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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
Chapter 21

The Cast of Shadows - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by NicoPony
Last updated: 04/17/2007 12:31:02 AM

Chapter 12

Lorna pushed her hands through her mussed hair, pulling the worst of the snarls from her green locks. She slowly plodded up the front stairs to the porch of the mansion. Wearily, she looked up at the sky, which was just beginning to show the first light of dawn. She moved forward to touch the latch to the door, which was bent at an odd angle. Touching the door caused it to fall forward, and it landed with a heavy thud inside the foyer. The toppled door revealed several of her housemates standing just before the grand staircase. They looked as surprised as she did.

"Guess I donít know my own strength," she said as she stepped over the fallen door.

"Lorna!" Storm cried when she saw the disheveled girl. "Where have you been? Iíve been worried sick!" Storm crossed the room in several quick strides and held Lorna by the shoulders. "You just disappeared so suddenly!"

"Sorry, Ororo," Lorna said, as she was fervently embraced by the older woman. "I just needed to get out, get some air."

Ororo shook her head in admonishment. "You had me so worried."

Lorna gave her an abashed smile. "What happened in here?" she asked, looking around the room. Besides the fallen door, the windows were cracked and bits of broken glass were strewn about the carpeted floor. Kitty was standing beside Scottís younger brother, Alex. Both had bewildered looks on their faces. Rogue was sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, looking upset. Lastly, there was Hank, who approached to right the door and set it back in the doorjamb. All were still dressed for bed, except for Rogue who was wearing what she had worn the day before.

"There was another accident," Storm said, tucking her hands into the sleeves of her lavender silk robe. "Remyís powers flared up, and he has disappeared."

"Whoa," Lorna said, looking around the room.

"We have tígo find him!" Rogue suddenly exclaimed as she jumped to her feet.

Storm raised her hand to ask for silence. "Now, Rogue, we have discussed this."

"Mr. Logan is probably out looking for him now," Kitty said. "Heíll bring Remy back."

"Yeah, in little bite-pieces!" Rogue exclaimed. "You didnít see how he was acting last night. It was like heíd gone berserk! He almost tore Remyís arm right off!"

"Rogue, please," Ororo said calmly. "There is no need to exaggerate. We are all quite distressed over the matter of Remyís sudden disappearance."

"Yeah," Alex suddenly piped up. "Besides that, we still have to find Scott. I canít believe he ditched me!"

"Scottís gone too?" Lorna asked in amazement. "What about that girl, uhm...Madelyne?"

Ororo sighed and put her hand to her temple. "Missing," she said unhappily. "The two of them left sometime last night during the commotion."

Cautiously, Lorna asked: "And Jean?"

Kitty shrugged and Rogue shook her head.

"Well, what the heck is going on?" Lorna asked to no one in particular.

"We were pondering the same matter," Hank said. "We had thought youíd gone as well, but thankfully youíve returned."

"What about the professor?" Lorna began. "Canít he find the missing students?"

"He is currently very busy trying to find the little girl on the Astral Plane," Ororo explained. "The professor is quite concerned for her welfare. As for Scott and Jeanís absence, I am certain they are both mature and intelligent enough to not do anything stupid."

"It isnít Scott Iím worried about," Hank said. "Itís Madelyne. Iíd like her to be here so I can more closely monitor her. She shouldnít be far from medical attention in her condition."

"Why, whatís wrong with her?" Kitty asked.

Ororo and Hank shared a look, which ended when Hank shrugged his bulky shoulders. "I guess there is no harm in telling you," he began. "But Madelyne is expecting a baby. And she also suffers from epilepsy. It is a high risk pregnancy, and her health is quite tenuous. If she should have a seizure, she could loose her child, and maybe her life."

"Geez!" Kitty exclaimed. "Itís not Scottís baby is it?"

"Well, no," Hank said slowly.

"Of course not!" Alex exclaimed, his face turning red. "He hasnít even known Maddie that long! And that ends the discussion. We go find Scott, and I give him the biggest butt-kicking heís ever had."

"Relax, everyone," Storm said. "We are not going to accomplish anything standing around in our bedclothes. I suggest you all return to your rooms to shower and change. We will have a sensible breakfast and then have the professor look for the missing students."

