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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 16

Scott Summers opened his eyes to the harsh glare of artificial white lights. He sat up slowly, painfully and looked around. He was in a barren cell, no more than four feet by four feet. The walls, floor and ceiling were all made of the same material, almost like plastic. Everything was white, and in the harsh lighting, the blue and gold of his uniform stood out in sharp relief. Cautiously, Scott touched his visor. His brain had long since learned to filter out the red tint that colored his vision, but there was something about the quality of the light that had left him wondering momentarily if he was no longer seeing through the ruby quartz.

He wasn’t sure if he found the visor’s presence more comforting or less. His powers were gone-suppressed no doubt by whoever had attacked them and was now holding them prisoner. However, that gave him little insight into whether their captors knew the limits on Scott’s control of his powers. It could as easily be arrogance as ignorance that prompted them to leave Scott’s visor with him.

Scott climbed to his feet and spent a few minutes examining his cell. The ceiling was a good ten feet above the floor and covered with some kind of flush-mounted lights. Otherwise, there were no distinguishing marks anywhere, not even a crack or seam to indicate where a door might be located.

"Phoenix!" Scott called as loudly as he could. "Storm! Wolverine! Can anyone hear me?" His voice echoed around inside the cell.

"Nice a ya ta join the party, Cyke." A familiar voice drifted to him, barely audible through the wall of the cell. Scott felt a wash of relief.

"Who else is there?" he asked. "Is everyone all right?"

"Storm’s in a pretty bad way," Wolverine answered him. "Can’t handle the small space. But except fer you an’ Phoenix, we’ve accounted fer everyone. No major problems."

Scott felt a cold hand clench around his stomach. "Phoenix?" It didn’t matter that Jean was a fellow X-Man and a powerful telepath. First and foremost, she was his wife, and though he had learned to separate the two facets of their life together, it did not change the gut-level fear that gripped him whenever he thought she might be at risk.

"She could still be out." Wolverine’s voice was filled with a quiet fury that threatened mayhem and violence if that wasn’t the case. Scott found himself strangely grateful for the sentiment. It had taken him a long time to accept the fact that Jean would love other men besides himself. Not in the same way-- not romantically-- but still with a deep and probably lifelong commitment to those who were her second family.

Scott slid down the wall until he was seated once again and leaned his head back against the cold, hard surface. Hopefully Jean was just a few feet away, unconscious but in no more immediate danger than himself or the others. He hated that fact that he couldn’t feel her through their rapport. That, at least, would have reassured him that she was still alive.

"You got any ideas on how to get out of here?" Scott asked after a moment.

"Not at the moment. They’ve covered their bases." Wolverine’s voice was strangely flat and Scott frowned. Wolverine wasn’t the kind of man to give up or admit defeat, but something in his tone made Scott think that the other man had been given pause. It left him with a vaguely unsettled feeling, but he pushed that aside in favor of more pressing concerns.

"Don’t everybody panic at once, but... I think we have a problem."

Dana’s eyes flew open at the calm, almost wry statement from Shadowcat. The young woman was seated in the co-pilot’s seat beside Nightcrawler, whose prehensile tail was wrapped tightly about one of the corner seat supports in an unconscious nervous reaction. Painfully bright light shone into their converted aircraft through the cockpit windshield and Dana shielded her eyes as she struggled to look past the light to the shadowy bulk she could see behind it.

A moment later, the light cut out, and Dana gasped at the view before her. Above and surrounding them was an immense floating platform that looked more like a city than any kind of vehicle. An escort of ships surrounded it, each of them the size of a Naval frigate. Even the smallest dwarfed their Blackbird, and the multiple spines that stuck out of their hulls left her with the impression that they were far better armed as well.

"That’s the SHIELD Helicarrier." Nightcrawler said in a voice rich with curiosity. "I wonder what they want."

"Certainly it will be nothing good." That from a man codenamed Colossus. Dana had yet to see his mutant power manifested, but the term "organic steel" intrigued her.

"Their weapons are powered up and ready, but nothing has locked on." Shadowcat continued to scan the displays on two screens in front of her. On the heels of her statement, a sickening lurch shook the airplane, forcing Dana to grab the arms of her chair to keep from being tossed painfully against her seat harness.

"I take that back," Shadowcat amended. "Tractor beam has locked on. Still no weapons locks."

"It isss a trap," hissed the young lupine woman Dana could only remember as Rahne. She was finding it hard to remember both the given name and codename for everyone she met. Usually only one or the other stuck with her.

"I do not think so, liebling. That isn’t Fury’s style." He looked over at Shadowcat. "Can we break free?"

