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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 19

Remi sat quietly inside the helicopter, listening to the increasing whine as the rotors wound up to full speed. He found it hard to believe he was finally going to get to see his father. The Dresden had surfaced only a few minutes earlier, which the pilot of the helicopter had relayed to them over their headphones. Now they were waiting for Bishop’s final go-ahead to take off so they could rendezvous with the submarine.

The X-Men, with Remi, Cody and Renee in tow, had arrived in San Francisco the night before. They had seen absolutely no sign of the Shadow King, which Remi could sense worried Bishop a lot. He was convinced the Shadow King would attack them.

Remi was terrified of that possibility. The Shadow King’s mental presence was putrid—full of the most evil and horrible things human beings had ever even considered inflicting on others. Exposing himself to that again was something he did not want to do.

Opposite him, Cody and Renee sat together, fingers intertwined. Renee had put her head on her brother’s shoulder, but her eyes were open and seemed to notice everything. She had changed tremendously, Remi thought. There was strength beneath her gentle heart, a new confidence. He doubted she would ever be as brazen as her mother, but he was glad not to have to worry about her so much.

Bishop and Jean sat beside Remi on the hard metal seat. They were both preoccupied as they communicated with Besty in preparation for the flight.

Bishop gave the pilot the go-ahead, and Remi heard the rotor whine change pitch as the helicopter began to rise off the ground. They couldn’t have been more than a foot up when they suddenly tilted and then slammed back down onto the skids. Heart hammering, Remi craned his neck to see past the pilot. He was startled to see Rogue hovering in front of them, her hands on the nose of the helicopter.

"Rogue! What are you doing?" Bishop demanded angrily, and Remi heard Jean relay his thoughts to Rogue.

In answer, she flew around the side of the helicopter, stopping at the open door with its empty gun mount, and stared in at the five of them. Her face was set in an expression of stubborn determination.

"Ah have ta talk ta Remi," she yelled over the noise of the rotor.

Everyone turned to look at Remi, who could only stare at Rogue in bewilderment. What was so important that she had to chase down their helicopter?

"Rogue," Bishop said, "we’re taking off. Whatever it is, it will have to wait."

She shook her head vehemently. "No!" Then she looked past Bishop to Remi, her eyes pleading. "Please, sugah. It’s important."

After a moment, Remi decided. Rogue had sort of been... lurking around him since he’d woken up, but she’d never said what was clearly on her mind. He felt strangely reluctant to leave San Francisco without hearing what she had to say. It was almost a sense of foreboding.

He unhooked his harness and stood in the cramped cabin. "I’ll make it short," he told Bishop as he passed him and jumped down to the ground. He walked a short distance away from the helicopter with Rogue following. When he felt like they were far enough away not to be overheard, he set a shield to ward off Jean and Betsy, and then turned to Rogue.

"So, what is it?"

Rogue’s normally emerald eyes were a stormy sea green that seemed to echo some inner disquiet. She crossed her arms over her breasts and bowed her head as if gathering herself.

"Before ya leave... there’s somethin’ ah have ta know." She looked up, directly into his eyes. Remi was stunned by the wild churning emotions that filled her. He didn’t say anything, but waited for her to speak the thing that was so vivid in her eyes.

"Could..." She seemed ashamed of what she was about to say. "Could ya go back and change it?" She gestured toward the crowded streets of San Francisco. "Make all this different? Better?"

The tiny, guttural flame of hope that flickered in her eyes tied his heart in a knot. Beneath the hard, uncaring exterior was a woman of incredible sensitivity. He could see it in her eyes as well as feel it from her mind. All of the abuse she’d suffered in this world, all of the isolation, all of the pain, had been unable to destroy that one most precious quantity.

For the first time in his life, Rogue did not make him uncomfortable. He suddenly understood what it was about her that captured men’s hearts, whether they were husband, family or complete strangers. It was impossible to see her perseverance in the face of such hardship and not be moved to want to do anything within his power to grant her heart’s desires. But he didn’t know if what she wanted was even within his ability.

