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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 27

Henri LeBeau stared at the brochure in his hands with both interest and trepidation while the phone held against his ear continued to ring. This had to be the place. It was a gut-level instinct, that sub-conscious warning bell that told him that his life was about to become interesting.

Father, what have y’ gotten us into?

The brochure said "The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters" in ornate lettering across the top, just above the picture of a stern-looking bald man in a dark suit. The interior of the brochure was all text, a glowing description of the school and its program designed to help "special" students adapt to their "unique physiologies" and become contributing members of society.

On the other end, the phone was finally picked up. "LeBeau residence," a polite female voice said.

"Bonsoir, Marie. It’s Henri. Is my father there?" Marie was, to all but a careful observer, just the family’s housekeeper. What most didn’t know was that she ran the informational center of the LeBeau household and, by extension, the Guild.

"No, m’seur Henri, I’m afraid not. He left town on business for a few days." Her voice was slightly high-pitched, conjuring images of a pretty, but not terribly bright girl. It was an act that Marie had down perfectly. Henri had long enjoyed baiting her to see if he could entice her to break the bubble-headed persona and show him a glimpse of the sharp wit hidden beneath.

"Would y’ mind leavin’ a message for me?"

"Not at all, m’seur. What should I tell him?"

"Jus’ tell him I think I’ve found de person he was lookin’ for." Anyone watching her would see her scribble a note down on the pad of paper beside the phone. But Henri knew that it would not stop there. A flash-traffic signal would be sent to the receiver Jean Luc always carried with him when he was out of the city, and he would have the message within the hour. It wasn’t as efficient as one of those new wireless phones, but the Guild was often slow to adapt new technology. There were advantages to waiting until the many ways of listening in on a new device were known quantities. So they were stuck with radio burst transmissions for a few years longer.

Henri hung up the phone and settled on the hotel bed to read through the brochure one more time. He wasn’t certain which of the contacts he’d made in New York had left the information for him. It had simply been slipped beneath his door while he was out. That in itself worried him slightly, but the New York Guild didn’t have any interest in being drawn into a conflict with mutants. They, like all the guilds, could not afford to have the name "mutant" associated with them in any way.

There was, he supposed, a slight possibility that someone else knew that he was in New York, and further, knew what he was searching for far better than he did. That was a frightening thought because it meant that this Xavier School could be nothing but a trap. Still, who would do such a thing, and why? The Assassins? But they had no mutant children like the ones his father had described. Still, it was a certainty that they had been behind the attack that the boy had foiled. They question was, had the boy done so intentionally or no? Did someone knew Jean Luc LeBeau well enough to know that he could not turn away from a blood debt? Or was it simply a bizarre coincidence? Henri sighed and discarded the thoughts. Once his father arrived, they would check this school out very carefully before ever setting foot on the grounds.

Charles entered his study and was startled to find it occupied. Though there was no explicit rule, the X-Men avoided the study when Charles was not present. But apparently Remi felt comfortable letting himself in. At the moment, the young mutant was standing at the window, watching the heavy rain sheeting down outside. Lightning illuminated the night sky as a jagged yellow bolt arced across the darkened clouds. Charles found himself unconsciously counting the seconds until the rumble of thunder shook the floor beneath their feet.

Remi spoke without turning. "Too bad Stormy’s not here. She’d be out dere," he nodded toward the blackened sky, "dancin’ on de winds."

Charles blinked, momentarily stunned. That wasn’t Remi’s voice. But it was similar, and Charles had spent enough time over the past days looking through the things Remi had shown him to recognize this voice as well.


He didn’t answer, and Charles cautiously approached. He was only a few feet away when the other started violently and spun around. His expression faded from alarm into reproach as he recognized Charles. "Aban, you startled me."

Charles did his best to keep his expression under control. "What... were you doing?"

Remi shrugged and glanced back toward the window. "Not much. Watching the rain." His exotic Shi’ar accent gave the words a lilting quality that reminded Charles of some of the Polynesian languages he’d heard. It was remarkably different from the rolling Cajun accent of the moment before.

"Is there anything particular you were watching?" Charles asked the question carefully, not wanting to seem like he was fishing for information. He was fairly certain Remi was unaware of his temporary lapse.

Remi turned back to the window, peered out at the flickering sky. "Oh, I was just thinking how amazing these rainstorms are. It doesn’t do this at home."

Home. Charles released the wheels of his chair and folded his hands in his lap. A planet called Chandilar. It was mind boggling to think that Remi came from a civilization that evolved on a planet circling a different sun. A civilization that the X-Men would soon meet. And a woman that Charles was destined to love.

He shoved the thoughts away. "It doesn’t?"

Remi shook his head. "No. It rains plenty, but not like this."

Charles watched the rain for several moments. "Were you looking for me, Remi?" he asked.

