There was heat. Light. Pain. Intense pain, in what felt like every cell of her body. Pain beyond even the feeling of traveling through time. It felt like her very soul was on fire. And yet, she didn't scream.
Maybe it was willpower. Maybe the pain was just so much that she couldn't vocalize it. She certainly couldn't describe what she was seeing. Rippling colors, all of them; even those that had no name. Stars exploding and collapsing and exploding again in the span of an instant, ripples along the cosmos and shards of glass that showed what had been, what could have been, and what still could be; six brightly-colored singularities and four beings that defied comprehension from her feeble, mortal mind. A many-angled figure with a single, evil eye peering through the folds between reality and nonexistence. The shadow of an entity she feared like few others, tall and with two prongs on either side of the center pillar.
Fire. Screaming fire, in the shape of a brilliant, beautiful bird, that burned brighter than every sun combined, rushing toward her, engulfing her, consuming her to be in a white-hot room.
She screamed at last, and the firebird screamed with her.
* * *
Hope Summers opened her eyes slowly, a dull ringing like tinnitus in her ears as her vision blurred. Rolling over onto her stomach, she felt herself vomit. It was this reflexive, cleansing action and the dopamine that flooded her brain in response that helped her come to her senses, and she slowly, shakily stood up, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. She was dressed in a green bodysuit, with large yellow arrows pointing down on the chest and around her waist; an outfit remarkably similar to another young redheaded figure in this world. Though Hope’s outfit was more… militant, being armored at the boots and gauntlets, with a right shoulder pauldron, several straps and buckles that held various small devices and packs of ammunition, and a three-way belt clipped at the front by a red buckle with a black “X” on it. Most prominent was a tan, somewhat tattered cross between a poncho and a cape.
“Fuck…” she managed to say, coughing for a moment before looking around. Melted limestone, still smoking and glowing from the heat of her arrival, and some of it seeming to simply… no longer exist, as if the most precise laser in existence had just… sliced the things away into nothingness.
This was a home that was somewhere in the Middle East, she was pretty certain. What the fuck? She wasn't supposed to land here, she was supposed to have arrived in Latveria! Irritated, Hope looked to her left, to see that whatever door had been separating this room from everything else simply didn't exist anymore, replaced by a rather large, very precise hole that had cut through ancient stone like a scalding knife through butter. Smoke was still pouring from it. Smoke and dust. And she could hear muffled voices coming from further in its direction away from her. Panicked, shouting, speaking in a Semitic language she couldn't speak but knew damn well what they were saying.
She pulled on her utility bag slung over her shoulder that looked suspiciously like a modern-day fanny pack and pulled out two small circular devices that she fitted into her ears. After that, a stick of peppermint-flavored gum that she put in her mouth to chew. Then she took out another, thicker disc with a raised bump in its center, big enough to fit in her palm. The device lit up in a gradience of multicolored light that fluidly shifted and changed as she ran her thumb along its circular surface, then, seeming to find something acceptable, she clipped the device to her belt and unslung a remarkably large, futuristic rifle from her back and fiddled with a dial on its side, turning it to a low setting as a song began playing, emanating from the device on her hip. A groovy rock song from the late 1970s.
“You get a shiver in the dark,
It’s a-rainin’ in the park,
Shadows could be seen in the smoke, shouting. Without warning, Hope aimed and fired. Two bright white lights erupted from her rifle, striking two would-be opponents and knocking them backward into unconsciousness. And Hope began to move forward.
“South of the river,
You stop and you hold everything...
A band is blowin’ Dixie,
Double four time...”
Stepping through the smoke and into the hallway beyond, her cape billowing a bit from her movement, things seemed to move in slow motion as three more figures shouted and tried to aim at her.
“You feel alright, when you hear that music ring...” Hope sang along pleasantly to the music, seeming completely unbothered by this situation as she fired at one of the men, knocking him back into the hallway. She stepped over the knocked-out body of one of his comrades, and fired at the second, causing him to hit the wall closest to him.
“Well now, you step inside, but you don't see too many faces...”
“Comin’ in out of the rain to hear the Jazz go down...”
