Special thanks for the exceptional efforts of all the archaeologists at the
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico,
the Arizona State University, the University of Rochester,
the University of Toronto, Colgate University,
the National Autonomous University of Mexico,
the University of Western Ontario, and especially the writing talents of
George E. Stuart, without whose superb work and insights
this book could never have been written.
Wolverine bolted upright in bed, gasping in stark terror. Hot sweat trickled down his bare back as he stared around the shadowed room, wide-eyed.
"Don't you leave..."
Then he faltered into bewildered silence. Soothing reality gradually filtered through his panicked visions, and the nightmare receded.
Groaning, he closed his eyes in frustration.
Not again, dammit, not again! Hadn't he had enough of other people's nightmares implanted in his head? Just once, he wanted to fall sleep and know that his dreams were his own!
And anyway, this one didn't make any sense! Storm and him, married? Sure, they were good friends, but married?
He snorted in derision. The weird clothes, the devastated land, those vicious mutant-seeking robots...and Storm wearing her long, beautiful white hair in a mohawk!
Yet...this wasn't the first time he'd had this dream. And that was the craziest thing of all. Why should he constantly be dreaming of Storm and him, in some bizarre mutant-mad world, and so terribly afraid that he was about to lose her?
Logan cast his rumpled sheets aside and glared out the window. The sun was just rising. If he wasn't in such a lousy mood, he might have enjoyed the delicate colors tinting the eastern horizon.
As it was...
He snarled at his disheveled reflection as he tugged a tee shirt and shorts over his wiry body, then stalked out of the mansion. He didn't want to talk to anyone...he just wanted to be alone for a while!
He couldn't bear to see Jean right now--it hurt too much knowing that she was finally married to Cyclops, and lost to him forever. Gambit and Rogue had disappeared as soon as they'd returned to the mansion a week ago, and no one had seen them since then. Good thing they had a food replicator in their rooms, or they'd probably starve to death! Not that they were likely to notice, even if they did!
And to add insult to injury, even Jubilee was gone--she'd begged to stay at Muir Island with Xavier and that living nightmare, Kevin MacTaggert!
He couldn't mention his dreams to Beast...the blue-furred scientist would probably try to psychoanalyze him or something. He could almost hear Beast's deep, solemn voice now... "Undoubtedly, my friend, you are only dreaming about Storm because she is the last unattached woman at the mansion."
And maybe he'd be right--maybe that's all it was. But he knew that if he told Storm about what he'd seen, she'd think he was nuts, and refuse to ever talk to him again!
So who was left to talk to?
No, he was better off alone, on his own, just like he'd always been!
"You are up early this morning!"
The calm, dignified voice startled him, and he whirled around, his razor-sharp claws rasping together. Then he relaxed again, and sighed in weary frustration. He must have really been lost in his own thoughts, if he hadn't noticed her approaching! Good thing she wasn't an enemy--he'd have been dead by now!
"Hiya, Storm," he reluctantly muttered, sheathing his claws and spinning back around. Of all the people to find him, when his head was still filled with those incredibly bizarre visions...
Then he suspiciously glanced back up at her. She was hovering a few meters above his head, her long white hair pulled back in a ponytail. Almost like a mohawk...
"What're you doing out here?" he sourly grumbled. It wasn't that he wasn't glad to see her, in his own way. It was just that...
Storm glided to the ground nearby, a pensive frown darkening her aristocratic face. "I was awakened by--an unusual dream," she confessed. Then a mischievous light entered her dark eyes. "And you were not exactly quiet when you stormed out of the mansion," she added, grinning.
"So you followed me?" he demanded. Dammit, he'd come out here to get away from everyone!
"Logan!" Indignant, Storm drew herself up. "I would never do such a thing!"
Then he saw the dry humor in her warm smile. "In truth, I also felt the need for some fresh air," she admitted. "I did not mean to intrude upon your solitude."
Solitude. He'd been alone most of his life--why should her words rankle so much?
"Yeah, well..." He knew he sounded surly, but he couldn't help it. What was real in his life anymore, and what was someone else's crazy fantasy? "If you're gonna go flying, have a good time!"
Storm stared at Logan, startled by his abrupt rejection. Something was bothering him, she did not need to be an empath to realize that. Summoning a gentle dawn breeze, she floated up into the nearest tree, and retrieved two newly-ripened apples. Her light movement shook the surrounding leaves, and a few cold drops of dew sprinkled across her hands.
