by Karen

Julio Richter had spent five months with MUSE, a relocation program for young mutants in crisis. He now had a better grasp of the scope and limits of his powers. More importantly he had learned to control the directionless anger he'd bottled up inside over his father's murder.

MUSE had proven as good as their word: Lucas Wydham resembled a surrogate father and a drill sergeant rolled into one.

"Must be all that NASA officer training paying off big time," he said. Dr. Nancy Parsons was a school-marm in a designer suit, but she knew her stuff. She kept up, not only with his training, but his education, too.

"You know, there's something to be said for public education,' he griped, glaring down at an accumulating pile of homework he'd been assigned.

He'd just written and mailed a letter to his cousin, Candia, he'd asked her to read it to his mother. In it, he explained why he'd had to run away from home. Hopefully they'd understand. Squirming around a bit, he found a more comfortable position on the black leather sofa.

MUSE had found him a foster family in Boston. "Never imagined I'd wind up in the ` the East Coast," he remarked.

Both his foster parents were professionals: one a banker, the other a real estate agent. they knew he was a mutant, yet they'd welcomed him into their home with open arms.

"I bet if Mrs. Morgan had a chance to see the place belonging to M.U.S.E, she'd haveta bank her commissions from the houses she sells," "he trailed off, wondering not for the first time, at how `limited" their resources really were.

"Julio, hadn't you better get ready for practice," Mrs. Morgan called down from upstairs,

"You don't want to be late."

"Sure, mamasita," he called back, jumping up from the sofa, and rushing off to get his equipment and change into to his uniform. He dressed quickly. He quickly jammed all of his stuff into his duffel bag, then ran outside to wait in the driveway for Mrs. Morgan to bring the car around.


Julio watched people and buildings sped by in a hazy blur as his foster-mother, Denise Morgan, drove him to field hockey practice. She'd called ahead to see if practice would be cancelled because of a bank of fog rolling in from the Atlantic coast. Fortunately, practice was still on.

Upon reaching the park, Julio saw that others had already set up on the asphalt surface that served double duty as a basketball court. Unfastening his seat belt, he gave his foster-mom a quick hug, and ran off to join them.

"Good luck, Julio, she called after him, "Don't play too rough."

"Sure, mamaista." he yelled, slingng his equipment bag slung over one shoulder. In his hurry he accidentally collided with a blond girl wearing sweats and green sunglasses over a pair of startling blue eyes.

She was watching his team, The Bay Street Bombers, practice, getting ready for a scrimmage against the opposing team, the Miracle Mile Thunders.

"Hey! Watch we're you're going! she yelled as they both toppled backwards, with her landing on top of him, as his equipment bag went flying to land with a thud, out of arm's reach.

"Ugh,"he gasped. Julio absently noted that she was rather attractive if she hadn't been wearing so much makeup. "The Bay Street Bombers. "

"Hey, which team you on?" she asked, picking herself up. He belatedly realized that they'd collided rather hard, but he couldn't quite make his tongue form the words "are you okay?" He shifted from one foot to the other, thinking of the right thing to say. She, however, didn't seem to have that problem.

"You okay? Can I play, too?" she asked, fidgeting with her sunglasses.

She gave him a quick searching glance that took in everything.

Girls he mentally scoffed.

"I don't see why not. It's coed after all," he replied.

"Cool. Which team did you see you were on?" she asked.

"The Bombers," he answered.

"Sounds like my kind of team," she remarked, snapping her gum.

"You got a name, chica?" Julio, asked, getting slightly annoyed with her.

"Yeah, it's Tabitha Smith, and don't call me a `chic. I hate that. What's your name? she said.

"Julio Richter. My friends call me Ric. And for the record, I wasn't calling you anything like that. It's Spanish for; oh what's the use? Come on, I'll ask my coach if he's got any spare gear for you, Tabitha. You do know how to play?" he asked. walking towards the playing field.

"Like Duh! Of course I do, Ric. You don't mind me calling you that?" raising one blond eyebrow, saying, "As if you needed to ask?"

"Nah. Come on," Julio replied, as they both raced off towards the field.


Ben Russell, number 7 of the Thunders, and Julio Richter, number 11 of the Bombers, take up positions on the center line, you're on pass-off this game," the coach ordered.

"Smith," pointing at Tabitha, "you're new here, so take the back court. Don't argue with me, just get over there." the coach said, as

Tabitha opened her mouth to protest, that new or not she could hack it just as well as the boys. She swallowed her words and her gum at the same time.

The coach just glared at her, which made her decide to do what she was told for once.

Seeing the wisdom of that, the redhead took up his stance at the indicated position, levering his playing stick to the ground.

