persona is not slowing her down as far as
we can see. But she is trying to learn to have more control
about which persona is in charge so that Val can train using
"And off-duty?" Alistaire asked.
"I don't want to pry into her and Magneto's private life
-- although Logan thinks they haven't yet worked out all the
kinks." That was all she would say.
"Will you be going with Warren ... and Warren?" Kitty then
wanted to know.
"Oh heavens no! This little man wouldn't have it." Jean patted
her reddish-blond son on the shoulder. "And so, possibly to
the relief of Betsy and my ex-husband, I'll leave them in
peace this summer. I'll take advantage of that and have a
little break from mommy duties. Maddy invited me to spend
a few days with her. Maybe I'll still be around if you include
the Summers home in your itinerary?"
"That's the plan," Alistaire confirmed.
Yukio then showed Amiko to her room, and after they deposited
her belongings there, Jean gave her a parting assortment of
advice and -- somewhat more welcome to Amiko -- a few banknotes
to top off her summer allowance. She then made sure that the
girl had Aunt Madelyne's phone number, and not long after
that she and Warren left.
Amiko, now the sole center of attention, found herself quizzed
about her progress in high school by Yukio and Alistaire,
but luckily Kitty provided an escape for her by letting slip
that she wanted to see if her favorite ice-cream parlor in
Salem Center was still in business. Amiko insisted on joining
Koneko-san on that important exploratory mission at once,
leaving behind an open-mouthed Yukio.
Ororo smiled and placed a kiss on her lover's cheek. "Maybe
Amiko did not look for that kind of attention when she insisted
on staying with you?"
Less than a quarter of an hour later Kitty and Amiko were
sitting in Shapiro's ice-cream parlor at a table next to the
front window, starting on their banana splits. The two had
first met during Kitty's second visit to Japan, when she came
within an inch of being transformed into the vessel of a demonic
ninja because of her father's illicit deals with a Yakuza
family. Ever since then they had been friends and enjoyed
eating ice-cream together. Since they both preferred full-fat
concoctions to their diet equivalents it was just as well
they did not meet that often.
"So, what's living in America like for you?" As an exiled
'Yank' Kitty was naturally interested in how the young girl
reacted to her new environment in her own native country.
However, it soon evolved that Amiko's life near the Meddlers'
base in the hills of West Virginia was somewhat different
from Kitty's accustomed suburban surroundings, although that
was not as unfamiliar to her as it was to the younger girl.
But soon the conversation moved on to subject of Amiko's personal
and family life, and in particular how much that had changed
since Logan and Jean had moved together two years ago and
had taken her into their home along with Warren IV.
"At least you seem to have adapted to having a young brother,"
Kitty said after Amiko had related a few anecdotes.
"At least Warren stopped complaining after Logan married
Jean and she became my official guardian," Amiko said, smirking
a little at her new position as elder sister.
Kitty had to smile, empathizing a little at her friends all-too-human
attitude. She remembered how hard she had found to deal with
her parents' divorce when she was reaching fourteen, or with
the way Ororo's attitude to life changed not long after. But
what was that compared to Amiko, who had lost both her parents
and her first adoptive mother too, and now was basically in
her third adoptive family, haven been taken in first by Logan's
late fiancee, Mariko Yashida, and then his comrade Yukio,
before Logan decided to fulfill his promise to look after
Amiko personally after settling down with the former Marvel
Girl. "And how are things between you and Jean?"
"Oh, Jean's cool."
So it wasn't a slip of the tongue that she referred to her
new adoptive mother by her first name. But that was only to
be expected, thought Kitty, thinking of four different people
as 'Mommy' would be a mite confusing. "So she goes easy on
the mothering part?"
Amiko lowered her gaze and silently smiled. She began to
quiz Kitty about her life in England, with Excalibur, their
friends and relations, and in particular about her husband
of three years, Alistaire Pryde-Stuart. She seemed especially
interested in how the two had come together. Remembering that
the first time she had met Amiko she had been a year younger
than the girl was now and already having to get over being
rejected by the first love of her life, Piotr Rasputin, she
wondered if that might have something to do with Amiko beginning
to have romantic feelings of her own. But Amiko only blushed
and said: "Well, there's this boy...", refusing to divulge
many details, although her questions, specifically her insistence
to discover how she had dealt with a man who continuously
failed to notice her, tempted Kitty to draw certain conclusions.
"It wasn't easy. Alistaire's eyes kept fixing on Rachel all
the time so it sometimes seemed he didn't even notice me.
Couldn't help it with her, ahem, marginally more voluptuous
figure and wearing skin-tight leather all the time. Some friend!"
Kitty's sigh was perhaps more heartfelt than she would have
liked to admit, for even in now that she was safely married
to her man it was a memory that rankled a little.
"And what can you do to make someone, I mean, what did you
do to finally notice you?" Amiko asked.
"There is no surefire way, unfortunately. Heaven knows I
tried enough of them in trial and error. I mean, I did the
subtle approach, but he also once saw me in the altogether."
"It was an accident with my power, it's not something I planned
on doing. I felt as if I wished I was dead. Took me weeks,
months to get over and for the longest time I was too shy
around Alistaire to approach him. So I really wouldn't recommend
"Whew! But how did you guys finally get together?"
"Well, Alistaire eventually fell out of lust with Rachel,
but then we in Excalibur did not see him for quite a while,
and when he returned I tried to convince myself I no longer
wanted him so I wouldn't have to take the initiative. And
as I later found out, he was too embarrassed because of the
Rachel thing to approach me. Funnily it was Piotr who became
the catalyst, when he came to Britain after Avalon crashed.
After all those years he's suddenly at my doorstep with a
proposal. It was a really strange thing to do, there really
was no reason to expect I'd consider it, he knew I had moved
on after he dumped me. And I could see how embarrassing it
all was for him from the moment he arrived to when I said
No. But it impressed the hell out of me that he was willing
to go through all this."
"Didn't you still love him a little?" Amiko was listening
with great interest.
"Not enough to try to live the rest of my life with him.
We had both changed too much, sometimes it's just a bad idea
to try to rekindle an old romance. Look at Jean and Warren,
their marriage went bust after four years. And I realized
how much stronger my feelings for Alistaire were than what
remained of my teenage crush. It was too late for Peter and
me. It was for the best though -- a few months later he found
out about Peter junior, and I think he's happier with Nereel
than he would have been with me."
"So it's a matter of timing?"
"In a manner of speaking. When I was thirteen, fourteen I
thought Piotr and I were meant for each other, but that changed
beyond repair the moment he met this Zsaji woman. All sorts
of things can happen in the course of a few years or even
months. I mean, what would have happened if Alistaire had
met someone else and fallen in love with her while he was
away from us? Or even if I hadn't mustered up the courage
to make my move on Alistaire after Peter proposed to me? Maybe
someone else would have bagged him?"
"Like when Piotr had changed his mind about me earlier?"
"Or someone else entirely had made a move on you."
"Fat chance of that happening. Every male in Excalibur is
taken." She smiled lightly, but the thought of the might-have-been
began to intrigue Kitty. "Well, I suppose if Pete Wisdom had
joined us before Piotr ... well, maybe Teresa should be grateful
"He is quite attractive, in a scruffy kind of way," said
Amiko, who then started to think of other options. "Or maybe
Rogue should be glad that Magneto didn't go with Piotr to
"Me and Magneto? I don't think so. Actually, in his and Rogue's
case they could rekindle their old romance in spite of all
the difficulties and going through a lot of changes. Hope
Rogue absorbing Val Cooper's personality wasn't one change
4. I Keep Looking for a Place to Fit In
In the past Rogue and Magneto had engaged in a little amorous
play-acting to spice up their sex life, now they tried something
like it to take Magnus' mind off his preoccupation with the
second persona in his lover's body. For the first time in
a long while, Magneto donned his old helmet for a performance
of "the evil villain ravishing the helpless maiden". It was
a kind of play with fire, but it definitely got results. Within
moments he was ready. He flung Rogue onto the bed, and soon
the 'big bad wolf' had his 'victim' pinned down and was tearing
big holes into her old leotard. And then his own costume dissolved
into a small heap of steel dust and he eagerly hurled himself
over her, entering her almost without preliminaries.
After her enforced long abstention Rogue was only too ready
to receive him and well up to following him as he sliced in
and out of her at a furious pace. A naked breast beneath him
shuddered with each collision between their bodies and it
began to flush in an enticing, delicate pink with the increased
circulation. Her face was contorted in a grimace of lust,
and a silky sheen of perspiration began to show there and
on all other exposed parts of her skin. He himself heated
up with his exertions and his mounting ecstasy, and warm beads
of sweat dripped down onto her, a part plopping onto her glistening
skin, another being absorbed by the fabric of her shredded
It was rutting at its most basic, but the extended period
of anticipation and the thrill of acting out a fantasy lifted
them higher than the physical act itself would have done.