He found himself shaking his head. "I don’t know if I can jump past the paradox. I don’t even know what will happen if I try to jump anywhere at all." He spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness as he tried to explain. "It could kill me as easily as anything else. I don’t belong to this time."

Her face fell, and Remi felt like he’d been stabbed. But before he could say anything else, he felt Bishop approaching. He looked up to see him over Rogue’s shoulder.

"We have to go now," he told Remi. His expression brooked no argument. "Otherwise we’ll miss the Dresden." The submarine would not stay on the surface very long. It was too vulnerable to the Shadow King there.

Remi nodded. "I’m coming." He looked back at Rogue, but she did not meet his gaze. He wanted to reach out to her, to do something to restore the hope he’d just crushed, but he didn’t know what or how. Feeling frustrated and helpless, he finally did nothing, and turned to follow Bishop back to the helicopter.

The hatch closed with a metallic clang as the last of the daylight was cut off. The interior of the submarine seemed immediately colder, and Remi found himself staring up at the hatch as he descended the last few rungs. He wasn’t particularly claustrophobic, but he wished he were still out in the fresh Pacific air.

His foot touched down on the mesh walkway and he turned reluctantly to face the men who waited for him. There were two of them, and they stood with Bishop and Jean in the cramped passageway. Cody and Renee had moved around the ladder to give Remi room to climb down, so he found himself facing the two men alone.

As always, he thought grumpily. However, he was not going to forget proper manners just because the two intimidated him and Cody and Renee were hiding behind the ladder. He recognized both men, as well as the ranks that decorated their collars.

"Permission to come aboard, Captain Fury?" he asked formally. Shi’ar naval customs were amazingly similar to human ones, so he knew it was at least close to the proper way to address the submarine’s captain.

Nick Fury considered him appraisingly, his one good eye giving nothing away of his thoughts. But then he nodded, and the corners of his mouth turned upwards in what Remi hoped was an expression of approval. "Permission granted." He extended his hand. Remi took it hesitantly. Nick Fury was a name out of history. He felt entirely inadequate to be meeting the man this way, but he tried to carry himself with some kind of dignity. "You must be Remi Neramani."

Remi nodded, throat dry. Fury glanced past Remi to where the twins stood.

"Cody and Renee LeBeau," Remi supplied.

Fury nodded as if he’d known that already, and his gaze returned to Remi. "Welcome to the Dresden."

Before Remi could answer him the second man stepped forward. "I’m Reed Richards. If you’re ready, I’ll take you to Xavier."

Remi’s stomach twisted into a knot. He had been waiting for this since they’d arrived in this world and he’d learned that his father was alive. But he was also very afraid of what his father would think of him. He didn’t feel like he’d done a very good job of upholding the ideals on which the X-Men were built.

Reed took his silence for assent and turned away. Remi hastened to follow him as he began to move away down the narrow passageway. The twins fell in behind him, and Bishop and Jean brought up the rear. Remi felt like he was in a parade as the various crew members they passed paused to stare at them. But eventually they wound their way toward the nose of the boat.

Remi and the twins were forced to hold on to the safety rails as the floor tilted beneath them, signaling the beginning of their descent. At least the floor sloped down in the direction they were headed, Remi thought, so they were walking downhill. Reed led them to a hatch at the end of a hall. He opened it with a practiced twist, then stepped through. He held the door open and motioned for Remi to enter.

All activity in the room they entered halted as the men and women turned to look at the new arrivals. There were seven, total, and they stood or sat in conversational bunches around an oblong table that was covered with nautical charts. Remi was more than a little surprised at some of the faces he recognized, but his eyes sought out one man in particular.

