No Alternatives

June 16, 2019:

The X-Men track down Bastion for a showdown with the cyborg-making sentient Sentinel.

White Point, somewhere off the coast of New England

It is an abandoned fishing village.


NPCs: Bastion


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

There is a village named White Point, of the coast of New England. The place has supposedly been abandoned since early in the Twenty Century, when a storm destroyed most of the harbor. There was a lighthouse and an inn there for a few more decades, but it was also abandoned in the 50s.

Yet Dr. McCoy tracker has placed the cyborg called 'Agent Brown' in the area several times in the past couple weeks. Sometimes for days. The latest communication burst, a few hours ago, still places him here. Satellite pictures hacked by Sage show some activity among the ruins of the buildings, both of large SUVs and motor boats.

There is no paper trail, whatever is going on is unlikely to be legal, and yet the coast guard and local police has been told to leave the place alone. The orders coming from nebulous and unlikely federal agencies.

Very much the kind of hacking Sage would use to stop nosy authorities from looking to a place for a few months. There are not many that can do something like that without leaving a trail. It might be a government cover-up, but given the circumstances it is much more likely it is another A.I. sneaking around.

And so today at dawn the Blackbird flew off Xavier's estate to hunt down the rogue Sentinel calling itself 'Bastion'.

Nate is piloting, looking quite unhappy. Since the last fight with the cyborgs his telekinesis has been virtually inexistent. Sometimes that happens when he overextends, but this time it is taking a long time to recover. To make up for the deficiency, he is carrying a large sniper rifle.

Hank McCoy rubs his hands together. "We know we're facing more than we have before. Ideally we'd avoid killing, but I don't think they're going to give us a choice. That said, I've prepared our vehicle with EMP shielding, sufficient to survive an EMP blast I've prepared. We'll lay this down at the the start of the fight, and ideally that'll slow some of them down. Whatever survives this is loaded for bear, folks." He then pats a one meter square device on rollers. "They're also very tough, so I've brought a heavy duty laser that, ideally, should let me cut into things and weaken them for a good, sturdy whack. Goggles on everyone. Call this the Scott-substitute." He then tosses goggles to everyone.

Sage sat in the back of the Blackbird, dressed as she usually was in her dark urban armor and long overcoat. She bore no insignia that would identify her as an X-Men member, but then, as she was not one, it was both the truth and an avenue for plausible deniability. A pair of modified automatic sub-machine guns were attached to her belt along with extra clips, and a pair of long-bladed combat knifes strapped to her thighs. She did not look angry, or ready for a fight or, well, anything at all. She simply looked like Sage. "I never cater to ideals." Sage caught the goggles, but simply put them down on seat beside her. She was wearing her usual cybernetic sunglasses, which had darkened nearly the precise shade of the absent Cyclops' own visor.

Laura Kinney shakes her head at the offer of goggles. "That won't be necessary," she assures as she ties her hair back. "Unless you hit me directly in the eye and then I suspect it would be insufficient." She's dressed pretty much as she always is. Sleek black clothing that won't slow her movement or get ruined by her claws and nothing in the way of special equipment. "Do we have any intel at all regarding numbers?" She wonders, flicking through a selection of street view images and maps to commit them to her photographic memory. "Other than /lots/ that is."

Nate snorts at the 'avoid killing' bit, but then relents. "If it has a mind, I won't aim to kill," which is not saying much, since that rifle will pretty much tear off any arm of leg he hits. It will likely be able to maim even the cyborg Sentinels. But it is unlikely to do much more than scratch the paint of one of big robots.

"Sentinels are tempest-hardened," he points out. "But the cyborgs seem vulnerable," he admits after some consideration, remembering the mission report. "Shame Lorna couldn't make it, I know this is getting personal for her."

A few miles off White Point Nate slows down the Blackbird to subsonic, flying at about ten yards over the ocean, and activates the holographic cover. "I will mind-scan when we are… oh, an psy-disruption field. Nice. Sorry Laura, not that I can see the cyborgs anway. I guess the EMP will take that out and then I can do a head-count. Assuming anyone there is human or has a brain that is."

