Disclaimer: All the marvel stuff belongs to marvel, oddly enough. Paradise Lost by John Milton belongs to someone whom I don't know either but it's a great book either way.
Author's Notes: Something sort of different for me. This thing is based on a thing I did as an idle threat to one of the other writers (you know who you are) for reasons best unknown. But I was so happy with that I decided to adapt it and make it into a full-fledged story as opposed to an incident. If you're reading this, Bandit, the focus has changed away from your friend to my friend, so don't spoil what's coming. Anyway after all that, I hope you like it. This is the 2nd version after I was told there was lots of those pesky speeeling and gramur type errors in the first. Hope I got most of the buggers. Keep it frosty.
He sucked in his breath as he made his way into the darkened room. He had come to dread these little reports. Good or bad, he was always met with the same stony silence. It was getting difficult to remember what the man sounded like. He stepped into the small pool of light that was allowed in from the doorway. It was the only illumination in the entire room. He couldn't see the man he spoke to, but he knew he was there none the less. He spoke softly, thinking he might not even disturb him.
"I've got the cooler in the main generator almost done. We should have power back to the rest of the place within the hour."
He waited a moment to see if there would be any instructions and when none came, he turned to leave.
"Have you ever read Paradise Lost?" a voice came from the darkest shadow.
He scrunched his shoulders immediately. The question having startled him a little as he expected to leave quietly, the way he usually did. As unsettling as a silent entry and exit was, it was preferable to one of Magneto's cryptic questions.
"No boss, I haven't." He replied in a tired voice, not bothering to add how reading the works of some dead blind guy was not high up on his list of priorities while growing up on the back streets of London.
"I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Sit a moment, let me tell you about it and see what you think."
Toad did as he was instructed without complaint. What was the point of complaining anyway? It's not like anyone would take any notice.
"John Milton wrote this, in your own land, back when the persecution of the time was what faith you practised. The principle groups were the Puritans and Calvinists. They both believed much the same thing but issues such as pre-determination and free will had rent them asunder."
"The poem principally tells of the fall of Adam and Eve, but the main protagonist of the work is Satan. Prior to his own fall from grace, he was known as Lucifer Morningstar. Lucifer is Latin for "light bearer". He commanded a host of angels, was the captain of the guard so to speak and one of the most powerful of God's angels. At some point, God summoned his entire host before him and told them how he had begot a son, equal in power to himself and that all of them should bow before him."
"In his pride, Lucifer could not bow, and instead convinced one third of his fellow angels to stand against God and his hosts. The battle waged for three days but the outcome was never in doubt. The rebel forces were cast out and fell for 9 days through chaos before landing in hell."
"When they existed as angels, the evidence of their power was the light they emitted. However, now in hell, the fallen angels were ranked according to the darkness they emanated, Lucifer, now called Satan, which is Hebrew for "enemy" or "adversary" was the darkest of all. He and his captains lamented on this, noting now how their own eminence was now merely a reflection of the angels above. How hell was merely the shadow that Heaven cast. For how can one tell darkness without light to measure it by?"
"The rebels held a meeting deciding on a course of action. Various factions argued for various schemes. They should stay their hand and hope for amnesty, they should rise up and wage war again or as Satan advocated, they should pervert God's new work, which he has created to replace the lost angels."
"The rebels of course agreed to this and Satan went to paradise to pollute what lies within. But he is only able to do this as God allows him. For although Satan plans to make evil out of God's work, God knows that he will make good out of Satan's evil."
"The rest of the story is pretty much contained within the bible." Magneto finished, his face still shrouded in darkness.
Toad stayed for a moment and thought about it. Though some part of him told him that he should know better, he asked a question that had occurred to him.
"So you think we're like the fallen angels then?"
He heard a gentle rustle as Magneto moved forward in his chair, allowing his own face to become bathed in shadows. Toad noted that his voice was slower now; less sure then when he had been relating the poem to him.
"In a way, yes. For were we not among the brightest of all mutants?"
The question hung for a moment. Toad wasn't too sure if he was referring to him. He should have known that Magneto was not.
"Xavier and I were once allied in cause, but then he asked me to bow down before them, the humans, who so spurn us. I could not, would not, and so now I rage against him and his."
"How far have we fallen, Mortimer? From being allies, I now play the role of enemy and adversary. For every motion we make, he counters and defeats us, strengthening his own hand, making good from out folly."
Toad had no answer. For him, the life that he had was the best he could hope to forge for himself. While Magneto was a mutant, he could still walk among those he hated and who hated him. Toad was as bound to the shadows of life as surely as those angels in hell were.
"I don't know boss, I don't know. But...I better get back to the cooler." Toad said as he turned to leave.
"Toad...thank you for listening."
