El Scorcho (twbasketcase) wrote,
El Scorcho
twbasketcase

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FIC: Our Last Memory 19/23

Category: X-Factor (Volume 3)
Characters: Rictor, Shatterstar, Longshot, Dazzler, Siryn, Domino, X-Factor, Skids, Spiral, and Doc Samson.
Pairings: Rictor/Shatterstar, Longshot/Dazzler
Genre: AU, drama, romance, angst, humor.
Rated: NC-17 for extreme violence, language, and sexual situations.
Disclaimer: I don’t own a thing. I just play in the world of those who can't appreciate.
Story Summary: When X-Factor gets help in defeating Arcade, they get a new member of the team, Longshot. But in return for his assistance, Longshot needs some help with his own problems -- on Mojoworld. What they find there opens up a whole pile of old wounds for other members of the team, and they learn that sometimes memories are all that are left to hold onto.

Chapter Summary: Spiral dumps the team back off behind Cadre Alliance territory lines, and they're prepped for the oncoming battle with Mojo's Imperial Protectorate. Action starts fast, however, and luck has run out for a couple of members of X-Factor.

Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen,
Prequel Pieces: One, Two, Three, Four.
Extra Scenes: Chap 9, Chap 14, Chap 16.

A/N: Anything that "*looks like this,*" is spoken in the language of the Cadre Alliance.
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Spiral’s magicks worked fast. X-Factor had reached the dimension of Wildways in just a couple of seconds without the stomach turning pull through the realms that had resulted with Doctor Strange’s spell. The woman twisted and turned in a spell casting dance and had enveloped everybody with a fascinating array of colours. Spiral said no words of encouragement or instruction; she only dropped the team off behind Cadre lines and disappeared. The six-armed woman was smart enough to leave the area immediately; the Alliance saw her only as an enemy and executioner, and most surely her presence would have caused a fight to break out.

However, Alison almost wished she had stayed. Since seeing Spiral in New York City and getting her memories back, the former disco diva wanted nothing more than to take Spiral’s head off of her shoulders. No matter what reasoning Longshot held for Spiral’s actions, and despite the fact the executioner had given Alison her son, Dazzler held nothing but pure mistrust and hatred for her. They were walking into a trap, and Ali knew it. Spiral had lied before to get them back to this place, and she most surely would do so again.

It was too bad that being tricked was the only other option besides allowing the monsters of the Protectorate to invade Earth. X-Factor travelling to Mojoworld was safer than allowing hundreds to die, even if Alison knew that the trip would only lead to bad things for the team.

So they walked up the hill at the base of the main Cadre fortress. Jamie was instructing the human members of their team to stick in pairs and keep their eyes peeled. Theresa was paired with Longshot, Monet with Guido, and Jamie with Rictor. The Multiple Man then glanced over to the rest of the group. “Domino you can go with Monet, Shatterstar with Longshot, and Skids and Dazzler can come with us.”

‘Star peered over at him and nodded wordlessly, so Alison agreed as well. “That works for me. We also have rebels we should take with us too.”

“Whoever’s left,” Longshot reminded. “We’ll have to do a head count once we’re inside. The last time we were here we left them all to fight off Mojo in the dungeons by themselves. There’s a good chance we lost a lot of men.”

“Yeah…they won’t be pissed about that will they?” Jamie asked curiously. “I mean, they were mad enough about the fact that we were just there last time. Not to mention they all tried to kill Rictor.”

“Fucking assholes,” the Mexican muttered.

“They tried to kill you?” Shatterstar asked him.

Ric just shrugged and grinned up at him playfully. “I blame you fully for that. They were just bitchy because I understood them when they were ripping on us.”

“There won’t be any of that this time,” Longshot sighed and stepped in front of the large concrete door. He pressed his hand against a blood red marking in the stone, and no soon after a speaker buzzed to life and a voice spoke to them.

“*Lord Longshot?*”

“*It is me,*” the blonde man announced and lifted his hands into the air.