"Join me for breakfast?" she offered, drifting back down and extending one of the apples in his direction.
She just wasn't going to leave him alone, was she?
But he couldn't really be mad at her--she meant well. She always did.
Okay, so he'd humor her for a few minutes, then head off again. Sighing, he reluctantly stretched out his hand.
The rising sun was creeping over the horizon, brightening the sky. A stray shaft of light glittered off the scattered dew drops on her dusky skin. Startled, he stared in disbelief. For just an instant, he'd have sworn that there was a golden wedding band gleaming on her left hand! Then she dropped the apple into his palm, and it was gone again.
Enough! He was sick of people messing around in his head! Snarling, he threw the apple into the air, and slashed at it with his claws. Lacerated fragments exploded around them as he spun on his heel and stalked off.
"Wolverine!" Storm launched into the air and followed him, shocked by his unwarranted attack. "What on earth is the matter?"
"Just leave me alone!" Scowling, he changed direction and headed for the rocky coastline. Why couldn't she simply take a hint?
"Wolverine!" Storm tenaciously paced him, her long hair whipping around her shoulders. "You could at least tell me why you are angry with me!"
Logan gritted his teeth in frustration. "If I was mad at you, darlin'," he rasped, "you'd know it!"
A distinctive beeping made her pause and reach for her suit's communit button. "Storm here," she impatiently acknowledged.
Beast's clear voice echoed through the small unit. "I apologize for disturbing you, Storm, but I would appreciate it if you could please return to the mansion. I have need of your advice."
Beast needed her advice? That was curious enough to make Storm pause. "I will be there in a few moments," she promised, tapping the communit again. Then she hesitated, and glanced back down at Logan. "Well, Wolverine?"
Logan glared up at her. For a moment, he was tempted to pretend he hadn't heard that short conversation.
Then he sighed. It was easy to see that he wasn't going to get any peace and quiet today...and maybe action was what he needed after all, not isolation.
Scowling, he retracted his long claws, and reluctantly offered her his hands. "Give me a lift back?" he muttered.
Storm mustered a faint smile. "My pleasure," she retorted. Grasping his sturdy wrists, she summoned a strong wind and soared up into the air.
Wolverine's strong fingers curled around her arms as the ground sped by beneath them. He had often envied the women their power of flight, but he'd probably never get used to it, himself. Then the mansion's stately silhouette loomed before them. Grass rustled behind them as Storm settled onto the wide, tiled patio.
Sighing, Logan braced himself for the inevitable noise and tumult, and stalked back inside.
The War Room looked strangely empty without Professor Xavier's gleaming hoverchair at the circular conference table. Still, they had functioned without him before, and undoubtedly they would have to again. Beast reluctantly moved into Xavier's usual position, and waited for the rest of the team to assemble.
As usual, Jean and Cyclops were first to arrive...Scott came charging down the hall in his normal impetuous manner and skidded to a stop, anxiously glancing around the room. Jean glided in a moment later and calmly settled to the floor beside him. They exchanged brief greetings with him, but protocol demanded that the entire team should be present before they discussed business. Beast impassively waited while they settled themselves at the table.
Logan and Storm were next. The tension between them was tangible, and he mentally groaned. Wolverine looked furious enough to slash his way through a whole forest of Sentinels! Even Storm looked curiously tense as she took her place on the opposite side.
That was all he needed, for Wolverine's rotten temper to have alienated their beautiful Egyptian princess! They made an excellent team, and he had a grim feeling that he was going to need their assistance very soon!
No one was particularly surprised that Gambit and Rogue were the last to arrive. Looking at them, Beast considered it a miracle that either of them had been able to muster the energy! Still, they both seemed more relaxed and cheerful than he ever remembered, if thoroughly exhausted.
Rogue yawned as she dropped into the nearest seat, her slender fingers still affectionately clasping Gambit's. It looked so strange to see them actually touching, but that was something he'd gladly get used to! He could only hope that the change effected by her absorbing Wolverine's healing powers would prove to be permanent, for both of their sakes.
Gambit broke the momentary silence by leaning forward. "Why da panic, Beast?" he demanded, sleepily rubbing at his eyes. "Da sun barely up!"
"Hah!" Wolverine smirked, derisively waving toward the distant eastern horizon. "Don't tell me you missed that pretty sunrise!"