The third guard was too close, and tried to grab at Hope, only to be swatted aside by a Big Fucking Gun to the head into the wall beside him, and a swift kick to his jaw for good measure.
“Competition in other places...” Hope continued, before turning to her right. There was a way out into the sunlight. Or at least how to get from the basement up to the ground floor. She was completely serene, in the zone, as she moved toward the light and stepped out into the hot sun.
“Aw, but the horns, they blowin’ that sound…”
Chewing her gum, lightly bopping her head to the music, Hope brought her rifle up and rested it vertically in one hand, while looking to a device on her left wrist. Tapping the device, Hope frowned as it displayed her current location.
She wasn't just in the Middle East. She was smack-dab in the middle of Kandahar, Afghanistan. And from the sounds of things, Kandahar was currently in the midst of some big battle.
She could have used this device to get right out of this place and go anywhere else on Earth, so why didn't she? Why knockout armed men and go right into the lion’s mouth of a city she didn't know, which was currently in the midst of a big fight, as if taking a leisurely stroll?
Because it was fun, and dammit, she needed to have some fun. She was supposed to be a savior. A messiah.
She wasn't sure if it was true; she certainly didn't feel like a messiah. But she sure as shit planned on making her entrance in this new universe memorable, at any rate.
She just had no idea just how memorable she had already made it for people on the other side of the world, as she readied herself and started looking for a place to hunker down for a while. Maybe she'd get to bump off some Jihadis, that tended to be a good reliever of stress.
Cerebro was pitch black save for the runway lights that lead to its control board. As James MacTaggert limped down the catwalk, the chilled air around him felt thick—as if he were having to part it by walking through the room. When he reached the control board, he stopped for half a minute and just stared at it. Even stil, he was unsure of how the technology worked—and it was unlikely he'd become more educated soon, as James hated Cerebro. The machine felt as though it stripped his psyche from his body and exposed it to the world—like James were floating naked through the sky, and the only thing keeping the minds around him from spotting him was that they hadn't thought to look up.
The only reason he'd come down to this chamber in the first place was to address the pressure that'd been inside his head all day. It felt like something was pressing down on the psychic portions of his brain, like an animal feeling a coming storm in the winds. Focusing on the feeling hadn't returned anything useful, so James turned to Cerebro as his last resort. Slowly he lowered himself into the massive, enveloping chair and turned the machine on. "Come on you ugly bitch, let's get going." Slowly the chrome helmet lowered onto his head, and he saw the tubes that ran from it to the console glow a brilliant blue—and he was in the psychic realm.
Suddenly the murky darkness of the psychic realm tore apart in the distance, like a wound had been opened, and through it was pouring blinding white light. Focusing on the area, James could tell that it was Europe—and then, with greater focus... Afghanistan? That was when the wound burst open, and energy began to flow through into the psychic realm. James' mind went aggressive, rearing up against the new presence and pressing himself against it like a barrier—only for it to continue swelling to match him. "Who the fuck are you?" James grunted aloud in shock. He tried to push his body as far away as he could, to disassociate with the pain and distractions his body presented. No level that he scaled to was unmatched, and then suddenly he began to feel the fatigue. To match the event in magnitude, James was being projected by Cerebro, but the machine had its tolls. Now he felt trapped inside, the noise from the energy swelling around him was too great for him to return to his body, but the energy didn't stop. It felt like searing hot light shining straight on him, until suddenly in a burst it was gone. He was slumped in the Cerebro chair, metal helmet still on his head and his entire body covered in a layer of sweat. It pooled between his flushed skin and the helmet, though the helmet gave a sudden start as backup power for the room kicked in. It rose up, and left James' head to fall back against the chair.
His skin was pallid, his cheeks were hollow, and his eyes were sunken and dark. James struggled to rise up from his seat, his cane almost sliding out from underneath him as he rested weight on it. Afghanistan was a hellhole, but one he'd luckily never been to. "I don't plan on breaking that streak of luck just yet."
