The Mother of All Retcons,
Lorna Dane, nine months pregnant and on overtime now, struggled against the leather straps that held her to the examining table. "I am not being your puppet anymore, Sinister!" she snarled. "And neither is my baby. You get him over my cold, dead body!"
"If necessary," Sinister said. "Though it doesn't appear that it will be. Dear Lorna." He chuckled. "You couldn't defy me as Malice. What makes you think that mere Polaris will do any better?"
Stall for time, stall for time. She could feel her powers slowly returning, and with her memories from her time as leader of the Marauders, she knew how unusual that was. The jolt Scrambler had given her should have been enough to knock her powers out for a day or two-- but it was only a few hours since she'd been captured, and already they were coming back. Far, far earlier than Sinister could possibly know. Unless it was only a side effect of the pregnancy, and he'd tested Scrambler's powers on full-term mutant women before, something Sinister might perfectly well have done... don't think about that! "What do you want my baby for anyway?" she asked indignantly. "Malice would have been happy to churn out a rugrat or two for you if you wanted my DNA so badly."
"Happy to?" He chuckled again. "I think you may perhaps be remembering your time as Malice poorly, my dear. Malice was not happy to do anything that inconvenienced her."
"Well, happy's the wrong word then. But she'd have done it, if you'd ordered her to. Why now?"
"Because I could not really have expected Malice to be able to breed with Alex Summers," Sinister said. "I did consider asking her, but I doubt she could have successfully impersonated you alone long enough. And I considered it regrettable."
"I thought it was Scott and Jean you had a thing about, not Alex and me!"
"Oh, your child with Alex won't be what a child of Scott and Jean's DNA would be. Telepathy/telekinesis is so much more versatile than magnetism. But the unique property of the Summers line is that it catalyzes, so the child will surpass the parent. You contribute the power; your husband contributes the catalyst; and your child has the potential to be an Omega-class magnetic manipulator, stronger than you, rivalling Magneto himself. Such power is not to be sneered at, even if it is not the equal of Nathan Summers." He filled a hypodermic with some drug that Lorna was sure she didn't want injected in her. "I think it's time to induce labor, Ms. Dane."
"I think it's time for you to eat this!" She grabbed the scalpels and other metal instruments on the tray, and the tray itself, and flung them at Sinister, while simultaneously undoing the buckles on the leather straps. You are NOT getting your hands on my baby. Sinister let the instruments pass through him harmlessly, and released arms that had suddenly turned into stretchy tentacles at her. Oh no you don't! Lorna deflected the tentacles off a magnetic shield, jumped off the table, and fled.
She couldn't take Sinister. She knew she couldn't take Sinister. Malice had tried, and Malice had combined all Lorna's experience and power with her own. On the other hand, she didn't need to take Sinister-- she knew how to work his teleport devices. Lorna fled down the hall, following the magnetic signature of a teleport machine. Sinister didn't pursue; he'd have the Marauders try to head her off, valuing his personal dignity too highly to run after her. Big mistake. Lorna could take the Marauders. Especially since they were trying to take her alive.
She slammed Arclight into Vertigo, taking out the biggest immediate threat, and then yanked her off Vertigo and flung her into Scrambler. The others hadn't reached her yet. Lorna ducked into the room with the teleport machinery. Conveniently, the deadbolt on the door was made of a high-density ferrous alloy, as was the door itself. Not adamantium, but it would do. It would take a minute or two for Blockbuster or Arclight to get the door down, and that was all she needed.
There were four sets of coords on the teleport machine, not three. That was annoying. Who the hell needed more than three? Hoping that Sinister's coordinate system was still the same as it had been when she was Malice, she flipped three of the dials to the coordinates for X-Factor's base, ran up to the chamber and dove in, while with power she set up a feedback loop to destroy the teleporter when it had safely transported her.
Polaris, don't! Sinister's voice in her head. You don't know what that--
Blather at yourself, Sinny, I am outta here!
With her powers, Lorna flipped the switch.
The first thing she became aware of was what a very, very bad idea that had been. Teleporting was never fun-- it disrupted her connection with the geomagnetic field at the best of times. But normally it did not leave her on her hands and knees, puking her guts out. Of course that might have had something to do with what else was renting space in her guts-- a something that alerted her, with a swift flash of blinding stomach pain and a rush of wetness between her legs, that its lease was up.
