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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 02:10:46 AM

Chapter 3

Scott opened the door to Professor Xavier’s office and was mostly unsurprised to find Lilandra standing beside the Professor’s hoverchair, her hand resting possessively on his shoulder. The Shi’ar Empress was dressed in her normal battle regalia, a form-fitting metallic suit that was far tougher than it looked. She nodded to Scott as he crossed the room, the light from the desk lamp running across her armor like quicksilver at the sharp motion. Scott’s stomach tightened. This wasn’t a hologram. And if whatever was going on was important enough to bring Lilandra halfway across the galaxy in person, it was at least as serious as Scott feared.

"You wanted to see me, Professor?"

The Professor nodded, and Scott chided himself silently. After so many years, he ought to be comfortable calling the man by his first name.

"Have you heard anything from Jean or Remy?" the Professor asked.

Scott shook his head. "Not yet. But they expected to need at least this long to make contact without arousing suspicion."

The Professor nodded and looked up at Lilandra, who frowned. "Hopefully, they are still safe, then."

The tightness in Scott’s stomach turned into alarm. "What do you mean?"

She took a deep breath and stepped away from the Professor’s chair. "These ’gray men’, as you have dubbed them, are a far greater threat than you realize. We had hoped to deal with them without gaining the notice of anyone on Earth, but that goal is already compromised. Their influence among Earth’s governmental agencies is stronger than we suspected."

Scott digested that in silence. He didn’t like the sound of it at all. Earth’s governments were, by and large, unaware of the vast stellar empires that spanned much of the galaxy around them. And though people were generally aware that alien races existed, they seemed content to believe that those races mostly stuck to their own territories and left the Earth alone. Usually, Scott had to admit, that was true. The Shi’ar Imperium was quite strict in its hands-off policy toward Earth, and there were few races that did not follow its lead.

Now, apparently, there was a race that had chosen to buck Shi’ar authority. If he understood correctly, the ’gray men’ weren’t from this dimension, and so might have no knowledge of the Shi’ar or their policies. But from Lilandra’s tone, it was obvious that the two races had crossed paths, and that Lilandra’s confidence in her Imperium’s ability to defeat this new enemy was not entirely complete.

The question that had been bothering him all along returned, and he focused on Lilandra. "Why did you send us after that ship that crashed in Mongolia?"

Her eyebrows twitched, as if he’d surprised her with the direction of his thoughts. But then she shifted her stance to something resembling a parade rest, and Scott realized that she was settling in for a fairly long explanation. He moved to the leather-bound chair that faced the Professor’s desk, turned it so that he could see the Shi’ar woman, and then sat down. He spent too much time on his feet as it was, and it would be nice to rest while he had the opportunity.

Lilandra waited for him to get comfortable, then began. "The ship you followed belongs to the Racth’zai-the ’gray men’. It came through one of their gates, causing enough confusion among the nearby cruisers that we thought it worthy of interest. Since you claim there was a human piloting the ship, their reaction is understandable."

"Did it come from the dimension where Jean and Remy are now?"

Lilandra nodded. "Most likely." She looked at the Professor for a moment, then returned her attention to Scott. "The Racth’zai are parasites. Not physically, but as a culture. Every intelligent species they encounter, they seek to genetically mix with their own until they have produced what they consider to be a superior being-an improvement to their race. They use cloning to provide them with stable gene sources, and when they have hybridized the next generation of their species, they wipe out the indigent race and take the planet for their new generation."

Lilandra paused, her hands flexing on the staff of her office. "Eleven centuries ago, they tried to take Chandilar." Her voice was low, and Scott sensed that it was an unpleasant portion of her Empire’s history. "We were barely a spacefaring race then. Somewhat more advanced than Earth is now, but not much. If we had known we were being invaded, perhaps we would have been able to fight them. Their technology is not very advanced because they take it from others instead of inventing for themselves." She sighed. "But we did not know we were being invaded. They are insidious creatures, working only in the shadows. They contacted the leaders of our governments-only a few-those who could be bought with their promises of power and technology. Over the course of decades they gained a foothold on our planet. They cloned our people and created their hybrids. They hid themselves in a modern folklore of an alien species whose existence could not be proven."

