Fallen From Grace
by Karen

Avalon, present day

Dusk lit the forward array of windows in a luminescent mother-of- pearl glow. Sally Blevins soaked up the view afforded her; the endless stars like diamonds scattered upon a black velvet blanket.

From her vantage point, she could see the blue-white marble of Earth as it spun in its orbit around the Sun.

As a child Sally had been fascinated by accounts of astronauts journeys from the Earth to the Moon. Like most kids with dreams, Sally had often imagined herself an astronaut. She'd planned on attending Space Camp, graduating, flying missions, and making discovering. Eventually she'd become one of the first volunteers to colonize a space station.

"Now here I am. Only not in the way I'd always pictured it," Sally muttered.

"How beautiful the planet looks from up here," Sally thought wistfully.

She watched the planet of her birth slowly rotate on its axis where it showed the oblong shape of Asia's nightside. Sally gazed in rapt fascination as the Red Sea split in half right before her eyes.

An effect triggered by the planet's lifeblood spurting up through the crust. At that moment, she was very close to launching herself through the window and experiencing the ultimate in free fall, just so she wouldn't feel trapped on the floating junk heap called Avalon. Winds coursed diagonally across the surface like the breathing of gods.

Sally suddenly whirled around and strode across her room, to pick up a photo resting on her end table. She wished that Rusty Collins had been there with her so she could share her thoughts with him. However, ever since they'd arrived on Avalon, he'd been avoiding her. Not wishing to intrude on his privacy, she'd allowed him his space.

"Rusty, when did everything go wrong?" Sally addressed a presence that should have been there but wasn't.

"When my mutant powers manifested, any other dreams I might have had somehow became entangled in a larger one. On larger than me..." Never thought I find myself saying, I'm a mutant fighting for peaceful coexistence between man and mutant.

"I was codename Skids, my mutant power to create a frictionless forcefield. I was terrified, until I met Rusty. When I joined a community of other lost souls, the Morlocks, it was as if we'd found each other's soulmates. Through everything, loss and love, we were there for each other."

WE'D obscurity. of tailspin a in up end to eventually x-teams, various the through coasted

"I can barely remember a time when we hadn't thought of the one without the other."

Sally turned away from the window and flopped down upon her bed. She closed her eyes and recalled the circumstances that had led up to her arrival on Avalon.

"It wasn't all that long ago. So why does it feel like it's been a lifetime?" Sally griped, feeling a little resentful for allowing herself to indulge in this sort of second-guessing.


"Then Stryfe came along, and that was the beginning of the end. Rusty and I were brainwashed, conscripted into into the Mutant Liberation Front. Much later, we're enroute from a maximum-security prison to Xavier's for treatment.

"Like that was going to happen! Instead, those bigots from the Friends of Humanity decided to take matters into their own hands. X- Force, our friends, rescued us, even though they knew we were still under Stryfe's influence. I hope he's dead, the monster," Sally growled, angry enough to chew up nails and spit them out. Having vented her rage somewhat, she felt a little better.

"We're brought back to X-Force's base in the Arizona desert, and the next thing I know, Sam, Ric, Tab, Bobby, Rusty and I are spirited by Exodus, on Magneto's orders, to this floating hunk of junk called Avalon."


"NO!" the Neophyte protested, forced into a kneeling position on the floor, covered up to his upper arms in a gold metal armbands that temporarily nullified his powers. He'd heard to Voight's opening statement about trust, and betrayal and faith, then watched as Milan graphically played out the scenes of his past that would bar his access to Avalon and determine his fate.

Sally watched the trial play out, witnessed Voight and Rasputin verbally fenced with each other.

"No, child. Then perhaps, you would share with us, in your own words. What could possess a person to turn one's back on our fellowship?" Amelia Voight asked, for the entire world like a kindly relative soothing an agitated child, placing her hand on his shoulder.

"When I first arrived, I felt with all my heart that Magneto was a savior for us all. Then Moria Mactaggert arrived, and I witnessed firsthand the hyprocisy of the Acolytes. On one hand, you profess to support Magnus' goal of allowing mutants to live in peace, but you feel the only way to do that is by treating humans with the same hate they have for us! In the face of your inhumanity, to the woman, I realized there must be another way. An alternative to the pain, suffering, and deadly confrontation between our two people!" The Neophyte exclaimed.

They'd taken his name away for the trial.

"This other way, did it have a name? Colossus asked, knowing in his heart what the only possible answer could be. Sally found herself whispering the name Xaiver herself, and mentally kicked herself.

"Yes, Charles Xavier!" the boy cried.


Sally watched as the other Acolytes argued among themselves. She shuddered involuntarily as hot-tempered Usicione's psionic exoskeleton enveloped the boy.

Sally figured the Neophyte would have been finished right then and there, had not Colossus' innate need to protect kicked in. and finally watched as Voight teleported the boy to safety. Exodus, sitting in judgment throughout the proceedings as an unattached observer, finally rose from his seat on the platform to consider the judgement.

Sally irritabily grumbled.


Exodus returned, having gone to confer with Magneto to decide the Neophyte's sentence. Energy sparked to life from his hands, prepared to end the Neophyte's life.

"No! The boy's only crime was the strength of his convictions! Something Magneto as I knew him, would have respected and honored. For he was a man whose entire family was slaughtered by an army of soldiers -- men "following orders"; those same men sent millions of their fellow human beings into a holocaust raging with the heat of stupidity and ignorance!" Colossus cried.