Wolverine at his most sarcastic was all that Beast needed this early in the morning! The burly scientist sighed and spread his hands wide in a placating gesture. "I do apologize for the inconvenience," he murmured. "I would not have roused you, had I not felt the need to be urgent. Cerebro has detected a new source of potentially destructive mutant energy, and I believe that it deserves our investigation."
Now he had their attention! Even Wolverine sat up straighter, his black eyes glittering with interest.
"Here," Beast added, conjuring up a holographic globe in the center of the large table. "This is the place, down in Mexico."
Storm's startled gaze met his through the softly glowing colors. "Teotihuacan!" she whispered.
"Say what?" Wolverine snarled, frowning at her. "Try it again in English, will ya?"
Her dark eyes were troubled as she glanced his way. "Teotihuacan!" she repeated. "The Aztecs called it the Place of the Gods. It is located about fifty miles northeast of today's Mexico City."
"Indeed," Beast agreed, gratified by her knowledge. "Teotihuacan has always been a city rich in myth and legend. Its three large pyramids have long been held as sacred monuments. In its prime, it held a civilization as vast as ancient Rome. Then most of the buildings were burned in a mysterious, systematic swath of destruction. The people vanished, and little has survived of their culture."
Wolverine grimaced. "Thanks for the history lesson, Beast!" he retorted. "So what exactly are we up against this time?"
The scientist frowned at him. "That is what we need to discover," he countered, reproof ringing through his deep, clear voice. "I recommend that we send a team down to Mexico, to investigate."
"I'll go!" Wolverine's response was automatic; his long claws rasped together in avid anticipation as he leaned forward, eyes gleaming.
"Gambit like t' see dem pyramids," the tall Cajun offered, obliquely glancing at Rogue for her assent. "What you say, chér? We head south for da week?"
"No!" Wolverine snapped, pinning them with a hostile glare. "I go alone! If I need help, I'll call," he quickly added, before Jean or Scott could protest his impulsive decision.
Storm soberly met Beast's eyes through the slowly-turning hologram, but she never said a word.
Wolverine briskly snapped the minijet's transparent canopy into place, and the restraining belts slid down around his shoulders and waist. He grimaced. Right now, he wanted to get away from anything that held him down, held him back. This adventure to...what had she called it, Teotihuacan? ...was just the thing he needed!
Thinking about Storm made him scowl again. Damn that woman, getting into his head and even his dreams! A man oughta be able to have a little privacy sometimes!
He instinctively glanced around the large hangar, but she was nowhere in sight. Probably still sulking because he'd snapped at her.
Well, he hadn't meant to, but everything that had happened today had left him so unsettled...
Still, he couldn't help wishing he could apologize, in his own way, before he left.
He waited a moment longer, but the chamber door remained closed. At last, swearing under his breath, he tugged his mask over his head, threw the minijet into gear, and began to slap at the hangar door switches.
The sooner he got down to Mexico, the better! For everyone!
The noon sun was hot overhead when Storm finally soared over the Cerro Gordo mountains and hesitated, floating on the strong wind currents. There it was, spreading out beneath her--the mystical city of Teotihuacan!
How many years had passed since her last sojourn to the holy city? Yet her memories remained distinct, sharp and clear, despite the new mounds of debris left by the ever-present archaeologists.
The fabled Avenue of the Dead stretched out into the distance. At its base, beneath her feet, lay the Pyramid of the Moon. And to the left, partway down the wide avenue, its sister--the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun.
Every year, thousands of pilgrims made the journey up the steep sides of that immense structure, seeking spiritual enlightenment. Once, many years ago, a bewildered young Ororo Monroe had hesitantly joined their white-robed ranks, searching, seeking...
Now, as then, her questing soul turned away from the two larger pyramids. There, at the very southern end of the city, lay the real prize...the sacred Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. Despite the ravages of time and wanton destruction, its brown stucco walls seemed to glow beneath the hot sun as if made of precious gold.
The crowds were gone now, and the streets were empty. The city echoed with the hollow rush of the sun-warmed wind. Even the hardy archaeologists had fled, terrified by whatever sleeping demon they had roused.
Then Storm mentally shook herself. Such thinking was foolish.
'Potentially destructive mutant energy,' Beast had said. But that did not mean whatever entity had returned to Teotihuacan was necessarily evil.
Wolverine was 'potentially destructive,' given the proper circumstances. Which of them, after all, was not?
Grass stirred beneath her feet as she settled to the dusty plaza and tossed her long white hair over one shoulder. The winds were hot and dry, just as she remembered. Yet now something new charged the air around her.
