1965-02-10 - Alpha & Omega Prelude: The Cold in the Dark
Summary: Cyclops leads a small team of X-men to investigate a mutant in distress in a small rural town in New England. Bad things emerge.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
julie negasonic hope scott-summers 

The town of Dunwich in Northern Masschussetts. Rural, isolated, self-contained. The town probably only has a dozen television sets and a few of the locals still get around with horse-drawn vehicles. Most of the people are related and, if they're not, the branches of their family trees are certainly close at the root.

One of them called for help. A call that reached the mutant underground and the contacts that the Institute keeps out in the community. A mutant in trouble. Or causing trouble. It isn't entirely clear. But Cerebro, at least, confirms the presence of a power in the area.

Cyclops took the tip and assembled his squad. He took whoever was available - since his return to the team, he needs to assess the capabilities of everyone he has on hand. Training exercises are all well and good, but there's no test like a trip out in the field. His only irritation is that there was noplace to land a plane, requiring him to actually load everyone up in one of the school vans. Not precisely ideal. He's parked at the outskirts of town, shortly after dusk. It's hard not to notice that the town is entirely dark, even this early at night. Not a light in a window. Not a gleam of neon or a street lamp shining. Just dark and cold, a thick layer of snow on the roofs, a rime of frost obscuring all the windows. The dull red gleam of Cyclops' visor provides the only immediate hint of illumination. "Squad up. Callsigns only. Take your time. Whatever we're looking for is towards the center of town. Watch your backs - and one another's."

Hope doesn't spend a lot of time at the Institute, but she does check in regularly. And when there's a chance of action, she's one of the first to show up and sign up for it. Her powers might not be particularly suited to combat on their own, but combat itself is nothing new to her. Which is no doubt why she didn't hesitate to gear up with as much firepower as she could take from the school, throwing an oversized coat over it all so as not to draw attention.

"Yes, sir," she nods to Cyclops as she steps out of the car, lifting the collar of the coat to shade her features.

Dizzy hops out, then, shifting a utility belt under a jacket she's added to the suit, possibly for more pockets, and gives a little salute, and whispers in her by-now-familiar New York Italian accent, asking Hope, "Err, what's your codename, by the way, or Hope what it is?" she winks.

Ellie Phimister curses.

She runs a hand over the buzzed-short fuzz of her black hair in frustration, her skin prickling with irritation, a gutteral exhalation of that overwhelming emotion roiling out of her throat. She's been really delving deeper into her occult research, lately, because her prophetic dreams drive her to distraction with ominous portents, arcane symbols, and all manner of dark visions. However, the most recent line of research she's been toiling over lands her in a dead-end as she loses the thread she'd been carefully following a book with pages ripped out. "FFFFFFFFFFFFFFffffffffffffffffffffffffUCK," she hisses sibilantly, finishing the word with a harsh popping k-sound. Throwing the book she's been reading across the room, where it slaps startlingly loudly against the wall, falling to the floor in a wilted manner, its pages curling in on itself in a fashion that would horrify those who worship the physical bodies of books, she collapses onto her bed like a discontent ragdoll. "FUCK," she barks, again, her eyes starting to glow in an unnatural light. Normally, Ellie's eyes are black and glittering with barely concealed contempt. When her temper gets the better part of her, hints of her mutant abilities can sometimes manifest themselves in a myriad of ways, depending on the level of her pique. Before she learned to control her powers, she caused a lot of damage… Loss of life, as well. Better left in the past, or so she tells herself whenever thoughts begin creeping on her.

So, when the call came from Scott, she shoved herself into her uniform—hers is practically all black, save for the tell-tale yellow around the Xes and a few detailing sections. Though she's joined the away team, she hasn't said one word to anyone, glowering darkly off into the distance. At least the mood of this little hamlet matches hers, which gives her a bit of that cold comfort she enjoys. Her face shows none of that, though. When the orders come down, she pulls up the hood of her uniform, a cowl that covers her head and leaves only the ghostly white of her face, with her black lips and sparkling black eyes visible in the half-light. She begins walking quietly, keeping a readiness about her person that is shown in her alert stance. She doesn't seem scared, nor does she attempt to follow anyone in the darkness…she seems fine on her own.

Scott Summers nods tersely, "Stay together. No need for anyone to go wandering off on their own. If we need to split up, I'll tell you so," he says.