"I'm still not really sure on what our job here is. MacTaggert couldn't be bothered to explore his headache himself?" Lorna mumbled bitterly. She and Cable were once again forced together in a jet, flying to Europe to deal with MacTaggert's problems. She'd jumped at the previous mission due to her emotional connection to Magneto, but now it felt like shit work. Granted, Mactaggert was paying her handsomely to stay on 'retainer' for him, along with a few other mutants. They weren't X-Men, either for age or morality, but they were still somewhat a team. So far he'd been calling them 'X-Force' to Lorna's disgust.
This jet was both smaller and newer than the old Blackbird, suited perfectly for the two man mission. Lorna was dressed in a tight sports tank-top, with ballistic vest overtop it, and combat pants that had webbing that she used to sheathe her various knives. Pulling Lorna's brilliant green out of her face was an equally green M shaped headband. She glanced down at the jet's console and saw that they were moments away from entering the secretive nation's airspace. MacTaggert assured them that he had forwarded relevant files to Afghanistan's government... but it was Afghanistan.
They were running stealth so far, but she figured the better approach was to stay stealth even after entering Afghani air-space. Lorna flicked a few switches on the dash, and the jet's cloak deactivated with a slight whine. She had arrived to MacTaggert's mansion before Cable this time, and in turn had gotten to the jet first. Unlike last time, Lorna took the controls for herself—meaning she'd suffered from an entire flight of Cable subtly bitching about her flying.
Lorna floated into the seat, and pulled the jet's headset on with her powers. Likewise, she began flicking switches and controlling knobs inside the cockpit with her green waves of energy. Slowly the jet began to settle down into the desert, just outside the town. Lorna wrapped a green scarf around her hair to be a little more inconspicuous, and nodded to Cable, "Let's go figure out what this expensive headache is."
"Diagnostics." A brilliant flash of orange illuminated the room upon command, the light shining a spotlight on a rather disappointing sight. Beer cans littered the floor, the aluminum twinkling in the orange haze back at one Nathan Summers. He stood shirtless in front of his bed, swaying in place thanks to the Budweiser coursing through his body. "Give it to me straight, doc. Cut the bullshit." Cable spoke out into the empty room, his voice grating even to the wallpaper.
Techno-Organic Virus coverage: 15% increase since last diagnostics test.
Last diagnostics check was approximately 22 hours ago. Would you like me to call for help?
"Fuck." He growled again, looking down at his shirtless form and seeing just what his virtual assistant was scanning for himself. When he first arrived on Earth-L the left side of his body was covered by the ever invasive Techno-Organic virus. Cable was a tangled mess of metal on a good day, now he was looking more and more cybernetic than organic. He had long since lost his left eye to the virus as well as most of his left arm and other chunks of his body but as time went on the metal continued to spread further and further. It was as if he was losing grip on what made Cable the man he was, the virus responding in turn by spreading more aggressively in his moment of weakness. His telepathic connection was weakening as the metal spread like a disease, ironically his telepathy was what kept the virus at bay but the further he succumbed to his condition the weaker he felt overall.
Are you sure? You-
"Fuck off." Cable cursed at the virtual intelligence, waving his arm violently towards the interface that was projected out before him. Different charts and diagnostics filled his vision but were rudely pushed away by his gesture, none of the readings were good and he didn't want to stare at them any longer. He was getting low on supplies and would have to move soon, his war against the remaining Hydra cabal had lowered his resources at this particular safe house leaving him only with his Big Fucking Gun which laid in pieces before him neatly on the bed. His health wasn't good but he chalked it up to waging a constant war on his own in preparation of Ultimus' arrival... which was feeling more and more daunting even for someone as meticulous as Cable.
He had no Hope and now the stranded time traveling warrior was stuck waiting for something to happen. An ironic twist of fate, especially for someone who use to bend time to his will.
Hours passed and Cable was several beers deeper, the metal embedded in his body seemed to flex and wrap around him tighter. Alcohol warmed his belly and numbed the virus' progression but it didn't slow it down at all, instead it just made him care even less.
