Teaser: When Franklin Richards flees the Technet, he runs headlong into a few new friends...and the kids set off the beginning of the next generation of Xavier's Dream.
Franklin Richards, Rachel and Nathan Summers, Illyana Rasputin, Charles Lehnsherr, Luna Maximoff, and Thomas and William Shade are the main characters in this story. About half the rest of the Marvel Universe also guest stars.
DISCLAIMER: All of the characters appearing in this story are the property of Marvel Comics, and appear without their permission. No profit is being made from this story, so please don't sue.
NOTE: * means personal thought. ~ means telepathic communication.
The bombs could be heard approaching, whistling like the winds of hell. But for the surviving X-Men, the Human High Council's last gasp was of secondary importance to the incoming wave of crystal.
The X-Men's leader, Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, clasped Illyana Rasputin's hand and knelt, handing her his youngest son Charles. "We cannot go with you to the otherearth, children," Magnus said in as gentle a tone as he could manage with his injuries. "Illyana, please...take Charles and seek the X-Men of that otherworld. If they are anything like us, I am sure they will accept you."
The blonde seven-year-old Russian girl swallowed hard, but nodded silently as she hugged her four-year-old charge to her. "I'll...try, sir," Illyana said.
Charles began to sob, but clung to Illyana as they entered the crystal. Rogue breathed a sigh of relief as Illyana opened a teleportal, and the children entered it. "At least they're away," she told Magnus. They kissed, as the wave swept over them...
Manhattan: Earth 616: 04.06.98: 18:08:04 hrs EST:
The woman and the boy ran, even as they tired from the chase. Five-year-old Franklin Richards, the only son of Reed and Susan Richards, huffed for breath as he and his father's friend, Alyssa Moy, rested for a heartbeat .
Franklin thought about the ridiculousness of his situation. * I c'n make un'verses, but I can't beat th' Technet 'cause I don' wan' my powers t' get 'way from me,* he sighed inwardly.
"Miss Moy ?" Frank asked Alyssa. "I...I'm gonna dis'ract 'em. It's me they want, an'way."
Alyssa shook her head and replied, "No ! Franklin, I promised your Uncle Benjamin-"
"Whatever you promised, female, it will not matter," the Technet's leader Gatecrasher chuckled from the other end of the alley. The humans spun to see the entire Technet assembled behind them, and Frank could make out the silhouette of his "Uncle Ben", or Ben Grimm-the Thing of the Fantastic Four-trapped within a storage sac of the Technet's jailer, Bodybag.
"NO !" Frank yelled as panic gripped him. He lashed out, and a wave of raw psionic energy slammed into the Technet. They were both mentally and physically hammered by the pulse. But while most fell quickly before the blast, Bodybag twitched, and coughed up the Thing before falling unconscious.
Frank stared in horror at the defeated Technet. *Did I...no, they're jus' sleepin'!* he thought in relief. "Unca Ben ! Miss Moy, we gotta get Unca Ben t' wake up," the boy yelled. Alyssa, still in shock at Frank's actions, moved towards the Thing in reflex, but was thrown back by a shockwave.
"Now what !?" Alyssa snapped-and screamed, as a spear of energy struck her side. She fell in agony, as four costumed figures appeared behind the Technet with grins. The hurler of the spear, a blue-costumed man with a quiver of harpoons, pointed to Franklin and said, "There's our little target."
Frank's eyes widened in fear as he thought back to one of his adventures with Power Pack. "Th'...th' Mara'd'rs !?", he breathed. "N-no...gotta get 'way !" He recognized Harpoon, Scrambler and Arclight, but the fourth-a man in a grey skinsuit with weapon parts across it-was unknown to him. *I gotta try an' zap 'em,* he thought, *b-but what if I hit Unca Ben or Miss Moy !?*
Before the Marauders could force the issue, however, a flash of light dumped two other children behind Frank. One, a blonde girl in overalls and a t-shirt, helped her "passenger", a smaller boy in a green sleeper, to his feet. The girl looked at the situation, then at Franklin, and shook her head. "Not the X-Men," she muttered, grabbing her companion with one hand and Frank with the other.
