Sweet Dreams

by Deb Matthews


The world was falling apart around them, even as they fought Apocalypse's hoards. The X-Men were winning the battle, but were they winning the war? Blink looked back at Quicksilver.

"Whadda ya mean 'He went into the crystal'?! You mean he's gonna escape?"

"What I mean is I don't know, Clarice, but we've got to get out of here. It's too late to do anything about him now." Pietro grabbed Blink and ran them both outside of the crumbling building, where yet another battle was in full swing.


Blink set out to find her place in battle and revelled in the rush of cutting loose. She had learned that from her mentor, Sabretooth. As she made her way to his side, she marveled at how well he had recovered from his last encounter with Holocaust. WildChild was holding his own as well, and Apocalypse's forces were starting to fall.

And then they heard the first rumblings of bombs going off in the Midwestern states. Although far away, such was the power and the number of the blasts, that the weather patterns screamed with protest and the magnetic pulse twisted in agony from the brutal violation.

"Goddess NO! What have they done!?!" Storm screamed, as she reeled from the backlash.


"C'mon kids," Victor growled. "We gotta keep that crystal clear of alla 'Pocalypse's riffraff." His heart sank. He knew what was about to happen. He'd tried to stop it from happening years before, when he was still running with the very same riffraff he was now shredding.

"Wait!" cried Blink. "What is Storm talking about? What have who done?" WildChild was in a frenzy, not from the battle around him, but from something else. Blink could see that Kyle was distressed, and was taking it out on Apocalypse's troops. And Creed continued with his corner of the war, pretending not to hear her.

'At least she'll never know what hit her,' he thought.

"Mister Creed! What's happened? What's going on?" Then she saw the glow on the horizon. "Oh my god", she whispered. "They've dropped the bombs!" WildChild began to watch the sky and raged even more, trying in vain to tear at all of the madness around him.

"Don't look at it, Clarice," said Creed. "It ain't goin' away by lookin' at it. Just keep doin' yer job and then it'll all be over."


WildChild's frenzy had grown to the point that even Sabretooth was having trouble reigning him in. Kyle was creatively using various appendages torn from his victims as weapons, and had even begun taking swipes at friends as well as foe. Blink's concentration began to waver, as the glow on the horizon grew.

"Mister Creed, what's gonna happen to us?"

"Well, pup," he growled back. "If we're lucky, the world will end before we die. If we ain't lucky, we die before the world ends."

"WHAT???" That did it. Blink ended her battle by blinking her opponent's various body parts into four different areas of the battle. She stood in front of Creed and stared him in the face.

"You mean even if we win, we lose!!!" Kyle had noticed the various body parts and used a few to beat something senseless. Blink dispatched Sabretooth's sparring partners in a similar manner, giving WildChild all the pummeling fodder he could use. She was insistent.

"Look, Clarice, we got into this whole mess knowin' we weren't gonna win. We're just here to keep Apocalypse and his goons from gettin' to th' crystal and hope for the best. Everything else is up to Bishop and Destiny and the kid."

"And what happens if they do, well, whatever it is they gotta do? What happens to us?"

"None o' this woulda happened. And we'd be livin' different lives, hopefully in a better place than this." Sabretooth threw a punch past Blink's head and knocked out a would-be assassin. WildChild pounced on it and chewed its face off. "Ain't gonna do any good worryin' about the 'What-ifs'. We'll never know anyhow."


"NO! I saw you dead once already, I'm not gonna let it happen again!"

"Whadda ya gonna do, pup? Blink me the promised land?" Creed swung around behind and throttled another opponent, and then used it to beat on another.

"If that's what it takes..." Blink started to say but not before what was left of Apocalypse's troops regrouped for a final assault on the X-Men.

Waves of raw energy could be felt throughout the area as Magneto and Nate Grey began their assault on Apocalypse. Holocaust jumped in and blindsided Nate, and Sabretooth was eager for a rematch. He felt the rage build inside, and WildChild responded, almost symbiotically, to Creed's rage. But Nate stabbed Holocaust with the shard of the M'kraan crystal, and the two seemed to explode on the spot. Not even their scent was left by the time Creed got to the site. He howled at the frustrating loss of vengeance. WildChild howled in response, and Blink came running up behind. At a glance, she could see Magneto and Apocalypse in single combat, the air crackled with powerful energy and emotion.


"No! Magneto is losing!" Apocalypse had him in a death-grip, but Eric merely smiled, and suddenly, Blink could feel the hair on her neck stand on edge. Both Sabretooth and WildChild stood and noticed. The man down was actually the man in control. Apocalypse screamed an unholy scream as he began to split in two, and then into more pieces, too many to count. All that was left was his head. Magneto had simply gathered enough energy to pull Apocalypse apart magnetically. Eric left the scene to look for his wife and child. WildChild leapt down to look at the pieces of their once-mightiest foe. As they all looked about, all of Apocalypse's forces were gone, dead or otherwise.

Blink walked back to her mentor and closest friend and stood by his side. Looking down at Kyle, she sighed.

"After all this, we win the big fight against Apocalypse, and now they drop the bombs on us?" Creed put his arm around her and pulled her close. Blink continued "What's it gonna be like for us when time gets put back right again?"

"I dunno, kid."

"We'll still be together, won't we? I mean, you and me and Kyle, we'll still be a family, right?"

"I really don't know Clarice. Chances are, you'll still be with yer real folks and I'll be out doin', whatever I'll be doin'. And Kyle'll probably still be runnin' free across Canada without a care in the world."

Looking up, Kyle was the first to spot them. He let out an anxious howl, and the others looked up to see the bombs coming down. Slowly, as if they were soft and light as air, they drifted down like big, ugly balloons raining down upon the heroes. Eric lifted a magnetic shield around himself and his family, knowing full well that he had exhausted himself against Apocalypse, and the small shield would hardly hold up against one of the bombs, let alone the hundreds that were now falling down around them.

"We gotta get outta here!" Blink began to panic.

"And go where, Clarice? Everywhere else is already gone. My healing factor might let me live in a radioactive area, but it sure as hell won't save me from the blast. And you and Kyle wouldn't be any better off. Just let it go. We're goin' down as the winners in this book, kid."

"Maybe we are the winners, but I don't want my medal posthumously," said Blink.

"What're ya...." Sabretooth started.

Kyle looked up at Clarice as she grabbed him by the scruff.


She opened a portal.

"We're outta he....."

The concussive force of the first blasts cut her off, as they were slammed through the open portal.



Victor slowly opened his eyes. They still burned from the hot stinging wind that slammed him, Clarice, and Kyle off of their feet and into ... where? As his vision cleared, he could see the blood-red moon hanging low in the sky, giving off its eerie glow and turning the world around him into a shadow-filled horror. And then he saw the sun - a black sun whose glory was outshined by the moon. The winds that blew had no heat nor coldness, and the scents they carried were equally uninviting. He heard WildChild stir, and he looked around for Blink.

"She's not here!" Sabretooth immediately jumped up and looking around, he felt the eyes looking, watching him.

"How far?" he thought. It was hard to tell distance here. The light messed with his perceptions. Off in the distance, he saw a form lying crumpled on the ground. (? Not any ground he'd ever seen before.) He stopped long enough to check on Kyle.

"He's still breathing," and ran off to check on what he hoped would be Clarice. It was. And she wasn't breathing. Her back had been scorched.

"But not too badly," he thought, probably by the heat of the blast. "Did she take the brunt of the blast?" He didn't know. And then he realized, as he gently turned her over to breathe for her, that he had no idea how long they had been here, wherever "here" was. Every breath was hopeful, insistent.

"C'mon, kid," Victor said out loud. "C'mon. Breathe! Please!" His own breathing became difficult as he started to choke up. "I'm losin' her!" And suddenly, Clarice coughed, and started to breathe a shallow, ragged breath, as if every breath was a struggle, and too painful to commit to. Kyle growled in protest as he opened his eyes and experienced the world as Creed had. He too, was moving slowly while every muscle in his body screamed in defiance.

"Where the hell are we?" Creed thought, as he examined Blink. She had broken ribs, possibly a punctured lung, as well as the burns on her back. "And how am I gonna get some help for her?"

Kyle made his way to Victor's side, and growled a low, menacing warning. Creed looked up, and saw what Kyle was growling at. And they weren't pretty. In the surreal light, they looked like huge distorted spiders, with an eerie green glow to their eyes and mouths. Nearly as big as he was and almost two to one. Creed didn't like the odds. Especially with Clarice down and hurting. The damn things just stood there and looked at the heroes, evaluating their next move. Kyle was getting antsy, and Creed reigned him in with what was left of his chain.

"Down, boy. I don't know what we gots here, but I ain't makin' a move unless they do. We gotta stand down and watch after Clarice." Kyle hunched over Blink protectively, as Sabretooth stood by and stared down the Bugs.

One Bug moved cautiously forward, not toward Sabretooth, but towards WildChild and Blink. Kyle growled and bared his teeth, and set back to pounce, but the Bug halted for a second, and then, even slower, started inching towards them again.

