"Glow! Whirlwind! You have to come see this!" Badlands shouted at the top of his lungs. He'd arrived with his team leader and her belongings back at their New York headquarters a mere six minutes after he'd grabbed her at the Westchester school. He'd been watching TV to rest as Glow debriefed the other two. He didn't need to hear Glow's report over again, as he'd been there when it happened. Badlands hadn't waited for the time limit his commander had imposed on him to be up before going in after their leader. It was a damned good thing he had too. The X-Men would have been on her before Mez could teleport her out, and this way they were able to recover her belongings, including the precious disks.
The blonde man was horribly loyal to Glow; it was she that kept him sane enough inside the labs until The Mezmerizer's coming. When he'd met that little woman, so outwardly fragile, so inwardly strong he knew he'd met his salvation. The Mezmerizer had allowed them the final key to escaping that horrid place. Her telepathic communication between the prisoners enabled them to plot without being discovered. Afterward, she'd done him the great honor of becoming his wife.
He heard the footsteps of the others enter the little living room of the apartment they were using as a temporary headquarters.
"What is it?" The Mezmerizer asked, sitting down next to her husband.
He motioned to the television were a newscast had interrupted his program. Glow and Whirlwind stood behind them on the couch.
Whirlwind sucked in her breath. "My God..."
"The government has completely sealed off the area and is not allowing anyone through their barricades. Nevertheless we shall continue to broadcast for as long as they allow us," the on-site reporter was saying. "About an hour ago the mutant known to the world as Magneto escaped from his plastic prison. Several guards were hurt during the escape, but fortunately no one was killed. No leads are currently available as to the mutant's whereabouts. People are encouraged to remain at home in this area until the scene can be completely secured."
Badlands clicked off the television. "That was the second repeat of that broadcast. My guess is that the government shut off their cameras and this is all the station had to show."
"Whirlwind..." Glow started.
"On it." The woman with the shaggy brown hair slid into a seat in front of a laptop computer. She logged on and started a furious search. "We can assume that he's had outside help. There was no way he could have gotten out of there on his own. There! I'm into the prison's bandwidth and I've got a direct link to their communications systems. They don't know I'm here."
"What's going on there?" Glow asked, worried.
"The place was torn apart," Whirlwind reported. "From the outside in, giant holes have been rendered through the whole building until it reached the center where Magneto was being held. Then -and this is the weird part- the hole in his cage actually comes from the inside out."
"It's like some giant fist punched holes through everything," Mezmerizer said, looking at the security camera's pictures. "He had to have had outside help, some of the holes are through materials that his power would have no effect on, and nothing was hurled through the walls to make those holes."
"You're right. Look there-what's that?" Badlands pointed to a stilled image of the inside of Magneto's cell.
"Some sort of distortion... hang on." Whirlwind clicked on the image and started running it through several enlargements and filters to clarify the picture.
"There we go; it's the best I can do," she said as the new picture slowly downloaded onto the screen. "He's wearing something, or producing some sort of field around himself that shields him from normal cameras. The only reason we picked this up could be due to a mechanical or other sort of failure for a second or two in whatever's making him invisible to everyone else. No one's noticed this picture yet. I don't know if I should discreetly bring it to their attention or not."
The enlarged image showed a man bending to pick up Magneto. He was dressed in a white and green costume with some sort of strange wide belt around his waist. He was tall, possibly near or past Glow's own height of six feet, broad shouldered, and well muscled. His face spoke of age though, this man was well wrinkled around his the corners of his mouth and eyes. He was tanned, and amazingly had the same orange-red hair as Glow.
A soft moan escaped the lips of Future Tech Team's leader and she sank to her knees.
"Glow? What's wrong?" Whirlwind looked at her with worry.
"Is there no end to the hell I have to endure this day?" Glow moaned, hugging herself.
"Why? What? You know him?" Badlands asked.
"That's my brother Russell. He's been missing for years," she told them.
"Oh, hell," was all Whirlwind could say.
A man dressed in a white bodysuit with green trim hovered in the air to get his bearings for a moment inside a glowing blue bubble-like shield of his own devising. Next to him, in another shield floated the man named Eric Lecher, otherwise known as Magneto.
"So tell me young man, just what do you intend to do with me now?" Magneto asked him, sounding for the entire world as if he was enjoying himself.
"I'm taking you back to the woman who was hired to recover you," he answered. "After which your well-being is of no concern to me."
"And who might this mysterious woman be? And who hired her?" Magneto pressed.
"Her name is DreamWeb. And if I were you, I'd kill her before you even think about saying hello. She is dangerous to mutant and human alike," the man in white and green cautioned as he flew ever closer to the drop off point DreamWeb had told him about. "And I don't know who hired her. All I know is that I want to be rid of this as soon as possible."