“*Are you requesting entry?*”

“Codlista.”

“*And you bring company? Is their presence approved on the premises?*”

“Codlista,” Longshot repeated again. He turned around and gave Ali an encouraging smile as the door opened for the group, and they were met with two rebels standing guard at the door with a barrage of weapons – including spears, guns, knives, and swords. They both immediately bowed down before Longshot and Dazzler, but the Cadre leader gestured for them to get on their feet. “*No need for scenes, men. We are here for business and we need all the assistance we can get. I would like for you both to contact all other safe houses in the vicinity and round up all the soldiers that are available.*”

“*Would you like the weapon caches opened as well, Lord?*”

Dazzler nodded at them. “*We are planning an ambush on the Spineless fortress tonight. We need everything.*”

“*As you wish, my lady,*” the guards replied hurriedly and scampered off out the door behind the group and down the hill. The rest of the team watched them go curiously, but Longshot did not want to wait around. He laced his fingers through Alison’s and the pair walked further into the building and down the hall until they reached the common’s room. The large, circular room was busy with congested traffic as it usually was, but their arrival did not go unnoticed. Immediately all activity in the rooms ceased, and all eyes were on X-Factor.

“Lord Longshot,” a tall, handsome warrior that Dazzler knew as Shasta approached. His unique yellow eyes were full of concern, and he shook his leader’s hand. “You’ve returned to continue battle? We’ve received word through our spies that the Protectorate was to seek you out on this night.”

Longshot nodded. “Yes, that’s why we came back. Earth isn’t exactly equipped to fight them, and we could use your help. I’m not sure how many Mojo is looking to put on our tails.”

“Of course, sir,” Shasta nodded and looked amongst the group. “You brought more this time?”

“Consider them reinforcements,” the blonde haired man grinned. “Question is, soldier, how many men do you still have, and is there any news on the enemy front lines we should know about?”

Shasta gestured for the group to follow him back toward the main computer consoles, and he pointed up to the large ceiling high monitor. “We lost many men in our last battle, and as you know Quark was cancelled by Mojo’s firearms. However, we received transmissions in the last few days that indicate that he is very much alive.”

“Quark’s okay?!” Alison smiled fondly. “That’s good news!”

“Not quite, my lady,” the handsome warrior continued. “These transmissions show that Quark is once more working for the Protectorate. I’ve had some men look into it, and we’ve been unable to figure out the reason. After years of commanding the Alliance though, I’m suspicious of the circumstances. He would not willingly betray us, and I fear they may have used their magicks to not only reinstate him, but, perhaps, to hollow him as well.”

Longshot frowned sadly. “My friend—they’ve done too much to hurt him.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” Shasta moved down the console and typed in a few security codes to access the Cadre personnel files. “We’re down over one hundred men and five safe houses have been destroyed. The Protectorate has crossed territory lines without warning and they’ve slaughtered everything in sight.”

“What defense tactics have you been using?” Shatterstar voiced up, and stepped next to the other man. Shasta looked surprised at his presence, but quickly composed himself.

“Full on assault, my Lord. However, most Protectorate attacks have been nightly ambushes.”

Shatterstar folded his arms curiously. “Have you not set up nightly guard and blockade? And there is no need to call me Lord as I hold no rank over you.”

Shasta glanced at Longshot and Dazzler before returning his gaze back to ‘Star. “You do now, Lord. And, yes, we have set up night security. But as I said before, our numbers are dwindling and it’s getting more and more difficult to keep up with the fight. Not only have our Cadre soldiers been ambushed, but so have our safe houses where freed biped slaves reside. They have resorted to killing innocents, and we do not have the manpower to defend all households.”

“Fekt,” Longshot cursed. His blue eyes ran down the list of names marked deceased, and all he could do was shake his head sadly. “We’re going to have to move fast. They're attacking because they're looking for me.”

“What is your objective, sir?” a purple skinned warrior with a bright red mohawk approached the group with a weapons inventory sheet. “Whatever equipment you need I can obtain.”