"Down Kyle," Victor rumbled. The bug didn't have the body language of something that was going to attack, and Creed was watching this bug real close. Too close, and for an instant, he forgot about the others that were watching the scene. Lightning fast, he was caught up in arms (?) and appendages, small as sticks and strong as hell, he found himself unable to break free of the spider that held him. Kyle saw the movement out of the corner of his eyes, which diverted his attention from the spider moving in on him and Blink. WildChild lunged towards Sabretooth in an attempt to free him, but instead found himself in a shroud of darkness. Kyle flailed about, unable to see, hear, touch, taste or smell anything. He fell to the ground, howling with rage. Sabretooth saw WildChild leap into the air and instantly Kyle was enshrouded in a glob of darkness. He had become a blob of nothingness, lying on the ground writhing helplessly. The spider slowly approached Blink, and Creed howled in anger, still trying to free himself and stop them from getting to the helpless girl. He felt a sharp stinging in the back of his neck, and it burned down, slowly through his guts and up into his brain. His arms and legs felt like heavy mud, and as his eyesight failed, he saw the other bug-spiders chattering over Blink's limp body. Then his brain started to get heavy...



The first thing he heard was the annoying ringing in his ears, then the soft buzz-clicking noises of something ... something that reminded him of ... BUGS! Victor snapped his eyes open. Or, at least that's what he tried to do. He felt so completely relaxed, that it was a tremendous effort of willpower just to open his eyes. Slowly, as one eye opened, he saw that he had been dropped, almost face down, like a rag doll, and his stupid eyeball refused to focus. He tried to curse, and of course, he couldn't. He redirected the energy from swearing to getting his other eye opened and them both focused. At least he'd been dropped facing the commotion he was hearing. Off to his right he saw a still-wiggling black blob that must be WildChild. But where was Clarice? Among the blurry spider-blobs was a faint green-and-purple blob. The bugs things had her and were holding her up off the ground, but over what? Slowly, infuriatingly slowly, his eyes began to clear, and some of the haze started to clear from his head.

"Now," he thought, "if I could just feel the rest of my body. Or even move my head!" The strain of rolling his eyes to see what was going on was giving him a headache. He could hear the excited clicking of the bug-things, and the not-very-excited growls and groans of Kyle as he continued his struggle against the shadow that still held him in check. And as Victor listened, he could also hear Clarice's soft, ragged breathing. She didn't moan, she didn't move or struggle at all. She just hung in their arms like the limp rag doll that Victor felt like.

"What are they doing to her?" Victor was going nuts not being able to do a damn thing. The bugs suddenly became excited, and with extreme effort, Creed slowly turned his head and focused, just enough for a better view. The bug-spider-things were holding Blink over ... a CLIFF???

"No way!" thought Creed, and as he continued his struggle against his own body, Blink stopped making noise. She had stopped breathing again.

"NO!!" thought Victor. And the bug-things fell silent, and dropped her reverently over the edge.

"NOO!!!" Sabretooth yelled. A sudden surge of adrenalin screamed through his body, shaking the venoms from his system. He was moving now. Well, he was moving. Like a toddler taking his first steps during an earthquake, but at least he was moving. The spider-bugs didn't seem surprised at all. They merely watched him struggle to regain control of his body, and stepped back away from the edge. One bug moved over to the black shadow-blob that was WildChild, reached an appendage into the shadow, and lifted him out. The shadow disappeared like a soft wisp of smoke, and Kyle was none the worse for wear, just exhausted. He fell down where the creature left him, gasping and glad to be out of the dark. Sabretooth, on the other hand, was raging, growling, anything to get himself moving again. He had to save Clarice, at least try, if not get her home for a decent burial.

"No," he thought, shaking the thought from his mind. "She's gotta still be alive. I can still save her." Now up to a fair crawl, he reached out for one of the creatures, intent on using its body parts for rappelling gear, if that's what it would take. It deftly sidestepped his grasp, skittered away and over the side of the cliff. The others followed, leaving Victor and Kyle alone.

"Kyle," he growled, "get yer butt over here and help Blink." Kyle looked up, around, and cautiously crept over to Creed. Seeing that Victor was alright and still moving, Kyle continued to the edge of the cliff, and looked over. He grew very quiet and still, then agitated, and then distraught. Sabretooth didn't want to see that. As he got to the edge, he braced himself for the worst; Blink a splatter at the bottom. He held his breath and looked over.



Victor Creed was definitely not ready for what he saw next. Nothing but smooth silver, for as far as his eyes could see. Blink was nowhere to be seen. He breathed a sigh of relief. Then, annoyed. Where had she gone? But the silver wasn't perfectly smooth, it had ripples, MOVING ripples! It wasn't solid, it was liquid! Those creeps meant to drown her! Creed was moving now, a lot faster than he had been earlier, but nowhere near as fast as he'd like.

"Kyle..." he started, but WildChild was way ahead of him. Literally. The kid had already made his way down the cliff (which really wasn't near as high as it looked from the top, he thought. "It's this damn light...") and to the edge of the silver lake. WildChild ran back and forth, searching for a scent, a glimpse, anything, but unwilling to go into the lake. Victor was not exactly keen on the idea of falling into something unknown either, so he put all of his energy and concentration into getting down in one piece. It would've done no good to dive into unknown waters (?) and hit a rock. The lake was completely opaque. He cursed as he came up beside WildChild, both unable to see anything below the surface. Again, Sabretooth braced himself for the worst, and waded into the lake, about where he thought the bugs had dropped Clarice. And he was surprised. The water was comfortably warm and soothing, and as he waded, searching for Blink, his senses returned to him. The fog lifted off of him and he felt control and sensation return to his body. He dove in and began to search with his hands, a blind man searching in an ocean for a single fish. A very important fish. Kyle saw Creed diving below the surface, and seeing him reemerge, considered the water to be safe (however strange it looked) and followed Sabretooth in the underwater search for Blink. After a short but infuriating search, they both popped up at the same time, near each other. Neither had found her yet. Victor Creed knew that any hope of finding her alive was pretty much gone, and they were doing body recovery at this point, but he refused to give up. He had become very fond of Clarice, and wouldn't, couldn't fathom the thought of losing her. Not this way. As he and Kyle got ready for their next dive, Kyle spotted a cluster of bubbles erupting on the surface, just a few yards from where they were swimming. As they swam towards the spot, the cluster became larger and more intense. And suddenly, Clarice burst through the surface and gasped for air. She looked dazed, and somewhat surprised to find herself swimming in a pool of silver. Not to mention the sight of her two closest companions swimming towards her frantically. They too looked surprised to see her, hearty and whole.

"What're you guys lookin' at? And where are we? Are we dead?"

Victor grabbed her so roughly that he surprised himself. He wanted nothing more than to hold her close and keep her safe, but they were still a ways from shore.

"We're lookin' at you, kid," he said, smiling. "We thought YOU were the dead one." Kyle was right beside Clarice, checking her over and making sure she was alright.

"C'mon, let's git back to the shore and find out where we are." The three swam back to shore, enjoying, albeit unconsciously, the swim back in the warm invigorating waters.

When the got to shore, the silver streamed off of them , leaving them dry and without a chill. That's when Sabretooth noticed the change. Blink's back was smooth and perfect, any scarring she may have had from the burns were gone, as well as any others she had gotten long ago from her battles alongside the X-Men. And her breathing was deep and easy, no sign of broken ribs.

"Are you feelin' okay, pup?" He asked her.

"Sure. I feel fine. In fact, I feel great. I feel so strong!" She turned and smiled at him.

"Yep," he thought, "she's the picture of health. Blink was positively beaming, bouncing with energy. Kyle, not content with his short and hard-working swim, was back in the water, paddling around like an idiot, thoroughly enjoying himself in the strange, soothing waters. Creed squatted down, ran his hand through the water and pulled it out dry.

"Could I've been wrong 'bout those bug-things?" he thought. "Maybe they knew what they was doin' after all. But then," he paused, looking around, "how the hell did they even know what was goin' on in the first place?" Sabretooth stood up, took a surveillance of the area, and decided that they needed to move on. The water may have had some kind of healing effects on them.

"But too much of a good thing is bound to be bad for us," he thought.

"C'mon, Kyle. Git yer butt outta there. We're movin' on." Victor walked back over to Clarice as Kyle unhappily paddled his way back to the shore.

"Are you sure yer feelin' okay? If yer not..." he started, but Blink cut him off.

"Yes, I feel great? Why are you so worried?"

"I'm worried 'cause not thirty minutes ago you were dead." Blink looked at him in total confusion. Her head slowly tilted to the side, and then she spoke.

"Dead? But I had this really weird dream. First we were fighting Apocalypse and we were winning. But then the bombs started falling, and I wanted us to escape so I blinked us out of there, but something hit me real hard, and things are kind of foggy after that. All I remember are a bunch of buggy creatures talking to me, telling me not to worry and that they were going to help me. Then I woke up underwater, or whatever that is." She pointed to the lake. "And there you and Kyle are, swimming out and looking like you saw a ghost." Then she smiled and looked at her feet. "I guess you did, huh?"

"Yeah, kid, I guess we did." He put his arm around her and held her close, gently this time. Sabretooth sighed, grateful that this willful pup hadn't gotten herself killed, and, watching Kyle instinctively shake himself dry, he let himself let out a relieved laugh. Something else tugged in the back of his mind as they walked down the shore... something odd. Blink seemed a little taller than he remembered.

"Ah," he thought, "thinkin' I lost her probably just scared a few years outta me, that's all". And they walked towards the moonset (as the sun didn't seem to move at all), not noticing the many green, glowing eyes following them.



