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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


Written by Ephiginia
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 4

Still falls the Rain --

Dark as the world of man, black as our loss --

Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails

Upon the Cross

-Dame Edith Sitwell

When she first awoke it was as though she'd been trapped in dark catacombs, but when her eyes had adjusted, she saw that the room was -- or had been, fairly recently -- inhabited by the living. At one end was a chair and mahogany desk, and on that there was a rather large black computer, which seemed entirely out of place. Near it was a massive gothic window which looked out onto a closed chamber, in which what seemed to be flambeaus had been lit behind the crimson glass. The effect was spectacular: the stone walls of the room and the cold granite floor were flooded with scarlet light, which made the shackles which bound her look as though they had been painted with blood.

She first tried to feel about her with her telepathy, but there were no minds near enough to reach out to. She tested the cuffs to see if she could slip out of them, but they were too tight for her to twist her arm sideways, let alone pass through. They did not seem to have keyholes, and even if they had, there were no keys in sight, or anything which she could have used to attempt to pick the locks. She struggled for a few minutes and then spread her arms to see how far from the wall she was tethered to she could move, but it wasn't more than two feet, and there was nothing within those two feet which could have aided her. Finally, she gave up and sat, trying to remember how exactly she had come to be here.

There had been the funeral. There had been the reception. She had tried to stay as far from Warren as she could in that time, which had driven her outside in the rain without a slicker. She hadn't been able to stand the waves of anger he'd been spreading, and though she'd wished she could get to him to comfort him, he didn't seem to want help. Unless it came in the form of hurting Remy.

She'd moved around to the backside of the house, staying under the lower-story eves as much as she could, until she'd come to Ororo's greenhouse. There had been a lovely collection of roses there since she had first arrived at the mansion which Betsy had always admired, and she'd decided that a bit of a stroll though the flowers would cheer her up a bit.

And that's all she remembered.

It couldn't have been too long ago that it had happened, because her hair was still wet enough to cling to her cheeks when she turned to inspect her surroundings, and then crossed her legs and leaned against the wall. She wasn't going to be going anywhere soon, and her arms hurt tremendously from being yanked back. She didn't spend too much time like that, however. She saw from the hallway a flash of light, and then a flash of dark which washed over her at the same moment she felt something hot slide across her neck.

Everyone would have agreed that it was the night from Hell, if they'd taken a moment to speak what was on their minds.

Logan had been able to pick up on Betsy's scent and follow it to the greenhouse outside -- no small feat, considering the hail and the wind -- where her distinct smell trailed to a rosebush and then simply vanished. "Which could mean a teleporter," he said, "or somethin' which could cover up a smell real good." From behind him rang the angry tones of beating windchimes: hollowed strands of glass and wood Ororo had hung from every rafter to compliment the breezes she summoned there. Usually they would have sounded lovely, like a delicate flute symphony. Now they sounded foreboding.

"Do you know of anything that could do this?" Scott asked.

Logan shook his head. "Nope. But I've seen stranger things then that."

Scott turned to Jean, who looked confused. "Can you feel anything at all?"

"No. It's as if she hadn't been here, ever. Any hope we can put in finding her from psionic scanning will have to be put in the Professor and Cerebro."

Scott ran a hand through his hair in frustration, and then glanced out of the glass walls to the yard. Bishop, plasma gun held at the ready, was marching towards the lake with Ororo; Rogue and Gambit had split to the other side of the property.

"Let's get back to the house, then, and see what the Professor has found," he sighed. "Logan, join Storm and the others."

The Summers stepped outside, after Jean had made a telekinetic "umbrella" for the two of them. There was no way to go from the greenhouse to the mansion except through the yard, which was soaked. The hail resolutely kept hailing, and Scott was loosing his patience with it.

Nothing? He asked Jean again, over their personal psychic rapport.

Nothing. But Scott, there are a hundred reasons for that -- Psylocke knows how to become "invisible", to become part of the shadows as a ninja. Sometimes she manages to erase all psionic traces of herself with or without thinking about it, simply as an extension of her own trained instinct. Maybe if she was scared enough, she'd do it automatically.