Magnus sensed her approaching preliminary climax and barely
managed to hold back and throw a protective electromagnetic
shell around his skin until its culmination. Then he let go
and gave himself to his own orgasm, confident that his partner
now had reasserted her hold of her absorbing power. Only afterwards,
when he collapsed over Rogue, when they joined in taking off
his helmet to catch up on the kisses and caresses they had
left out in their antics, only then did he remember that he
should have worried because of her new 'silent partner'. But
evidently -- at least as far as one could tell from one experiment
-- the secondary personality did not cause Rogue undue problems
in the fine tuning of her control.
They had just acted out an absurd fantasy, Magneto reflected,
to pretend that he could overcome her by mere muscle power,
as if that did not stand the actual relation between their
physical strengths on its head. A point Rogue underscored
by flipping him over effortlessly and immobilizing him beneath
and between her thighs.
"Turnaround is fair play," she grinned down at him and proceeded
to divest herself of the tattered remnants of her top, in
the process revealing her hitherto concealed left breast.
Once again, Magneto's eye was caught by the little mole on
its underside, the little imperfection that somehow, irrationally,
made him prefer it to its otherwise identical starboard companion.
Evidently, the role of the victim did not come easy to Rogue,
and she wanted to balance it immediately. Deliberately she
tore her shirt into strips which she then used to tie his
wrists to the bed's legs.
For a moment, Magneto felt very uncomfortable, a bit like
the onset of a first swell of panic. If there was something
he could not bear, it was the feeling of being immobilized,
helpless and defenseless before an enemy. He took a second
to remind himself that his bonds were symbolic, that with
the kind of knots Rogue was tying into them they would cause
little trouble even to someone without his powers or experience.
But it was a discomfiting feeling, even with his lover. Was
this how the women in his life had felt next to him? Magda,
his late wife, had reacted by running away when she first
witnessed him using his powers without holding back, Lee Forrester
knew what it was like to be totally at his mercy, yet she
had found it in herself to forgive him, and Rogue herself
had gone through a not dissimilar experience when he had imprisoned
her and half her teammates on Asteroid M.
But Magneto could not pursue that train of thought -- the
sight of Rogue's naked breasts dangling near his face as she
busied herself with his bonds was too distracting. Somehow
she managed to move in a way that denied his lips an actual
touch of the tantalizing globes, no matter how far he stretched.
"S'about time ya finally paid some attention to m'boobies,
sugah," she said with hammed-up sternness, finally relenting
and placing the already half-engorged peaks within range of
his impatiently awaiting mouth. Rogue's nipples were especially
sensitive, and as his lips and tongue went to work on them,
her breathing became faster and more ragged.
"Mmmmh, honey, this is just what ah need," she sighed with
a guttural hum as he sucked her in deeper into his mouth and
let the roughness of his tongue play across and back and forth
on the pulsating bud of flesh. After a few minutes of this
his neck began to feel distinctly uncomfortable, but he persisted.
Sometimes, when the conditions and the mood were right, he
could bring her to an orgasm just by stimulating her breasts
-- they were so strongly connected to her sexual centers.
Sensing this was going to be one of those occasions, he redoubled
his efforts, ignoring his growing discomfort, until the tremors
of ecstasy shuddered through the length of her body like the
shockwaves of a quake. Her moans were almost like whimpers
as she passed through the zenith of her excitation.
He let go of her breasts and his head fell back with a sigh
of relief. Rogue, once she finished the descent from the otherworldly
peak to which he had taken her, suddenly was all solicitude.
She tore the makeshift bonds in two, and gently began to massage
the strained muscles and tendons of his neck and upper back.
But she was by no means finished with him. "Just lay back
an' relax," she told him, and smoothly mounted him, or perhaps
more accurately she swallowed his uprising manhood whole in
her sexual cavern. Now she rose and fell, the movement of
her broad pelvis taken up in a slightly delayed replay by
her mobile bosom, at least until his hands went up to cup
her breasts. He started to squeeze them rhythmically, but
she stopped him. "Just hold 'em gently now."
He heeded her warning and contented himself to enjoying the
feeling of the soft, heated flesh in his callused fingers
while she continued to ride him in ways that bespoke of the
years in which their two bodies had become familiar with each
other and attuned to their hungers. She knew exactly what
little signs to watch out for, how to react to delay her own
climax and to prolong his enjoyment. Finally, the moment arrived,
his hands gripped tight into the sheet, his eyes were pressed
close, and he felt as if fireworks exploded behind his lids
while further down he exploded into her. Her own climax followed
close on, and then she rolled over again, holding on to him
so that he now was on top of her once more.
"Whew, that was worth the wait," she could not help commenting.
He looked deep into her moss-green eyes and could not help
but feel happy. "Well, I think we can declare tonight's approach
a success. Although I'd rather not make it a habit." These
power fantasies were a good way of keeping the cerebellum
occupied so it would not worry and cramp his virility, but
they were no road he wanted to continue in their relationship.
"Hmm, maybe we'd better not," Rogue replied. "Feel up to
a li'l heavy cuddlin', though?"
"I think I might manage at least one more time," His eyes
were still lit up, the pent-up sexual energies were far from
The love-making that followed was slow, slower and more deliberate,
but in its way as passionate as the great release of tension,
of weeks of frustration and expectation, that had gone before.
That had perhaps not been a cathartic explosion in itself,
but a dramatic underscoring of their patient and unspectacular
labor overcoming their temporary estrangement. Now they were
expressing their love as they liked to do before: with few
words, but in as many ways as they could squeeze into one
Magnus felt his confidence was back, and at one point, when
they were in mid-romp with a new twist on an old favorite,
he even joked, "I wonder what Valerie would think of this
position?" without going all flaccid. There was a short moment
when Rogue froze, concerned what might happen, but it was
over immediately and they continued without a hitch.
Finally, Magnus was spent and he quickly fell into a deep,
When he woke, it was still night. Rogue lay asleep on the
bed beside him, at a safe distance where she would not inadvertently
touch him in mid-slumber.
Magneto noticed that the smell of his body aroma and their
mingled sweat and other bodily fluids was beginning to turn
stale and curdled, and he decided to take a late-night shower.
When he returned fresh and clean from the bathroom, he was
startled to find Rogue sitting in her office space. She had
put on a nightgown and a cardigan and was cautiously typing
something into a laptop.
When he bent down to kiss her, she did not react as he expected.
"Careful, Magnus, I haven't quite got the hang of controlling
Rogue's powers yet."
He shrank back. "Doctor Cooper! What have you done to her?!"
His expression scared her a bit and she hurried to say "She's
just sleeping, and I thought I'd borrow her body a little
before she wakes up again. I wanted to write a memo for Alex
and Forge about what to discuss with Jan Van Dyne and Hank
Gyrich next week..."
This came as a relief, mostly, but he still frowned. Damn
that Val Cooper persona! Why did Rogue have to go through
this once more? "We'd better talk," he finally said.
They went into the kitchen. Remembering his manners and that
Val's persona was an odd kind of guest, if not by his invitation,
Magnus fell into the role of the host and prepared two cups
of hot cocoa. They then sat down at the table. It was still
Rogue's face, Magneto mused, but with the other persona in
control, there was an undefinable different quality to his
lover's familiar features.
Val Cooper sipped some of the hot beverage from her mug (Magneto
had not given her Rogue's favorite one with the green catfish,
but a stars-and-stripy one from their eclectic assortment)
and wiped her lips. She came to the point immediately: "Magnus,
I honestly did not intend to cause trouble to Rogue or to
mess up things between her and you..."
"I sense a big 'but' coming on, Dr. Cooper," he said into
her slightly hesitant pause.
Rogue's lips smiled wryly. "Yes, there is a 'but'"
The juxtaposition of the familiar face and the strange voice
was still disconcerting. When Valerie talked, the voice was
a shade deeper than it was with Rogue in control, but still
appreciably higher than how he remembered Valerie using her
own vocal chords. Also, of course, there was the pronunciation
-- the move to West Virginia had once again reinforced Rogue's
Mississippi accent, while Valerie spoke practically pure Standard
"Look, Rogue walked into this with open eyes, she went through
something like this before, but she did not hesitate," the
woman continued, "It's a hell of a thing to live up to, but
I'll always try to do my best. I know I can't help speaking
for my own ends here, but please try to accept what she did
in the spirit in which she gave it. Even if it is difficult."
"For someone like me?" he asked defensively.
"For anyone. I think I would react a lot like you in this
situation. But call me Valerie. We were closer before ...
when I still had my own body."
"I'm sorry about everything, er, Valerie," Magneto said,
"it's just this crazy situation, it made you seem more of
a stranger. I guess I had expected you would not accept Rogue's
offer. I mean, the way she talked about you almost killing
yourself rather than to hurt Mystique..."