Julio followed suit on the opposite side. "No probelmo, jefe," Julio agreed.

Ben Russell felt a momentary feeling of dejavu wash over him as he stared at the brown haired boy's face, like he knew that face in other place and time

"Probably just some kid my team's played before." Ben shook off the odd felling of recognition, saving his concentration for the scrimmage.

The referee dropped the ball on the asphalt surface dead center. Ben was a split-second faster and snagged the ball with his stick, whirling around with the ball pinioned , his teammates flanking him, while trying to prevent the players on the other team from gaining control of the ball.

Seeing that the oddly familiar boy was catching up, intent on taking the ball away, Ben increased his speed. He pivoted on his heel and passed the ball to his nearest teammate.

Ben's agility made him a natural at the game as he headed for the goal, seemingly careening around obstacles presented by Julio and Tabitha's teammates like they weren't even there. He scored the first goal.

Later in the game, Julio signaled to Tabitha and they both split laterally across the field. Tabitha being smaller and faster got there first, snatching away the object of contention and made a mad dash for the goal, passing it to Julio at the last minute.

Enroute, in the time it took to get past the blockade of other players. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tabitha make a signal to take the shot, and leave caution to the winds. Julio yanked back the playing stick and swiped the ball into the goal; wishing the ball along as it sailed through the air that it'd land between the goal posts. Someone must have heard his unspoken thoughts for the sphere whipped bast the goal tender and landed smack dab behind him.

Play commenced in the allotted hour game, with points shifting up and down; with only a few seconds left, Ben maneuvered an high arcing shot toward the Bomber's goal, despite Julio and Tabitha's best efforts to block his path.

He took his shot, as the ball sailed over their hands to come to a graceful landing behind the goalie. A perfect shot that won the game for the Thunders. The referee went to the centerline and called the game over.

"I'd like to shake the hand of the person who scored the winning goal," Julio said, walking over to the Thunder's side of the field.

"Sure" Ben said, extending one hand for Julio to grasp, then Ben started to pump his hand up and down for all he was worth, taking his hand back and stuffed both into his jeans pockets.

"Hey, Ric, you want to bring Ben along and we'll go somewhere else in the park, say by the picnic benches?" Tabitha asked, stepping in between the two boys, her gum plastered to her face. She stared up at them, since she stood at about chin level with Julio, and the redhead was even taller. Julio tried to hold back the laughter at the sight of Tabitha, gum be-smeared, figuring it'd earn him at the least a snappy remark or a jab in the ribs with her elbow.

"Ah, that's Tabitha Smith," he said, gesturing towards her, "And I'm Julio Richter," he finished the round of introductions.

"I'm Benjamin Russell."

"Let's go," Tabitha said as they walked over to another section of the park.


All three, having skipped the picnic table in favor of a shady oak tree sat on the ground with their backs against it. Their legs sprawled out in front of them, like spokes on a wheel.

Tabitha took over her sunglasses and peered at each of the boys. "Can you keep a secret?" she asked, taking a deep breath.

"Mum's the word," Julio replied, holding a finger to his mouth.

"Well, if it's a secret, you shouldn't tell, then it won't be a secret..." Ben trailed off.

He found himself warming up to both the Mexican boy and the blond girl almost immediately. His aunt kept him pretty much secluded in their two-story house, except for going to school and taking him to field hockey matches. Otherwise he didn't get out much. He wanted these people to become his friends.

"Ben, if Tabitha wants to tell us, that means she trusts us to keep her secret," Julio said.

"Exactly. You see I haven't always lived in Boston. I used to live in a trailer park in Jonestown, Pennsylvania," Tabitha continued.

"Neither have I, you can tell by the accent," Julio added.

"Yeah, you're from Mexico,. it wasn't that obvious, but let me finish." Tabitha flopped down on her stomach, her sunglasses falling to the ground.

"We'll take turns telling secrets," Ben said, bending over to pick up the sunglasses, then handed them back to her.

"Yeah, then we'll pass out secret decoder rings," Julio muttered, tearing up blades of grass.

"Will you shut up, Ric?" Tabitha snapped.

He squirmed around, but remained silent.

"Thank you. Okay, I'll just warn you, it isn't pretty. You see, I think I'm one of those, uh, mutants," Tabitha hesitantly whispered.

"We believe you," both boys said together.

"You do?" Tabitha's blue eyes widened in shock. She thought back to her life after she'd run away from home, a trailer park and the only place she'd ever called home.

"I just couldn't take it anymore. My dad's drunken scenes, his withdrawal from me. I'd finally had to split, lived as best I could on the street, until ChildWatch found me." They'd brought her to live with a foster family here in Boston.