“Thank-you, Cossack,” Longshot nodded at him, and turned toward the group. He pointed at Rictor, Domino, Jamie, and Skids. “I want the two men and the blonde woman equipped with weapons, and I want the black eyed one equipped with extra firearm arsenal and ammo. I want mine and my wife’s personal caches brought forth from the vault as well. The rest will be able to make do with their mutant abilities, but I would like for everyone to be briefed on Wildways defense systems. Their planet is not as advanced in technology, but a brief rundown should be enough to suffice. They are all very knowledgeable soldiers from their world.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Cossack bowed and scurried off toward the vaults at the south side of the room.

Longshot turned to the rest of the team, and pointed across the room to a very tall man with horns all over his head. “If any of you need any additional armour or battle attire, you can go see Darkforce.”

A few members of the team then broke off to see the armour designer, as they had only been wearing simple civilian clothing at the time of Spiral’s arrival. The other four who had been assigned to Cossack met with the purple skinned soldier to obtain their weapons, leaving Dazzler and Longshot alone for a few moments. Ali lifted her arm and wrapped it around Longshot’s bicep as she leaned against him. “Are you sure we’re ready for this?”

He looked down at her and placed an arm around her shoulders. “No, but we have to be anyways. We don’t have much of a choice.”

“I have a really bad feeling about this though,” Alison admitted. “She’s probably leading us into a trap, Longshot, and we’ve got no reason to trust her. I know she hates Mojo, but she played a part in starting all this in the first place. For all we know she’s just trying to find a way for us all to annihilate each other!” 

“I know it seems dangerous, but we just have to take the risk. It was either that or a ton of innocent people die,” he murmured. Sighing, he turned her in his grasp and traced his finger along her chin. “Have some faith in me.”

She stood on her tip toes and pressed a kiss against his lips. “I always do.”

“I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” Alison confessed, and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. “They’re after you, Longshot, not me. And I know you a little too well, Mister. You’re always just a little too willing to sacrifice yourself for everyone else, and even after everything that’s happened in the past two weeks…I don’t want to lose you again. I love you.”

Blue eyes softened and he pressed his lips against her forehead. “I don’t want to lose you either.”

“Then promise me you won’t do anything stupid. If we’re going to fight them, we’re going to do it to beat them. I don’t want any martyr bullshit from you.”

He frowned. “I’ll do what I have to do, Alison, but I--”

“Promise me,” she insisted, and pointed a finger at him.

Longshot gave her a small smile, and could not help the amused chuckle that escaped his lips. “Okay, Alison. Whatever you want. But if you get into any trouble then all bets are off.”

“Get real, Longshot! I can’t even die!” she rolled her eyes, but still proceeded to hug him again.

“On Earth you can’t die, Alison,” Longshot reminded. “You know just as well as I do that the magicks here put everyone on equal playing fields.”

“Is that pessimism I hear?” she teased. “You better be careful. With an attitude like that you’ll doom us all.”

Longshot’s lips quirked up slightly before he placed both hands on her cheeks and kissed her deeply. Alison revelled in the feel of his lips, seeking solace in the comfort of them before they were to part ways. To be able to touch him and express her love for him was so nice after all that had happened between them in the past weeks, and in a strange way she felt a little mad that she had been so angry at him. In wars such as the ones on Mojoworld, he had been taken away from her so many times and it was very possible that it could happen again. She just wished they would have spent their time together properly rather than fighting. So to make things right while she still had the chance, she wrapped her arms around his neck and held him close as they kissed. Longshot just smiled against her lips and stroked her cheek with his fingers before pulling away.

“Pessimism is all gone now!” he grinned.

She rolled her eyes playfully and swatted him in the chest. “Good. I put a lot of effort into that!”

Longshot smiled brilliantly and laced their fingers together. “Let’s go get ready.”
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<

“Man, these weapons are complicated,” Jamie frowned and shook his head as he inspected a Cadre Alliance gun he had been assigned.

