((Disclaimer: All the characters belong to Marvel Comics and whatnot. I don't own them, I can't keep them, so I'm just borrowing them for this exciting little romp. Enjoy your reading!))
Chapter 4: Warfare in a Winter Wonderland
There was a marked lull in the snowball fight.
The Ice Castle team--as Bobby's troop of warriors had been affectionately named--was well-ensconced in their magnificent fortress, with a professionally-made supply of snowballs. Courtesy of the Iceman, their ice-fort had two stories--one lower level for snowball-makers and a place of respite, and an upper layer for launching blistering attacks with increased range. Various throw-holes in the walls made it almost impenetrable from any angle, and the single door in the rear could be easily plugged by snow. It was a perfect defense.
However, when one makes one's snowballs from within a limited area, one begins to run out of snow.
The Snow Roach team--named so for the fact that Jamie was multiplying like one--had made do with two or three massive snowballs pushed together in a line by Roberto, who had used his solar-enhanced strength to roll up chunks of snow large enough to stand behind. They had increased availability of snow, but a greater tendency to be nailed by the sharpshooters on the Ice Castle's ramparts. They were a ragtag team, but scrappy enough to see the fight through. Although their team had consisted of only Ray, Roberto, and Jamie, after a few smacks with the flying snowballs their lesser numbers were no longer an issue.
Besides running out of snow for ammunition, the Ice Castle bunch had finally decided to quit chucking snowballs at Jamie. There were now twice as many Snow Roaches as there were Ice Castle men.
"Man, this is too rich," Ray chuckled, peeking out of a gap between two of the giant snowballs that comprised the Roach fort. "They've got the big-ass cool castle and they can't even win one little sortie with the Snow Roaches!"
Roberto shook his head. "Yeah, but we aren't exactly making any progress either, amigo. They may have run out, but we can't get in."
"Can't you just crack the walls, man?"
Roberto shrugged. "I don't know how thick Bobby made them. And it's not like I can throw a snowball and make a dent."
"I'm strong enough to throw it that hard, but come on--it's a snowball. The worst it's gonna do is go paff and decorate their wall for them."
"Can't we launch an invasion?" asked Jamie.
Ray sneered. "We could--if we could smack you around and get enough bodies to pile up and scale the walls."
Jamie looked crestfallen. "Oh..."
Roberto put it a bit more gently. "It's good in theory, Jamie. But you'd have to be Kurt to climb those walls."
Ray flopped against the snow-wall and glared at Jamie's duplicates. "You guys get back to work! One through Four, keep up the production. Five and Six, get on some hard-packed ones."
"Aye sir!" replied the bunch.
For convenience's sake, they'd given the Jamie Herd numbers as each one had emerged. That way, when someone yelled "Jamie!" six voices wouldn't answer "What?" At first it had been cool to increase the number of hands working for them, but having that many to watch over had proved problematic for the short-tempered Roberto and Ray. So Jamie had been put in charge of them, to label them with their numbers and set them to work manufacturing snowballs and patching up their defenses.
And also try and prevent further multiplication. It would not do for thirty Jamies to show up at the house this afternoon for hot cocoa. There wouldn't be enough to go around--not with the fiasco from last week.
Ray checked over the fort wall again, watching for any activity in the Ice Castle. "Dammit, I never thought I'd say this, but I wish the Fuzzball was here right about now."
Across the yard in the Ice Castle, things were going just about as well.
"Man, this is too rich," Sam laughed, looking down from the second story ledge of the fort. "We've got this big neat castle and we ain't managed to squash them Roaches yet."
"It doesn't help that we've dug ourselves into a muddy pit," Bobby said with a disgusted frown, his snow boots mushing into the wet muddy grass at the floor of the castle.
Scott was plainly amused at the situation too. "I told you not to completely enclose the fort, Bobby. And if we take any more snow from under the walls, the whole thing is gonna come down."
"Wouldn't that be a riot," Evan grumped from his spot opposite Sam. "I told you guys to cut down on the volume. Man, all of you guys were throwing at once, and the only thing you managed to do was give them a whole bunch of new team members!"
Scott was chuckling openly now. "I thought our strategy was to pick off Roberto and Ray without causing mass production of Jamies."
"No kidding," Evan agreed, glaring at Sam and Bobby.
"Can't you just take down the back wall or something?" Sam asked of the younger boy below.
"I told you, I make ice, I can't melt it. You could bust out the back or something if you want."
"Good idea!" Sam was just about to leap off the ledge when Evan stopped him.
"Dude, what if you knock over the whole thing?" he demanded. "Wouldn't that look just great to those Roaches over there?"
"Bobby could build a new wall just ahead of this fort, and give us the room we need to maneuver," Scott volunteered, ever the tactician.
