No past. No future. Just here and now. Polaris has learnt to think in those terms, to go with the flow, like a leaf in the stream. So many people have told her lies, and she believed them all. Only some months ago, she would have believed anything. How she has changed. She peels off her clothes. The tight, snug fit of the latex makes the fabric cling to her skin, and she wishes she could peel that off too, all the layers of skin and meat, down to the bone. Perhaps she could see what was true then.

Polaris is what she needs to be. There are no excuses. She is Lorna and she is Malice, and contrary to common beliefs, Lorna is the one in charge. Although Malice likes to stir up trouble, and she has a long history of petty crimes, she doesn't have Lorna's drive or determination. Nor does she understand Lorna's need for revenge and validation, but she rides the waves of rage and tunes the wonderful, unlimited power. If Lorna depends on Malice for experience in battle and dealing with her Marauder team, Malice depends on Lorna for the power source, which is connected to the body they share.

Polaris is His favourite. It's her strength that attracts Him, and her famous, rebellious temper, that Lorna never knew how to use. Malice makes insubordination into an art, fuels her courage with Lorna's anger, and spites Him to His face. She knows just how far to go. Arclight is just a bully, Vertigo no more than a half-intelligent animal. They both cower in front of Him. None of them knows cruelty, the way Polaris does. He finds that amusing in her.

The mask is the last to go. Then she stands naked, bare feet on the tiled floor, her pale skin sallow in the harsh light. The bed is already made, only three steps away, but Lorna finds this part repugnant, and the body won't move. It's Malice who coaxes the feet to move, the knees to bend and who lets the head down on the cushion. It's Malice who directs the eyes to the ceiling to look for cracks or spiders. Because Malice has seen so many ceilings, be they in luxurious hotels or in shabby motels, on the journey here. She has made love through so many other women's bodies; made love and mocked the love. The scenery is familiar to her.

He is a consummate liar, yet He never lied to her. He did not tell her he was her father, or win her over by talking about a dream. He does not feel any affection for her. She is a valuable tool, but he can easily find another. When He comes through the door, He will not pretend He cares. All she will be able to see in His eyes is a scientific interest. And that is a relief. Oh, once there was someone who told Lorna that he loved her. Then he ran off to fuck a red-headed bitch. For all she knows, he's still fucking her. Malice is quick to register the change in blood-pressure, the building rage. Another time, she might have encouraged the emotions running wild, ridden the mindless frenzy, but now is not the time. She soothes Lorna with the memory of thousands of men that did not matter, the long list of names and pasts. Alex Summers is only one of these men. He carries no more importance than any of them. By the time the door opens, the body is well under control.

He looks at her from across the room, but also from across the gap of hundreds of years and deaths. He considers her as a member of her species, as an reptile might take an interest in a mammal, purely for the sake of research. The procedure is no doubt as revolting to Him as it is to her. He puts on the surgical gloves. Contamination is His greatest fear. And now He approaches the bed. Polaris knows what comes next and though she understands the necessity, she does not approve. She told Him once that she would hold still, completely still, if He only didn't tie her up. He listened, or seemed to listen, then adjusted the restraints, and went on, as if she hadn't even spoken.

This time, she says nothing, and the textile bonds snap tight around her wrists, ankles and neck, soft to the touch, but unbreakable. He puts her feet into the stirrups, and tilts His head to get a better view. There's the hiss of the hypodermic spray and numbness spreads between her legs. He selects a scalpel and cuts into her. After a few minutes He discards the scalpel and she feels a twinge in her abdomen as he applies suction to her ovarian tubes.

Genes are the focus of His research. He splices them, recombinates them, moves them around in various permutations. The Marauders are creations of His own gene library, all but Polaris. He still toys with them from time to time, mostly failing to make functioning organisms. Polaris' genome is a welcome addition to his genepool. He thinks nothing of what He is doing. There is no element of desire or perversion. His work is of importance, Polaris is not. If He smiles, that is because He takes pleasure in a job well done.

Later, when the anaesthetic is wearing off, Polaris lies on the bed. The samples have been flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, and He has walked off with His treasure. Polaris may stay in this room for the rest of the night, if she wants to. Although he has never needed to compete for dominance, he is familiar with the concept of hierarchies. He would not undermine Polaris' authority, by sending her back to them in a weakened state. That would serve no purpose. Polaris suspects that the reason He ever pulls Arclight in here, is to damage her and return her, to give the boys a good time.

Rape. Lorna knows that is what the boys do to Vertigo, and Arclight, given the chance. They would rape her too, if they didn't fear her. She needs Malice to keep them at bay. If she falters, they'll tear her to pieces. At the moment, Malice can rest, though. There will be no more intrusions, no more violations tonight. Lorna may be alone in her body if she chooses. She may think of Alex, and the X-Men, with love and regret. But she can't bear to be alone, not now, not here. So Lorna and Malice curl up together on the cot, whispering tender words and promises of loyalty. They comfort each other, and together they fall asleep, dreading the morning.