Toad walked out of the dark room into the light and felt the weight lift from his shoulders as if the very darkness carried its own mass. He walked off towards the generator, his mind already wondering where he was going to get a fuse the right size.
He certainly didn't notice Mystique in the few shadows that were in this well lit area. Her eyes followed him as he walked, the venom contained within them, undeniable. She had listened to the entire exchange between her master and her "brother". Why had he confided in Toad? She doubted he could read, let alone comprehend the works of John Milton. It should have been her, she would have shown him how he was wrong, how Xavier was in fact the mere shadow, that he cast.
This constant brooding on his part was starting to affect the others. She watched on helplessly as Sabretooth became more and more restless and impatient. Toad, who had as much patience as she had seen had on more then one occasion, ventured the notion about going out and doing a job without Eric's approval or even knowledge.
She had forbid it. She had reasoned that all he needed was time. Each set back he suffered however drove him further and further down, until it became days rather then hours before he formulated "policy".
She believed she knew the cause of all this. Despite his claims, he had yet to resolve a major issue within himself. Could he take the lives of those that he had hoped to save? She remembered how he had stopped Sabretooth and Toad from finishing off two of Xavier's grunts at the train station.
Her hand went subconsciously to her stomach, as she lamented how he himself had not finished off Logan when he had the chance. When he had sent her with the duel purpose of getting Marie out of the academy and disabling Cerebro, he had told her how to disable the machine, but she had improvised and attempted to remove Xavier permanently perhaps to the detriment of the plan overall.
Oh he had been willing to sacrifice the young girl, but that's what it would have been; a sacrifice. It wouldn't have been cold blooded, but a last resort to ensure his race's survival.
The fact was he still clung to what little of his soul that time hadn't worn away. She knew that for the brotherhood to truly function, she would have to kill off the last remnants of it and to bring Eric totally into the dark, not the shadow wherein now he resided.
She had noted he had not mentioned to Toad how in the poem Satan, knowing of his damnation decided that he would now find joy in evil, that his good was evil. If Eric saw himself as playing the part of Satan, he'd obviously not gotten comfortable with this element of the role yet. He would need to, she decided, both for him and her.
With Toad finally gone, she now made her way to the entrance of his "study". She kept to the shadows subconsciously, as if the light would somehow burn her.
She entered slowly, letting her eyes adjust. Even as they did, she could make out nothing of her master.
He spoke from the darkness, his voice tired and weary.
"What do you think, Mystique?"
He knew that she had been listening.
Of course he did. Even in his brooding solitude, very little occurred on this island that he did not know about. She presumed that his ability to read bioelectric signatures must give him spatial awareness like that of a shark, which used the same bioelectric signatures to hunt for prey.
Though she spoke softly, her strange voice carried in the darkened chamber.
"I think that the devil can quote scripture to suit himself." She said simply, giving no indication whether she was mocking his belief that he was now the devil.
He laughed none the less. It was an odd laugh, maybe because it was an honest one as opposed to the mocking one he used when belittling those around him.
"That he can, that he can." He finally said.
She decided to act immediately, while the impetus was still with her. It gave her the daring to say things she would normally hide deep inside herself.
"Xavier is no god. He's a misguided fool who has not seen what we have seen, not experienced what we have. He preaches the high road because he fears to even look upon the low road. He will still be preaching when the humans come for him, his words falling on the bodies of all those he has betrayed when he stood back and watched."
She moved to stand behind him, her voice dropping to a whisper.
"He has had the luxury of money and wealth to cushion him, but what did we have?"
She let the question sit for a moment before moving around to the other side of her "master".
"He has let his own nobility blind him and in doing so, he has snatched away a valuable asset his race could have used to survive. His own need to feel noble has outweighed the need of his people, your people."
She moved slowly back behind him.
"You lament that we now merely attempt to pervert this idyllic coexistence which he seeks to create, but you are mistaken. It is he who seeks to corrupt our own dream of a place we can call our own; free of eyes that see only defects. Every plan we execute, he thwarts with his X-Men, while he himself, resides safely in his fortress. He does not even have the courage of his own convictions, he lacks the very courage to come out and fight for what he believes in. He instead sends his surrogates to do that which he will not do himself."
"You on the other hand are out there every day forging a better future for us. Where would Toad be was he not here with you? Where would Sabretooth be? Where would I be were I not here with you?"
She draped her hands over his shoulders as she said this, adding a slightly husky edge to her voice. She could feel the stubble along his face, an indication of how undirected he had become. If he were not so angst ridden she wouldn't have even contemplated this, wouldn't have even come in the room.
"Do you believe that Xavier would have us? That he would teach us the error of his ways? He wouldn't. He'd lock us away, where our inhuman form would not frighten those that he seeks harmony with."