It wasn't that he didn't know where he was that bothered Victor Creed. It was the fact that they weren't going anywhere. Nothing in the landscape was defined enough to make a reference point. For all he knew, they were walking in circles. They had been walking for quite some time now, and Blink and WildChild were beginning to tire. They followed a trail that was as nondescript as the rest of the landscape, although the path did seem to be more visible in the moonlight than in the sun. They had lost sight of the silver lake a long time ago, and were going on guesswork and hunches ever since. Breaking through the shadows up ahead, the moon shone brighter than usual, and a small secluded area appeared. As they got closer, they began to see some familiar signs of life - grass, trees, water and fruit. Creed thought maybe he caught a scent of game, but before he could mention it, WildChild was off like a bolt.

"Kyle!" he yelled. "Git yer butt back here 'fore you get lost!" Kyle was long gone.

'Great,' Vic thought. 'Now I gotta go after him.'

"Clarice, you stay put while I go after the kid."

"No problem." And then Sabretooth took off into the shadows after WildChild. Clarice found a comfy spot of moss under a tree and sat down. And she wiggled about, trying to get comfortable, stood back up, wiggled a little more, and sat down again. Nope, it was useless. Her uniform had gotten too short.

'Must've shrunk in that strange lake,' she thought, and now she was fighting her own clothing. But she was tired and hungry, and looking up, she saw something she hadn't seen in many, many years. Fresh fruit. On a tree, no less. As she started to stand up again, Clarice hesitated. She had no idea if the fruit was poisonous or not. As she furrowed her eyebrow in frustration, she heard some rustling noises off to the side, past the undergrowth and in the darkness. She sighed.

"C'mon out, Kyle. Victor's gonna be mighty peeved at you for running off like that." Clarice looked about fully expecting to see WildChild come bounding out with some kind of kill. But he didn't. She listened again, and yes, there was still some slight noises here and there, but nothing definite. Again she sighed and flopped back down on the ground. One her way down, Blink unconsciously grabbed for some fruit, plucked it and took a bite, all before she actually realized what she had done. She was really into the sweet flavor when it dawned on her that maybe that wasn't the smartest thing she'd done. Her eyes grew wide, and she started to spit out the sweet fruit, when the scurrying noises came closer, this time from the other side. She spun around, prepared for anything, and saw the soft, green glowing lights. Lots of them, floating about in the shadows just beyond the clearing. Some would break away and float off into the darkness, and some would float closer, as if to get a better look at Blink. Clarice carefully watched the lights, and slowly moving from her spot, she inched out into the clearing, to better assess the situation. Looking around, squinting into the darkness, she could see the soft green glow all around, some in clusters, some alone. It dawned on her that she didn't hear Sabretooth or WildChild at all. She started to get a little worried.

"Um, Mister Creed?" She started to call out. Once again, not thinking, she swallowed. And again, realizing that was a bad idea, she called out a little louder.

"Victor! Kyle! You guys out there?!" Just more soft rustling off in the shadows.


Now Victor Creed had already had more than enough of this strange place before they found the clearing, and now he had to take off into the unknown after WildChild. This was turning out to be a really bad day. Or night. Or whatever. He had no sooner jumped into the dark brush, when he found himself in the middle of nowhere. Literally, it was black as pitch, with just the slightest scent of Kyle passing through. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see he was in the middle of a jungle. Dark and wet (he hated that), he wondered to himself why he hadn't caught the scent before. His senses were being flooded with the sights, scents and sounds of the rainforest. and it was pretty difficult for Creed to pick up Kyle's trail again. Difficult, but not impossible. He started the hunt, and wondered how the hell Kyle was moving so fast.

'Must be trackin' some serious food,' he thought. Then he realized, he wasn't picking up on any other scents, just Kyle's.

'What the hell?' he thought

"Kyle! Where'd you go off to?" he shouted. But he didn't hear anything except the soft rain rustling down around his ears. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, as he realized that not only could he not find WildChild, but he too, was lost. And he left Blink alone in a clearing, in the middle of nowhere. Vic stood and realized his dilemma. He could continue his search for WildChild, and then try to find his way back to the clearing, or he could try to find his way back to the clearing, get Blink, then come back out here and try to find Kyle. Neither prospect looked good. He didn't like the idea of leaving Kyle out here on his own, but Kyle could probably take care of himself for a bit.

'Though he didn't fare so good against those bug-things,' Vic thought. And Victor REALLY hated the idea of losing Clarice again. That idea had him turn in his tracks and try to make his way back to the glen.

'Ah,' he thought to himself, 'she's probably just fine, sittin' there with Kyle and just waitin' fer me ta get back.' Still, Creed picked up the pace, and started to focus on his own trail, hoping he wasn't going in circles.


Kyle, on the other hand, was having a field day. Literally. He had spotted the green fields just past the clearing and smelled the fresh spring air, and made a bee-line for them. It was the most beautiful, sunshiney day he had seen in a very long time. It felt wonderful to run free and without a care in the world. Big puffy white clouds lumbered along the bright blue sky. Birds chirped and butterflies fluttered by. Oh, and he was so happy when he caught sight of a small gray rabbit. It took off and he gave chase. This was a wonderful place, and he was so happy to be here with his pack-mates. Then suddenly, he stopped the chase and looked about. They weren't here! Still looking about, he fretted, and wondered why his friends hadn't followed. This was paradise, and he was reluctant to leave it, but he had to go back and get his friends. He needed them to be here. Then everything would be grand. Such a pretty, pretty place. And no Apocalypse! He turned around and ran back the way he came (he thought), not wanting to waste another minute.


Meanwhile, Blink was certain she knew which way Creed had gone, and she was also certain that she didn't want to stay where she was. Slowly, reluctantly, she started to make her way out into the dark underbrush, towards the soft, green glowing haze that seemed to surround the glen. She felt things grabbing at her, like heavy spiderwebs, and the lights did seem to know where she was going. They beckoned her on, this way then that, leading her where, she didn't know for sure, but she hoped it would be to Sabretooth and WildChild. The darkness wasn't that dark after all. When her eyes adjusted she could see such a lovely forest, with lots of berries and odd fruits here and there. She thought she saw a rabbit run by, and she could see lots of other shadows moving around her. The shadows would run up onto her, and cling for a moment, then flit away, as if they were inspecting her. Blink started to get a little annoyed when she hadn't heard Victor or Kyle at all. She stopped.

"Victor! Kyle! Where are you?" she shouted. Nothing. Again she hollered, and again, all she got was more rustling noises and agitated shadows. The lights were flitting about, as if they too shared her annoyance.

'Those guys,' she thought, as she turned to go back. 'They better not be having fun without me!' She trudged back the way she came (or so she thought. It was kinda dark, after all), mumbling to herself about being left behind.

"I swear," Blink said out loud, "he still treats me like a kid."


Victor was getting frustrated and angry with himself really fast.

'I couldn't have come this far,' he thought. 'I only left the clearing a few hundred yards, tops.' He continued to rip his was through the jungle, still following his trail (at least, he was fairly sure it was his) back to the glen. He was also getting really worried about WildChild.

'If I'm this lost, there's no tellin' what happened to the kid.' Nothing looked familiar, nothing smelled familiar. Even when he thought he caught a trace of his or Kyle's scent, it didn't seem right. And then he thought about Clarice.

'Alone in the jungle, she wouldn't stand a chance,' he thought. Panic started to set in. He'd already seen her die. He didn't know whether or not Kyle was safe and sound, and for that matter, he didn't even know if they had a home to go home to. The last thought hit him unexpectedly. He didn't know if time was set right. And if it was, what happened? Is this the life he would've led? Was he, Blink and WildChild dead, and this was their afterlife?

'No way!' He hated that idea. It made him all the more determined to get back to the clearing to make sure Clarice was okay. And then they would go and find Kyle and they'd all be together again. He continued ripping his way through the jungle, hoping at any moment, he'd break through the clearing.


Now Clarice was starting to worry a little bit when she looked up where she thought the clearing was, and it wasn't there. She looked back down to retrace her steps, when she heard a noise that she hadn't heard before - a cracking noise. Not like twigs, or anything trying to sneak up on her. It was a soft cracking noise.

'Off in the distance,' she thought to herself, as she readjusted her clothes. 'Maybe it's Victor, or Kyle.' She started to wonder about the fruit she had accidentally eaten, as she was still pretty hungry, and she wasn't feeling sick at all.

'So maybe it was okay after all.' As she looked up to make sure of where she was going, Clarice found herself back in the middle of the glen. This took her completely by surprise. She looked around, stunned.

"But I..." she started, when a louder crashing came at her, quickly. She spun around, ready to "blink" whatever it was into oblivion, when she was tackled be a very enthusiastic WildChild.

"Kyle!" she exclaimed. "Where the hell have you been? And why did you take off like that? Victor is out there looking for you!" Kyle looked around, and, totally confused to see the darkness around them, became agitated. Where was his warm sunny plains? And the rabbit he was chasing? None of this was here a minute ago. He started scratching about, looking for his path back to paradise, when he saw the dancing, glowing lights looking back at him. He let out a ferocious howl, and clawed at the darkness. The lights looked far too much like the spiders' eyes that trapped him in the awful darkness. And there was this cracking sound that he hadn't noticed before. When he listened for it, he could hear it coming closer. Maybe it was Sabretooth, coming back for them! But the sound came from everywhere! Kyle ran around the glen, which seemed to be dissolving into the shadows itself. Blink tried to reel him in, pull him back away from the darkness, which was moving all around them, pulling at their clothes and hair insistently, trying to pull them away from something. But Kyle would have none of it, and he ripped and tore and bit at the clinging darkness and green glow, to no avail. It was all Blink could do just to stay by his side and not get separated again. The cracking was becoming a crunching and crashing noise, and it was very definitely getting closer.


