Chapter 1: The Daughter Of A Dear Friend
Sending Bishop back to stop Charles Xavier’s death was a catastrophic failure. It only served to prematurely end Bishop’s life and in doing so caused another fluctuation in their world. Apocalypse has named her Halo.
Magneto looks at the screen and shakes his weary head. Charles’ son, David, inadvertently killed him thus setting off the chain of events that lead to the mad tyrant Apocalypse taking over the world. Magneto had hoped that by sending Bishop back in time to stop that from happening all of this misery and death could be avoided. Instead, it became so much worse.
Some how, some way Apocalypse and his deranged scientists Mr. Sinister and Hank McCoy tapped into a part of the time fluctuation, altering it somehow and bringing about...
“You’re sure that’s his daughter, sugah? I mean...Professor X never mentioned he had any children. Not even David,” Rogue says heavily. Magneto rubs his chin.
“She’s his. Look at the eyes, Rogue.”
“I see it, sugah. I don’t like it, but I see it,” she grumbles. “Who’s her momma then?”
Magneto presses a button and Rogue gasps.
“Candra? The Herald? But...no, no, Ah don’t believe the professor would ever…” Rogue trails off shaking her head firmly and refusing to believe what Magneto is telling her.
“He calls her Halo. Tells her she’s his daughter. Has the poor kid convinced he’s her actual daddy,” Creed says gnawing on a toothpick. Kyle sits at Creed’s feet panting tiredly.
“When did you get back?” Magneto asks without actually looking at them.
“‘Bout an hour ago. What’s got Halo on yer radar, ‘Rik?”
“This,” he answers and pulls up imagery of Halo and Holocaust hunting down and exterminating a group of humans that had been in hiding. The humans didn’t stand a chance. With the genetic enhancements Halo and Holocaust have been given very few mutants would stand a chance.
Magneto looks over at Creed who is shaking his head, but not in horror. More like in disbelief.
“She has doubts, ‘Rik. She knows somethin’ ain’t right with all this.”
“Ah doubt she’s got enough of a conscious to feel anything if she can pull this off!” Rogue snaps. Creed skews an eyebrow at her but doesn’t say anything in return to Rogue.
“She’s really Chuck’s kid?” he asks instead.
“Ya can’t save ‘em all, ‘Rik. You’ve lost too much as it is...Wanda…” Creed stops and shakes his head again. Magneto closes his eyes at the memory of his lost daughter.
“We have to at least try to stop her and Holocaust -”
“And Apocalypse and all this other nonsense,” Rogue cuts in. He can hear the frustration and burnout coming through in her voice. He’s pushed them all hard, well beyond their limits, but it’s for the greater good. Apocalypse has to be stopped.
“You know why we fight, Rogue,” he says simply. The mean look on her face melts away to one of sorrow as she nods her head.
“Ah know. It doesn’t make it any easier, though.”
Chapter 2: The Twin Brothers From Different Mothers
Steve and Bucky are hunkered down behind what’s left of a wall of a building. They’re under fire from a weapon that no one recognizes and is being powered by something Tony has deemed “not of this Earthly realm”. Bucky is bleeding and trying to stave that off while Steve is trying to get some cover for them to fall back and regroup.
“Comms are out,” Steve sighs. It’s not the first time nor will it be the last he and Bucky are in a situation like this. It sucks, it’s getting old, they’re both tired…
“I just want to go home, eat a goddamn double cheeseburger with extra bacon, and go to bed for a week,” Bucky grumbles.
“I’d like to get laid,” Steve says absently. Bucky stops what he’s doing and looks up at Steve with wide eyes full of shock. Steve smirks.
“Damn, kid,” he says and then laughs. “Anyone in particular or are you just looking for someone to wax your pole?”
“Get down!” Steve yells. Both men flatten themselves against the ground as another arc of energy weapon fire blows over them.
“What the hell is that thing?” Bucky demands. “Even Stark is confused.”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. I just want to shut it down. How’s your arm?”
“It’s there, I can still use it, so I’m good,” Bucky replies. Steve looks at him, shakes his head and cautiously starts to get up.
“You have a death wish! Get down!” Bucky yells and pulls Steve’s arm out from under him making him fall face first into the dirt.
“Buck...I’m going to kill you when we get home,” Steve says calmly. “For now, let me see if we can move because I for one do not want to lay here in the prone position all damn day!”
“Says the man who jumps from planes with no fucking parachute,” Bucky retorts. Steve shoots him a scathing look that has no effect on Bucky.
“I’m not one of your groupies, punk. That look won’t work on me.”
“You are so dead,” Steve mutters as he tries not to laugh.
“You two are insane,” Wanda says coming across their comms for the first time in almost half an hour.
“Wanda!” they say together, both elated to know someone can hear them.
“We’re on our way. Hold tight,” she tells them.
“Not a good idea, Wanda. Stay back. This thing has us pinned down,” Steve warns her.
“We’ve got a workaround, Cap,” Rhodey announces. Steve and Bucky exchange glances. Workaround means they’re going to blow shit up.
“Somebody want to tell me why the comms just started working again?” Bucky grouses.
“We had to take out the jammer,” Clint answers. Another large blast of arc energy cuts through the air. This one getting closer to their already ground level positions. The wall they’re behind is deteriorating rapidly.
“Have you talked to that girl in the mailroom yet?” Steve asks Bucky. Bucky flips him off and then switches off his comm.
“No. Don’t broadcast that shit, Steve.”
“Easy, Buck. I’m sorry,” Steve says being sincerely apologetic. “I thought you said she was pretty?”
“I said she was nice looking. I never said I’d talk to her. I still don’t have my head straight. I don’t know how the hell you adapted to this shit so fast, but…I can’t.”
“I haven’t adapted, Buck.”
“You’re dating. You’re going out -”
“Yeah, because I need to try and unwind. I need to try and find my place here, too, Buck. You’re not alone in that.”
“You didn’t do what I did, Steve.”
“You didn’t have control, Buck. You can’t let that dictate who you are now,” Steve says firmly. Bucky looks at him evenly.
“I don’t know who I am now, Steve.”
Bucky looks away and rolls carefully onto his stomach. Steve doesn’t know what to say to his friend now. This is Bucky’s struggle. One of the many.
Steve sees Bucky switch his comm back on.
“You just need a good girl to help make you feel whole again, Buck,” Wanda says gently.
“Let me know when you find one that just borders on having Munchausen by proxy,” Bucky states.
Chapter 3: Magneto's Plan B
“We have one chance to fix this. One chance to stop David from starting this catastrophe. And this young man is our key,” Magneto says pointing to the screen. The others gather round.
“I’ve seen him before,” Blink says thoughtfully. She looks at Creed for confirmation, but he’s studying the image, too.
“We all have. He’s a powerful telepath. He’s also the perfect genetic mix of Scott Summers and Jean Gray,” Magneto tells them. Creed’s lips pucker and then he sneers.
“Does the little man know ‘bout that?” he asks snidely.
“Don’t start, Victor,” Pietro warns tiredly. Creed puts his hands up in mock surrender, but he’s grinning maniacally.
“How do we find him?” Sunfire asks.