Landing about two miles from the ruins. It doesn't look much. Two dozen houses, most are made of wood and badly ruined. A few are stone and just look in bad disrepair. But there is also a dozen SUVs parked in the middle of the village. Past the houses there is a wooden pier leading to a stone building maybe twenty yards into the sea. Laura's sharp eyes spot three men outside said building. They are carrying AR-15 assault rifles. Guards, most likely.

Hank McCoy nods to Nate regarding Lorna, as he gets his own goggles on, even if most don't need them. "Agreed. There was no holding her back on Staten Island, and we need that kind of enthusiasm now." Once they land, he straps the laser and power pack onto his shoulders, and rolls the EMP out of the plane. "Get inside if you're EMP vulnerable, otherwise hang on. Blasting in 10 seconds." he warns. Unless you're a cyborg or watching TV in the village, you're not going to notice anything. He makes sure the Blackbird is sealed tight before the poof, though. Not that there will be a visible or audible poof, again, unless you're watching TV nearby. Or driving one of those SUVs…

"If it has a mind, quite likely, it will want to kill us. I am not here on a mission of mercy." Sage continued to sit still as a statue, her eyes focused somewhere that was not quite at the control panel that Nate was using. "Actually, the fact that Lorna has allowed this to become personal is a problem, in my opinion. It is simply too easy to become reckless when you are allowing your pain and outrage to control you." So far as anyone knew, Sage and Lorna were friends, or at least as close to friends as it was possible to be with the cyberpathic mutant, but it had never stopped Sage from sharing her own particular brand of logic. Sage's sunglasses returned to their usual shade as she stepped out of the Blackbird.

"A bigger team is harder to keep hidden," Laura points out. "Although I expect Lorna would come in very handy when this eventually turns into a chaotic brawl." Because, in her experience, things only go the plan so long before they end up in a chaotic brawl. She slips out from the Blackbird, shifting into an easy low walk that's hard to spot but allows her to cover ground quickly, and sniffing at the air. "Unless anyone objects I shall take point. The EMP should produce a distinctive burnt eletronics smell that will help me detect any resistance."

"Nothing wrong with some justified outrage," chimes Nate, a nasty smirk on his lips. He keeps the goggles at hand, but he needs his eyes to use the scope of the rifle. So, not sure. Then again his left eye optic nerve has been replaced by a technoviral wire thing-y. Maybe he can't be blinded by bright lights anymore.

A bit too late he considers if he might be vulnerable to EMPs now. But no, he feels nothing when Hank activates his machine. He had left his cell in the Blackbird and his rifle is an old model from the 90s, no electronics.

There is no obvious response from the village, although the guards at the end of the pier seem to stumble. One falls to the water. Nate chuckles, looking through the rifle scope. "Yeah, they felt it. The anti-psi thing is down. I am detecting twenty… no, twenty one human minds. Some have noticed. Oh, oh. We got Purifiers here. The genuine old-style assholes that even the D.E.O. labels as terrorists."

Hank McCoy turns on his laser, and aims it at a tree, burning a hole in it, then shutting it down. "Alright, I'm ready. I'm happy to follow behind Laura and support."

Sage's response was deadpan, as if she and Nate were discussing nothing more important than whether to have soup or salad with their dinner, "If it can be controlled. Generally, it can't." She stood in silence as the EMP was activated, eyes glancing from body to body of the guards she could see, reaching out for those she could only feel, "I can handle those, if there are ay of you who would prefer handling the cyborgs." It was the difference between killing a true human and something that was only partly human and mostly machine.

"I'm picking scents of around a dozen humans close by. Plus fuel and electronics in the area," Laura says over the comms via a subvocal microphone. As she slinks from cover to cover. "Presumably they're part of Nate's headcount." She pauses, considering something for a moment, then adds "If I were recruiting gullable victims to convert into mutant killing cyborgs the Purifiers would make ideal candidates. Terrorists stay off the grid, already have weapons and are easy to manipulate through ideology."