She frowned. "Considering the modifications we made to this bird, probably. We’ve got enough power. The problem is that we’d most likely rip the airframe apart in the process."

"What, exactly, is S.H.I.E.L.D?" Dana asked, uncertain she wanted to hear more about the relative strength of the airframe.

"Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistic Directorate. It’s a kind of unilateral anti-terrorism group." Shadowcat spared a glance over her shoulder. "Unfortunately, anti-terrorism translates into anti-mutant pretty frequently."

"Is it a government organization?"

Nightcrawler frowned. "Yes, though the lines are somewhat obscure."

Dana looked back out at the floating city that had grown so large that it obscured the sky. They were headed toward a tiny opening in a section of an immense wall that lost all dimensions as they drew closer. "I don’t like this," she said quietly.

"Nor do I." Colossus gave her a solemn look. "But Nightcrawler is right. If Colonel Fury intended us harm, he would already have attacked."

"Who is Fury?"

"Colonel Nick Fury. He’s in charge of SHIELD operations." Shadowcat glanced over at Nightcrawler and shrugged. "He’s a reasonable man... most of the time."

Their aircraft floated through the hangar doorway as she spoke and through the windshield, Dana could see a wide expanse of metal floor that appeared to have been reserved just for them. Soldiers were lined up off to one side, their weapons tracking the Blackbird’s descent, and beyond them stood a man and woman that Dana took to be officers.

"There’s Fury," Shadowcat commented as the Blackbird settled onto its landing gear. Dana took another look at the man Shadowcat indicated. He was the apparent senior officer, a tall, grizzled man with an eye patch and a scowl that reminded Dana of all the things she didn’t like about the military.

"Shall we go see what he wants?" Nightcrawler rose from his seat.

Dana followed the others down the Blackbird’s ramp. She had elected to bring her rifle, but kept it slung over one shoulder, and she could feel the gazes of the soldiers on her as she fell in step beside Colossus.

Colonel Fury’s gaze swept over her curiously as they approached, but he quickly centered his attention on Nightcrawler. "Let’s dispense with the pleasantries, shall we?" he asked.

Nightcrawler nodded cautiously. "If you wish."

Fury seemed pleased by that. "Then I’ll get straight to the point. I received a direct order to burn that bird of yours out of the sky." Fury ignored the ripple of surprise his words caused. "Obviously, I disobeyed the order." He shrugged. "Only the United States Air Force and the X-Men fly Blackbirds, so I figured it would be really interesting to know why my superiors would be giving me orders to shoot down either one."

His gaze swept across them, fixing momentarily on Dana. "Would anyone like to explain it to me?"

Something woke Jean from a light doze. She opened her eyes and looked around as best she could, heart pounding. The amphitheater did not appear to have changed and finally she turned her gaze upward, toward the windows that lined the top of the theater. She could not make out anything definitive, but that did not keep her from imagining that she saw shadows lurking behind the white glare of the lights.

A tiny flicker of motion drew her attention downward. She focused on the slim metal pipe that hung above her head. At its tip, a drop of something black and oily was gathering, quivering as it prepared to fall.

Jean flinched involuntarily as the drop struck her on the lip, and then squeezed her eyes closed as a thin stream of the same black liquid followed. It was surprisingly warm on her skin and did not smell of petroleum at all. Instead, she caught a whiff of decay, like the smell of rotting vegetation.

The oil ran across her skin, pooling in the crease between her lips as she pressed them firmly together. It ran down the side of her face and dripped onto her ear. She snorted and almost panicked as the liquid ran into her nose. She could feel it sliding down the back of her throat, tasting of fungus and rotted leaves.

The liquid that had fallen onto her ear began to gather and slide slowly into her ear canal. Jean froze in a burst of terror as she realized that, whatever it was, it was deliberately working its way into her body. She could feel the tickling, itching passage as it moved further into her ears and throat. She wanted to scream at the maddening sensation, but she found that she couldn’t. It was as if she could no longer control her body.

Her vision began to cloud with indistinct blobs of darkness that obscured portions of the room around her. And then she felt it. The touch of another mind on hers-fingers of alien thought that sank into her mind, digging and weaving their way deeper and deeper into her thoughts. The most horrible part was that she had no defense. She had no control over her body-no mouth to scream, no hands to fight with-and she had no powers with which to drive the invading presence from her brain. She was completely helpless.

The alien presence settled itself comfortably in her mind, and Jean began to feel its hunger. The presence wanted to devour her-not just her mind, but her body as well. Had she retained any control whatsoever, Jean would have gagged at the images the alien was feeding her. It would use her soft tissues for sustenance while it completed its life cycle, bonding its genetic code to hers and creating a different lifeform from the two. Throughout the process, it would keep her alive, in agony, as it used her body as both host and catalyst for the new creature.

