"Congratulations to all of you. As the finalists of the Amazing Mutant Race 2, you have proven that you are each champions, regardless of what happens today. This is the final leg of the race. Whichever of the final three teams reaches the last destination first, shall be the winner. Emma and Selene, as yesterday's winners, you are the first to depart today."
Smiling triumphantly, Emma stepped up to Gaia and snatched the clue from her.
"Be transported to the African Kingdom of Wakanda. There seek the king and ask him for help reaching your finally destination - Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters."
"Finally, civilization," Emma said. "I assume Lockjaw will do the honors?"
Gaia smiled and nodded. The two racers walked over to the giant beast and placed their hands on either of his shoulders. A glow emanated from Lockjaw and in a wink, they were gone.
The three appeared on the other side of Africa, standing on a stone dais along a sandy beach. Around them were several people in formal dress, including a man dressed from head to toe in a black skin-tight outfit and a long flowing cape - the Black Panther, king of Wakanda. At his side was the X-Man, Storm. She and Emma exchanged nods.
"Welcome to my home," said the Black Panther in a deep booming voice. "I extend to you the hospitality of my people."
"Thank you, King T'Challa," Emma replied with a respectful bow. "What we would like is your help in getting to Xavier's mansion."
"To get my help in this, you must prove your worth. Before I could assume the mantel of the Black Panther, I first had to pass two tests. One of combat. The other of perseverance. To achieve your goal, you must also pass a test. One player from your team must score three hits against me in hand-to-hand combat."
"I will do this," Emma announced.
"No Emma," objected Selene. "I am stronger and faster than you. I should do it."
Emma looked at her partner and then spoke to her telepathically, so that the others could not hear. "I have psionics, you fool. While he's bouncing all over the place dodging punches I can just zap his brain."
"But we're winning! There's no reason to take such chances."
"Don't be silly. We have the advantage and we must preserve it."
"Alright fine. But if we lose it's your fault."
Meanwhile, Lockjaw teleported back to Attilan. There Oneida and Yoda stepped up and were taken to Wakanda, leaving Jon and Hudson behind.
"The others have a bit of a lead," Jon said glumly.
"Hey, it's no problem man! I am totally pumped. I'm takin' the gloves off and I'm gonna step up to the plate."
"Hudson, do you mean to tell me that you've had gloves on this whole time?"
"Uh, well not literally gloves. You know, it's a metaphor."
"So you're saying that you've been holding back, then?"
"No, no I haven't, man. I've been giving it my all!"
"Then what are these gloves you are talking about?"
Hudson looked rather confused. Fortunately for him, Lockjaw reappeared at that moment and spared him any further embarrassment. The two hurried over to the dog and were transported to the ocean front kingdom of Wakanda. There they saw Emma laughing triumphantly as the Black Panther rubbed his shoulder.
"I think I can take him, Master Yoda," Oneida said. "I've had a lot of hand-to-hand training in the Royal Navy."
"Maybe so, that is. But a Jedi I am. My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. It flows through us, binds -"
"Um, yes, I know all that. But I am a soldier. This is kind of what I do. I mean, he did say it was without weapons. That means no lightsaber."
"Hmm, true that is. Alright, do this you may."
"Thank you, Master Yoda."
Oneida climbed up onto the raised platform and assumed a combat stance, her feet spread, body crouched and arms ready to strike. Slowly the two warriors circled around each other, sizing up their opponent and looking for an opportunity to strike.
Suddenly lunging forward, Oneida used a double feignt, throwing first a right jab and then twirling around with a roundhouse kick. The Black Panther jumped back out of the way but Oneida pressed her attack. She delivered three quick left jabs which the Panther ducked and then a high scissor kick.
As the Panther crouched down under her kick, Oneida fell forward, her body still spinning through the motion of her leg. Falling on top of the Panther, she wrapped her left arm around the back of his neck and proceeded to rap on the top of his head with her right knuckles in rapid succession. The crowd laughed and cheered.
As she and Yoda were lead away, Jon stepped onto the platform. Hudson had pleaded to let him do this challenge, but Jon pointed out that he was an Intergalactic Gladiator, which was a much more impressive title than a Colonial Marine. Hudson, conceding that truth, backed down.
"I realize it may not be obvious," Jon said to the Black Panther as they slowly circled each other, "but I'm really a mutant."
"You are? And what is your power?"