"Naw, that'd kinda be cheating," Bobby replied. "I mean, it's already unfair that we've got this big fortress and they can't touch us. Besides, that'd be like what Evan said--admitting that the Castle is defective."
Evan leaned back against the cold rampart. "Man, I wish Kurt was out here. He'd know what to do."
Sam and Bobby nodded eager acknowledgement.
While both teams were grumbling about the distinct lack of action, a certain furry blue mutant was being reassured by one of his best friends. And, as if the Heavens had decided to answer the prayers of both teams, he appeared in the middle of the playing field, hands high above his head and throwing out a loud "Yaaaaahoooooooo!" of jubilation.
Every head cranked around, every eye focused on him, and every face present lit up. A general cheer went up from both sides of the yard.
"Look who decided to join us!" Scott said.
Evan pumped his fist, standing tall on the ledge. "Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, the Blue is back!"
The cheers went on, and Kurt held up both fists, grinning widely at the attention. "Hello! Thank you all! You're a marvelous audience!" he joked.
"So pick a team already!" Ray belted out impatiently over the general applause.
Kurt paused, a finger to his chin in exaggerated contemplation. Then he grinned his trademark impish grin and shrugged. "Actually, I can't decide!"
"Aw, get him!" Evan shouted--and both teams opened fire. With a yip and a leap, Kurt took off across the snow, making for the far wall where he might be out of range.
The girls arrived at about that time--Jean too; somehow they'd managed to drag her out as well. They tumbled out the front door only to stumble into a hailstorm of snowballs. Shrieking and ducking, they scattered like sheep. Jean, Jubilee, and Amara hurried to a fresh patch of snow and attempted to stack themselves a fort--with generous telekinetic help from Jean--while Kitty and Rahne ended up lost in no-man's land dodging flak from the war.
Once the girls' fortress was generally in place, there were three teams going at it. Kitty and Rahne managed to hide near the Snow Roach fort, in one of the trenches made by Roberto's giant snowball-rolling. The girls' team was a little behind cramming snowballs together, since their preparation time had been crunched, but nobody minded because everyone was having fun.
Kurt was somewhere in the middle of the field, dashing about like a dog freshly let out into the snow. He'd lost his hat in pretty short order, and was galloping every which direction, throwing powder up with each bound and somehow avoiding every missile thrown his way. He got close enough to chuck a hastily-made snowball right into the Ice Castle's front window--nailing Scott in the process--and even took a shot at the Roaches without hitting a Jamie.
Rahne and Kitty tried putting up a fight from their insufficient little trench. Though there had to be over three feet of snow by now, with all the precipitation lately, a snowball-rolling trench is hardly protection from bombardment--especially since your closest neighbor is targeting you and he's only about ten feet away.
Kurt disappeared into the chaos between the three major teams, and Kitty lost sight of him for quite some time. She finally got brave enough to stand up and throw snowballs that Rahne passed to her, since she could phase to avoid anything thrown at her. However, all the teams seemed soon to realize that and targeted her little two-woman team, and soon Kitty got tired from all the phasing and had to give up, ducking back down with Rahne.
"Ah well, ye tried yer best," the metamorph offered, sidling down to avoid the continued bombardment.
"They're like, gonna wipe us out before they get back to each other," Kitty complained. "This like, totally sucks. We lost before we even got started!" A well-aimed snowball whacked her in the back of the head. "Ow! And it's like, totally unfair that we can't even make a fort!"
A shadow above her startled her. "Need a little help, Fraulein?"
She looked up. "Kurt!"
"To the rescue!" He grinned, holding out a hand. "Come with me!"
"Huh? What are you--?"
He winced when a packed snowball hit him in the back--the Roaches had caught on to him. "Just hurry!"
She took his hand, and he pulled her suddenly out of the trench. The sudden flurry of snowy missiles made her shriek; she didn't know how she ended up on his back, clinging to him, but suddenly he was moving. Bound, bound--Lord, almost like flying!--and bamf! The world disappeared for a single moment.
Bamf! As suddenly as it had vanished, light and sound and sensation returned. "Wagner Airlines now disembarking!" announced Kurt's voice.
She peeked her eyes open--and hopped off of him rather quickly when she realized how tightly she was holding on--to find herself in another snow trench. But this one was deeper, and it was also the beginning of a snow cave.
"What's this?" she asked, a bit shaken from the sudden 'porting.
"A fort," Kurt explained, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
The "cave" was more like a tunnel, open at either end and only about six feet long. But it was big enough to comfortably sit in, and the open trenches at either end were perfect for launching attacks. Snow was plentiful all around, yet the "underground" location of this little bunker made it a hard target to hit indeed.
"You mean you just like, dug this out just now? In like, a few minutes?"