"What?" Cable called out into the room abruptly, the environment feeling like it shifted toward the East. The hair on his neck stood straight up, goosebumps shot down his right arm and along his side as he felt some sort of unexplainable change. A significant one, one that the other telepaths in the world no doubt felt and one that reverberated across the Earth. It was an arrival, one that Cable wasn't expecting nor prepared for. He had carefully studied nearly every scenario he could think of for Earth-L, this surprise an unwelcome one. "MacTaggert." He called out, recognizing his colleague's presence pass him by in an instance. He was no doubt investigating with Cerebro, Cable didn't have that luxury so he was unfortunately left drunk in the dark. He spoke out to MacTaggert, his crippled colleague responding in turn with a new mission. "I'm on my way, James. Afghanistan? - who the fuck would want to go there?"
The closer they got the more confused Cable became, the man obnoxiously urging Polaris to fly faster even though they both knew that was impossible. His telepathy was so weakened that the foggy presence he began to feel alarmed him, rather than excite him. A massive power was in Kandahar, one that reminded Cable of home.
"Right now the only headache we got is you, Lorna. Don't need an investigation to figure that one out. Whatever this is is something more... big leagues, kid." He sassed her, standing up and readying his Big Fucking Gun whilst simultaneously adjusting his futuristic Fanny pack. They could already hear gun fire as the loading ramp lowered, the pair of them inevitably having to enter a live combat situation to investigate the strange new arrival on their world. "Aim to kill, I don't want some bastard getting a lucky shot on one of us while we pretend to be X-Men. Move out."
By the time the two X-Men had managed to land outside Kandahar and find a way into the city, night had fallen on the city of over six-hundred thousand people. And Lorna and Cable would be able to see a city under siege, being shelled by artillery imported from Iran to the Taliban.
Yes, the Taliban; an old terrorist group that had been active up until this point as a relatively scattered force; by means unknown to the Afghan government, the Taliban had managed to consolidate themselves into a proper fighting force to attack Kandahar, an ancient cultural center for the Afghan people and a symbol of the modernization of the country during the War on Terror, with the help of the West.
At least, that was what Hope had been told by Major General Imram Zawhidi, the leader of the 205th Corps headquartered in the city, after she had found his HQ and, through the miracle of futuristic translator tech, had managed to communicate and form an alliance with him after surprising and subduing his bodyguards despite being a 5’3” seventeen year old female-- and a mutant at that, as she had thought prudent to reveal. Prior to Hope’s arrival, he had called for reinforcements from his subordinates in southern Afghanistan, but they had yet to arrive; as a result, he had said, he couldn't afford to be picky.
So now, Hope was running alongside a squad of Afghan soldiers, her Big Fucking Gun in hand, as they were finishing chasing out some insurgents from an indoor shopping center.
“Sector 38 clear,” Hope spoke into her futuristic earpiece.
“Good work, Hope Summers; be advised, we’ve received word that there is a known superhuman on the field, near your location,” spoke one of General Zahwidi’s comm officers, his words being translated to English. Lieutenant Zahid; a guy barely out of his teens, who had stumbled over his words when he had been assigned to oversee Hope’s progress in this battle.
“Acknowledged; anyone I might know about?”
“His name is Dagan Shah, a former Qatari rebel leader who came across alien technology that made him superhuman. He used this technology to create a micronation called Sharzad between Egypt and Libya.”
“Don't know him. Not sure why exactly a guy from Africa is all the way over here in Afghanistan, but fuck it, I can deal. Powers?”
“Err… Uh, flight, energy projection, superhuman strength and durability, he can use diamond-like constructs around his body to further shield himself, and he can grow to a huge size and cast incredibly lifelike illusions, as well regenerate his wounds quickly.”
“He isn't a mutant?”
“No. Be very cautious; it's been determined that he is at least strong and durable enough to give someone like the Hulk difficulty,” Zahid said, and Hope stopped in her tracks.
“Well… Shit.” she said, before continuing on her way through a winding alleyway, BFG at the ready. She paused at a small courtyard, motioning for her squad to fan out. Moving slowly and cautiously, the group spread out with Hope taking point, her senses alert for any danger--
She leapt back as a body was flung from the sky to land before her; a broken corpse in an Afghan Army uniform. And after the body came a tall, menacing figure dressed in black, with a long cape.
