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Fires From The Ashes

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There was a sense of disbelief that had taken over the Mansion after Magneto's -- and everyone else's -- death. Jean was missing, hundreds were dead and Muir Island itself was no more. People were dealing with the injured, the news channels were blaring 24/7, and it was impossible to ignore the magnitude of what had happened.

It was time for action, but before that -- they needed to know what they were up against.

So here they were in the War Room, leaders of X-Force and X-Corps, to discuss what the next steps should be. This wasn't going to be an easy meeting by any means, but they needed to put aside what had happened at Muir and focus on the next steps forward.

Easier said than done - Charles' face was somber, set with new lines of care and grief that hadn't been there even the day before. "Thank you for coming," he said once everyone had taken seats in his office. "You have all been briefed on what happened at Muir Island; we need to determine what our next steps are."

Scott stared down at his hands, he still couldn't believe it. So many of the X-men he'd trained and become friends with, who had stuck through it with them despite everything were gone and Jean had vanished too. They'd had bad missions before, and knew dying was part of the job, but there had never been a mission like this before. Scott's mind shied away from dwelling on that. If he spent too long thinking about it then he was sure he'd never make it out of the abyss of his thoughts so he straightened up in his chair and looked at Charles, "We need more information," he stated, "None of us knows what's going on here so we're flying blind and that's not going to end well."

"News of that magnitude should not have gone unnoticed." Ororo stopped the litany of self-flagellation and cursing that had been running through her head since the events at Muir had taken place. They could point fingers and place blame later; for now, Charles was right. They needed to move forward. "But regardless of that, it surely will have left traces of activity that can be traced - retroactively, if nothing else. That should allow us to put together a more complete picture."

"De Dark Riders are de rogue factor here. Magneto might have been willing to take Muir hostage, even threatened dem wit' de bomb but de way it was used... Remy willing to bet he was mad enough to make a bad deal, and de Dark Riders used him to eliminate a threat. But dey not empire builders either. So, de question is who are de Dark Riders taking orders from now?" Remy had shutdown emotionally at the news of Muir. Instead, he'd gone operational, pushing everything to one side so he could focus without his own dark Gambit tendencies clawing for control. "We have some hits of dere activity in Africa over de last year. Angelo, what 'bout you people? Remy knows merc hunting isn't normally dere thing, but rumours tend to spread."

Angelo had been sitting quietly in his place at the table, not contributing so far, but quiet didn't mean inattentive. He nodded.

"It's only been rumours, friend of friend stories, but there have been a few things. From Egypt, last time, but nobody admits they've talked to them or seems to know what they're doing. I put it down to urban legends."

"Egypt." Charles frowned. "Professor Farouk disappeared in Egypt as well, I recall. It may just be a coincidence, but perhaps related." He looked to Scott. "The X-Men who... survived the mission will need time to recuperate. I dislike the need, but we may need to ask some of the New Mutants to assist in the research we will need to conduct."

Scott stared at Charles in shock before bowing his head, “It’s not supposed to get to this," he noted quietly. "But needs must when the devil drives," Scott sighed and looked up, "Volunteers only," he insisted, "I don't think it's a coincidence, but we do need to be careful, someone that could just make him vanish...isn't someone we want to run into unprepared."

"Dere's a lot of Egypt. We have four separate encounters south of de Aswan alone." Remy rubbed his eyes. "You've got some students dat have worked wit' Doug before. If we link dem up, wit our existing intel and Farouk's research, dey might be able to narrow down some of de locations. If Angelo's people work some of de places dat dey've been, dere might be some additional clues dat help guide them. If we can get some of de more likely spots, 'Ro and I can take teams to check dem out."

"We need to scour for more information as well as have feet on the ground," Ororo murmured, glancing at Remy with a hint of concern leaking into her expression momentarily. "As loathe as I am to suggest it, the Hellfire Club will have information we do not or cannot discover easily on our own. Wanda could infiltrate, with a team, and scour their archives - what they find could give us valuable information on these Dark Riders."

"I'll take some people to Cairo", Angelo said quietly. "It'll be a start; at least, maybe we can get somebody to talk a little bit more."

"It's a start," Scott agreed, "Just be careful out there Angelo." The X-man sat up in his chair and winced, "I'm not in any state to head to Africa, but someone needs to head to Aswan where the sightings were, if there have been so many sightings in the area chances are they're operating somewhere nearby."

Aswan. It all came back to Egypt. "I will go," Ororo murmured. "My contacts may be of use there."

"It appears, then, that we have a plan." Somehow, Charles didn't sound as decisive as he usually did in such situations. "Scott, I'll leave it to you to arrange the specifics with the others while I talk to the students about what is needed of them." He looked over at Remy, Ororo and Angelo. "Thank you. It has been a terrible day, but perhaps some good may come of it."