"Hey-", Frank yelled, but the girl opened another teleportal and dragged the boys through it with her.
"Blast it !" Scalphunter snarled. Harpoon charged another slayspear, but it struck air as the portal closed. The lead Marauder slapped his forehead and muttered, "I didn't mean that literally, Inuit...let's get after them. No, Arc, you can't stomp the hume. Scrambler, you got their power signatures ?"
Kim Il Sung grinned as he pointed northeast. "They're as good as ours," Scrambler cackled. Arclight snorted and muttered, "Showoff."
The Marauders teleported, as the Thing finally stirred to consciousness and moaned, "OK...who do I hit first ?"
Nate Grey looked out over the Manhattan skyline over Madelyne Pryor's shoulder. *Well...this is unexpected,* the cross-time refugee thought. After a night of abuse by armored assassins and a parting of ways from most of his friends, Nate was looking for somebody to lean on.
~Too bad it won't be me, kiddo...but I need your power,~ Madelyne sent telepathically. She dug into Nate's back, and the boy gasped as his life flashed before his eyes...in reverse.
He began to shrink, as Madelyne drained him of years of existence. In a heartbeat, he had shrunk to the size, and mentality, of a kindergartener, and floundered about in oversized clothing as Madelyne cackled in victory.
"Yes !! Power enough to-ghurackgh..."
She seized up as the Marauders materialized, and Scrambler grabbed her with a grin. "Ooh...the boss's breeder sow got loose ! Lemme-uh oh..." The Korean's leer turned to a mask of fear as he sensed Madelyne's powers surge out of control. "Um...guys ? Duck!"
Madelyne levitated off of the roof, bolts of raw psionic and chronal energies flaring off of her body. She turned to reach for Nate, who shuffled off into the shadows as fast as he could. Before Maddy could reach for him, she screamed in total agony...and dissipated.
"Ouch ! Guess that's what happens when you come back as psi energy," Scrambler quipped. The other Marauders snarled, but refrained from tearing their tracker in half as Franklin, Illyana, and Charles tumbled out of a teleportal.
"We gotta go back for-uh oh," Frank yelled, sensing the Marauders' psi-signatures.
The adults closed in, but Scrambler yelled, "Let 'em go ! I'm picking up the boss's numero uno priority behind that air conditioner!"
Nate fell over with a cry of pain, and yelled, "Stoopid clothes !" He gasped as Scrambler lunged for him, and panicked-
-as Scrambler connected, and screamed himself. Nate's psionics flared out of control, and the other kids ducked as the Marauders went flying from a teke-pulse.
~H...hurts...,~ Nate psi-cried. He fell blindly towards the edge of the brownstone, but Frank caught him.
"Thanks !" Frank smiled. "You got 'em good ! 'M Frank, an' this is-um, who're you guys ?" he asked Illyana and Charles.
Illyana said, "I'm Illyana Rasputin, an' this is Charles Lehnsherr. We tel'ported here from another Earth...or somethin'."
Nate nodded, breathing easier as he was surrounded by more positive psychic energies. "'M Nate...Nate Grey," he said. "Um...you guys got any clothes ?"
Frank shook his head, but said, "Lemme try somethin'." *Hope this works,* he thought, concentrating as hard as he could.
Nate's overlarge clothes shrank, and reformed around him in a more comfortable size. "Thanks !" he smiled.
Frank smiled back and said, "Ok...now,we gotta get t' my mom an' dad, or their friends...Hey ! There's Avengers Mansion !" He pointed to a distant mansion at the edge of the children's vision, and Illyana shrugged.
"Well...if they know the X-Men," she said. The kids joined hands, and teleported.
