CHAPTER 122
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[The Ancient One POV]

Weeks had passed since the threat of Dormammu hovered on our reality. 

Mr. Cross had returned to New York, choosing to pop once in a while to browse through some books. As I predicted he would.

He was not someone that could be tied to the Arts and have him remain there. Like Strange, his place was in the wider stars. 

Though the threat of Dormammu's resurgence came a bit early, it still didn't change anything, at least not in the grand scheme of things. It still didn't change the end, heh, not like I thought it actually would. 

Though the changes were one of the few scenarios I foresaw, the changes it brought to the others involved in that incident, Strange, Draul… and Mordo, was one I gladly welcomed. It opened their eyes, a glimpse, of what laid abound should they make the decision to explore beyond the realms of our knowledge. 

Speaking of changes, the one who was affected by it like I knew he would, was Mordo. Though the man was a beacon of righteousness, he lacked the eyes to see past the thin veil of morality. He was obsessed with what it thought was right and I was afraid that it was eating him up, driving him insane… to the point of him one day snapping. 

But then again, I guess it was my fault. It was my failure as a teacher for misplacing the trust he once had in me. 

But as regretful as it was, there was nothing I could do. It wasn't my place as a teacher to direct his thoughts. His decisions were his to make and his alone, and it was one I would respect… It truly was regretful. One I would forever admonish myself for till I die. 

"That's enough dreary thoughts for the day. Now then for the most troubling one."

Even though I knew he practiced some questionable spells, I didn't think he could use a spell like that. Sure he unknowingly had one of the greatest relics on the universe aiding him, but the sheer fact that he could comprehend and use a spell like that was… astonishing. 

With the three of them present, I was sure the earth would stave off the threatening times that were coming. 

… 

[Draul St. Cross POV] 

"Are you sure we should go in like this?" Steve didn't look comfortable just like the way I didn't care if he did. 

It says something when we were outside a criminal facility, with the others decked in gear, about to attack a parasitic immortal INSIDE a mental facility where it was an inevitability that we would have to fight some mentally unstable people. 

From what I could see from here, there was a huge space underground which was probably Essex's lab. According to the files, Nathan Essex, was working as a staff of the facility for over ten years now. He had a small apartment in downtown New York but my ten cents was that it was a clone that used that abode to keep up appearances when he was in his labs. 

"Is he in there?" Steve asked. 

"I can't see him yet but considering that he's a shapeshifter or my visual range can't cover him, the ball is still out there."

I had been keeping tabs on his apartment everyday since I tracked him down but unfortunately, he hadn't been home for almost a week. The logs from Ravencroft told me that he had been working over time and since most of the older staffs were provided dorms inside the facility allowed him to stay there for as long as he wanted. 

"Let's go." I opened a portal to the underground base and sped through it with the others following me. 

"That's pretty nifty, and handy." Logan whistled as he stepped through the portal. 

I did promise them that I would tell them when I decided to attack Essex in case they wanted to ride along. Though the participants this time were not as many. Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Sunspot and Iceman. These were the heavy hitters of Xavier currently while mine just consisted of my household super soldiers. 

"This shit is sick." A low mutter escaped my months as I could see with my x-ray vision all of the tubes and cryogenic chambers filled with bodies. Some were missing different parts of them, organs and limbs, while others, the minority, were left intact. 

"What is it, Draul?" Bucky who was by my side heard my mutterings. 

"You'll see soon."

We walked into what could be considered as the heart of the lab and the others stood, rooted to the ground in shock, at the sight of bodies hung from the ceiling with chains like some kind of meat storage. Some of them appeared to be dried husks while ethers had tubes inserted inside their bodies. 

"Oh my…God!"

"I see you found my hidden cache." A low raspy voice echoed through the dark room. 

Okay that was disgusting. Seeing someone form a whole body with just a mass of writhing flesh was… gleurgh! 

It was like the raw mashed meat of flesh with wringing veins all around, spewing out more meat to form a man. He had pale, almost bleached skin, as if he had never known the sun, a gentle man gait to his steps, wearing a suit with a red crystal embedded on his forehead. 

"Nathaniel Essex."

"So you do know of me, Mr. Cross." He walked in a settled pace as if he wasn't surrounded by people that were dead set on taking him down. "I am rather surprised that you were able to find me, if at all. My calculations were sure that you and S.H.I.E.L.D would be chasing headless tails for the next few years at least until you give up."

If there were any doubts that he was the one responsible for the kidnappings then what he just said threw that doubt out the window. 

"Ah, so many prizes. I'm afraid I won't be able to collect them all for the time being. But…" His eyes surveyed everyone gathered, "I think I can make do with a few of them." His eyes then stopped at me and a soft smile emerged on his lips. 

"I'm not the only one getting the creepy vibes from this guy right?" Bobby asked, his body already emitting frost. 

"Trust me kid, you're not the only one." Bucky consoled him. Before anyone else could say something, I felt the slight tremor that passed through the ground. 

I would have cursed if I didn't already expect something like this to happen. A small army of Essex's were walking out of a portal towards us. Some of them had some deformities visible on their bodies while others had physical mutations. Just seeing them made my skin crawl. 

