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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 27

Rogue lay on her stomach in the tall field grass, cheeked propped on the butt of the sniper rifle as she peered through the scope. A tuft of greenery from her ghillie suit dangled in front of her nose, threatening to make her sneeze. The bulky full body camouflage suit, covered in strips of cloth, twigs and grasses, turned her form into nothing but a little bump atop the hillock where she waited.

Half a mile away, the insertion team had bypassed the perimeter security of the OZT fuel depot and now crept cautiously through the interior of the campus. Rogue followed their progress through the transmitter in her ear. Her rifle’s sights were trained on an open piece of ground halfway between two outbuildings. If any guards crossed that area at the wrong time, they would spot the intruders.

Rogue’s gut clenched as two men walked into her line of sight. Both wore the standard dress of OZT’s uniformed guard service-- black fatigues with kevlar armor-- and they carried snub-nosed MP5s rather than energy rifles.

Rogue adjusted her grip on the rifle, her trigger finger tightening instinctively. The two men strolled across her field of vision, their body language casual.

"I got two," she said into her microphone. "Wolverine, where are you?"

"Still outside the door," Logan’s gravely voice answered immediately. "We’re not clear, darlin’. Repeat, we are not clear."

Rogue muttered a vehement curse. She knew what she had to do, and hated it. A tiny adjustment brought the crosshairs on her scope up to frame the head of the closer of the two men. Fortunately, their uniforms didn’t include helmets. Both guards’ heads turned from side to side, scanning the area around them disinterestedly as they continued to walk.

Don’t think. Just do it.

Exhaling slowly, she pulled the trigger. The rifle kicked against her cheek, and the closer guard jerked and collapsed. His companion ducked instinctively, dropping to one knee and raising his rifle as he searched for a threat. Rogue knew she had to get him before he could call in an alert on the communicator attached to his uniform. She saw him reach for the toggle button attached to his collar. An unnatural calm descended on her. She centered the sights on the second man and fired. The guard collapsed backward and lay still.

"Two down," she reported.

"We’re in," Wolverine said. "Good job."

Rogue closed her eyes and exhaled a slow, shaky breath.

Jubilee froze at the sound of footsteps outside her cell door. The shadows inside her darkened prison flickered as the guards shifted back and forth in front of the single grille near the top of the door.

With a loud click and a scrape of hinges, the metal door swung open. Jubilee cowered against the far wall, squinting in the glare of the hallway lights. Her guards filled the doorway, their black silhouettes casting long shadows.

“Stand up, girlie. Time for your constitutional,” one of the guards said.

Jubilee stayed where she was, and the guard sighed. “Do we have to do this every time?” He walked into the cell, his wide frame looming over her like a mountain. He reached down, grabbed Jubilee by the arm and hauled her to her feet.

Jubilee whimpered, but didn’t resist as he marched her out of the cell. Her captors had started paying attention to her recently, taking her out of the cell for a daily physical. Whatever they’d done to her, it was finished. Her hair had grown in until it formed an unruly cap of three-inch strands and the scars on her arms no longer itched constantly.

The guards walked her down a long gray hallway with doors just like hers lined up along one side. Sometimes, Jubilee heard voices as she passed--crying, babbling, singing, pleading. She wondered who they were, and what they’d done to end up in this nightmare place. Many of the doors were like her own, solid save for a small grille near the top, but others had a standard vertical window through which Jubilee caught glimpses of the prisoners.

Her guards jerked her to a stop as one of the cell doors opened right in front of them. A tall, gray haired man in a white coat let himself out. He had an oddly kind face and a clipboard tucked under one arm. Through the window in the door, Jubilee caught a glimpse of the prisoner, and her breath caught in her throat. Her blood began to pound in her ears, deafening her. She would have recognized that bald head anywhere.

Quickly, she focused her gaze on the floor and tried to erase any expression from her face. Her thoughts spun.

The man in the lab coat closed the Professor’s cell door, which locked with a harsh mechanical noise. The light on the panel next to the door switched from green to red.

With a muttered, "Excuse me," the man ducked past Jubilee and her guards. Jubilee heard his footsteps retreating behind her.

"Come on, girlie." Her guard nudged her forward. Jubilee forced herself to maintain her normal listless shuffle as they continued down the hall, but her nerves were screaming. She had to find a way to escape and find the X-Men. They would be able to get the Professor out of this prison, powers or no powers. She knew they would.