“We find Forge, we find him,” Magneto states as if it were just that simple. Colosuss cocks his head and looks at Magneto intently.
“You think it is just that simple?” he asks in his thick Russian accent. “Just go around knocking on doors with his picture? Have you seen this kid? No? Thank you. Move on to the next door.”
“Don’t you think if we’re looking for him that Apocalypse is looking for him, too? Someone with that caliber of power who was created by his own people…” Nightcrawler says shaking his head. He’s dangling from the ceiling by his tail and has himself contorted in such a way that he’s looking at the image right-side-up instead of upside down.
“He’s been keeping a low profile, thankfully, but he’s our last chance,” Magneto states.
“Let’s just say this works, ‘Rik. Then what? What happens to us?” Creed demands. It’s the same question that’s been answered previously.
“If it works none of us will be here as we are now.”
Murmurs of discontent start to rise.
“What about Charles?” Rogue whispers urgently to Magneto. “What about our son?”
“Everything changes, my love. Everything. Would it be better for him to suffer here or to never have been born if the case may be?” Magneto whispers back. He’s trying to waylay her fears, but his attempts only exacerbate the issue.
“He’s our son,” she growls angrily. The others stop their hushed sidebar conversations and focus on Rogue and Magneto.
“And Wanda was my daughter and I’ve lost her. I’ve nearly lost you and Pietro and all of you,” Magneto says looking at the few surviving members in the room. “To what ends are you willing to go to make this stop? I know what I will do.”
The others look around uneasily at each other. They had gone through this before when they tried to send Bishop back. It’s like horrible deja vu. No one wants to face the unknown. None of them can say for any certainty what will happen to them if this kid is able to stop Legion from killing Charles Xavier. What they do know is that they all have a bond that was forged together through blood, sweat, and tears and the thought of losing that bond, of losing this small ragtag family makes each of them hurt and question if this is truly the only way to make things right.
“We’ve all lost so much,” Pietro says taking up for his father, “all of us, on some level have lost someone or even ourselves,” he says looking at Rogue. “But if there is a chance we can save millions of people - humans and mutants alike - isn’t it worth that chance?”
“Yeah,” Creed says begrudgingly, “it is. It is.”
Blink nods her head slowly, agreeing with Creed. The others slowly come around to the same consensus.
“We have to find Nathan before it’s too late,” Magento tells them. “And this is where we’ll start,” he says pointing to a map.
Chapter 4: Sibling Rivalry Or Something Else?
Halo stalks the halls of her father’s keep. She’s hungry, tired, agitated….Holocaust has been plucking her nerves for the last week or more.
“You’re not really his daughter. You’re an adopted piece of shit he scraped from his boot heel. Your place is on your knees licking the blood from my boots, not by my side.”
“I am his daughter and rightful heir,” she snarled. Holocaust had laughed.
“You’re a fuckup he took pity on.”
It’s those words that tear at her now. He had raised her - so he claimed - to be his second in command, to be his right hand, as he ruled the world. He had bestowed her with powers that were far-reaching, trained her to use them and to serve him in his quest to make sure that mutants were the only class.
But there were doubts long before Holocaust began running his damn fool mouth. Nightmarish visions of things she can’t remember but knows she should, seeing things that spark shattered memories that she can’t make fit together, an undercurrent of feeling that she’s being deceived…
She had asked him why she can’t remember anything from her past, about her childhood. Father had smiled and lifted her chin and told her that some things are better forgotten. When she had dared to press the issue further he had warned her to leave well enough alone.
“I will not have my second in command questioning me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Father,” she had replied obediently. He had smiled then and caressed her cheek, promising her a world where they would rule for eternity so long as she did as he asked.
“Your father -”
She grabs Gideon by the throat and pins him against the wall, her teeth bared, a low menacing growl coming from her throat.
“Your...father...wishes….to….see….you….” Gideon gasps. She drops him to the ground and begins to walk away.
“Mind yourself, Halo,” he calls after her. She stops in her tracks, a psionic blade forming from her closed fist.
“Was that a threat?” she asks turning around slowly, a pleasant smile on her face. She does love it when they challenge her authority. Oh, how they beg for death….
“No, just a warning,” Gideon grumbles, “from Holocaust.”
The mention of her brother’s name sends Halo into a fit of rage. She conjures a blast of telemagnetic energy and hurls it at Gideon. He barely absorbs the attack and sends it flying back at her. She shields herself easily enough, the energy blast dissipating around her like a fine mist. Gideon backs down quickly.
The booming voice of Father is enough to keep Halo from lunging for Gideon and separating him from his spine.
Gideon bows to Father like the lowly dog he is and then scampers off.
“You were ordered to come see me, child,” he says sounding thoroughly agitated.
“I was just given the message, Father.”
“And yet you chose to ignore my call and start a fight?” he questions. Halo knows no matter what she says at this point it will be wrong. Father is upset with her over something and she knows damn well who’s behind it.
“He was being insubordinate, Father,” she says calmly, at least as calmly as she can. There is only one man she fears and that is Father. What he has created he can also rend asunder.
“You disobeyed me, child.”
This surprises her and she makes no effort to hide it.
“I gave you orders to exterminate that group of humans. Your brother tells me you took pity on a few and...let them escape,” he says cooly. He paces around her in a wide circle, his hands clasped behind his back, eyes locked on her.
“I did no such thing, Father. I did as you asked. They were not just exterminated, they were incinerated. All of them. Turned back to the ash from whence they came,” she tells him. He stops his pacing and studies her. She has nothing to hide from him and does not lower her gaze as the dogs he keeps around do.
He finally smiles.
“Perhaps he was mistaken, your brother. Did they scream for mercy, my daughter?” he purrs.
“Of course. And I showed them none,” she says proudly. Father laughs, pleased at her response.
“I have a mission for you, my daughter. Something I know you’ll be more than capable of handling. Walk with me,” he orders. Halo obeys.
Chapter 5: X-Man
Nathan looks around the room of the dilapidated mansion he’s been summoned to. He’s not sure how Blink, Creed and that crazy thing they call Kyle found him or Sonique but they did and then all of them were portaled back to the mansion courtesy of Blink. Blink, who is as he sits, having her butt chewed out because portaling to their exact location makes it easier for Apocalypse and his henchmen to track them down. Forge had warned him about excessive use of his powers. It’s easy to track, it makes him an easy target. Somebody needs to explain the logistics of that to this little girl Blink.
“What did ya want us to do? Walk? Maybe catch a cab?” Creed barks angrily at the fiery looking dude who’s been giving them all a brash of shit.
“You’ve put us in danger!”
“Look around, Sunny,” Creed continues barking, “we’re already in danger!”
“That’s quite enough.”
Nate recognizes the voice and the man. Magneto. Erik Lensherr. He’s followed by Rogue and Quicksilver. Nate puckers his lips. This is probably definitely not going to be a social call.
“Nathan,” Magneto begins earnestly, “I’ll make this as brief of an explanation as I can -”
“He’s coming. Correction. She’s coming ,” Nightcrawler interrupts them. She. Nate knows exactly who she is. Halo. Apocalypse’s second in command and the embodiment of all that Hell brings with it.