"Oh, it's a really good power. Definitely one of the most useful powers that any mutant has ever had."
"Yes? What is it?"
"I have the mutant ability, which manifested itself during my teens just like all mutants, to not be detected as a mutant by magical, scientific or psionic means."
Puzzled, the Black Panther thought about this for a moment. Then he suddenly threw his head back and started laughing. Jon laughed too as he stepped up to his distracted opponent and gently knocked three times on his chest. The Black Panther laughed again and then lead the two racers over to an elaborate building on the beach.
Inside, the players saw a gleaming metallic dart-shaped craft. It looked almost alien in design.
"Wakanda has a very valuable and useful natural resource - Vibranium," the Panther explained. This is the only place on the planet where the metal can be found. It has unique properties which allow us to make fantastic machines. This ship for instance, it can cross the Atlantic Ocean with astounding speed. What use to take man months, now can be done in hours. The other teams have already left in similar ones. Good luck, my friend."
The Panther extended his hand to Jon and the two shook. Then he and Hudson jumped into the ship. The controls were surprisingly simple. The engine roared to life and Jon floored the throttle. The ship leapt into the air, quickly reaching 600 miles an hour. Hudson, acting as navigator, was able to find the other two ships on the radar.
"You know, they aren't all that far ahead of us, Jon. We may still have a chance."
"Oh yeah? Do you even know where Xavier's school is?"
"Sure, it's . . um . . in America, right?"
"Well he says on his blog that's in Westchester."
"Uh, yeah. That's near Maryland, I think."
"Well stop it. Emma Frost knows where it is, we'll just follow her. We have to close the gap, though. This thing kind of flies like the Danger Sled. Hopefully that will give us some advantage."
The three evenly matched crafts tore through the air, flying just over the water line. Miles zipped by in the blink of an eye. Emma and Selene were able to stay in front, but both Oneida and Jon, seasoned pilots, were able to cut their lead significantly. By the time they reached Montauk, Long Island the three ships were less than half a mile apart from each other.
They rounded the North Fork and raced down Long Island Sound towards Westchester County. When Emma and Selene's craft finally passed over the water line and started over land, Oneida and Yoda were only a few dozen yards behind.
Suddenly Oneida felt the controls start to buckle under her hands. She fought with the stick but it stopped responding. Her ship started to veer off course.
"Master Yoda, something's wrong!" she shouted.
Yoda scrunched up his nose but could detect no psionic forces at work. "That Selene cheating again, it is not."
Jon, still about half a mile behind, could see above the other ship a man in a red suit, flowing cape and helmet hovering in mid-air. It was Magneto! He was gesturing at Oneida and Yoda's ship, forcing it to change course away from the mansion. Jon felt his blood start to boil.
"Not on my watch, creep!" he shouted as he pulled his stick back and started a charge directly at Magneto.
Seeing this instrument of impending doom coming straight for him, Magneto was forced to release the other ship and throw up a magnetic barrier. The ship bucked wildly but the vibranium elements of the structure were having a weird effect on Magneto's power.
Jon's ship suddenly surged forward. He heard the dull thunk on the outer hull as he collided with Magneto. He tried to regain control of the craft but it was useless. The magnetic field had some how energized the vibranium and it was now hurtling forward at tremendous speed.
Oneida was firmly in control of her own vessel, however. She flew at top speed, desperately trying to catch up to Emma and Selene who had managed to lengthen their lead thanks to Mangeto's interference. The school was suddenly visible on the horizon.
Oneida, an experienced pilot, dropped behind the other ship and road in their slipstream. Without any wind resistance, she was able to boost her speed, accelerating faster than Emma could. She kept on a straight line, headed directly for the other ship. Just as the two crafts were about to collide, at the very last possible moment, Oneida swerved around Emma and Selene, passing them, just in time to sail across the finish line first.
Emma cursed as her ship crossed the line, a very close second. Up above them, Jon, who had been able to regain control of his vessel, finished third.
All three ships landed in the back yard of the school were Gaia, the X-Men, various students, all the other contestants and myself waited for them.
As Lieutenant Commander Oneida and Master Yoda walked into the winner's circle, a load roar erupted from everyone. Thunderous cheers and applause filled the air. Gaia waited patiently for the clapping and hollering to die down.
"I am so pleased to tell you that as the first team to finish, Oneida and Yoda, you are the winners of the Amazing Mutant Race 2! Congratulations!!"