"Then you aren't willingly in her employ?" Magneto sounded interested.
"Sir, no one is willingly in her employ."
The X-Men stood around the TV in the rec room with stunned expressions on their faces. They watched the newsreel footage of Magneto's escape, horrified. The press knew little more than when the story first broke. However, as soon as Xavier had seen the original story Scott fetched him to see, he put Jean and Storm on monitoring duty. The two women were even now, following the story from different angles. Storm was performing an Internet search, not unlike the one Whirlwind had done. Jean, however, was using Cerebro. Ever since her first attempt to use Cerebro to locate Rogue six months ago had proved successful, Xavier had been training her to use it. Apparently the stress of the situation during her first use of the telepathic enhancer had finished unlocking her powers, bringing Jean's capabilities close to Xavier's own.
"This can't be a coincidence," Scott was saying. "Magneto's escape so close on the heels of Glow's appearance and subsequent disappearance."
"She had no reason to help him escape. She thanked us for stopping him in the first place." Wolverine couldn't explain the perverse need to defend her.
"But she might be hoping that he'll take them straight to DeLeon," Scott reasoned. "That man, the one whose powers we don't know about could have done that kind of damage to get in and get Magneto."
Storm walked back in with a printout in her hand. "Take a look at what I found."
She handed it to Xavier and he studied the picture she'd given him. "Well, whoever this is, it is most certainly not one of Glow's people. Although it is funny how alike they seem in their hair and facial features."
"And I suppose you're going to tell us that that's her father?" Wolverine snorted, wondering why he was defending her again-she had betrayed him after all.
"No, too young I think, to be her father," Xavier said speculatively as he gazed at the picture. "Well, we know his aid in the escape. Now we can do some serious looking for him. I'm going to join Jean in Cerebro."
No one followed him as he left for the lower levels of the building.
"I suppose this means that we should suit up," Wolverine said. "We have to bring Magneto back. He can't just be allowed to run around free."
"I'm in agreement with you on that last bit," Cyclops said. "But I'm not so sure that you should come along. Your emotions are too tied up in this right now."
"They were last time. Didn't stop me then." Wolverine walked up till he was a bare inch away from the other man's face. "As a matter of fact, I saved your bacon, Cyke. It must burn you up inside that a man like me saved your life."
He strode from the room, also headed for the secret lower levels. Storm looked at Cyclops for a moment, turned on her heel, and followed the older man out.
Xavier and Jean were exiting Cerebro together when Storm, Cyclops, and Wolverine came striding up to them, fully suited. Xavier looked grave. Jean looked tired. Cyclops went to her side and put his arm around her.
"We found them. I was able to glean enough from the rescuer's mind to discover his identity and their destination," Jean said.
"Who is he? Another member of the Brotherhood of Mutants?" Storm guessed.
"No," Jean's voice cracked.
"His name is Russell McLain, he calls himself Shield," Xavier explained. "Apparently, he's Glow's brother."
Wolverine paled. Cyclops looked slightly triumphant.
"Are you sure?" Storm asked.
"Positive. On the other hand, there was nothing to suggest that Shield has even been in contact with his sister for a long time," Xavier added.
Wolverine relaxed his clenched fists, but not his stance. "Where's Shield taking Magneto?"
"Atlantic City, New Jersey," Xavier told them.
"Jersey? Great, bring nose plugs." Wolverine turned and went in the direction of the Blackbird's hanger.
The Tech Team sat huddled around Mezmerizer as she sat in the lotus position on the carpet, her hands pressed to the sides of her temples. She'd been casting her mind outward since Glow's revelation that the man who freed Magneto was her brother. They weren't going to interfere in the case more than to notify the proper authorities to the helper's identity, but that was before it got personal. There was no other option. Glow hadn't seen her brother since she was twelve, but she still knew him on sight- no matter how aged he was. She had to find out what was going on, and why he was in league with Magneto.
"I got him!" The Mezmerizer let her hands collapse into her lap. She straightened out and stood up with the help of her husband.
"Russell?" Glow asked hopefully.
"Surprisingly, no. I couldn't read him at all. In fact, I picked up Magneto. But if they are still traveling together..." she began.
"Then we'll find him," Glow finished.
"Where are they?" Whirlwind asked.
"Headed towards the Tropical Forest Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey."
"Ugh, Jersey?" Badlands wrinkled his nose. "Someone bring nose plugs."
