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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 25

Jean Luc LeBeau raised his hand to knock on a plain wooden door, then paused. What are y’ doin’? he asked himself, but that didn’t keep him from rapping gently on the door. It opened after a moment to reveal half of a woman’s face peering through the door.

"What y’ wan’?" she asked suspiciously.

Jean Luc gathered his best manners and bowed courteously. "I’m lookin’ f’ Marco, Madam. Is he here?"

The woman watched him a moment longer, then stepped back and closed the door. He heard the rattle of a chain and then the door swung open. Jean Luc contained his reaction to the clash of colors that assailed him. The decor of the tiny living room had been out of vogue for at least fifteen years, and even then had probably not been in the best of taste.

"Downstairs," the woman said, nodding toward a door on his left.

Jean Luc stepped into the room. "Merci." He skirted the plastic covered couch in unconscious distaste and went down the stairs. The basement was nothing but cement and unpainted wooden crossbeams. It smelled of the damp and stale cigarette smoke. A single light bulb hung over a collection of tables. Every available surface was stacked high with electronic equipment. Jean Luc recognized ham radio equipment, police scanners and more conventional receivers, tape players, seismic cores and even an aircraft black box data recorder. The rest of the equipment was an unidentifiable jumble of circuitry and wires. A man sat in the middle of the morass, the smoke from a cigarette in one hand and soldering iron in the other floating above him. He looked up as Jean Luc approached, his expression changing swiftly from annoyance to a broad smile.

"Jean Luc! Long time!" He set both smoking instruments down on the table before him and leapt to his feet, arms wide. Jean Luc endured the enthusiastic hug, but backed away as soon as was politic.

"I came t’ ask a favor, Marco."

Marco took a drag on his cigarette. "You always want a favor. What is it?" He settled on the edge of his table.

"I wan’ t’ find an airplane dat left New Orleans sometime yesterday afternoon."

"What airport did it take off from?"

Jean Luc shrugged. "I don’ know. Somet’ing private, I expect."

Marco grimaced and flicked the ash from his cigarette. "What kind of plane was it?"

"I don’ know dat, either. But it had t’ be able t’ carry at least five or six people."

Marco’s grimace deepened into a frown. "That’s not much to go on. A Cessna 182 can carry six people. Is there anything else you can give me?"

Jean Luc was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He had little information to give Marco, and worse than that, he had even less understanding of why he was pursuing this. True, he was concerned for the boy, but he still couldn’t explain to himself even why he was there in Marco’s basement.

"De people on de plane aren’ local," he finally answered. "Dey sounded like dey were from up north somewhere. Eastern seaboard, maybe. An’ it’s only a hunch, but I t’ink dey pretty well financed."

Marco considered him. "Well, I can get you a list of private flights that were headed for the East Coast, but that’ll be quite a list. The flight plans will all be on record."

"What about de ones wit’out flight plans?"

Marco pursed his lips thoughtfully. "That’ll be more difficult." He shrugged. "But I’ll see what I can do."

"T’anks, Marco." Jean Luc clapped him on the shoulder.

Marco grinned. "You owe me for this one."

Jean Luc could only nod agreement. "I bring y’ somet’ing nice f’ y’ wife."

Remi took the stairs cautiously. He could hear voices below him, familiar and playful. From the smells wafting through the house, he had hopes that they were involved in lunch and that he would be able to commandeer a portion for himself. He wasn’t terribly hungry—his body having adapted to eating only what he could scrounge—but his mouth was watering almost uncontrollably at the smell of hot roast beef.

He was amazed by how much more human he felt today. Just the act of waking up in a familiar place, and the little luxuries like being able to take a shower and finding that someone had left him a pair of jeans and a clean shirt, were incredibly heartening.

He stepped down onto the ground floor and walked toward the kitchen. He felt oddly reluctant to scan for his father telepathically. Perhaps because he was secretly afraid that his father would tell him to stay away from the X-Men, and he craved human contact. In his own mind, he knew that he would influence the timeline least by avoiding the X-Men. But in his heart, he could only think that there were other kids in the house like him, and that their presences might help ease the gaping hole where Rachel, Cody and Renee had once been.

Remi paused near the doorway to the kitchen, listening. Unsurprisingly, the conversation inside was about him. But it seemed to be more speculation than anything, about who he was and how he knew the Professor. Remi grinned to himself. Not in a million years would they guess the truth.

He gathered himself and stepped inside. The conversation died abruptly as the five teenagers turned to face him.

"Speak of the devil," Hank said brightly and waved a mayonnaise-covered knife in Remi’s direction. "Do you want some lunch?" He didn’t seem the least perturbed that he had been caught talking about Remi behind his back.

Remi nodded, suddenly at a loss for words. But Jean gave him an encouraging smile and Hank was watching him expectantly, so he crossed the kitchen to where they were all gathered around the small dinette table in the corner. Jean handed him a paper plate with a couple of slices of bread as he approached.

Scott stared at him appraisingly. "So you’re an Omega."

Remi looked up at him in surprise. Scott had always been one of his favorite uncles. The sudden antagonism in his voice was unnerving. Still, he refused to be intimidated. "Yes." Then he surprised himself by extending his hand. "My name is Remi Neramani."

