"i've seen bad things. things the weight of which has never left. i use them to coax myself out of bed each day. to ensure i never see their like again. the smell is unbearable. i force myself to stay, to look. to etch in my mind what will happen should we fail. remember this. use it to reinforce what will happen if we fail to kill apocalypse."

      a distant memory.

elizabeth knew the nature of the mission, she knew what was at risk if she didn't succeed. their numbers were down, she had lost too many people close to her and she suspected she would lose many more. the mutant race was endangered and x-force stood between them and extinction. she closed her eyes as she focused on the memories, the suffering she had seen. a reminder of what she had to do, of how much blood would stain her hands. it always hurt every time she took a life, she could feel a part of her fading away with every last breath taken. she knew what she was becoming and the idea of it terrified her. she knew that if the x-men knew, she would no longer be considered a hero. what was the definition of a hero? she was certain it had nothing to do with murder. even though she knew her actions assured the safety of the human race, it didn't forgive her in the eyes of her friends and family. that was why no one had to know x-force had been pulled back together. no one could know her secrets.

she hadn't expected this, although she should have. he was just a child, a small boy that looked no older than ten years old. he was a mutant child, one of them. his large wide eyes looked up at her, stricken with fear. he saw that cold look in her eyes, the katana she held in her hand as she watched him. she couldn't murder a child, but he was apocalypse. there was the knowledge of who he was, of who he was to become. she had to kill him, this was her chance. perhaps her only chance. killing this child would assure their safety, it would stop apocalypse. she watched him as he stepped back, innocent, terrified of her. this child was no monster. he was a powerful mutant in the hands of the wrong people. there was still a chance for him. there had to be. he was apocalypse and she knew his destiny. she felt that weakness, the ache in her chest as she watched him cower, and she dropped her blade to her side.

      elizabeth braddock was many things, but she was not a child murderer.

she was aware of their presence. logan, warren, wade, and jean-phillipe were on their way. she knew that if she did not protect this child, they would murder him. she heard the door as they opened it and she turned, holding up her blade. she knew that she could fight them, not that she wanted to, but she could not allow them to harm the child. she had confidence in her skills, not only as a telepath but as a fighter. she was outnumbered, but part of her knew they would back down. they had do. she watched them, careful to stand in front of the child as he cowered behind her. "you will not touch a single hair on this child's head. anyone who tries will have to go through me." the voice was stern as she spoke, both hands on her katana.

the first to speak had been logan, the voice of reason among them. the last thing he wanted to do was to fight her and she knew this, he was a good man and she knew that she could get through to him. she glanced to him as she listened, "okay, betts... ease down." she wasn't going to, sword still held in her hands, ready to defend the helpless child.

"man or child, if we allow him to live, the result will be the same." it was warren's voice that shocked her, although she didn't allow the reaction to be seen in her features. there was a part of her that knew he was right, wasn't he? no, there was a chance for the child. he was innocent. "it doesn't have to be! he's still a child! we can train him!" she raised her voice, her attention fully on warren. he was wrong, they could change the future. it was never a definite.

      the future had come to her in a dream, and the face of apocalypse had not been this child.

"that isn't an innocent child... that's a blood-thirsty monster!!" but he was wrong, she shook her head, still keeping between the child and her team. he was not a blood-thirsty monster. "no. he is a child, warren. a mutant child. if we kill this boy for what he might one day do, what does that make us?!" she questioned him. heroes didn't kill children and some part of her still held on to that humanity. she had to, questioning the morality of the mission was all the telepath had left. they could be better than to punish this child for the faults of his lineage. they could re-educate him, they could use him for good. they could avoid the...

"heroes who stopped the armageddon that thing will one day cause." they wouldn't be heroes if they killed him. her grip on her sword tightened, the child stepped back with tears in his eyes. he was still human, not a blood-thirsty monster as warren claimed. "how can you be so certain?!" the anger in her voice was clear as she shouted, convinced that she could talk some sense into warren. but she wouldn't. he wanted the child dead. she understood warren's fear, understood his knowledge. but she would not allow him to hurt the child.

"akkaba made this doe-eyed child to deceive you! believe me! no nurturing will cleanse this beast's nature. there is no rehabilitating that... thing!" she could feel the anger getting the best of her, this argument with warren was not going to stop at a screaming match. "would you not extend him the same clemency that we afforded you? should we have killed you once you became infected by archangel? you'll regret this as long as you live!" and she was right. no sooner were the words spoken, elizabeth found herself fighting warren. she had been trained to fight him, she knew how he fought. she had been inside his mind multiple times and even now, he kept their connection open. the intention was not to hurt him, it was to stop him, talk sense into him.

      the intention was not to kill him like she had been trained to.

"damn you, warren! i will not allow this!" she would challenge him and she would win, she was certain of it. but it was a trick. while warren distracted her with a fight, logan approached the crying child. "i'm not asking. logan, do it! now!" warren barked out his orders as elizabeth finally got him down, sword held high as she looked down at him. he was angry, he was determined. she felt that ache in her heart at the very idea of hurting him. this was the man she loved, the last of her humanity, and here she was ready to... "stop right now or i'll..." the words were uncertain as he cut her off, "you'll what? kill me to save him?"

the words made her falter. she could sense his emotions, the anger and the hurt. warren was not a bad man, the archangel that poisoned his mind was. she took a deep breath as she stepped back, logan stepping in to end the quarrel between the both of them. they would save the boy, elizabeth would not stop until she knew he was safe and warren, he had his moment of clarity. elizabeth backed down, sword by her side.

      B A N G !

the first thing that registered was the gun shot. eyes wide open as she heard the boy drop to the floor. her head turned as she looked at his body. what had jean-phillipe done? he was lifeless, she had failed to protect him. they weren't supposed to murder the child, they weren't supposed to hurt him, and now as she stared at him she felt the rush of emotions. she was angry beyond belief but sorrow overpowered the anger. she wanted to scream at jean-phillipe, she wanted to hurt him, she wanted to turn back time although she knew she couldn't.

      what have we done?

but there was no time to pause, no time to fight. they had to evacuate. it wasn't until later on in the evening that she would contemplate what they had done. it would register that she had helped in the assassination of a child. it was going to be a guilt that would weigh on her, and x-force, until the end of time. not a word was spoken that night as they all reflected on what they had done.

      elizabeth braddock was many things, she was a child murderer.