“Ah… and what have we here?” spoke the man. “A Western child amongst Afghani soldiers? Most curious… Put that toy down, girl, before you hurt someone.”
“Hurting assholes is kind of the point of the weapon, and this toy has taken down bigger freaks than you,” Hope replied, subtly twisting the intensity dial on the side of her rifle to the highest setting. The man, who just had to be this “Dagan Shah” guy, laughed.
“Adorable. A mere child thinks she can stand up to Dagan Shah, the Sultan Magus, master of Sharzad? Girl, I can break you like a twig is broken by the mere bending of one’s hands.”
“Yeah,” Hope said, finger resting on the trigger. “But I've got a really big fucking gun!”
She pulled the trigger, and a blast of highly-concentrated, superheated plasma burst forth from her rifle, with enough force to knock Shah backward through the alleyway behind him and through a building on the other side of the street.
“Move!” Hope commanded, and she and her men began to hurry forward, spreading out along the street and aiming their weapons at the hole made by Shah’s crash. Hope was forced to dial back on her rifle, as continuously using it on maximum intensity would drain the battery very quickly. She watched as the tall man walked out of the hole, the clothes of his upper body destroyed but otherwise seeming unharmed. And he wasn't happy.
“You’ll pay for that, girl,” he said, advancing on her, energy beginning to light up around him. She fired at him again, but this shot didn't so much as make him pause before he knocked the rifle out of her hands and gripped her by the throat, lifting her up. “I don't know where you came from, but you should go back home and listen to your dubstep, like the rest of your Western kin.”
It was hard for Hope to breathe, let alone talk, but it was at this moment that Hope felt it, something she never thought she’d feel again: The familiar psionic presence of a man she had thought dead, and another presence she recognized as being from another mutant whose powers she copied on her Earth. The metaphorical fire inside her that was her mutant power awakened, and Hope closed her eyes, letting the power she was absorbing and mimicking flow through her. Unseen by Shah, her hand began to glow green as she focused all of her energy on lifting up her rifle and dialing the settings back to maximum, using nothing but her mind. She opened her eyes, and glared at the man before her, before speaking words that would make her father proud.
“Dubstep’s… for pussies!”
And now, the obligatory battle song. You fuckers should have expected this.
She let out a yell, psychically forcing Shah to release her, before pushing him backward and hitting him with another blast from the rifle and sending him sideways.
And the next thing her men saw was a whirlwind of mutant power, with Hope levitating as if it were the easiest thing in the world and calling as many forms of ferrous metal to her as she could; cars, pipes, twisted scrap heaps, fire extinguishers, and even the rifles of her men, flinging projectiles with graceful motions of her arms and unloading a half-dozen magazines of 5.56 NATO rounds into the Sultan Magus all at the same time, while Shah charged forward, powering through all of it, firing energy from his hands to try to strike at his mutant opponent, but Hope continuously dodged, moving too quickly for him to hit.
And it would be this scene that Lorna and Cable would come across: two powerful figures locked in a stalemate as they tried to subdue each other from a distance, with Hope using more and more hunks of metal to try to push Shah back, then resorting to trying to hurl him around telekinetically, while Shah seemed to have a counter for everything she threw at him, even managing to fight against her telekinetic grip enough to get close and attempt to punch her into paste, which she would dodge, while the men she had commanded watched in awe, at least one falling to his knees in prayer.
And it was already started between them. Lorna and Cable got along well when on missions, but it was a constant stream of insults and sass between the two. Lorna had no more than quipped about MacTaggert's psychic 'headache' when Cable turned it around on her. "Oh, of course," Lorna pursed her lips together, rolling her eyes. "I'm the headache," she closed her eyes and tweaked some of the metal tendrils that attached Cable's technovirus metal arm to his body. "I guess in your case I'm also the shoulder ache now." She started moving started moving aft in the plane. "Seriously though, MacTaggert has a feeling about some bullshit out in the desert," she motioned around them, "so we fly halfway around the world to satisfy it, doesn't mean its big leagues. The guy probably popped too many percocets and panicked about 'the feeeeeeling'."