"Life sure has a funny way of twisting people's lives around," she thought, staring off into space, completely oblivious to the boys staring at her.

"I have to, you see, I'm a mutant also," Julio said, thinking back to the first time his power manifested all those months ago in Guadalajara and later how Cameron Hodge used his powers in San Francisco for his own ulterior motives. He could readily sympathize with Tabitha's situation. It couldn't have been easy for her.

Julio's last comment snapped Tabitha out of her bittersweet memories of the past, focusing her attention as Ben added his own revelation.

"That makes it unanimous," Ben said. `My Aunt Rita says that I'm special. But, ever since I turned thirteen, I've been able to channel sound through my hands. She won't let me handle sharp objects," he explained.

"Weird," Tabitha commented. "Well, until you literally bumped into me, Ric, I've been so terrified of telling anyone."

"We've all heard stories that there must be something wrong with you because you're a mutant," Julio said.

"You can say that again, Ric, but do us all a favor, and don't," Tabitha said, popping her gum.

"So what's your `dazzle'?" Ben asked, leaning forward, hanging on the blond girl's every word, ignoring their previous exchange.

"I, uh generate time-bombs of explosive energy. I kinda blow stuff up," Tabitha replied, back-pedaling from Ben's intent stare, she then circled around the tree before coming back to join the boys. "What's yours, Ric?"

"I create vibratory waves from my hands. How good are you at controlling it?" he replied.

"Well," Ben replied, "I have to be careful, Aunt Rita says that if I channel too much sound I'm liable to either deafen myself or knock myself out," Ben shrugged it off, as if saying that sort of thing happened every day, so it was no big deal.

"Me, I'm practicing making different timebombs, but sometimes I make duds. And, Ric, I'm not really up on this whole mutant thing, so what the heck does `vibratory waves' mean?" Tabitha asked, rubbing the bridge of her nose where her sunglasses made it itch.

"I can resonate them along the ground to create a mini- earthquake, or through the air, to sort make stuff topple down. The people who rescued me taught me that I needed not just control, but..." Julio trailed off.

"Discipline," Ben finished, standing up to stretch.

"Yeah I had a lot of stuff bottled up inside," Julio agreed, shuffling his feet, a little uncomfortable sharing his feelings.

"Me, too," Tabitha said, filling the silence. "You see, my Mom was great, but she died when I was really little. My Dad didn't handle that at all well. I think he really loved her, but after he refused to talk about her, tell me what she was like, and stuff, now that she was gone. So, he started drinking..."

"And when he drank, he got mean," Ben said in sympathy for Tabitha's obviously unhappy home-life. At least she'd had parents. He'd never known his real parents; he barely remembered anything about his past until he'd come to live with his aunt. He'd asked once, but she'd gone silent, hidden all the photo albums. She'd given him the cold shoulder treatment for three weeks before their relationship had gone back to its normal routine. Ben had never asked about his parents again.

"Julio, do you have parents?" Ben asked, curious to know learn more about his new friends.

"Yeah, I come from a real large family in Mexico. But a lot of that anger I told ya about, was dealing with seeing my father murdered right in front of my face," Julio answered, striding off a little ways from them.

"That must've royally sucked. I mean, you were a kid and all. I guess we all have sob stories," Tabitha said soothingly, patting him on the shoulder. "Guys, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"That's corny, but what did you expect?" Ben grinned, making his freckles stand out. "You know I've been thinking, Since we're all mutants, and we've got a lot in common. You know what we should do. Form a club," Ben finished.

"Just for mutants like us," Tabitha added, spouting a sphere of energy from her left hand.

"Agreed, but just to make it official, we should have a initiation ceremony," Ben said, brushing back a lock of red hair from his eyes.

"Yeah, some kind of oath, pinkie swear, friends forever, soul- mates till the end," Tabitha said, holding out her right hand with the small finger crooked,

"You in, Ric?" she asked, her blue eyes staring into his brown ones.

"Si, Tabitha." Julio said extending his own left hand and twining the smallest finger around hers, "Friends Forever, Soul-Mates." Para siempre." Ben switched places with Julio and went through the same performance.

"We should have code names now that we're a secret club," Ben said after doing the pinkie swear.

"Okay, since I blow stuff up, you call me Boomer, `cause it's the sound my time-bombs make," Tabitha announced.

"Uh, it's just a coincidence, but you might as well stick with Richter, it's the same as the scale for measuring earthquakes," Julio explained.

"Okay, Rictor," Tabitha said, pronouncing it without the letter H.

"How about you, Ben. I mean we can't all be in the club and not have cool codename," Julio said.