Slowly but surely she starts making her way towards the pier. The only building in town with obviously armed guards and, presumably, the most likely location for a HQ.

"No worries, I can deal with the human ones," states Nate. At least he can do that without telekinesis. Some of the Purifiers have training against telepathy, but that is of little use when he is directly hitting them with psychic blasts.

The young telepath follows Laura part of the way to the pier, but stop at the edge of town to find a good sniping position.

A couple figures in white, wearing what seems to be tactical combat armor, burst out from one of the stone buildings in the middle of the village. But then falls down screaming as Nate hits them telepathically. "Watch out, X. He tells to Laura. I am not detecting anything in that building, but two of those armed guards seem to have recovered," beat, "crap. I just lost five minds. They just… blinked off. Just like happened at Staten Island."

And then more armed men appear. Nate hits them again with mental blasts. But some don't even react to them. Three of them open fire against Beast and Sage, and two more, clad in white armors, fall back towards the pier. They stand on Laura's way, although they don't seem to have seen the girl.

Sage can see everyone that stood Nate's blasts is a cyborg. But some of them do have/had human minds that have gone dormant.

Hank McCoy dives for cover. "Here we go," he grunts, as he grise to get out of the way of the shots. Firing up the laser, he mutters "Don'tcross the streams…" and starts to aim at the baddies. They're armored, so, well, he hates to do it, but he starts by aiming for their weapons, and if heating it up doesn't work they're clearly not human, so then he goes for the eyes as a last resort.

Sage moved with her calm precision, though she was not trying to hide. She ducked for cover, but it was not done so that they would not know where she was. Tactically, it was a terrible solution if she wanted to protect herself, but not if the goal was to allow X-23 to get as close as possible and set her up for an unexpected attack. She, unlike the good doctor did not aim for limbs. She aimed for where she knew their central processors were located. Both to incapacitate them, but also to force them to reawaken their human minds. And while she was doing that, she sent another of her subroutines to find a way to hack into their systems, ranging along their network as she sought for a way on.

The trouble with piers is they tend to be fairly open unless they are covered in things to load or recently unloaded from boats or ships. But they do offer some more unconventional ways to approach. "Going to try get up close by going beneath them," Laura states, already in the process of slipping underneath the pier and using her claws for extra purchase. "Do we know if these cyborgs are water proof?"

She has no way of knowing if there is additional security beneath the surface, but upside down climbing with her claws isn't easy at the best of times. So instead she opts for speed. Covering the distance as fast as she can, hopefully avoiding the worst of the incoming fire, and if she gets beneath them?

Well then she'll carve herself an opening. And if that opening drops a cyborg or two into the water all the better. Who knows some of them might even be missing a foot or two. X-23 is after all also a hacker of sorts. Just a much more literal sort.

When Beast fires his laser rifle, one of the cyborged Purifiers gets hit. His assault rifle melts and so does much of his arm, despite the armor. This makes the other two pause and take cover, avoiding Sage's fire. His own response is necessarily less precise, though.

As for Sage intrusion into their network, it goes unobserved for about a second. There are twelve cyborgs. Six of them are older models, machines inside human bodies, the original human destroyed and cannibalized by the cybernetic systems. But the other six, including Agent Brown, are different. They are hosts to Sentinels, but they are still alive and functional as human beings, and as long as the Sentinel program is not activated the human self is in full control.

Sage can detect them, though. All of them. Three confronting Hank and herself. Two ambushed inside the old village. Two taking positions at the base of the pier. Two more at the building at the end of the pier. One swimming towards the beach (unarmed, but water-proof). Two inside the building and…

She is hit by a firewall. Pretty literally, as the A.I. Bastion detects her. Network Shutdown it commands.

The two at her side of the pier spot Laura and open fire, but a little too late. She is on them, or rather, under them. And as she hits upwards, one of them indeed loses a foot to the adamantium claws.