For the first time since her arrival, Jubilee began to really take note of her surroundings. She already knew the path they took through the featureless gray hallways to get to the exercise room, and now she tried to mark the other passageways as they passed. The prison, she suspected, was laid out on a long, narrow, rectangular grid. There were dividers at regular intervals, almost like bulkheads, that separated the various sections of the prison. Jubilee’s cell was two sections down from the exercise area. The guards carried badges clipped to their belts that let them pass from one section to another.

The exercise area looked much like any other gym. Nautilus, weight benches and other exercise equipment filled the center of the room while a four lane jogging track looped around the perimeter. A door at the back of the room led to a physical therapy area and Jubilee had seen several patients taken back there in wheel chairs.

Three other patients in gray jumpsuits were working out when Jubilee arrived. All three were men, and none was less than thirty years her senior. One of the men was singing to himself as he worked the weight machine, a grating off-key tune that made her think of Jack Nicholson and psycho killers.

"Whose bright idea was it to bring Norman Bates in here?" she heard one of her guards mutter to the other.

Several other guards were scattered around the room, watching their charges with varying degrees of attentiveness.

"You want to walk or ride the exercise bike today?" Jubilee’s guard asked her.

Jubilee knew he’d choose one for her if she didn’t answer. "Walk," she told him, her own voice little more than a raspy whisper. She hadn’t had much reason to talk lately.

The guard steered her over to the track. "Twenty laps, girlie." He gave her a light shove in the proper direction.

Obediently, Jubilee began to walk. The talkative guard stayed behind her, pacing her, while his partner went over to the corner of the room and sat down on a bench beside one of the other guards. The two men’s voices rose and fell in conversation over the sounds of the exercise equipment and the grunts of the prisoners.

Jubilee put her head down and shuffled onward.

Adrian Tyre looked up in surprise as Carson McCall burst through his door, a large manila envelope in his hands.

"I’ve got it!" Carson hurried across the room and thrust the envelope at Adrian. "Adrian, you are not going to believe this."

Adrian looked past the other man’s shoulder to make certain the door had swung closed behind Carson before he took the envelope. From the heft, he could tell it contained a sheaf of photographs. He gave his friend a disapproving look for his theatrics. "What is it?"

Carson deflated, but only a little. "I got these from a contact of mine. They were taken by an FBI counter terrorism unit a few days after Mystique shot Senator Creed."

Curious, Adrian sat down on the couch and opened the envelope. He extracted the photographs and set the envelope aside. The top photo showed a standard surveillance photo, taken through a high quality long-distance lens. A tall, non-descript woman walked down a city street, her form shade-dappled from the trees lining the far side of the sidewalk. The second image showed the same woman looking over her shoulder as she ducked into a park-like area. Her shoulder-length brown hair had been blown across her face by the wind.

Adrian was about to ask Carson what he was supposed to be seeing when he flipped to the third photo. He paused there to study the image, question forgotten. The woman’s hair had suddenly become waist-length and red, and her plain knee length skirt looked like it was in the midst of being swallowed up by a predatory pair of denim jeans.

"Mystique?" he asked, and received a nod.

He flipped to the next image and paused again. Mystique’s hair had taken on a distinctive curl and a mop of white hair streaked its top. He turned the picture sideways, narrowing his eyes in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the face.

He flipped through the next few images and had his suspicions confirmed. Now it was Rogue who walked through the park. But why would Mystique use a known X-Man’s guise for a cover at a time when absolutely every intelligence agency in the country was looking for her? Rogue was not low-profile.

In his peripheral vision he could see Carson still standing beside him, nearly bouncing in his excitement. Mentally shaking his head, he continued. The next image framed Mystique/Rogue walking up to a man. Adrian stared. A very familiar man.

A thrill of anticipation ran through him. No, it couldn’t be. He couldn’t have been that stupid. Adrian turned to the next picture. In it, his Guildmaster held the false Rogue close, her hand to his lips. She had her head tipped back, laughing. Every line of their bodies spoke of familiarity and intimacy.