Victor Creed heard the cracking noise off in the distance get louder as he stumbled back through the jungle, trying to get back to the clearing and back to Clarice. He definitely did not want the shock of seeing her dead again, or even hurt, for that matter. It dawned on him that this odd noise was indeed coming closer, and possibly it was coming after Blink, alone (he thought) in the clearing. He broke into a full run, and ducking down and dodging obstacles, he braced himself against the foliage as he tore through...

And into what was the clearing. Taken completely by surprise, Creed had to step back a minute and assess the situation. He should have caught their scent long before he came across them, but here they were, surrounded by shadows, and globs of very excited green lights. Kyle was furious, and Blink had her hands full trying to keep WildChild in check. Sabretooth shook his head a second to clear it, then stepped into the fracas and grabbed Kyle by the scruff. Clarice and Kyle were fine, if not a little rattled by the shadows and lights pulling and tugging at them. Victor could feel the soft fingers of darkness trying to grab at him frantically. And then he noticed that the cracking sound had changed as it came closer, and crashed and crunched along. Suddenly, the ghostly lights and shadows fled. Quickly, like streams of smoke, and Creed could feel them streaking past and across him. Something had frightened them. What?

He turned and looked to see a huge crystal tsunami coming at them. He grabbed Clarice by the arm with his free hand and shouted "Oh sh**"


There was a crashing sound of breaking glass, and then, silence.



Amber stared at the blinking light on the monitor, as she had for the last three hours. She was starting to get a hunger-headache. The case of carbonated caffeine and four boxes of Girl Scout cookies she had eaten earlier had worn off, and now her stomach was demanding something with a little more substance. She looked up at the clock on the wall.

'Ah,' she thought as she stretched, 'I've got a coupla hours yet.' And she reached over to the phone to order a pizza. As she was hanging up, she heard a familiar knock at the door.

"Hey, Ams, what's up?"

"Not much, Gramen. Just finishing up this stupid paper."

"I didn't know you were workin'. Hey, I just stopped by to ask you if I could borrow your car. There's this really cool chica I want to impress, you know. And I think it would be real cool if I could borrow you car and got up to L.A. for the weekend."

Amber smiled. Gramen was a totally cool dude, and he fit right into the Southern California image. Except for his Bulgarian accent. But he didn't let it stop him. No way, dude. It didn't even slow him down.

"Well," she started, as she tossed him the keys, "you know the rules. No drugs, no drinkin' and drivin', and NO SMOKING IN MY CAR! I hate that. Makes Bear sneeze. Ever have to clean dog snot outta upholstery?"

"Uh, no. I don't want to either." He grinned. "Hey, you got anything to eat around here?"

"No, Gramen. I regularly starve myself. Try the 'fridge."

"Hey, cool. Thanks, Ams." Gramen was a walking disposal unit. He was soo California - blonde, good-looking, tan, and built like a brick. He ran a few miles every day, and partied hard at night. And somewhere in between, he got his studies done. And he could eat. Running joke was if you had leftovers, call Gramen. He'd eat anything.

"Hey, Ams, when's that paper you're working one due?" he said with his mouth full. Bear had woke up and was following him around, slurping up any and all of the crumbs that fell.

"Hmm? Oh, this one? It's due this afternoon."

"This afternoon? But you didn't work on anything but your bike this weekend! You'll never get it in on time."

"Sure I will," Amber said lazily, "I been workin' on it all week in my head. Now all I gotta do is type it out and print it off."

"In your head! Man, I wish I could do that. Then I wouldn't have to spend all my time reading through research books and stuff. Just crank it all out of my head. That would be so cool."

"Gotta get yourself some of those mutant brains cells, Gramen. Works for me." She grinned.

"Yeah." He grinned back, before taking another bite of whatever it was he found in the 'fridge. "Some of us have all the luck. You know, I hear it's real bad for mutants back east. They can't go to schools or anything. You were at a school back east, weren't you?"

She thought fast to avoid the question. "Yeah, they're pretty stuffy back there. Dress codes, conformity, EYUUCH! I couldn't handle the pressure, know what I mean?"

"Yeah. I hate that bull. Like, you're trying to study and everything," Gramen mumbled through his full mouth, "and then they start dumping all this extra bullshit on top. And then you gotta take the pressure of bein' a mutant. I'm not saying I know what that's like, but it's like when I first came to America and I couldn't speak English, so I'm trying to like, fit in and all."

"Yeah, something like that," Amber replied. Bear was starting to make a nuisance of himself, and was drooling on the floor next to Gramen.

It was so cool to have Gramen as a friend. Nothing fazed him. Mutant, non-mutant, race, religion, nationality. He didn't care. If you were 'good people', then he liked being your friend. Amber reached over to an open box of cookies and looked inside hopefully. Of course, it was empty. She crumpled it up and chucked it towards a trash can already full of empty cookie boxes.

"Hey, Gram, did you see if I had any milk left?" She got up and headed for the kitchen. Bear, realizing that there wasn't much of a possibility of getting a snack from Gramen, stood up and waddled his way into the kitchen after Amber.

"Yeah, I think so. In the back somewhere. I took a can of pop, okay?" Amber stuck her head out from the kitchen.

"I had pop in the 'fridge?"

"Mmmphh!" said Gramen, as he held up his can.

'Huh,' thought Amber, and she stepped back into the kitchen. A knock at the door brought Bear running. He could smell the pizza on the other side. Amber came running up behind Bear and pulled him away from the door.

"Siddown, Bear!" He'd already scared many a pizza delivery man away. Bear was a huge German Shepherd-something mix, and it was the something else that unnerved most people. But he was also very old, and menacing pizza delivery men was the highlight of his day. After Amber paid the man and closed the door she did her traditional avoid-the-dog-underfoot dance and made her way back to the computer to set the pizza down. Bear was quivering and slobbering heavily.

"Hey, Ams, that looks pretty good. Can I have one?" Gramen stood up and walked across the room to the table.

"Sure, why not." She ripped off a hot piece and handed it to him. He nearly dropped it, and hit Bear with a splat of melted cheese, much to Bear's delight.

"Sh*t, this stuff is hot! I hate it when you do that!" Gramen yelped. He juggled the pizza while grabbing for a piece of paper. "Hey, I gotta get going. And thanks for the pizza." Bear's face fell as Gramen finished off his piece of pizza and left.

Amber flopped onto her 'comfy chair' and stared at the computer.

'Well,' she thought. 'Lessee if I can't finish this thing up.' She tossed a generous chunk of crust to Bear, who happily swallowed it whole, and sat down and continued begging for the next piece.


A ripple ripped across the fabric of reality, and although it was unseen by Amber, she definitely felt it. It felt like a spike slammed through the top of her skull and out of her right eye. She doubled over in pain. Bear huffed in concern, nuzzling and licking her face until she sat upright again. A tear streamed down her face from the pain.

'What the hell?' she thought. 'It feels like someone tearing through the walls...' She stared off into space, as if looking through the walls of her apartment into the apartment next door. Then she blinked twice, and shook her head to clear out the fog. Reaching over Amber picked up the phone and dialed.

'If I felt that,' she thought, 'then I'm not the only one.'

"Hello, Mom?", Amber said, her eyes glowing a deep, dark green.




Victor Creed found himself once again in a bad situation getting worse. He WAS about to be crystallized into nothingness, but now, he and his companions were free-falling to Earth, without a parachute, so to speak.

'Cripes!' he thought. 'Here we go again!' He reached out to grab Blink and WildChild and tried to tuck himself under them to buffer them against the impact. "This is gonna hurt," he mumbled to himself as...

"WHOULPH!" He didn't remember them being this heavy. He lay there for a moment, waiting to catch his breath and allowing his broken ribs to heal. Clarice slowly pushed herself up off of the pile of arms and legs, and Kyle shook himself, trying to clear his foggy head.

'huh?' Kyle thought. His pretty green valley was gone, and now he was in the middle of a desert. Okay, his friends were with him, but this was definitely "not better". Kyle snuffled and sneezed as the dusty air flew into his sinuses.

Clarice squinted, and tried to unblur her eyes. She'd become accustomed to the eerie twilight of the weird place, and no she was blinded by the brilliant burning glare of the sun and sand. She sneezed as the dry, dusty air messed with her sinuses. She looked down, and gently shook Creed's shoulder. "You gonna be okay?" she asked.

"Uhh, yeah. Gimme a minute." Victor slowly opened his eyes and let them burn for a minute while they adjusted to the glare. He heard Kyle snuffling and sneezing off to on side, and figured he wasn't any worse for wear. Clarice was at his shoulder, wiggling and trying to get comfortable in her clothes, which for some reason, seemed to be a little too small. Victor sat up, looked around, and slowly stood up, to better survey their situation. Kyle caught sight of something small skittering across the sand, and gave chase.

'Great,' thought Creed. "C'mon Clarice," he said. "Let's go after him 'fore he gets us in any more trouble." And they took off after WildChild.

Kyle zigged and zagged across the sand, chasing the salamander more for fun than out of hunger. Blink didn't mind chasing after him, but she was getting hungry, and the sun blasting down on them was unrelenting. Creed stopped for a moment to get his bearings. There was no telling where they were. He looked up into the sky, to see if he could recognize any of the major stars that were visible in the daylight. He couldn't. The sun took up the whole sky, it seemed. And the glare off of the sand was chokingly hot. He relaxed a bit and let his other senses kick in, to pick up anything he might have missed. He noticed right away, that the air, although hot, had the scent of salt water.