With that said, she strapped several bundles of throwing knives on, one on her thigh, one on her waist, one on the small of her back, one in her boot, and another on her vest. Finally, she reached under the console for the X-Jet and pulled out a .45 pistol. She pumped her fist in the air with excitement, "Hell yeah, I knew I felt a .45." Cable warned about shooting to kill, but Lorna just rolled her eyes, "Calm your man-tits, I've got no compunction about killing." She leaned in close and whispered to him, "Remember, my dad is Magneto. I'm basically mutant terrorist royalty."
She was the first one out of the plane, and immediately she bitter cold, in the desert. "Oh fuck this, Afghanistan blows." She reached out and brought her leather jacket to her from inside the plane, using her powers.
The pair made the trek into Kandahartook them a few minutes, but luckily there seemed to be no scouts outside the city. The gunfire she heard from the distance implied they had much bigger things to deal with; and indeed they did. Cable and Lorna eventually found themselves walking up on a showdown between two obviously powerful mutants—though Lorna had no idea who either of them was.
"Ah, classic Doc'MacTaggert. HIs big headache was from some mutant girl-on-girl," she rolled her eyes. "I don't know about you, but I'm content to let them fight it out and then kill or befriend the winner. As long as you think you and I can take 'em? You're looking a little old and rusty these days."
"I didn't say it was big leagues because of MacTaggert." Cable replied to her jab dryly, rolling his metal shoulder around in its cybernetic socket after she was done playing with it. Normally he'd have a quip or something to scold her with but he was too focused on what was happening outside, especially since he was able to feel this mysterious energy across the world even in his weakened state. Now being this close it felt disturbingly familiar, which didn't make any sense to him. Everyone he knew was dead and gone, Ultimus killed them. It was why he traveled to this universe in the first place... to give other people Hope. To save them, like he couldn't with his own. "I felt it too, kid. You're the only one I know dumb enough to check this out with me so you're along for the ride now. Bring your-" Lorna strolled out of the ship and discovered just how cold Afghanistan could get at night time. "-coat." Cable finished, the typical scowl on his face deepening because of her situational awareness. He followed her down the ramp silently as she used her powers to summon her coat, his eyes darting along the horizon and determining that they were as safe as they could be to make their approach.
The sounds of fighting intensified and a gnawing ache appeared at the back of Cable's head, the familiarity drowning him in grief that he tried to pushed away with each step forward. To Lorna he'd look the same, like an old piece of granite dusted with angry metal shrapnel embedded in it. To Cable he felt wrong, this presence should be identifiable by now with his telepathy but the Techno-Organic virus was getting the better of him. He had to put most of his energy at keeping it at bay, there was no way he could see who it was until he met them with his own eyes.
And then he did.
A bone chilling scream pierced through the air like a bullet, Cable let out a battle cry so loud that it nearly stopped the action in front of them. His entire frame shook as the massive 6'8" man could do nothing but bellow out the only sound the battle hardened warrior could muster upon seeing his daughter alive and well. Cable knew she was dead, the fact that she was standing there in the flesh caused him to express his emotions in the only way he knew how: violently. His left eye flared up with uncontrollable psionic energy out into the night sky, the yellow-orange glow illuminating his face and casting a sickly spotlight over his heavily armored body. His metal arm raised his Big Fucking Gun up and he leveled it right at the Sultan Magus, his other hand flicking the power dial up to 11 causing the entire gun to violently shake and tremor. Cable held his rifle tight, planting his feet firmly on the ground and took aim all whilst finishing his mighty roar.
"HOPE!" He cried in a hoarse voice, his voice shot. "MOVE!" Cable shouted, most definitely a puzzling sight as she seemed to be far away enough from Shah for Cable to fire on him. Hope would know exactly what he was doing however, with the way the BFG was violently shaking in his grasp it was obvious he was going to put the entire battery into one blast to even the playing field. Nathan knew of Dagan Shah from their universe, a tough son of a bitch who couldn't be given any leeway or mercy. He was too dangerous, so Cable opted for the most extreme option right out the gate.
