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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 28

Remi followed the sounds of voices to the rec room to find the majority of the X-Men present. Jean was sitting on the couch, her bare feet curled up beneath her as she read from a magazine. Scott, Warren and Bobby were gathered around the pool table where a game of some sort appeared to be in progress.

Jean was the first to look up as Remi entered. "Hi!" she said brightly.

He waved to her and wandered over to the pool table. Remi liked pool. His mutant kinesthetic sense gave him an innate knowledge of how to hit the ball. It was also one of the few Earth games that had a Shi’ar equivalent, though cam’lir was a lot more like snookers than pool, he reflected as he studied the table. He remembered vividly the rainy afternoons that he and Cody had spent at this very table—the endless games of Eight Ball and the television playing in the background with Rachel’s soap operas. He stroked the polished wood reflectively. Those had been great times. Far more precious than he’d ever realized while his friends were alive.

"Hello? Earth to Remi. Are you in there?"

Remi jerked his head up to find all three of the boys staring at him in varying degrees of curiosity and concern. "I’m sorry. I was just—" He shrugged, still uncertain what to tell them. He’d been there six days, but his father still hadn’t suggested telling the X-Men the truth about him. "I used to play a lot of pool," he concluded somewhat lamely.

That earned him odd looks all around. Then Bobby grinned, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "Well, you can take my place for the next round if you want. I’m getting tired of losing to these guys." He gestured to Scott and Warren.

Remi agreed, hoping to shake his solemn mood. The previous evening’s conversation with his father kept running through his mind. To distract himself, he went to the wall to pick a cue from the rack, but that was easily done and he found himself back beside the table trying to keep his mind on the conversation.

"Did you get your report done on ‘Wuthering Heights’?" Warren was asking Scott as he lined up for a shot.

Scott grimaced. "Yeah, for all the good it’ll do me with the Professor. That has got to be the worst book I’ve ever read."

Jean looked up from her magazine. "But it’s so romantic!" She managed to gush without losing her sincerity. "How could you not like it?"

"It’s boring," he answered. Jean stared at him reproachfully. "And depressing," he added after a moment.

"No it isn’t. It’s tragic." Remi was startled to realize that she had a very cute pout.

"Don’t worry, they’re always like this," Bobby leaned over to murmur.

"Like what?" Remi asked.

"Arguing. You’d think they couldn’t stand each other."

Remi managed not to smile. That was one thing he would probably never think about Scott and Jean. Then the familiar feeling of telepathic contact prevented any further discussion.

X-Men, I’ve scheduled a training exercise in the Danger Room in twenty minutes. Remi was always surprised by how stiff his father sounded in this time. It was most obvious in his telepathic voice, which did not have the benefit of facial expression to help convey the emotion. Remi had jokingly decided that he must be tying his ties too tight, but the explanation he liked most was simply that his father was much happier with Remi’s mother than without her.

"Does that include you?" Bobby asked Remi aloud, startling him out of his thoughts.

It does, came the answer before Remi could ask, and Remi felt a hard knot of uncertainty forming in his stomach. One more step toward the unknown.

"I thought you said you weren’t going to be staying?" Jean’s eyes were wide and curious as she stepped up beside him.

Remi shrugged uncomfortably. "I didn’t think I would be."

Scott frowned, looking between them. "If you’re going to be in the Danger Room with us, you’re going to need a uniform."

Jean Luc crouched in the wet grass, contemplating the mansion across the street from his position. He could see most of the main building through the gaps in the wrought iron gate. Who are dese people? he thought in amazement. The security on the grounds was downright imposing, and he couldn’t even begin to guess about the house itself.

"Father, are y’ sure we wan’ do this?" Henri knelt beside him. They had spent the entire morning circling the estate, just beyond the limit of the motion sensors. To the East they were cut off by sheer cliffs that dropped off into the ocean, but Jean Luc had noted the picket line of sensors that ran along the edge of the bluff. Even if they had wanted to come in that way, it wasn’t likely to do them any good. The rest of the estate was wooded, with an ornate, but much too high to be merely decorative, wall wandering through the trees to surround the property. Interestingly enough, the outer line of motion sensors were in front of the wall rather than on it.