Her brows dipped in a pained expression. "They very nearly took our planet, before anyone knew that it was happening. Once we realized the threat, we were able to drive them away from Chandilar, but the damage had already been done. In the end, we were forced to destroy nearly half of the population to eradicate their genetic influence."

Scott sat up abruptly. "Wait a minute. You wiped out half of your own people just because they had mixed genes? That’s genocide!"

Lilandra shook her head. "The Racth’zai have a communal mind. If they are part Racth’zai, then they are Racth’zai. Much like the Phalanx." Her gaze was sad but uncompromising. "We had no choice."

Scott thought it over. In the battle against the Phalanx, there had been no other option but to destroy those who had once been human. If that was indeed the case with these Racth’zai, then he could hardly hold the Shi’ar at fault. But that led him to the disturbing question of what was going to happen to Earth.

"And now these things are after us?" he asked Lilandra.

She nodded. "Yes, though the situation is more complex. The Racth’zai of this dimension were eradicated almost three hundred years ago."

Pieces of information clicked together in Scott’s mind, and he felt a growing sense of horror. "But when the X-Men rescued Rogue in this other dimension, their Racth’zai became aware of us."

"And they found a way to cross over. Yes." Professor Xavier’s expression was grim.

The first sign Remy LeBeau had that he was no longer unconscious was a sensation of warmth along his side. Ribs, he decided after a few moments of focusing on the sensation. Had to be ribs. The warmth grew as he thought about it, quickly becoming uncomfortable, then excruciating. It was about then that he realized that it wasn’t heat he was feeling, but pain.


He tried to think back, to part the heavy black cotton that enfolded him, and remember what had happened that might have given him a set of broken ribs. But pushing against the blackness only brought the pain into sharper relief, and his conviction wavered.

Wakin’ up gon’ hurt.

A lot.

You really wan’ wake up, Remy?

A flash of memory threw everything into stark relief for just a moment. He remembered walking down a barren hall, the weight of manacles tearing the skin of his wrists. A soldier shoved him from behind with the butt of his rifle.

Then the memory was gone, and Remy was returned to darkness. When did it happen? he wondered. They could have been events from any time in the last eight years, the hallway and the soldier. He couldn’t attach anything to them.

Both reluctant and relieved, he sank back into the gentle dark. He had the feeling that there was something important he should be remembering, but for the moment, it was lost to him. As he pondered, his awareness began to grow, spreading outward from the pain in his ribs. He discovered that his shoulders ached fiercely, but it was a muscular protest rather than an injury, he thought. He pushed his awareness out along his arms until he was fairly certain he could feel his fingers. He tried to wiggle them, and was rewarded by the touch of something chill beneath his fingertips. Metal, maybe?

"He’s coming to." The voice echoed in the darkness, the words meaningless. Then a sharp stab of pain rocked him and flooded the dark place with sensation. Remy slammed into his body, fully and suddenly aware of his surroundings and of the many hurts that filled him. He opened his eyes to find himself staring into a gnarled face and a pair of eyes the color of death. Cigarette smoke swirled between them on an invisible breeze, and Remy sniffed it hungrily. It had obviously been a long time since he’d had a cigarette. His body knew, even if his mind had no idea how much time had passed.

"We meet again," the man said with a caustic smile and a tiny wave of his cigarette.

Remy ignored him as he tried to absorb his situation. He was chained at the wrists and hanging from a hook mounted in the wooden crossbeam of what looked like a basement ceiling. The walls and floor were cement, undecorated and interrupted at even intervals by a seam where the pre-poured slabs had been joined. A bare light bulb hung from the ceiling just behind Cancer Man’s head. Its glare hid the face of a second man who stood toward the back of the room. Remy’s spatial sense told him that the mystery man was the only other person in the room, and he hid his elation. His powers still worked. The bite of the metal cuffs that dug into the raw flesh of his wrists was suddenly a welcome sensation. Metals charged up real well.

"How are you feeling?" the Cancer Man asked as he took a drag on his cigarette. Remy had the sudden urge to kick him. These people knew their business. They’d done a very thorough job of taking the fight out of him while he was unconscious. His entire body hurt, to the point that he could not discern where one pain left off and another one began. It was making him lightheaded, and he had the bad feeling that walking might be beyond him at this point. That was the only thing that kept him from disintegrating the chains that held him.