Rictor rolled his eyes and crawled across the floor to where he sat. “It’s on safety, stupid. It works just like a FAMAS assault rifle back home. The selector is behind the magazine well. Just decide if you want it on single shot or fully automatic. The kickback is a bitch on them though, so just be careful.” The Mexican grabbed the gun and inserted a twenty-five round ammo cartridge and moved the selector off of safe. He cocked the gun and aimed it toward a pile of garbage on the other side of the base. One brown eye narrowed and he steadied his breath before blowing a hole through the pile of bags. Jamie jumped in surprise beside him, and sent him an incredulous look.

“I am not even going to ask where the hell you learned to fire that!”

Ric just frowned miserably as he passed it off to him. “Good, ‘cause I won’t answer that question anyways.”

“How you guys doing?” Domino asked as she plopped next to them.

“Oh just dandy,” Jamie scoffed and pocketed a couple more cartridges in his trench coat. “I’ve been trained to use a ton of guns on Earth, and I’m still having trouble getting used to the grips on these things.”

“The people here only have three fingers,” Domino pointed out with a grin. “Luckily for some of us though, we’re used to messing around with artillery from other timelines.”

“Yeah, real lucky,” Rictor muttered.

“Oh yes, I almost forgot about you and your gun thing. It always amazes me that someone with such a damn good shot and vast knowledge on them can hate them so much,” the merc nudged him good naturedly.

“You know why,” the Mexican snapped as he continued to load his own weapons. “You saw it!”

“I know, I know,” Dom sighed. “But you also know that guns don’t kill people. People kill people and guns are only bad if they’re being used for the wrong reasons.”

“Yeah but if there were no guns at all then they couldn’t used for the wrong reasons, now could they?” he countered.

“But then people would get away with a lot more shit, and they could just find another way to fight anyways,” the older woman pointed out and patted his thigh. “Don’t get all bunged up about it, kiddo. You know what’s at stake here, and I don’t need to be the one to tell you how important this is. You know it.”

“Yeah I do know it. I’ve been here enough times now,” Ric sighed and raked a hand through his hair. “Last time I was here I got lucky because it was just a snatch and grab mission, but you were here when we came to fight, Dom. All of us relied on our powers to beat those slimeballs when Shatty died. Hell, it took me, Tabby, and Roberto to combine our powers just to beat Gog and Magog!”

Domino nodded. “I know, which is why you have to be careful. Stick with Skids so she can keep her force field on you.”

Rictor looked up at Sally who was standing a few feet away. “How well will we even be able to fight with that thing on us?”

“I just have to concentrate. Do what I say and we should be okay,” she gave him an encouraging smile. “I know you can fight, so what do you say you be the offensive brain and I be the defensive?”

“Sounds good,” he smirked at her.

“Good, since you got that taken care of, I have more shit for you,” Domino announced and dumped out a bag of stuff in front of the Mexican on the floor: a pile of bombs, knives, handguns, and a bandolier full of armour piercing bullets. Ric looked down at the equipment wide eyed and then stared at his former mentor.

“What the fuck do you want me to do with that!?”

“Don’t tell me you need a lesson!” she rolled her eyes and pushed it toward him. “Take it with you. I’ve used enough of Cable’s equipment over the years that the alien tech will be easier for me to adjust to. You, on the other hand, are damn ass good with Earth weapons. You’re the only kid on the ‘force I never even had to explain dynamite to.”

“Dom…”

“Ric, I mean it. Just take this stuff and use it. It’s my own personal collection of artillery and I know you can put it to use. You have nothing else to fall back on, so I want you to use it. I at least have my powers to rely on if this other stuff gives me trouble.”

The Mexican just sighed and tossed the bandolier over his chest and began clipping everything else to the utility belt he was given. “I don’t know why you have so much god damn faith in me, Dom.”

“I don’t know why you’re going on the useless spiel again,” Jamie interrupted him. “I don’t even know how many times I have to tell you that you have a lot more skills then just shaking things. I wouldn’t keep you around if you didn’t.”