"I've always liked the name Shatterstar," Ben said.

"Then Shatterstar it is. Weird, but..."

"The next order of business is deciding when we'll meet again," Ben said.

After some thought, they decided they'd wait for the next weekend game before the newly-forged club met again.

They were completely unaware that they'd had an unseen observer the entire time. She was intensely interested in all of them, especially the red-haired boy. He'd inadvertently had given himself the name he'd bear into the future.


Mojoworld, 100 years in the future

Spiral sat in the swivel studio chair, her arms; all six of them crossed one over the other. Her silver eyes, like pools of molten quicksilver stared at the computer monitors in the control room. She watched the three young mutants pledge to be friends forever.

"Was I ever that young?" Spiral mused, running a hand through her silver hair; another hand angrily swiped her helmet off a nearby table.

"You got a live-feed from that Terran dimension?" So much entertainment value," a disembodied voice echoed through a loudspeaker, interrupting her thoughts.

"Is that all you ever think about, Mojo? And to answer your question, I think they call it Boston," she answered.

"I'm not really up on Earth Civics, isn't that were they dumped a ton of beverage into the sea?" Mojo jeered.

"That was tea, two hundred years ago from our current time-lapse scene we're viewing here," Spiral explained. "Ah, we've got to get someone to help with the filing," she muttered, gazing with critical attention at her ruby painted nails.

"And I do always think about ratings, time-dancer. That's how Mojo Networks stays in power. Be a dear, and bring my delightful plaything and his new friends here. I want to give them a casting-call, " Mojo cackled, nearly threatening to split his face in half.

"What if I don't want to?" Spiral sighed, "You have no idea of how utterly fed up, how furious I am with those petty network games you call entertainment," Spiral griped, thinning her red lips, her eyes flashing, two hands resting at her hips, three others itching to throttle her boss.

"Who cares what you want! It's what I want!" Mojo screamed, his gruesome face appearing on another monitor. His obscene joy made his numerous chins jounce up and down in irate glee.

"All right, all right, I'm going. Stop screaming, you'll liable to bust a gut."

"Everybody's a comedian," the corpulent alien programmer sighed.

"At least this way I'll have no more syndicated re-runs. Mojoworld is a land where entertainment is the be-all and end-all of existence, and I call the shots! Sit-coms are highly over-rated. I want action, action, and action! I want blood, I want guts!" Mojo gibbered, his prehensile tail smacking the metal floor.

"Blow it out the nearest airlock," Spiral's voice echoed in the cavernous control room. She began twirling in a dizzying circular dance, three arms raised as if reaching for the ceiling, the other three wrapped tightly around herself. The lines of frustration and anger smoothed from her face, as she called the time-winds down to obey her every command. The air fizzled around her, opening a gateway in the space-time continuum, a curtain of fire and light. This was her access to the Wildways enroute to twentieth century Earth.

She'd been sent to claim Benjamin Russell, her current focal point in time.

He'd known her as Aunt Rita; she'd raised him, now as Spiral, she had to retrieve to be used as a pawn in alien tyrant's machinations.

The newly-forged club had decided to rendezvous at the Starbright Video Arcade for no other reason than it was a local teen-hangout and that if anyone overheard them talking about powers, they'd assume it was just some sort of code for beating the latest shoot-em-up video game.

Ben was running late, he found that the other members of the club had already arrived. Tab, or Boomer as she preferred to be called had ordered for everyone. She'd gotten tacos for Rictor, thinking he would be missing home-cooked food, and three sodas.

He overheard Rictor telling her that tacos weren't authentic Mexican food. The two spotted hovering near the entrance and waved him over. "I've never had this before," Ben said, joining his friends at their table.

"Go ahead and eat, before it gets gold, Star," Rictor said.

"You have to learn to expand your horizons," Boomer added.

"So,"" the word hung in the air as the interior of the video arcade fazed out and a woman with six-arms and silver hair emerged from a curtain of fire and light.

"Auditions are open," the exotically familiar woman announced in a sibilant voice. Whipping out three arms, she snagged Ben, Julio and Tabitha and thrust them bodily into the warping energy field that had been torn in space-time continuum. "Talk about a captive audience," she muttered.

Turning to the stunned crowd, she announced: "Shatterstar has left the building." Without further ado, Spiral pivoted on her heel and stepped through the portal enroute to Mojoworld.

"Virtual reality was never this real," someone nearby muttered.

"Yeah, man. I gotta stop playing video games, way too addictive, sensory overload and all that," his friend replied.

"Yeah, that woman had six arms," the other answered.