Scalphunter watched them go, and shook off the lingering shock of Nate's psi-blast. "Boss...we need the others. Those brats've got the Nathan with'em, and Maddy deaged the punk into kidnergartener status before Scrambler killed her," he spoke into a comlink.
The weaponeer cringed at the string of profanity which flew from the speaker. Finally, the bass snarl at the other end spoke a coherent sentence. "I will send Riptide's squad...and the Hound," Sinister bellowed. "Do not fail again, Scalphunter. Because if you do, somebody gets operated on in place of those brats-understand !?"
Scalphunter gulped aloud, and said, "Y-yes sir." He closed the link as Riptide, Vertigo, Prism and Blockbuster appeared in a teleport flare, with a small figure.
Riptide smirked and said, "Looks like we gotta pick up after you again, Scalp. Find'em, babybrat."
The child who had accompanied them, a redheaded girl in a black skinsuit, frowned and pointed at Avengers Mansion. "They're there...but ther's oth'rs. Grownups, who'll beat you-urk !"
She gasped as Scalphunter lifted her by the throat, and spat, "Just you track, girl. The commentary can wait." They teleported after the kids...
...who had not appeared on the Avengers' turf after all. Frank, Illyana, Charles and Nate fell out of the teleportal in a courtyard, at the base of a large tower. "Um...this isn't th''Vengers' Mansion," Frank said, looking around at the futuristic landscape.
Illyana sighed. "Dest'ny warned me I c'ld timetravel too," she said. "We must be in th'-hide!"
The kids ducked behind an ornamental bonsai, as two small boys in green and purple costumes ran from the tower. Their red hair was tousled, and their blue eyes were brimming with tears as they yelled, "You lied !"
A tall, armored figure in a blue masked helmet ran after them with a scowl, and replied, "So ? Your real parents don't know you even exist !"
Frank whispered, "It's...Kang !? We're in th' future !" He psi-explained what little he remembered about the Avengers' arch-foe to his new friends, and said aloud, "Whoever those kids 're, we gotta help 'em !"
Charles spoke for the first time since he had began traveling with the others. "Maybe...lemme try," he said.
He squinched up his face, and focused on Kang. The armored villain's armor began to open and close at will, and he snapped, "Now what !?"
"Now !" Frank yelled. He launched another psi-wave at Kang, while Illyana yelled, "You guys ! Come with us !" The twin boys looked at Illyana in shock, but complied, as Kang was staggered by Franklin's blast.
"Well...the Twelfth has come for his once and future friends," the conqueror grinned. His grin faded to rage as he saw the boys dive for Illyana,and he shouted, "Get back here--!"
He was too late. The boys grabbed onto Illyana, who linked hands with the others and teleported blindly again. "As if they can-No! The Twelfth's blast fused my time-control systems !" He cursed a bluestreak, but finally said, "Fine. I'll just get rid of the Avengers another way..."
As the kids fell into Limbo, the twins thanked their rescuers. "'M' Tobias, an' this's Malachi," one of the boys said. "But our real name's 're Thomas an' William. Our mom's th' Scarlet Witch-we dug it outta that liar Kang's 'puters. I c'n read 'puters, an' Willy c'n shoot rays !"
Frank smiled as he introduced himself and the others. "We're tryin' to get to th' 'Vengers too !" he said. "'Yana, lemme try somethin..." He focused upon the twins' psi-image of the Scarlet Witch, and said, "Hold hands 'gain, guys! 'Yana, lemme in your mind, an' focus on th' picture I send..."
The kids complied, and Frank shouted, "'Port us now!" Illyana focused, and the children teleported into the Avengers' living room.The Scarlet Witch, who had been reading to her niece Luna before sending the four-year-old Inhuman princess to bed, gasped as the kids tumbled into the room.
"Franklin !? Who are these...oh my God," Wanda Maximoff breathed. "Thomas...!? William !"
She swept the boys into a hug, while Luna squirmed and yelled, "Ant Wanda ! Y'r' squeezin' too hard !"