She briefly wished for Professor Xavier's presence, or Jean's. They would fully recognize the trace that she just barely sensed. Still, she understood Wolverine's reluctance to be partnered with Jean and Scott, even if she did not fully agree with his reasons. Someday he must let go of the hurt and disillusionment, and learn to continue on with his life. He could not grieve for his lost opportunities forever!
As if thoughts of the wiry Canadian somehow summoned his presence, Storm suddenly heard the minijet's muted roar. She quickly backed into the shadow of a nearby temple, unwilling to reveal her presence just yet.
She had hoped for a few extra moments to commune with this sacred place--but perhaps it was best that Logan had arrived so quickly. The lure of the smallest pyramid was a powerful force that even now tugged at her restless soul.
She watched as he landed the compact jet in the center of the plaza, then flipped the canopy back and jumped to the ground. Impatience radiated through his every movement. Yet even Wolverine was susceptible to the massive grandeur of Teotihuacan's majestic pyramids and temples. Wonder clouded his rugged features as he stared in amazement at the huge multi-leveled structures.
Without warning, the wind shifted. Startled, he tensed and suspiciously sniffed at the passing air currents. Then he spun around, his black eyes glittering with fury.
Storm silently groaned. Trust Wolverine's mutant hypersensitivity to betray her presence! Her white suit gleamed against the dark golden-brown of the weathered stones as she reluctantly moved out of the shadows.
Logan took a belligerent step in her direction, his long claws clashing together. "What're you doing here?" he snarled. "I told you I was goin' alone...an' I meant it!"
Then his eyes narrowed. "Beast told you to follow me, didn't he?"
Storm coldly straightened to her full height. "I have not spoken to Beast since you stalked out of the War Room," she retorted. "I chose to come on my own. By now, perhaps he has realized that I am no longer there...but he certainly did not order to me to follow you!"
Wolverine hesitated, taken aback by her tightly-suppressed anger. "I can handle this by myself!" he finally insisted in a low, hoarse voice. "So you can turn around again an' head off to Egypt for a while, if you're homesick for some pyramids!"
Storm ignored his irascible attitude, and slowly walked past him. "I had to come," she murmured, staring at the Citadel at the far end of the complex. "It was...time to return." Her voice was distant, dreamy, as she took another step.
Wolverine's eyes narrowed again. Okay, so he couldn't send her back home--she wasn't a little kid like Jubilee. And anyway, she was suddenly acting really weird, like she was hypnotized or something! Maybe if he pulled her mind back to the present, tapped into the wealth of information she must have about this crazy place...
"You've been here before?" he demanded. "Good, then you can play tour guide! What're we looking for?"
His husky voice seemed to break the spell forming around her. Storm shook her head, and curiously glanced around the plaza.
New temples had been excavated since her last visit; newly recovered etchings and ideographs adorned the ornate walls. The scientists had been busy researching this forgotten city.
What else had they uncovered, in their boundless zeal?
"In order to understand Teotihuacan, you must first understand their view of the world." Storm soberly swept both arms out in a broad gesture that encompassed the entire tree-studded plain. "They were obsessed with harmony, with uniformity in their small universe.
"Teotihuacan was designed, at a time in history when most civilizations merely happened," she explained. "The Avenue of the Dead points east of true north, and lines up with the sacred peak of Cerro Gordo. And when the city was first founded, the east-west axis lined up exactly with where the Pleiades star cluster rose and set at the May solstice.
"The Pleiades," she quietly added, "was integral to their astronomical calendar. They even rerouted the San Juan River, so that it would conform with their architectural scheme." And she pointed west, toward the sprawling urban sectors of the long-abandoned settlement.
"Avenue of the Dead," Wolverine uneasily echoed, frowning. "Sounds morbid. They have a thing about death? Or did they just know how to throw a really good party?"
Storm forced a wan smile. "The Avenue was named by Aztecs who later made pilgrimages to the deserted city," she confided. "They believed that the burial mounds on each side of the street held the tombs of ancient kings. They were wrong, of course, but still that name has persisted throughout the centuries.
"The Teotihuacanos did practice ritual sacrifice, however," she reluctantly conceded. "Dozens of mass burial sites have been found throughout the city, particularly around the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent." As if hypnotized, she stared again at the distant structure, a wistful expression on her face.
"Huh!" Wolverine scowled in disgust. "Didn't do 'em much good, did it? Looks like this place was in the middle of a war zone!"