Adrian took the picture off the stack and set the rest down absently on the coffee table in front of him. This picture alone would crucify LeBeau. It didn’t even matter that it was really Mystique. The only plausible reason for her to use her daughter’s form as camouflage was because the relationship between LeBeau and Rogue was serious enough that it was common knowledge among the intelligence agencies.

And LeBeau had never breathed a word to the guild about it.

A slow smile spread across Adrian’s face. Carson plopped down on the couch beside him, chuckling gleefully.

"What did I tell you?" Carson picked up the stack of photos and began straightening them.

"This is--" Adrian couldn’t come up with an appropriate word to describe the opportunity he’d just been handed. Laughter climbed up his throat, seeking release and he pressed the back of his hand to his mouth to smother it. "This is amazing." He looked at the picture in his hand once again. "I’m going to enjoy every moment of watching LeBeau try to squirm out of this one."

Rogue walked wearily into her bedroom at the Black’s some time around midmorning. To her immense relief, neither Andrea nor the babies were there. The rooms were silent and dark. With a sigh, she knelt beside her bed and undid the latches on her rifle case. She slung the weapon off her shoulder and balanced it on her thighs as she began the process of disassembling it.

They’d blown the fuel depot sky high in a series of massive orange fireballs that rolled up into the sky like miniature mushroom clouds. A spectacular success, by any accounting. But all Rogue could see when she closed her eyes were the two men whose brains she’d splattered in the dirt to make it happen.

Ah did my job, that’s all, she told herself for the umpteenth time. Chances were, she’d have to do it again. And she knew she would, if it came to that. But it didn’t help the acid churning in her gut, or the weight that dragged at her heart.

Her hands took care of the rifle out of habit. She cleaned the pieces before putting each away in its proper place then closed the lid, securing the latches. She slid the case into its customary spot against the wall and tossed the extra blanket Andrea had given her on top. At least that way she wouldn’t have to see it every time she walked into the room.

Sighing, Rogue pushed herself to her feet. Her bed called to her, but she couldn’t stand the thought of trying to sleep. She was afraid of the kinds of nightmares she would have. Instead, she turned and headed back out into the guild complex.

People greeted her as she passed, and she struggled to make her responses pleasant, even cheerful. Some she knew by name, others were just vaguely familiar faces. A few were people she dealt with on a regular basis in her unofficial role as a go between for Rosalind, Andrea and the other clan women.

By the time she’d reached the small complex of caverns the guild was using for their school, Rogue had been stopped no less than three times by people who wanted to give her updates or make requests about the various school, housing and constructions issues she’d ended up involved in.

"Well, hello, Rogue," Rosalind greeted her as she walked through the school’s main entrance. As the administrator, Rosalind could usually be found out in the hallways, and today was no different. "I wasn’t expecting to see you today." Rogue could hear a dozen different voices, both teachers’ and children’s, emanating from the open classroom doors nearby.

Rogue tried to summon a smile and failed. She shrugged. "I need ta do something that doesn’t involve killing people for a while." She held out a stack of papers she’d acquired on her trip across the complex. "Here, Fernando wanted me to give these to you. I ran into him on my way here." Fernando Vasquez was the guild’s construction foreman.

Rosalind gave Rogue a concerned look from under her eyebrows as she took the papers, but didn’t comment. She studied the drawings, her lips pursed. "This isn’t much more space." They’d been working with Fernando and his crew to try to find a way to expand the school.

Rogue brushed a stray hair out of her face with a sigh. "No, but I think it’s the best he can do."

Rosalind looked up. "You may be right." She tucked the sheaf of papers under her arm with brisk efficiency. "I suppose it will have to be enough." Her mouth quirked in a rueful smile. "Will Sandberg will be grateful not to have to listen to me harping on him all the time, anyway."

Rogue didn’t really want to discuss guild issues at the moment. She waved one hand toward the classrooms. "Where do ya want me?" she asked instead.

Rosalind took the hint. She gave Rogue a warm, sympathetic smile. Why don’t you try the first graders? I know they’d love to have Miss Rogue read them a story."

Rogue smiled a bit at that. The children all called her Miss Rogue, even outside the school. Whenever she was in the complex’s common areas, there always seemed to be a small hand tugging on her sleeve, wanting to give her a hug or show her something, or drag her over to meet the child’s parents. It was, she thought, the only thing that brightened her otherwise grim days. That, and the rare occasion she and Remy crossed paths.