Whoever dey are, dey definitely want advance notice of visitors. All in all, it made Jean Luc highly suspicious. This was not just a school, no matter what their brochure claimed. The question now was, how were they going to find out if Remy was inside? The idea that popped into Jean Luc’s mind was incredibly simple—a tactic he had used for years as a thief. It was perhaps a long shot that he would actually see the boy, but at the very least he would get a look at the inside of the house. They hadn’t had any luck finding plans for the mansion, which was odd since there were records indicating that it had been demolished and then rebuilt very recently. He wondered briefly what the going rate was around these parts for that kind of invisibility. This Professor Xavier would have had to pay a pretty penny to erase all of the building permits, surveyor’s reports and other official paperwork that should have been accessible to the two thieves.

"Let’s get back t’ de hotel," Jean Luc told his son. He had seen everything that could be seen from the outside.

"Y’ see a way in dere?" Henri asked.

Jean Luc nodded. "Oui, but I need t’ make a few phone calls first."

Remi stared at his reflection in the mirror in a combination of horror and awe. Horror because it was a long-standing family joke how ugly the original X-Men uniforms had been. Awe because that picture—the one with the original five X-Men in uniform, gathered around Charles Xavier—still hung in the place of honor at the mansion, with the rest of the X-Men’s history surrounding it. The other X-Men were already dressed and had drifted over to see Remi’s reaction to the rather unusual school uniform, and as he stared at their combined reflections, Remi could imagine his own face appearing in that photo. The five original X-Men would become six, and all of history would be rewritten.

"I must say, you certainly look the part." Hank was grinning at him over his shoulder.

"I do?" Remi was momentarily stunned by the cavalier assessment. He did not feel the least bit capable of carrying the burden time had placed on him.

"Indubitably. The X-Man extraordinaire." Beside him, Hank struck a gallant pose and Jean laughed. Remi, too, was forced to smile, but the humor faded as he gave himself a critical review. He was in the unique position of knowing exactly what he would look like as a grown man, but he was still four inches and nearly fifty pounds shy of that. Still, the purely physical demands of the training both of his parents had always required of him showed in the clean lines of the form-fitting uniform.

In truth, he had worn X-Men type uniforms very rarely. He had always preferred his Imperial armor, and had generally used that for his training. In retrospect, he wished he had decided to wear it for the fateful graduation ceremony that had started all of this. Not that it would have made much difference to the events of the past weeks, he reminded himself, but he missed the familiarity. He felt intensely vulnerable in the thin cloth of the X-Men’s blue and gold.

A hand closed on Remi shoulder and he looked around in surprise. Bobby had come up between himself and Hank, and now had a hand on either of their shoulders.

"Your mission," he intoned solemnly to their reflections in the glass, "should you choose to accept it, is to teach this guy how to smile." His guileless grin was the same one Remi had grown up with.

Remi felt his cheeks growing hot, but the barb was effective and he found himself chuckling. Bobby immediately pointed at Hank. "You owe me ten bucks, Hankster. I told you I could make him laugh."

Remi turned to stare at Hank and Bobby as, behind him, Jean dissolved into giggles. Her laughter killed his burgeoning outrage and left him feeling almost ashamed of how quickly the friendly teasing had gotten to him.

To his surprise, it was Scott that came to his rescue. "Why don’t we go on down to the Danger Room and give Remi a chance to get used to it," he suggested before Bobby could think up another joke.

Remi shot him a grateful look and received a half-smile in return. Remi had the sudden impression that Scott understood all too well how hard it could be to bear the brunt of the others’ humor. Considerably heartened, Remi followed Scott as he headed down the familiar halls toward the Danger Room.

Archaic, was Remi’s first thought as they began the exercise. The robots were slow and bulky, and all of the holograms were either green or amber. None were at all realistic. He knew it was the current level of Earth technology, but he found himself immediately wishing for the full-sensory Room of his own time.

"Pretty amazing, huh?" Warren said as they watched the group of assault drones rise into their programmed positions.

Remi managed to keep his reaction under control. He fingered the pocketful of throwing spikes his father had given him just before they’d started. This was going to be a purely physical attack, since the robots were not affected by telepathy, and that meant that Remi would be working on Alpha powers only. He didn’t mind. To be honest, he was hoping to use the exercise as a chance to unwind a little. He fingered his ribs reflexively. The stitches had come out two days before, and as quickly as the shallow gash was healing, he was fairly certain he wouldn’t tear it open again. Obviously, his father felt the same way or he would never have included Remi in today’s exercise.