Charles Xavier stood near the head of the table, a sheaf of papers held in one hand. As he stared at Remi, he slowly lowered the papers to the table and allowed them to scatter across the cluttered surface. Remi was stunned. The physical differences between this man and the one he’d grown up with were insignificant, but there was no way Remi would ever confuse the two. This Xavier seemed to almost vibrate on the astral plane with the strain of forcibly repressed power and emotion. He stood ramrod straight, despite his surprise at meeting Remi, and his mind emanated an aura of horrible forces, tightly controlled. There was nothing of the thoughtful but generally lighthearted man Remi knew and loved. This man was driven solely by the force of an unrelenting will. Remi suddenly understood what people meant when they said that his father had been a very different man before Remi was born. Wolverine had said that he’d gotten a hard lesson in the important things in life when he’d learned Gambit was his son. That he’d made a vow not to waste the time they’d been given together, and that he’d changed radically in the following years. If this was what his father had been like before that...

Xavier said nothing, and eventually turned his attention to the others who had come into the room. He looked Cody and Renee over with the same intensity he’d given Remi, and then his gaze settled on Bishop.

"Any sign of the Shadow King?" His voice, too, was not what Remi was accustomed to. It was harder, thinner, and lacked the warmth Remi associated with his father.

Bishop shook his head. "None so far. We’ve been tracking movement around the larger bases, but there haven’t been any obvious relocation or massing of his forces."

"Then he’s still planning," said a familiar-looking man further down the table. Remi stared at him for a moment, searching his memory for a name. Eventually, he found it. Peter Gyrich.

"Maybe." Bishop’s expression was doubtful. "It’s gotten awfully quiet out there. The Shadow King seems to have suspended most of his normal activities."

"We should not wait for him to attack us," a man beside Xavier said. His deep voice boomed in the enclosed space. His face was entirely obscured by a metal mask, making him seem all the more frightening. Remi wanted to ask Cody if he recognized him, but there was a Guardian on the sub who acted as a psychic damper, making it difficult to do more than pick up general impressions from the minds around him. He could only assume that the Guardian was there to help protect the submarine from detection by the Shadow King’s forces, but it made him nervous to have his powers blunted that way.

"We won’t wait," Xavier answered. "But we need to know what he is planning. Even now, we can’t afford to attack blindly."

Several of the gathered people glanced in Remi’s direction. Remi tried to return the gazes confidently, but he was secretly certain that he looked as frightened as he felt. These people were the heart and mind of the resistance, and they were expecting him to bring them a miracle—a chance to defeat the Shadow King.

Xavier, too, looked at Remi. Remi couldn’t bring himself to think of the man as ‘Dad’. He was too... different. In a strange way, Remi was disappointed by the man his father had become in this world.

"Jean has given me a summary of your powers." Xavier’s nod took in all three children, but he remained focused on Remi. "But I would also like to hear your own assessment. We need to figure out how your powers can best be used."

Remi could only shrug. He was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. He had held tightly to a secret hope that his father would be the same man here, and that he could throw himself into his father’s arms and tell him everything that had happened. That man would have understood, and been able to help him figure out what to do. This man was scary. A little voice inside Remi screamed at him not to reveal his ability to time travel. As far as he knew, only Beast and Rogue were aware of it, and he was terribly afraid of what this Xavier might ask him to do if he knew.

The floor lurched violently, nearly causing Remi to fall. The metal shell around them groaned in mechanical protest as Remi’s stomach leapt into his throat, and he closed his eyes against the brief bout of nausea.

"We’re rising!" Richards snapped and bolted toward the door. His face was full of both fear and anger. Remi guessed he was going to the bridge.

Suddenly, the heavy telepathic damping disappeared. Remi shuddered as the Guardian’s mind shattered, her screams echoing across the astral plane. He was immediately aware of Xavier’s full astral presence and, towering over them both, the Shadow King. The shield he’d used before against the Shadow King snapped into place, without thought. It was an instinctive fear reaction, but Xavier joined him in maintaining it with a brief flash of approval.

He must have followed us somehow! Deep inside, Remi wanted to wail. Everywhere they went, disaster followed them. First Dallas, and now the Shadow King had found the Dresden.

Xavier’s mental voice was stern. We knew the risks when we decided to bring you here. We are not without recourse.

As he spoke, Remi could feel him reaching out across the globe. Everywhere he sent a tendril of thought, another mind responded until there was a giant net with Xavier at the center. The Guardians who were the nodes of those many lines poured power into the net until it vibrated.