Hank McCoy is satisfied that his targets aren't human, so he goes for it. Moving from cover to cover, advancing, taking out these flimisier models one by one. Cutting off arms, pushing them into the water, whatever it takes. With an eye on Laura the entire time to make sure he doe what he can to back her up.

"I will see you soon," Sage managed, in the nanosecond between when the AI detected her intrusion and when it shut down the network she had accessed. She did not sound displeased, but then, Sage never did. But she had succeeded in forcing the AI to sacrifice one of it's greatest advantages. It's remote control of the sentinels. Sage remained where she was, speaking into the comms that she had hooked herself into when they began this mission. "I read twelve sentinels total. Six the classic model, no human remaining, only meat. Six hybrids, sentinels in human hosts. Three with me and the Doctor, two in the village, two at the base of the pier, two in the building at the pier's end, two outside, one swimming this way." With her part of the mission well underway, Sage began to fight in earnest, seeking to destroy the brains or control centers of each sentinels. Sage could rebuild everything, she did not need them to be functional now. She only needed them out of commission.

Laura Kinney burts out from the newly made opening in the pier before the bits of wood have time to hit the water. Sweeping her claws back as she lands to take out One Foot's other leg and then shoving him back through the hole. It might not completely kill the cyborg, but the combination of blood loss, limb damage and water will dramatically reduce how dangerous it is.

She lets out a low snarl as his companion brings his rifle around to face her. But by then it's too late. Laura grabs the barrel, forcing it off to the side, and drives her claws into his head. A second body goes down through the hole and lands in the bloody water with a splash. Although this time X-23 keeps the weapon, turning it on the other two guards further along the pier, her enhanced senses and exceptional training allowing her to place controlled bursts of fire with pinpoint accuracy.

The five cyborgs in the village fight with a good deal of skill and no fear at all. But they have lost the superior coordination of their network, and fall down one after another. Beast laser cuts down one, and another is tossed through a wall by the blue-furred mutant superior strength. Another is cut down by Sage's precise fire, and a fourth has its head blown up by a sniper shoot from Nate. Agent Brown himself, one of the new models, is knocked out by a bullet into his CPU. Then there is nothing in their way to the pier.

Meanwhile Laura maims one of the cyborgs and tosses another to the water. But as she turns to shoot at the two at the building, another one burst off the water and tries to grab her to drag her under. Good way to kill a regenerator: drown her.

There is something else in the water, too. A large Sentinel is there, resting on the sandy bottom, as if sleeping.

Hank McCoy finishes off the fight, and holsters the powerful laser. Dusting himself off, he turns to Laura. "Alright chief, Wha…" And then the attack. Hank runs after the pair, jumping into the water if she's pulled in, with a goal of giving the machine attacking her a second threat to get it off of her.

Sage moved with absolute resolve, taking cover when it was required, sacrificing her safety when that was necessary, as she moved with the Doctor through the village, ticking off the kills as they passed. Just to be sure, she did made a pass by each of the cyborgs, double-tapping the CPUs of those who had only that, adding a pair of bullets to those who still had human brains. It was Columbia all over again, though this time she did not have Magik as her sidekick. Or perhaps she had been Magik's sidekick. Whatever, doesn't matter. Suffice to say, Sage moved through the village execution style. The sound of a splash and the sentence Hank had not finished turned her head, and while she saw Hank make for the water, and Laura, Sage moved towards the pier and the two sentinels outside of the building and no doubt aiming at the two X-Men in the water.

Laura had just about dropped to one knee to line up her shot when a figure leaps out of the water. The telltale splashing sound giving her just enough warning for her enhanced reactions to kick in. Twisting the gun so it's between her and the leaping cyborg, then emptying the clip into it.