A gigantic bowl-shaped valley in the midst of a vast-plain opened up before the three young mutants. It hailed back to the Coliseum of the Ancient Romans, the only thing that detracted from the symmetry between then and now were the harsh fluorescent lights, the endless row of viewing stands, and the high-tech monitoring and security systems.

Shatterstar, Rictor, and Boomer emerged from Spiral dimensional gateway, staggering from the inevitable cobwebs caused by trans- spatial travelling through the shifting time currents. Their guts were roiling and their heads reeling.

"Ugh, me without my Dramamine," Boomer, as usual, was the first to find her voice and words to utter.

"Not funny, B," Rictor coughed. gasping for air.

"Who asked you, Rictor?" Getting off her hands and knees, she gave their surroundings a 360-degree inspection. "Star, any idea where we are?" she asked.

"I think it's some sort of arena. We're on display," Shatterstar answered.

"I feel like a mannequin in a glass enclosed display window from a department store."

Staring down at her feet, Boomer discovered that she was actually `on display' approximately seventy-five feet above the heads of a crowd of packed spectators

The playing field resembled the park where the Pirates played and someone had tacked on Shea Stadium for a touch of overkill.

"I am psychic or what?" Boomer joked, shaking off a touch of vertigo.

The two boys simply gave her blank stares at her last comment. A `Huh?" hanging like a thundercloud about to unleash its gallon of rain on their heads.

"Cue wardrobe!" a disembodied voice yelled. "I mean, sheesh, they look like they dressed out the discards of the Salvation Army." Suddenly as if someone had heard her comment about mannequins, the clothes they'd had disappeared as if being removed by invisible fingers.

"What is this, come as you aren't party?" Boomer griped.

Shatterstar's jeans and T-shirt replaced by a flowing caftan like white outfit and a blue cape draped over his shoulders, with two double-bladed swords strapped to his back. Along with the change in attire, a strange feeling swept over him. It felt as if his personality and memories of Benjamin Russell was being erased and another personality was taking its place.

Boomer's halter and jeans were replaced by a pink skin-tight bodysuit. Rictor's T-shirt and jeans by blue skin-tight Spandex criss- crossed with black lines, and a black shirt, whose most prominent feature was a larger than life red X in the middle.

"Talk about being dressed to kill," Boomer joked.

"That's the spirit. But you weren't hired to ad-lib your own dialogue. This is a cold-reading," Spiral commented. "They're here, Mojo," she added, stepping out of her portal, right behind the kids, to stand atop a platform that could be raised and lowered on a hydraulic platform.

A panel near their enclosed opened to reveal that it connected to the main control room. An obese alien rolled out on a conveyance that looked barely solid enough to hold his bulk. He resembled an overgrown slug with a prehensile tail; his color was a blend of off- white and yellow. He smiled evilly, threatening to split his face in half.

"Welcome to Mojoworld, kiddies. I'm your host. Mojo, programmer extrradonaire. This is a cold reading. This dimension is where ratings and entertainment is the be-all and end-all of existence. In case, you haven't been paying attention is my dimension! Either play by my rules or get crushed!" he hollered at the top of his high-pitched lungs, threatening to deafen them all.

"All right, kiddies, you're properly attired. Now get my `star' and his friends out on the arena floor. It's show-time!" Mojo announced.

"Mojoworld." Star replied laconically. He'd only spent several minutes, but unlike his friends, he found himself acclimatizing much faster than either of them. It was like that odd sense of deja vu he'd experienced during the field hockey game, only more so.

So, as he listened to the high-pitched laughter of the alien programmer, Mojo, in a way he couldn't describe, he'd been here before, that somehow this place was connected with the missing pieces of his own past. As more and more pieces fell into place, he'd been able to retrieve bits and pieces of knowledge about this Mojoworld.

The three found themselves on a rotating platform in the midst of the arena, with a mixed bag of spectators packed into the viewing stands. On the platform directly opposite them stood about two dozen armed goons, some with high-powered, futuristic rifles, others with an assortment of a weapons that would make a weapons collector swoon.

"So, you got any bright ideas?" Rictor asked, not really expecting a response.

To his surprise Shatterstar had one.

"Yes. We take the fight to them," Shatterstar replied, drawing the twin-bladed swords from his back, then leapt into the fray, deifying gravity with every move perfectly executed, shearing heads and arms off his opponents.

In a corner of his mind, he knew that whatever the time lapse between 20th century Boston and this alien landscape, he never would have been able to do this. He let instinct take over, and he lost himself in the furor of battle.

"Great plan," Boomer muttered, shaking her head in amazement.

"Hey, Boomer, you said you've been practicing making timebombs, right?"

She nodded. "Here's a perfect opportunity to do it for real," Rictor said.