On the roof of the Tropical Forest Casino a blonde woman stood, dressed in pink thigh-high boots, a pink leotard with a silver belt, pink shoulder-length gloves, and a silver choker around her neck. The boots, as well as the gloves had the emblem of a silver spider web on them. Next to her stood a Native American Indian man half a head taller then her. He had his long black hair pulled back into a ponytail and was dressed plainly, in jeans, boots, a pale blue shirt, and a white lab coat over that. To the woman's other side stood a man, 6'6" with long blonde hair. He was her client; the man who'd hired her to recover his employer, Magneto. Sabertooth was beginning to think that this was a bad idea. Mystique was in a position were she couldn't communicate with him for fear of blowing her cover and Toad? Well, he was still indisposed. Still, someone had to get Magneto out of there; it's just a shame that it meant dealing with this cold-hearted bitch.
"Are you sure he's close by?" the Native American asked.
"Yes, David - Checkmate. I'm quite sure." DreamWeb closed her eyes and tilted her head back for a moment. "As a matter of fact, he should be along in another five minutes or so." She lowered her head and opened her eyes. "I chose the right man for the job."
"I'm not so sure," Sabertooth growled. "It's obvious that someone helped Magneto escape, he caused too much damage to the prison. We're going to be twice as hunted now, since the escape was unfortunately publicized so much."
"He's right. The plan was to make it look as if Magneto got out all on his own," Checkmate agreed. "It was also part of the plan to get him to slip in and out unnoticed."
"I'm sure Shield will have a good reason for what he did," DreamWeb purred, a sound that seemed more dangerous than Sabertooth's growl. "If he doesn't, well, I just won't renew his contract."
Neither of the men had time to answer for at that moment two specks of glowing blue appeared in the air. The glowing circles drew closer until the trio waiting on the rooftop of the casino could clearly see the forms of a man inside each of the globes. The spheres slowed their decent and moved in to land in front of the three.
"I've got what you asked for and there's not a mark on him," Shield said, dropping the force field around his body, but maintaining the one around Magneto. He pulled off the wide belt with one hand and half tossed, half threw it at Checkmate. "You're little toy doesn't work very well with my power. My electro-magnetic fields kept disrupting it. I had to give up getting in quietly in exchange for getting out quickly. I don't think anyone saw me though. It lasted long enough before fizzing out and dying entirely."
"See? I told you he had a good explanation." DreamWeb turned to the still-captive Magneto. "So this is the famous Magneto? I wouldn't have expected such... power, to come from someone so... antiquated."
"Appearances may be deceiving my lady," Magneto told her. "I'll ignore your insult on account of the fact that you are the hired employee of my man Sabertooth."
Magneto stood up straight and tall inside his glowing spherical prison. "Good to see you alive and well. I was not sure that you'd gotten away. I trust now that I am safe and sound I may be released? Not to serve offense to my rescuer, the ride was most pleasant, but I am anxious to be about my business and well away from here."
Magneto and Sabertooth both stiffened when Shield looked to DreamWeb for permission. She smiled at this subtle reinforcement of her power.
"We still have business to transact," she said as she handed Sabertooth an Internet- ready Palm Pilot. "The accounts are all called up, you have only to transfer the other half of my fee."
Sabertooth snarled as he punched in his PIN (Personal Identification Number) and transferred the rest of the money. DreamWeb took the Pilot back and double-checked to make sure the money was there and then nodded to Shield.
The tall orange-haired man dropped the shield around Magneto and turned to his controller. "Well?"
"Well what?" she asked, mildly amused.
"May I go?" Shield asked stiffly.
"You may, but remember-you're on-call for me from now on," DreamWeb told him with a self-satisfied smile.
"You witch!" Shield lost control of his temper and dove towards her, not bothering with his mutant power, desiring to feel her neck between his own hands.
DreamWeb glowed with a bright pink aura and Shield's attack stopped in mid-stride. He screamed and fell to his knees grabbing his head in pain.
"How droll," Magneto said. "Mutant torturing mutant for a job well done. I think, Madame, that you are misusing a valuable resource."
"Stay out of it, old man. Your time has passed. The New Realm is rising." Checkmate stepped in between Magneto and DreamWeb, stopping the fight before it started.
The glow around DreamWeb faded as did Shield's screams. He lay there holding his sides; breath ragged and sobs racking his frame. "You got what you wanted Mr. Creed. Go home and be happy."
"I don't think I could, in good conscience, allow you to retain control of this fine young man," Magneto protested with false banality. "He is too unique, too valuable, to be treated thusly."
"Oh for crying out loud," Shield gasped. "I'm fifty, stop calling me a young man. Stop talking about me like I'm not even here. I am not some damned prize to be won- not a head of cattle to be sold at auction. I am human!"
"Homo Superior, truly," Magneto corrected him.
"Human," Shield spat back. "You're all just as human as I."
"My brother speaks the truth in this."
The entire group whirled. Behind them stood a woman six feet tall, with neon orange hair and matching orange eyes. She wore a green suit that appeared to be made out of some Kevlar/rubber hybrid. Her boots came to her knees, the suit was sleeveless, she wore gloves to protect her hands, and a cape was attached to the shoulder pads built into the suit.