Scott takes point and starts to lead the team into the darkened town, the wide expanse of the aptly named Main Street stretching to either side. Local businesses seem small and locally owned - no chains or major names to be found here. A library, a boutique, a barber. Again, the frosted windows and the darkened interiors. But it's the alleys that probably seem the worst. Whatever light the half-moon casts, it seems to be swallowed in the alleys, utterly obliterated, an abyssal and eerie absence separating each building, like shadows cast by a pair of blinds.

A man seems to be sitting in the street, squatting down. He's drawing with chalk, scribbling at the asphalt in a seemingly frantic manner. His pate is bald and he seems older, from the greying tinge that remains at the back of his scalp.

Cyclops holds up a hand, indicating the team should stop. "Sir? Is everything all right?" he calls.

The townsman turns and reveals eyes that seem swallowed by the same darkness that fills the alleys, tendrils of it spilling down his cheeks as his mouth opens in a rictus of a grin…and more darkness starts to pour out of his maw.

"It's just Hope," the redhead answers Julie in a low tone, though she casts a sidelong glance toward Scott when she says it, shrugging slightly. "Never had a real one, but made it through plenty of fights just fine." She falls silent as the order to move out it given, taking a position slightly to the outside of Julie, opposite from Ellie, where she can close in at need. Her steps are careful and quiet, and for all she sees the shadows, she doesn't seem to be worried about them.

The man who turns, on the other hand, is another matter. "Uh, that's not…I don't think that's…" She starts to close ranks, hand at her hip.

Julie was, on the other hand, likely fairly talkative on the ride, especially if Scott asked anything about what the Pontiac wagon they came in *is* or how she did certain modifications, despite them being a custom order in the first place. Not a lot of flash to these, but a lot of speed equipment, visibly a number of extra gauges, …of interest to Negasonic if anything may have been the one hand-labeled 'Irony' whatever it actually does. She stops to peer through contrast-yellow eyeshields that look suspiciously like she uses in the machine shop, trying to catch a glance at what the fellow may be trying to scribble before one eye goes… "Guess not," she murmurs. "Heads up," she says to the others, and she hrms, pulling from her belt a weighted loop of thin cable… She mentally starts feeling around at the controls of the nearest convenient vehicle. Perhaps their own, which she knows well. Also was sure to put a rotary switch on the headlights…which she flips on. Cause dark…

Vehicles, their various gauges, and other ephemera…are of absolutely zero interest to Negasonic Teenage Warhead, in most instances. They are, on most occasions, only a means to get from point A to point B, and not much else. It takes something special to attract her attention, when it comes to such things. But, nothing of that nature is present at the moment, so Negasonic's attention is honed in on her orders, and maintaining her silent vigilence and attention to her surroundings.

When a halt is taken, she takes special care to get as good a look at the chalk scribblings the man Cyclops addresses is working on, there on the ground. She moves a fraction closer, but in as surreptitious a manner as possible, using the moment that Scott speaks to the man to cover the sound of her shuffling closer, keeping her eyes snapping back and forth from the bedraggled man to his scrawlings, seeing what she can glean from them, if anything.

Negasonic can see the chalk outlines vaguely - the central motif seems to be a Greek Omega symbol, surrounded by arcane and archaic scribbles that border on the incomprehensible, as if the shaking hand drawing them couldn't quite complete the parabolas and angles involved in their creation.

The darkness continues to spill out of the man, tendrils of it licking in tentacular fashion down his chest, his abdomen heaving and writhing as if something inside him were crawling its way out, a shudder running through his frame as the hollowed out shape of the man starts to rip at the edges, his mouth opening impossibly wide to accomodate the negative space emptying itself from his insides.

Then Dizzy hits the lights and it recoils, bursting the man's skin a half dozen rather than a singular entity erupt, skittering into those alleys and shadows and leaving the fleshy husk of its host in bloody tatters along the central pathway of main street.

Cyclops' expression barely flickers from its usual grim countenance, but even his voice seems a bit shaken as he speaks. "Dizzy, keep those lights on and drive the car behind us. Negasonic, Hope, let's try and keep in the path of the lights," he says. He reaches into his pocket and draws out a small device, glancing at the glassy, primitive LED display. "The mutant signature's about five hundred yards ahead. We keep going."

"Yes, sir," Hope nods to Scott, stepping a little further into the path of the headlights. Light is good here. Very good. As he gives her a number, she takes stock of the town for the next five hundred yards, marking the darker alleys, the windows, angles of attack and safe havens along the way. Her other senses reach out as well, waiting for the feel of a power she doesn't yet recognize.

