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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
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 10

In the War Room, the pandemonium slowly dwindled and then ceased altogether as the telephone handset Jean was holding slipped numbly from her fingers to clatter on the table. The other hand was clapped over her mouth and her green eyes were wide with horror. In the silence, the drone of the news report, endlessly detailing the impact of the Zero Tolerance suppression field, seemed inordinately loud.

“Jean, what’s wrong?” A cold, hard knot of dread formed in the pit of Scott’s stomach.

Jean blinked and her eyes filled with tears. She bit her lip as her hand fluttered away from her mouth. “That was Moira. Kitty’s dead.”

“What?!” Bobby was on his feet, along with several others. “How?”

Jean glanced at him as her tears spilled over. “She was in the middle of phasing when it happened. She--“ Jean shook her head helplessly, unable to continue.

Bobby sank slowly back into his chair, stunned, and Diedre placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. Scott tasted bile as his imagination conjured an image of what must have happened to Shadowcat, and he saw his feelings of horror reflected in the faces around him.

The X-Men sat in silence for several long minutes, numbed by the news.

“What about the rest of Excalibur?” Scott forced himself to ask. As much as he wanted to let the loss consume him, there were other people that needed to be considered.

“They’re o.k.” Jean wiped the tears from her face, only to have them instantly replaced by fresh.

“Many mutants are dying this day,” Ororo said softly, her own eyes glimmering with unshed tears. The news coverage had already reported on several mutants who had been either airborne or caught in some kind of altered state when the suppression field was activated. Had the X-Men been involved in a Danger Room sequence, Scott reflected, several of them might now also be dead for the same reasons. The thought made him a little weak in the knees, as if they had dodged a bullet without realizing it. Rogue’s injury was a fairly minor consequence, all things considered.

Scott glanced involuntarily at Remy. He was surprised that Gambit had stayed with them rather than going to the infirmary with Rogue, but he stood quietly off to one side, his face expressionless.

“So what’s de plan?” Gambit asked when he noticed Scott’s gaze. He was uncommonly serious.

Scott blinked in surprise at the blunt question as heads around the room turned in his direction. But that’s the question of the hour, isn’t it? he thought. And they’re all looking to me for an answer.

He straightened unconsciously. “For now, we sit tight. We don’t know enough about Bastion and the threat posed by Zero Tolerance to form any kind of plan.”

“The threat is very clear, Cyclops.” Bishop’s voice was nearly a growl.

Scott met the other man’s gaze and was startled by the depth of fear he saw there. “Not yet, Bishop,” he countered softly. “So far, all they’ve done is shut down our powers. We have no idea what else they might have in mind.”

“What do you mean, Scott?” Ororo’s brow was drawn in a troubled frown.

Scott sighed, feeling old. “What I mean is that we have no idea if this is just the first step of a much larger plan to control mutants.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Remy nodding slightly in unconscious agreement and had to stifle a snort. Of all the times for the Cajun to agree with him... but hopefully that meant he would be more cooperative than usual.

Scott looked around the room. “Our first priority now is to get in contact with each of the other teams. Find out if anyone else has been injured or-- God forbid-- killed by this thing. Then we need to find out everything we can about this Bastion and his Operation: Zero Tolerance, and be on the look out for anything that suggests that they plan to take more radical action towards the mutant population.” His gaze locked with Storm’s. “Logan is already out there, gathering information. We should hear from him soon.”

Ororo nodded briefly. Scott touched the intercom controls. “Hank, how is Rogue doing?”

There was a short pause before Hank responded from the medlab. “She’s sleeping, and I’ve started the tissue cloning process. I should be able to do the graft in the morning.” He paused again and Scott could imagine him adjusting his glasses. “Unless her body rejects the tissue, there’s no reason to think she won’t heal completely.”

Scott found himself nodding, relieved, as he cut the connection. “Well, that’s good news, anyway.” He spent a moment sorting his thoughts and then began assigning each of the X-Men specific tasks. There wasn’t, honestly, a whole lot they could do right now, but they all needed something to distract them from the sheer immensity of the change that had befallen them.

Slowly the X-Men dispersed, leaving the War Room in groups of two or three. Scott had consciously arranged the duty assignments to group those he knew to be close friends together. Today, they all needed the support.

Eventually the room emptied, leaving Scott and Jean alone at the conference table. Jean stood wordlessly, then, with a small sob, came around the table and into his arms. Scott held her tightly and let her cry, his own eyes burning. He didn’t want to admit it even to himself, and he certainly couldn’t let the X-Men see it in him, but he was scared. In one single stroke, Bastion had taken away nearly every weapon they had to defend themselves. He was very afraid of what the leader of Zero Tolerance might do next.

Bobby walked slowly toward the storage area, his thoughts reeling. Even Diedre’s hand in his was little reassurance. He’d promised to protect her, but with their powers gone, if the government started hunting the X-Men...