Wanda laughed in joy as she released the children, and Frank explained what had happened. "Good heavens," Wanda said. "That would explain why your parents are fretting in the comm-room." A shout from the hall heralded Reed and Susan Richards' entrance.
"I'm reading his biosignature in the...Franklin !" Reed yelled in relief, holding a portable biosensor. Sue scooped her son into her arms and kissed him over and over again. "You had us so worried !" she cried, as Frank blushed.
"Aw, Mom...," he said. Captain America, Quicksilver and Crystal came in after them, and Luna ran to her mother as Pietro's jaw dropped.
"Dear Agon...Wanda !? The twins-!"
The Witch smiled, and lifted each of her sons on either arm. "Apparently, Hank Pym was wrong when he said the Vision was unable to sire children," she grinned. Before the family could begin to celebrate, however, Jarvis ran in in horror.
"Captain ! Master Pietro ! Mistress Wanda ! There are intruders on the property ! And they've breached the perimeter !", the butler cried. Cap frowned and activated a viewscreen on the mantle.
"It's the Marauders," he scowled. "Thor told us about those cold-blooded scum. Totally remorseless genocidal mutant killers." He frowned even more-genocide was a hot button to the symbol of America.
Reed and Susan frowned as well, and Sue said, "I'll get the children to the basement-"
She was cut off by a flare of light, as all of the surviving Marauders teleported in with a small girl. The girl stared at Nate and Franklin, and sent, ~Hey...you guys're..!~ She shouted, "I know th' truth, jerkfaces ! Back off NOW !" She growled and emitted a focused psi-blast, as the Marauders buckled under the wave.
"Dear Lord...Rachel !?" Reed and Sue gasped. The girl also wavered on her feet, but before she fell, a small blur leapt from Crystal's arms and rushed Rachel to the other children.
"Luna !? How...?" Crystal and Pietro asked.
"Oh, dear," Reed said, scanning the surprised Luna. "When I initally scanned Luna at her birth, I didn't take into account the possibility of temporal interference. She's a mutant after all...one able to step slightly outside of the timestream and appear to move at hyperspeed." Luna smiled again, as Rachel hugged Nate.
The surprised Nate made a face, but Rachel said, "Knock it off, doofus ! I 'member our mom an' dad-Sin'ster tol' me all 'bout 'em. An' you !" She and Nate stared at each other, sharing memories, and laughed in joy.
"Gosh...you are my sister," he smiled.
Captain America pushed another button, and an energy cage surrounded the Marauders. "A localized inhibitor field," he explained to the others. "I thought it might be a good idea to rig the place with them, considering what happened the last time a horde of villains stormed in here." He relaxed, and called SHIELD to take the Marauders away while Jarvis answered the door.
"Coming !" the butler replied. His eyes widened as a skunk-striped brunette in a green bodysuit walked in, dragging a man with long white hair in an X-Men uniform after her. They were followed by a frowning black-haired woman in a blue and white costume, who shoved a Mossad ID tag under Jarvis' nose.
"Sabra, Israeli Security," she muttered. "We are here to see Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch about their father." She stormed into the living room behind Rogue and Joseph, who were listening to Reed and Sue explain the night's events.
"...And so, apparently Illyana is alive, as are Thomas and William. And Rachel," Reed said.
"Ah know th' others'll come runnin' t' see this. It took me long 'nough t' catch up t' Joey an' Sabra after Maggott spilled his guts," Rogue grinned.
Before she could continue, a cry of "Mama ! Daddy!" made her spin around.
Charles leapt into Joseph's arms, and hugged the startled young magnekinetic. "Daddy ! You're alive !" Charles smiled.
"Um...all right," Joseph replied, a smile slowly spreading across his face. "I don't remember us ever...ahem," he blushed, turning to Rogue.
The Mississippi Marauder's jaw dropped, and she whispered, "He...he's got mah eyes ! Ray, c'n y' psi-link me t' th' little guy ?"