"That was a very different situation," Valerie replied patiently,
"when I was under the Shadow King's control, that was the
only way. But Rogue convinced me that she was strong enough
to be the keeper of my essence, that it would not drive her
mad. She can be very persuasive, you know."
"From experience." His mind went back to the Savage Land
where she had persuaded him and an initially hostile UN force
to form an alliance. Not that even she had been able to prevent
Semyanov betraying them all. "But why did she insist on doing
"Haven't you asked her yet?" Her gaze made Magneto feel uncomfortable.
"Maybe you'd better do that soon, so I won't tell you what
I know and what I think. Better stop avoiding talking about
Magneto remained silent for a while, then Valerie spoke again:
"As for why I accepted -- in part it was because I wanted
to be there for my family, for Raven and the girls. But I
suppose you could put a less friendly interpretation on it
and say that's just my own conceit, thinking I'm indispensable..."
"I did not say that!"
"But are you sure you didn't think it? I would have seen
the matter differently had you asked me about it a year ago.
But it's a whole different ballgame when you feel your life
ebbing away with every second. Magnus, I wasn't ready to die
at that moment. I'm still not ready now."
"I understand," he said, almost whispered. She looked into
his eyes and saw it too, the face of a man determined not
to go gently into that dark night, whose will to live had
powered him to claw his way out of a mass-grave, had made
him endure the horrors of Auschwitz, had kept him up under
pressures where others would have faltered and collapsed.
And also the sorrow for those whom he had lost on the way.
Valerie reached out to touch him, but drew back the hand at
the last moment.
"I haven't yet learned how to control Rogue's absorption
power," she explained. "When I first tried to kiss my girls
good-night after ... I accidentally absorbed Irene's mind
for a minute. Luckily she's a tough girl -- I was more upset
about it than she was."
Magnus wanted to do something for her, but what? A hug was
feasible -- he could always generate an electromagnetic field
to isolate himself from the effects of Rogue's power -- but
somehow it felt inappropriate. Still, he reflected, was Rogue
likely to complain? Well, just this once, he would ask her
in the morning.
Valerie sensed his hesitation, but was glad to lean her head
on his shoulder. "Thanks, I really could do with a hug," she
sighed. "We'll settle on some sort of modus vivendi eventually."
Magnus did not look all that reassured. "It probably would
be easier if it only involved the three of us," he muttered
after sitting under Val's gaze for a while.
"You worry because I still love Raven, don't you?"
Magneto was visibly uncomfortable; it would seem churlish
to begrudge Valerie such and important part of her life. But
finally he decided to take the bull by the horns: "Look, we
talked about this before -- in a way -- and it's not that
I feel that you owe me an explanation, but how exactly do
you plan to conduct your relationship with Raven?"
"I really had no plan when this started. I want to cause
as little frictions for you and Rogue as possible because
I care for you both. But what I'll achieve -- who knows? I
won't pretend I don't feel certain ... urges sometimes when
I think of Raven. And while I can assure you I'll do my best
to resist, er, temptation, it is dangerous to make long-term
"Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there," Magnus
muttered, but there was not a great deal of confidence in
"Hopefully it'll never happen."
"No, darlin', of course it was all right." Rogue brightly
said, pouring the freshly pressed orange juice for their breakfast.
"Ah'm glad you gave her that hug, that's one o' the things
ah can't give her myself, and ah know what it's like havin'
to live without physical intimacy for a long time. Just so
long as you two didn't get too frisky..."
"Have no fear of that, my love, you had absolutely drained
me, I couldn't have done anything even if I had wanted to."
Rogue's quizzical expression reminded him that he still had
things to learn about the making of jokes. "Not that I would
have dreamed of..."
Amused by his embarrassment, Rogue settled on his lap with
a giggle, embraced him and placed a deep lingering kiss on
his lips. "Ah'm so proud of you and how you're dealin' with
our crazy situation."
Magnus felt like making a withering remark, but instead decided
to ask his partner the question he had avoided for too long:
"Why did you do it, Rogue? You've seen people die before without
trying to become that kind of a ... soulkeeper for them. Why
now? Is it something special about Val Cooper and you?"
"Hard to say. When it happened, it was as if I had seen it
happen before..." Rogue pulled up and rested her chin on her
knees, reflecting. "Years ago ah had a dream about a situation
that was very similar, but also different in a few details.
Had it at least three times, as far as ah'm aware, with some
stuff varyin', but always about Val. The first time ah can
remember havin' it was in that bed and breakfast where we
stayed the night b'fore we went to Antietam and then to the
X-Mansion. Ah often wondered if it might've been one of those
precognitive dreams that Carol used to get because of her
"But you're not sure?"
"No, there were so few times when Ms. Marvel's Seventh Sense
kicked in for me, and in many cases ah wasn't even sure if
it was the Sense or just lucky coincidence. So it might just
have been a dream ah happened to have a few times. Obsessively.
For whatever reason. But 'cause of that dream ah thought about
the possibility before, so when Val actually was mortally
wounded, ah did not need long to decide what to do."
"But why the obsession?"
"I'm not sure, maybe there's several reasons. She was, is,
the mother of my sisters and not a total stranger to me, but
maybe it was 'cause ah subconsciously associated her with
the change in Momma's life. Ah liked us bein' a family again,
even if it wasn't as close as it had been before ah joined
the X-Men, maybe in my dreams ah wanted to protect that...
Anyway, when ah saw Momma's face when she thought she was
goin' to lose Val as she had Irene Adler, then ah knew ah
had to do it. Whether it was the right thing to do..."
Rogue breathed deeply and Magnus held her tight, trying to
reassure her. "If there's anything..."
"No, ah'm not thinkin' of myself, ah've been through this
before, so far Val's been a ... model guest, ah s'pose ya'd
say, and ah got you to help me. It's just that ah hadn't really
considered that both Val and Raven will now only have a shadow
of their former life. Ah live in a different part of the country
from Momma, and that means Val has to live like a divorcee
-- we only get to visit her family once in a while. Ah sometimes
worry if Momma will be able to handle the separation as well
as she says."
Two months later a new crisis arose.
5. Things Start to Happen Again
The Meddlers' situation room was one of the biggest in their
base in the hills of West Virginia. Magneto had built it back
in his days as a world-class 'supervillain', thinking a huge,
imposing hall would be useful for briefing his underlings,
intimidating captives, or even for issuing televised threats
to the world at large. That's where the midnight blue walls
were for -- to provide a good backdrop for his red and purple
costume. Now the room had been adapted to the needs of the
X-Men's offshoot team -- the center of the room was taken
up by a big conference table and most of the communications
equipment, viewscreens and all, had been moved onto the big
platform where the big chair used to stand. The old communications
room had been laid out for use just by Magneto and maybe one
assistant; it was much too small to allow everyone to look
at the big screen simultaneously.
Today, most members were assembled around the table: Rogue
sat at her accustomed place at the side, where it was as easy
to turn to the left to watch the screens or right to see who
was coming in the door. As usual, Magneto sat a few yards
to the right and behind her, as if he wanted to indicate that
he did not quite belong to the others. Jean and Logan sat
on the opposite side of the table from Rogue, while the half-circle
in between on the side nearest to the door was occupied by
Chen Li, Neal, Roberto and Monet. At the end towards the screen
sat their teammate Rémy and Amelia Voght, whom he had brought
over from New Orleans after she sought him out there.
"We thought the struggle and the bloodshed would be over
soon," Amelia related, "but then the fighting flared up again
and there was a total turnaround in a matter of weeks. Genosha
is well on the way to becoming again what it was in the dark
"How did this happen?" Rogue asked. "They had made so much
progress in overcoming the old hate."
"What I want to know is how the reversal came about," said
Neal Shaara, "I would have thought that the mutants of Genosha
would have put up a more effective resistance, especially
now that Legacy is no longer a problem."
"Mostyn Mundus couldn't have done it with his own resources,"
the emissary of the Genoshan resistance explained, "he had
outside support, we think from American backers. Suddenly
he had a squadron of Sentinels and now a man called Reece
Carlton is converting the old Henry & Keeler plant into
a factory and repair-shop for Sentinels. And as usual the
world doesn't care, and the nations that could intervene are
wrapped up in their own agendas. So we'd rather rely on those
we trust. Especially you, Magnus."
The eyes of those present all turned to the Master of Magnetism,
who did not seem entirely happy at being the focus of attention.
"It wasn't just the Acolytes whose hopes you woke when you
offered a safe haven for mutants on Avalon," Amelia continued.
"And now many expect you will come to help them achieve something
that will help them as much, but closer to home. And a lot
of them want you to take charge. Of course I'm not sure if
you'd be prepared to do that, seeing that you made your peace
with Charles and his dream again..."
Magnus frowned. "I do what I consider viable, and for the
moment that includes giving peaceful coexistence between mutant
and non-mutant a chance. But I also firmly believe in facing
up to necessity," he said cryptically.