Rogue opened her mouth as if to protest, but Ororo cut her off. "I will have no arguments," she said. "Now go."

Rogue spun around and sulkily stomped up the stairs. Kitty and Alex soon followed, leaving Lorna alone with the two adults.

"I hope you donít mind if I just go to bed," she said. "Iím still not feeling very well."

"Of course I do not mind, Lorna," Ororo said. "Do you still have a headache?"

"Yeah," Lorna said with a sigh. "Itís not as bad as it was yesterday."

"Why donít you come down to the medical lab with me," Hank offered. "I can see if thereís anything I can do."

"Itís just a headache," Lorna laughed weakly. "Really, nothing to get worried about."

Both of the adults did look worried, however. Lorna blinked at them unhappily and put the heels of her hands to her temples. "Okay, maybe you can be a little worried."

If they werenít going to go find Gambit, Rogue thought, I will go find him on my own!

While everyone was getting ready for breakfast, Rogue stole downstairs and headed toward the elevators leading to the lower floors. The house was very quiet. Even at this time of the morning, there was usually someone about, whether it was the professor gathering the morning paper or Scott leading the way to the Danger Room for an early morning workout. Currently, the house seemed very empty.

Rogue took the elevator down to the lowest floor. When the doors opened, she started down the short corridor towards where Cerebro was kept. She entered the large and empty room. The room was shaped like an egg, a vast space shaped to best amplify the powers of the mutants who used this amazing machine. A walkway extended out to the center of the empty space. At the end of the walkway was a chair, attached to which was a helmet-like device which was poised over the back. Rogue always thought it looked like one of those hair dryers in the salon, only a really high-tech version for aliens. She wasnít sure if Cerebro would work for her, or if only telepaths could use it. Right now, the computer wasnít being used by anyone, not even the professor. She wondered where he was, and why he wasnít using Cerebro to find that little girlís lost mind.

Rogue walked down the walkway, her footsteps echoing loudly in the empty chamber. When she approached the chair, she lifted the helmet and held it before her, studying her reflection on its shiny surface. Maybe, if she put it on, the powers she had absorbed from Jean would come out, somehow. Or she could access Remys memories and thoughts and figure out where he might have gone. Rogue didnít sit at the chair, instead she just pulled the helmet toward her, to the extent the cables attached to it would allow. Feeling very silly, she put the helmet on. And nothing happened. She looked around the room from beneath the helmet.

"Hello?" she called, rapping the helmet with her knuckles. It rang out dully. "Hello, Cerebro? Is this thing on?"

She was about to replace the helmet when she found that her arms were frozen to her sides. Rogue barely had time to understand what was happening to her before the voices began screaming in her head. With a sickening lurch, she found herself recognizing the individual voices of the people she had absorbed.

"Well, well, well," said a particularly nasty voice. "Now what do we have here?"

Rogue tried to scream, but found she was unable to move. She was rigid and trembling, her arms pinned to her sides by an unseen force.

"You think youíre so smart," continued the voice over the sounds of the other voices contending for Rogueís attention. "Snooping around where you donít belong. You useless little monster."

"Wha-what!" Rogue managed to stammer.

"Letís see how much you like it when I open all these little doors in here," the voice said. Then the heinous laughter began.

Rogue suddenly regained control of her arms. She grasped the helmet and flung it aside, where it clattered against the chair. Breathing heavily, she began to turn and flee. She was halfway down the walkway when Jean appeared in the doorway. Rogue stopped short, nearly falling over her own feet in her fright.

"Jean!" Rogue cried. "Youíve got to help me! Stay away from that machine! Itís evil!"

Jean stared at her coldly. "Really, now Rogue," she said in a flat voice. "How can a machine be evil?"

"Itís not a---itís not a machine, its alive!" Rogue cried. "It did something to mah head!"

Jean laughed softly. "Did it really? And what made you think that you, of all people, could even use Cerebro? I mean, really, Rogue. You canít even control your own powers, let alone powers you canít begin to fathom. Donít be stupid."

Rogue had frozen on the spot. She broke out in a cold sweat. Jean began to walk towards her. Rogue felt trapped and frightened. "Jean...whatís the matter with you?" she asked softly.