Even as she's firing the claw on one of her feet extends at an angle, providing a sort of anchor point in the surface of the dock. So when the cyborg grabs hold and pulls X-23 lurches towards the hole but doesn't quite fall in. Hanging over the gap with a bullet ridden cyborg hanging off her hopefully long enough for Hank to haul her back. It does however make her a good target for the two further down the docks and if either of the two guards she dropped into the water are able to grab onto the cyborg first? Well then they'll probably all be falling. "Sentinel in the water," she informs with remarkable calm over the comms, given her precarious situation. "A big one."

While Sage and Nate exchange fire with the last two cyborgs guarding the building, Laura finds herself fighting in close quarters with the other three. A few bullet holes do cause some damage, but the swimming cyborg's torso was well armored. It pulls down, and then another one piles in, and the rotten wood of the pier collapses.

But Hank is there, pulling Laura out of the cyborg grasp before she can get her hair wet. Then it is three damaged cyborgs against two mutants that are faster and stronger and one of them has adamantium claws. It doesn't end well for the Sentinels.

At which point the human-looking Bastion himself shows himself, walking off the building at the end of the pier, looking coldly annoyed. "You found me, congratulations, so very cl…" Nate puts a sniper bullet through its head.

Well, he tries to. Actually the bullet bounces off his skulls, although Bastion shuts up and recoils, as if in pain. Then raises a hand and shoots a plasma burst at the building Nate was using as perch.

The building explodes.

"You fools. I am trying to save the world," declares the Sentinel. "This was the only way. Humans and Sentinels, together."

Hank McCoy tucks and rolls when the new arrival comes. He knows Laura will dust herself off well enough. Firing the laser back up, he bellows "We are human. And we have a right to live." He aims for Bastion's legs, trying to cut one dang foot right off. "And we won't go down quietly."

Sage did not rush the new arrival. Instead, she found a place that was defensible, taking aim, not at his head, but at his neck. The trouble with using a human body, is that you tended not to consider the various places where a human was vulnerable. Sage aimed her weapons, firing at the column of his neck, hoping to strike both the spinal column as well as the carotid artery she could see pulsing under his skin. The gun in her other hand she aimed at his ankles, hoping to damage his feet enough that his human body could not move itself. But that was only her physical attack. Her mind she sent towards the AI itself, seeking for any trace of the network it had used to control the sentinels, seeking for its connection to the sentinel that was under the water.

After the frenzied claw slashing required to stop herself landing in the water it's perhaps a little ironic that the moment the mysterious 'Bastion' Sentinel appears and starts firing plasma blasts that can take out buildings Laura decides perhaps she is better off under the water after all. Given the stolen ranged weapon she had is both out of ammunition and unlikely to do much damage to the Sentinel anyway.

So into the, now rather unpleasant, water she goes. Barely making so much as a splash. Thankfully her body doesn't contain enough adamantium to make swimming impossible. At least not given her enhanced strength. And using the pier overhead to block Bastion's line of sight she starts to close the distance. "Nate, if you are dead after that I will be very disappointed in you," she notes before she ducks under the surface of the water for added concealment.

The main danger Bastion has considered is Beast's laser weapon. He is quite bulletproof, but the laser does get through his leg armor and causes some damage to the artificial muscles mechanisms underneath. So his next plasma bolt is aimed to mutant scientist. "Perhaps so," he responds, regardless of the effect of the blast. "But for the good of the majority of humankind, mutants have to be destroyed."

Sage can feel there is a link between the sleeping Sentinel and the human-sized robot they are fighting. It is as if it could move his consciousness between both bodies, but, she realizes, the big Sentinel's fusion power plant is being used to power his lab, the building he is fighting to protect. There are half-built cyborgs inside.

No doubt Bastion will try to move into the Mark III if it is necessary, but for now he believes he has the upper hand. Perhaps he missed Laura going underwater.

Hank McCoy does his best to roll, but he does take some of the hit. Grunting as he's pushed back, he does his best to keep on firing at that armor layer, to remove some and create a weak spot. "I'm putting a hole in him, cover me." he calls out to his friends.