Rachel shrugged, and said, "I'll try." She concentrated-
-and Joseph and Rogue gasped to see themselves through Charles' eyes.They saw a vastly different group of X-Men, but still fighting for the dream, and the way the "parents" could touch. The young mutants blinked as they returned to their bodies, and Rogue cried.
"Mah son..." she moaned, taking Charles from Joseph's arms and cradling him.
Joseph put an arm around Rogue, and whispered, "I know we're not exactly 'together,' but I will be here for you both."
Charles smiled, and reached for Rogue's face. "Why ya cryin', Mommy ?" he said. She wiped her tears, and caressed Charles' cheek with a smile.
"Sometimes...us grownups cry when we're happy, sugah," she said. "We're strange folk, ah know...y' wanna go home ? You too, Ray an' Nate an' 'Yana ?" The others nodded, but Frank sighed.
"Can't we stay t'gether for a while ? Please ?" The adults looked at each other, and Sue smiled.
"We could hold a playgroup for the kids," she said. Wanda, Rogue and Crystal's eyebrows raised in appreciation, and they began to plan...
04/07/98: Salem Center, NY: 07:00:08 hrs EDT:
The cab pulled up to the curb and disgorged five very tired, but very relieved, X-Men. "I never want to see another bird as long as I live," Iceman-Robert Drake-muttered. The others, Scott and Jean Summers (Cyclops and the newly-coined Psynergy), Henry McCoy (the Beast), and Warren Worthington III (the Angel) nodded in agreement. After their battle with the bizarre Chulyen the Crow God, which had apparently torn the last shards of the Phoenix from Jean's subconscious before she had banished the "deity," the X-Men had decided enough vacation was enough, and returned home from Anchorage.
"I wonder how the others got along," Jean asked. She sent a psionic probe of greeting to the mansion, and gasped in joy as she was greeted by two very familiar mindcries.
"Scott...! Hurry, all of you !" Jean began to laugh in blind, sheer happiness as the others followed her into the mansion. She was nearly bowled over by two redheaded blurs, dressed in pairs of Franklin Richards' old "4 1/2" pajamas, and a horde of laughing X-Men.
"Rachel ! Nathan !?" Scott gasped, allowing himself the first chuckle he'd had in months.
"Dad !" the kids yelled, as they telepathically bonded with their parents and explained how they had come back.
Storm smiled as she greeted the homecomers. "Reed and Susan Richards gave us a multitude of Franklin's clothes, some of which were resized for girls," Ororo Munroe told the Summers. The original X-Men nodded in approval as they saw the progress Storm's team had made in redecorating.
"That ain't all," Logan grinned. "Th' FF found their old tech in th' Negative Zone, where Reed's dad Nathanial stuck it after Onslaught, an' donated it to us. It'll take a while t' rewire th' basement, but we're almost back t' our old level o' tech." The assembled X-Men gathered around the kitchen table, where a giggling Illyana was being slobbered on by Lockheed. The dragon, along with an overjoyed Kitty Pryde, Peter Rasputin and Kurt Wagner, had rushed over from Muir Island after a wild phone call from Sam Guthrie about "Illyana's back !"
Nightcrawler shook Scott's hand and said, "Guten morgen, old friend. I hope you can make some room for three more X-Men. Excalibur has, honestly, gone as far as we can."
Scott and Ororo looked at each other in surprise, but Cyclops said, "Well, if you're sure, Kurt."
"Jah," the elflike X-Man replied. "Brian and Meggan have retired, and Moira needs time to work on the Legacy cure."
Hank nodded, and said, "Let me get some Z's before I collapse, and I'll call her back with my latest theories." He headed for the stairs-
-and yelled, "Oh my stars and garters !" He backed into the kitchen, followed by a familiar face.
"What's de matter, mon bete ? Y' as s'prised as moi at de lack o'security here ?" a Cajun voice quipped. Wolverine popped his claws, and the others spun in total shock as Remy LeBeau came into the room.