"Why not?" He shrugged with a grin. "You're my backup, Kitty. I'm going in--cover me!" And in a flurry of snow, he was loping back to the fight.
Kitty blinked after him for a minute. Then a giggling smile appeared on her lips and she hurried to scoop up snow. Kurt was mounting an attack on the Ice Castle, and from the look on Evan's face, he'd need a good covering fire indeed!
As Kurt charged the Ice Castle, he passed Rahne in the trench. The metamorph girl was obviously not happy about being abandoned, and as Kurt galloped by she jumped up. "You! I'll teach ye te leave me ta these jackals!"
Kurt didn't really listen; he was already leaping headfirst through one of the Ice Castle's front peephole-windows, a snowball in each hand. He got in scot-free since the "tower guard," Evan, had been momentarily blinded by a well-placed missile from his backup. Kitty, mein Fraulein, you are dangerous today!
Pure mayhem erupted, on the same scale as what usually happened when he invaded their bedrooms in the morning; a mad flurry of "What the hell--?" and "Get him!" as he launched his payload and even scooped up some of their own to throw at them. He left the Ice Castle in a tumultous confusion as he leaped back out into the snow.
Or, more correctly, leaped back out into the waiting jaws of an irate wolf-girl. Or girl-wolf. Whichever applied in this case.
"Yikes!" With a yelp, he narrowly avoided her snapping jaws and lit out over the snow like his tail was on fire. The flurry of snowballs sputtered as a few of the warriors cheered either Kurt or Rahne.
Due to their four-legged mode of rapid transit, Rahne and Kurt were the fastest runners in the X-Men. Under normal circumstances, Rahne could outpace Kurt simply due to the fact that a wolf is designed for speed over land, while Kurt, though definitely constructed for fast quadrupedal travel, was still more of a humanoid build and therefore came in second in the four-legged speed department.
However, Rahne was currently chasing Kurt through several feet of powdery snow. In this case, Kurt's wide finger and toe spread served almost as "snowshoes," and his bounding strides were much longer than Rahne's. Especially since he was pretty much travelling over the snow, while she was floundering through it.
They made good time, with Rahne snapping her teeth bare centimeters from the spaded tip of Kurt's tail. In a few seconds, Kurt was leaping straight over the wall of the girls' fort, an angry Rahne on his heels. The three females below him shrieked in dismay as he flew at them--but he suddenly bamfed out of sight, leaving them to receive a flying brown wolf in their laps as Rahne cleared the wall but found, to her chagrin, that she was unable to teleport after him. Kurt's maneuver left the girls' team in disarray as he appeared once more in the middle of the field.
The guys delicately decided not to cheer that little move, else they earn the Wrath of the Women later on. But they did silently applaud the 'Crawler's bold tactic.
The Snow Roaches were next. Due to Kurt's good aim with the snowballs, they were down to only five Jamies, including the original. The Roaches were still targeting him when he charged, and when he perched atop their fort wall to make faces at them, all the Jamies lined up in a firing squad to let him have it.
Unfortunately, Jamie's aim was poor, and by virtue of their relationship, so were the duplicates'. Kurt ducked, flipped, and dodged, landing on one of the middle snow-heaps that composed their fort wall.
"Neener neener neener!" the blue youth crowed, tail waving high.
Ray and Roberto joined the fray, unloading handsfuls of snow at him. He dodged without even changing position, twisting his flexible body while keeping his feet planted firmly atop the snow. "Ha! You couldn't hit the broad side of a snowman!"
"You fuzzy little worm!" Ray had had more than enough of Kurt's mocking--and the fact that the Elf was six feet away and they still couldn't nail him angered the hot-tempered teen even more. Electricity charged around him, and in a flare of temper he unleashed a devastating blast.
This time, Kurt dodged. He backflipped off the snow-heap, which exploded rather spectacularly into a localized snow flurry. The Snow Roaches were left to blink in astonishment at the large breach in their defenses, through which poured attacks from the Castle.
"Ray, you moron!" Roberto snarled as the blue-furred boy dashed off for more mischief.
"Look out, dudes, he's coming this way!" Evan shouted from the Castle ramparts to his teammates below.
"Somebody grab the Fuzzball this time!" Sam ordered, as Scott and Bobby braced themselves by the front windows.
"Hey, where'd he go?" Bobby asked, peering out his window
Evan glanced around. "I didn't see him--Scott, do you have him?" In the moment he'd turned to shout orders to his friends, Kurt had vanished.
"No visual contact," the older boy reported.
"Dammit..." Sam grunted.
"Looking for me?" taunted a familiar voice.
They all whirled in surprise. Kurt was perched on the edge of the back wall of their fort, having scaled the ice this time instead of coming in through a window. He hopped to the ground within the fortress, and waved a three-fingered hand at them with a saucy grin. "Hello!"