Rogue nodded and made her way toward the back of the school, to the dim, cramped little room full of bright-eyed first graders. At the door, she paused to take a deep, cleansing breath. Summoning a genuine smile from somewhere, she opened the door and stuck her head inside.

"Mind if ah join ya?" she asked the teacher, a stout little woman named Adoracion, and was rewarded by a chorus of "Miss Rogue!" from her class.

Dora turned from the room’s one whiteboard in surprise, but waved Rogue in once she recognized who it was. "Of course. Come in, dear." She turned to address the class. "It looks like we have a special visitor today. Everyone, stand up and move your chairs out of the way."

Rogue came into the room as the children all jumped up and began shoving their desks and chairs toward the walls with an awful screeching of metal feet on stone. Rogue found herself laughing at their chaotic enthusiasm, and the weight on her heart eased. She walked over to the ratty little bookshelf that served the class and crouched down to search for an appropriate book. Behind her, the children, with Dora’s occasional direction, found places to sit on the stone floor in the middle of the room. Rogue joined them, book in hand, and they all immediately crowded in around her.

The stone was cold and hard, but she ignored it as she opened the book to the first page and began to read. In the back of her mind, she added rugs to her mental list of things to buy if she could find a way to pry more money out of the council. And maybe paint, she thought with a glance toward the dark stone walls.

She didn’t have to deal with that until later, though, so she happily bent her attention toward the children surrounding her.

Jubilee had just finished lap eleven of her required twenty when it happened. Still singing, the crazy prisoner picked up one of the free weights and clubbed his fellow prisoner on the head. Blood spattered across the equipment. The second prisoner screeched and collapsed, wrapping his arms around his head as the crazy one rained blows down on him.

Shouting, the guards in the room converged on the two. The crazy man swung the barbell at the first of the guards, who couldn’t duck quite fast enough. Jubilee heard the crunch of breaking bones as the man’s jaw shattered. Crowing, the prisoner grabbed the falling guard’s sidearm. He began firing randomly-- at the guards, the ceiling, the other prisoners.

Jubilee hit the floor as the guards dove for cover. Her guard crouched down behind a nearby weight machine, drawing his own weapon. He had his back turned to her, and his attention was focused on the armed man. Jubilee saw her opportunity. She scuttled over to where he was. With a quick yank she snatched the pass card from his belt and ran for the door.

She heard her guard give a startled shout, but she was already halfway across the room. Her heart hammered in her chest in anticipation of a shot that never came. She skidded into the heavy door, holding the key card up to the scanner with one hand as she grabbed the door handle with the other. The red light on the panel turned green and, with a grating buzz, the lock thunked open.

Jubilee yanked hard on the door. It opened, and she slipped through, out into the hallway. A fire extinguisher hung on the wall next to the door, a bright red cylinder against the gray walls. She pulled it off the wall and nearly dropped it-- it was heavier than she expected-- but managed to recover. With a grunt of exertion, she slammed the bottom of the extinguisher into the control panel beside the door, pounding on it until sparks flew and the lights abruptly went out.

Hoping that would be enough to stall the guards for a few minutes, at least, she dropped the extinguisher and took off down the hall. She had no idea how long it would be before they subdued or killed the crazy prisoner and sounded a general alarm.

The door at the end of the hall opened for her key card. She ducked through and ran to the Professor’s door. She swiped the card at the panel controlling his door, but the light stayed red. She tried again and again, with the same result.

"Professor!" She pounded on the door with the palm of her hand, eliciting a dull metallic boom. "Professor, can you hear me? I can’t get the door open!" She stared through the small window at the man who sat hunched in his wheelchair, but he didn’t respond. Tears blurred her vision. "I’ll come back for you, I promise," she told him through the door. "I’ll find the X-Men and we’ll come back to get you!" She wasn’t sure who the promise was more for, him, or herself.

Someone started banging on the door she’d come through, hard enough to make the floor shudder. The guards were trying to break through. With a cry she threw herself away from the Professor’s door and ran for the far end of the hall. Some of the other prisoners banged on the insides of their cells, hooting and yelling. Behind her, the door to the cell block, the one she’d come through, flew open. Several guards stood there, weapons drawn.