The Big Fucking Gun fired, the entire area around Cable was hit with a violent shockwave, one that toppled the group Hope was commanding and would no doubt knock Lorna over if she was caught off guard. The man praying was jettisoned into the air due to his proximity to Cable, his body rag-dolling down an alley while the actual blast from the gun hurled straight towards Dagan Shah. Upon impact it would most likely send the man soaring back or at the very least give his comrades an opening to further attack the Sultan, sand kicked up from the blast would bathe their surroundings in a violent sandstorm. One that would only last for a few moments but those few moments Cable wouldn't waste. After firing he would toss the BFG to the ground and sprint right through the dust cloud and into battle, his metal arm swinging right at where he predicted Dagan would be.
They were getting closer, Hope could feel it with every step, every breath she took. She just had to keep Shah at bay for a little bit longer, which was getting a bit more difficult as he got closer and closer-- he had nearly managed to grab her throat--
And then a scream of shock, rage, and garbled aggression, the sweetest sound she had ever heard, pierced the night. Both Hope and Shah turned to see this new voice, and Hope beamed as Cable already was about to unload on the Sultan Magus with a powerful blast from his own BFG.
“HOPE! MOVE!” Cable roared, but just as he had assumed, and just as he had trained her, she was already zooming away gracefully as the shot was fired and the shockwave sent out. Most of her squad was spaced out enough that the shockwave didn't do much to actually hurt them, just knock them on their asses while the sandstorm kicked up. It was the one who had fallen to his knees that was in the most danger, and Hope, on instinct, flew toward the flailing man with a burst of telekinetic speed, slowing him down enough for her to catch safely and set on the ground.
“You okay?” she asked him as she dusted him off.
“I-I am fine, Hope Summers-- but look!” the soldier said, pointing, and Hope turned to see her father, still screaming, attempting to brawl with Dagan Shah. But as the sandstorm cleared, Hope’s eyes widened as she watched Shah, encased in a diamond-like cocoon and looking annoyed, standing perfectly still as Cable misjudged his position and overshot him-- and now, her father didn't even have his rifle.
That blast had enough power behind it to send a main battle tank skidding backward, or send a running Juggernaut flying, Hope figured. And none of it had managed to get past that crystal cocoon.
They might have been biting off more than they could chew here.
“What now?” Shah asked, letting his cocoon dissipate and looking between Cable, Lorna, and Hope in irritation. “More Western interlopers? Ugh…”
He glared at Hope, and suddenly she felt a pressure at her feet; a quick glance down showed her that they were encased in two small versions of those cocoons, and she didn't have the strength to escape. Dagan Shah, the Sultan Magus, was done playing nice, it seemed.
“FALL BACK! FALL--” Hope ordered her squad as they picked themselves up, but they too were encased completely in that diamond-material, while Hope found her mouth covered suddenly by another bit of that diamond-like material that was far harder than any diamond.
“These powers given to me are a treasure. I intuit more than I consciously use them, you see… all I have to do is will, envision what I want to have happen, and it happens,” Shah said. “But I am not needlessly cruel. Your men will be spared quick, painful deaths… if the three of you vacate this city immediately.”
“Kinda hard to do that when I'm stuck,” Hope shot back, after the diamond around her mouth crumbled away. She glanced at her father, then to Lorna, before using the telepathy borrowed from her father to speak to them both.
Look, we’re kind of outmatched right now, and I don't want these guys’ deaths on my conscience, none of us knew we’d be facing a guy like this tonight… If you guys are gonna do something to stall this asshole, make it quick, she said in their minds, while she attempted to focus on grabbing a ruined truck down the road to hurl at him; but it was hard to do without Shah noticing.
Shit got way realer, way quicker than Lorna was expecting for it to. Cable, apparently, knew both of the mutants that were fighting and wasn't content to just let them fight it out. In a burst of raw emotion that Lorna had seldom seen from the lumbering techno-giant, he shouted out one of their names. Moments later he warned her to move, and Lorna assumed that warning applied to her too. She started to backpedal, but caught off-guard as she was, she was only able to get a few steps back when Cable fired his Big Fucking Gun.