Julie seems about ready to cry out *something* about the fellow spewing shadow creatures and tearing in half, but after a pause, says, "Got it." She forgoes the usual two-fingered whistle for show, makes a cranking motion to pop the Pontiac's parking brake, and rolls the vehicle up behind them. The car dutifully comes out and follows along, the only sound being a quiet VRRR sound coming from Dizzy's powers ….somewhere. As it catches up, she opens a door to step on the floor-switch for the high-beams, too. For now, walking alongside.

Negasonic doesn't seem phased by the horrific show. Truly, her prophetic dreams are at least this gruesome on a regular basis, and often worse. She is, however, careful to keep herself out of the shadowy tentacles' reach as Dizzy hits the lights and sends the creature scurrying. She takes a dedicated moment to commit to memory the symbols she sees, trying to make a mental photograph of it—she is so focused, in fact, on that task that she almost misses what Cyclops says, but his saying her codename brings her back to the present.

To his order, she gives a brisk nod, her boot crunching in the gravel all-too-closely to the gory remains of the poor dead man, his chalk lying fallen on the ground next to his limp hand—one of the few bits of him that remains intact. Negasonic's eyes and sharp and alert, searching for any hint of movement on the outer edges of the light shining behind her. She takes care not to look into the light, lest she lose what little nightvision she does have.

From the darkness, there comes chaos.

They start here and there, small assaults. They take different forms - feral cats, spiders the size of dinner plates, yellow-eyed wolves carved out of shadowstuff. They leap into the light, sizzling and slashing, trying to take pieces out of the heroes as they make their way inside. They only last for about twenty seconds in the light before those high beams pick them apart, but their teeth are sharp and their claws are wicked.

Scott picks those off that he can, relying on his team to handle themselves along the way, his crimson light bursting from his visor and obliterating those that cross his strikes.

Hope can begin to sense two power signatures ahead. One is more open to her, conventional. The other is closed off and mysterious, present but protected from her ability to scan it properly. But there's something strange to it, something that feels almost…familiar to her nonetheless.

At the center of town, there appears to be a raised platform, like a gallows, the light illuminating it but leaving the top mostly crowded in that unpierced shadow. "Keep your cool, keep moving. Get behind me if you can't defend yourself." he says.

The silence of the night is interrupted with the sharp pop of gunfire as Hope targets the creatures when they launch at her out of the shadows. She's steady despite the strangeness of it all, brows furrowing as she gets the first sense of the powers ahead of them, trying to figure out what she's dealing with. By the time they're approaching the platform, she's changing out her magazine, motions smooth and practiced without even looking at the weapon in her hand. "There's two," she says quietly. "Something off about one of them."

Julie starts whirling her weighted cable, lazily, this being a lighter one with slender valve-bearings welded the ends of each section: home-built bolas. "Just one of em?" she quips, "Whole place seems a little off to me, sorry to notice, and all." She'll fling that at any little monster that decides to rush in the moment or two Hope's reloading.

This is exactly the kind of outlet that Negasonic needs, right now. Not that she's stoked that a man died from this situation, but…she definitely is enjoying herself as she begins unleashing her blasts at the sudden influx of creepy crawlies. Though it may well be lost to the darkness of the night and the backlit nature of her body, but upon her pretty, severe face, a rare thing occursa smile, a genuine smile of delight curls her small mouth, her prominent canines making an appearance. Given permission to light 'em up by her leader, Negasonic's body becomes wreathed in an aura of magnificent, crackling lightthe outline of the barrier that surrounds her body stays lit in an eletric fashion, swirling and flickering, shifting colors, while the rest is seemingly transparent.

Her blasts begin popping off from her, zooming out like crackling balls of energy, exploding as they make contact with the creatures that pour out of the darkness. Her blasts are large and often take out two or three constructs at a time, sometimes more, their bodies breaking apart like shattered glass that goes up in flickers of black smoke. She keeps to her side, not wanting to confuse matters, and keeps moving forward, pushing the tide back with her seemingly inexhaustible blasts. Though it might seem as though she's only capable of shooting off large blasts, she pulls off a few clutch shots of very thin, precise blasts that explode a creature construct that threatens to sneak past the line of offense.

Scott Summers nods in approval at Negasonic's blasting, moreso the small blasts than the large. While he's only recently taken a hand in her training, she's already showing greater control of her abilities. That she's stubborn as a mule and twice as likely to kick only makes it a greater achievement.

Cyclops nods at Hope's intelligence, moving them closer, focusing on keeping Dizzy protected as she has the least immediate offense - and her control of the car is providing them with the best shielding in the light.