The Shadow King picked that moment to attack. Remi could sense a similar net surrounding him—his relays, no doubt. The entire structure around Xavier shuddered under the attack but held. Remi was amazed. That much power would have blown any one mind away, including his own, but the intricately intertwined minds were much stronger. Remi stared at the pattern. If he could step in and become a second focus like his father, they could nearly double the strength of the net because he could maintain a second link between each mind.

It was easier than he expected, despite the pummeling the Shadow King was giving them. Slowly the net firmed. Though the stretching sensation of linking with so many minds was painful in a way, it wasn’t as bad as he expected. Every time he forced his powers to be sufficient for what he needed, they grew stronger.

Now what? Remi asked.

He’s here. Xavier sounded amazed. We didn’t see him following you because he tracked you physically—not telepathically. And if he came alone, it would be almost impossible for us to pick him up on radar. He’s actually here.

Remi pushed his senses back toward his body. Now that he was entrenched on the astral plane, he wanted to know what was happening in the physical world. He was immediately flooded with information from the minds of the men and women on the submarine and was shocked by what had happened in such a short time. The entire submarine—thousands of tons of titanium and steel—was suspended thirty feet above the surface of the ocean in a crackling ball of magnetic force. A second aura of power writhed inside the first as Cody fought to keep the submarine’s hull from being crushed by the Shadow King’s magnetic power. So far he seemed to be holding his own, Remi thought as he glimpsed Nick Fury’s thoughts and through him, the tactical readouts on the bridge.

What about the nuclear core? Remi asked in sudden alarm.

I’ve got it, for now, Cody answered. He’s not... really trying for it. Remi could tell the strain made it difficult for him to string his thoughts together.

How long can you hold him?

He felt Cody’s tight grin. Until you... get him off my back, I suppose.

A spike of pain robbed Remi of a chance to answer. He darted back to the astral plane and the immense net that was tied to his mind. Something had been broken.

Xavier pointed out the missing link before Remi could ask. They were so tightly connected through the web of minds that Remi hardly had to form a thought for his father to understand it. The thing that had broken was a link between Xavier and one of the Guardians. Remi’s own connection to that Guardian remained intact, and through it, he could sense that the Guardian was injured but still conscious. But Xavier was too busy now trying to hold off the Shadow King’s full scale attacks. He had no resources to use to reconnect with the Guardian that weren’t desperately needed elsewhere.

Xavier was taking the brunt of the assault, leaving Remi in relative safety in his telepathic shadow. Remi added power to the net for Xavier to draw on, and he strengthened the structure immensely by his presence, but he wasn’t actually in contact with the Shadow King. Even the shield he had originally raised had been completely taken over. In one sense it was good, because it let him keep track of the physical plane better than he otherwise would have. But it also meant that Xavier was on his own against the Shadow King, and Remi was not at all confident that any one person, no matter how much power backed them, had the plain strength of character and will to hold firm against the Shadow King. Merely touching his mind was such a... violating experience that even the memory made Remi shudder. The truth was, he didn’t want to step up beside Xavier. He would do almost anything to avoid touching the Shadow King again.

For a moment, he slid back toward the physical plane to check on the status of the submarine. It was easiest just to touch Fury’s mind, listen to his thought and words, and to watch the information displayed on the bridge of the high-tech vessel. But when Remi looked around the bridge, he saw nothing but blank, dead screens.

What happened to all the systems? he asked Fury.

They’re shorted out. Fury didn’t seem the least surprised by the sudden voice in his head. Electronics can’t take the temperatures.


Look. Fury pointed to an old-fashioned thermometer mounted beside the now defunct displays. The temperature read 104 degrees, and the mercury appeared to be climbing. Kid, if you can get to Xavier, tell ‘im we can’t take much more of this. He’s got to shut down Magneto’s powers. Hear me?

But how is the Shadow King doing it?

Fury shook his head. It’s not just the Shadow King. It’s your friend, too. They’re pouring so much power into crushing or saving this boat that the energy is leakin’ out all over. We’re gonna get cooked if Xavier can’t do something about it!