"So we go in?" Logan asked matter-of-factly.
"Some people are not going to like it if you invade what
is currently seen as a friendly foreign country," said Amelia,
playing devil's advocate, "especially if you're seen to be
installing a new government."
Logan had no such doubts. He had been part of interfering
in the affairs of other states before, both as a soldier and
a secret agent, and was not averse to do it again, without
the blessing of the US or Canadian government. But Jean Grey
looked quite worried.
At that point the discussion was joined by the resident former
government official. "I'm all for dealing with Genosha," said
Valerie through Rogue's lips, "with Mundus in charge it will
again have all the hallmarks of a 'rogue nation', um, no offense
to my host ... They vividly remember how the old regime through
its weight about even in Washington, and that is a scary thing
to remember. That's why the Avengers, X-Factor and the Fantastic
Four are held back for the moment. And because of the linkage
with the Avengers the X-Men are also passive for the nonce.
But it might be welcome to the powers that be if the Meddlers
pull the fat out of the fire, because they're an outlaw group.
Of course there is still a lot of people in the Pentagon and
the CIA who would be even more nervous about Magneto's influence
if the Meddlers intervene, even after six years."
Since most of the Meddlers had fought alongside Magneto for
longer than their team existed, this was not a problem, and
they soon set off in the Greased Lightning, the plane that
Forge had designed for the team when they needed an aircraft
that did not resemble either of the X-Men's Blackbirds too
Jean Grey and Logan sat up front in the pilot's seat, quietly
plotting the course, communicating by Jean's telepathy so
as not to disturb the others. Even though the Greased Lightning
had sub-orbital capabilities, a flight halfway around the
world took time, and some of their teammates took advantage
of that to read up on Genosha or just trying to get some rest.
At the back, Magneto sat in hushed conversation with Rogue.
What had been said at the conference still occupied his mind.
"Still can't get over how many mutants still are lookin' upon
you as their Messiah?" said Rogue.
"If that is so, Amelia Voght does not sound as if she's a
believer anymore. If she ever was. Well, she was an Acolyte
once, perhaps seeing me up close tempered her expectations
"Not that realism seems to have been that widespread amongst
her old teammates, if you don' mind my sayin' so," said Rogue,
"considerin' how easy it was for Fabe Cortez and Exodus to
talk 'em into believin' and followin' them."
"Uh, Cortez also pulled the wool over my eyes for a while,"
Magnus reminded his partner. "But that is probably one of
the things Amelia remembers."
"So you made mistakes in the past. So what? Ah made mistakes,
everybody did. You learned from yours just like ah did from
mine. We won't make 'em again. Ah'm sure when the time comes
you'll know what's the right thing to do." Her hand squeezed
his, which did as much to bolster Magnus' confidence and reassure
him of her trust as her words did.
"And what if I wanted to stay in Genosha?"
"Ah'd have to see for myself. If you're really needed there,
ah reckon you could use my help, maybe even the entire team
had better stay."
6. You Still Believe In Me
There was much relief among the mutant and mutate rebels
of Genosha when the Meddlers arrived to live up to their self-chosen
name. Quickly sketched plans could be put into operation.
The attack began with Amelia teleporting Neal and Chen Li
to the radar station on Blake Headland, which the three of
them quickly took out of commission along with its Sentinel
guard and the adjacent missile base. The surprise raid was
over in minutes, after which the trio 'ported to the African
mainland to divert the four Sentinels that had taken off in
hot pursuit and locked onto their power 'signature'. However,
since the new regime in Hammer Bay had not yet entirely overcome
its domestic opposition, it wanted to a avoid an international
incident and called back the Sentinels before they came within
sight of the coast.
A small Royal Navy task force was cruising to the west of
the Seychelles and a smaller French one off the Comoro Islands,
while a much more powerful US fleet operated to the southeast
of Cape Guardafui. All three forces currently were content
to observe the civil war in Genosha from afar, but they caused
Mostyn Mundus some concern, if not as much as the possibility
that a military clash at this point could give the three powers
a pretext to unleash their metapowered deterrent -- the Avengers,
the Fantastic Four, X-Factor, Excalibur and the Force Spéciale
Surhumaine. Once the Sentinel production reached planned levels
and a sufficient number of Genoshan mutants had been press-ganged
into militia service it would be possible to deal even with
major foreign interventions, but at the moment an outside
war was too dangerous to risk.
The successful night raid on the Blake Headland base was
the signal for a series of hit-and-run raids and acts of sabotage
all over the island of Genosha. This increased the existing
fog of civil war by a multifold. This, and the cover of Forge's
stealth technology, enabled the Meddlers' main force to land
a few miles from Hammer Bay. After hiding and securing the
Greased Lightning at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, they
proceeded on land.
There were two obvious primary targets: the center of government
in and around the presidential palace and the Sentinel base
in the fortified Henry & Keeler factory. Rogue had decided
that it was essential to knock out Reece Carlton's facility
to prevent the production of more Sentinels and the repair
of the ones damaged in battle. But the palace, as the civil
and military nerve center of the country, was the place Mostyn
Mundus wanted to protect the most and was guarded by the largest
single concentration of Sentinels in Genosha. In order to
keep it there, Rogue called for a diversionary attack on the
"That should be my task," Magnus decided. "The more of us
are there to attack the plant the better. And if they see
me they'll be inclined to think I'm trying to be the Great
"They'll believe you're tryin' to take over the island over
by your lonesome if you do it right. And you're powerful enough
to pull it off for a time. Just watch your back, sweetie.
And if you run into trouble, don't wait too long to holler.
We still have our three aces in the hole." Rogue and Magneto
embraced for a quick kiss. "We'll try and lay in wait till
you start the fireworks," she called after him, "we'll try
to finish our job soon as we can, and then we'll come a-runnin'
A few minutes after their parting, Magneto reached an observation
point from where he could undertake a quick reconnaissance
of the presidential compound. Forge had equipped the team
with portable cloaking devices that were good enough to fool
the genetic scanners of the 'conventional' Sentinels the X-Men
and Meddlers had encountered before, but would Magneto's be
good enough to disguise his presence at short range from Carlton's
new Kappa series? He decided to play it safe to start with,
scanning the area with a set of night binoculars and by passively
using his power to feel the distortion of the Earth's magnetic
field caused by the massive metal bulks of the mutant-hunting
robots. He noticed that the one standing about 250 meters
to the right of the main gate was almost invisible to his
magnetic sense -- possibly a prototype of the experimental
new Pi series Amelia had mentioned. Magneto smiled grimly.
Maybe he should feel flattered that they had taken the trouble
to construct a special amagnetic type of Sentinel with him
in mind. Better take that one out first of all.
Luckily there were lots of metal objects around that Magneto
could use as projectiles -- a couple of dumpsters, parked
cars, the heavy gates themselves. The Pi Sentinel soon was
swamped under a whirlwind of instant scrap metal. Although
it was built mainly from plastic and other non-metallic materials,
it was very tough. The outer shell seemed to consist of some
Kevlar-like compound that absorbed a great amount of the blows
raining down on it. Magneto quickly changed his tack and fixed
the immobilized robot to the nearest high-tension line, augmenting
it with his own power to fry it both figuratively and literally.
His bid to disable the machine electrically met with some
success, and after that it was fairly easy to shatter the
more delicate innards by dumping them in the coolness of the
ornamental lake after superheating the Sentinel. But by that
point the Kappa Sentinels had finally worked out his position
and the fight began in earnest.
By that time the Meddlers' assault on the Henry & Keeler
plant had begun. The first wave made good headway and quickly
trashed the repair workshop. But when they advanced towards
the main construction area, the Magistrates and Sentinels
defending the plant had overcome their initial disorganization
and mounted a counterattack. Rogue and her comrades gradually
had to give ground.
While Roberto wielded a Sentinel's leg which he had picked
up in the repair workshop to subdue a squad of Magistrates,
Jean and Gambit teamed up against a Sentinel -- her telekinetic
attack briefly wore down its protective field, enabling her
teammate to touch and charge its leg. He was almost captured
by his intended victim, but Jean's TK froze its massive hands
long enough for Rogue to swoop in and extricate him. Seconds
later the energized limb of the robot blew up, triggering
a second, bigger explosion in the innards of its body. The
remnants of the Sentinel collapsed into an untidy heap while
Rogue dropped off Gambit at the point where Logan was up against
another one, hoping that this new combination would help to
deal with the crisis on this part of the battlefield while
she flew back to help Jean as a new threat materialized in
the shape of two more Kappas. All the while she had to keep
track of Monet and Roberto to her right.