Lorna looked down at her huge stomach. "Your timing sucks, you know that?" she told her unborn son wearily. "I mean, it really, really sucks."
There were people pointing at her-- she was kneeling on a sidewalk, surrounded by curious people dressed like, well, like foreigners, she guessed, or old-fashioned types, or people from an old movie. They spoke a language she didn't understand, which sort of left her leaning toward the foreigner hypothesis. Which meant Sinister had, indeed, changed his coordinate system. She should have guessed from the presence of four coordinates instead of three, but she hadn't had a lot of options. Puking and going into labor in the middle of a crowded street full of people who didn't speak her language was still better than being a captive of Sinister.
"Hello?" Lorna asked the crowd. "Does anyone speak English? Anybody? Agggh!" No, this kid's timing really sucked, she decided. The labor pangs were already coming far too close together. What were the odds she'd be able to get to a hospital in time?
A dark-haired young woman in a white nurse's uniform came forward and grabbed Lorna's arm. "Haben die Wehen eingesetzt? Soll ich Sie in ein Krankenhaus bringen?" (1)
Lorna blinked at her. That sounded like German. "Lady, I don't understand a word of aagggh!"
That seemed to be sufficient answer for the woman, who flagged down a taxi and dragged Lorna into it, barking orders at the cab driver. Five minutes later they were at a hospital, whereupon the woman got Lorna checked in and into a bed in record time. She seemed to be a nurse at this hospital. She also didn't speak a word of English, which made it difficult for Lorna to convey her desire for a telephone to call X-Factor with. The fact that every third word Lorna tried to get out was interrupted by an agonizing contraction didn't help.
It didn't look like Alex was going to be present for the birth of his first child.
Damn, now he'd claim he had a good justification for having skipped out on half his Lamaze classes.
The labor proceeded rapidly, but not rapidly enough. After Lorna had howled "I WANT DRUGS!" for the third time and started seriously contemplating the value of wrapping the steel bed railing around the male obstretician's neck, the man seemed to finally get the idea and gave her the desired chemicals. Way too many of them. Hadn't the man ever heard it was a bad idea to give a woman in labor too many drugs? Now she couldn't feel her body at all. Whee! Lorna laid her hand on her stomach and giggled as it contracted without, seemingly, any input from her brain at all. Maybe it was just reacting oddly with her mutant metabolism.
The nurse who'd rescued her was present throughout. Oddly this made Lorna feel better. They couldn't speak each other's language-- the most she'd been able to convey was that she was an American, and get that the nurse was indeed German (or else Dutch-- but if a foreigner said something that sounded like "Dutch" but it was in a German accent, didn't that mean they were saying "Deutsch" and that meant they were German? Whatever. The drugs were not helping in this regard either.) But she was at least sort of a friendly face, and a take-charge person, and obviously someone who cared about helping people. The doctor, after determining that he couldn't understand her language, had apparently dismissed her as a person and was treating her as some sort of birth-giving machine... unpleasantly like Sinister's attitude, though from the horror stories she'd heard that wasn't such unusual behavior for an obstretician anyway.
It was hard for her to worry too much, however, with this much drug in her system. Happy Lorna, happy high Lorna. Happy high Lorna wanted to go home. Having a baby in a foreign country, far from her own obstretician and her friends and family and her husband the BASTARD who had LET HER GET CAPTURED BY SINISTER and COULDN'T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO HAVE JEAN TRACK HER DOWN when she was giving BIRTH, was not her favorite experience in the world, and when she got back home boy was Alex going to get it. But at least she wasn't in Sinister's lab anymore--
A mewling sound interrupted her musings. Dammit, there was a cat in here! "Get that cat out of here!" Lorna tried to shout, rather incoherently-- didn't they know cats would sit on a baby's face and suck out their breath? There shouldn't be a cat in a delivery room anyway, it was unsanitary!
And then the mewling sound changed to a howl, and she realized that it wasn't a cat after all. The epidural block she'd been given had suppressed all feeling from the middle of her body on down; she hadn't even realized the baby was coming out of her until she'd given birth.