Remi took one more look around the bridge. Maybe there was something he could do about it. Reaching back up into the net of minds, Remi singled out Betsy and made contact. Touching her mind that deeply brought him close to the Shadow King and the intense battle being fought all around him. He could feel the echoes of pain from all of the Guardians which he had been able to block out before. The structure of the web of minds vibrated continuously as the Shadow King ripped at it with giant hands tipped with talons. The astral imagery was powerful and frightening, but Remi clung to his self-assigned task.

After a moment, Betsy responded, and Remi was flooded with awareness of the thousands of processes she was handling at the time. There was no way for him to take all of it in, but he gathered before she said anything that there was a battle raging around San Francisco. The Shadow King’s forces had attacked the city only a few minutes ago.

Rogue can bring Iceman to you, Betsy told him. She’s the fastest thing we’ve got.

Send them!

He heard Betsy reaching out to the two mutants and then released his tight hold on Betsy’s mind, shifting back toward the sub. He searched through it quickly, checking on Cody and Renee. Cody was still deadlocked with the Shadow King, their struggle invisible save for the rising temperature and the occasional groan as the titanium hull twisted in their combined grasps. Renee was with her brother, watching over him and trying to hold her fear at bay. Remi touch her deeply enough to feel the pain of the hot air searing her lungs and then withdrew. He had no solid hope to offer her. Rogue and Iceman had miles of ocean to cross, with nothing less the Shadow King himself to face once they arrived. Remi had no idea if they would be able to help, but it was the only thing he could think of.

Well, the only other thing, anyway. He did not want to admit how much the Shadow King frightened him. Their last contact had brought out parts of Remi that he wished he’d never seen. But now he was losing hope that Xavier would be able to take the Shadow King alone.

Remi decided. Bracing himself, he threw his astral presence at the Shadow King. If he was going to get into this fight, he would do it without holding back anything. Fear and reservation would only get him and the people he cared about killed. That was something he’d learned from his mother. Absolute commitment was the greatest advantage a soldier could have.

He hit the Shadow King with every ounce of power he possessed, drawing on the Guardians for whatever they could give him. Xavier knew his plans through their link, and Remi felt him readying a second blast even as Remi streaked toward the Shadow King. It was like hitting a hard wall of darkness. The shock of impact left him stunned. The Shadow King staggered. Remi felt Xavier hit him a mere second later, and the giant form shuddered again.

Remi felt the first ray of hope. They were hurting him! He struck again, unsure where he would find the power to do it. He forced his body and mind to give him what he needed, and felt the Guardians struggling to support the massive drain. Now, though, the Shadow King had found the means to brace himself. He roared in pain as Remi drove his telepathic powers into the massive form, and this time he retaliated. The psi blast hit Remi with the force of a hurricane, shredding his senses like paper and sending him tumbling into darkness. Against the full fury of the Shadow King and his relays, he was no more than a kitten.

His last conscious thought was that the Shadow King was more powerful than anyone could have guessed. There was no way for them to beat him.

Remi woke to a searing pain in his lungs and the acrid smell of burnt metal. Someone was shaking him violently, and he opened his eyes to find Renee leaning over him, her expression filled with terror.

"Remi, wake up! Wake up!" She was sobbing, gasping in the intense heat.

Remi sat up slowly, trying to understand where he was and what had happened. His head felt like there was a spike driven through his temples, but the sight that greeted him as he sat up banished all thought of the pain. Cody hovered just above the floor, his eyes closed and his whole body tensed in concentration. An incredible white glow filled the area in front of him, a giant round ball that existed where the rest of the submarine had once been. Remi wasn’t sure if the rest of the sub was inside the glow somewhere, but he doubted it. He looked around in dismay. This conference room and whatever might lie ahead of it was all that was left of the submarine.

"What is that?" he asked Renee.