'We're near an ocean,' he thought. 'But where the hell is there an ocean next to a desert?' He couldn't hear anything because of Kyle's skittering about, and poor Blink squealing and trying to avoid the lizard running for its life.

"Quiet down you two!" Creed growled. "I think I'm pickin' somethin' up." He listened carefully to the sand shifting under the breeze. The wind itself carried scents and sounds, and Victor Creed was trying to decipher it all. Meanwhile, Kyle had caught the lizard he was chasing, and after careful examination, it really didn't have that much meat on it, and wasn't all that appetizing anyway. He sat down (quietly) and let it loose. The lizard made a break for the nearest shelter which was, unfortunately, Blink's skirt.

Sabretooth spun around ready to kill when Clarice shrieked. Embarrassed, she pulled out a totally terrorized lizard and let it loose. Kyle, having no idea what went on, growled menacingly at a non-existent enemy. Sabretooth frowned and glared at them both. He didn't like what he thought he was hearing in the distance.

"What do you hear?" Clarice asked softly.

He thought for a moment, then,

"Sounds like heavy machines. And plenty of manpower ta back 'em up. Let's get movin'. Stay low an' stay QUIET and maybe they won't pick us up."

As they shuffled from sand dune to sand dune, Creed pick up the noises of men and machinery from the opposite direction.

'Great, we're caught in between two armies,' he thought. "Blink, get ready ta tear stuff apart, 'cause it looks like we're gonna be caught in the middle again. Kyle, git over here and be ready fer rippin' and tearin'." Sabretooth and Kyle took point and Blink brought up the rear. As far as she was concerned, if Sabretooth said there was something to be worried about, then there was. She was starting to hear machinery behind her now. Although it wasn't loud, she could tell there was a lot of it. And where there was machines, there was usually Infinites operating it.

'I'll just blink them all to pieces,' she thought. 'Just like I did to Holocaust's factory.' She smiled at the thought. Even though she thought her mentor was dead at the time, she alone did more damage to the facility than the rest of the X-Men put together. And Victor Creed was damn proud of her! Her adrenaline rushed as the sounds moved slowly closer and closer still, despite the heroes' constant moving about. And she started to hear the sounds on the opposite side closing in as well. It was all she could do to NOT jump out and start dissecting pieces of the forces with her spatial displacement powers, but she was taught by the best. She waited for Victor's call.

As for Kyle, he was sniffing and growling. He could hear and smell the enemy closing in all around. He could see the clouds of dust kicked up by the armies, and they spread all over. Creed noticed that too.

"Looks like these joker's 've been here all day, just waitin' fer us!" Victor said.

"Huh?" said Clarice.

"I said, I think we've been set up, kid." He cut Kyle some slack off of what was left of his chain. 'Gonna hafta get that fixed,' Creed thought. He tensed himself as he stood up straight to see what was coming. Clarice covered his back as she, too, looked about to see the enemy. That was when she noticed the huge cloud of dust left by the military vehicles. They were moving way too slow to be skimmers, so they must be carrying huge, heavy loads, or they were actually traveling by land. She figured that they were Holocaust's (or even Apocalypse's) heavy reinforcements, and she, too, braced for the attack.

Sabretooth was not really expecting what he saw. Or, at least, what he THOUGHT he saw. What he thought he saw was an army. An honest-to-God real type Army. Just like the one he was in many, many years ago. With tanks and guns and stuff like that, except that they NEVER looked like that. Clarice looked at him, and she was almost going to say something, when they were buzzed by a helicopter (?). All three hit the ground where they were at.

'Shit!' thought Creed. 'Didn't heard that one comin'! That was NOT one o' Holocaust's boys, fer sure,! But what the hell...?' Clarice looked up the same time he did, and Kyle was already on his feet, rarin' to go.

"Keep yer wits, girl. I ain't got any idea what we're up against, but it don't look good." The helicopter made it's way back around to them, each side getting a better look at each other. Victor Creed was impressed. This was definitely NOT one of Apocalypse's usual run of armaments, for sure. This job was downright pretty to look at, and although it sort of looked like the choppers he used in the past, this one was totally streamlined, loaded with all kinds of missiles and what-not, and almost totally silent. 'Yep,' he thought, 'I bet I could fly one o' these babies myself.'

When the pilots were done surveying the intruders, a voice came out over the air:

"Halt where you are! You are trespassing on U.S. Government property. Surrender your weapons and be prepared to be taken into custody!"

Both Kyle and Clarice looked at Sabretooth with puzzled looks on their faces.

"I don't get it, Mr. Creed. Who is the "us government" and why are they telling US to surrender? Isn't it Apocalypse's policy to shoot us on sight?"

Victor Creed smiled.

"Don't worry, kid. I think we're either sound asleep, or you've 'blinked' us to the promised land." He suppressed a laugh. "Play along so's I can get my hand on that bird!" Kyle had no idea why they weren't going to fight it out. But by the body language and tone of voice, he knew that he was gonna rip and shred in a minute. The chopper purred a little closer to the ground, and a couple of men jumped out, with rifles set and ready.

"Get ready, boy." Sabretooth relaxed Kyle's chain. As the men got closer, the chopper settled on the ground to take on its new passengers. Creed smiled broadly as he was approached. He also saw Clarice's jaw drop open, as she realized that their captors were human. Real people, not the manufactured Infinites that made up Holocaust's armies. When they got within arm's reach, she could see their puzzled faces staring back at her and especially WildChild, who was held in check by a chain. It suddenly dawned on one of the soldiers,

"Shit! We got us some mutants! Call for back up!" As he did, Creed dropped the chain.

"Run, boy! Run for the water! Blink, yer with me! Take 'em out!" Sabretooth made an impressive jump for the helicopter, as Clarice displaced the rifles into pieces, then the men, but not so severely.

"Humans?", she thought. "Where are we? And how did they come by all this hardware?" She spun around to cover her blind side, reckoned for WildChild, then spun back around to follow Sabretooth. He had caught one of the rails and was trying to climb on while a gunman still inside was trying to knock him off. Clarice concentrated for a second, and took out the soldiers' weapon with a carefully placed blink. Victor reached in and grabbed the poor guy, and threw him out. As Blink ran up to the chopper, Creed yelled for her to stay low. "What?" He gave her a funny look, then she looked up. 'Omigosh! This thing has blades! What a weapon design,' she thought with admiration. 'I guess it's meant to keep people like us from taking off with this thing.' She smiled. 'But then, they never met Mr. Creed!' The chopper was already trying to lift off as she tried to jump in. Sabretooth was inside, terrorizing the co-pilot out of his seat and out the door with the gunner. Blink hung on to the rail as the bird lifted. When she got her balance, she started to climb inside. Creed had on hand on the stick and the other on the pilot, squeezing answers out of him.

"Who's in charge o' yer army? An' where the hell are we anyways?" he growled at the man. Creed looked at the blinking LEDs and the digital readouts that were the control panel. "An' how the hell d'ya fly this thing?" This definitely was NOT the choppers HE remembered flying! Not even Holocaust had anything this advanced!

"C-C-Corporal R-Rameriz," the poor man stuttered. "B-blue unit..."

"What're ya yammerin' about? Shut up! I'm thinkin' here!" Victor went back to studying the panel and working the stick. Clarice came up beside him and stared at the frightened human.

"Don't worry," she told the man, "He doesn't bite. Much." The pilot fainted. "I wonder whose army they're from?" she said out loud.

"They ain't Army. They're Marines," said Creed.

"Marines? What're Marines?" she asked as she took the pilot's seat. She watched Creed as he started to figure out the controls of the chopper.

"They're a pain in the butt. But they're good bullet-fodder if ya need a diversion," he replied. "And they usually hang out with the Navy. Now, let's go see if'n we can't pick up th' kid." He spun the chopper around suddenly, which made Blink a little airsick, and headed off towards the direction of the water. Creed was grinning.

"This bird's a beaut'! Man, if I had one o' these way back when!" The chopper sailed smooth as silk. Even so, Blink held on to the seat just a little tighter. The pilot regained consciousness, and panicked when he saw his ship had been pirated. Even worse, by mutants! He started to compose himself, and tried his best to act like a Marine, even if he didn't feel like one at the moment.

"I-I-I'm ordering you t-to surrender th-those controls and l-land this ship im-mediately! O-or I'll h-have t-to shoot you b-both!" Sure enough, he had drawn his revolver and had it aimed at Creed's head. Blink and Sabretooth looked at each other, then back at the pilot. Victor grabbed the gun.

"Gimme that 'fore ya hurt yerself! Where are we?" The pilot swallowed hard.

"C-Corporal Ramirez..." he whispered.

"I don't care if yer God! Just tell me where we are!" Sabretooth snarled at the man.

"P-P-Pendelton... Camp P-Pend..." And Sabretooth chucked him out the door.

"What'd you do that for?" Blink asked. "He was such a nice man..." She grinned at Creed, and he grinned back. As they skimmed across the sand in search of WildChild, the vehicles on the ground noticed the UA chopper, and, determining it had been compromised during maneuvers by the intruder alert, opened fire.

"Shit!" Creed yelled. "Giddown girl!" He grabbed Clarice before she could move and threw her to the floor. Her seat was sprayed with gunfire and he took a few himself.