She brought her lips to his ear as she gently wove her spell.
"For us to be allowed to do this duty that fate has given us, that you have shown us, we must remove those that would thwart us, that would prevent us creating our own paradise, free of those that would judge us."
She pulled herself away from him roughly, cutting the connection between them.
"You have allowed yourself to falter upon rocks that he no longer contemplates. You have eroded your purpose with pity and allowed your strength to fade. You know what must be done and yet you sit in darkness hoping that the world around you will change to suit you. You have become like Xavier, a watcher from the sidelines. You know that this is wrong. You know what you must do..."
She felt the whole room shake as Eric rose unexpectantly. His anger was palpable in the small space between them.
"You dare?" His voice was pure steel.
She fell to her knees before him, a pantomime played out in darkness.
"My lord, I...I only wish to serve you."
"Do you think me so blind that I cannot see your manipulations? Has you opinion of me so fallen that you think you could wrap me around your finger like you have so many others? I do know what must be done, but I damn us all if I do it. What kind of paradise do we create if the doorway is paved from the bodies of our enemies, our own brothers?"
She could feel the air tighten around her, his anger becoming a physical manifestation.
"You have obviously been giving this some thought as all these pretty words have been well researched."
"My lord, I would never..."
She heard the table fling itself against the doorway, cutting off all light to the room.
"Don't bother to lie, child. We know each other too well for that. Tell me what you mean to do."
In the total black of darkness, her voice small now from genuine fear, she told him. When she finished he slumped back down in his seat, his voice was now small. The table fell awkwardly in the doorway, no longer held in his magnetic thrall.
"Has it truly come to this?" he asked himself more then Mystique.
She stayed on the ground, almost afraid to move.
"Mystique...Do...Do what you must." His voice tapered off to silence at the end.
She rose slowly. She felt like going to him, but she knew that doing that now would jeopardise everything. Though she had not expected his sudden outburst; it had still served to get him where she wanted him, to allow her plan to go ahead. Soon his hands would be dashed in the blood of innocents and there would be no going back. She left without a word.
He watched her go. He knew implicitly what her plan meant. She was right when she said he knew what must be done. He had known all along but had searched for some other way, some middle ground. For people such as her, there was no middle ground and it seemed that this was now to become true of him.
"And the boss gave this the go ahead?" Toad asked incredulously. "An hour earlier, the man wouldn't have been able to decide whether to drink tea or coffee."
Mystique glared at him.
"I mean...you know what I mean. But this is great. Action at last."
Sabretooth grunted his agreement, already rubbing his claws in anticipation.
"So which one of them is going to be the sacrificial lamb?" Toad asked, moving on to the first order of business.
Mystique looked him in the eye, her voice cold and confident.
"I have just the mutant."
Mystique watched him now as she watched him in the past. She had gone to him in many guises and had even stolen a word with him now and then.
She had gone to him as a waitress and found him to be kind and generous.
She had gone to him as a librarian and found him to be erudite and knowledgeable.
She had gone to him as a tease and found him to be a gentleman and uninterested.
She soon believed that she had discovered the reason for this. She watched the easy banter between the two youngsters and the little physical things that occurred between the two to suggest that maybe there was something deeper was there. They walked arm in arm by the pond idly throwing bits of bread to the ducks that swam about in blissful stupor.
It hadn't been hard for her to find out about the girl. Once she had the name she could find out anything she wanted about her.
The girl's name was Katherine "Kitty" Pryde.
If the files that she had stolen were any indication, then she was exceptionally smart, well liked by all and a mutation that presented a nominal real time threat. On some level, this pleased Mystique. It amused her somewhat to think that this must be her long killed off maternal instinct rising from the grave. She had been led to believe that mother's were always highly critical of the women their beloved boys would bring home. Perhaps she was no different. Whatever the reason she took a dislike to young Mrs. Pryde for crimes real or imagined.
Shaken from her daydreaming, Mystique threw some bits of bread of her own into the water in front of her, a duck idly swimming directly towards the floating food.
"Lovely afternoon for it," Mystique said in the old man's voice, saluting the two young people.
Kurt Wagner smiled back and spoke gently, his accent already being eroded by his time in the states, "Yes sir, it is." Kitty smiled at the old man also. It's an easy smile, a carefree smile, one Mystique could never make in her own natural form.
She was pretty in a very American kind of way, Mystique concluded. It was almost going to be a shame.
The two continued off in their slow circuit as Mystique rose and hobbled off, supporting herself on a black wooden walking stick, though there was an energy in the steps that somewhat revealed the sinister purpose behind the walker.
The energy came from the fact it was almost time for the first sacrifice.
To be continued...