"Okay, I rock their world, you disorient them by spinning your time-bombs in random patterns across the arena. Try not to get hit by any of that armament," Rictor said. Suiting action to words, he brought up the green energy from his hands and sent it lancing through the air, knocking a quartet of armored goons off their feet in a coruscating circle. They dropped their weapons and were sent spinning through the air, arms and legs wind milling. It was a vain attempt to regain equilibrium where none existed.

"Do you have a better plan?" Rictor asked, tossing the question over his shoulder to her.

"No, Okay, but if we survive this, we'll discuss who gets to give orders," Boomer said, bringing up two spheres of glowing energy from her hands.

"We should live that long," Rictor growled.

Boomer refused to show how scared she was, it was very well for her to boast that she knew how to control, let alone use her powers, but it was another thing entirely to be called upon to prove it. Her two best friends, being typical guys, obviously weren't to go to let on that they were scared, so she'd wouldn't either. She brought up the energy and sent the spheres of energy arcing into the milling conflict. It was hard for her to throw time bombs and dodge energy blasts at the same time. She needed to be standing still in order to get good leverage for tossing her time-bombs. Counting how long it took before each one exploded helped her forget how nervous she was. In the back of her mind, she thought, "I hope those creeps watching this, get a good show."

"Let us make this one for two worlds to remember!" Shatterstar yelled, launching himself into the air.

A synthesized voice began a play by play summation of the action

"The battle has increased to encompass the Spineless rebellion troops!

Where did they come from? What's going on here?" it droned on, not realizing that none of the participants where paying attention, and neither was the audience.

"Something they have long forgotten. A fight for freedom," Spiral said, emerging from the shadows.

The announcer continued: "The Fang Troops are on the defensive! Ladies and Gentlemen, with the once-and future Shatterstar, and two members of the Terran strike force, fighting side by side, the Freeman armed Network is soon to fall!"

"Rictor, Boomer, we must regroup. The key to ending this fight lies up there in the control room!" Shatterstar yelled, to be heard above the clamor of battle.

"Read you loud and clear, Star," Rictor and Boomer yelled back in response.


"What the hell happened?" Boomer demanded, huffing to get more oxygen into her lungs.

"Yeah, that's what I'd like to know," Rictor gasped.

"We've been transposed," Shatterstar replied.

"You haven't been transposed, you've been juxtaposed," A woman's voice answered their question.

The three turned to discover the source of the voice. It was the same silver-haired, six-armed woman who kidnapped them from Earth and dropped vthem into the middle of another dimension's bizarre blood-sport.

"Welcome to my Inner Sanctum. I trust you enjoyed yourselves thoroughly?" she greeted them. She swiveled around in her high-backed chair, perched on it like it was her own throne. "Allow me to introduce myself, I am Spiral, Mistress of the WildWays, and this my Inner Sanctum. "You want your questions answered, I find myself in the mood to be forthright with my answers. Take advantage of this opportunity, kiddies, this is a limited time offer."

What does juxtaposition mean, Spiral?" Shatterstar demanded, dispensing with her lame attempts at pleasantry.

"It means, dear boy, placing completely opposite ideas or situations in direct contact with each other. Future time and present time interconnecting in order to accomplish a given moment," Spiral explained, folding three arms, the other waving above the array of computer banks and control consoles lining her chamber.

"That's paradox," Shatterstar said, utterly lost in a sea of warped logic.

"So what? It worked, didn't it? You're here, your friends are here, and I'm here. Benjamin Russell is and always will be the once and future Shatterstar," Spiral announced.

"I don't believe you," Shatterstar declared, folding his arms across his chest.

"How else would you have known to call yourself that?" Spiral asked, raising one silver eyebrow.

"Yeah, I say we torch the place," Boomer griped. "Time-travel makes my head hurt," she said, rubbing her temples.

"Or we'll bring it down around their ears," Rictor said, bringing up the green energy from his hands.

"Rictor, Boomer, you cannot believe her, she's obviously lying," Shatterstar said, trying to make himself believe it at the same time.

"Benjamin, how can you say that, I raised you. Ah, ""How sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child."" I trust you recognize the quote," Spiral smiled, showing off perfectly white, slightly pointed teeth.

"Yeah, it's from KING LEAR, by William Shakespeare," Rictor replied.

"Smart boy," Spiral remarked.

"How do you know this stuff?" Boomer asked.

"It's called reading, Boomer. You should try it some time," Rictor teased.

"I am not a complete airhead!" Boomer snapped.