Jean was backing Rogue towards Cerebro. Rogueís legs turned to water, and she found herself wobbling precariously on the narrow walkway. "Jean," she began again, a note of pleading in her voice. Jeanís face was serene, a hint of a smile on her lips. Her eyes were dark and cold. Her eyes were terrifying.

Rogueís legs gave out from underneath her and she began to slump. Jeanís hand shot out and clutched Rogue about the neck. Her grip was hard and strong, stronger than it could have ever been for a girl her size. Rogue found herself being dangled over the edge of the walkway, gasping for breath. Her fingers pulled at Jeanís clenched hand. Her mouth worked, but no sound came out save for choking noises. The moment was surreal. Jean was going to kill her, she was certain of it. Rogueís legs kicked out over empty space, and for a moment she thought about how she had dangled from the rooftop earlier that night. It could have only been hours ago, but it seemed like forever. Jean would let go of her and sheíd fall and fall, several stories to the bottom of Cerebro. They might not even find her until Beast updated the computer again. Gambit wasnít going to catch her this time. Tears began to leak out of the corners of her eyes.

Please donít kill me, Rogue cried in her mind, hoping Jean could hear her thoughts.

Jean smiled. It was a cruel and hateful smile. "No, I wonít kill you," she said. "It will only be a matter of time before you do the job yourself." She laughed then. It was the same laugh that had rung through her mind when she had tried to use Cerebro. Rogueís vision swam and began to grow dark. Her struggling became slow and weak.

Ahím dyiní, she thought. Ahím really gonna die. Then, everything went black.

Suddenly, the lights snapped on. Rogue blinked in the brightness, putting her hand up to shield her eyes from the light. "What---?"

"Rogue?" someone called. "What are you doing down here in the dark?"

Rogue looked around. She was standing just inside the doorway to Cerebro. She put her hand to her head.

"Rogue, are you all right?"

She looked up to see the professor approaching her.

"Oh, ah, hi professor," she began, finding her voice to be rough and scratchy. "Ahím okay. Ah just...came to find you. Ah think."

"What is it you wanted to tell me?" he asked.

Rogue shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. "Uhm, uh..."

The professor smiled warmly. "Iím guessing you would like me to locate your missing peers," he said. "Anyone in particular...?"

Rogue felt herself begin to blush, and she looked away. "Ah hope you can find him---Ah mean, them."

"Of course," the professor said. "With Cerebroís help it will only be a matter of time." He began towards the door to the computer.

"No!" Rogue screamed. The computer!...It was....it was. Bad? A computer? How could a computer be bad?

The professor turned in his chair to look at Rogue curiously. "No? No, what, Rogue?"

"Ah...Sorry. Nevermind. Sorry for botheriní you professor," Rogue began to unsteadily make her way toward the elevators. When she entered the elevator car, she turned around as the doors slid shut. The professor was well inside the Cerebro chamber. When the doors had fully closed, Rogue began to cry in huge racking sobs. But for what reason, she couldnít say.

The Astral Plane

I wasnít sure my plan would work. But it was better than doing nothing. I wasnít about to stand here, playing fiddle, while the world around me burned to the ground. After the fire was lit, Emma and I lay down beside it to sleep. Actually, Emma did most of the sleeping, while I lay awake listening to the sounds of the nearby forest. Since I was unable to rest, I found myself coming up with a plan. It seemed I had some control, if only a little, over this portion of the Astral Plane. I looked at the fire I had made. It looked to be getting low. I leaned over to pick up a few sticks from the nearby pile when Emma made a small noise in her sleep. I looked down at her. Her once white dress was smudged with dirt, her hair limp and messy. I brushed a few stray strands of hair from her chubby face before adding more fuel to the fire.

It was still dark when I heard the noises. My back was turned to the forest as I watched the fire. Now I turned to examine the trees. The forest was dark and still. My eyes searched for some kind of movement, but I saw nothing. The sound came again, a frightening rasping noise, like that of something snickering. When I turned to look a second time, I caught a glimpse of something flickering up in the trees. As I looked up at the branches above, I could make out tiny glints of light. It was the light from the fire, reflected in several pairs of beady eyes.