"Jean, tell Amelia that now's a good time!" Rogue shouted
as she came within the former Marvel Girl's hearing. "Damn,
what's keeping the others?" The second prong of the attack
on the factory, the one to be undertaken by the main force
of the mutant resistants of the island, still had not made
its presence felt. The two women had their hands full with
their mechanical foes. But Jean got the telepathic call for
help out before she became totally embroiled in the fight;
moments later Amelia arrived in a cloud of mist with Li and
Neal. As luck would have it, they first came up against a
couple of Pi Sentinels, and against these synthetic and glass-fiber
menaces the combination of Neal's plasma fire and Chen Li's
metal body did terrible execution, particularly after the
Chinese Meddler transformed her lower arms into razor-sharp
blades and her Bengali comrade used his power to heat them
up to white heat. Soon the acrid smell of burning plastic
began to spread from this part of the hall.
"Rogue, Magneto says he's in trouble!" Jean shouted.
Rogue hissed an obscenity while she helped Jean finish off
a Sentinel "It has to be now that Li's too hot for Amelia
to touch. Millie, could you and Neal make like the cavalry
for Magnus? Ah'll try and follow as soon as ah can."
Amelia Voght and Neal Shaara disappeared in the twinkling
of an eye. Rogue was not distracted long by the exchange,
but when she turned back, another Kappa Sentinel was almost
upon her. She desperately brought up her arms to defend herself,
succeeding in deflecting the robot's right fist, but not the
left. The giant metal arm slammed into her, propelling her
across the room. The leader of the Meddlers crashed head-first
into the wall, which knocked her out, but didn't do the wall
any good either, as could be seen from the big hole left in
the concrete as her unconscious body fell to the ground.
Sunspot had a reprieve at that moment because the Pi Sentinel
he was fighting suddenly launched itself into the air and
flew off in the direction of the presidential palace, obviously
to help deal with Magneto and his reinforcements. Roberto
quickly ran over to Jean's sector, tackling the Sentinel from
behind that had tagged Rogue.
While Jean and Berto brought their foe down, Rogue came to,
winded and dazed. "Did someone get the number of that bus?"
she groaned as she rose shakily. The intensity of the fighting
in the repair shop had slackened somewhat, she noticed, then,
even above the ringing in her head she recognized the growing
noise in the assembly area in the adjoining room -- clearly
the attack by fighters of the Genoshan mutant from the other
end of the factory was gathering momentum. "The others are
in the main hall!" she shouted, but then, still somewhat shaky
in the knees, she began to make her way to rejoin the fight.
Through the skylight overhead she saw a half-finished Pi Sentinel
flying off in the direction of the government district. Hopefully
that was a good sign, that the attack on the palace was so
successful that Mundus desperately called in reinforcements
from the Sentinel base even though the fight was going bad
for him here as well.
When Rogue ran to M's aid against two Sentinels, Monet was
a bit surprised at the way she combated the Kappa she were
up against. After the first few punches had been exchanged,
Rogue fought instinctively, as if she had forgotten that she
was super-strong. At one point, she even appeared disappointed
when kneed the giant robot in its crotch and it didn't react
as a flesh and blood male would. Still, her rough and dirty
fighting style was not ineffective, and in the end she and
M demolished the two Sentinels.
"Are you all right, Rogue?" the Algerian Meddler asked, betraying
noticeable concern, for her.
"Well, I have good news and bad news," came the reply. There
was no trace of Rogue's normal Mississippi drawl in the speech.
"Oh great," Monet sighed as she returned to the fray. "Well,
Val, try your best."
"There is no try," Valerie quipped. But the tide had clearly
turned. The wall to the main hall was breached by the bulk
of a Sentinel hurled from inside, obviously by a super-strong
Genoshan fighter. After a few more minutes, Val somewhat cautiously
took to the air. "Rogue will kill me if I don't go and help
Magneto!" she shouted to her comrades, and then she sped off
westwards to the palace.
Rogue had let Val train controlling her powers in the weeks
past, both to be able to function in her body in normal life
and for emergencies such as this, but still Val felt rather
daunted. Her take-off had been distinctly wobbly, but as she
flew on her confidence grew and the flightpath became smoother.
Behind her the sun was rising from the Indian Ocean, which
meant she would be coming out of the sun when she arrived
at her target. Unfortunately that would not mean anything
because the bright light would obviously not bother the electronic
sensors of a Kappa or Pi Sentinel.
Despite the arrival of reinforcements, Magneto was in a precarious
situation. Of the two who had joined him, Neal was the only
one of immediate use in a close-quarter fight because Amelia
never really had developed her teleportational power as a
weapon in the way that for instance Nightcrawler had. Still,
she was able to run interference. And even if the guns and
rocket-launchers she commandeered from the guard armory did
little damage to fully functional Sentinels, they could be
used to help finish off those that had been damaged by Neal
The continuing strain and mounting fatigue was beginning
to tell on Magneto, his face was graying beneath the grime
of battle and his hair was soaked in sweat. He yearned for
a short respite, maybe just a minute to catch his breath,
but still more Sentinels piled on. And it became harder to
defeat them, as the new ones seemed to learn quickly from
seeing how their cohorts were defeated. He thought he sensed
a telepathic call from Jean, but he was too distracted to
pay attention. Neal wasn't in a much better shape than Magnus,
for though he had seen a little less action that night, he
was less experienced, and where Magneto could rely on his
magnetic senses and instincts honed in decades of combat,
he could only trust his eyes and ears and had to keep his
head in continual movement so as to look and listen all around.
But because of that, Neal's relative inexperience ironically
proved an asset, for when Magneto was preoccupied with a noisy
fight with a Kappa Sentinel, he failed to notice the last
Pi Sentinel silently approaching from behind. But Neal, who
nervously kept looking over his shoulder, registered him just
in time and managed to decapitate the robot just in time.
A massive burst of plasma fire turned its head into a spray
of liquid plastic and ceramics. However, the flying body kept
coming, and though Magneto instinctively raised a shield of
magnetism and metal debris around himself and his comrade,
the impact was hard enough to knock them both over. When the
cloud of dust rose and began to be carried seaward by the
morning breeze, Neal, who had given his all in that final
burst, lay unconscious and Magneto groggily rose to his feet.
He threw up another magnetic shield just in time to save
himself from the Kappa's powerful laser. But his knees buckled
with the effort of deflecting and absorbing the ray's energy.
So the arrival and intervention of the Meddler in green and
black was nothing if not timely. Rogue's (or more correctly,
Val's) first attack was nothing fancy, but it did its job,
providing the opening that enabled her, Magneto and Amelia
to finish the robot off.
There was a sudden lull as the remaining Kappa Sentinels
regrouped in a more defensive formation around the central
palace compound. The rout of the Pi Sentinels must have come
as a surprise to them, Magnus noted with grim pleasure, if
computer could have emotions, it would even have been a shock.
"Rogue got knocked out, I'll try to look out for her body."
As the three standing mutants caught their breath, Val brought
the others up to date about the situation back at the factory.
"I think Jean's in charge now."
Amelia checked Neal's pulse, then she took advantage of the
pause to 'port back to the factory: "I'll see if they can
spare people to help with the final push," she said before
Unfortunately, after seeing that the others were making no
move to attack them, the Sentinels decided that her departure
sufficiently shifted the odds in their favor and began to
mount a last-ditch attack. Magneto and Val soon had their
hands full defending themselves and their unconscious comrade.
However, as Magneto could tell using his magnetic sense, there
only four Kappa Sentinels left, and all of them were moving
in on them.
"Hold tight, Valerie!" Under these precarious circumstances
Magneto decided on a desperate gamble, putting his remaining
energy into an electro-magnetic pulse that was massive enough
to fry or at any rate heavily damage the electronics of all
four in one big sweep. The exertion was painful, he felt as
if a dull knife was being plunged into his skull from above
and then used to scoop out his brains. Finally, he succumbed
to the strain and blacked out.
When he regained his consciousness after a few minutes, he
saw he had been carried next to the still unconscious Neal.
In the mid distance, Valerie was crouching over the lying
shape of a Sentinel, pushing an explosive charge into the
empty socket of its right shoulder (she must have torn out
the arm). She then briskly came back to shield Magnus and
Neal against the force of the blast that tore apart the torso
of the robot a few moments later.
"That was freaking amazing," she said in an awestruck voice,
"what you just did, Magnus."
Magneto did not answer. He slowly rose to his feet and took
a deep breath. Then he brushed some of the dust from his suit
using his hands and purposefully walked towards the palace.
The remaining defenders, Magistrates and soldiers, did not
pose problems worth mentioning. Some of the younger recruits
leapt up and took flight when they saw his blood-shot eyes
and the expression on his face, relieving him of the necessity
to disarm them.
These were the ones who told him, after not too harsh questioning,
where Mostyn Mundus had fled. Magneto caught up with him near
one of the back entrances as he was trying to make his escape
on foot with his staff and some guards. (They knew better
than to try to elude Magneto in road vehicles or aircraft
largely made of metal).