Storm pensively frowned. "Actually, you are more correct that you know," she admitted. "At one time, the Feathered Serpent was considered the Teotihuacanos' most favored deity. Then, for some reason, he apparently fell out of favor. Murals and carvings began to appear which depicted the Serpent under attack. Eventually their whole city was destroyed, though no one knows why. I cannot help but feel that the two incidents are somehow related."
"Related? 'He'? You make it sound like this Feathered Serpent thing really existed!" Wolverine scoffed.
Storm glanced back at him, her eyes dark with foreboding. "I experienced something here before, Logan, which I could not explain. Some force, some incredible power straining to be freed! I could not face that hunger! It was like nothing I have ever experienced before, even when I battled the Shadow King!" A shudder swept through her at the terrifying memories.
Wolverine's antagonism rapidly faded. Something had scared her, all right! Yet she had returned, despite her fears. He sheathed his claws and laid a compassionate hand on her arm. "Where did you experience...whatever it was you felt?" he soberly asked.
"There!" Without hesitation, Storm pointed toward the smallest temple, the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. "Whatever it was, it called to me from there. And it has returned--I can feel it!"
Wolverine suspiciously stared around the empty clearing, all his senses on high alert. "Whadya mean, 'it's returned'?" he growled. "What's returned?"
Storm's eyes were wide with steadily-growing fear. "I do not know. But it is coming from the pyramid, and it is growing stronger. Logan, we must hide!"
The air felt electric, charged with energy. Wolverine took one brief look at the distant temple, and his own eyes widened. The pyramid was shimmering beneath the hot midday sun, glowing with unearthly brilliance!
"We must reach the entrance to the catacombs!" Storm exclaimed, pointing. "Hurry, Wolverine!"
"Catacombs?" He whirled and stared at her in startled disbelief. "You can't go underground!"
Storm grimly straightened. "I have no choice! We are in danger if we remain here!" Then she managed a faint smile. "You will be there to help me, as you have done before." And she affectionately touched his shoulder. "Now we must go!"
Help her? Yeah, he'd help her, if he could. Hadn't he always done his best to protect her?
Even beyond death itself...
For one bewildering moment, her image wavered and blurred. A different Storm seemed to stare at him in blank shock.
Wolverine's head reeled in confusion. Not now! Not now! Whoever was planting these crazy visions in his head, he couldn't succumb now, not when Storm's life was at stake!
"Logan?" Storm was gripping his arm, her dark eyes wild with fear. It was his Storm again, and the world abruptly steadied around him. "Logan, what is happening here?"
"I don't know!" he snarled, impotently slashing at the empty air. "But I intend to find out! Come on, let's move it!"
Storm kept pace with him as he furiously charged down the street. The pyramid's pull was stronger now, tugging at her with unremitting strength.
Reality seemed to shiver and change before her eyes as the sky suddenly darkened around her. Lightning streaked above her head, brilliant and jagged against the gathering clouds. Wolverine was still beside her, but it was a different Wolverine, a different world...
For one brief instant, she thought she caught a glimpse of something bright sparkling on his left hand. Then it was gone again.
Another explosion rocked the sky. She was falling...
"Storm!" Wolverine's frantic voice seemed to echo through a long, hollow tunnel. "Don't you leave me!"
"Storm? You okay?" Wolverine was bending over her, his dark eyes narrowed with concern. "Can you stand?"
She blinked several times, bewildered, and her head gradually stopped spinning. "I--I believe so," she cautiously agreed. The sky was bright blue once again, dotted with fluffy white clouds. "Something very strange is happening here, Logan!"
"Yeah!" Wolverine anxiously scanned the long avenue as he pulled her upright. "I feel like I'm bein' split in half, an' I don't know which half is real!"
Storm numbly stared down at him with widening eyes. "The dreams..."
"You been gettin' 'em, too?" Logan's raspy voice was harsh with irritation. "I don't like anyone messin' with my mind! An' I've had about enough of this!" His claws clashed together as he glared around. "We're about halfway there! Think you can make it the rest of the way?"
Her legs were steadier now. "Do I have a choice?" she concurred. "Come, Logan, we must hurry!"
Suddenly Wolverine hesitated, warily sniffing at the still, hot air.
"What is wrong?" she demanded. The air seemed heavy, oppressive...