“Thanks, Jamie,” Rictor scoffed sarcastically.

“You’ll do fine,” Skids assured him. “We’ll stick together.”

“All right, all right, enough with the fuckin’ motivational speeches,” Rictor shook his head and clipped up the rest of his weapons. “No one said I wasn’t fighting or that I was scared. I just hate these bastards.”

“You and me both,” Domino replied seriously.

“Are you all ready?” Shatterstar’s voice cut them from their conversation and Rictor looked up at him. The guy had at least five different sized swords strapped on various parts of his body, as well as a few other weapons attached to his belt. He was given a sleeveless red and navy blue Cadre Alliance battle uniform, and black combat boots. Rictor got to his feet and stared up at him for a few moments, and Shatterstar inspected his equipment. “Is that enough for you?”

Julio nodded. “If they strap anything else on me I think I’ll tip over.”

The other three quickly gathered their things and headed over to the other side of the room to reconvene with Dazzler and Longshot, and Rictor and Shatterstar were left alone. A strange nervousness swelled in Ric’s chest, and Shatterstar must have noticed it. “If you need any more weapons…”

“It’s not that,” the Mexican admitted and folded his arms. “I just-- this place always scared the crap outta us. Every single time I’ve been here something really bad’s happened to you, and I, uh…” he scratched his head and shrugged. “I don’t want it to happen again, amigo.”

“I don’t remember what happened the other times,” Shatterstar admitted.

“Oh, you know, you just died and forgot me,” Rictor quipped.

The warrior snorted amusedly. “I must have been reckless. I won’t let that happen again.”

“You? Not be reckless? Whatever, ‘Star,” Julio laughed in spite of himself and dropped his hands to his sides. “Just don’t die or anything again, and I think we’ll be all right.”

“Well I suppose the same could be said about you. I do not wish for you to be cancelled, but I have faith in your skills. You amazed me last time when you fought off the Protectorate without a single thing to defend yourself.”

Ric felt his chest swell with pride. “Yeah, well, you know us. Always believin’ in each other even when we’re losing, hombre.”

Shatterstar blinked at him a couple of times before an amused smile played on his lips. He lifted his hand to Ric’s shoulder. “You’ve said something like that before to me, I think.”

Rictor felt his heart flutter around at the fact that he remembered. The Mexican lifted his own hand to place it on top of ‘Star’s, and he absently played with his fingers. “Yeah, I did. Right before we fought Mojo last time.”

Silver eyes gazed down at him as they stood wordlessly for a few moments. Rictor could feel his heart rate speed up at the prolonged contact, and he was even more surprised when Shatterstar yanked him forward and wrapped his arms around his shoulders in a tight hug – a friendly, camaraderie type thing. But it was enough to take some of the fear away, and Ric could not help but tighten his own hold around the warrior’s waist. They stood that way for a few seconds, and in that time Ric got a sense of security – familiarity even – at the strong grasp and the hard body around him. It gave him a great deal of his confidence back.

When Shatterstar pulled away, he lifted his hand to the back of Rictor’s head and fisted the brown locks there. “Be careful.”

Julio nodded. “Yeah…you too.”

Shatterstar nodded confidently and gestured for Rictor to accompany him back to the group. The Mexican conceded wordlessly, and the two walked back for their briefing in companionable silence. And despite the fact that they were preparing to run straight into a war zone, Rictor could not remember feeling as comfortable as he did right at that very moment. One vote of confidence was all he needed.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Sally Blevins had never been to Mojoworld before. She had heard many stories from her friends for many years about the horrors of the place, and she had been thankful that she never had to have experienced it. Until now, of course. She was just absolutely amazed at the fact that it was everything that they said and worse. Wildways was the type of stuff nightmares were made of, and every step through Mojo’s fortress made it even more terrifying.