Sage moved out from under her own cover, still firing at Bastion, moving at best speed towards where the sentinel-housed AI was standing. "X-23, I suggest you get to safety, I am going to try to attempt to overload the sleeping sentinel's fusion reactor. That will not give you must time to get to clear. The building at the pier is full of half-built cyborgs. You should see some underwater cabling connecting the sentinel to the building. Destroy them if you can, if not, your life is the priority." Of course, if the water was too shallow, it might not protect them up here either. "I will try to shield you if I can."

Ahh. There is indeed cabling down here. The water isn't exactly pleasant for swimming in but, perhaps thanks to the Sentinel's reactor, it's not as cold as it could be. Or that could be the adrenaline. And while her adamantium claws may impede her swimming speed she can haul herself along a sturdy cable at a much more rapid pace.

Once she's got roughly the amount of distance she needs to be below Bastion she looks for the nearest pier support strut and starts to climb, slowly and surely, trying very hard not to think about how any minute now she's probably going to be blown into pieces.

It really all comes down to how advanced Bastions sensors are. Can an apex predator sneak up on it? Each movement is timed as best she can to match up with the noise of battle, the movements of the waves, the noise from seabirds and even if (or should that be when?) Bastion takes the time to lecture Hank on how inevitable his victory is. Even the mechanical villains love the sound of their own voices after all.

This time Bastion moves aside, trying to avoid Hank's laser fire while responding with his own laser weaponry. No more plasma cannon, as he doesn't want to deplete his energy reserves too quickly. Beast is a very elusive target, and he can feel Sage's proving for weaknesses from cyberspace.

Like trying to overload the Sentinel nuclear reactor. There are safety protocols to prevent such overload which will cause it to shut down. And that is the same effect, after all. "Stop, you would kill several human beings if you cut the power now!" He yells, switching targets to try to fry Sage. But this causes Beast next blast to hit him whole, causing some damage to his head and blinding him for a second.

"Acceptable losses." Sage raised her weapons again, even though she had already seen that the bullets had little effect on the sentinel. But Hank had already paved the way for her, and she aimed her fire at the line of damage along his leg, sending her mutant mind, that part of herself that was, genetically, not that different from the the Ai itself along the relay that connected it to the sleeping sentinel, battering it with the full weight of her cyberpathic strength either to overload the reactor or to force Bastion to shut it down. In the end, it was all the same.

And when someone shouts 'Stop' about something it is, in X-23's experience as a professional assassin, typically the best moment to strike.

With an explosive burst of speed Laura covers the last bit of distance between herself and the surface of the pier. Grabbing the flimsy guard railing and swinging herself so fast she seems like a blur. At least up until both her foot claws bury themselves in the side of Bastion's already damaged head. Then, with another heave of effort, she drives one foot forward and the other back. Until the whole top of the head comes clean off from the eyes upwards.

Hank McCoy grunts as his laser pack makes a noise. "Uh oh…" he rips the thing off and throws it into the water before it explodes on him! Fortunately the damage was done to Bastion.

Bastion definitely pushes for the shut-down of the reactor, as an overload would mean a meltdown that would destroy the whole village and all his work. But at the end it doesn't matter, the fight in the cyberspace is over almost before it starts when Laura burst from the water and stabs him in the head.

He has milliseconds to react, which is almost enough time for a computer intelligence to transfer his conscious into the Mark III. Then he could kill the mutants, even if his cyborg soldiers would be doomed, too.

But at the end Sage is there too, and blocks his way into the larger machine. Bastion dies trapped between adamantium claws and Sage cyberpathy.

Under the waves, the massive Sentinel stays quiet. Asleep.

Nate digs himself out from under the ruble of the building. The -second- time Bastion throws a whole building on him. Well, the robot won't be able to do it again. It will have to do for now.

There is a lab full of fairly high tech for SHIELD to investigate. And a whole Mark III for Sage and Hank to study for a bit. The research will come handy sooner than later, no doubt. And the threat of the Prime Sentinels, the cyborgs, is over.

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