Beside him, Warren leapt into the air, the downdraft from his wings blowing Remi’s hair around his face in wild confusion until the other had gained some altitude. Remi brushed the last strands out of his eyes and looked over at Scott for direction. The X-Men were arrayed in a loose "V", with Cyclops and Phoenix—no Marvel Girl, Remi reminded himself—at the point. At Charles’ suggestion, Scott had given Remi the right flank position, and put Beast and Iceman together on the left. Angel turned slow circles over their heads. Remi was fairly pleased with the arrangement. He had the freedom to move over a wide area without worrying about running into one of his teammates.

Five of the hovering robots moved away from the flock and began to accelerate toward the X-Men. They separated as they moved, making it obvious that each was targeting a different person. Remi watched his approach, a charged spike in hand. When it was close enough for an easy throw, Remi let loose and the robot exploded with satisfying violence. To his left, Cyclops’ optic beam speared the closer of the two approaching himself and Jean, giving her an additional moment to concentrate. Remi was still amazed by the amount of time and effort she needed to use her powers, but the results were undeniable. The robot shuddered under her assault and then the dome top housing the electronic brain crumpled. It fell to the floor in a lifeless heap, followed quickly by a second as Cyclops blasted the one that Angel obligingly led into his field of fire.

Remi didn’t get a chance to see how Bobby and Hank were doing, though his mutant power tracked the motion of both, and the single remaining robot that circled them. A new wave of the robots swooped down from the ceiling. Remi charged more spikes, picking targets. He glanced at Cyclops who waved in a long-familiar hand sign. Remi nodded and began to move away from the group, giving both himself and Scott more room to take on multiple targets, and hopefully dividing the attention of the attackers.

Remi let fly at the first two robots as they approached, destroying them. He drew two more spikes, gauging distances, and decided that he was in the best position to take down the others as the came around to bring their lasers to bear. He adjusted his footing, more out of habit than any real need. Then the floor seemed to buckle, throwing him off balance. He recovered, and found himself rising quickly into the air on a pillar of metal. Around him, the floor of the Danger Room had broken into jagged pieces, all of which seemed to be in motion. Other pillars like his own rose up around him while neighboring portions of the floor sank. Parts of the floor tilted or shifted, and the X-Men were left scrambling for solid footing.

Remi felt more than saw the robots that swept past him, firing. The rising pillar had put him almost directly into their flight path. He leapt off of the pillar to avoid the laser fire, somersaulting midair as his kinesthetic power worked out the direction and timing for him to retaliate. He threw the charged spikes while he was still in the air, and then turned his attention to the ground rushing up at him. The floor beneath him was jagged, offering little in the way of safe landing places. If he wasn’t careful, he knew, he could easily break an ankle on the sharply canted surfaces. Overhead, the drones exploded, and the blast shoved Remi forcefully toward the ground.

At the last possible moment, the dangerously uneven floor filled with white. Remi landed on a flat sheet of ice. Surprised, he looked up for Bobby and waved thanks to the other mutant. Bobby grinned in response and then his ice slide arced away, pursued by several of the relentless flyers.

Charles watched the X-Men with a sense of pride. They had accepted Remi into the team, almost from the moment he had stepped into the Danger Room with them. Even as Charles was still wrestling with what to do, what to tell them-- if anything-- the X-Men were busy drawing Remi into their circle of friendship.

As he watched, Scott called Remi in closer. The two boys ended up back-to-back, with Jean between them. The thorough protection allowed Jean to concentrate on choosing tactical targets rather than on defending herself. Her effectiveness increased dramatically, and she began to attack the robots that harried Warren. Bobby was raising a thick wall of ice behind him as he swooped around the hot zone where Scott and Remi were. A small flock of the robot drones raced after him, their lasers falling all around Bobby and knocking chunks out of his ice slide.

Charles had to smile as he realized what they were doing. The ice wall created a kind of corral, trapping the robots inside where Scott, Remi or Jean could easily destroy them. Warren and Hank were also playing decoy—destroying a few of the robots, but most often maneuvering them into position for one of the others to take out. The coordinated attack was very much Scott’s style, and Charles was pleased by how much he was improving in effectively organizing his team. He estimated that it would only be a few more minutes before they had destroyed the remaining drones.

Perhaps it is time for something new, he thought and turned to the controls. He had been working on several modifications to the Room, most of which he had kept secret from the X-Men so that they would not have a chance to prepare. The first such was a set of mechanical tentacles that would attempt to snare the X-Men and drag them down into the crevices in the uneven floor. Charles manipulated the controls and moved the fifty-three tentacles into position beneath the loose circle formed by Scott and Remi.