Longshot’s squad had made the first move to set off the alarms and fight security. Their group was best equipped to fight them; the Cadre leader had Shatterstar, as well as Siryn’s multi-functional abilities. They had also taken Shasta and nine other Cadre soldiers with them. Domino, Monet, and Strong Guy had also been assigned almost a dozen of the Alliance, and their squad had busted in through the rear area of the building. By the time Madrox’s squad had gotten to the fortress, all hell had practically broken loose and fights were erupting everywhere. Jamie had about two dozen dupes running around with them, and thankfully most were willing to help fight. The Alliance warriors that had gone with them jumped into battle almost immediately, and Dazzler was giving them orders as she put on a fantastic light show against her opponents. For a woman with such a small looking frame, Alison held herself up in the fight magnificently. Skids wondered idly if that had anything to do with the older woman’s undying devotion to her husband and their cause. Whatever it was though, it was admirable and it was definitely a sight to see.

However, she needed to keep her focus elsewhere. She practically forced Rictor to stay at her side, and so far they had been able to avoid being attacked. The Mexican was more than able to keep up, and Sally was surprised. She had never seen him so determined in a fight. It was the same surprise she got after meeting up with her other friends that had been part of X-Force though. They had all been turned into disciplined fighting machines; gone were the innocent fears and doubts she had seen in them all during their childhood. Now it was pure rage, determination, and focus. She would have been scared if she did not know Rictor so well.

“You ready to book?” the Mexican asked her.

Sally wrapped an arm around his waist and nodded. “Hold on tight.”

His eyes widened. “What are we doing!?”

“Just skate!” she smirked and activated her force field the moment a group of three hairy guards pounced at them. The pair moved across the ground at a magnificent speed, and Ric practically clung to her.

“I can’t do this! Chingar! I’m no stinkin’ hockey player!”

“You’re doing fine,” Skids clenched her teeth and manoeuvred them under grabbing arms. They shot across the concrete ground and past walls and walls lined with strange cables, wires, and mirrors of all things. The building itself was frightening in the sense that it looked and felt just as evil and alive as its habitants. As long as they kept their eyes on their destination though, they could not be distracted.

Once they outran their assailants, Skids put a stop to their movement at the end of the first hall. Seven giant sized guards were still on their trail, but well over a hundred feet back. As soon as she powered down, Rictor pulled one of the grenades that Domino had given him and yanked the pin free. He wound his arm back and tossed it toward the feet of the guards. They had no time to stop, and the blast impacted them immediately. All of the hairy bodies flew through the walls of the corridor in smouldering heaps, and it left an opening for the remainder of their team mates. The Alliance warriors took the clearing first and hollered for the Jamies and Dazzler to follow. The team regrouped at the blast site, but no sooner did they get there did another round of troops from the Protectorate show up. Obviously familiar with the rebels, they attacked them first. All of the bodies collided like a scary scene out of some Spartan movie, and Sally could not help but gawk at them.

“We have to move!” Rictor urged her, as he fired off a couple of rounds at the monstrous looking things. “They’ll try to freaking bite us and break us in half!”

Skids nodded and grabbed his hand, but before she could power up they were both knocked down by a massive photon blast rocketing between them. The blonde girl twisted around to look for Dazzler, and found the pink haired woman running toward them. “Be careful! Gog almost had your head!”

Sure enough, the massive, copper coloured man-beast had been run down by Alison’s powers and knocked back into the wall. Rictor quickly jumped to his feet and helped Sally up. “Shit! I remember that guy! He’s one of Mojo’s bounty hunters, or something!”

“He is!” Dazzler confirmed and nailed the big man with another blast of power. As soon as the creature was struck, about a dozen Jamies jumped forward and pounced on him with a barrage of weapons. Another panting Madrox caught up with the group, and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“Should we go further?”

Dazzler brought a comm link up to her mouth. “What are your positions!?”

We’re clearing out the arena!” Longshot’s voice came over the first wave.

We’re at the staff quarters,” Domino’s came next.