Nate looks around worriedly. There’s no place to hide in this rundown mansion that she won’t find them. She’ll tear this place apart stone by stone just for shits and giggles….
“I have a way to send you back in time, Nathan,” Magneto continues quickly. “I have a way to send you back and when you go back you need to stop David Haller - Legion - from killing Charles Xavier.”
“You’re insane,” Nate says shaking his head. “Go back in time? Seriously?”
“Trust me. You cannot fail at this. He is the entire reason this timeline exists as it does,” Magneto persists. Sonique’s lips twitch nervously. Nate isn’t buying it.
“I’m supposed to go back and do what? Kill someone?” Nate questions.
“Yeah,” Creed says cynically. “That’s the gist, boy.”
Nate is about to argue the point further when the alarms begin to sound.
“Get him out of here. Take him to the rendezvous point. Nathan, you have to believe me,” Magneto says extending his hand. Nate knows what the older man wants him to do. He wants Nate to look into his mind. The alarms continue to blare, the others are in a near frenzy because Halo is nearly on top of them and she’s brought her elite squad with her. Nate knows he and Sonique are in danger if they stay….
He takes Magneto’s hand and suddenly there is a whirlwind of memories and visions he’s being shown. Magneto is psychic, it’s a telepath, but he’s pretty goddamn good at controlling what he wants Nate to see. Nate picks up on what happened, he sees the catalyst for all that has occurred here and he understands now what he has to do.
He lets go of Magneto’s hand and the elder man puts his hand on his shoulder.
“You are our only hope of stopping this, Nathan. Good luck, my boy.”
Magneto makes a motion and the girl called Blink, and the one called Creed and the thing called Kyle all gather around him. Blink opens the portal just as Halo breeches the mansion, descending through the roof like a nightmare vision of the goddess of death and destruction.
“Gotta go! Gotta go!” Blink yells frantically. The portal opens and Nate is suddenly freefalling through nothingness.
They land seconds later in a hard crash heaped upon one another.
“I hate that shit,” Creed gripes pushing himself up. Kyle is frantic, whining and clawing at Creed.
“Oh shit…” Creed breathes.
“No! She couldn’t...the portal was closed....” Blink whimpers. Nate sits up and sees Apocalypse’s DeathStalker Halo walking towards them. She’s not even bothering to hurry up, she’s walking . There is a look of intensity on her face that scares Nate terribly.
“Whatever you’re about to do,” he says as he focuses his powers, “you better do it damn quick.” He lets loose with a telekinetic blast. Halo shields herself, but the blast was strong enough that it sent her sliding backward, forcing her crouch and dig into the ground to stay upright. The blast should have killed her, if not completely disintegrated her. Nate knows he’s powerful, he knows because he’s witnessed the destruction he’s wrought by being careless. Halo is equally powerful. Her benefactor made sure of it.
“Go! I’ll slow her down! Just go!” Creed orders pushing Blink and Nate back away from Kyle and himself. Blink grabs Nate by the hand and yanks him in the intended direction.
It’s only a matter of moments before Nate hears the agonizing sound of a death wail. It came from Creed. Blink stops and turns around like she’s going to go after him. Nate grabs her by the hand to stop her.
“It’s too late! If we’re going to do this we have to do it now!”
Her protest is cut short by the emergence of Halo. Her powers are fully keyed up, she’s hovering a few inches above the ground, an eerie red glow surrounds her as she makes her way towards them.
“Run little rodents. The cat has come to play,” Halo sings. Nate snarls and sends another powerful burst of energy at her, the concussive force of it destroying everything in its path. Once more she shields herself, but this time she’s able to dispel the force of the impact as if she split it in two and sent it off to either side of her body.
Blink pushes him towards the final set of doors and into a room with a computerized gateway.
“It has to charge. Press the green and red buttons twice and it’ll come on, but you have to wait for the light to turn green because that means the gate is ready. I’ll slow her down,” Blink tells him and then vanishes through one of her portals. Nate has no idea what the hell he’s supposed to do here. He follows her instructions and the gateway sizzles to life. He can hear the commotion just beyond his current location. Somehow Blink is still in one piece, her ability to move through those portals being her only saving grace.
The light still hasn’t turned green when he hears Blink’s screams and then suddenly there’s silence.
Halo appears before him a moment later and the two of them stand ready to face off.
“Don’t do this. You don’t have to do this. He doesn’t own you. He can’t control you if you don’t let him.”
“Who says I let him?” she asks walking into the room slowly. Nate can feel the power reverberating off of her. It’s like an energy field of immense proportions.
“We both know he does, Halo. We both know when he says jump you’re already in the air before the word is completely out of his mouth -”
“I suggest you shut yours,” she snaps. “Where do they think they’re going to send you, Nate? Hmm?”
Nate studies her, there’s a kink in her mental armor. He can feel it. It’s his only hope to get out of here alive now.
“Ah ah ah,” she scolds, shaking her finger at him. “You don’t want to play that game with me.”
“Oh, but I do,” he says lunging for her. She’s taken off guard by his audacity and he’s able to grab her and hold on. She screams in pain as he forces all the memories that Apocalypse, Sinister, and McCoy had tried to remove or bury from her to the forefront of her mind. He shows her all that she’s suffered, all that she knows she’s done, all the destruction she’s caused, and all for a monster that tore her from her mother’s side and gave her to the two most vile and reprehensible beings alive to experiment on, to manipulate, to twist her into a creation that rivaled the monster she calls Father.
Nate can’t hold onto her much longer. He screams are deafening, her powers are overloading both of them. She’s hemorrhaging or maybe that’s him or maybe it’s both of them. He sees the green light is on. He tries to let go but he can’t. She’s backfeeding her powers into him and he’s doing the same to her. He drags her to the gate. They have to try and let go. Too much power...his body feels like it’s being burned alive. He can see smoke rising from them both. The area around them is turning to ash. The gate won’t stay open much longer much less keep standing.
Nate uses what strength he has left and forces the two of them into the gate. There’s a blinding explosion of light and he screams in agony. Halo wails in pain and they finally separate as they careen through an airless void to god knows where.
Chapter 6: Stop Acting Like Sam
Rhodey and Stark just set off a slew of explosions around Hydra’s new toy power weapon. Wanda is trying to shield Bucky and Steve as best she can, but there’s so much loose energy and debris going everywhere she’s struggling to keep up.
“Down!” Bucky yells grabbing the girl by the waist and pushing her down. He drops on top of her to shield her with his own body.
“Oh my god! You weigh a ton! I can’t breathe!” Wanda fusses trying to push Bucky off. Bucky can hear Steve laughing.
“You’re welcome,” Bucky mutters rolling off of her. Wanda rolls her eyes and gets up.
“Stop laughing, Steve. You weigh just as much as he does,” she chides him.
“What?” Steve says deflecting incoming debris with his shield.
“Wait. How do you know how much he weighs? Oooh, Vision’s going to be piss-”
Wanda covers Bucky’s mouth with her hand and glares at him.
“He did the same stupid move you just did. If I have to choose between being decapitated by flying crap or being crushed under one of you two behemoths I’m not sure which would be less painful.”
“Are you hurt, Wanda?” They hear Vision ask thru the comms.