As soon as Mundus saw Magneto, he snatched a strange-looking
gun from one of the guards' hands, a special weapon made entirely
of ceramic and plastic components. Magneto's lips curled in
grim amusement. The filaments that made up his left glove
dissolved into a cloud of metal particles, and before the
self-proclaimed president of Genosha managed to point the
gun at him the barrel was already totally clogged up.
"I wouldn't pull that trigger if I were you," he said with
icy disdain, "your fancy little toy is liable to blow up in
your face. And that will only make your death more painful."
"What are you talking about?" came Val's question from his
side. He had almost forgotten that she still was with him.
"Surely you don't expect me to let him and his accomplices
live?" As he spoke, the remaining guards lost their metallic
firearms which transformed, as if by magic, into shackles
"That's crazy, Magnus!"
"After what they did, it will be a cleansing. They are responsible
for hundreds of deaths, they would have succeeded in enslaving
my people with the world standing idly by if I hadn't put
a stop to it."
"Why are you talking this way? You know the others will disown
you if you kill these people. Do you want to drive Rogue out
of your life?"
"How dare you! Rogue will know what I did was right."
"You know she won't," Valerie replied, adding an urgent "C'mon
Rogue, wake up, you're needed!" under her breath. "What's
got into you? Mundus should be put on trial. This is so ...
"Are you suggesting I'm going insane? Have a care, Doctor
Somewhat disconcertingly, she took his rhetorical question
at face value. "Now that mention it ... Magnus, I've never
seen you bloodthirsty like this, but I've seen reports on
what you were like in the past ... I know a little bit about
abnormal psychology, psych was one of my minors in college
and I helped proofread a lot of Edmond's papers, but of course
I'm no real expert..." She scratched her skin. "I don't know,
maybe the stress of the battle triggered some kind of reaction
in you, or maybe you're a manic-depressive and the excitement
magnified the effects."
Magneto was seething with astonishment and rage at this effrontery.
This was as bad as something the MacTaggert woman had told
him once: "Next thing you'll suggest I go into therapy, right?"
"No, just that you take a look at yourself. Maybe you think
you're behaving rationally now, but doesn't that mean you
were mentally unstable when you tried to replace Charles Xavier
after your trial and now when you worked with the Meddlers
and played by their rules?"
To Val's relief, Rogue's consciousness had woken during the
last exchanges and now joined in: "Magnus, Val could be right.
Ah think it's most likely connected to usin' your powers a
lot. Remember when you decided to take on the whole world
on your own and saw us as your enemies again? That was after
you went to the limits against Zaladane and then against the
X-Men, and when Cortez had jacked up your powers." She looked
deep into his eyes. "Magnus, you know ah love you and trust
you. Ah trusted you ever since we got together again, but
trust me just now. Please at least wait until you've recovered
and our brains are no longer muddled up and battle-crazed..."
Very slowly Magnus' fixed expression softened -- at the moment
he was only half-convinced about the problem his lover and
her psychic subtenant thought he had, but Rogue's concern
appeared genuine. He would think this over, maybe he needed
help, maybe it really was time to leave the Meddlers but he
could convince her to join him. He took her into his arms.
The imminent crisis had passed. One of Mostyn Mundus' underlings
Amelia Voght arrived not long after with M and Qilin. The
fighting was mostly over now, except for a little mopping
up, which Amelia, Monet and Chen Li could handle on their
own. The other Meddlers gathered in Saint-Expedit's hospital.
Here their bruises were bound up and Sunspot's broken arm
and leg were put into casts.
As the doctors and nurses continued their work on the casualties
of the civil war that kept being delivered, Magnus went off
into an empty staff room. "You want ah should stay outside?"
asked Rogue. She sounded worried, but she knew there were
problems that Magneto preferred to work out in private, alone.
"Come with me," he replied, his eyes wordlessly acknowledging
his lover's anxiety. "I don't want to talk just now, but I
want you to be with me."
They sat down side by side on a dingy-looking brown sofa.
At first Magnus' brow was furrowed as he let the day's events,
and particularly those of the past hour or so, pass review
in his mind. But after a while, because the battle was over
and the stress of mortal danger was released, his exhaustion
took its toll and he lay down. Pillowing his head in Rogue's
lap, he soon fell asleep.
Rogue leaned back to relax herself. She looked down at him
tenderly when her eyes glazed over. How peaceful he looks,
Val's voice came to her mind unbidden.
Yes, Rogue replied in the same fashion, then went on to other
matters: You did good today, Val.
You're making me blush.
No, really. I can tell because we're still alive.
So, what happens now?
I guess they'll install a provisional government, maybe
organize elections in the not too distant future.
You think it'll work out? In spite of everything, mutants
still are a minority on this island and there's still a lot
of people who were raised to fear and despise mutants. It'll
be hard to get them to accept a system based on equality.
Yes, much as I'd wish it was different. A lot will depend
on the trial of course. Mundus and his gang must be seen to
be tried fairly.
You want them brought before an international court as you
did with Magnus in Paris, don't you?
It's true, I'd prefer that. But Ms. Voght wants to try
him here, and I think she speaks for the people who will pick
up the reins of government now. Even if Magnus is made head
of the provisional government...
You reckon they'll offer the job to him?
Well, I wouldn't discount the possibility. 'Magneto' is
still a name to conjure with with a lot of mutants, not just
The question is of course if Magnus would want to become
head of state over here. Ah think he had doubts about takin'
such a role on our flight here.
And how do you feel about it? I tried not to show it,
but I was scared when he threatened to summarily kill Mundus
and his cohorts. I hope that was just a transitory aberration
brought on by stress and combat fatigue. Maybe you two should
see if he needs some form of therapy...
Hearing Val talk about her man in such a way was distressing
to Rogue. He'll be fine, she protested. And whatever happens,
I'll be there to help him.
7. In My Room
"Who's there? Make no sudden moves."
More than five decades of living at high risk from secret
agents, ninjas, competing terrorists, superpowered humans
and the occasional space alien, demon and Asgardian god had
honed Mystique's sleeping patterns to maximum vigilance. The
comparative quiet of her six years with Val Cooper had done
nothing to blunt her edge, if anything feeling responsible
for her new family kept it sharp. So the minute breeze caused
by the displacement of air by a cautiously opened bedroom
door was enough for her to crouch beside her bed with a gun
in hand in a matter of seconds.
"It's only me, Raven." The soft reply came in Valerie's familiar
cadence. That the words were uttered in Rogue's slightly higher
pitch still added an element of unreality. The light came
on, and Mystique looked on the beloved face and form of her
"Afraid so. Rogue's asleep at the moment. We're in America
to pick up some things from the base because we're staying
in Genosha longer than expected. I thought I'd stop by to
talk to you."
Raven Darkhölme relaxed a little and sat down on her bed.
After discarding her firearm she was a picture of domesticity
in a decent nightgown. The other woman meanwhile settled down
on the dresser. "All right, let's talk," said Raven. "So,
how do you and Rogue get along sharing one body now?"
"I can't complain, Rogue has been most accommodating; she
even lets me go to church in it sometimes. I try not to be
too much of an irritant for her, but you'd have to ask her
herself if I succeed."
"Don't worry, I will."
"We're settling in with each other. She's getting me addicted
to Terry Pratchett right now, and I think I've aroused her
interest in the Beach Boys."
"Poor Rogue!" As usual, Raven affected ironic amusement about
Val's obsession with the Californian band in general and the
musical oeuvre of Brian Wilson in particular. "Anyway, what
do you want to talk about, Valerie?"
"Well, people keep asking Rogue and me how we feel, how we're
dealing with our crazy situation and all that, but when I
ask them how my widow has adapted to the changes in her life..."
"We never married, so I can't be your widow, dear heart.
Can't get rid of me that easily."
She was rewarded with a smile for that remark. "Anyway, they
couldn't tell me much because my Raven isn't someone who gives
away anything to strangers, and the last few times I saw you,
you always managed to steer the conversation away from how
you feel yourself. That's beginning to worry me a little.
It hasn't become much easier for you, has it?"
"Your insight serves you well, young Jedi. But I'm a grown
woman, I don't need you holding my hand all the time." She
made light of it, but the younger woman did not look entirely
convinced. She haltingly touched Raven's dark blue cheek.
But she dared do no more and pulled back her hand. This shyness
amused Mystique, but also made her feel melancholy. A little
moistness gathered in the corners of her eyes.
Valerie swallowed. "You have the children to look after and
the team, of course, but don't you feel lonely a lot of the
time, especially at night? From what I hear you're still not
appreciably close to the other X-Factorites apart from St.
"No, I'm still ... what I mean is, I don't see you and Rogue
as often as I would like, but that doesn't change that I still
have you. I don't have to change my life totally."