“We just wiped out the main floor of the fortress.” Dazzler told them. “We’re heading up to the second floor!”

Wait for back up!” Longshot yelled as a couple of blasts went off in the background. “If Mojo’s up there the security will be heavier.”

“It already is heavy!” Alison yelled as another round of guards burst through the doors. The members still left from the Alliance sprang into action, and almost immediately three were shot down. Alison let out another blinding photon blast and threw all of the guards off balance enough to allow their team to attack. “We can’t wait, Longshot! They’re coming at us from every direction!”

We’re coming for you,” the Cadre leader insisted. “ETA is like four minutes. Hold tight, okay?”

“Just hurry!” Alison grunted and spun around to land a kick in the temple of a masked man with four arms. Sally scattered away from the ambush to get to Rictor, who was already fist fighting a guy almost twice his size. The girl just rolled her eyes at his resilience, and focused on getting her force field up enough to reach him. Energy enveloped his moving body, and instantly his opponent became frustrated.

“I cannot hit you! What is the means of this?!”

Rictor grinned smugly and punched the guy in the jaw, kicked him in the stomach, and elbowed his nose. “Take that, cabron!”

“Come on, Rictor!” Sally clenched her teeth. “You can’t keep moving away from me!”

The Mexican kicked the guard in the face and knocked him to the ground. “Well I can’t just run from this madres!”

Skids nodded and then widened her eyes when a large body came at her. It dove through the air and landed on her, but it just as easily slid off again and onto its side. The commotion caused her to lose her focus on Ric, but her force field maintained its position on her. The slobbering guard clawed at her mercilessly, but just continued to slide off of her and stumble. Sally got to her feet and skated towards Ric and refocused her powers. The Mexican jumped when she grabbed him around the waist.

“Go!” she yelled at him.

“Huh!?” he was caught off guard and was still not used to the force field. He lost his balance and toppled clumsily to the ground in front of her, and that was enough to send Sally tripping over him. They both tangled in each others' limbs on the floor, but the blonde woman had managed to keep them both protected. “Shit!” Rictor yelled as he fought to get back up, but he just kept slipping like he was on ice.

“Just slow down!” Sally called, but let out a startled squeak when another monster lunged at them. She grabbed her friend by the shirt and dove across him to protect him, and again the guard slid off of them. Luckily a rebel soldier came to their aid. He was of medium height with white, braided hair, and had a big, yellow circled brand over his eye. He pounced onto the Protectorate guard with his sword, and the two began rolling on the floor in combat. Sally grabbed Rictor by the elbow and helped him to his feet, and that time they were able to move across the ground.

“Fuck, your power confuses me!” he yelled.

She could not help but chuckle at that. “Now you see why I used to hate it so much?”

“Well at least you’re used to it now,” he pointed out as they skated back to Dazzler. The older woman was desperately trying to fight off two massive Protectorate guards. Her lights were able to blind them temporarily, but it appeared as if the affect was wearing off quicker and quicker every time she did it.

Finally, one pounced on her back and grabbed her by the hair, and Rictor instantly jumped away from Sally. The Mexican took out the first guard with the assault rifle he had been carrying on his back, and then immediately went after the one that had pinned Alison down. The massive guard was at least seven feet tall and had four inch claws on both his hands and feet. He had been propped up on the Dazzler’s hip and had begun tearing into the flesh of her stomach with his hands. Rictor went after the beast with his gun out, smashing it into its head and tackling the thing to the ground. They struggled for a few moments, but Ric managed to shoot off a round into the beast’s chest. It fell to the ground in a bloody heap, and the Mexican pistol whipped it again just for good measure before dropping to the floor beside Alison.

“Shit! Are you okay!?” he yelled and threw his gun down on the ground to check her over. Sally knelt down next to them, and her eyes nearly bulged out of her head at the sight of the wound. Alison was bleeding all over, and her muscles appeared to be torn and hanging out of her skin. Her royal blue uniform was soaked in scarlet red, but Rictor held no cares. He tore a large strip of fabric from the bottom of his shirt and pressed it into her hand. “Can you hold that against your stomach?!” he asked her. Alison nodded and let another blast of light shoot off her fingers to strike a guard behind him. She dropped her arm to her middle and clutched the wound tightly, and Ric just frowned down at her. “I got you, all right?”