They handed him to her, a squalling red thing that objectively speaking really looked rather like Yoda, only red, but then he snuggled into her arms as she weakly tried to hold him, and suddenly he was the most adorable creature in all creation. Oh, she'd loved him before, had gotten all warm and fuzzy when she felt him move inside her, but now he was here. He was real, and he was in her arms, all warm and red, already with a wisp or two of translucent hair on his tiny head. Oh, gee, look at his fingers. They were so small. She had made those fingers, she and Alex had put together the blueprint and then she'd built them in her body. Look at the tiny little fingernails! The tiny fingers had clamped tightly around her own much larger finger when she'd touched them.
The nurse lifted him from her arms, apologetically, and said something or other, which Lorna interpreted as "I know I'm a sadistic bitch for taking your baby away from you, but I have to go put him in a cold sterile environment with all the other babies instead of leaving him with his loving mother." She was going to whack the nurse over the head with the instrument tray, but she was so very tired, and she couldn't concentrate. Okay, let the nurse feed the baby. She would get up in just a little while and fish her son out of the baby care area and take him home, that was what she'd do. But first she needed to sleep, just a little bit.
Lorna dreamed she was watching Jean on TV, only there kept being static, like there had been the days before her power had fully manifested and she kept making static on the TV, so she couldn't see Jean's show, which seemed to be like Sally Jesse Raphael only with mutants. Jean was interviewing Sinister and asking him how he could do all these awful things, and Lorna really wanted to hear the show, but the static just got louder and louder and then it woke her up.
It was still there. But it wasn't a TV.
LORN... HEAR M...?
It was telepathy, in Jean's voice, but she could barely hear it. Was there some kind of psi-shield in the way?
Jean, I can barely hear you! Speak up!
ZZZSKT... FIX ON Y... LORNA, WE'RE GOING... SZZKS... UP...
A fix on her? They were going to teleport her home? Wait! What about the--
--"baby," Lorna finished, after she was done vomiting on Forge's floor.
She couldn't understand why Jean and Alex were so deadly pale. She repeated herself. "What about the baby?"
"You-- you had the baby?" Alex asked. He sounded stricken, like she'd just confessed that the baby had been born with rabies, or something.
"Yes, I had the baby! Do I still look like I swallowed a pumpkin?" Actually, she didn't look all that great, and most of the swelling hadn't gone down yet, but she didn't look nine months pregnant anymore. "We have to go back and get him!"
Forge shook his head. "According to my readings, that would be disastrous."
"What do you mean your readings? He's my baby and I'm not just going to leave him in some foreign country!"
"You don't know, do you?" Jean said. She, too, looked like someone had told her the baby was dead.
"Know what? WOULD YOU PEOPLE START TALKING TO ME?"
"Sinister sent you back through time, Lorna," Forge said. He should his head sadly. "The moment we brought you through time without your child, we created the timeline we are now living in. Your son was left behind in the past... which means that he belongs there. To try to bring him forward would disrupt the timeline irrevocably."
"You can't be serious."
"I'm very serious."
She turned to Jean. "He isn't serious, Jean. Tell me he is not saying I can't rescue my son."
"I can't tell you that." She shook her head. "Lorna, I know what it's like to lose a child to temporal mechanics. I'm so sorry."
"Screw being sorry, I WANT MY BABY!" She turned to Alex. "Come on, back me up here! I'll take control of Forge's machine and we'll go back and rescue him!"
"I--" Alex swallowed. "I can't, Lorna. We can't."
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU CAN'T, YOU BASTARD?" She lifted him by the metal in his belt buckle. "He's our baby! We can't just, just abandon him in some other time-- what year was that, anyway?"
"1928, according to my readouts," Forge said.
"1928! He'd be old enough to be a grandfather by now! I am not leaving him there to get old and be twice my age! Cable's bad enough!"
"Hey!" Jean said.
"Well, he is! I've heard you trying to explain how a guy older than you are could be your son, only he's really the son of your clone, but you went to the future in the body of one of your descendants and raised him--"
"Lorna, put me down!"
"Not until you promise to help me rescue our son!"
"Lorna." Forge walked over to her. She wanted to pick him up and toss him into the wall, but he was wearing some kind of degaussing device. "Do you think I'm telling you this only to be cruel? I've checked the readouts, and run the projections. Your son belongs to the time you left him in. Not only does he belong there, but he's going to have a major, major impact on the timeline. Remove him, according to my readings, and you'd create a paradox that would not only disrupt our timeline but might actually collapse the multiverse."