"Somebody get him!" all four yelled at once.
The fracas inside shook snow powder from the walls of the Ice Castle. Those observing from the outside had to wince and wonder what on Earth was going on in there. As the left wall of the structure exploded outward and several struggling figures spilled into the snow, it became obvious that Sam had made a flying grab at Kurt--and missed.
"Sam, you idiot!" Evan berated, watching Kurt bound off through the snow.
"Jeeze, you guys," Bobby groaned. "I'm beginning to wish he hadn't shown up. Look at this--one guy's trashed all three teams!"
Scott was temporarily blinded as he cleaned grit and snow out of his shades. "He took the girls out with a wet wolf and got both of the guys' teams to knock out their own defenses."
Evan wisely jumped down from the ledge--the walls were teetering now that part of their support was gone. "This totally bites. And he's got cover fire from out there."
Shouts rang from the Snow Roaches and the girls' squad as they abandoned their forts and double-teamed Kurt.
"Let's use our heads in this case, guys," Scott announced.
Bobby nodded. "Yeah. Take out his support, then box him in."
"How the heck do you do that with a mutant that teleports?" Sam demanded.
"I think I solved that problem," Evan informed them, smiling evilly. "While I was up on the wall I think I spotted his backup's location." They formed a quick huddle as Evan went on. "While the girls and the Roaches are keeping him busy, we can sneak out there and attack his base of operations. Gentlemen, I think we can tie that fuzzy twerp down with this one..."
Kurt was having the time of his life. He didn't even have to throw any snowballs! The teams had left their forts and were now just chasing him around, throwing hastily-scooped snow. They hit each other more often than him, and they were even back up on the supply of Jamies. What marvelous fun! All he had to do was run in random circles and laugh while they clobbered each other!
"Wahooo! Over here! No, over here! Mach was du willst! Come on, you guys are so lame! You couldn't hit me if you tried--!"
Evan's voice. And when Evan spoke like that, then something was going to happen.
He stopped mid-bound and almost spilled face-first into the snow. Standing up to get a better view of the situation, his eyes widened when he took in the group across the field. Evan stood to the fore, the spokesman. There was Bobby and Scott, on either side of a third struggling figure, while Sam stood behind. And their prisoner--
"Kitty!" His eyes widened.
Evan grinned devilishly. "That's right, pal. We've got a hostage!"
"Hey, no fair!"
The girls and Roaches snickered.
"Come along nice and quiet-like, and Kitty won't get...the Treatment!" Evan gestured, and Sam held up a large chunk of snow. His other hand was on Kitty's collar, ready to put it down her back. The observers winced.
"You fiends!" Kurt accused, halfway into the fun, and halfway worried that they might actually do it. "Let her go! Kitty, phase out!"
"Kurt! They're gonna like, dump snow on me!" Kitty called, making her voice sound tired and piteous. Truth be told, she could have phased out of their grip and escaped...but she really wanted to see how this played out. Besides, if they dumped snow down her back, she could always inflict nefarious revenge on them later.
Kurt chewed his lip, weighing the consequences. On the one hand, he could turn himself in and live with whatever horrible things they decided to do to him. On the other, he could stay free and avenge Kitty's "demise," but that meant he had to watch them do it--and Kitty would be so betrayed! And when they put that cold snow down her back...ach, he couldn't bear to hear her scream.
"Sam, prepare the Treatment!"
"No, wait!" Kurt shouted, tail drooping into the snow. "All right! I surrender...you win."
"Yes!" Evan crowed. "Less than two seconds and he's whipped! Hey Roaches, wanna do the honors?"
Without question--and laughing their guts out--Roberto and Ray laid hold of him, firmly gripping his arms. The others released Kitty, running over to assist in the capture.
Kurt grinned nervously at his captors. "Well, you got me now. I'm a prisoner of war, ja? Fair treatment and all that?"
"Naw, man," Evan told him rather cruelly. "We're gonna execute you."
"Ach...!" Eyes wide, he searched around for a delaying tactic. He spotted Kitty standing near the group, watching him. "Wait! Might I have a last request? A kiss from yon fair Fraulein for which I have so valiantly sacrificed my life?"
Kitty cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're like, totally overdoing it, Kurt." She giggled--but to the surprise of all, she blew him a kiss. "Like, thanks for the rescue. See you inside for the cocoa...if you like, survive, that is." With that, she and the other girls headed in.
Kurt was too surprised from the long-distance kiss to protest or respond as the guys dragged him off for whatever awful punishment they had in mind. But there was one semi-clear thought in his head--that at least now he could die a happy Elf.
To be continued...
|"Miss" or "Lady"|
"Mach was du willst!"
|"Do your worst!"|
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