Remy’s hand closed on his shoulder, jerking him out of his thoughts. The Cajun had fallen in behind the couple as the three headed toward their assigned task to inventory the weapons lockers. It was a little odd, Bobby realized, for Remy to be following him and his puzzlement briefly overrode the panicky thoughts chasing each other around in his head.

Remy jerked his head toward the doors that lined the corridor. “Let’s find someplace private t’ talk.”

Bobby nodded and released Diedre’s hand. “Right.”

Remy shook his head lightly. “Bot’ of you.”

Surprised again, Bobby frowned and Diedre gave him a minuscule shrug. Together, they moved into the nearest room. Bobby watched with a growing sense of trepidation as Remy locked the door. He definitely didn’t want anyone overhearing this conversation, which meant it had to be Guild business. But that didn’t explain why he wanted Diedre to be there.

“Cerebro,” Remy addressed the invisible computing system as he turned. “Turn off monitors and recording f’ storage area C-8.”

“Authorization?” the computer answered.

“Xavier-beta. Key t’ my voiceprint.”

Bobby arched his eyebrows at that. Xavier-alpha was the primary access control code for all of Cerebro’s functions. Only the Professor and Scott could use the Xavier-alpha commands. Bobby had never heard of a Xavier-beta.

“Authorization accepted,” Cerebro replied.

Several things clicked together in Bobby’s mind. He smiled. “Is that how you manage that?” Remy had an uncanny ability to avoid Cerebro’s notice.

Remy flashed him a grin. “’Lil gift from de Professor. Nice, huh?”

“Very. And all this time I thought you were hacking the system.” He cocked his head. “What level of access does it give you?”

Remy’s grin faded. Bobby watched as the man who was Guildmaster emerged from behind the X-Man facade. His red gaze was intent. “Same as Xavier-alpha would, wit’ authority t’ override alpha commands under certain circumstances.”

Bobby considered that for several moments. The Professor had given Remy permission to override even his own commands to Cerebro, at least sometimes. “Why?”

Remy shrugged, his expression solemn. “Between knowin’ what I really do, an’ de information Bishop brought back from his time, de Professor figured dat if anyt’ing serious ever happened t’ de X-Men, I’d be de most likely t’ survive.”

Bobby nodded in sudden, chilled understanding. “So if we were all dead and somebody tried to turn Cerebro against mutants, you’d be able to stop them.”


Bobby took a deep breath to steady himself. He had been unaware of how thoroughly the Professor had trusted Remy, but now he was grateful. With Kitty’s death painfully fresh in his mind and the frightening reports coming to them through the television news and Cerebro’s monitoring, he could very easily imagine the scenario the Professor had been thinking of. Diedre, too, seemed to understand. She pressed herself a little closer against Bobby’s side.

“Dat wasn’ what I wanted t’ talk about, t’ough.”

Bobby shoved his fatalistic thoughts away so that he could concentrate on the real matter. “Oh.” He paused. “So, what’s up?”

Remy’s expression lightened fractionally. “Were y’ payin’ attention t’ Hank’s little lecture ‘bout physical an’ mental mutations?”

“Uh, yeah.” Hank had left the medlab briefly to give them all a scholarly lecture on the different types of mutations in an attempt to explain why some of their mutations were unchanged by the OZT damping field. “The damping field doesn’t change purely physical mutations, which is why Hank is still blue and furry -- and strong. Most of the rest of us have powers that come from our brains somehow, and those are the ones that are damped.”

Remy was nodding. “Across de board, we’ve all lost our powers wit’ de exception o’ jus’ a few.” He ticked them off on the fingers of one hand. “Hank, like y’ said. Warren’s still got his wings, but not whatever it was dat let him cart around eighty pounds o’ feathers like dey were not’ing. An’ I’d bet dat Logan’s still got his claws, t’ough not his healing factor.” Remy paused significantly. “An’ den dere’s me.”

“You?” Bobby looked at him in surprise.

Remy gave him a humorless grin and tapped his temple. With a start, Bobby realized that he was talking about his eyes, which remained the black and red combination Bobby was familiar with. He felt a small tingling of dread.

“What about you?”

Remy crossed his arms, the red gaze faltering for just a moment. “M’ ‘natural’ range o’ vision is in de infrared, Bobby. Only de infrared. Whatever part o’ my mutant powers it is dat lets me see de visual spectrum went away wit’ de damping field.”

It took Bobby a moment to absorb what he was saying and his eyes widened. “You’re blind?”

“Non.” Remy shook his head emphatically. “But now everyt’ing is in terms o’ temperature. I c’n see heat, but not colors.”

“Oh.” He glanced around, puzzled. “So why the secrecy? The X-Men aren’t going to care. We’ve all lost our powers.”

Remy cocked his head, his expression vague. “What’s in dis room, Bobby?” he asked with deceptive mildness.

Bobby’s thoughts snapped into focus as he realized the intensity that lurked behind the question. He looked around with a critical thief’s eye, but saw nothing that would warrant such a reaction. “Not much,” he answered after a moment. “Stacks of boxes and some old furniture and stuff from the boathouse.”

