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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

Faith and Dreams - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 04/26/2007 02:10:47 AM

Chapter 13

"We should be able to see them." Scott leaned forward in the pilot’s seat as he searched the slice of space visible through the Blackbird’s windshield. His expression was one of mild dismay.

From her position behind him, Jean also stared at the impossibly black expanse. They were on the night side of the world, with the sun completely hidden behind the Earth’s bulk, and the darkness was almost absolute.

"Passive sensors aren’t picking up anything," Hank commented from the engineering station.

"That doesn’t mean they aren’t there," she answered without turning. She had her telepathic senses tuned way down to keep the Racth’zai from spotting her presence on the astral plane, but she wished she dared make a sweep of the area. "The last Shi’ar data said they were still sitting up here."

For the moment, the Blackbird was adrift in space. Joseph had launched them out of the upper atmosphere along a trajectory carefully calculated to put them into a stable orbit, and then shut down his powers. All of their onboard systems, except life support and the passive sensor array, were also shut down. Even the lights were out, and the Blackbird’s coincidentally dark paint made them barely visible chunk of debris floating around the planet.

"Ah still say they could be cloaked." Jean heard Sam’s voice from the rear of the cockpit, though it was dark enough back there she couldn’t see him.

"Only if their technology is well beyond our own," Hank countered tersely, and Jean wondered if they were going to repeat their earlier conversation word-for-word. "The Blackbird’s cloaking field would show up on our sensors, which is why we’re not using it." He paused for a moment before going on to new territory. "However, since we’re here and they don’t appear to be, I would have to agree that they have either left the area. . . or they are, indeed, cloaked. Which begs the question of why the Shi’ar transmitter can see them when our own Shi’ar-based sensors can’t."

"I doubt very much that the Shi’ar have brought us up to their current level of technology." Storm’s white hair was a pale blur framing the darkness of her face. "Lilandra is too cautious for that."

"Perhaps, dear lady." Hank’s claws rapped lightly on the engineering panel. "But it would have been nice if she’d informed us of that fact before leaving so precipitously."

"Hank-" Scott began, but then cut off as a dull thunk and a shudder ran through the Blackbird.

"We hit something," he breathed.

Jean’s breath caught in her throat as she rapidly scanned the starry sky outside the cockpit. The Blackbird was wheeling slowly, the mild acceleration seeming inordinately large in the weightless environment.

"Joseph," Scott said. "Can you give us a small magnetic attraction to whatever that was we just bumped into?"

"Of course." Joseph’s pale hair also made him visible in the darkened aircraft, but Jean only glanced at him. Her attention was riveted to the blackness outside-the seemingly empty expanse that had just struck them ever-so-gently on the wingtip.

Their slow tumble changed directions almost imperceptibly and she guessed that Joseph had put his powers to use. It was amazing how different he was from Magneto. Subtlety of this kind would have completely escaped the so-called Master of Magnetism. Jean smiled wryly in the darkness. Of course, had Magneto still been in residence on Avalon, he would have made a very effective first line of defense against the Racth’zai. She doubted seriously that he would have allowed them to take up orbit around the planet in the first place.

Another thump, this one more gentle, rang from the aft fuselage and Jean was forced to smile again. Joseph had grounded them against whatever it was right at the Blackbird’s hatch.

"Everybody seal up your suits." Scott’s voice came to her through the microphone in her ear. She did so, glancing up briefly as he passed by her. He swam with efficient gracelessness across the Blackbird’s cabin and came to a rest against the hatch.

"Everyone ready?"

No one spoke, so Jean released her harness and prepared to move as Scott anchored himself and then cycled the hatch. She held on as the atmosphere inside the cabin whooshed out into space, but her attention was captured by the view of space outside the hatch. Despite the fact that Joseph had apparently found something metal to hang onto out there, it looked like the stars went on forever, with nothing to obscure them from view.

When the atmosphere was gone, she floated across the cabin and took up a position opposite her husband. He seemed as fascinated as she as he reached through the hatch with one gloved hand. She could see the tiny ripples in the darkness as his fingers encountered something.

"There’s definitely something there. Jean, can you give me a low-level scan?"

Slowly and carefully, Jean expanded her awareness, searching for signs of thought in the area directly in front of them. She found nothing immediate, which was all they needed to know for now.

"Nothing," she told him.

Scott nodded. "All right, then. Jean, Joseph, be ready with shields in case we’re unlucky and this turns out to be a fuel tank."

Wouldn’t that be exciting, she thought sardonically. That was one of the drawbacks to trying to remain invisible for as long as possible. They were taking chances they normally wouldn’t by keeping their use of powers to a minimum. The overriding reason, of course, was that the Racth’zai could not afford to let them get back to Earth with one of their ships as proof that they were there. So, more than likely, as soon as they were discovered, every ship out here was going to be bent on destroying them. And until the X-Men managed to take control of the vessel they were now boarding, they would have nothing but their powers with which to defend themselves against an entire armada.