"Well, yes, but we only have each other in this at times
unsatisfactory Platonic fashion. And after sharing your bed
for five years, I know you have ... other needs. It's easier
for me, I live in the body of a sexually satisfied young woman
which does take a bit of the edge of what I feel in my mind
when I think of you with nothing on. But I know your libido,
"It's part of what drew you to me, I know." Raven fondly
looked at the framed nude picture of Valerie hanging on the
wall to the left of her bed. Val had given her that on October
6th of last year, a customary present for their anniversary.
She sighed. "Valerie darling, for the time I manage by myself.
In the future, who knows? Maybe I'll sublimate my urges into
heightened creativity. Or do you think I should take mistresses
to satisfy my physical needs?"
"Just so long as you don't fall in love with them." That
was meant as a joke, but Valerie did not entirely succeed
in her intention to deliver it in a way that masked her genuine
worries. "I mean, there's nothing I can do to relieve your
itch myself, even though Rogue now has taught me to control
her powers. But it's something I had to talk about
with you, I don't want to lose you..."
"No need to explain, I understand perfectly. But you worry
too much, we'll find a solution." Raven put her arm around
Val's (Rogue's) shoulder.
"Let's hope so." Valerie sniffled. "I so hope you're right."
Raven wondered. Should she ease her partner's mind by telling
her about her plans? She had secretly collected cell samples
from Val's body before the funeral and now kept them in cryogenic
storage against the day a way to reverse Rogue's absorption
process was discovered. Then would come the moment to implant
Val's persona in a clone of her original body. The cloning
shouldn't be too difficult. Moira MacTaggert probably could
do it -- Scots apparently had an affinity for it. Hadn't Sean
let slip that Moira once almost started cloning her son, the
homicidal Proteus? That didn't sound as if the world-famous
geneticist was going to be too bothered whether she cloned
sheep or humans. With luck, she herself could hold out until
then and then Val's worries would have been for nothing. But
Raven finally decided against raising Val's hopes. There was
always the chance that they would be dashed, that there would
never be a way to transfer her back from Rogue's mind.
Their conversation eventually drifted to other subjects as
Val quizzed Raven about the latest developments at home with
Irene and Hope, as well as in the X-Factor compound.
Raven for her part wanted to know about what the Meddlers
had been up to in Genosha for the past few weeks. Their part
in the ending of the civil war and the beginning of the rebuilding
of the island nation.
"I see Jennifer Ransome is heading the provisional government,"
she said. "I'd have thought that would be more Magneto's line
"Well, he did not feel up to it at this point," Val replied
and gave a potted account of the events at the confrontation
with Mostyn Mundus. "He decided he needed help, at least temporarily.
But that proved a little complicated. For a start, he did
not want any telepaths involved."
"That's understandable. I wouldn't want someone like Charles
Xavier or even Jean Grey to tamper around with my mind. They
might get ideas."
"So we flew in Doctor Samson to help analyze his problems.
Unfortunately Magnus does not really have a doctor, let alone
a psychiatrist, he trusts sufficiently, so he insisted that
either Rogue or Amelia Voght, or ideally both would sit in
on the sessions as a safeguard. And Ms. Voght was a bit distrustful
herself to begin with."
Mystique chuckled. "And Leonard thought he had a hard time
when you had him flown him in to interview X-Factor. And me.
At least on those occasions he could go one on one. How is
Magneto responding to the treatment?"
"It was a slow start, but they're making progress. The problem
is connected to overuse of powers, so when he doesn't exert
himself too much it's okay."
"So he may eventually decide to go into politics after all?"
"There are a lot of Genoshans, mostly mutant but also some
normos, who would like Magnus to become head of state when
the provisional government winds up. But there are others.
Amelia Voght for one. She and Magnus trust each other, but
I have a feeling they both think they can do a better job
as president of Genosha than the other."
There still were a few hours until morning, and after the
two women had finished talking Valerie went into the spare
bedroom to lie down and sleep. Tomorrow she and Rogue could
spend a little time with Irene and Hope. That was something
to look forward to.
8. The Warmth of the Sun
For the time they were helping with the reconstruction, the
Meddlers had relocated their base of operations to Genosha.
Now that the war was over, helpers and observers from various
parts of the world made their appearance, including members
of other mutant and super-powered teams. Charles Xavier had
been here for a short visit, and a few members of the X-Men
and Excalibur were still on hand to help with rebuilding the
Like Professor X, Doctor Leonard Samson had left the country
in the meantime. Magneto was off therapy sessions and had
become part of the rebuilding effort, using his powers for
what for him was light work. But even potential world-class
mutant statesmen can use a break, and since it was a weekend
he decided to join Rogue and the others for an outing to French
Cove on Capstan Island.
That Genoshan dependency was almost uninhabited because it
had only one very small fresh-water spring, not enough to
sustain more than a few hunters and trappers throughout most
of its history. Like Genosha itself, Capstan Island had its
share of pirate stories, as its natural harbors had provided
many passing freebooters (who did not want to be seen at the
better-known anchorage at Hammer Bay) with an opportunity
for quick repairs and stocking up on meat, especially from
the indigenous seabirds. French Cove got its name because
Commodore Suffren had put in here with his flotilla early
in 1781 during the War for American Independence, on his way
to challenge the British in Indian waters. And according to
local legend the famed privateer Robert Surcouf had found
shelter from a tropical storm in the little bay in later years.
Now the Meddlers and their guests had set up their picnic
area in the white sand near the treeline. Rémy and Chen Li
were playing volleyball against Brian Braddock and Ev Thomas.
Nearby, Kurt Wagner and Paige Guthrie manned the barbecue,
while Roberto (still wearing his casts), Monet and Meggan
sat in in expectant proximity, watching the four players and
always ready to pick up the sausages, burgers and fish being
prepared. Logan was stopping beer from getting warm, and Kitty
and Alistaire were cavorting in the surf. Magnus and Rogue
had finished their swim and were now lazing in the sun alongside
"I suppose Valerie is now ogling the pretty ladies," Magnus
could not help remarking. However, his eyes were inappropriately
serious for the little joke.
"Well, there's plenty to see, as you yourself would know
best ... Val, stop droolin'!" Jean and Magnus both to laughed
at Rogue's joke. Jean was one of the three women present whose
attire included a top, in her case a Hawaiian shirt. Her skin
did not tan well.
"Of course none can compare to you, my love." Magnus redirected
his roving eye towards his lover and let it wander over her
almost naked body which glistened with suntan lotion. He lingered
a little on her familiar breasts before settling on her face,
but her sunglasses prevented him from looking into her eyes.
Rogue giggled prettily. Normally she thought herself above
such blandishments and that she was not in the forefront of
good looks among her teammates in the Meddlers and the various
X-teams (although she was not hypocritical enough to pretend
that she looked plain), but when the man she loved admired
her beauty and complimented her on it, she could never get
enough. "Just don't spend too much time checkin' out the others
They kissed, which Jean took as her cue to get up to walk
over to Logan to get a drink. "The two love-birds playin'
tonsil tennis again?" he welcomed her.
"Mhmhmm. Now there's a game I'd like us to play." And they
did, until Kitty and Alistaire strolled up and settled down
next to them.
Rogue took advantage of Jean's discretion to have a serious
word with Magnus about the original subject. "Ah couldn't
help noticin' your expression when you made that remark about
Val oglin' the girls..."
"I'm sorry about that."
"Ya don't have to be. We're both sorry with you havin' to
put up with this wacky situation..." Rogue's hand flew upwards
into her hair. "And the 'we' is what's really botherin' you,
right?" Magneto nodded. "You're still worryin' about Val changin'
"Well," said Magnus, patently uncomfortable to discuss this,
"my head knows you are still the same and haven't changed
all these months, but my heart, or what Doctor Samson prefers
to call my subconscious, has its own ... irrational ... worries..."
Rogue took his hand and rose, pulling him up with her. "Come
with me." She dragged him along at first, then he walked beside
her of his own accord. They walked along the beach away from
the others across white sand banded with the shadows of the
trees. The pressure of her hand on his felt comforting. After
a few minutes they stopped. She turned to face him.
"Would it ease your mind if ah asked you to marry me, Magnus?"
Magnus was taken by surprise. He sat down on a piece of driftwood
and sagged into a position not unlike Rodin's Penseur.
He had been married once, but Magda, his wife and the mother
of his children, had fled from him that night in Vinnitsa,
when the revenge he had taken for their daughter had thrown
her into nameless terror.
"I must confess I did not think of you as the marrying type."
"Ah'm not, really. Reckon my momma's to blame." Raven Darkhölme
had occasionally entered marriage under false pretenses in
the course of her career as a spy and terrorist, but she had
studiously avoided formalizing her relationships with Irene
Adler and Valerie Cooper, even though Valerie certainly had
tried to persuade her to have a wedding. "My plan is to live
with you till death us do part with or without the ceremony.
But if need it to be reassured that ah'll stick to you and
not get side-tracked by the guest in my mind, ah'll do it.
It's the least ah can do."