Those two are entirely too effective together like that, he thought as he watched them. Let’s see how they do when they’re separated.

As he hit the final button to execute the new attack, the phone rang. Grimacing at the unexpected interruption, Charles turned to pick up the receiver.

"Xavier School," he said curtly, and turned back to watched the X-Men’s reaction to the sudden explosion of enemies from the ground.

"Can I speak to Admissions, please?" said a polite male voice.

Charles was taken by surprise. Requests for admission were extremely rare since enrollment was by invitation only. Most people had never heard of the school, and even if they had, Charles had purposely avoided developing a reputation for excellence that would attract the attention of elitist parents. What little advertising they did was narrowly focused, to the point that Charles should have recognized the voice of anyone calling for information on the school.

"I am Charles Xavier, the Headmaster," Charles said in a carefully controlled voice. "Can I help you?"

Below, in the Danger Room, the new assault had thrown the X-Men into confusion. Since Charles’ first command to the simulation controlling the tentacles was to separate Scott and Remi, the writhing coils had grabbed the first of the two they’d encountered. That happened to be Scott, and the silver tentacle wrapped itself around his chest, lifting him off the ground. It then uncoiled as quickly as the servos would allow, tossing the surprised young man across the Danger Room floor.

"Yes, I have a son with some... exceptional qualities. I was hoping you would consider him for your school."

Something about the voice tickled at Charles’ memory, but he was far too engrossed by the activity in the Danger Room to pursue it. Distracted, he assumed that the vague familiarity meant that this was indeed someone that the school had contacted.

"Of course. I would be glad to make an appointment for your son to come see the school. What is his name?"

Scott landed hard on the canted lip of a large pit. He immediately began to slide down into the darkness, unable to find purchase on the slick face. Charles knew that the drop wasn’t far enough to hurt him seriously, and the crash mats at the bottom would absorb even a bad landing, but the X-Men didn’t. Warren wheeled abruptly and dove toward the pit. He was almost to Scott when the other slid off the lip and plunged into darkness. They both disappeared from Charles’ view for a moment, then reappeared as Warren carried Scott aloft.


Charles had almost forgotten the man on the phone. He dragged his attention back to the conversation. "When would be a good time for him to come?"

There was a short pause. "Would it be possible for me to come alone first?" The man sounded slightly hesitant. "My son, he’s... uncomfortable in public situations."

Possibly a physical mutation, Charles thought. "Certainly," he answered.

"Good." The relief in the man’s voice was obvious.

In the Danger Room, Remi was being driven further and further away from Jean by the mass of tentacles. So far, his agility had allowed him to stay out of their grasp, but the sheer number of them were slowly overwhelming him. Jean was safe inside a telekinetic bubble, though the sense Charles had from her was that she doubted her ability to hold the shield in place for very long. On the outskirts of the area infected with the tentacles, Bobby and Hank were methodically destroying the coils one-by-one as Bobby’s ice froze the servos and Hank used a long steel rod salvaged from one of the downed drones to crush the tentacle at even intervals, destroying its flexibility. Unfortunately, it was a slow process.

"When would you be able to come by?" Charles asked the man as he mentally ran through his schedule for the next few weeks.

"Would tomorrow be too soon? I’m in town on business for the next few days, which is why I called."

Small warning bells began to ring in the back of Charles’ mind. "Tomorrow?"

Scott was firing his optic beam from his vantage above the mechanized monster in an attempt to destroy its hidden core. But the tentacles were placed so closely that he was not yet having any success, though he was causing significant damage to the tentacles themselves.

"I’m sorry for the short notice, Mr. Xavier. This trip came up very suddenly, but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity."

He sounds sincere, Charles thought. Which either mean he is, or he’s a very capable liar. But he momentarily forgot about the conversation as Jean’s protective shield crumpled and the three tentacles that had continued to assault her position moved in. They wrapped themselves around her, lifting her off the ground as they began to retract. Remi was nearest to her, and the first to respond. He scooped up several scraps of metal from the debris littering the floor and threw them at a point well below Jean’s dangling toes. The explosion severed two of the three limbs that held her. Satisfied that Jean was in no terrible danger, Charles returned his attention to his caller.

"Of course. I understand." he found himself saying. "Tomorrow will be fine. What time?"

"Three o’clock?"

"All right. Three o’clock. And your name?"

"Jean Luc LeBeau."