So she might have covered her own trail? he asked, glancing toward his wife.

She nodded. It's possible. I doubt it -- she's smarter than that -- but it's possible.

They clutched at each others' hands and raced to the other side of the lawn, not bothering to wipe their muddy feet before barging in through the door. When they reached the War Room they found the Professor concentrating upon a holographic map of New York, the helmet which would connect him with Cerebro's tracking systems settled on his head.

They watched as the map grew less and less detailed, outlining more and more of New York state, the Northwest, the East Coast, the East, the United States. No where appeared the small purple dot which would have indicated Psylocke's presence.

"Hidden," the Professor mumbled, and then turned in his chair to greet them. "She's no where that I can find her. She's been hidden."

Or she was dead. There was always that possibility.

"We found no trace of her," Scott informed him. "Logan couldn't follow her scent far, and his psychic bond with her isn't telling him anything. Jean couldn't find anything, either."

"We lost her at the rosebush," Phoenix added bemusedly. "There's certainly no question that whoever ... killed Hank," she paused, "also took off with Betsy."

"Or it could have been two people in league with each other. At least we can't know for sure that she's dead."

Xavier thought to himself for a moment, and then turned to his consul. "I'd told you about Paige Guthrie," he said. "She died at a time and manner parallel to Hank."

"Do you think someone else might have disappeared?" Jean asked.

"I think it would be a good thing to find out." There was a hiss of static and a wild pattern of colors across the screen, and a rather dark image of the White Queen faded into view.

"Another one," she snapped, which could have been taken either as a question or an answer.

"Psylocke," he told her.

"Chamber," she said.

"Two telepaths," he mused, sitting back in his chair. "Psylocke disappeared without a trace."

"As did the boy. And we still have no bloody idea what happened to Paige."

Cyclops suggested, "Is it possible that whoever or whatever this is may be afraid of psis? If he or she or it didn't just kill Betsy and Chamber, then maybe they have a problem with telepaths."

"That may be true," said Xavier. "Though it certainly doesn't answer how this person came upon a telepath trained to defend herself even when surprised undetected -- because she would mostly likely have sent up some type of psionic SOS signal at the hint of danger -- and abducted her without any trace at all."

"Unless she didn't feel she was in danger until it was too late. Or unless it was a more powerful telepath, able to overcome Braddock's own abilities, of course," Emma added.

"This person would also have to be able to get around the security systems."

"Or," Jean added, "someone who wouldn't trip the alarm. An X-Man."

Cyclops shook his head. "There are only two of us who could take Psylocke telepathically, and that's you and the Professor."

"Or me, though I was obviously here at the time of the event," Frost told him. "Of course, there are those who wear the X who do not reside in Xavier's mansion."

Xavier nodded slowly. "Which means that there's some checking up to do on other teams. Thank you for your time, Emma. And of course, if there is anything you find, please contact us."

She agreed, and was gone.

"Do any of the other teams have members who could overpower Psylocke without causing any noticeable disturbance?" Cyclops asked.

"Perhaps. But more importantly, Scott, I am deeply worried for the welfare of our friends in other places," the Professor said. "I am going to make a few calls. I want you to look through the security system archives, and check for anything even mildly suspicious."

"We'll get right to it," Scott said.

He sensed it coming.

He sensed it in his bones, in his blood, in his gut, chilling and searing every empathic nerve of his body. That he couldn't define what it was disturbed him more than anything else -- he didn't fear anything that he could see or touch or smell. But this, this was different. The erratic warnings gave no hint as to what they predicted, and none of his finely-tuned senses could pick up on anything tangible, intelligible. It was just coming.

Maybe it was the remnants of the old psychic bond with Psylocke. He doubted that -- it seemed unlikely that the feeling would come after her mysterious abduction, and after they'd searched the grounds and found nothing. Maybe it was Jubilee; sometimes when people got close enough, they could feel when something bad was going to happen. He doubted that too, since the Professor had been in contact with Frost. Maybe it was Kitty.