One of the creatures snickered again, and something flew through the air and caught me on the chest. It was wet and sticky, and splattered across my uniform. I cried out and pushed the thing away. The object fell into the dirt beside the fire. The light cast by the flames showed it to be a dead rat, chewed or gnawed and missing its head. I jumped to my feet, little insane cries of fright escaping my lips. Emma was instantly awakened, her eyes filling with terror and tears. The creatures in the trees began laughing again, and tossed sticks at us from the trees. Emma shrieked and covered her head with her arms. I gathered my wits together, as the initial shock began to wear off. Bending down, I picked up a few stones from beside the fire and chucked them into the trees. The creatures scuttled away, cackling and cursing as they did so. One of my rocks flew true, and caught one of the little demons in the back. It fell to the ground with a wet thud. It was black-skinned and ugly. The thingís limbs were long and gangly, its face sharp and wicked. Upon its death, the remaining creatures began to work themselves into frenzy, shrieking loudly and flinging whatever they could get hold of. I grabbed Emma by the hand and we ran away from the forest, stopping just out of the demonsí range. The things scrambled down from the trees and stomped out the fire. They ran about, flailing their long arms in our direction, but never leaving the cover of trees.

"Whatís those?" Emma asked between gasping breaths.

"I donít know what they are," I told her. "But they might have been the pixies I made."

Emma looked at me with solemn eyes. "Theyíre real bad now," she said.

I nodded. "Címon," I said. "Weíre going to get out of here."

I told Emma my plan, but we didnít go back to the forest until the sun had risen. The creatures seemed to abhor light, and soon disappeared after daybreak. We walked along the perimeter of the woods until we came back to the huge wall. I began to gather up sticks and branches and dried up bark, laying it into a pile. Emma helped, but there was only so much her small arms could carry. Still, her determination made me smile.

After awhile I sat down, exhausted from my efforts. The Astral Plane didnít seem like a real place, but it felt real. The dirt on my clothes was real, the cuts on my hands felt real, and though I couldnít say that I was really hungry, I still missed eating and drinking. I couldnít risk eating anything here, though. Everything I had made seemed to have become twisted and foul.

Emma came over and tossed a few more sticks in the pile. She crouched down beside me and looked expectant. I nodded at her. "All right, Iím almost ready," I said. "I just need a few moments."

We had built the pile of sticks around one of the thorny bushes that had grown up against the wall. The bush was enormously tall, and nearly reached the top of the wall. There was no way to climb it, however, without doing myself serious injury on the thorns. I knelt before the brush pile and closed my eyes. I tried to make myself feel as I had the night before: angry and desperate. I concentrated on thoughts of fire and flame. Just one small spark was all I needed.

"Fire," I whispered. "Make fire. Come on."

I felt as if I almost had it. I could feel the heat, smell the smoke. "Please," I said.

Beside me, I heard Emma gasp. "Youíre doing it! Youíre doing it!" she cried, and jumped up and down.

Slowly, I opened my eyes. I blinked as the smoke caused my eyes to tear. "Emma!" I cried. "I did it!" I jumped up and spun her in a circle. "Weíre going to get out!"

I set her back down, where she skipped and laughed. "Thereís no place like home," she cried. "Thereís no place like home!"

We watched as the fire grew, eating up the branches we had gathered. The flames worked their way up the bush, belching out greasy black smoke as they did so. The fire grew hotter, and we backed away. "What now?" Emma asked me, after the excitement had died a bit.

I looked from her hopeful face to the consuming flames. "We wait," I said.

Rogue didnít know if her plan would work. But she knew she had to escape. She would have never have thought herself to be claustrophobic, but the longer she stayed inside the mansion, the more she felt as if she were being smothered. And the thought of Remy being out there, maybe hurt or dying, made her crazy with worry.

"You have to find him," one of the voices said in her head. "Its your duty as an X-Man. X-Men stick together."

Rogue found herself nodding in agreement.

"Let the kid figure it out on his own," said a gruffer voice. "He can take care of himself."

Rogue screwed up her face at the sound of the voice. No, Scott was right, she thought. She had to go find him. It was her duty.

"Give me a break!" cried another voice in a snide tone. "You just want to get into his pants."