Something was holding it back, however. Jean could feel it fighting the reins of whatever controlled it, and she sent a silent prayer to whoever might listen that those reins wouldn’t break.

A moment later she felt the snap, and the alien presence with its encompassing hunger dove into her. At the same time, the world exploded into sharp clarity as Jean’s powers returned. She was suddenly aware of Scott, and his startled reaction as he felt her in turn. She could hear the minds of the men that stood above her, watching through the windows. But most of all, she could feel the creature inside her, and the mind that was invading hers.

The violation sparked a terrible anger inside Jean. With a scream that was a mixture of horror, disgust, pain and fury, she turned the full force of her telepathic and telekinetic powers against the thing that was trying to eat her from the inside. She was unaware as her body, still strapped to the metal table, burst into a conflagration of psionic fire.

Rogue leapt to her feet in horror as Cyclops began screaming. She pounded her fists ineffectively against the smooth walls.

"Cyclops! What’s happenin’? Are ya all right?" Dimly, she could hear some of the other X-Men doing the same, but there was no response from Scott save for his agonized cries.

Shaking in fear, Rogue slid down the wall until she was curled up on the floor with her shoulder pressed against the wall nearest to Cyclops. She felt utterly helpless. With her powers stripped, she had no way to help. Her super strength might have been enough to tear a route out of there, but all she had now was the ordinary strength of a normal woman, and that wasn’t enough.

She clapped her hands over her ears after a moment, unable to stand the sounds. He’s dyin’, she thought in horror. They’re killin’ him. She only remembered flashes from her first time as a captive of these people, but that was more than enough to teach her fear. They had no mercy, no compassion and no consideration for the people that they seemed to see as little more than animals.

For a moment, she wished desperately for a familiar pair of arms to hold her and a voice to whisper reassurances to her. If she was to die here, there was nothing she wanted more than to be able to spend the last moments with Remy, to tell him that she loved him and to feel the warmth of his skin against hers.

But then he’d die too, an’ ah couldn’t live with that. She closed her eyes against tears. At least he’s safe at the mansion. The Professor an’ Dana wouldn’t let him come out here. She had a momentary vision of her cell opening magically to reveal Gambit, cocky smile and all, come to rescue her. She couldn’t help a pained smile. It’s a good thing, too. Man’d pick every lock on this ship if that’s what it took ta find us.

Rogue opened her eyes fearfully as Cyclops fell silent. She felt a terrible sense of anticipation, as if everything in creation had simply stopped for a single stunned moment.

The floor beneath Rogue suddenly lurched and spun, bouncing her back and forth against the walls of her little cell. With a startled cry, she rolled into a ball to protect herself against the worst of the battering. From outside somewhere, she heard a piercing scream. It wasn’t a human sound, but more like that of a falcon or eagle. Only it was loud. So loud that the sound stabbed into her brain, and she clapped her hands to her ears again in protest.

We’ve gotta get out a here, she thought dazedly. It was the only clear thought in her mind. The X-Men were helpless in these little cells. Cyclops might already be dead. If they were to have any chance at all, they had to get free and regain their powers.

But ah don’t know how. The only person she knew who might possibly be able to find a way out of the sealed room was convalescing in a mansion more than ten thousand miles away.

An idea occurred to her then, and she shoved it away in a burst of terror. No. Nonononono. Ah can’t do that. But the thought returned with renewed force as the bird-scream sounded outside again. The floor bucked beneath Rogue, throwing her into the wall. She cried out in both surprise and pain at the impact, and then tumbled back down to lie gasping on the floor.

"Ah can’t," she protested aloud. It hurts too much. She squeezed her eyes shut. But they’re all gonna die if ah don’t try.

Thoroughly terrified, Rogue turned her thoughts inward. Her powers were gone, but the effects of those powers didn’t disappear with them. The many minds she had absorbed over the years, fragments of thought and personality, were all shoved into a dark recess in her mind where they could only rarely manage to bother her. And in that dark corner was the mind of a Master thief, a man who was acknowledged as one of the best on the planet by those who were in a position to know. Unfortunately, that mind also held many dark, painful secrets-things that Rogue had nearly lost her sanity once because of. Now, she went looking for that mind, sifting through the thoughts until she found something she recognized.

Because she’d touched him so deeply, the imprint was very cohesive. She felt Remy’s personality surround her and with a last moment’s hesitation, she reached out, grabbed hold of the shadow of his mind in hers, and pulled.


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