“No. Bucky covered me,” she tells him. She mutes her comm and says, “stop hanging around Sam. You’re starting to sound like him.”
Bucky takes supreme offense to that.
“That is a load of shit, Wanda,” he grumbles, “and you know it.”
“Stop talking trash,” she says sweetly. More explosions and then the world goes silent like someone pressed the mute button. Everything seems to stop. Steve, Wanda, and Bucky look at each other and then look around trying to figure out what the hell is happening. Wanda is saying something but there are no words to be heard. She seems just as shocked by this as Bucky and Steve are. Steve’s mouth is moving, but no sounds. Bucky speaks, but there is no sound. He can feel his voice vibrating in his throat, but there is no sound. It’s not that the world has been muted, it’s that there is a sound so deafening that it drowns out everything else while being completely inaudible at the same time.
Tony blaring at an ear-piercing pitch through the comms to everyone. There’s an explosion of sound that makes everyone cover their ears in pain. It’s like a sonic boom multiplied by infinity. There’s a flash and then what looks like a meteor racing through the sky overhead.
The sound comes back now, all the noises from before, but everyone is still reeling from what happened.
“Guys,” Sam says through the comms, “finish up and get over here now. And get someone from medical, STAT.”
Chapter 7: No Air
Halo dances in and out of consciousness unable to discern between being awake and being blacked out. Her vision is haunted by the things Nathan had forced her to see. Visions of her own torture and the cruelty she endured at the hands of the man who claimed to be her father. There is so much pain. They had altered her. They had experimented on her. They had manipulated her genetic code until they had gotten her. She is a monster. Nothing more than a weapon for a madman. What has she done?
All the lives she’s taken, all the pain she’s caused, all the torment she has wrought by her own hands plays alongside the memories Nathan forced into the light. They intertwine, twisting and mutating into horrible nightmares that she can’t escape.
She hears voices she can’t seem to recognize. Words that don’t make sense, like a different language but it’s English. She can’t move. She can’t feel anything but the pain the nightmares keep showing her. Where is her body? She wants to wake up. No more nightmares. No more countless faces of the dead. No more horrific visions of Sinister and his groupy McCoy using her as their personal lab rat.
The dead are reaching out for her. They want to claim her. They want her to pay. She didn’t know. She didn’t know this was wrong. She lies, they say. She knew, they say. She felt it, they say. She wants to run away. She wants to run or fly or even crawl, but she can’t move and she’s drowning in faces and hands of all the people she’s ruthlessly slain. They’re pulling her down and she can see Sinister and McCoy laughing at her and mocking her. She sees Holocaust taunting her.
The hands continue to pull her down and smother her, and above her she hears the booming, maniacal laugh of Apocalypse.
She tries harder to escape. She tries to tell the dead that she is sorry. That she didn’t remember. That she didn’t really know. But they don’t believe her. They don’t listen. Their cries and wails and accusations fill her ears. She’s suffocating. She can’t breathe. They’re going to take her down with them.
Chapter 8: Wanda Sees
“She stopped breathing! Get the oxygen now!” Bucky bellows. Steve is doing compressions on her chest while Bucky tries to resuscitate her. They don’t know who she is, they don’t know where she came from, all they know is that she fell out of the sky like a goddamn meteor and crashed hard enough to leave an impact crater five miles in diameter.
Sam hands Bucky the oxygen mask and then turns the tank on. She’s still not breathing.
“Harder, Steve,” Bucky orders.
“I’ll break her ribs,” Steve argues.
“Broken ribs is better than being dead. Start again,” Bucky commands. Steve takes a deep breath and starts the compressions again. Bucky counts and then tries to force air back into the girl’s lungs. No response.
“Come on, goddammit!” he yells.
“Breathe!” Steve yells.
“What the hell?!” Sam yells at the two of them. “Yelling won’t bring her back.”
Steve looks at Tony who shakes his head no.
Bucky sits back, panting.
“One more time, Buck. Come on,” Steve says as he starts pushing on her chest again. Bucky hasn’t heard one bone pop or snap but based on how hard Steve is pushing he should have heard all her ribs snap by now. He shakes his head, inhales deeply and…
The girl coughs and thrashes like she’s trying to get away from something. She swings wildly, eyes closed, trying to escape from whatever it is that she thinks has her.
Steve grabs her hands and struggles to force them down to her chest.
“Hey! Hey! Easy! Easy!” Steve says trying to hold her still. She’s gasping for air now and her eyes fly open. Eyes so green they look like emeralds. Steve and Bucky are both momentarily stunned by this until she starts to cough and thrash again.
“Whoa! Easy, babydoll, easy, easy,” Bucky says trying to calm her. He takes the mask from Sam and tries to put it over her mouth but she breaks free from Steve and swats it away. Her eyes are wild with panic and fear and she shimmies away from them backing herself up against the metal wall with no place to go.
“Hey, girl! Calm down. You’re alright. You’re safe,” Sam says trying to settle her.
“Look at me, babydoll, look at me,” Bucky says trying to get her attention so she only has one thing to focus on. She tries to back up more, but when she realizes she has no place to go things turn bad.
Her green eyes darken, she moves into a crouch, teeth bared, and she growls at them like a wild animal.
“Honey badger ain’t taking no one’s shit,” Tony says and then backs up a step. “Maybe give her some room, guys, before she tries to rip our throats...out?”
Tony sounds confused because there’s a sudden shift in the air around them like an electrical forcefield has been turned on and it’s coming from her.
“Easy, sweetheart,” Steve coos. “Easy. We aren’t going to hurt you. Look,” he says pointing to the emblem on his chest, “do you know who I am?”
“Nice, Rogers,” Tony mutters.
But what Steve’s done has the effect of distracting her and confusing her. Bucky sees her brow furrow and she blinks as she looks at the emblem on Steve’s stealth suit.
“Keep talking to her, Cap,” Sam urges. Bucky elbows Steve in the arm.
“Do you know me, sweetheart? I don’t hurt people. I’m Captain America -”
“This is some Dr. Suess shit here,” Tony grumbles. Her eyes divert to Tony, the confusion giving way momentarily to the previous hostility.
“Hey, babydoll,” Bucky says trying again because that electrical power feeling is building up. She looks at him and then notices his arm. She looks at her hands, and then slowly slides from her crouched position to a seated one where she goes from looking at Bucky’s left arm to her hands and back again.
“Guys! What the hell are you doing to her?” Wanda demands as she walks past Tony to see what’s going on. This sends the mystery girl back into angry, rabid animal mode. She’s crouched, snarling, teeth bared exposing long, sharp canines, the power build up in the room immediately affects Wanda who swoons a little. Tony steadies her, telling her she should go, but Wanda refuses. Her eyes are wide and she’s both terrified and intrigued.
“Who hurt you?”
“Move away from her,” Wanda tells them.
“Don’t do it, Wanda. Honey badgers don’t play,” Sam says. Bucky glares at him.
“Shut the hell up,” Bucky snaps.
“Stop!” Wanda barks at them. Bucky can see she’s shaking a little. She approaches their mystery girl slowly, her hands open in front of her.
“We won’t hurt you. We aren’t here to hurt you or anyone. We want to help.”