"Do you guys feel that?" Logan asked. 

"Something is coming our way." Everyone was alerted and on guard while Essex just kept the easygoing smile on his face. 

Just as that moment, I felt a psychic wave smash against my own shields and immediately knew the culprit given the small, almost imperceptible twitch of his lips. Training myself in Chi helped bolster all my psychic abilities. I could even transfer my thoughts and speak to someone telepathically and not to mention the boost it gave to my telekinesis, astral projection and telepathy. 

Not everyone with us had good mental fortitude, note to self: remember to teach the others about Chi. They had excess energy in their cells due to the Serum, harnessing Chi should be easier for them and help them form mental barriers. 

I covered the entire area with my psychic field so that I could disrupt any psychic attacks before they got to their targets. I felt him trying to control Yelena and Cyclops who were both at the back but my psychic field was able to prevent that. 

"What the hell are those?!" Looks like they finally saw the horde of monstrosities making their way towards us. 

"Now let's start- BOOM!" Essex's words were cut short as an explosion impacted his face but I could tell that he suffered no damage whatsoever seeing as healed almost immediately. "That was ru- BOOM!" This time around, he was flung away but still taking no damage whatsoever. Who knew fighting people who had absurd levels of regeneration was this annoying, and the fight hadn't even started. 

… 

[General POV] 

With Draul opening the fight with an explosion to Dr. Sinister's face, the others rushed at the horde of clones. 

Adamantium claws and blades emerged from Logan's and Bucky's implant arm as they sliced through the horde with easy efficiency. 

Seeing three clone coming his way, each having some type of ability that was specialized in close combat, Bucky didn't slow down, his crafted arm glowing a dark purple, he punched at the skull of one of the clones who was too slow to for a cross guard which resulted in his head caving in, skull pulverized as he was flung away with the punched. 

Opening his hand, a blade grew from it which he held with his other hand and ducked under the blow of a clone that had vibrating spikes all over him. Bucky swiped the knife at its jugular and kicked it away. His last current opponent was the bulkier one of the three. 

Matching the big guy's blow for blow, he took his time below delivering a precise kick to one of the clones kneecaps and then spun around him and broke its neck against his shoulders. "Shit keeps getting weird by the day."

Looking over at the girls and Steve, he saw them easily taking care of their enemies and nodded his head before diving back into the fray with a huge boom as he shattered the area around with a concussive blast. 

Away from Bucky, the girls were having a bit of a problem due to the abilities of the clones, they were still able to take care of them with pure skill and bullets. 

"Steve!" Without turning to look at who called him, he threw his shield towards the direction of the voice for it to be caught by Natasha who batted the head of a clone with it. Using the shield as some sort of cleave, she swiped at the legs of a clone who had three legs and one elongated hand. 

Losing its tri-pedal balance, it tried to gnaw at Natasha as its head was near her only for it to bite an unbreakable construct and losing its oral senses to numbness. Natasha didn't care for its woes as she got behind him and twisted the shield still lodged in its mouth, breaking its neck. "Eww." She cleaned the shield with its body before tossing it back to Steve with an impish look on her face. 

BANG! 

She shot at the head of one of the clones trying to sneak up on her sister. 

BANG! 

She raised an eye and turned back to see the falling form of one of the clones with a bullet hole through its head. "Stay sharp Nat." Yelena giggled, causing her to roll her eyes. 

She took a glance around the entire place and noted everyone's position and the type of enemies they were fighting. 

-'Could you help me take out the mutant that is creating the portal for these things to come through?'-

She reeled in shock at the clear voice that spoke with clarity inside her ears and spun around with a snarl only to find nobody behind her. 

-Relax, it's me, Draul. Telepathy.-

Did she ever mention she sometimes hated his ass, mostly for pulling stunts like this out of his flaming behind. 

-Chill with the hate, will ya. And no I'm not reading your mind but rather picking up your emotions.-

If it were someone else who had said that then she would have been hard pressed to get them out of her head, but unfortunately the person this time was a lovable bastard that she trusted. 

-Thank you. Now if you're done with the accolades, there's a girl on the floor below this one… You might want to hold up on that thought and go with Bucky and Steve because we just got new incoming. I'll keep Essex out of the way.-

She shrugged as the voice left her head and went to meet Steve and Bucky with Yelena who decided to tag along as they made their way downstairs with caution only to be stopped as they came against a group of people they knew. 

"Oh I can smell him alright! Come to me James!" The Sabretooth ignored them and lunged at the Wolverine who snarled as he saw his brother/nemesis baring its fangs and claws at him and responded in kind. 

"It looks like it's time for round 2, boys." Natasha smiled but the smile didn't quite stretch into a genuine one as she gazed at Mystique who smiled sultrily upon seeing her. 

"Oh it's you again, how wonderful! I'm sorry our chat last time was interrupted, how about we take it somewhere else and let the boys do their thing?" The way Mystique spoke was as if they were bosom friends or two girls who bonded very well the first they met, which could not be entirely true as the figurative sparks that flew through them were definitely not of positive emotions. 

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