The platfoirm eventually reveals a makeshift gibbet, a young man strung up and dangling, bound at the wrists. The same symbols written in the chalk are smeared across his chest, although the glistening, darkened brown-red texture indicates that he's marked in blood rather than chalk. His head hangs slack against his chest. The darkness spills out of his mouth and his eyes, going into the world around, liquid and alive and unholy.

Next to him, there is another figure, shrouded in thick robes. His head appears to have some sort of turban or headress, cloth wrapped around his features. His eyes gleam like jewels as he turns a baleful glare upon the X-men.

"Always they come," the robed man says, his voice deep and resonant. "Did I hear correctly? Is one of you named…Hope? How amusing. How quaint."

Cyclops move forward and calls out, "Free that man and identify yourself!"

The robed man places a hand on the chest of the pinned mutant and the darkness behind them seems to rise, a tidal wave of abyssal shadow building and hovering over the scene, rising to start to blot out the moon and stars. "My name doesn't matter. I am but a servant. And I already have what I came for…"

"Not the first time that's been pointed out," Hope snorts softly, leveling her aim on the shrouded figure. "Sir. We're close enough," she says to Cyclops without looking away from the pair of figures. "Say the word, I can try to get a handle on whatever's causing this darkness, fight fire with fire."

Julie reaches into a pouch, then, and pulls from a pouch, a little buzzsaw blade. While she's got some idea what Cyclops can do, she hrms, as …more shadows pour out of whoever the poor kid is, she flings the little circular blade with a Vrrr of increasing speed and… gyrostabilization. This one, she's been practicing at school, ….she aims for wherever the rope holding the hapless victim is attached to the gallows.

It's a sign of Hope's impeccable teamwork-based ethics that she asks for permission to take the shot. It, perhaps, shows a hint of impetuousness in Ellie, then, when she doesn't. Doesn't ask. Doesn't wait to be given permission. She simply takes the shot. The reason they came to this town was for the mutant with whom this creep bag was attempting to abscond. Plus, she doesn't like people who take themselves too seriously. Pompous asses are begging to be kicked, in her opinion.

So, as the darkness is rising, Negasonic whips a focused blast at the hooded figure's head and midsection, trying her best to keep her offense centered on the seeming puppeteer. Though it's unnecessary, in a moment of crucial timing like this, she falls back on physical foci she's used in the past, while practicing on narrowing her blasts—she squints one eye and gestures a fingergun in the robed figure's direction, aiming for his face. "Bang," she says, the blast exploding from her focused fingergun.

"Take him," Cyclops nods to Hope. She can access the powers of the young man, at least, and, indeed, he does seem to be the source of the darkness. If she takes the power into herself, she'll have to work to impose her will on the darkness and seize control of it for herself. Perhaps most disturbing might be that the darkness seems to have a cruel and alien mind of its own with which she must contend.

Dizzy's blade strikes true, severing first one and then the other binding keeping the young mutant tied up. The hooded figure would intervene if only he didn't suffer from two blasts at once, one from Negasonic, obliterating the right side of him, and another from Cyclops, taking him on the left. The result is catastrophic and perhaps surprising as his arms seem to literally distintegrate, bursting with a loud and inhuman clatter and spraying rubble in every direction.

Yes, rubble. For in the glow of those blasts, it can be seen that he's made not of flesh but of stone, those gleaming eyes jewels set in a bearded face, a living statue whose face breaks into a snarl of pain and rage.

"FOOLS! YOU CANNOT STOP THE INEVITABLE! THE RISING COMES! THE OMEGAN STRAIN! AKKABA! AKKABA!" he screams, even as the earth around the group starts to shake and split as his jeweled eyes begin to glow.

Gun unwavering, Hope simply reaches out with her mind to access the power that controls that darkness, her own eyes blacking out as she falls under the wave of it at first. "Damn," she murmurs, drawing a deep breath as she wrestles with it until she has enough of a grasp on the power to push the darkness away from the X-Men, widening the circle around them beyond the headlights of the car. That name? That name is bad news. She'll get there later, though.

Julie grumbles, there, murmuring "Who talks like that?" It trails off into something in Italian as she whips her hand in a tight circle behind her, and the big engine in the Tempeest wagon roars alive, with a brightening of the lights, and she reaches under a seat for… Road flares. and she says, as there's a VRR, and caps on them start twisting and grinding, "Gonna see about our boy, there, watch yer eyesight!" Then she's running around toward the gallows where, perhaps Hope's helped keep the shadow-figures away from, anyway. The flares may at least cover the retreat, or… "Just hope he don't just bust open or something," she mutters, as she runs, watching the cracking ground warily for severity.