She nodded, and he hoisted her into the air. Sally enveloped them both in her force field. “What do we do now!?”

“Jamie!” Rictor yelled. “We have someone hurt!”

Dozens of dupes were fighting along the levelled corridor, and that only gave the Mexican just as many responses. So many Jamies began telling them what to do at the same time, and they had absolutely no idea who to listen to. “Oh no,” Sally groaned.

“I’ll be all right,” Alison replied through clenched teeth. “I can’t even die.”

“Yeah and I sure as hell ain’t gonna be the one to go back to your family and tell them I left you on the ground ‘cause you couldn’t walk,” Rictor scoffed and ran toward the door at the end of the hall with the smaller woman still clutched against his chest. Sally followed close behind to keep them under her protection, but they did not have much of a choice in terms of places to go. The rebels were fighting off the rest of the guards while the Jamies did their best to help them out. The way they came had been obliterated by bombs, gun shots, and power blasts, so the only way they had to go was up – and if Sally had heard Longshot correctly, that was where Mojo was most likely located.

How are you guys holding up?” Longshot’s voice buzzed in over the comm link. Skids grabbed the device off of Alison’s belt as they made a break for the stairs.

“We got a bunch of people down! You need to hurry!”

We got ambushed at the arena exit, but we’re fighting them off! Can you hold on for just a few more minutes?

Dazzler nodded painfully, and Skids swallowed. “We can try. But we’re getting cornered towards the stairwell and they keep coming down from there!”

We’re just outside the arena!” Domino’s voice cut in. “We can get that trail off of you, Longshot, and then we’ll meet you guys, Sal. Hold tight!

“Shit!” Rictor yelled as the door in front of them slammed open and knocked them all back down the stairs. Jamie had managed to sneak in at the exact same time, and the collision caused them all to roll down on top of him. About six dupes emerged in the process, and the tangle of limbs, bumps, and groans broke Sally’s concentration and her force field faded away. She tumbled over a dupe roughly and smacked her head on the corner of the wall behind her, and for a few seconds she swore she saw stars in front of her eyes.

Once her vision started coming back, she was able to see Ric roll over onto Alison to protect her. The Mexican scrambled to grab the weapons at his waist, but the massive guards attacked him and threw him to the ground. More and more of the Protectorate began to emerge from the floor above; at least two dozen stayed in their location to fight off X-Factor, and the rest continued past them to the back corridor where the Cadre rebels and the rest of Jamie’s dupes were still fighting. Large bodies collected Rictor and Dazzler from the floor, and as they began getting Jamie the Multiple Man began cloning himself as a defense. The largest of the Protectorate – the man the others were calling Magog – soon caught on to what Jamie was doing and ordered him to be knocked out. X-Factor’s leader was knocked across the head with a large club, and immediately his dupes were attacked as well.

Sally’s head continued to throb, but she was coherent enough to power up once more. As the guards struggled to collect her, she slipped from their grasp and fought to make it back to the other Cadre rebels for help. Mojo’s monsters began running off with her friends, and she cursed herself for losing her grasp on them. Now they were most surely going to die, and it was all her fault. First Rusty, and now them. She was such a horrible friend; it was the very reason why she had tried to quit the hero stuff in the first place. It was ironic how bad she was at defending the people she cared about, especially since her whole purpose was to be a living force field.

Skids grabbed at the comm link once more and lifted it up to her mouth. “Longshot, you gotta hurry. They got them…I’m by myself.”

What!?” Longshot demanded.

Sally winced at the throb his tone sent through her head, and she frowned miserably as she collapsed to her knees in pain. “They’re gone.”
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Go to chapter twenty.

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