"Victor!" She yelled. She stuck her head back up to see another chopper, just like theirs, coming straight at them.

"Take out the blades!"

'The blades?' she thought even as she immediately blinked out the blades. Then she saw why. The other chopper fell out of the sky, detonating all of the missiles on board. Their chopper pitched and rolled as it got caught in the updraft of the explosion, and the lack of oxygen in the burst threatened to cut out their engine.

Kyle ran for the water. He could smell it on the wind, cool and salty. Not much like the air he was used to, but it was a good smell, and he was told to run for it. And so he did. And he ran into trouble almost immediately. Blocking his path was an army of big, noisy, smelly machines. And humans (?). He stopped long enough to be confused for a moment. Humans were the ones they were supposed to be protecting from Apocalypse's hordes. They definitely weren't able to protect themselves. Were they? Remembering his orders, he started running again, and the humans opened fire on him! He moved a lot faster, and lower to the ground to avoid the hot, buzzing bees that spun past him as he ran. He had to get through the blockade ahead of him to get to the water, and the humans were not going to be easy to get through. Kyle stopped behind a large dune and thought for a moment. Thinking was hard. He couldn't run and think at the same time. He was going to have to fight his way through them, and he wasn't so sure of his teachings anymore. First, kill the humans. Then protect the humans. Now, it was kill the humans again, but it wasn't on the order he had been given. 'Go to the water', Sabretooth had said. Not 'kill the humans'. But he HAD to get to the water, or Sabretooth and Blink would not find him! Noises came very close to his sand dune, and he bolted out of the way just in time to avoid being crushed by a very, very big machine on treads.

'no wheels, just creepy like a big, fat worm,' he thought as he scampered away from the tank. He ran smack into a Marine who was walking beside the tank, watching for an ambush. The startled Marine yelled out, and Kyle was overrun by a lot more Marines before he could recover from the sudden shock.

"ANTS!" he thought, and he went blank as he fell into a blood rage and battle frenzy. He didn't need to think anymore. Just survive. And 'Go To The Water'.

Victor Creed was doing everything he knew just to keep the bird in the air, and Clarice was doing everything she knew just to keep her stomach down. As she held on to her seat for dear life, she looked at Sabretooth, who was cursing and swearing at the controls while the engine of the chopper sputtered and thought about cutting out. As the bird swerved it started a dive towards a large tank and Creed could see that all his strength was not gonna pull this bird up.

"Clarice! Get us..."


"...outta here!" he shouted as they fell, free-falling once again from the sky. 'At least we're not so high...'


The chopper hit the tank, detonating all of the various weapons on board both vehicles, and sending men running in all directions. As Creed and Blink got up and running, they were spotted and some of the men regrouped and took off after them. Blink grabbed a rifle as she ran past a downed man and threw it at Sabretooth. He knew exactly how to use it, and was a little surprised by its light weight. But it worked just fine, as he took out a few front-runners with a spray of gun-fire. Blink stopped for a second, and spatially displaced a large armored truck, and the CIWS it had in tow.

'Hey,' she thought, 'It looks like a weapon...' and she blinked out another large tank-thing before she saw the little red dots appear on her chest and in her eyes.

Sabretooth had spun around to run another spray of gun-fire when he saw Clarice stop and take out a couple of heavy machinery. He also saw the pin-points of light take a bead on her and he immediately knew what they were for. He ran and made a dive for her.

"Down!" he yelled as he knocked her to the ground. "Don't ever stop! They'll get a bead on you and take ya out!" As he dragged her to her feet, he tossed the rifle to her and pushed her in the general direction he wanted her to go. As he did, he was overrun by Marines. Clarice knew better than to look back, let alone to try to stop and help him. She took off as fast as her feet could carry her, so she could get to a vantage point and look for WildChild.

"We're getting spread pretty thin here," she panted as she tried to look about and run at the same time. When she felt she had a good distance between her and her pursuers, she spun around and pulled the trigger as she had seen Sabretooth do it.

Creed got a belly full of lead before he could say a word.

'Good thing she's small', he thought, as he fell to the ground, trying to hold what was left of his guts inside. 'She'da taken' my head off.' He groaned as he stood back up and braced himself for the couple of Marines who were still running after him. He continued to stare at Blink, while her mouth fell open as she realized what just happened.

"Close yer mouth and gimme a hand!" Sabretooth yelled, as he went down from the sudden weight of the Marines jumping on him. Clarice tried to regain her composure and ran to the melee as the tears began to flow.

"MISTER CREED!" she yelled out. She beat the nearest Marine with the butt of the rifle. She was too afraid to pull the trigger again, especially now, this close to Victor. She continued to swing the rifle until someone caught it and yanked it away from her. She didn't recognized the face, and she was far too upset and angry to care. She blinked him and his own weapon together, and didn't worry about the mess she left behind. Sabretooth was making short work of the men who had jumped him, when he saw the next batch of reinforcement coming at them. Reaching down, he grabbed a couple more rifles and checked for ammo. Again, he tossed one to Clarice.

"You think you can look 'fore you shoot?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good girl. Now let's book outta here. Kyle's waitin' fer us." He winced a little at the tender spot on his belly as they took off running towards the water.

A cloud of dust engulfed them as the wind picked up.

"Wait a minute!" Creed called out. "Don't move, Clarice! We shouldn't be gettin' this much dust with this breeze, unless there's something movin' out there!" Clarice froze in her tracks like she was told, and listened. She heard the rumble of a huge engine, then the clacking of tracks just before she saw the dark shadow pull up out of the dust towards her. She displaced the tank as she was knocked out of its path by Sabretooth. The tank blew apart as the contents of its fuel tank met with the electronic circuitry of its weaponry controls. Creed winced as he took a piece of shrapnel in the back.

"I wish you'd stop doin' that," he grumbled as he looked her in the eyes, "without warnin' me first." Sabretooth turned to see if he could reach around to pull the bit of metal out before his skin healed over it. Blink reached around and gently tugged at it, trying not to hurt him.

"Aw, quit playin' with the damn thing and yank it out, will ya? It itches like hell!" She yanked and he jerked a little involuntarily. He stood up, and briefly hugged her.

"C'mon, let's git outta here 'fore the dust settles. They can't hit what they can't see...," he said, just as the bullets started whizzing past them from all directions.

"Damn! Those Marines are sure ready ta meet their maker!" He pulled Blink down closer to the ground. "Looks like we gotta crawl outta this one, kid." Grabbing the rifle he dropped a moment ago, he took the lead and headed towards the scent of water, where he knew Kyle would be waiting safe and sound for them. As they moved away from the bees nest of gunfire, Creed could hear another completely different battle far ahead in the distance.

'What the hell?' he thought. 'We come across the last bastion of humans organized enough ta take on Apocalypse, and they're busy playin' war games?' As they left the area of the dust storm, he could see they were still in a desert, but now there was a couple of small, barrack-like buildings up ahead in the distance. There was also the soft, easy roar of an ocean in the distance. He didn't need to hear it though, he could smell it. Staying down on his belly, he had Clarice crawl up beside him.

"Whadda ya see, Clarice?"

She squinted, rubbed some of the sand out of her eyes, and squinted again against the bright glare of the sand and sun.

"Ahh, ferget it," he said, and patted her back. "Just keep an ear out while I take a look-see." She nodded. "And look 'fore ya shoot, okay?" She nodded and smiled. He tousled her hair, and slunk off towards the buildings.

Kyle had slowly, methodically, ripped, slashed, shredded and chewed his way in the general direction of the water. But he was really, really tired, and there were a lot more of the ant-men than he had figured on. They just kept coming and coming at him. He saw a flying machine split in two, and crash to the ground, just before the other flying machine fell to the

ground. Weren't Sabretooth and Blink trying to steal a flying machine? The less he thought, the better he fought, so he stopped thinking for a while. The next time he started to think, he saw a huge dust cloud rise up in front of a really big machine, just before the really big machine exploded.

'nope,' he thought, 'they must not have wanted the flying machine.' He went back to his slow progress to get to the water.

'water,' he thought again. 'that sounds good. cold water, and lots to drink.' And again he was lost in the non-thought that is battle. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw some small movement along the ground behind the dust-cloud. He knocked out the man he had in his hands at the moment and sniffed the air. The breeze was behind him, and all it brought was the cool scent of salty sea air. But he saw a tiny speck of pinkish-purple. Blink!

'aha!', he stopped to think. 'if blink is not alone, then sabretooth must be with her.' The stretch of logic was just enough to distract him from an attacker, who tackled WildChild back to the ground in a valiant attempt to restrain him. More of the crazy ant-men continued to pour out of their box-like houses to the battle outside. And WildChild just happened to be in the path of least resistance. Kyle tried to call to Blink for help, hoping she would hear him and blink him to safety, but she was too far away! He continued his fighting frenzy, and hoped there would be no more humans coming out after him.

As Victor Creed crawled up to the barracks, he could see the dust rising from another skirmish going on not too far from the edges of the furthest buildings. Since it was rather small, he ignored it and made his way up to the nearest building. Most of the troops were either on maneuvers, chasing after intruders, or left as casualties on the field. There weren't too many left behind playing security guard, and the ones that were, looked like brand-new recruits. Creed smiled a happy smile.

"This is gonna be fun!" he mused, and stalked 'round the back to the first door he came across. A thump on one guards' helmet, and there wasn't any problem. He looked back around the way he came, and waved for Blink to follow.

