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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


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 13

Remi touched Renee’s mind lightly, trying to get an idea of her location. There were so many people and machines, moving in too many directions, for Remi’s spatial power to keep up.

Can you see Cody? he asked her. I think he’s coming down behind the Sentinels.

Her response was a jolt of panic. Is he all right? He felt her searching the smoke-obscured sky.

Remi hastened to reassure her. Pretty much. The Shadow Queen hit him hard. Remi felt strange talking about his best friend so impersonally. It didn’t change how much he cared about him, or the others, and his fear for their safety—especially Rachel, who he still could not find—was a hard knot in his stomach. But the battle raging around him and the unrelenting assault by the Shadow King’s relay forced Remi to think about his friends in terms of their powers, and how they could be used to defend Dallas. Right now, they needed Cody to destroy the Sentinels. If Renee could get to him, whatever damage the Shadow Queen had done would be healed, and Cody would be back in the air.

The eight remaining Sentinels had very nearly reached the walls of the city. Remi could destroy them with his disk, but he would have to drop the psi shield protecting the people around him from Jono to do it. He didn’t think Everett could maintain it alone, and he wasn’t about to suggest that Ev try to synch his time portal. He had no idea what kind of control Everett would be able to maintain.

"Do you have anything else that could take down those Sentinels?" Remi asked Everett, who shook his head.

"Nothing. The Shadow King’s never bothered with us before." Remi could see the lines of exhaustion etched into his face. "Somehow, they must have found out that you four were here. I can’t image any other reason for him to send this kind of force at us."

"This is all because of us?"

Everett gave him a sympathetic look, but didn’t answer. Remi pushed the thought away. He didn’t want it to be true, and he didn’t have time to think about it. Instead he touched Cody’s mind. Renee had just reached him. Remi felt the flood of vigor her healing brought and smiled at the vicarious lift it gave his own flagging spirits.

Ready to take on some more Sentinels? he asked.

Storm’ll come after me again. Remi could hear the reluctance in his mental tone as he shied away from the painful subject.

I know. I’m going to see what Rogue can do to buy you some time. We have to destroy those Sentinels.

"It looks like we may have bigger problems than that." Everett had remained linked in to the conversation through his mesh with Remi. He pointed toward Dallas. The Shadow Queen was rising slowly above the city, a limp form in her arms.

Remi saw the trail of red hair and knew who it had to be. "Rachel," he breathed. He turned to Everett. "What is she going to do with her?"

"She would make a powerful relay." Everett’s expression was bleak.

Noooo! Cody’s scream echoed in Remi’s mind as the other boy launched himself into the air. Remi felt his desperate mix of fury and terror, driven by a special affection that Remi had been unaware of. Cody rocketed over their heads, a dark blur dodging between the arms of the Sentinels. Storm noticed his approach and switched to holding Rachel by her long hair. A small corner of Remi’s mind acknowledged that that was a smart move on Storm’s part. All together like that, Rachel’s hair would not rip or tear like her clothes could. And now Storm had a hand free to fire jagged lightning bolts at Cody.

Remi reached for Rachel’s mind, but found nothing. She was still unconscious, and swung limply in the Shadow Queen’s grasp. Cody avoided the lightning this time, jigging from side to side under the incredible accelerations that his powers allowed. Realizing that she was not going to be able to hit him, Storm started to move away, but she reacted too slowly. Cody slammed into her, sending them both reeling across the sky.

Remi watched them struggle with a feeling of helplessness. There was nothing he could do to help as they grappled for Rachel. The shield holding Jono away was a constant exertion that took nearly all of his ability to maintain. He could not mount enough of a psi attack to reach Storm through the influence of the Shadow King himself in her mind. Mishca did not have that kind of power either. And so he could only watch. More than a mile away, Renee copied him, her mind still lightly linked to his as she watched her brother in mounting terror.

Remi heard Everett reach out to Rogue, calling her away from the Sentinels that she had been harrying. Her tiny green form arrowed across the sky toward Cody and Storm.

Something alerted the Shadow Queen to Rogue’s approach. Storm glanced over at the approaching woman, then kicked viciously at Cody. She landed a hard blow that staggered him and allowed her to break away. Cutting her winds, she drew Rachel up against her chest, almost hugging the girl’s head, and together they plummeted toward the ground.

Cody recovered and dove after them, and Rogue’s course dipped as she aimed to intercept the falling pair near the ground. But just as Rogue reached her destination beneath the two, the Shadow Queen released Rachel, darted to the side and then began to rise, her hair streaming above her head. Rachel continued to fall as Rogue came up beneath her, catching her neatly. Cody dropped down beside them, the retreating Shadow Queen momentarily forgotten. But Remi’s initial wash of relief was drowned in a rush of horror, followed by fury as Cody’s thoughts relayed to him what the Shadow Queen had done. Remi knew before he reached once more for Rachel’s mind that she was dead. The Shadow Queen had slit her throat. Through Cody, the image was burned into Remi’s mind, and inside him, something snapped.

Without warning, he dumped the telepathic shield entirely on Everett, not particularly caring whether the other man would be able to maintain it or not. The Shadow Queen was still rising, though he rate was slowing since there was no pursuit. But even if she had been flying away at her best speed, that would not have protected her from Remi. With a cry that was half scream, half sob, he launched a portal next to the Shadow Queen. She saw it and veered sharply away, but Remi simply turned it loose and the humming black disk exploded across the sky. The edge caught Storm and passed through her as if she were nothing. It was that easy. Remi stared in numb horror as the pieces tumbled out of the sky. He was appalled at himself, terrified by the emotions that had just pushed him to murder.