Jean squinted against the glare as Scott’s optic beam struck the invisible surface outside the hatch. The blackness rippled again, then began to spark as if the laser-fine beam were cutting into metal. A think gray line appeared against the black and Jean blinked rapidly at the disorienting view. Whatever optical shielding the ship had, it was incredible. The gray line seemed to just hang in the middle of nowhere, and though she knew it was a tear in the shielding, she couldn’t force her mind to interpret the view of space as a surface.

Scott cut out an oval section approximately the same size as the hatch. Then he pulled himself back away from the opening as Jean gave the section a gentle telekinetic shove and put up a telekinetic block to keep the ship from depressurizing. The last thing they needed to do was set off a safety system of some kind.

Jean "heard" the clang as the cut section hit the floor through the palm of her hand where she gripped the jump handle bolted to the Blackbird’s frame.

Oh good. Gravity, she thought.

When she risked a quick look out the hatch, she could see a hole in space with an empty hallway beyond it. The interior of the ship was brightly lit, but with a sickly yellow cast to it that made everything look dingy.

Without hesitation, Scott hauled himself through the opening. Jean followed him, allowing the barest trickle of telepathy to expand around her like a fine net of feelers. Her stomach twisted savagely as she passed through the gravitational boundary, but then she was inside the corridor and moving forward to take her position in the vanguard. She kept her attention focused forward as the other X-Men quickly joined them. Bishop and Hank together lifted the piece of the hull back into place while Scott welded the edges. The process took long enough to make Jean nervous, and spoke volumes about the density of the metal. But for the hull to be so thin, it would have to be tough, she reminded herself.

Finally they finished, and Scott touched her shoulder. "Let’s go."

"Why do I feel like we’re going to get in trouble if we get caught doing this?" Dana stared at the odd contraption while behind her Remy chuckled.

"Probably ’cause it’s de middle o’ de night, de X-Men have all gone off t’ hunt little gray men, I’m under strict orders not t’ leave de infirmary f’ any reason, an’ you de doctor dat gave me de order, non?"

"Hmph." She refused to look at him because she was certain she knew what his grin would look like. And because her conscience would tweak her even harder. But the strange thing was that, the farther they’d gotten from the medlab, the more animated Remy had become. He actually looked better. Not exactly healthier, but that ugly gray tone was gone from his skin and there was a spark of liveliness in his eyes that had been missing since that first day he’d awakened and teased Rogue over the intercom.

Remy was seated in a wheelchair at the controls of what looked for all the world like a billion dollar phone booth. A human-sized cylinder of clear glass or plastic stood atop a large mechanical base, though Dana couldn’t guess what kind of machinery it was or what it did. There was a door on one side of the cylinder and a set of steps leading up to it. Several wide metal bands encircled the cylinder, with wires emerging from their surfaces at even intervals.

"What did you say this was again?"

"A replicator."

"So what does it do? Other than replicate."

He grinned. "If y’ take off y’ clothes an’ get in, I’ll show y’."

She blinked at him. "Excuse me?"

His smile was utterly innocent as he held up one hand. "I promise, I won’ watch." Then he touched one of the controls and the clear glass of the cylinder darkened until it was completely opaque. "See?"

Still suspicious, she turned back to him. "Why?"

"’Cause y’ need a bodysuit dat’ll go under armor. De replicator’ll manufacture one literally on y’ so it fits right an’ won’ interfere wit’ anyt’ing y’ put on over it. If y’ keep y clothes on, it’ll put de suit on over dat, an den it won’ fit right."

Taken aback by the reasonable explanation, Dana could only stare at him. But eventually she found her voice. "O.k."

As she stripped, Dana kept an eye on Remy to make sure that he was, indeed, keeping his promise not to watch. Feeling intensely vulnerable, she climbed the stairs quickly and stepped into the dark cylinder. There was a blue-toned light glowing in the ceiling and she felt like she’d just climbed into a tanning bed.

"All right, I’m ready," she called once she’d shut the door. Then she waited nervously, all too aware that Remy had control of whatever changed the color of the glass.

A sudden tingling all over her body made her start. "What’s it doing?" she demanded, suddenly wishing she could see outside of the odd machine.

"Relax, chere. It’s jus’ measurin’ y’."

Great. A digital record of my cellulite. But she kept that thought to herself. After a few moments, the tingling went away.

"Now what?"

"Now y’ need t’ stand completely still. We’ll start wit’ de X-Men’s standard an’ go from dere."

A loud hum surrounded Dana and she watched in amazement as something that looked like blue paint seemed to coalesce out of the very air. It gathered itself into strips that lay themselves across her skin, wrapping around her body and joining seamlessly with the other pieces of itself. It didn’t feel wet, though. In fact, it was dry and surprisingly soft. The process completed quickly, and Dana stared down at herself in bemusement. She was now dressed head to toe in a skin tight suit of blue trimmed with gold.