Dese two obviously wan’ talk. Gives me time t’ rest. Plan a next move. But that didn’t silence the tiny voice of panic in his mind that whispered that if he didn’t get out of there now, the two evil men would torture him and he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. He knew he wasn’t helpless, not with his powers active, but that knowledge was in his mind, not in his heart.

Cancer Man didn’t seem offended that Remy hadn’t answered his question. He retained his smirk as he paced back and forth in front of his prisoner. Remy watched him warily.

"What is your name?" Cancer Man’s voice was inflectionless, making it seem as dead as his eyes.

Remy ignored the question. Y’ never answer de first question. He doubted that Cancer Man cared, anyway.

Cancer Man turned and slapped him, surprisingly hard. Remy tasted blood and for a moment his vision whited out.

"Tell me your name."

Remy blinked, focusing on the source of the voice. So dat’s how y’ gon’ play it, non? Not gon’ try t’ entice me wit promises. Jus’ answers or pain. He took quick stock of his physical condition. I’m not gon’ be able t’ take too much o’ dis an’ still get out o’ here. A tiny whisper in the back of his mind said he might not be able to get out as it was.

"Gambit," he said.

Cancer Man’s eyebrow flickered speculatively, but he didn’t seem inclined to argue the point.

"Very well, Mr. Gambit." He took a drag on his cigarette. "Do you know why you’re here?"

"’Cause some sadistic jerk wants payback?"

Cancer Man hit him again. Remy rocked with the blow, wondering why it was that he never seemed to be able to keep his mouth shut. Still, he felt some satisfaction that his barb had struck so deeply. He’d obviously embarrassed Cancer Man thoroughly that night in the parking garage. He looked up at the other and was immensely gratified to see the flush of anger in his cheeks.

"What were you doing at the Seeker’s compound?" There was a strident edge to the voice now.

Press y’ advantage, boy. "Tresspassing?"

He saw the Cancer Man’s temper snap. Cancer Man grabbed him by the collar, pulling him close until their faces were only inches apart. "Tell me where the ship is!" he hissed.

Still hidden in the shadows, the mystery man cleared his throat and Cancer Man stiffened. His face became an emotionless mask as he released Remy and stepped back. Remy watched the transformation with interest. From some things Psylocke had said during their last encounter, he understood that this man was one of the very few who really knew the truth behind these gray men. But Cancer Man obviously hadn’t known about the ship berthed in that hanger, and now it seemed he was frightened by the possibilities of what other things he might not know.

Remy was momentarily distracted as his powers tracked two people coming down the stairs outside of his cell. They stopped just outside the door to the room.

"Where is the ship?" Remy’s attention snapped back to Cancer Man. He seemed to have gained control of his emotions, and his voice was once again lifeless.

Remy quickly reviewed his options. It was hard to think through the haze of pain, but he was clear enough to realize that he had been given an opportunity to sow confusion. Perfect f’ a con man like me.

"It... crashed." He almost couldn’t force his mouth to form the words, though the thought seemed clear in his head. A blast of panic swirled through him. He was a lot worse off than he thought.

"Where did it crash?" The lifeless veneer fell away again. The Cancer Man was intensely interested.

Remy stared at him. Where did it crash? Where did what crash? For a moment, he couldn’t remember. Everything around him was becoming unreal, taking on a flat, two-dimensional quality that distorted his sense of orientation and distance. But finally he remembered the answer to the question, though he was no longer sure why it was important.

"Mongolia." It came out as a whisper.

He never saw the Cancer Man’s reaction, nor would he have cared if he did. The door to the room flew open and two people rushed inside. One held an automatic rifle with the confidence of a professional. The other was unarmed. She had one hand to her temple and the other one stretched out in front of her. Remy recognized them, but for the moment could not find names to attach to them.

As they came into the room, the mystery man jerked and collapsed. Cancer Man whirled, pausing when he saw the weapon trained on him.

"Hey!" The unarmed woman sounded surprised. But then she put her other hand to her temple and narrowed her eyes in concentration. Cancer Man sagged under her assault, and fell to the floor. Each motion had a jerkiness to it that reminded Remy of silent films, as if his eyes were only interpreting things in short bursts.

Both women approached him. The taller one, with the heavy mane of red hair, stared at him with an expression of deep concern. Remy couldn’t find his voice to tell her not to worry, that he was fine. But as darkness closed in on him, he did finally find her name.



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