Clarice could barely see Sabretooth through the glare of the sunlight off of the sand, and the occasional cloud of dust that blew across the field. There was another battle going on further down, away from the buildings. Again she squinted, trying to see who or what was being jumped on by all those men. She looked back behind to make sure there wasn't anyone trying to sneak up on her, then slowly crawled across the hot sand towards the melee, keeping one eye open for Creed. As she skittled closer, she could make out a blond shock of hair in the mess.

'Omigosh!' she thought, 'They've got WildChild!' She shifted towards where Sabretooth had snuck off to and saw him waving her on in. She waved back at him, trying to get him to notice the ongoing battle.

'What the hell is she wavin' for?' thought Sabretooth, getting more than a little annoyed by the whole situation. He saw her pointing at the melee across the compound. He acknowledged, and signaled for her to head on in his way anyway. The wind picked up again, and blew some more dust between them, and Clarice used the opportunity to blink a portal to Creed.

He grabbed her arm.

"Are ya crazy, girl? Last thing I wanna do is ta attract more attention than we already got!"

"B-but WildChild!" she stammered, "He's in the middle of that mess!"

"Great." Creed set his jaw and thought for a moment. His thought was interrupted by an unconscious guard becoming conscious again. Another thump took care of that. He pulled Clarice into the room he had just secured, and stuffed the unconscious Marine into a closet. Looking around the room, he couldn't find one damn thing that looked like a weapon. Just paperwork. Lots of files of paperwork. Clarice found a couple of large, upright cases, one with a bright, lighted picture and big square buttons. The other had a large glass panel with various food-stuffs displayed behind. It had a lot of little metal push-buttons. And food sure looked good right now. Another nondescript white case stood upright in the corner, a bit smaller than the others. She pulled the handle, and the whole front of the case opened and smacked her with a burst of cold air.

"Oh! Mr. Creed! There's food and water in here!" He looked up from his search for weaponry and looked at Clarice.

"We're s'posed ta be tryin' ta get our butts outta here in one piece and yer lookin' at food?" He picked up the rifle the lone guard had been holding, and, after deciding it was all there was to be had, took a couple of strides over to the source of Blink's amazement. Creed looked and smiled.

"Now that sure is a pretty sight. I ain't seen one o' these babies in ages." He was looking square at the food vending machine. "Pity I gotta do this." He punched right through the display case and tossed a fistful of baggies and brightly packaged goodies to Blink. She stuffed the lot of them into her spike-quiver. Creed stopped at a Baby Ruth, and with a grin, bit it in half, wrapper and all.

"C'mon," he mumbled, spitting the wrapper out, "Let's go get the kid 'n' git outta here!"

As they got across the room to open the door, someone had noticed that the guard was missing, and came to investigate. As he called for back-up, he opened the door, and was met with a fist and candy wrapper to the face.

"We gotta book now. There's gettin' ta be a few too many of these guys. Blink, git yer butt over to Kyle and help 'im out while I dissuade a these idiots." And with a spray of gunfire, Creed quickly learned that the military didn't trust recruits all that much with a lot of ammo. But the rifle made a real good club for a couple of thick jar-heads. And when that broke, well, he resorted to a good old-fashioned roundhouse.

Clarice popped over to WildChild, who was really beginning to drag butt about now. He looked up to see Blink taking out a few of the men with the butt of her rifle, as she was still a little reluctant to use the business end. Kyle dug into the next guy with renewed enthusiasm, and it wasn't long before Sabretooth joined the fray to toss a few more men out of commission. He saw Blink beating one guy over the head with the rifle. Disgusted, Sabretooth took the gun away from her.

"That ain't no way ta treat a fine piece o' weaponry." He shot a few rounds off into the edges of the melee, then, spinning the rifle around, promptly hit a home-run with some guys' head, breaking off the butt of the rifle and knocking the guy out.

"That's how it's done!" He finished up by tackling the guys piled up on top of WildChild, knocking them off of Kyle and out of the fight. Blink stayed with spatially displacing several men at once, effectively taking them out of the battle for good. Soon, all that was left was Kyle and a thoroughly chewed-up boot. Sabretooth and Blink laughed a little, and dragged his tired little butt up off the ground.

"Here." Clarice handed him something in a bright pretty wrapper. "Try one of these. It'll probably taste better." Kyle sniffed it a bit, and tore the wrapper to shreds to get at the sweet smell inside.

"Uh oh," muttered Creed. "Looks like we're gonna have company real quick if'n we don't move our butts outta here." The three scampered towards the smell of water, and up and over a thin, chain-link fence with a humorous attempt at barb-wire on the top.

"Who did they think they were gonna keep out with that stuff?" Blink asked.

"Not us, kid. Definitely not us."

Creed was very surprised at what he saw ahead of him. If fact, they were all stopped in their tracks by ... Traffic. There was a huge road in front of them, and it was full of cars, trucks, and most any kind of vehicle they could think of. Little ones, mostly. Small passenger vehicles, full of living, breathing people, all rushing to go one way or the other.

"I don't freakin' believe it!" Clarice had to cover her ears from the noise of all the cars rushing by, honking and yelling at her and at each other. Kyle hated it. The smell of fumes from the traffic did nothing to settle that sweet, sticky-gooey thing he swallowed whole. If anything, he felt a little nauseous by it all. And Victor Creed just stood and stared. For the moment. Then he shook his head.

"Okay, we just gotta grab one o' these cars and git outta here. C'mon, Lessee who stops first." He scanned the oncoming traffic over, and picked out a little red sports car for his target. He crouched and waited for it to get right where he wanted it, then he pounced. Right onto the hood of the car. He growled and reached over the windshield to grab the driver. He threw the driver out of the car, and tried to stuff himself into the driver's seat. That's when he realized he'd made a seriously bad choice.

Kyle and Clarice stood by and waited for Sabretooth to make his move. As he was procuring the getaway car, both Blink and WildChild started running out into the traffic to catch up to him. That's when everything started to go very wrong. As cars swerved to avoid hitting the two, they ran off the road, some onto the median, and some into each other, creating an instant gridlock and slowing traffic in both North- and South-bound lanes. The rubber-neckers slowing down to watch the event didn't help at all.

Sabretooth ended up stuck in the little red sports car until it hit the car in front of him, jolting him loose from the teeny prison. Angrily, he ripped the door off of the hinges, and ran ahead to toss the driver out of the car he just hit. It was quite a bit bigger, or, at least it LOOKED bigger on the outside. He sat down in the seat and crooked his neck. And the dashboard was covered in more of those stupid LEDs and digital blinking things. Not to mention the car was "pinging" at him and telling him his door was ajar.

Kyle and Clarice saw Sabretooth abandon one car for another, and they adjusted their course appropriately. But then he tore his way out of the second car, yelling and shouting in anger. They continued to hop-scotch their way through the traffic, trying to catch up to him. Blink heard more noises from behind. As she looked back, she saw some of the Marines had regrouped and were now starting their way into the sea of oncoming traffic.

"Mister Creed! We got company!" she shouted above the noise. He looked back at his two companions.

"Damn!" He looked across the sea of cars, looking for just the one he wanted. Something recognizable as a car, not these high-tech roller skates. Off in the distance in the opposing lanes, traffic was slowing down a bit as well to get a look at the show. Way up ahead, and far enough from the Marines that were closing in, he saw what he was looking for.

"Oh yeah, Baby! Come to Papa!" And he ran for it.



Gramen was pretty stoked. It was a clear sunny day and the traffic on the San Diego freeway was moving along at a pretty good clip without any gridlock in sight. Plus, Amber had let him borrow her vintage '66 Mustang convertible. Add the excellent sound system, and hey, life couldn't be any better. He was heading back down to San Diego after a day at Magic Mountain, and he was feeling pretty cool about a coupla girls he picked up while he was there. He'd even managed to get their phone numbers before they all took off for home. Yeah, it was a pretty good day. But then, he knew it couldn't last. He'd already beat most of the Going-Home traffic up around the L.A. area and up around by the Orange Curtain, but now the traffic was starting to slow down and gridlock.

"What the hell?" he thought, "Probably an accident, and all the rubber-neckers are checkin' it out," he craned his neck up to see if he could catch sight of whatever was causing all of the trouble.

"What the ... nothing ever happens up around here!" he mumbled to himself. It was true. He was just coming into the long stretch of nothing that was Camp Pendelton. Lots of dust, and once in a while, traffic would be shut down due to dust storms, but it didn't look that bad. The dust was up, but it looked like the Marines had been playing war games again.

'Maybe they blew up a car,' Gramen thought. He always thought it was pretty stupid to put a military base in the middle of a freeway. Now he was in gridlock. Bumper to bumper traffic for as far as the eyes could see, which wasn't very far, since the Marines were really kicking up the dirt and dust now.

"Sh*t!" he swore. Gramen decided this would be a good place to try and put up the top, since he wasn't going anywhere soon anyway. He put the car in park and started to get out. As he did so, several of the other drivers sent their rather rude and explicit greetings, and Gramen graciously returned them. As he started messing with the canopy release thingy. "How the hell does she do this?" He saw some of the commotion out of the corner of his eye. "I'll bet there's gotta be some kind of button that does this," he muttered as he climbed back into the car, graciously offering other drivers greetings of their own. Gramen had his head down under the dash, looking at all of the wires, buttons, switches and gadgets that Amber kept installing (for one thing or another), and so he never saw what happened next.

Something (one?) very big landed on top of him, nearly squashing him in two. And he felt the thumps of two others landing in the car as well. 'Sh*t! I'm being car-jacked! Amber's gonna kill me if anything happens to her car!'