"Look out!" Wolverine's hoarse yell was instinctive as he grabbed Storm's arm and yanked her into the closest building's shadow. An instant later, another burst of lightning shattered a nearby tree.
Storm's startled protest was drowned out beneath a deep, rumbling roar. The ground began to shake beneath them as a long, jagged crack split the heavy temple ceiling above their heads.
"Run!" Wolverine and Storm dodged falling debris as they dashed back out of the shuddering building. "This way!"
Storm instantly launched herself into the air. A wide fissure opened beneath Wolverine's feet just as she caught at his hands.
Higher and higher...
Gasping for breath, she struggled for greater altitude. The winds were sluggish, unresponsive, as if a violent storm was about to erupt. Yet the sky was still clear...
All three of the pyramids were glowing now, brilliant against the vibrant grassy plain. Her eyes wide with awe, Storm hovered above the abandoned city, staring in open wonder. "Wolverine, look!" she whispered. "It is beautiful!"
"It is deadly!" he retorted. "C'mon, Storm, snap out of it! Get us down from here! Now!"
Storm was already beyond hearing. The eerie light flooded her mind and her senses, numbing her thoughts. Wolverine stared in horror as they slowly began drifting...falling...
"Storm!" They were gliding over the Pyramid of the Sun now, and those huge weatherworn, lethally-charged stones were getting way too close! "C'mon, Storm! Dammit, you're gonna get us both killed!"
Storm blinked and dizzily shook her head. "Wolverine, what..."
"Down there!" Wolverine wrenched one hand free and pointed toward the dark chasm at the base of the plaza. "The entrance to the catacombs! Let's move it!"
Shaken, Storm obediently swooped down the steep side of the huge pyramid. "Logan--I do not know what is happening to me!" she confessed as their feet touched the hard-baked surface, and he finally released his stranglehold on her slender wrists. "Something is wrong--I do not seem to be able to control my own mind!"
"Then we've gotta get you out of here!" he rasped, his black eyes narrowed. "I know you won't like it, darlin', but you'll be safer down there!"
Storm shuddered as she stared down into the wide, gaping hole. Now that she was actually this close to the dreaded darkness of those catacombs... "I--I cannot!" she whispered. "Wolverine, please! I cannot go back in there!"
He knew what it was like to be afraid...he'd been scared spitless more times than he could count! But those lightning bolts had been too precisely aimed! Whatever was hiding beneath that distant pyramid, it knew that they were here. And it wasn't gonna rest until it either killed them, or drove them completely out of their minds!
"No choice!" he yelled as the ground buckled again, and that awful roaring enveloped them. "G'wan! Go!"
Without warning, the deep pit widened and collapsed beneath their feet. Storm caught one brief glimpse of a gigantic, brightly-colored serpentine face in the sky above her. Then the darkness closed around her, and dragged her down into a deep, numbing abyss of nothingness.
"Storm!" Coughing, Wolverine staggered to his feet and stared around the large, shadowed cavern. How long had he been laying unconscious in the dirt...seconds? Minutes? Not too long, because the dust hadn't finished settling yet.
A faint glimmer of white, barely visible through the darkness, caught his eye. He stumbled over piles of newly-fallen rubble, and hurried to her side.
Yeah, she was knocked out cold. Not surprising, considering how far they'd fallen. "Sorry, Storm," he muttered, smoothing her long white hair off her forehead. "This wasn't exactly how I'd planned to get you down here!"
He spared a thoughtful glance at the opening. Bright blue sky teased him, then was briefly obscured by a large, dark shadow. He couldn't quite suppress the shudder that rippled down his spine.
If Storm woke up now and saw that tantalizing patch of sky, she was gonna bolt out of here in stark, unreasoning terror! And he knew that was the worst thing she could possibly do, with that thing flying around up there!
He didn't know why it kept trying to kill them, and right now he really didn't care, either. All that mattered was keeping Storm alive, and safe.
As if in response to his very thoughts, she began to stir. Grimacing in silent apology, he slid his arms beneath her limp body, and rapidly carried her deeper into the rough-hewn catacombs. He'd rather deal with her claustrophobia than some mystical, too-powerful snake-god!
"Logan?" Storm's faint, bewildered whisper made him sigh with relief. She was okay! "Wh-what happened?"
He reassuringly held her closer. How right it felt to have her in his arms...or was that only a figment of his bewildering dreams again? "I'm right here, darlin'. How're ya feelin'?"