Magnus felt moved to pull her close to kiss her. "No, that
won't be necessary. Our marriage did not stop Magda from forsaking
me. And you did not need a document to take me back after
I had left you, even driven you off. I'll learn not to be
irritated by Valerie's recurrent manifestations..."
"Actually, you may learn to appreciate them," Rogue said,
settling down in his lap and putting her arms around his shoulders.
"You know, we sometimes have long conversations with each
other, and she says she reckons she can help us to have a
"Well, the main problem 'bout me havin' kids is that ah'd
absorb their mind and powers before they're born, and that
would likely kill them. Now Moira and Hank said that ah could
learn to control my power inside my womb as ah learned to
control it on my outside, so that ah wouldn't zap the baby
through the walls of the uterus or the umbilical cord. But
ah wouldn't be able to control it while ah'm asleep."
"And this is where Valerie would come in?"
"Right, we could kinda work in shifts, so she would protect
the growin' baby while ah sleep and vice versa."
"Is that what you want?"
"Ah've been thinkin' about havin' a baby with you ever since
ah ran late after we first did it in the Savage Land. At first
ah thought that was cause it's human to want what you can't
get, but now it turns out ah actually could do it..." She
trailed off. "But of course only if you want to have another
child. Ah mean, you've been de-aged and all, but..."
Magneto sat in silence for a while. He had liked being a
father half a century ago, until his daughter was killed in
that fire in Vinnitsa. It had been a seemingly unending struggle
for Magda and him to fulfill the responsibility of parents
in a country ravaged by war and famine, but he had shouldered
his part gladly. When the Soviet police had prevented him
from rescuing Anya he had lashed out with lethal force, unwittingly
driving off his wife and preventing himself from being a father
to the twins he did not know she carried beneath her heart.
He recalled his regret and sorrow when he found out that Wanda
and Pietro were his children and that he had been deprived
of the chance to raise them as his own family as a consequence
of his irrepressible need to avenge their elder sister. And
he recalled his feelings of yearning when he played with his
granddaughter Luna and with Rogue's little sisters, Irene
and Hope. And now Rogue wanted to express their love by having
a child with him, to add a new focus to their life. No doubt
it would become a journey into the unknown -- how could it
be otherwise with the kind of life they led? But he felt undaunted,
confident even, that they would make their way together.
"It would be a chance I had not hoped to see again," he finally
They kissed deeply, and then walked back to rejoin the others.
The End, for now...
Hang On to Your Ego was Brian Wilson's original
title for I Know There's an Answer, the ninth track
on Val Cooper's favorite album, Pet Sounds by the Beach
Boys (they decided to change it because of the too obvious
drug reference). The chapter headings are also titles of or
phrases from Brian Wilson songs.
"The theological implications alone are staggering"
is a quote from a Peanuts strip by the late great Charles
M. Schulz. Linus utters it after his sister Lucy said she
wished he had never been born.
Part of the inspiration for two scenes story came from
drawings Detlef Henke
and Eckart Breitschuh
did for me.
There have been speculations about Magneto's mental
health for quite some time, also by people who know more about
him and psychology than I do. The most thorough piece of research
into it was written by Rivka Jacobs, an academic paper in
clinical psychology which you can find at http://www.alara.net/opeople/xbooks/magnuts.html.
The story is set in an alternate timeline that diverges
from the base timeline of Marvel Comics and from the other
Twilight Menshevik timelines shortly after Jean Grey's return
from her cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay (Avengers
vol. 1 #263, Fantastic Four vol. 1 #286). While in
X-Factor #1 Scott Summers left his wife Madelyne never
to meet her again before the Inferno cross-over (in which
she died), she followed him to New York in this reality. As
a consequence of this, a number of other changes happened:
Scott and Maddy remained a married couple, Cyclops, Marvel
Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman rejoined the X-Men instead of
founding X-Factor, Inc., Nathan Summers was not whisked away
to the future, etc. Other events however did happen in mostly
the same way, for instance the X-Men Gold Team (led by Storm)
apparently died in Dallas fighting the Adversary very much
as in the Fall of the Mutants and Rogue met Magneto in the
Savage Land after passing through the Siege Perilous as she
had done in Uncanny X-Men #269, 274 and 275. Also,
as in the main timeline of the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik,
Mystique became Val Cooper's lover after joining the new X-Factor
(i.e. the government-sponsored super-team that debuted in
The idea that seemingly insignificant events can have
major ramifications is not a new one (just think of the nursery
rhyme about the nail or the movie Lola
rennt (Run, Lola, Run) where three very different
scenarios evolve starting from random differences in an incident
that is so minute that you would not even notice it if you
only saw one of the three outcomes). Part of the differences
in Hang On to Your Ego concern affairs of the heart,
and there I was reminded of a short poem I once heard on the
BBC ages ago concerning a train being delayed by five (or
was it fifteen?) minutes, and that a passenger did not even
know that this meant that she would fail to meet the man who
would have been ideal for her. Does anyone by chance know
which poem by which (I think post-WW2 British) author I am
referring to? Those who like to see the strength of true love
over mere coincidence may take consolation in the Discworld's
greatest lovers, Mellias and Gretalinda, of whom Terry Pratchett's
Mort says that their pure, passionate and soul-searing
affair would have scorched the pages of History had they not
been born 200 years apart on different continents.
A few passages in Hang On to Your Ego refer
back to previous Tales of the Twilight Menshevik: A first
glimpse of the alternate reality in which it is set was shown
in The Iceman's Tale, where
it is visited by Bobby Drake during his time travels to try
to save the X-Men and Emma Frost. A (precognitive?) dream
like the ones Rogue mentions in chapter 4 can be found in
Late Summer Interlude, where
Rogue also alludes to the lateness of her period after her
encounter with Magneto in the Savage Land (cf. Midnight
Sun). The story of Val and Raven is of course the
subject of a great many other stories, beginning with A
Year in the Life.
Acolytes, Alpha Flight, Anya (Magneto's daughter), Edmond
Atkinson, Aurora (Jeanne-Marie Beaubier), Avalon (Asteroid
M), Avengers, Baldrick (Val Cooper's underling), Banshee (Sean
Cassidy), Beast (Henry McCoy), Binary (Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel),
Blackbird (planes), Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Colossus
(Piotr Rasputin), Commission on Superhuman Affairs, Valerie
Cooper, Fabian Cortez, Cyclops (Scott Summers), Destiny (Irene
Adler), Excalibur, Exodus, Fantastic Four, Forge, Aleytis
'Lee' Forrester, Freedom Force, Galactus, Gambit (Rémy LeBeau),
Generation X, Genosha, Hammer Bay, Iceman (Robert Drake),
Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), Henry Peter Gyrich, Havok (Alex Summers),
General Haywerth, Husk (Paige Guthrie), Impossible Man, Jocasta,
Senator Robert Kelly, Legacy Virus, Luna (Luna Maximoff),
M (Monet St.Croix), Moira MacTaggert, Magda, Magistrates (Genosha),
Magneto (Magnus), Malice, Marauders, George Mathers, Meggan
(Meggan Braddock), Mystique (Raven Darkhölme), Nereel, New
Mutants, Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), Ogun, Peter (Piotr Petrovich
Rasputin), Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Polaris (Lorna Dane),
Popuppians, Professor X (Charles Xavier), Proteus (Mutant
X), Carmen Pryde, Alistaire Pryde-Stuart, Madelyne Pryor-Summers,
Psylocke (Elizabeth Braddock), Pyro (St. John Allerdyce),
Quicksilver (Pietro Maxmimoff), Jennifer Ransome, Rogue, Adrian
Sammish, Dr. Leonard Samson, Orville Sanderson, Savage Land,
Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff), Amanda Sefton, Col. Yuri Semyanov,
Sentinels, Seventh Sense, Neal Shaara, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde-Stuart),
Shadow King (Amahl Farouk), Siege Perilous, Raymond Sikorsky,
Siryn (Teresa Cassidy), Storm (Ororo Munroe), Sunspot (Roberto
Da Costa), Synch (Everett Thomas), Trish Tilby, Vision, Amelia
Voght, Wasp (Janet van Dyne), Pete Wisdom, Wolverine (Logan),
Wonder Man, Xavier Mansion, X-Factor, X-Men, Amiko Yashida,
Mariko Yashida, Yukio, Zaladane, and Zsaji are (c) & TM
Marvel Comics. George Braddock, Capstan Island, Reece Carlton,
Hope Cooper, Irene Cooper, Force Spéciale Surhumaine, Greased
Lightning (plane), Meddlers, Mostyn Mundus, Amani Munroe,
Qilin (Chen Li), Errol Wagner, and Warren Worthington IV are
(c) Tilman Stieve.
This story was first published in Hamburg Menshevik #68,
which was produced for the May 2001 mailing of the MZS-APA.
The MZS-APA has a website at http://users.ev1.net/~skullduggery/.
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