“You can’t. You’re dead,” their mystery girl says. Wanda hesitates now. There’s no more hostility, but there is fear and panic which can be just as dangerous when dealing with a cornered animal of the human variety.
“I’m not...I’m not dead,” Wanda says getting closer. Their mystery girl tilts her head and cringes from Wanda.
“Then we’re both dead,” the girl replies softly. She’s confused now and from the looks of things, so is Wanda.
Vision’s arrival is horrifically bad. The surge of power fills the room again, but it’s shortlived. She starts hemorrahging, the blood running from her nose. Her eyes roll up and she slumps over. Wanda reaches for her and stops just before she touches her, a frightened gasp coming from her.
“Wanda!” Vision yells and rushes to her side. Bucky and Steve move a little closer to the girl and to Wanda.
“Don’t. Don’t,” Wanday says batting them away. “I’m alright. I just...I wasn’t expecting to see... that. ”
Vision cradles Wanda despite her objections leaving Steve and Bucky to try and tend to the girl who fell from the sky. Steve scoops her up, Bucky puts the oxygen mask over her nose and mouth and they move her to a gurney. Tony calls Bruce and tells him what’s happening. Bruce tells them to restrain her just in case. The only other person on the crew right now medically certified to give injections is Clint. Sam gets Clint who is followed in by Natasha, and Bruce gives him the rundown of what to give their guest.
Once they have her on the gurney, restrained, and have given her a mild sedative all eyes turn to Wanda.
“What did you see?” Steve asks gently. She shakes her head.
“She’s dangerous. She’s a killing machine. She’s a mutant. …” Wanda covers her mouth with her hands. Bucky gets her a bottle of water, Vision sits with his arm around her, Tony pets her head like a doting father, Steve holds her hand….
Wanda takes a shaky breath and continues.
“She’s slaughtered so many...oh my god...but that’s not worst of it,” she says quietly.
“How the hell does it get worse?” Clint asks, looking over at the gurney where this girl is currently laid out.
“She didn’t know. She did, but...her memories are all over the place and they were hidden from her and she was forced to do those things. She didn’t know. She trusted the monster that made her do those things. He tortured her. She’s...he made her into a weapon. He buried her past and made her forget and then…”
“This guy brainwashed her?” Steve asks. Bucky feels the anger rising up in him. No one should go through that.
“He didn’t...I can’t explain it, Steve. It’s like...I can see what happened, I can feel it but I can’t explain it. He took her and he manipulated her and turned her into this monster...this beacon of death and destruction. She didn’t know for sure until today.”
“Know what? That she’s a killer? How do you not know?” Tony asks stupified by this.
“Because this monster, this madman broke her down and then built her back up and convinced her that he was her father. That he was doing what was right and that as his daughter it was her role to aid him in doing so.”
“Why haven’t we seen her before? Why has she never come up on our radar? If she’s killed as many people as you claim -” Sam begins to say. Wanda silences him with a look.
“She’s not from here, that’s why,” Tony says looking over at her. “She fell from the sky. That whole deafening silence happened right before she appeared. All of our electronics went haywire, including the suits, right before she entered our world. Even Hydra’s new weapon shut down because of the weird energy surge. Whoever she is, this isn’t her world.”
“You’re only half right, Tony,” Wanda corrects him. “This is her world. She’s from a future timeline that should never have come about.”
“What?” Clint asks. “She’s from the future? Seriously?”
“I can’t...there’s too much here. My head hurts so badly right now. I can’t sort through all of it. She’s dangerous, yes, but she’s a victim. She was a pawn. And she’s just now realizing that.”
“How do you not know killing is wrong? I mean…that’s common sense,” Sam says trying to make an argument against her.
Wanda looks at Bucky, her eyes are full of pain and she’s exhausted. She absorbed a metric ton of whatever is in the fallen girl’s head and it’s taking its toll on Wanda now.
“She did know, but she couldn’t argue with it because she was convinced that the person telling her to do these things was right and she didn’t know enough not to believe him,” Bucky offers. The story isn’t the same but there are familiar notes to it. Scarily familiar notes.
“He forced any memories prior to himself to be hidden, buried deep into her subconscious. He manipulated her, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally. He made it so that she would have no reason to question his authority,” Wanda says tiredly. “I can’t keep arguing this with you guys. I can’t. It hurts. I feel sick. She’s not a monster, but if you approach her like one, that’s the response you’ll get again.”
Chapter 9: Why Didn't You Kill Me?
Halo opens her eyes slowly and looks around. She doesn’t recognize this place. It doesn’t look like anything she’s seen and it the smells are completely unfamiliar.
She tries to move but she can’t feel her body. Her mind is doing horrific summersaults trying to figure out what’s going on, what happened, where she is, how she got here...and it only serves to make her head pound in fury. Everything is a blur of fragmented memories, pieces of nightmares, horrific images and nothing makes sense right now.
She closes her eyes. She doesn’t know what else to do. Where ever she is she’s vulnerable and exposed and unable to move.
She works on trying to sort through the mess in her head when it occurs to her that she failed in her mission. She failed to stop Nathan. She pushes past the rest of the nightmarish bullshit for the moment and focuses on Nathan.
He had didn’t escape her, he pulled her through, he attacked her. If he hadn’t she would have killed him.
The countless faces of the dead come roaring to the surface again. She tries to cover her ears to drown out their cries but she can’t move her arms.
“Stop. Please,” she begs.
“It can’t. It won’t. Not until you deal with it.”
Halo opens her eyes and sees the psychic projection of Nathan Gray at the foot of the bed.
“What have you done to me?” she whimpers. “What have you done?”
“Stopped you. Put an end to your denial and zealousness. Showed you what you needed to see. You can’t hide from what you did.”
“Why didn’t you kill me?”
“Because you don’t deserve death. He used you, but you did those things and now you have to find a way to face that. You don’t get to take the coward’s way out.”
His image flickers and then fades. For the first time since she can remember she cries.
Chapter 10: Wanda Wants To Help
Wanda sits in the chair in her apartment, her hand over her closed eyes as she tries to settle herself. Vision has gone above and beyond doing everything he can to help her.
“Wine. A glass of wine maybe?” he calls to her. She smiles.
“Alright,” she agrees.
She feels something, a sudden shift in the psychic energies around them. She lowers her hand and looks around. It’s coming from someone very powerful. She gets up. She can hear Vision talking to her but she’s not listening to what he’s saying.
Whoever it is, they’re with the girl the team brought back from the last mission.
Wanda runs toward medical.
“Wanda? Wanda!” Vision yells. She knows he’s chasing after her.
“Someone is here!” she calls back to him.
She races past Steve who has just enough time to ask Vision what the hell is going on before he joins in the pursuit.
“Friday! I need security in medical now. Possible intruder on our Jane Doe,” Steve barks at the AI.
“Very well, Captain Rogers. Where are they headed?” the AI diligently asks.
“The room of Jane Doe,” Wanda says frantically pressing the button for the elevator.
“There is no one in the room with Miss Doe,” Friday reports.
“Wanda?” Vision questions.
“She can’t see them, but I can feel them. Someone is there,” Wanda says tersely.