Negasonic doesn't stop, now. When she notices that this robed figure is made from stone and insists on screaming gibberish when he's clearly been bested, she continues to pepper him with blasts, keeping to her fingergun foci for the time being. It helps her concentrate, even if she doesn't need it. She leaves the retrieval of the unconscious mutant to her teammates, figuring they're probably better suited to the task. She keeps her focus on the crumbling old fart who keeps screaming doom and gloom at them, trying to make sure that the darting Dizzy will be safe from his earth-trembling powers. Though her eyes are trained on the robed rock-man, she has certainly taken note of the way the ground is quaking as his jewel-eyes start to glow. If she can keep him preoccupied with trying to keep his body from flying apart, maybe he'll turn tail and flee from this losing battle.

Cyclops, too, continues to unleash his power on the man of stone, his screams of rage drowned out as he and Negasonic start to obliterate him into powder. It might seem a harsh punishment, but he's still standing for a few moments, his mouth open as cracks form in his body, shuddering until he finally blows apart in a massive, cascading blast of rubble and stone. The earth beneath the gallows splits open, throwing the heroes a bit and making it hard to keep their feet as if the ground itself were trying to swallow them up.

Dizzy will find the young man at the base of the gibbet, unconscious but breathing, his body matted with sweat, feverish. He's been cut, wounds bleeding along his sides and back. Hope's application of will allows her to dissipate the darkness, freeing the town of the shadows of the Darkforce which have infested every nook and cranny of this poor, rural hamlet.

The rubble into which the robed figure has broken gathers in a cloud, a swirling vortex of dust and grit that spills down into that crevasse and vanishes into the earth itself, leaving only wreckage and suffering in its wake.

But, for the moment, at least, silence falls. And the danger has passed.

Hope lets out a breath as the darkness dissipates, eager to let it go at the first opportunity. "That is not a fun power," she notes, rubbing her hands together as if trying to wipe something off of them. "And that guy is bad news." She looks back over her shoulder in the direction of the first man they saw, trying to place the scribbles. "Was that an omega in the center of that circle?" she asks, looking around the party.

Julie just… keeps running along, the faster, the more the ground splits and shakes, ducking at the explosion of stony-bad-guyness, but gyroscopic balance and certain physical training get her to where she can get onto the gallows, and, not seeing more shadow-creatures or such pouring out of the fellow, approaches, squinting in the light of those flares, then finally tossing them to clear pavement beyond, so she can say, "Awright, buddy, been a bad day in Sticksville, here, but we're getting you out of here." Her fireman's carry rescue seems, however, less urgent as the baddy disintegrates and the ground, well, stops coming apart and shaking so much. She takes a more gentle pace, then, glancing up to eye the Pontiac's slightly-tilted position. "Talk about yer parking jobs." She reaches out to roll that car back to solid ground as she picks her way to the others, and says, just a bit winded, "Medical kit's in back on the left," she says. "Yeah, think that was an omega, maybe both times, even."

Though she's made a good showing for herself throughout this entire ordeal, Negasonic is caught offguard with the enormity of the shockwave from the robed figure's exploding form. She stumbles and falls backwards, a hail of rubble now peppering her momentarily supine form, her forearm lifting to shield her eyes from the shower of stone fragments. She acquires a couple of minor lacerations to her face, but nothing that's more than a nuisance, though they do bleed a little.

She gets on her feet and dusts herself off, her cowl having fallen back to reveal her black, close-buzzed hair, with its sharp widow's peak. "What a prick," she comments to no one in particular. Then, to Hope's question, she nods, "Gonna research the rest." This probably seems shockingly verbose for Ellie, considering how little she speaks. However, as soon as she started, she's stopped and is already heading for the vehicle. The mutant's secured in Dizzy's grasp and that means it's time to go. She rolls her shoulders a bit to release any last tension that might be there as she goes.

Scott Summers nods, "We've got a camera in the car. Hope, get some pictures of those symbols before we go. Dizzy, see about getting that kid patched up and packed up. He's coming back with us, for debriefing at the very least," he says.

"Negasonic, you and I are going to do a quick round of the perimeter, make sure there's nothing else lurking and no one else in need of rescue. Quick and clean as we extract, meet at the vehicle in ten."

He turns around and unleashes one more massive optic blast, turning the remains of the gallows into kindling. "Good work, team."

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