A long shudder swept through her as she became more aware of their surroundings. "I have been better," she wryly admitted. Then she looped an arm around his neck for balance and tried to wriggle out of his grasp. "Do not worry, Wolverine, I can stand on my own."
"You sure?" He kept a firm grip on her arm as she straightened and took a hesitant step forward. "This chamber's bigger'n I expected--good ventilation an' all." His hyper-acute sense of smell and hearing had gotten him this far, while she was still unconscious, but...
"Sure could do with a little light, though," he slyly suggested. "You up to throwin' a few lightning bolts around?"
Storm hesitated for a long moment, and he knew that she was struggling against her intense dread of the confining darkness. "I--I believe so," she finally whispered, her voice strained. "Move behind me."
He rapidly complied as flickering bolts of white light began to ripple from her outstretched hands. The underground cave glowed as brilliant flashes reflected off scattered bits of obsidian lodged in the rough-hewn walls.
"Aha!" Wolverine suddenly lunged for a darkened corner, his eyes gleaming with satisfaction. Storm whirled around, startled. The wavering light faded slightly as she stared after him in alarm. "C'mon, Storm, keep it steady!" he ordered over his shoulder.
"What have you found?" she demanded, fighting to keep her voice level. She could not lose control--she could not! Wolverine's life hung in the balance, and the lives of who knew how many other people, if they could not defeat this dangerous menace! She must not lose control!
"Got it!" Logan threw her a smug grin, and hefted a half-filled fuel can. "Gas-powered generator! They must've moved it down here to protect it from the rains! Now if I can just get it workin'..."
The sharp smell of kerosene flooded the air. Then, overhead, a long string of light bulbs flickered to life as he flipped several sets of switches. "It ain't the Taj Mahal," he shrugged, straightening, "but it's sure better'n what we had!"
Storm fervently nodded. Anything was better than that awful, cloying darkness!
As her panic subsided, she curiously stared around the long chamber. Just as Wolverine had said, it was surprisingly large, easily over a hundred feet across. But her head barely missed the low ceiling, and she instinctively cringed away before regaining control of herself.
Thin lines of white string crisscrossed the dirt floor, neatly bisecting it into large squares. In some of those areas, half-exposed shards of pottery and bone gleamed in the dim overhead light. "This was a burial chamber once," she murmured. "See? Over there, those statues and bowls."
Wolverine peered at her as she stepped over the boundary and knelt down beside the most recent excavation. "You sure know a lot about this place," he sourly commented. "Didn't think you were into this kinda morbid stuff!"
Storm reverently touched one of the carved figurines, her eyes distant. "When I was young, before the Professor asked me to join him, I came here once to...find myself."
"Yeah?" Despite himself, he was intrigued. "So whatcha find out?"
Storm slowly stood up again, her inner gaze fastened on events long past. "The Teotihuacanos had three primary deities, Logan," she explained. "The Feathered Serpent commanded much of their military efforts, and regularly demanded ritual sacrifice of the finest warriors."
"An' the other two?" he uneasily demanded. Her slanting eyes were going white again, and her voice sounded too dreamy... Whatever sort of trance she was falling under, he had to pull her out of it, and fast! "What kinda troubles did they cause?"
She blinked and stared at him in bemusement, startled by his angry tone. "They were not vindictive entities, Wolverine," she chided. "The Teotihuacanos believed that the Goddess was their holy rain-giver. She controlled the weather, protected the sacred mountains, and gave life to the plains, so that the people could survive and prosper. The Storm God ruled at her side, wielding his lightning bolts to protect the city and their vast civilization."
Wolverine's eyes widened in belated understanding. "No wonder you were so interested in this place!" he exclaimed.
Storm pensively nodded. "I had hoped that I would find some...guidance," she confessed. "I was very young, and very frightened of my own growing powers. When I left here, I returned to Africa and took my place as their Storm Goddess. It seemed...the right thing to do."
Wolverine anxiously glanced up at the rocky ceiling, as if trying to see what was happening out in the dusty clearing overhead. "So what happened? Your patron gods get into a fight with this Feathered Serpent thing?" he demanded, his long claws noisily scraping together.
"I do not know," Storm reluctantly admitted. "No one is certain, though the archaeologists speculate that the city was destroyed in an escalating war between the armies of the Storm Gods and the Feathered Serpent."
She hesitated a moment longer, then contritely bowed her head. "Logan, you must not hate me for following you!" she insisted. "I had no choice! Only I can undo the damage that has been done here!"
To be continued...