"Who are you?" Checkmate demanded. "How did you get up here?"
"I flew," Glow answered his second question first.
"Can't be. You're dead. I thought you must be, when I couldn't feel you anymore..." Shield looked up, eyes wide. "Oh God, Sara? Is that you?"
"I'm called Glow now, brother, just as you are Shield." Glow's softened as she looked at her older brother for the first time in decades. "And in another moment, you'll be free of DreamWeb's control."
"What?" DreamWeb hissed. "I don't think so, upstart. Checkmate!"
Checkmate pressed one of the many buttons on his belt. A green force field flew up around him. Thrusting out his hands towards the intruder, he made green plasma-like bursts fly out at her. Shield cried a warning, but Glow just stood there. A yellow nimbus surrounded Glow and her electricity flowed off her like rainwater on a rock. The plasma bursts were burned away before they could touch her.
Shield felt something tickle the edge of his mind.
"Don't worry, don't speak out loud. I'll have you free in a moment," a woman's voice whispered inside his head. He felt, rather than heard, the snap happen. The tether between himself and DreamWeb was gone. He was blissfully alone in his own mind. Shield stood up to his full height, only four inches taller than his sister. The blue aura of his electromagnetic force field surrounded him again. He lifted himself off the surface of the roof. Holding his hands out in front of him he began to generate a force wave and sent it to the group of villains below him.
Magneto sensed it coming and whirled. Throwing his right arm out as if grabbing something thrown to him he laughed, "Thank you young pup! This will be most useful."
Magneto turned and faced the massive satellite dish on top of the casino. Using his powers over magnetism he tore the twenty-foot wide dish, creaking and protesting, off the roof. He hurled it in Shield's direction.
The other man barely had time to duck before the satellite dish flew past him, over the side of the building, and onto the people on the boardwalk.
"Shield!" Glow shrieked. "The people!"
Shield caught her eyes and nodded once, flying down after the dish.
"Damn you! Who are you that you could free him?" DreamWeb thundered, drawing stiletto knives from her boot tops.
"She did not free him, Caroline. I did," a voice rang out in the minds of all present.
"No, no, it can't be," DreamWeb whispered. "Not here, not now."
The beautiful mutant, so confident and dangerous before, shrank back into herself. Checkmate dropped the strange field around his body and grabbed her, dragging her in the direction of the doorway back inside.
"Uh-uh. You should have listened to your Mum and become a dental hygienist instead of an evil scientist bent on world domination," a male voice, accented with London tones, spoke as if right in front of them. The air shimmered and two figures appeared, the man who'd spoken, and a woman dressed in a red bodysuit with a black cloak covering her body and face. She drew back the hood on her cloak.
"Long time no see, Caroline," The Mezmerizer greeted her old nemesis. "I should have known that your hand would be in this somewhere. Only you would be mad enough to let a man like that run free."
"No... Mezmerizer? But how? You died in the lab. I had proof!" DreamWeb's eyes went wide when confronted with the only person on this orb that she feared.
"You should know better than to listen to such pixie tales," Badlands spoke. "You are, after all, such a powerful and clever woman."
The sarcasm in his voice rallied DreamWeb. Her blood boiled again. She glowed with her pink light and held her arms above her head. A web of silver appeared between her hands. She cast it outward at Badlands.
Before either of them could react a huge wind sprang up out of nowhere. The web was blown away and to the ground, where it could do no harm.
"It's about bloody time you put in an appearance," Badlands spoke to someone just above the heads of the two New Realm members.
"I had to stop and powder my nose," Whirlwind told them. She was floating with her arms crossed, inside a small tornado. "And I hate to point this out to you, but while you were playing with these two, the other two got away."
"What?" Badlands scanned the rooftop.
"Where'd they go?" Glow asked. She'd flown after Shield as soon as Badlands and Mez had interfered. She landed back on the rooftop with her brother next to her, the danger from the falling satellite dish neutralized.
"That way. Towards the boardwalk and the docks," Whirlwind pointed.
"They escaped with out us!" Checkmate tore off his lab coat and grabbed DreamWeb, carrying her in his arms. He ran right for the edge of the building and leapt without a second look. A small pack on his back opened revealing glider wings. Checkmate sailed easily, with DreamWeb as his passenger.
The four cried with alarm and moved into action, Shield following belatedly.
"Whirlwind! Go after Magneto and hairy boy. Badlands, Mez, with me after DreamWeb and Mr. Over-protective," Glow barked her orders.
"What about me sis? I owe them," Shield said.
She studied her brother for the briefest of moments. "With Whirlwind. Be careful, Magneto's powers are almost the same as yours. Leave him to my teammate and take the big ugly guy."
He nodded once and flew after the woman in blue, raising a shield around him to buffer the wind she was kicking up.
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