"But we do not surrender! Mojo lives, programmer, by his obsession for power and desire to extend your own longevity past the point of cancellation! The ways of this world are over! No longer will we do what you want, Mojo! No longer will you tell us what to do! We will not play your games, and I will not allow anyone to pull this `puppet's strings. My destiny, my identity may be a thing for you to manipulate. I don't believe in predestination, I make my own fate!" Shatterstar found himself declaring, unaware of the source of his own knowledge.

"To continue our lesson in inter-dimensional physics, one or the other must occupy the same space in the confines of the space time continuum. As Mistress of the Wildways, I can bend the time currents to my will. See how easy that was? No need for threats, Shatterstar," Spiral smirked.

"No threats, no riddles?" Shatterstar asked, perplexed.

"So, its just a theory. right? That's what you did with Ben, uh Shatterstar's life. The whole time we, you, I mean Rita. Star's essence was drifting around and." Rictor tried a shot in the dark.

"Essentially, yes," Spiral replied. "Benjamin Russell. When his mutant power or I should say, yours, manifested he was hurled into a coma. Since that day, well I did what I could. Let's just say that the lives of both young men mean more than all the world to me. Is it not enough that he will live to complete his life cycle." Spiral replied.

"I don't understand, why would you, of all people, go to all that trouble?" Boomer asked.

"I've just given him a taste of what is to come. As I mentioned earlier, the two essences, although existing in different time and space, can yet interconnect as one since I have juxtaposed them, by twisting strands of space and time. "Spiral shrugged. "Essentially making them one and the same, two souls in one body," Spiral explained.

"So how do we get back to Earth?" Boomer, asked, what, to her was the most urgent, and obvious question.

"You go through the portal," Spiral answered, gesturing to a platform near the far wall.

"Then what was the point of bringing us to Mojoworld?" Shatterstar asked, puzzled by the elaborate ordeal they'd been forced to endure.

"To shove the truth of your origins right under your nose, Shatterstar, to show that you will always be a part of the Mojoverse, and that your presence on Earth is only a temporary exile," Spiral replied.

"In other words..," Boomer left her words hanging.

"You've been syndicated," Mojo smirked, appearing on another monitor.

"I thought you said, there'd be no more riddles," Shatterstar griped.

"That wasn't a riddle, but I'll leave you to figure it out," Spiral said and exited through a sliding metal panel in the wall.


"Intruder alert!" Cable shouted. raising two plasma rifles as he plunged headlong down the corridors in the direction of the Danger Room, where the early warning system indicated a security breach.

"They all heard it, Nate. In fact, I think everyone in the X- Mansion heard, let alone the entire Westchester County," Domino said.

"I wasn't that loud," Cable said defensively.

"Yeah right," Domino shouted, pushing and shoving past the bulky, heavily muscled forms of both male teammates, to check out the situation.

"He has a lot frustration to work off, let Jimmy handle it," Cable ordered.

"And I don't," Domino snorted, ignoring the order, and rushing into the fray.

"Okay, MTV pretty boys, playtime's over!" Jimmy yelled, big as his body was; he could still move remarkably fast, a fact that many of his opponents failed to recognize to their regret. Rushing forward at breakneck speed, the mutant Apache crashed full length into Shatterstar who neatly sliced through the Danger Room's programmable battledroids designed for training scenarios.

Boomer stood off to one side tossing energy spheres at the holographic opponents, Rictor, literally caused the floor to buckle, like it was being hit by miniature earthquakes.

The holographic opponents didn't faze Rictor or Boomer. Shatterstar simply leapt over increasingly widening cracks in the floor and proceeded to relieve the droids of their heads.

"Isn't this where we came in?" Rictor quipped, dismantingly another droid by causing a holographic wall to collapse under extreme metal fatigue and crushed the droid beneath it.

"Not exactly," Shatterstar said, taking the idiom literally.

"So, where are we. This isn't Boston. I thought that time dohickey was, uh, cali-cali-..." Boomer stammered.

"Calibrated," Shatterstar added helpfully.

"I knew that!" she snapped.

"To send us back to where we started," he finished.

"Obviously something went wrong," an acerbic woman's voice finished.

Dressed in a blue-white bodysuit, she had a black patch over one eye, she held a rope in her left hand.

"Maybe you should be backing off. Although, personally I'd rather you didn't. I'm just the obligatory mother figure around her, so I thought I should give you a chance to save your teeth before I kick them in!" she yelled.

"You pay heed to your own welfare, and don't mock me again!" Shatterstar answered, annoyed.

"Have it your way, then," Domino stated agreeably. "In fact, I'd prefer it if you did."

"I always have, always will. Fekt, you are fast, white-face. Do you have the courage to face me without leaping about like a dancer?" Shatterstar growled.