Amelia countered that, but Sally honestly felt that she was hearing Colossus' words with her heart not her ears.

"I came here to Avalon because I believed we were going to be better than that. It is the very same reason this boy came to you, to us. Is he to punished for refusing to sit back and follow orders? Is he to be condemned for thinking differently? To stand back and watch as another living being was beaten and tortured? If so, then we should all follow, because eventually that is where we will all end up, anyone who disagrees..." Colossus trailed off.

"No, Exodus, if Magneto's life has taught us anything at all, it was how not to follow orders of others, but to follow the dictates of his own heart," Colossus finished.

The room is silent; save for the echo of Colossus' words, but Exodus notes the faces of the Acolytes and the impression those words have made. And, as ever, he adapts to survive.

"As I was about to say, Piotor Nicklovech, I would have taken his life without a shred of remorse, but Magneto is by far a more compassionate soul, that is why he instructed me to banish this wretch to the place of fools, known as Earth. Begone, Neophyte, knowing you are forever banned from the heaven that is Avalon. As for the rest of you, Peace be with you."

Exodus pivoted on his heels and departed the council chamber.

Sally left with the others, watching their faces. She found herself with little to say in the aftermath of the trial. She wondered when Colossus had become such a convincing public speaker. The Rusisan farm-boy she'd met during her tenure with New Mutants, could never have pulled off as eloquent a defense as she'd just witnessed.

"Did he mean it? Did Exodus hear and decide to be lenient? Did the Acolytes hear?"



"Sally, may I come in?" Peter Rasputin asked, as the door chime singled his presence.

"The doorlock signature isn't activated," Sally snapped, biting back tears.

"I'll take what I can get." Peter replied, as he entered the room and the metallic door slid with a soft hissing sound.

"What do you want? It's not like you've gone out of your way to associate with me or acknowledge my presence," Sally said, keeping her back turned to him.

"I'd like to talk to you, tovarish, if I may call you that?" Peter said as he placed his hand on her shoulder and gently turned her around so that she faced him.

"You talk, that doesn't mean I'll listen," Sally griped, fists clenched at her sides.

"What did Exodus call this place, `a safe haven away from the asylum the world below had become'? Yeah right!" Sally whispered, watching her breath condense on the cold metal windows. No matter how much they tried, science had not yet solved the problem of recyclable source of oxygen. It had been necessary to keep the station's temperature at about 55 degrees. Sally shivered, and not from the cold.

"Why do you stay? Because of loyalty to Magneto?" Peter asked.

"Good question. Why do I stay? You knew about the brainwashing Stryfe did to Rusty and me? as Peter nodded, seemingly to sum up a world of meanings in that single gesture.

"Magneto freed us. So, if, where my loyalties seem a little blurred, chock it up to that," Sally replied.

"Why do you stay?" Sally fired back at him.

"Magneto's way was so simple. So direct. Do as you're told. Don't ask questions and heaven forbid, disagree. Just do as you're told. Balm to my soul, the day my beloved sister, Illyana, died. When Magneto came, to offer us all Haven."

"You accepted. Was it Illyana's death, feeling betrayed by Xaiver, the only reasons? Later, you choose to cement the decision to stay here, when Xavier took Magneto's mind.

"Yes, I accepted Magneto's offer, of my own free will. His way seemed the brighter path. Charles had failed me, failed Illyana. His way promised strength unity, I was wrong, I see that now. And don't think for a moment that it was easy. While the way is good, the people he had chosen, the Acolytes, have twisted for their own power plays, their own ego."

"What did you come here to talk about?" Sally asked in spite of herself.

"You may found this odd, but I came to talk about you," Peter gasped.

"ME? I'm nobody." Sally shrugged.

"You are hardly a nobody, tovarish. In addition to clearing the air between us, I wish also to offer something of an apology. I've been so self-absorbed in angsting over my sister's death, second-guessing my decision to remain on Avalon."

"Don't sweat it, Rasputin. It's not like you and I ever had any history together, other than Ilyanna ..." Sally trailed off.

"I know that. It's that since your arrival on Avalon. You've been very quiet and withdrawn. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the trial that just took place."

"Not exactly the `haven' they advertised is it?" Sally smiled, a vague thinning of her mouth. "If its any sort of reassurance, you did a bang up job in there of defending the Neophyte's case. Too bad it was wasted on those creeps, Exodus has them believing anything he tells them."

"I wouldn't go that far, at least they listened." Peter replied, sharing her ironic smile.

"I guess they did at they that." Sally said.

"May I ask an personal question?" Peter let his head droop, so instead of looking into her eyes and he'd been doing since the beginning of the conversation, he stared at the floor. "Is there friction between you and Rusty?" he asked suddenly.

"We're experiencing a little relationship snag, what's it to you?" Sally said.

"I'd like to help," Peter whispered.

"Thanks for the offer, Rasputin. But you're not exactly an expert in romance. Rusty and I have basically known each other all our lives. This isn't anything we can't handle in that arena."

"I guess you're right about that, considering my own track record." Peter grinned, breaking the tense atmosphere that had grown up between them.

"So where does that leave you, us?" Sally asked.

"I wish I could give you a clear-cut response, but perhaps we can figure it out, Sally ..."

They stared at each other in silence after that. Perhaps they answers had yet to be found, or perhaps there just weren't any answers to be found.


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