Jubilee dodged to the side of the hall before any of them could take aim. Experimentally, she swiped the key card across the nearest control pad and heard the lock bolts disengage. The cell door burst open, nearly crushing her against the wall. She heard the whine and sizzle of energy weapons firing, but the metal door shielded her. The prisoner she’d freed leapt out into the corridor, landing on all fours in a feline crouch. He was big and hairy like Beast, but his fur was a tawny orange. With an animal scream, he launched himself at the guards.

Jubilee didn’t stay to watch. She slid out from behind the door and ran, swiping lock pads as she went. Doors opened behind her, spilling the cells’ contents into the hall and creating a mass of pandemonium behind her.

For the first time since her capture, Jubilee found herself grinning. At least for this one moment, she was free and she had a purpose. She was an X-Man again. One of the freed prisoners got caught by some kind of blast and went sliding down the hall ahead of her. She vaulted his prone form before he could trip her and hit the end of the hall at a dead run. That door opened for her card, too, and she dove through.

Jubilee skidded to an abrupt halt, stunned. Instead of another bank of cells, she stood at the back of a giant hangar. She counted four ships of unfamiliar design parked on the vast metal floor, and beyond them, the hangar opened onto a gulf of blackness, littered with stars. A slice of Earth was visible toward the top of the opening with Italy’s boot shape clearly visible, and her stomach lurched as her brain tried to insist that what she knew to be "up" was really "down", in relation to the planet.

Gathering her wits and taking a quick look around to see if anyone had noticed her entrance, she ran across the empty space toward the smallest of the ships. There weren’t any people in the hanger, as far as she could tell. Reaching the ship, she climbed up to the pilot’s side door and tried the handle. It opened, so she climbed inside.

The cockpit lit up as she settled in the seat, and she felt the seat’s contour adjust to her body. She examined the controls, finding both a collective and a cyclic stick to control lateral and vertical motion separately. She grimaced. It was like a helicopter then, and she’d never really gotten the hang of helicopters.

She hit the master start switch, a great big red button in the middle of the control panel, and heard the engines start up with a rumble.

"You can do this, Jubes," she muttered to herself as she wrapped her hands around the control sticks. With a little pull, the ship nosed up and floated away from the floor. Through the cockpit windscreen, she saw a pair of big red lights on either side of the hanger doors begin to flash in unison and the distant wail of an alarm reached her. The hangar doors began to slide shut.

"Uh oh." Jubilee shoved the cyclic forward and the little ship darted out of the hangar and out into the blackness of space. To either side, huge metal constructs stretched away into the distance, wings of the satellite she’d just launched from. The big blue and brown sphere of Earth filled her windscreen as she pointed the ship’s nose toward it. The planet seemed to beckon to her, promising home and friends and safety if she could just get that far.

Swallowing hard against a sudden lump in her throat, she examined the cockpit’s many switches and buttons. With a little "aha" of triumph, she located the autopilot controls. A central display screen offered her the possible choices of landing sites that could be programmed into the autopilot, and she selected New York without a second thought.

Jubilee engaged the autopilot, then sank back in her seat with a sigh of relief.

It wasn’t until the bright fire of re-entry had died away, and the massive patchwork of New York’s buildings and street loomed ahead of her, that it occurred to her that any landing site preprogrammed into the ship would be a place OZT controlled. They would be waiting for her.

There was no way Jubilee was going to let OZT capture her again. She sat up and disconnected the autopilot with a sharp jab. The little ship immediately began to roll away from its earlier flight vector and she grabbed the controls. The New York skyline rushed toward her, terrifyingly fast. Just as quickly, she realized she wasn’t going to be able to fly the aircraft. It slewed and bucked under her control, and every correction she tried only made things worse. The best she would be able to hope for was a controlled crash.

Beneath her, the city skyscrapers gave way to an industrial area. Jubilee brought the ship down on an erratic course toward the wide swath of flat-topped buildings and open lots. At the last minute, she yanked back on the collective to bring the nose up. Her ship plowed into the ground on its belly in a shriek of tortured metal. The impact slammed her forward against the restraints.

Landing gear, stupid! a voice inside her head shouted. You forgot about the landing gear! But it was far too late for her to do anything about it. She clung to the controls as the ship lurched and began to tumble.

Jubilee had time for a single scream before darkness overtook her.


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