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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


Written by NicoPony
Last updated: 05/06/2007 06:22:13 PM

Chapter 15

A rectangle of light appeared in the alleyway, causing several rats to startle from their hiding places. Rogue, followed closely by Storm, Wolverine, Beast and Iceman, dropped from the opening to the trash-strewn pavement.

Rogue turned to look back at the portal. “You comin’?” she asked.

Scalphunter replied: “I’m going to destroy this portal and any data of where you’ve gone. I can ’port out on my own power.”

“Thanks,” Rogue said begrudgingly.

Scalphunter offered her a mock salute before the doorway vanished, leaving the X-Men standing in darkness.

“How do we know we’re in the right place?” Iceman asked.

“Look there!” Beast said excitedly, and stabbed a finger toward the dilapidated building across the street. The sign out front read: Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The words were flanked by matching halberds, the ax that the saint was often portrayed holding.

Out in the street, Rogue sucked in a deep breath and looked around. Raising the receiver on her wrist to her mouth she said: “Cannonball?”

“Here, Rogue,” Cannonball responded.

“Head south. Meet with us in New Orleans. And put the pedal to the metal.”

When they entered the hospital, the were shocked to find that the interior of the building was in good repair. The building smelled of fresh paint and the floors had been re-tiled.

“That’s weird,” said Iceman, looking over the new furnishings, which were still covered with protective plastic. “This has all been fixed. Why’s the outside in such bad shape?”

“Perhaps that was Lady Mastermind’s doing,” Storm said. “An illusion. They must be nearby.”

Suddenly, a silver object went spiraling through the air. It dinged off the back of Wolverine’s head and fell the the floor with a rolling clatter. It was a bedpan.

“It took you losers long enough,” called a voice from down one of the shadowed halls. Marrow walked out into the hospital vestibule, her bare feet silent on the tiles.

“Sarah!” Storm exclaimed. “Thank the Goddess, you are alive!”

“Nice duds, kid,” said Wolverine, rubbing the back of his head and looking over Sarah’s outfit. She was wearing Sponge Bob Squarepants nurse’s scrubs.

“It was the best I could find,” Marrow groused. “The other option was Elmo.”

“Where are the others?” Rogue asked.

“Down here,” Marrow gestured, and led the way back down the hall.

They found the children, along with Lady Mastermind, in a communal room not far from the main entry. Two of the girls were playing with a toddler, who was sitting on a bed surrounded by pillows. They dawdled a rag doll in front of the girl, who was clapping her hands, happy for the attention. Some of the others were playing a card game in the center of the floor. They had a spirited game going, though it looked more as if they were throwing cards at one another than really playing an organized game. Lady Mastermind was laying face-down on another bed, spread-eagle and moaning to herself. One of the teenagers kept poking Lady M, and was asking: “Can we go home now? How ’bout now? When can we go home?”

The group fell silent when the X-Men entered. Lady M turned over and sneered at them. “Frickin’ finally! Get me outta here, these kids are driving me nuts!”

“The Conquistador is on its way,” Rogue said, and pointed at the baby. “Where’d she come from?”

Storm walked over to the toddler and scooped her up. The baby jiggled her doll, which made a rattling noise.

“Well,” Lady M began, “when a man and a woman love each other very much, or get together for a one-night stand, the man puts his---.”

“Regan!” Rogue snapped. “I know where babies come from! I meant, who’s is she?”

Some of the teenagers sniggered.

“Well, I dunno,” Regan said. “Gambit foisted her off on me.”

“Where is Remy now?” Storm asked.

“I dunno,” Lady M shrugged.

“Well, you’re a regular well-spring of information,” Rogue griped.

Before Lady M could retort, the window behind her smashed inward by a sudden bolt of energy. Several kids cried out and dove for cover. Lady M was bowled over, and left unconscious on the floor. Threnody swung in through the smashed window and landed on her feet.

“Give her to me!” she screamed at Storm, who still held the baby.

Threnody aimed a bolt at Storm, but the blast went wide as Wolverine caught Threnody around the middle and tossed her to the ground. Storm was forced to duck behind the bed as the blast shredded through the newly plastered drywall. Ceiling tiles tumbled down from above. The little girl’s doll slid along the floor, scattering little vials of amber liquid across the tiles.

Beast dove, scooping up a handful of vials. Rising hope blinded him to the continuing fight behind him. “The vaccine!?” his mind reeled.

Wolverine was blasted aside by one of Threnody’s power bolts. He smashed into an opposite wall. Threnody scrambled to her feet, heading toward where Storm was hiding. Her feet flew out from underneath her when the floor suddenly turned to ice. She skidded and crashed into a cart. Trays and bedpans scattered everywhere. The teenagers rushed the door, tripping over strewn debris and slipping on ice.

It was close quarters, and Rogue was reluctant to wield her firepower with so many panicked children around. Instead, she dove for Threnody, who shrieked in fear. One of Threnody’s boots caught Rogue in the jaw, and she was knocked back. Threnody stood, but was blasted by a rush of freezing air which plastered her to the wall. This attack lasted only moments, as Threnody’s powers shattered the ice, sending chunks of it flying in all directions. She moved to leap over the bed at Storm, who held the crying toddler close, a protective hand over the girl’s head.

There was a sharp crack of breaking bone, and suddenly a blade whirled through the air, striking Threnody in the gut. The woman gasped, and clutched at the bone blade sticking out of her stomach. She collapsed onto the bed. Marrow seized the woman by her hair and held a second blade to Threnody’s throat.

“Sarah, stop!” Beast cried.

Marrow paused, her knee pressed in the small of Threnody’s back, her hand poised with the blade. A slow trickle of blood ran down Marrow’s shoulder, running from the wound where she had pulled a newly developed bone spur. Shocked, Beast realized Marrow’s powers had returned. Sinister had been right. There was none of the gleeful look of murder in Marrow’s eyes; she was not as she had been when the X-Men first took her in. Instead, there was a calm look of resolve in her expression. Slowly, Marrow released Threnody, who lay gasping and bleeding on the bed.

Beast approached Threnody, who lay still as he set his huge hairy hand against her cheek. The woman looked dreadful, her eyes defeated. “Did you find Death?” he asked her. Threnody gasped and a trickle of blood flowed from the corner of her mouth.

“I can’t die,” she whispered.

“I meant, did you discover Gambit’s whereabouts?”

With effort, Threnody pulled her arm out from beneath her body. The coordinates were still set in place from her last ’port. “He’s here,” she said. “But you’ll be too late. Sinister is going to finish him.”

“We’d better get going, then,” Rogue said. “Hank, stay here with Threnody and Lady Mastermind. Storm, Iceman, Wolverine, Marrow...?”

Marrow shook her head. “No, I stay with them,” she indicated the other teenagers. “They’re my responsibility.”

“Good luck,” Beast said, pulling Threnody onto the bed, and holding a hand over the wound in her stomach. He began barking orders at several of the milling kids. “Get Regan off the floor and onto a bed! You! Jessie, right? Bring towels, gauze!”

Rogue turned from the sudden turmoil and left, leading the remnants of her team into the night.


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