Pryde could take care of herself, couldn't she? Like Betsy. Only Betsy hadn't been able to.

He climbed up to the communications room, only to find it occupied, the Professor scrolling through links with various teams and other contacts all around the world. He didn't seem to be coming up with much more than static.

"Logan," the Professor asked, "Can I help you?"

"Talked to Excalibur?"

Xavier shook his head. "Not yet. I wasn't able to get through to X-Factor or X-Force."

"Well," he said, "Call 'em."

The Professor did just that, and they waited as the electronic beeping of the "phone" stretched on and on.

Somebody picked up.

"Rachel?" Xavier asked.

"Professor?" She smiled. She wasn't in her Phoenix costume, for once.

Both men regarded the smile oddly. "Has anything odd happened lately to your team?" Xavier inquired.

She shook her head. "Nothing but the usual. Not that that's very normal."

Logan and Charles looked at each other. "We've had an emergency here."

"Is Shadowcat okay?" Logan demanded.

"She's ... fine, I guess. Had the flu for a while ... What happened?"

The Professor told her, as Logan leaned back to the wall and crossed his arms, thinking. If Pryde was all right ... if all of Excalibur was all right ... then the killer hadn't gotten to them yet, hadn't been able or hadn't wanted to get to Britain. With all the other teams mainly cramped in the eastern United States, they would all be accessible, but in Europe, they'd be safe. For now.

But this hardly answered what it was. What was coming. It was going to drive him mad if he didn't know soon.

He left Xavier to the explanations, and went to find a cigar.

Four A.M. and the kitchen was silent, save for the ticking of a clock and the irregular use of a kleenex. She could feel that no one was asleep; everyone was thinking, or praying, or waiting for something to happen. Somewhere outside Bishop was tramping around, refusing to give up or leave his routine, and she kept a psionic eye on him like a hawk. The very last thing she could take right then would be to loose him.

She took a long sip of the wine she'd found, and allowed herself to become lost in the ruby swirls created when she jiggled the flute a bit. She didn't detach her eyes from it until Scott lifted her chin gently with his fingers and kissed her lightly on her lips.

"Long night," he said.

"It gets longer by the minute."

"Care for some company?"

She smiled a bit. "Wine?"

"Only if you have something to eat it with." He began to root through a cupboard, until Jean directed him towards the bread box.

"It's stale," she told him, "But I have the craving for toast all the sudden."

"Red wine and stale toast," he murmured, and set about making it.



"Do you think Bobby will be okay?"

"Bobby?" He slid two slices of bread into the toaster oven, and then pulled up a chair next to her at the table. "He'll be fine. Not for a long time. But he'll be okay."

"You can't feel how he is, Scott ... he's numb inside. It's like walking next to ... next to ice when I pass him. He's always been so warm."

"He lost his best friend. Remember when that happened to you? You nearly went insane ... but you're fine now. He'll be all right."

She nodded, and took another sip of her drink as he poured his own.

A moment passed, and she said, "why are you looking at me like that?" though she already knew.

He took a deep breath. "Because I'm scared," he told her. "Because I've never been this scared before. Two of the noblest people I know are gone, and I couldn't and can't do one blasted thing about it. Everything in me is screaming to get you away, as far away as I can, fast, so you won't disappear like Betsy. So nobody will hurt you. If I could, I'd lock us up in the Danger Room with all the defenses set, and hold you so tight nobody could rip you away, no matter how strong."

She pushed her chair over to his, and grabbed his hands. "Nobody will ever separate you and me," she sniffed. "EVER." Our bond is far, far too strong to break. I'm not going to disappear from you. And I'm not loosing you, because I'm not going to leave your side until this is over. Not even then."

Not for the first time, he wished he could loose the damned glasses, to look at her eye to eye.

But she knew everything without it.

"But Scott?"


"I miss Hank," she said, and buried her head into his chest to muffle a sob.

He put a hand over her head and stroked her hair. "I do, too."


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