"Now this is a car I can drive!" the would-be car-jacker said out loud.

"But what about the poor guy you're sitting on?" said his girlfriend. Something in the back seat growled. 'Great,' thought Gramen. 'They brought their dog, too. I'm dead meat if it sheds.'

The car-jacker stood up, (sort of) and grabbed Gramen and dragged him out from under him. Gramen freaked. This guy was huge! And his girlfriend was a babe! And the dog in the backseat wasn't a dog! "Wait a minute..." Gramen was going to say something about the guy (?) in the backseat, when he suddenly realized that 1) they were about to take Amber's car, 2) that they really didn't look like they were car-jackers, and 3) there were more than a few really P.O.'d Marines trying to make their way through the traffic, and heading in his direction. Gramen decided to do the logical thing.

"You guys can't take this car!" he cried.

The Big Guy looked at him.

"Why the hell not?" He reached over to toss Gramen out. Gramen grabbed the steering wheel and held on for dear life.

"Because it's not my car! She'll kill me if anything happens to it! I can't let you take it!"

"What makes ya think I'm givin' ya a choice, boy? How's 'bout it if'n I just pop ya off now?"

"That'd be better than what Amber would do if she gets her hands on me!" Gramen was getting desperate.

"Look!" the Babe yelled. They all looked to where she was pointing. The Marines started to look like they were getting organized, and had started a car-by-car search. It would take them forever at this rate. Gramen had an idea.

"Hey, umm, Big Guy. If I get you out of this mess, will you let me keep the car?"

The Big Guy had the strangest look on his face. Gramen didn't know if he was going to laugh or feed him to the Wild Thing in the back seat.

'God, I hope he's paper-trained,' Gramen thought. After a minute, the Big Guy set Gramen back down on the seat.

"What's yer plan?"

Gramen quickly explained there was a top to the convertible, and also that they hadn't come to an off ramp yet. Because of the gridlock up ahead, a lot of cars were turning off the highway to either go another route or just head back north. He also mentioned the fact that he had no idea how to operate the top. The Big Guy reached under the dash (without looking) and flipped one of the myriad of switches, and the canvas top slowly emerged from its bed and unfolded over the top of the car. The Big Guy grinned to the Babe.

"I told you I could drive this one!"

The Babe was slouched down in the front seat, squashed up tight next to Gramen. Her eyes were wide at the sight of the roof coming down on top of them. The Wild Thing in the back seat had squashed himself onto the floor of the back seat, growling wild-eyed and clawing at the roof closing in.

"Umm, could you have him not tear up the car?" Gramen asked meekly.

"Clarice, git in the back and make sure Kyle don't tear anything up. And keep yer heads down in case them idiots start shootin' at us again." The Babe (Clarice?) crawled over Gramen and into the back seat, and crouched down next to the Wild Thing (Kyle?). Gramen was a little more worried.

"What do you mean 'shooting at you'? Man, did you start a fight with the Marines or something? That's some serious trouble! They better not mess up this car man, 'cause Amber will come down here and do some serious attitude adjusting of her own!"

The Big Guy laughed. "Sounds like I gotta meet this friend o' yers, kid. She sounds like she's into some serious kick-butt! Now, how do we get outta here?"

"Take the next exit, and head north into Orange County. Then you can wait this mess out up there, and I can get back down to San Diego."

"San Diego!" Both the Big Guy and the Babe-called-Clarice exclaimed. Clarice-Babe peeked over the front seat to check out the conversation. The Big Guy looked at Gramen.

"You mean we're in California?!?" He looked at Clarice-Babe "That was some portal!"

"Hey! Watch where you're going!" Gramen panicked as they narrowly missed the car in front of them. Big Guy swerved off the road and across a narrow median to get onto the turn off he had just missed.

"I though you said you could drive this thing," the Babe said.

"Shush, girl. I know what I'm doin'. 'sides, I don't remember you goin' to drivin' school." The Wild Kyle Thing was tossed about in the back seat and sounding like he definitely was NOT enjoying the ride. Gramen knew HE wasn't enjoying the ride much either.

As Gramen slowly came down off his adrenaline rush, Big Guy's driving got better. He even stopped for a few traffic lights.

"Uh, dude. You're going to attract attention if you keep running these lights, man."

"Lights? What lights?" the Big Guy said with a straight face. Gramen's blood pressure shot up again as his adrenaline rush came back. The Big Guy looked back and grinned.

"I'm just teasin' ya, kid. Yeah, I don't wanna be attractin' any attention right now." He let up on the gas and actually stopped for the next light. Three sighs of relief filled the car. As Gramen calmed down again, he began to assess his situation. They weren't wearing the standard fare of clothes for Native Californians or Tourists, and he even noted that the Babe was purple. And they were on the run from the military.

"So, you guys are mutants or what?" he asked.

"So what's it to ya?" Big Guy growled.

"Hey dude, don't bite my head off man, I'm just askin'." Gramen thought for a moment. "Man, where are you guys gonna hide dressed like that. I hope you got someplace to go. Jeez, Amber's gonna be pissed at me for sure if I don't get her car back to her before class starts tomorrow."

The Babe in the backseat spoke up.

"You mean this girl puts her car above her friends? I don't think she's someone I'd want to call a friend."

"Oh man, it's not like that, chica." Gramen was relaxing a little. "I mean, she treats her friends really good you know, but this car is her baby, know what I mean? She don't just let anybody drive it around. Especially up to L.A. and back. She just really trusts me you know, to take real good care of her stuff when I use it."

"But she'll kill you if something happens to this car?" the Babe asked.

"No man, it's WORSE than that. She can, like, really mess up your head really bad. I've seen gang-bangers run away screaming for their mothers when she messes with them. She don't take any shit from anybody."

The Babe looked at the Big Guy, and then back to Gramen. "Is she a telepath?"

"A what?"

"A telepath. A mutant. You know, someone who can read your mind or put thoughts in your head."

"No, not a telepath. She told me once, but I forgot what she called it. I think she's a mutant, but she doesn't want a lot of people to know that she can do this weird stuff. It's really bad for mutants back east, you know what I mean?"

"No, I don't know what ya mean, kid. Why don't ya tell me?" the Big Guy growled.

Gramen was quietly confused for a moment. He recovered and began to relate the trials and woes of the mutants of the world (or at least, of the Eastern Seaboard) as related to him by his very best friend and authority on the subject, Amber. He didn't know how many mutants he personally knew or called friend, because of the hostile environment. But California was still a haven for the weird of the world, and as long as they didn't stir up trouble, they were grudgingly accepted into society. He rattled on for about twenty or thirty miles before the Big Guy went nuts.

"Alright already!! Shut up, I get the idea! You mean there's no Apocalypse runnin' loose anymore? Magneto and the rest of the X-Men must've kicked his sorry butt clean off the face of the Earth! How long has it been?"

"Sorry dude. How long has what been?" Gramen was confused again.

Big Guy hit the brakes and pulled the car off to the side of the road. He looked his nervous passenger in the eye.

"How long has Apocalypse been gone?"

"D-dude, what Apocalypse? You don't mean the one at the end of the world, do you? 'Cause that's not happened yet. Trust me, I'd know if it did."

Everybody was looking at each other in complete confusion now, and a long silence ensued. Gramen took the initiative and introduced himself.

"Uhh, my name's Gramen. Hi."

The Babe responded for the rest of the crew. "I'm Blink, that's Sabretooth, and this is WildChild. He doesn't talk much," she said softly, not really wanting to give away too much, just in case this whole thing was an elaborate trap set up by Apocalypse and his Horsemen.

"D-dude, uh, Sabretooth," Gramen squeaked. He knew now he was in way over his head. "I don't know too much about the X-Men, but I know they're supposed to be some kinda group of mutant outlaws, like Robin Hood, you know? But Magneto, he's like the Sheriff of Nottingham. A seriously bad dude. Major bad karma. You don't wanna be messing around with him. He's supposed to be dead, but he's been dead a couple times before, and he just keeps coming back, meaner than before. The X-Men are the ones that usually stop him, but I think the government has some kind of anti-Magneto weapon, just in case. You know?"

Blink's mouth had fallen open, Kyle was even paying attention, and Sabretooth was in deep thought for a moment. Then he reached over and gently closed Blink's mouth, and started to speak.

"This girl you know, Amber. She tell you all this?"

"Uh, yeah. Most of it. Some I read in the papers. She went to school back East somewhere, but she had to leave because of some kind of problems between her and her teachers. She didn't say what it was though." Gramen was starting to ramble on again when Creed reached over and put his hand over Gramen's mouth, shutting him up. Then he got out of the car, reached in, and dragged Gramen over to the driver's seat.

"Okay kid, yer gonna take us to go see this girlfriend o' yers, since she's the one with all the answers. Now drive."

"She's not my girlfriend," Gramen mumbled as he started the car, and took off once again in the direction of San Diego.

"Hey," Blink said. "We can't go this way, they're still looking for us!" Sabretooth sat, looking straight ahead, thinking real hard about everything he'd seen and heard all day.

"Hey chica, if we don't go this way, we don't get any gas!" Gramen replied. "Don't worry, we'll get some gas, then we'll cruise around the long way."

"How long is the 'long way'," she asked.

"Uh, we'll probably get there tomorrow morning." he replied. "I'm a dead man," Gramen thought to himself. "I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead..."

to be continued...