"What are you talking about?" Lorna put Alex down.
"A paradox loop. I don't know how it's possible, but all the readouts on the causality meters are telling me that if your son is removed from the time you left him in, it will actually prevent you from having him in the first place, which will generate a paradox and collapse the timeline. He belongs where he is, Lorna. You have to accept that. Your accident with Sinister's time machine was destined."
"No!" She shook her head wildly, tears forming in her eyes. "I won't leave my baby! I have to go back for him!"
"If you do that, billions of people will die when the timeline collapses."
"All right then. I'll go back to take care of him!"
Alex took a deep breath. "I'll go with you."
"Do you two know what you're saying?" Jean asked. "You'd probably be dead by the time any of us are born. You'd never see any of us again."
"It doesn't matter anyway," Forge said, checking his readouts. "I've just run a probability scan, and you can't do that either."
"What?" Lorna screeched, outraged. "Why not?"
"Because it would cause a collapse of the timeline," Forge repeated patiently.
"Why? I'm just talking about going back in time to raise him there--"
"You'd change history. It would be inevitable. With your powers, with your skills, your impact on the timeline would be enormous. And don't tell me you wouldn't do anything to change the timeline-- I know you two too well. We'd be talking about sending you back in time to prevent World War II, the Holocaust, Stalinist Russia, the massacres in Cambodia and Uganda. I don't think any good person could resist the temptation to stop at least one of those events, if they were forced to live through them and they had the power to do something about it. And that would cause a paradox loop, because you'd change history enough to alter your own births and therefore prevent yourselves from ever being sent back in time."
"Did I ever mention how much I hate temporal mechanics?" Alex muttered, putting his arm around Lorna.
"We-- we can't rescue him? We can't even go back to raise him?"
Forge shook his head. "I'm very sorry. But no, you can't."
Lorna burst into tears.
Alex held her close, rubbing her back. "It's all right, Lorna. I'm sure he'll do all right. According to Forge, he's going to do something important, something that has a lot of impact on history. That's something, isn't it?"
"Why couldn't he be an underachiever like us?" Lorna wailed. "Then I could go get him!" She pressed her head against Alex's chest, sobbing. "I just got to hold him in my arms once and now I'm never even going to see him again!"
"Maybe we can track him down," Jean said. "If he was born in 1928, and he's a mutant, we should be able to find him as an adult now, shouldn't we? That wouldn't harm the timeline."
"It wouldn't have any effect, no," Forge confirmed.
"But he's going to be an old man! He won't want to know his natural mother is really half his age!"
"Maybe he won't be," Jean said. "Maybe his power would turn out to be a healing factor or something."
"No!" Lorna shook her head wildly. "Sinister said it was going to be--"
Abruptly her brain caught up with her mouth, and the wild shock silenced her sobs as she finished. "--magnetic powers..."
1928. Germany. Shaper of history.
Alex looked at Lorna. Lorna looked at Alex. Both of them looked helplessly at Jean, who looked at Forge, who shrugged.
"Oh no," Lorna said, as her family tree suddenly became far, far more complicated than even her sister-in-law's.
The nurse was upset. After she'd done so much for the American girl with the strange hair, the woman had run out of the hospital without even paying her bill! It was terrible to abandon a baby, terrible.
She looked down at the cute little thing in his basinette. So sad, that such an adorable little boy would end up in an orphanage or something, because some stupid American couldn't be bothered to take care of her baby. No, that was entirely too awful an idea. She had to do something.
Her own daughter was two years old. It was far sooner than she'd thought of having another one... but she couldn't just abandon the little boy. She'd have to talk to her husband, get the wheels in motion. Surely she and her husband could adopt the child and give him a loving family. That was the only right thing to do.
Nurse Lehnsherr turned away from the basinette to find her supervisor and talk to him about the possibility of adopting the child.
Back in the 1990's, in Forge's base, it was Alex who finally said what both he and Lorna were thinking.
"How are we supposed to tell Pietro we're his grandparents?"
(1): Has your water broken? Shall I bring you to a hospital?
- German provided by Tilman Stieve-- thank you!