Remi glanced at him and then crossed his arms, as if suddenly chilled. "What’s going to happen now?"

As if I could tell him, Charles thought bleakly. In Remi’s words he could hear the unquestioning trust of a child for his parent. The unshatterable belief that Charles somehow had the power to make everything right. It was, perhaps, the most terrifying position Charles had ever found himself in.

"I suppose that we are going to change the future," he finally answered.

Remi looked up at the blunt statement. "What about the Shadow King?"

Surprised, Charles forced his mind to slide into gear. The short moment of vulnerability was gone and Remi’s expression was one of business-like interest. When it came to the management of millions of lives, Charles reflected wryly, Remi was far more prepared than himself. He still struggled with the idea that his dream would actually affect the destinies of more than a few mutants. Remi, on the other hand, had been raised with the understanding the he would one day become the final ruling authority over an empire than spanned hundreds of planets and governed billions of lives. And stranger still, Charles himself was one of the people who had trained him for that role.

He forced his attention back to the question. What about the Shadow King? "We know that the X-Men were unable to defeat him while Ororo was in his grasp." It was amazing to think that the street thief Charles had stumbled upon so long ago in Cairo could become so important. And, in a way, gratifying that the simple suggestion he had planted in her at that meeting would strike such a chord as to finally lead her halfway across the world to take up a place of leadership among his X-Men. "But you weren’t present then. An added telepath of your caliber could possibly swing the course of the battle."

"Maybe." Remi settled on the low window ledge and propped his elbows on his knees. "But the last time you and I went up against the Shadow King, we lost." The expression in his eyes showed just how clearly he felt that loss. Belatedly, Charles remembered that he had lost his best friend in that conflict.

Carefully, Charles went over the events aboard the U.S.S. Dresden. He had eventually gotten over his horror at the scope of the destruction, but other things about that future world still made his gut twist. Foremost among them was the image of himself—cold, hard, vengeful. Whatever dreaming that Charles had done in his youth, it had been forgotten. Destroyed. In that place, there was nothing left except the battle to survive. And yet, the mutants who lived in that horrible future had done some amazing things. Things Charles could barely believe. The immense networks of linked telepaths were truly astounding. Charles pushed his admiration aside as he tried to evaluate the relative strengths of each member of the network. He wanted to be able to isolate the Shadow King and make an educated guess of his true capabilities. Working from Remi’s memories was frustrating, though. Charles didn’t own those memories the way Remi did. He couldn’t experience them. They were just snapshots in his head, and some of the critical details simply weren’t there.

Finally, he opened his mind and invited Remi to help him with the project. Reluctantly, Remi brought out his personal memories and together they tried to evaluate the Shadow King. Their final conclusion was somewhat disheartening.

"We couldn’t guarantee a victory," Charles put the thought into words. "He draws so much power from the emotions around him that he can become far more than even you and I together could defeat. The only reason I was able to beat him in your own time was because the X-Men joined me on the astral plane. We would have to be able to insure that that would happen, I think, for us to be certain we would defeat the Shadow King."

Remi leaned his head back against the window. "And that depends on whether the X-Men are able to get to Lorna and free her, which they won’t be able to if Storm is with the Shadow King."

"Suppose the X-Men intercepted her before she could encounter him?"

"They were still in Australia."

Charles forced down his frustration. "Point." He stared at the rain blowing outside the house, his thoughts whirling through the tangled paths of cause and effect. The more he thought about it, the more certain he became that the entire discussion was useless.

"Remi, there is no way for you or I to choose what will happen to Ororo." He spoke softly, but Remi’s head snapped up nonetheless, his dark eyes narrowing as he stared at Charles. Charles pressed on. "If you stay here, everything will change. In fact, the change has already begun. How can we possibly guess what will happen in the future? There are so many possibilities—and so many trials that the X-Men must face. This year. Next year. In eight years, the future may bear no resemblance whatsoever to what you know. Ororo might never be turned into a child. She might be dead. In fact, she might never have joined the X-Men at all."

Charles watched as Remi’s face went through several contortions, mirroring his conflicting thoughts. Charles knew he was right. Adding Remi to the X-Men would change the future into something entirely new.

Remi was shaking his head. "Too many variables." He almost seemed to be talking to himself. But then he looked directly at Charles. "You’re right. We would have no way of knowing the effect of our actions on the future."

Charles couldn’t help his sardonic smile. "That is the way most people must live. Why should we be any different?"

Remi didn’t seem to share the humor. He closed his eyes and laid his head back against the window once more. He was silent for a long time.

"What if we choose wrong?" he finally asked. Charles could feel his terror at the thought of another world like the one he’d experienced. A world ruled by someone like the Shadow King. Or Apocalypse. Or an anti-mutant government bent on genocide. And Charles wondered if they had the right to leave the future to the whims of circumstance and chance when the consequences could be so terrible.


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