"Cajun...you got 'bout five seconds head start before I go off like a-" Logan's tirade was cut short by Rogue's sobbing. Charles reached for his mother, but Joseph whispered to the boy, "Let her deal with this, little one."
Rogue arose from her seat, and walked to Gambit with a heartsick look. "Remy...Listen t'me, y'all," she said in an authoritarian tone. "Ah..ah ain't told y'all 'bout what happened in Antarctica." She blanched, and summoned all of her strength to continue.
"When we were runnin' from th' fortress...ah left Remy behind. He didn't choose t'stay in Antarctica-ah made that choice for him, as much as his memories made me hate him," Rogue said.
"Goddess, Rogue ! That was a decision we should all have made !?" Storm snapped. She did not strike, however, but turned to the others.
"We...are not totally blameless here either," the windrider said. "Who among us, besides the children, is totally innocent ? I have killed, as have Logan, Jean-as-Phoenix, Joseph...even Scott has had his lapses." Cyclops started, but Jean steadied him with a touch.
"The point is, Remy did not take those lives," Storm continued. "Had we all been present to decide Gambit's fate, there might have been a very different outcome. As it is...I stand with him. Let him prove himself again, if he must, but let him have our support." She crossed the room to Remy's side, and the Cajun shook his head.
"Stormy...y'don't have t' do dis," he said.
A growl of dissent shut the Cajun up, as Logan stood beside Storm. "I know all 'bout second chances, gumbo," the Canadian said. "Now let th' ladies do the bridge-buildin'."
Remy's jaw continued to drop, as Joseph and Charles approached. "Whether or not I am Magneto, I have to agree," Joseph said. "I sensed...a familiar power at work in Antarctica. I do not believe Gambit received a fair trial...even if we are rivals for the same heart." Joseph raised a sardonic eyebrow and muttered, "Don't think I'm giving up on Rogue, Cajun."
Gambit smiled weakly and said, "Looks like you got de little ace, Joe."
He waved to Charles, who gave a tiny wave back and asked, "Unca Remy ?"
Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Colossus-who had heard about Gambit from Rogue over a late-night talk session-muttered nervously among themselves. Finally, Kitty coughed and said, "Well...Ororo has a point. But how can we be sure ? I'm sorry, Ororo, but we haven't seen inside Gambit's head !"
Storm looked hurt, but Gambit nodded. "De kit, she have a point," he said. "Jeanny, you do de honors ? Let's have us 'nother trial..."
The collected X-Men gasped, but Jean merely nodded. "Let me give it a whirl," she said, psi-linking the collected team as she excluded the children. ~Some things shouldn't be shown to children,~ she sent, as Gambit let the others witness the Massacre again.
They saw it all, and Marrow gasped as she saw heself being pulled from Sabretooth's lunge by a bloodied Gambit. The team returned to their physical bodies, and Ororo said, "A show of hands. We have more than a quorum, after all..." Slowly, Logan, Rogue, Storm, Marrow, Iceman, Beast, Jean, Scott, Joseph-and, after a moment, Sam, Cecilia, Maggott, Kitty, Colossus and Kurt-raised their hands.
Angel shook his head in shock, and gave a short, bitter laugh. "Y'know, I was saying in Alaska how taking in strays usually worked out," he said. "...I can't forget, Cajun. But...you didn't know what you were dealing with, now did you ?" He shrugged, and said, "In for a dime...," as he raised his hand.
Remy rocked on his heels. *Dey...dey're act'lly lettin' me come home...?* he thought.
~On a provision,~ a grouchy British voice replied. Psylocke appeared from the shadows, and glared at Warren as she said, "I'm his parole officer. Agreed ?" The others nodded, and Betsy Braddock sighed.
"I've...been off kilter lately," she laughed, kissing Angel. "I need a home as well." The others crowded around, and for the first time in over a year, Scott swore he could feel a warmth in the bare walls.
*Like when we came here the first time,* he thought...