Charles nearly dropped the phone. His immediate reaction was a flush of anger, born of fear, and his first coherent thought was that he was not going to let this thief have his son. It was a reaction that surprised him.

He almost canceled the appointment then and there. He wanted to. But a rational corner of his mind insisted that this was an opportunity whose implications had to be explored. Mind whirling, Charles forced himself to say, "I will see you at three, then, Mr. LeBeau."

"Thank you." Charles heard the click as the connection was terminated, and he slowly replaced the phone in its cradle. He stared at the console before him without seeing it, until a scream jerked his attention to the Danger Room.

Charles had not really registered the fact that the remaining tentacle holding Jean was wrapped only around one wrist, and tangled in her long hair. Now, she was dangling from that precarious hold, and her scream was one of both fear and pain. Had Charles been watching the Danger Room closely, he might have been able to shut the simulation down in time. As it was, he didn’t have the chance.

"Nooo! Rachel!" The cry echoed in Charles’ head as well as his ears, and he felt the tremendous swell of power from Remi.

Remi, don’t! he cried, but without effect. A black vortex erupted in the Danger Room, a thin black disk whose surface swirled with a maelstrom of forces. The accompanying buzz conjured images in Charles’ mind of a swarm of giant bees. Skin crawling, he stared down into the Danger Room in horror. The disk’s edges exploded toward the reaches of the room, searching for a target that Charles knew it would not find. There was no airborne Shadow Queen here. But there were X-Men. Warren’s quick thinking saved both his life and Scott’s. The edge of the disk was directly in line with their position above Jean, but rather than try to maneuver, Warren simply folded his wings. The two boys plummeted to the floor as the disk passed over their heads.

Charles forced himself to shut down the simulation before he did anything else. The functioning tentacles froze, and then slowly lowered to the floor. Jean was deposited on the ground, and he could sense her mixture of frustration and leftover fear as she tried to pull her hair free from the limp metal coil. Scott and Warren were slowly picking themselves off the floor. Charles could tell that they were not hurt badly, though Warren was limping. Hank and Bobby had been out of harm’s way, to Charles’ relief, and were only a bit confused as they cautiously made their way toward the others.

The black disk collapsed suddenly, even before Charles could turn his scan on Remi. He was still standing where he had been, and his mind, when Charles touched it, was completely closed. After a moment of stillness, he walked over to Jean and crouched down next to her.

"Are you all right?" Charles heard him ask through the Danger Room sound system.

"Just fine," she answered shortly as she yanked a handful of hair out of one of the tentacle’s joints. Her voice quavered, but her expression dared him to comment on it.

Scott, with Warren leaning on his shoulder, walked up behind them. "What were you doing?" he demanded angrily. "Trying to kill us?"

Remi turned to look up at them, and Charles desperately wished he could feel something through his shields. But the regret on his face was honest enough. "No, I—I’m sorry." He looked away.

"So who is Rachel?" Jean had finally freed herself, and now was running her fingers gingerly through her gnarled hair.

Remi looked over at her, and Charles felt an odd stab of sympathetic pain. For Remi. For Jean. He wondered if he should interfere, but was loathe to. Whether Remi decided to explain to Scott and Jean about their daughter or not, the choice was his. Charles was determined not to run his students’ lives. They would never become adults, let alone the soldiers he knew they would need to be, if he did not leave them to make their own decisions. In the depths of his mind, though, he wondered how hard it would be to know the future and the consequences of their decisions, and still balance that against allowing them to choose their own paths. Part of him was frightened that, in wanting to protect them, he would end up trying to control them.

"Rachel... was a friend of mine," Remi admitted slowly. "She looked a lot like you."

"Oh." Jean’s anger had almost completely disappeared. "What happened?"

Remi looked out into the Danger Room. Charles’ gaze followed his, and he was surprised to realize just how much the scene looked like a battlefield. Remi shrugged. "She was killed." His voice was flat. "It was a lot like this..." He took a deep breath. "I guess I overreacted."

"This is ‘overreacting’? I’d hate to see you really get mad." The comment was in Bobby’s usual joking tone, but there was an undercurrent of seriousness that struck a chord with Charles.

Remi’s head snapped up, and he stared at Bobby until the younger boy took a half-step back. Remi stood slowly, painfully, and Charles once again cursed the shields that kept him out of Remi’s mind.

"No, you definitely don’t want to see that," Remi finally said, and Charles felt a chill.


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