Experimentally, she moved her arms and raised her knees, testing the new suit. She could barely feel it move against her skin it was so tight, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Around her, the glass lost its opacity, and she looked up to find Remy watching her appraisingly.

"Not bad."

She cocked an eyebrow and then looked back down at herself. It wasn’t exactly her first choice in color combinations, but he was right. It wasn’t bad. And having seen the others walking around in the show-all suits, she didn’t feel quite as awkward as she might have.

"Y’ wan’ try somet’ing else?" Remy asked.

Dana shrugged, trying not to look too eager. There was something insanely appealing about a magic clothes machine. "Sure."

The glass darkened once again and the blue suit dissolved, evaporating back into the air.

"Here, try dis."

This time, the coalescing suit was mostly purple. Dana couldn’t quite contain her shock as the thing took shape around her. She was still staring when the glass once again became clear.

She looked up at Remy through her eyelashes, torn between laughter and outrage. "You have got to be kidding."

He lost his composure and began to laugh. "Y’ right. I am." The laughter died quickly as he pressed a hand against his bandages with short hiss of pain. "Dat’s Elizabeth’s uniform," he added after a moment.

Dana watched him carefully, wanting to be certain he was all right. "Isn’t it... distracting?"

Remy’s smile returned. "Oui. But I t’ink dat’s de point."

Dana looked the outfit over once more, tucking her hair behind her ear as she did so. She was all too aware that Remy was still watching her. It left her feeling both flattered and uncomfortable.

She took a deep breath. "If you’re done leering at me, can we try something a little more practical?"

She was rewarded with another of his blinding smiles. "Lady’s choice. What colors d’ y’ like?"

Dana considered for a moment, thinking over the contents of her closet. "Blues and greens," she finally told him.

She heard the faint clicking of his fingers on the keyboard. "I t’ink all de women keep files on dis t’ing, t’ough de last time anyone actually changed dere uniform..." The purple swimsuit disappeared and something new began to take it’s place. "Dere’s no tellin’ what we’re gon’ find in here."

This time, the suit was sleeveless. It was kelly green, with what looked like yellow paint splotches all over it. Dana grimaced and Remy shook his head.

"Jeannie, what were y’ t’inkin’?"

They went on through the various outfits the X-women had designed over time. Dana kept an eye on Remy, trying to gauge his condition. He seemed to be slowing down and she wondered how she was going to get him to go back to the infirmary. She almost hated to, but the monitoring equipment was there. The place cast such a pall of misery over him, though.

"Remy, can I ask you something?"

He paused. "What, chere?"

"Why do you hate the medlab so much?"

The shields came up in his eyes immediately. "What makes y’ say dat, chere? Haven’ I been a good patient?" His tone was faintly challenging.

She drew a steadying breath. "Despite Dr. McCoy’s predictions to the contrary, yes, you have. That wasn’t my question, though."

Their gazes met and locked. But after a moment, Remy looked away and his shoulders sagged. "It’s jus’ bad memories."

"Something that happened to you?" Dana had seen a few medical horrors with the X-Files, and found her stomach knotting up in apprehension.

He shook his head. "Non. Someone I got tangled up wit’."

Dana watched him in silence for a moment, debating. But then she decided it would be best to let it go. Like Mulder, Remy wasn’t someone who gave out large doses of intimate information.

She sighed. "So, am I done trying on clothes?" Her current suit was a nice mix of blue tones, with black accents around the cuffs and neckline.

Remy flashed her a grateful expression. "I t’ink I got one more here for y’ t’ try." He touched the controls and the glass darkened. "I don’ t’ink you’ve met Jubilee. She lives up in Boston now. Got a real artistic streak, t’ough I don’ t’ink she wants anyone t’ know it. Dis is one o’ hers."

Dana nodded in silent understanding and watched as the colors began to coalesce around her. It was another one of the full-body suits. No short sleeves and no cutouts, thankfully. The background color was one of Dana’s favorites-a sort of ocean green that matched her eyes. Pale blue ribbons crisscrossed the green, the design making them look like a wind was wrapping them about her body. The ribbons were lightest at the tips, which were wrapped around her arms and shoulders. Then, as they coiled lower on her body, they darkened and gathered closer together, overlapping until the green was completely obscured. At about knee level, the blue shaded over into black, and then the suit disappeared inside a pair of tall black boots. All together, it was kind of breathtaking.

By silent agreement, Dana stepped out of the replicator and walked down the steps. She paused when she realized that Remy was still staring at her, his expression intense.

"What?" She crossed her arms.

"Don’ forget y’ combadge."

"Oh." She went over to her discarded clothes and fished the little communicator out of the pocket of her jacket. It had a pin on the back, so she could wear it with the suit, she realized. She rubbed her thumb across the smooth surface, and the red "X" emblazoned there. Then she reached up and pinned it to the collar of her uniform.

"How’s that?"

He nodded, looking oddly pleased. "Perfect."


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