The elevator doors finally open and the three of them step inside. Steve pulls out his cell.
“Where are you? Get to medical. Someone may be in or near the room with Jane Doe.”
“Bucky?” Wanda asks knowing full well it was. Steve nods.
“How sure are you?” he asks.
“She’s sure,” Vision responds for her. Wanda gives Vision a bemused look and shakes her head at him. He tilts his head, not understanding why she’s not pleased. He’s still learning. He wants to protect her from everything, including imagined threats.
“I felt someone down there, Steve. Someone very powerful.”
“Your level of power, mine, Bucky’s, Visions…”
“Hers. Mine. More.”
Steve’s lips pucker and he sighs deeply.
“Shit. Anyone could have tracked her when she broke through to our timeline,” Steve mutters.
“We can help her, Steve,” Wanda says. She’s picked up on everyone’s fear and their reluctance to want to go anywhere near this girl. “She can be a powerful member of the team. You trusted me, you gave me the chance.”
“She’s killed countless people based on what you saw in her head, Wanda -”
“She was being manipulated,” Wanda argues. Steve puts his hand up to calm her.
“If she’s willing to try and work with us, I’m all for it. How much can you help her? Can you help her at all?”
“I can try. I’m going to try,” Wanda says resolutely as the elevator doors open. Bucky meets them in the hall.
“No one is in there but her,” he tells them. Wanda steps past him and goes into the room. She can hear the faint sound of crying. She doesn’t see anyone in the room and she can no longer feel that other presence but there’s residual energy in the air that makes the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Whoever it was is gone, though. Jane’s crying pulls Wanda back to the here and now. She sits on the edge of the bed. Jane’s eyes are closed and tears fall freely from her closed eyes. She remembers and it’s tearing her apart.
Wanda puts her hand on Jane’s head. She can feel the torrent of emotions just ravaging her.
“Go away,” she sobs. “Go away.”
“No. I want to help. I can try and help you get through this,” Wanda says softly. Jane opens her eyes and Wanda feels like she’s been hit, the impact coming from Jane’s inability to control her emotions right now.
“Why? I’m a monster…” she breaks down completely. Wanda cradles her as best as she can while Jane cries.
“You’re not a monster,” Wanda whispers. She sees the door open and sees Steve and Bucky trying to come in. She shakes her head no quickly and Steve pulls the door shut.
“Yes, I am...I saw you die...I didn’t help...I’m so sorry….” she cries hysterically. This makes Wanda’s heart stop for a moment.
“I’m here. I’m alive. What happened to you wasn’t your fault -”
“I killed those people! Thousands of people!” she cries pulling from Wanda and looking at her like she’s mad.
“I’m not saying you didn’t. I’m not denying you did those things. I saw what’s inside your mind. I know what he did to you. You can’t change your past but you can change who you are and you can change what you do. I want to help, but you have to let me.”
“I’m so sorry…” she weeps. “I’m so sorry…”
“Let me help. Let us all help. You can change. You can change,” Wanda tells her.
“All those people…” She cries even harder.
“Was done because of this madman. He used you. He manipulated your feelings and thoughts. He made you do those things. You aren’t under his control now. You don’t have to be that person.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I let Holocaust kill you. Please forgive me.”
Wanda shakes her head and closes her eyes. The emotional overload Jane is going through is wearing them both out, but she doesn’t give up.
“I’m still here. There’s nothing to forgive. I’m right here. Shhh…” Wanda says soothingly. She holds Jane and lets her cry.
Chapter 11: She's Your Responsibility
Bucky stands leaned against the wall outside of the room where the fallen angel and Wanda are. Wanda’s been in that room with this dame for almost an hour and all they’ve heard are some muffled cries and the girl repeatedly saying either she’s sorry or she killed people. Bucky’s heart aches for her. If what Wanda says is true - and there’s no reason for Bucky to doubt Wanda - then this poor girl’s been through as much shit as he has, even more so. He folds his arms over his chest and lets his head drop. That poor babydoll is going to have to live with what she's done for the rest of her life. You can't escape your past, Bucky knows that first hand.
“We should check on them,” Vision says. He’s antsy because he’s worried about Wanda and Bucky knows if the situation was reversed Wanda would be just as worried about Vision. Bucky wonders what that’s like, having a dame care unconditionally about you. He’s forgotten it seems, but he’s in no condition to try and seek out a romantic relationship with some poor girl.
Steve puts his ear to the door and listens. He shakes his head.
“Nothing. There’s no sound.
“I’m going in,” Vision states and Steve and Bucky have to stop him.
“Wait. Before you go through the door or around it or whatever you do, just wait. If that girl sees you just materialize she may freak out,” Bucky explains.
“He’s right. Be calm. Wait here just a moment and I’ll check,” Steve tells Vision. Vision is reluctant but he nods in agreement. Steve cautiously opens the door and peers inside.
“What?” Bucky says in disbelief. Vision isn’t waiting any longer and simply phases through the wall and into the room. Steve sighs and shakes his head, opening the door a little further so Bucky can see for himself. Sure enough, Wanda is cradling the girl who fell from the sky in her arms and both of them are asleep.
“They are exhausted,” Vision whispers. He places his hand gently on Wanda’s head and Wanda opens her eyes.
“Shhh,” she orders the three men. Bucky watches as she strokes the fallen girl’s hair. Wanda’s lost a lot. She was used by Hydra, her brother was killed, she’s so goddamn powerful it’s scary...Bucky has the utmost respect for this little girl. He’s not the only one that’s gone through shit. They all have to varying degrees. Even Stark.
“Are you okay?” Bucky asks Wanda. She smiles and nods.
“She’s like you, Buck. An F5 tornado of emotions. Guilt, pain, regret, anguish, revulsion, fear, anger…and like you and me and Steve she’s going to have a hard time figuring out her place in this world now.”
Bucky takes that to heart and he can see Steve is, too.
“Does she have a name?”
“All I can get from her mind is what Apocalypse called her - Halo.”
“As in the thing over an angel’s head?” Bucky asks and then feels dumb for doing so.
“That. It’s a mockery, I think, unless Apocalypse intended her to be the Angel of Death.”
“Who is this Apocalypse?” Steve asks.
“I don’t know. But the imagery of him in her mind is enough to scare the hell out of me. She can’t stay shackled, Steve. She’s not our prisoner.”
“We don’t know enough about her to let her loose yet, Wanda,” Steve counters. “We don’t know what she’ll do if we let her loose. I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Wanda is silent.
“She’s right, Steve. We can’t hold her prisoner. That’s not us. That’s not you. Can you help her, Wanda? Can you help put her on the right track?” Bucky asks.
“I don’t know. She’s as powerful as I am. Controlling her isn’t an option, she’s not an animal. She has to want it.”
“If she accepts your help, I will be there to assist as well,” Vision assures Wanda. She looks up at him and smiles warmly.
“You know we’ll help, Wanda,” Steve tells her. “But I have to ensure everyone’s safety, too.”
“Let me talk to her again. Can one of you fine gentlemen get her something to drink, some clothes and maybe something to eat?”
“On it,” Steve and Bucky say together.
“What about you?” Vision asks. “What do you need?”