You shut up, Avalanche! No one asked you! Rogue cried, and then shook her head. What the hell is going on with me? She hoisted the duffel bag on to her shoulder and quickened her pace down the hallway, heading toward the garage. She paused before the door to the kitchen, where the other X-Men had gathered. Their voices mingled with the tinkling of silverware on plates. She turned away; there was no time for this.

Rogue opened the door to the garage and flicked on the lights. Inside were several vehicles. The modified sport utility vehicle the X-Men would eventually use for missions was at the far end. It was still in slight disrepair from the time the younger recruits had taken it out joyriding (3). Beside it was Jeanís Jeep Wrangler. The place where Scott usually parked his Dodge Viper was empty. Then there was the professors Rolls Royce. Lastly there was her scooter and Loganís motorcycle, which was covered by a sheet. She slowly approached Loganís bike, and whipped off the cover.

"Gíon, take it," said one of the voices, laden with persuasion.

Rogue shook her head, No way. Logan will kill me.

"You donít have a license, anyway," said the sensible voice.

"Oh, man," another voice sighed with exasperation. "Looks like the bus. Mass transit is so totally lame."

"Be quiet!" Rogue screamed, her voice echoing loudly in the garage. She looked around, but there was no one to be seen. She sighed, and ran her hands through her hair. Rogue turned away from Loganís bike and walked toward her scooter. She strapped on her helmet and walked her scooter to the garage door. Rogue pulled up the door and got onto her scooter.

She had no idea where Gambit was, he could be anywhere in the world. But she had an inkling as to where he might have gone. The money in Rogueís pocket was enough for a one-way bus ride to Mississippi. Sheíd worry about what to do next after a short stop in Caldecott, to pay a visit to her old home. Once there, Rogue hoped to find some answers, and bring Remy home safe.

"Where do we go?" Scott had asked her. It was night, and the others had gathered down in the foyer and out on the front lawn. Scott and Madelyne were alone.

She had pointed westward, saying nothing. Then they left, taking Scottís car and a few belongings, without a word.

Scott looked over at Madelyne now. She was asleep in the passenger seat, her hair blowing in the wind. Her pale hands rested over her stomach protectively. He reached out and touched her cheek delicately, then turned back to the road. And he drove on, not knowing what they would find.

Shadow was livid, shaking with rage. He bit the inside of his lip, hard, until he tasted blood. The pain soothed him. He stomped up the forest path to where the boathouse once stood. Shadow didnít care about his body, though Jeanís form served him well. It was just a means to an end. Until he found the girl. The anger welled up again.

"Where did she go?" he seethed to himself. When he reached the ruined site of the boathouse (4), his eyes searched out the figured crouched in the darkness. Shadow approached Wolverine, and stooped to stare into the older manís eyes. Wolverineís once blue eyes were flat and gray, like flecks of stone. He stared vacantly. Wolverine was not out looking for Gambit, as everyone believed. His purpose had been to scare the boy away, maybe hurt him a little. Shadow had no use for mutants who had no control over themselves, or rather, mutants he could not control himself. Besides, there was something inherently...wrong about that boy.

Shadow placed his hands on Wolverineís knees and leaned toward him. He blew softly in the manís face. Wolverine blinked. "Logan," Shadow said in Jeanís voice. "I have another job for you."

Wolverineís eyes swam into focus. His face was covered in filth, his clothes torn and unkempt. He grunted in acknowledgment.

"Rogue is gone," Shadow told him. "That little bitch must have remembered something. Her little screwed up mind is too difficult to control. I need to you get rid of her."

Wolverine looked displeased, his brow began to crease.

"You will do this," Shadow told him. "Go find her, break her." Shadow patted the side of Loganís face. "Do it for me," Shadow whispered.

He growled low in his throat. He accepted. As Shadow knew he would. Jean had laid the groundwork into Loganís mind. From there, it was easy to slowly twist the manís perceptions. Shadow stood. "Good boy," he said. "I have other matters to attend to."

From there, he cast his mind out of Jeanís body, allowing it to slump to the earth. The ghost image of Madelyneís mind was out there somewhere. Soft and ripe for the taking.

(3) That happened in Episode 22: Joyride (4) What? You donít remember the boathouse blowing up? That was in my last story: Stolen Lives. Go back and re-read it!


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