Remy nodded, a small crease between his brows hinting at hidden emotions. “I can’ see any o’ dat. It’s all de same temperature as de floor, de walls an’ de ceiling. All I c’n see in dis room is you an’ Diedre, because y’ warmer dan de rest.”

The meaning of the words sank in slowly as Bobby struggled to envision seeing things the way Remy was describing. He began to understand the other man’s concern. It was a sizable handicap.

“It’s going to be more important to keep the Guild from finding out than the X-Men,” he finally commented. Although Remy had gained the approval of many in the Guild, he still had plenty of enemies that would see the OZT damper as a prime opportunity to attack the Guildmaster’s position. The last thing Remy needed was to give them an exploitable weakness as an added weapon to use against him.

Remy’s expression was approving as he nodded. “Oui. But I can’ afford t’ have de X-Men hoverin’ over me because o’ some misguided good intentions, either. Dat’s where you two come in.”

Bobby traded looks with his wife, who nodded. “Right,” he agreed. That just meant that running interference for the Guildmaster was going to get a little harder. “Is there anything you need us to do right now?”

Remy shook his head. “Non. Jus’ warn me if somebody rearranges de furniture. I shouldn’ have any problems inside de mansion.”

On the other hand, outside the mansion could be a very big problem, Bobby thought grimly, but decided not to voice his concern. He was certain Remy already knew what he was facing.

Remy paused on the threshold of the infirmary, mentally reviewing the layout of the room. Were it not for his training and skill as a thief, he wouldn’t have stood a chance of navigating the mansion without help, but luckily this was nothing he hadn’t done before. The arrangement of the mansion, its dimensions and everything else were laid out in his head in excruciating detail. What little he could still see served to fill in the less static items in the house-- mainly the people. He could see Rogue lying on one of the beds, her form still but glowing with reassuring warmth. Hank sat several feet away at a computer terminal. The rhythmic clacking of the keyboard was all the indication Remy needed to conclude that he was working. The heat coming off of both Hank and the computer served to illuminate a portion of the desktop, which was piled high with notebooks, disk cases and other scientific paraphernalia.

The tapping of the keyboard ceased as Remy walked over to Rogue’s bedside. He stood looking down at her. Her hair was a dim tumble compared to her face and he resisted the temptation to stroke it. Then realization struck him and he snorted ruefully. No powers. Slowly, he reached out, indulging in the softness of her hair and the sensation of her smooth skin beneath his fingertips.

“She’s going to be fine,” Hank said softly. He had turned his chair around and was watching Remy.

“Oui.” Remy forced his attention away from Rogue and focused on the doctor. “Gave me a pretty bad scare, t’ough,” he admitted. Aside from Bobby, Hank was the only person he was willing to talk to about such personal things with. During the long, hard course of his recovery, Hank had seen him with all of his normal defenses stripped away. And though Remy would never tell Hank about the Guild or any of the other secrets he lived, he no longer made any attempts to mask his real feelings around the man.

Hank stood and came over to the bed. “I can imagine,” he answered the comment Remy had nearly forgotten. “Her body is used to being invulnerable, a byproduct of which is the blunting of her pain receptors. A burn like this would be enough to send a normal person into shock, at least briefly, and for her it was significantly worse.” He tilted his head to look down at Rogue. “However, the physical damage is localized and given the advanced medical equipment we have access to, I estimate she’ll be completely healed in a couple of weeks.”

Remy felt the last of his tension draining away. “T’anks, Hank.”

The soft glow of Hank’s face twitched, and Remy guessed he was smiling. “You’re welcome. Would you like to sit with her a while?”

Sorely tempted, Remy paused. But then he shook his head. “Non. Got some ot’er t’ing t’ take care of.” He glanced over at Hank. “Will she be awake tomorrow?”

Hank nodded. “I expect so. I can do the surgery without anesthetizing her, so she should be ready to receive visitors sometime after lunch.”

Remy sighed and nodded. “Maybe I’ll drop by den.”

They were silent for several minutes, until Hank cleared his throat and turned away. “I’ll just leave you two alone for a while.” He walked away, and Remy looked back down at Rogue.

Almost involuntarily, he reached up to stroke her cheek one more time. He had dreamed of having the freedom to do just this, without having to worry about her powers. It was the only bright spot in an otherwise black day and he reveled in feel of it.

Wish I could stay, chere, he told her silently, but dere are ot’er people out dere I’m supposed t’ be takin’ care of.

Rogue didn’t respond, nor did her deep, even breathing change. Remy smiled to himself. “Sleep well, mon amore.” He leaned down to kiss her, but paused with his face so close to hers that he could feel the warmth of her breath on his skin. Then slowly, ruefully, he straightened and turned away.

Can’ stand de t’ought o’ stealin’ kisses from dat one, can y’, O Master T’ief? he mocked himself gently as he left the medlab.


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