“Hydration and chicken paprikash,” she says with a grin. Vision kisses her head and vanishes.
“Anything else you can think of?” Bucky asks. Wanda looks at Halo and then up at him. She shakes her head no.
“For now just that. Let’s try and show her we don’t want to hurt her and that we’re here to help.”
“Benefit of the doubt. We can do that,” Steve agrees. He and Bucky head out of the room, leaving Wanda to stroke Halo’s raven colored hair.
“What do you think?” Steve asks as they walk away.
“About Wanda? She’s a nice girl, a little young. Vision would kill me if I thought anything more of her than a possible friend.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“I’m not the one asking stupid questions,” Bucky responds evenly.
“What do you think of Halo?”
“What do you think, Steve? What are we supposed to think? What am I supposed to think?”
Steve looks thoughtful for a moment.
“You’ve been through almost the same caliber of shit she has, but…”
“But I was programmed, she was...I don’t even know, Steve. If you’re asking me if I think we can help her...I think Wanda’s right. That has to be Halo’s choice.”
“If she refuses we have a huge problem on our hands,” Steve sighs.
“Am I interrupting?” Bruce asks quietly approaching them.
“Nope,” Steve answers.
“I want to show you something. About the girl.”
“You’re sweating, Bruce. This doesn’t sound promising,” Bucky mutters.
“It’s...it’s something. Let’s just say that,” he says and leads them to a large exam room. There are x-rays on a light board and screens of data showing all kinds of something.
“Do you know anything about her?” Bruce asks nervously.
“No. Wanda has touched her mind, I guess, and she’s relayed what she could to us,” Steve explains. “Why?”
“She’s been genetically altered. A lot. Like...she is literally off the charts here. She’s undergone forced cellular mutations to increase her powers and this…” he says pointing to the x-rays, “is the coup de gras.”
“What am I looking at?” Bucky asks.
“Okay,” Steve says sounding as perplexed as Bucky feels. “And what?”
Neither Bucky or Steve say anything. Bucky covers his mouth with his left hand and studies the images. Steve looks questioningly at Bruce.
“How is that possible?” Steve finally asks. “They couldn't replace her entire skeleton with metal -”
“The didn’t replace it, they...they fused the metal to her bones somehow. Look at how seamless it is. Replacing bone with metal parts you’d see screws and disjointed pieces, but this is….I don’t know. I don’t know what to think of this,” Bruce admits.
“Who else knows?” Steve asks, studying the x-rays.
“Stark. Rhodey. I’m sure Fury knows or will know here shortly…”
“I already know,” Fury says entering the room and closing the door quietly behind him. “That’s not just metal that’s fused to her bones, Doctor Banner, that’s adamantium, there are very, very few people who are aware of that metal, its properties, or how to do a procedure like that.”
“What the hell is adamantium,” Bucky asks. Fury stalks over to him and takes hold of Bucky’s left arm.
“A synthetic of vibranium. It’s supposed to be nearly indestructible, the only thing stronger would be vibranium itself,” Fury explains.
“That’s why you didn’t break her ribs when you were doing the chest compressions,” Bucky marvels. “Jesus Christ!”
“You know one of the other recipients of the process,” Fury states as he looks at the screens of information Bruce has on display. “Guy goes by the name Wolverine, but you’ll know him as either Logan or possible James Howlett.”
“Aliens, metal skeletons, dames that drop from the sky...just when I think I’ve seen everything…” Steve mumbles.
“What do we have on her so far?” Fury asks, directing the question to Bruce.
“She’s powerful. Omega level mutant powerful from the looks of things, but I couldn’t tell you what powers she has or how they manifest. Aside from rapid healing. Her cellular regeneration is incredible and it puts theirs to shame,” Bruce says nodding towards Bucky and Steve.
“How old is she?” Fury asks.
“I don’t know. She could be as young as Wanda, she could be as old as Steve and Buck, she could be somewhere in the middle.”
Bucky looks at the screens Fury is looking at.
“Who is Apocalypse?” Bucky asks. He knows Fury will have an answer. He’d be shocked if Fury didn’t.
“Why?” Fury asks dubiously.
“Wanda mentioned that name a few times. Halo -”
“Halo?” Fury demands, looking agitated.
“Halo,” Steve says calmly, “is the name Wanda pulled from the girl’s mind. That’s what Apocalypse called her.”
“Apocalypse is an immortal mutant. A madman. His one and only desire is to erase humans so that mutants rule. And he’ll dispose of any mutants that stand in his way. e’s He thinks himself a god. Other hero factions have come up against him. X-Factor, X-Force, more notably Charles Xavier’s group, the X-Men. Most are mutants and barely able to hold their own against him. She’s one of his Wanda said?”
“She’s from a future timeline from what she could discern,” Steve explains. “This Apocalypse asshole genetically altered her and either erased or buried any memories she had prior to him. He manipulated her into obeying him and fulfilling his orders.”
“She’s a killer. Just like the ones he’s collected here, he’s turned her into one of his Horsemen. We aren’t equipped to handle this,” Fury states like it’s an easy decision. “She needs to be with her own kind -”
“Great. Maybe we should ship Wanda off, too, since she’s one of those kind,” Bucky snaps angrily. Fury is unmoved by the outburst.
“Wanda we have a handle on,” Fury replies. Both Steve and Bucky bristle at this.
“Oh god, Fury,” Bruce groans. “No. You don’t have a handle on her. Wanda controls herself. This girl - Halo - has to have some control over her powers. She’s impressively powerful -”
“She’s a threat and a danger,” Fury persists in that same even tone.
“She can be helped. We can help her. We helped Wanda, we helped Bucky -”
“ YOU helped Bucky along with Wakanda technology and in doing so made you one of the world’s most wanted criminals, Captain,” Fury reminds him. Bucky puts his hands behind his head and looks at the ceiling. These conversations are so fucking infuriating.
“We’re still helping Bucky,” Steve growls. “We all need help here on some level. If she’s willing to work with us and let us help than this is where she stays.”
“Are you giving me orders?” Fury asks. There’s no malice in his voice, no fear, no anything.
“No, I’m just telling you how it will be,” Steve replies. Fury nods, that slick grin comes over his face.
“See to it that she cooperates, Captain. I’m putting you and Sergeant Barnes in charge of her.”
Chapter 12: Dreaming Of The Past
Dream sequence involving Halo's past and how she came to be under Apocalypse's thumb.
Halo sits down on the grassy knoll and looks out over the horizon. There’s a soft, warm breeze blowing. There’s music in the background, something fun and upbeat that makes her smile as the notes carry to her on the breeze. There are people all over the place, children playing on swings and slides and merry-go-rounds, adults walking and talking, vendors selling balloons, hotdogs, ice cream, stuffed animals...it’s a beautiful day.
“Don’t wrinkle your dress, sweetie. We want to look nice, remember?”
Halo looks up to the sound of the voice. She sees a smile so radiant and pure that it makes her heart swell. The face is like the sun but it doesn’t blind her, it warms her soul.
“We’ll go play on the swings and I’ll get you an ice cream if you’re good,” the voice promises. Halo looks up again and smiles.