She was caught in the shockwave, stumbling to her knees while he rushed forward to fight the other mutant. Around them were soldiers, most of them knocked to their asses from the shot, as well as 'Hope'. The latter was stuck in some kind of crystalline trap on her feet, a product of the other mutant.
While she talked with the soldiers and Cable sprinted for the Shah, she began feeling every piece of metal around them. Doors, doorframes, scaffolding, spent bullets and shell casings, debris, and anything else ferrous that she could manipulate. She wasn't exactly sure how she was going to use it, but she was gathering all she could use to fight this guy.
After holding his shield for a moment, the mutant dropped his shield and warned the three of them to leave. At the same time, she felt the familiar tickle of someone inside her mind, followed by an unfamiliar voice speaking to her telepathically. Distraction, got it, Lorna realized.
All at once, she brought the metal that she'd been isolating down on the shah, warping and bending it to create a new cocoon, this one made of steel and unable to be dissipated quite so easily. Focusing all her strength, she pressed and forged the metal until most of the pieces welded themselves together into a hodgepodge shell around him.
"Aight tall, dark and techno, we might want to get moving. If you wanna grab your girlfriend here that's cool—but I'm not really sure how long that's gonna hold this guy." She started to backpedal, knives levitating from the sheathes she wore to create a floating ring of defensive blades around her. If any of the Shah's men arrived and attempted to help, the knives would leave her orbit to slice through their throats and return back to her.
Cable overshot the Sultan, the man cocooning himself in a diamond shell rather than flying back at all. His metal arm swung and missed, causing him to stride forward weighed down by his own metal limb. The sandstorm cleared and Cable's eyes went wide, the techno-giant caught unarmed and away from the group. The Sultan's gaze fell on him as he stood there, similar diamond restraints oozed up and out of the ground around Cable's feet until he too was immobilized. Gritting his teeth he reached out towards his BFG, only for his telekinesis to have no effect. The Big Fucking Gun laid there dormant while Shah laid out what was going to happen to them, that the three of them could leave but at the cost of Hope's men. She spoke with them telepathically, Cable's face softening as he heard his daughter's voice echo in his mind. There was no time for a reunion naturally, Hope expressing that she didn't want their deaths on her conscious. Normally Cable would sacrifice any non-powered humans for a clean getaway, they weren't necessary for their overall mission to stop Ultimus, but at his daughter's request he couldn't say no.
We'll save em... Lorna... Give him hell. Cable replied back to them both telepathically, his voice the same grating tone the pair of them were use to even in their mind's. Polaris unleashed her metal trap she had been working on quietly as the Sultan was distracted by Hope. With Shah distracted Cable was able to break free from his foot restraints, the diamond crumbling and fading away while the Sultan was encased in metal and welded inside.
Now free, Cable didn't hesitate in charging back towards the others. With the Sultan encased inside the metal orb there was very little he could do without ruining the integrity of Lorna's prison. For being such a big man his speed was alarming, Cable already scooping his BFG with one hand and hoisting the dead weapon by its sling over his shoulder. The cyborg fumbled with his futuristic fanny pack, his right hand darting inside and reaching around for something. He passed by Hope and her recovering men and was now standing near Lorna, Cable pulling out a strange looking device while she taunted him.
"Shut your mouth, cunt." Cable growled in a hoarse voice, not mincing words and showing just how furious he was with four simple words. "Show some god damn respect for my daughter."
The revelation that Cable was even capable of having a daughter alive and well was beyond confusing, especially with how old he appeared in comparison to her. The cyborg pressed a button on the device he grabbed and moments later the wind around them began to kick up sand, the area dissolving into even more chaos as the smaller X-Jet came hovering over the city above them swiftly. It was so dark out that even without the stealth systems active the Blackbird-like vehicle was a specter that was nearly invisible to the untrained eye. Cable summoned the jet remotely, MacTaggert's new tech proving to be useful as Cable took care of their getaway for them.
He only hoped that the metal tomb would hold long enough for them to exfiltrate.