"Remi! Control that thing!" Everett was shaking him, his eyes frightened. The disk was still growing, blocking out the sky. Remi wasn’t certain if he could control it, or if he even wanted to try. In the blink of an eye, his entire world had changed. Not the world around him, but the world inside. He had changed-- irrevocably. The things that he had found in himself in that single moment sickened him. He sank to his knees, vomiting, and felt Everett’s strong arms around him.

Then a roar of pure animal rage slammed through his mind as the Shadow King reacted to the death of his wife. The pain of it was like a slap in the face, and it helped Remi to come back to himself. Instinctively, he tried to raise shields against the Shadow King’s presence in his mind, but he had too much power invested in the portal, which was still expanding at a frightening rate. Desperately, he took control of the disk, halting its growth. He needed the shields though, not only to protect himself but to keep the Shadow King from burning out the minds of the people of Dallas in his rage. Remi knew he didn’t have the time or the energy to dismantle the portal and then raise shields. So he tried an experiment, transferring his power directly from one phenomena to the other. To his surprise, he found that it was actually a little bit easier. Taking down a portal on sheer will alone was a painfully intensive task. Simply reshaping the forces into something else was easier, and did not require that he pull all of that energy down inside himself.

The black disk winked out as Remi finished solidifying the shield. He clung to it as the Shadow King himself battered at the telepathic surface, seeking a way in. All of the hurt and guilt and self-loathing Remi felt were pushed to the edges of his mind where they lurked, like tiny predators waiting to pounce. But he refused to give in to them, to let them distract him. The only thing he could do that would be worse than what he had already done, would be to allow the Shadow King to harm any of these people. So he held grimly to the shields under the combined assault of the Shadow King and his relay, barely aware of the people and voices around him. Time ceased to have any meaning for him. He did not care if he stayed like this until someone came along and killed him. No one else was going to die because of him.

Everett stared at Remi in concern. His eyes had glazed completely, though Mischa said that he was maintaining the shield that kept them free from the Shadow King. Everett had not missed the amazement in Mischa’s mental voice. The boy was a power to be reckoned with. He was holding the Shadow King away on his own, though the Shadow King was acting like an enraged animal rather than a man. Mischa’s concern was that if he calmed down enough to think, and brought his other relays into the assault, together they would crush the boy’s mind.

Everett pushed that thought away. Such an event was on the order of an Act of God. There wasn’t a single thing he would be able to do about it. He turned his thoughts to the other boy, Cody. He and Rogue had just touched down near Everett’s position. Everett had been able to follow what had happened, and he just hoped that Cody would be able to pull himself together enough to go after the rest of the Sentinels. They were running desperately low on time.

The death of the Shadow Queen had disorganized her troops. Already the Hounds had scattered, and many of the Mech’s had ground to a halt as their pilots lost contact with their Queen, making them easy targets for Dallas’ artillery. But the Sentinels were robots with programmed instructions that were unaltered by the Queen’s death. The continued their relentless march toward Dallas.

Cody and Rogue walked up to him. Cody carried the dead girl in his arms, and Everett was surprised to see Rogue’s hand on his shoulder in a comforting gesture. Everett glanced down at Rachel. He had seen a lot of death, and this was fairly clean compared to some of the things he’d experienced. But he knew that would do nothing to ease the pain in the boy’s eyes.

"I’m sorry about Rachel," he said as gently as he could. Cody stared at him for a moment, then nodded jerkily.

"I tried..." he began. "I couldn’t—"

Rogue squeezed his shoulder. "Ya did everything ya could, sugah." Her voice was amazingly gentle—something Everett had not heard since he was Cody’s age. The boy swayed toward her, as if he wanted nothing more than to throw himself into her arms. Which perhaps wasn’t so strange, Everett reminded himself, since Rogue was supposedly his mother.

Everett met Rogue’s clear, green gaze. "I need you two to take out the rest of those Sentinels." Hopefully Rogue would support him in this. He could not afford to let Cody indulge his grief, despite his age. They had too many children his age fighting this war, and fewer of them would die today if he could get this one boy back into the battle.

"C’mon, sugah, we’ve got work ta do."

Cody looked at her, his eyes full of protest. "But Rachel—"

"Is dead." Rogue’s voice hardened as she stared at him. "And we’ve got work ta do." Her demeanor was uncompromising. "Did ya hear me?"

Slowly, he nodded. "Yes, ma’am." Then he laid Rachel down on the ground next to Remi, who did not acknowledge him. Cody looked up at Everett.

"Is he all right?"

Everett nodded. "He’s keeping the Shadow King off of all our backs."

That seemed to help Cody. He took a deep breath and stood. "I’m ready."

Without another word, Rogue launched herself into the sky and Cody followed her. Everett allowed himself a sigh. Without the Shadow Queen to distract him, Everett had no doubts that Cody would destroy those Sentinels in no time. He wasn’t wrong, either. As he watched, the Sentinels collapsed, one after the other.

Still synching Remi’s telepathic power, Everett contacted Mischa. They needed to send to San Francisco for reinforcements, and for a new Guardian. The battle here was basically won, though the mop up would go on for hours. He found it almost unbelievable that they were still alive, and even more unbelievable that the primary reason for it was a single boy.

How’s he doing, Mischa? Everett asked.

The telepath’s answer was solemn. He’s got the shields locked in place. They won’t come down unless his mind collapses.

Everett chewed on his lip. Can he hold out until we get another Guardian?

I think so. Hank said they’d be in the air in less than two hours.

Everett did some mental calculating. The X-Men would arrive in Dallas in about seven hours then. He glanced back at the walls of the city. Somehow, her great Texas spirit had prevailed, and they had snatched another day of freedom from the Shadow King. But he was horribly afraid that this might be the last one. The Shadow King would find a way to take revenge for his Queen, Everett was certain of that.


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