Dropping to the ground, Domino, with blinding speed lanced out with her left leg and kicked Shatterstar right in the gut, sending him hurtling into the wall.

"Hey, Star, you mind giving me a hand here?" Boomer yelled, having pinned up against the wall by a very large man who'd run into her like a linebacker in full blitz. Boomer found herself hovering about six feet off the ground.

"Coming, Boomer!" the other boy yelled, having stopped nailing droids when the holograms vanished. His headlong dash toward his friends halted midway when he felt arm like steel wrap around his waist and lift him off his feet. Pressed up against the man's chest, he was brought face to face with a blast from the past.

"Stryfe!" he exclaimed.

"What did you say, kid?" Cable asked.

"You're, the man who killed my father!" Rictor yelled.

"Sorry to hear that, kid. But you've got a case of mistaken identity; I'm not Stryfe. Don't know what kind of back-story you've got. But he and I are one hundred percent not one and the same,' Cable explained. "You want down?"

"Si, jefe," Rictor gasped.

"Rictor, Boomer, I think it might be a good idea if we tried talking this out," Shatterstar decided.

"Now, start from the beginning, leave nothing out," Cable ordered.

"It's complicated," Shatterstar began.

"Um, well we all met in Boston, we found that we had powers, then it gets uh, weird," Boomer began.

"Explain weird," Domino said.

"Uh, well. We were kidnapped by an woman named Spiral who worked for an alien network programmer from another dimension who forced us to participate in his arena blood sport games, and," Rictor added.

"It had to do with her plans for me. It has to do with a theory called juxtaposition," Shatterstar said.

"Working theory?" Cable said, he'd been in enough situations that involved similar theories, that he wasn't about toss that out the window just yet.

"Future time interconnects with past, allowing two polar opposites to exist in exact symmetry with one another. It wasn't supposed to happen, but my very existence as Shatterstar is a paradox. Apparently the ruler of this other dimension already has my future mapped out. I don't believe that my fate is predetermined, "Shatterstar explained.

"So you left," Domino said.

"Not exactly. We were allowed to leave, since our experience in Mojoworld happened before it occurred according to their timetable. Spiral warned me that that was only a taste of what's to come. And if this wasn't just another deception, then perhaps this is where we're supposed to end up," Shatterstar explained, heaving an annoyed sigh.

"We're back on Earth! Yes!" Boomer shouted.

"Okay, that explains him. What's your story, girl?" Warpath asked.

"Uh, joined them in Boston, got sent to Mojoworld, Ric and I kinda have a similar situation. We're tied up with Star' here, and now we don't have anywhere to go," Boomer said.

"Like Boomer said, we go where Star goes. In Boston, we kinda did form a club, and part of our, uh, initiation ceremony we promised to stick with each other, through everything. That Mojoworld was a bit much... But like Boomer said, we don't have anywhere else to go," Rictor finished.

"So, you got the 411, happy now, big guy?" Boomer joked, staring up at him, fists cocked on her hips.

"I admit it, you've convinced me. For the moment, go with Domino, gets cleaned up, or anything else you might need. I'll get back to you with my decision," Cable stated.

Later the entire team, plus the three extra additions assembled in the mansion's living room, he sat them all down, with an announcement

"I guess introductions are in order, that's Domino" he said, pointing to the woman with a patch.

"That's Warpath" he said, pointing to the candidate for a linebacker for the NFL.

Hell, Boomer thought. With his build he could probably fill several positions at once.

"That's Cannonball," Cable said, pointing to a gorgeous blond kid.

"Shatterrstar is stranded in this dimension. In return for helping him fight his war, he will fight ours," Cable announced.

"Rictor and Boomer will join as well, they've explained about being in Mojoworld with Shatterstar and how they wound up there. With nowhere else to go, they've agreed to join the team," Cable continued.

"In addition, I don't feel our method of operation will coincide with those of our `landlords', the X-MEN."

"What happens now, Sir?" Cannonball asked, glancing at the blond girl, called Boomer. He found her very attractive. Adding a new member to the team wouldn't be all that bad," he thought.

"You were first brought here by a man who had a dream, Sam. It's time to face reality. You've already how to control your powers, we'll keep working with our new recruits and honing everyone else's. Now it's time to start using them. It's time we became a force for change in this world, legal or not, for what's right," Cable explained.

"Take Professor Xavier's dream and fight for it?" Warpath asked.

"An X-Force? A little crude, but it's got some potential." Cannonball said.

"Welcome to X-Force, kiddies, hope you survive the experience. That's all for tonight. Hit the showers, gang. Cannonball, show our new members the ropes, would you," Cable said as he and Domino left the room.


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