The music changes tempo and Halo hears a slower song start to play. She sways to the music a little.
Halo looks to see who this new voice belongs to. It’s a bald man in a floating chair. He has really blue eyes that remind Halo of the sky at the beach.
Halo looks back at the other voice, to the one she calls Momma. She sounds anxious. Momma is never anxious, though. Halo goes back to listening to the music. Momma said if she didn’t wrinkle her dress and was good they could get ice cream. Halo wants chocolate with sprinkles.
“Yes, Charles. This is your - our - daughter. River, stand up and say hello to my friend Charles.”
Halo gets up, but she’s confused for a moment as to who River is.
“Hello, River. How are you?” the man momma calls Charles asks. He puts his hand out to her and Halo realizes that she’s River. It doesn’t seem to bother her. She puts her small hand into the bigger one of Charles’ and he shakes her hand delicately.
“I’m good,” she answers and then adds, “thank you,” because momma would want her to remember her manners.
“Sit and listen to the music, sweetie. Okay?” Momma tells her. Halo/River nods. She thinks she likes the name River better. It doesn’t sound as mean and wrong as Halo.
She sits down and watches the people, anxiously waiting for her chance to go play.
“Why didn’t you tell me when you found out?”
“You were tied up with the school and you made it clear you had no time for distractions -”
“You weren’t a distraction, Candra.”
“That’s not how you made me feel, Charles.”
They stop talking for a moment and River is grateful. She can hear the music better now. It’s another happy dancing kind of song. She pats the ground trying to keep the rhythm.
“She’s already exhibiting powers, Charles. She can read minds like you wouldn’t believe. It’s uncanny,” Candra says with a small laugh. River doesn’t know what momma is talking about. Read minds?
“How old is she now?”
“Five. She has a lot of your quirks, Charles. It’s infuriating.”
River hears the man momma calls Charles laugh a little. Why would he laugh at something she does that makes momma mad?
“She looks like you, thank god.”
“Not entirely. She has your eyes...sort of.”
“They’re green. A very beautiful shade of green, I might add.”
“They change to blue when she’s reading minds. That’s her tell. At least for now. They turn blue and she starts spouting off whatever is at the forefront of that person’s mind. It was easier when she couldn’t talk.”
Again Charles laughs. River tries to ignore him.
“Why did you tell me now, Candra? What changed?”
“We’re in trouble, Charles. I’ve made a terrible mistake…”
“Candra, look at me. What happened?”
River can feel the swiftly changing emotions between momma and Charles now and it makes her skin all goosebumpy. She doesn’t like this feeling.
“She’s doing it. Can you feel it?”
“River,” Charles calls to her. River looks over her shoulder. The air seems like it’s heavy like a big blanket. Charles inhales deeply.
“I told you. She doesn’t know how to control it, but you can see her eyes have changed color and I know you can feel her using her powers.”
Charles opens his hand to River again and she shakes her head no. Momma is upset and Charles is making things take too long. Momma promised ice cream but Charles is keeping momma from getting them ice cream.
“River Charlize Xavier,” momma scolds her, “go see him.”
River cringes at the usage of her full name. She doesn’t like it when momma does that because that means momma is upset and River has been bad.
She gets up and gives Charles her hand.
“You are very special, young lady,” he says sweetly. “Do you know you have a gift?”
She looks at momma hoping that there’s a big box with lots of wrapping paper and a big bow on it for her to tear into.
“Not a present, River. He means when you do that thing where you can hear what people think and feel,” momma explains. River pouts. No presents.
“Don’t pout, River. Can you tell me what I’m thinking? If you can we’ll go and get your ice cream like your mother promised.”
River’s eyes widen in surprise. Momma didn’t mention the ice cream in front of Charles. How did he know?
“It’s okay, sweetie. He’s like us. It’s okay. Can you hear what he’s thinking?” momma asks.
River furrows her brow. There’s suddenly lots of voices. Everybody is talking at once. Lots of voices.
“Can you hear me, River?”
River tilts her head and looks at Charles. His mouth didn’t move but he talked to her in her head. She blinks a few times because….because….because only momma can do that….
“I think that’s a yes,” momma says sounding pleased.
“I can hear you, but you didn’t talk. How did you do that?” River asks. It’s a neat trick for when momma tells her to hush.
Charles sits very straight in his chair and he looks really happy, too. River is happy because she’s made two people happy.
“Charles, you have to take her. I can’t….he’s coming for me.”
“Who? Candra, what is going on? We can help you. I’ll protect you -”
“You can’t. But you can protect our daughter. Help her…”
River can hear screams now but she can’t tell if that’s in her head or if it’s out loud. Momma and Charles both look very scared suddenly. This makes River scared.
“Oh god no….” Candra gasps.
“Sir, we have to go. Apocalypse is here -”
A new man shows up with a lady with very red hair. The new man has on pink sunglasses and River really likes them, but why is everyone screaming and why is momma so scared and upset suddenly?
“Candra?” Charles questions. The man with the pink sunglasses is trying to get Charles to move but he won’t budge.
“Professor, please. We’re outnumbered, we can’t fight,” the lady with the really red hair pleads.
“He’s coming for me. I was angry at you and the world and...I made a mistake, Charles, I am so sorry….”
Momma is crying. The screams are super loud now and people are running past them. River can smell something burning like lots of matches. It’s a horrible smell that makes her nose hurt.
“Come with me, Candra,” Charles begs. Momma shakes her head no and pushes River towards Charles. River stumbles and falls into Charle’s arms and momma runs off.
“Candra! No!” Charles yells.
“Momma!” River cries and tries to get away from Charles. He won’t let her go. The man in the pink sunglasses is trying to pick her up now.
“Momma! Momma! Momma!” River screams over and over as she tries to fight off the other man. He lifts her off the ground and River feels something sharp and hurtful shoot from her head and the man in the pink sunglasses drops her as he grabs her head. River gets up and runs after momma as fast as she can.
“Catch her! Don’t let her go! Jean! Hurry!” River hears Charles yell.
People are running towards River and trying to run over her and she has to dodge them as she looks for momma.
“Momma!” she yells. “Momma! Where are you!”
She keeps running and she sees momma and a really big man in all blue. His head is blue, too. He’s very tall and very mean looking. She runs towards them.
“You have failed me, Candra,” the blue man tells momma in a booming voice.
“NO! RUN AWAY!” momma yells at her. River feels something invisible hit her and knock her over onto her back. It hurt and it took her air away.
“Bring me the child.”
River sees horrible faces she doesn’t know and tries to get away but they pick her up and they hold her tight and nothing she does makes them let go. Then she sees the blue man holding momma by her head. His hand is so big it covers all of momma’s head and all of her face. Momma can’t get away. There is a sound of something like bacon sizzling and then River sees momma twitching and jerking in the blue man’s hands.
“MOMMA! MOMMA! MOMMA!” she cries and then she feels something erupt from her body and the ones that have her let her go and River crashes to the ground and it hurts and she cries but she gets up because she has to help momma….
She runs trying to get to momma but the blue man scoops her up and holds her in his arms like a baby. River is too scared to move now.
“Do not let this upset you, my child. You have such talents. Let me show you the world you were meant to rule.”