In association with the X-Men Comics group on Facebook, we are proud to present… XvX Round Six: Husk versus Armor!
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Her name was Paige Guthrie, and she was not an X-Man. Not yet, anyway.
Blonde and beautiful, Paige was the latest of the Guthries to develop powers; she was rather proud to be following in the footsteps of her brother Sam, who had recently been promoted to the ranks of the X-Men. To that end, she’d studied harder than anyone else at the Massachusetts Academy, and as a result she recognised the strange tingling sensation in her skin as indicating that she’d just been teleported.
Not that she’d been teleported far; she knew exactly where she was. The lush jungle was a biosphere in the School, a place dedicated to training. Compared to the X-Men’s Danger Room, it was kind of like slumming it.
After a moment’s thought, Paige reached up and gripped her skin hard; she tugged on it, and it peeled away. As her skin shredded, a rocky texture replaced it, a form with enhanced strength and durability. Paige’s abilities may not be glamorous – the ability to shed her skin, having earned her the code-name Husk – but this strange form of metamorphosis meant she could get ready for anything.
Stepping out of the tattered remnants of her skin, Husk moved cautiously through the jungle; she headed towards the exit, quite logically, and then froze as she saw a girl stood at the doorway. This teenager was wearing a modified version of the traditional X-uniform, the yellow and blue, and was short with dark hair. If she was an X-Man, Paige mused, she was one there were no records on. In light of the X-uniform, Paige decided to throw caution to the wind.
“Hi,” she said, stepping out of the foliage.
The girl started, and energy shimmered around her; some sort of psychic construct, by the looks of it, but it quickly faded away as the girl relaxed. “Hi,” she replied hesitantly, and then seemed to flinch. “Wait a minute, you’re… Husk!”
Paige frowned. “Uh huh. And you..?”
“Um, I’m Armor.” She paused. “I think I’m from the future,” she offered hesitantly.
“YES YOU ARE!”
The two jumped, Armor’s energy flaring to life once again; a towering figure was stood before them, as tall as he was obese, seated on some kind of metal transport. Both X-Men recognised him at a glance, and as one they said his name: “Mojo!”
Mojo, media mogul of the multiverse, beamed with joy. “You always know you’re famous when the X-kiddies know you,” he chortled. “Armor and Husk, it’s your turn to take part in the greatest game in the galaxies!”
For all she’d recognised him, Husk was struggling to remember much about him. “What do you want?”
Mojo gave a mocking pout. “Now is that any way to talk to someone who has your friends’ lives in his hands?” He raised a hand, showing that he was holding something shaped like a cigarette lighter with a button one end. He tapped one side, and holographic images formed – images showing Paige’s dearest friends and family, along with people she didn’t recognise. All of them were held in some kind of stasis tube, all unconscious. Suddenly Paige realised that being an X-Man was as much about terror as it was about responsibility.
“What do you want,” Armor repeated, sounding equally shaken.
Mojo grinned. “It’s called a fight, girls. Doesn’t have to be to the death or anything – although some people have died,” he added, and chuckled again. “You should’ve seen what happened when Domino and Longshot started shooting at one another – that was fun!” He gestured behind him. “It’s not rocket science, for two bright little X-kiddies like you. Fight, or watch your friends and family die.”
The two girls were silent for a long moment, and then – as one – they raced towards Mojo. He simply laughed. “If one of you isn’t unconscious in an hour’s time, everybody dies!” Then, with a sparkle of energy, he disappeared.
Silence fell in the Massachusetts biosphere, and then Armor looked over to Husk reluctantly. “I’m sorry, Miss Guthrie,” she offered, “But I don’t think we have much choice.”
Paige shrugged. “Neither do I. In your time… are we friends?”
Armor shrugged. “Not really.”
Now Husk gave the future X-Man a sad smile. “Then at least I won’t be beating up on a friend.”