After a moment, Scott returned the handshake. Remi could tell he was uncomfortable, but he wasn’t certain why.

Hank grinned at both of them. "I take it you found the ‘Hey you’ option to be unacceptable?"

Remi couldn’t help his smile. "Yeah."

The short exchange seemed to break the tension. Remi went to work building himself a galaxy-class sandwich while the X-Men bombarded him with friendly questions. Most of them he managed to answer without giving much away, and the conversation eventually drifted off into more neutral topics.

Remi finished his sandwich and tossed his crumpled napkin onto the plate with a contented sigh.

"So are you going to be staying at the school?" Warren asked curiously.

Remi straightened in his chair, all too aware that he had suddenly become the focus of attention again. "I—don’t know," he answered honestly. "I don’t think so."

"Really? Why not?" Jean sounded disappointed.

Remi sighed. "It’s really complicated."

She smiled. "We have time." Beside her, Scott frowned.

Across the table, Bobby rolled his eyes. "Bo-ring."

Jean glared at him. "Do you have a better suggestion, Icicle?"

He grinned and looked at Remi. "Yeah. Do you play any hoops?"

Remi blinked at the sudden turn. "Basketball? A little, I guess." He had played some with Cody, though he’d never gotten all the rules straight.

Bobby jumped to his feet. "So? C’mon." His gaze swept the group. "Anybody else in?"

"Indubitably." Hank laid a large hand on Warren’s shoulder. "And so is Warren."

"I am?"

"Yes." Hank hauled him to his feet.

Warren grinned. "I guess I’m in." He looked at Remi. "Are you sure you want to play with us?"

Remi laughed at his expression and went to join them. He was willing to ignore, for the moment, the fact that these were younger versions of his aunt and uncles. They were familiar enough that he did not feel like he was among strangers, and different enough that he could treat them as friends. More than anything, it simply felt good to have people around him again. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. He missed his life, his family and his friends immensely, but he had the feeling that this was as good as it was likely to get.

Charles heard the laughter and shouts through his open window and turned, curious. He spied the basketball game in progress and almost dismissed it, but then he realized that Remi was with them. Concerned, he turned his wheelchair around to watch the game more closely. The things that Remi had shown him spun through his mind in disjointed pieces, counterpoint to the sound of the basketball rebounding off the blacktop.

The truth was, he didn’t know what to think. He had seen the future of the X-Men—the first twenty years through Gambit’s eyes, the next ten through Remi’s. And although Gambit had not been present for the X-Men’s early years, he had known the history and heard the stories retold many times. Charles found it all together terrifying to know what would happen to these children, and the others who would join them, for the next three decades. They would suffer so much, and he wondered deep in his heart if the dream were worth that price. Yet the reward could be so great. Remi’s world—his life—was testament to that. What the X-Men had accomplished in that one future fulfilled Charles’ every hope and expectation.

Charles suppressed a sigh. Remi had turned over to him the responsibility for choosing the course of the future, and he had no idea what to choose. On one hand, they might be able to manufacture a means for Remi to return to New Orleans and become a member of the Thieves Guild. He could follow the course of Gambit’s life and insure that they would not find themselves subject to the Shadow King. Charles had met that foul creature once, and the thought of the planet under his rule terrified him, yet his soul rebelled at the idea of returning Remi to New Orleans. He had seen Gambit’s life, and it was not an easy one. He would have been hard-pressed to impose such a sentence on one of his enemies, let alone a fifteen-year-old boy who happened to be his son. But if Remi stayed with the X-Men, they would find themselves facing an entirely new future, with no knowledge of how their decisions would affect the course of history.

Perhaps that was the thing that was bothering him so. Charles closed his eyes. One thing that had become crystalline to him as he thought about what he’d learned, was that the X-Men would play a major role in determining the future of the Earth. Whether he wanted it to or not, his dream would become the cause of major turnings in the course of mankind. The responsibility was overwhelming, and it was not one that he could give away. Even if he were to disband the X-Men today, that decision would have just as great an influence on humanity because of their absence.

A burst of noise from the yard yanked Charles’ attention back to the game. Before his eyes, the scene wavered and changed as he allowed the memory images of the X-Men’s future selves to impinge on the here-and-now. It amazed him how much they would change. Hank’s very bestial appearance, muted only slightly by his brilliant blue color. Warren’s skin, also blue—and the horrible knowledge that he would lose his feathered wings to Apocalypse. Jean dead and then risen. The Phoenix force. Madelyn Pryor and Sinister. Cable. Storm. Nightcrawler. Shadowcat. Wolverine. Rogue. The Brood. The Shi’ar. Lilandra. Deathbird. Stryfe. Legacy. Bishop. The Phalanx. Colossus. Gambit.

The future swam before him until he cried out and banished the borrowed memories to a shadowed corner of his mind. How could he know what to choose? How could he know the consequences of changing any of those things? Belatedly, he began to understand the overwhelming despair that a young boy had poured out in his lap. It was too much for anyone, but now the burden had been given to Charles, to carry as best he could. He was desperately afraid that he would not be equal to the task.


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