Renee clung to his arm. "The nuclear core. After he hit you, the Shadow King tried to blow it up, but Cody caught the explosion." Her eyes on her brother were huge. Remi was stunned, too. Somehow Cody was containing all of the blast forces, including radiation, in a gravitational bubble. Remi didn’t dare try to touch his mind for fear of breaking his concentration. He had become completely separated from the net of Guardians by the Shadow King’s blow, and for the moment, he was unsure if he had enough power left to get him back onto the astral plane. His head hurt so much that he felt as if using his powers again would tear his mind apart.

The members of Xavier’s council were gathered around a prone form at the end of the table. Remi recognized him and scrambled to his feet, ignoring the heat of the metal floor on his palms. He knelt down beside his father’s still form. Xavier’s body was strangely twisted, his hands locked into claws that echoed his pain. Remi could tell from looking at his face that he continued to fight the Shadow King, but as he sat there, he heard the distinctive crack of a bone breaking, and saw his father’s body shift a little further. Horror filled him. The Shadow King was crushing his father’s body and his mind even as he watched.

"What about Rogue and Iceman?" Remi asked Jean, who knelt across from him, her hand resting lightly on Xavier’s forehead.

The confused look she gave him was all the answer he needed. Bishop reached over to grip Remi’s shoulder. He didn’t say anything, but there was a quiet fear in his eyes, and a strange kind of acceptance.

Remi twisted out of Bishop’s grasp with a savage cry. He reached out to touch his father’s mind. It had to be possible to kill the Shadow King. Whether with power, conviction, or sheer force of will, together they would find what they needed to destroy him.

He wanted to scream at the pain in his head as he extended his mind to touch his father’s. But he never had a chance. Not to scream. Not to feel his father’s touch one last time. With a piercing cry, Charles Xavier shattered—mind, body and power destroyed in the blink of an eye. Remi felt his death, like the sudden extinction of a million candles lighting the astral plane. And where he had been, there was nothing but a gaping hole of darkness and loss.

The Shadow King paused, perhaps stunned by the abrupt destruction of his opponent. In that moment, Remi understood his choices. If they were to have any chance of surviving, there was only once course they could take, no matter how poor the odds. Shoving shock and grief aside, he touched Cody’s mind. He could not explain in words where they needed to go, what they needed to do. There was no time for anything so clumsy as words, so he dumped the concepts directly into his friend’s brain, hoping desperately that Cody would be able to handle it without losing his grip on the glowing ball of nuclear fire before him.

Then, before the Shadow King could gather himself to strike the final blow, he dug inside himself for one last burst of power. The glowing black nimbus that was his most powerful birthright spread out around him. Cody’s gate appeared inside the black sphere, and Remi staggered under the added burden. He didn’t have much left.

Renee, go!

Renee jumped to her feet and dashed into the portal as the Shadow King swung around. Remi could feel him gathering power. They had only an instant left. He ducked into the gate behind Renee. Cody had to be last, and Remi saw him only a step behind as he went into the darkness.

Then the absolute nothing inside the gate crumbled as something hot and heavy hit Remi from behind. It clung to him, burning his back even as he clawed at it, struggling to push it away. In some part of his mind, he wondered if the nuclear blast behind them had somehow thrown molten metal into the portal. He worried for a moment about radiation that might have gone through the gate with them too, but the strain of maintaining his grip on where and when they were going made it too hard to think about anything else.

Remi felt the horrible twist that meant he had hit the endpoint of Cody’s gate and was dropping back into the real world. As always, the lurch threw him into a huge black pit of unconsciousness. If they’d ended up where they were supposed to, they would be safe for a little while at least, and he wanted nothing more than to just rest in the darkness for a short time. He couldn’t feel the burns he knew covered his back, and he didn’t really want to think about how bad that damage might be. Renee was there, he reminded himself. She would be able to heal him.

As he drifted in contentment, something pricked his senses. He wanted to ignore it, to rest in peace for a bit, but the sound wouldn’t leave him be. It was a tiny sound, but shrill, and it repeated over and over maddeningly. He was dragged toward consciousness despite himself, and as he became more aware, pure terror filled him.

The sound was Renee. She was screaming.


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