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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 29

Remi made it out the door before the reaction set in. His knees buckled, and he sagged to the floor with his shoulder pressed against the cool metal of the massive door. He was trembling violently, and wrapped his arms around himself to try to contain it. He could see the edges of his vision turning black and fought against the encroaching darkness. I will not do this, he told himself over and over again. I will not black out. I can handle this. Unfortunately, the tendency to become comatose in reaction to extreme emotional stress was something his very species made him susceptible to.

Unlike humans, who were mammals, the Shiíar were descended from avian ancestors. And unlike the human forerunners that had been forced to run to evade the predator, the Shiíarís earliest form had been capable of flight. Height had been their prime means of protection, rather than stealth or speed. On the grand scale of things, the small birds had been rather delicate creatures, and when faced directly with a predator, they had very often responded by dying in their tracks from the sheer fright. Their sentient descendants were much tougher than that, of course, but despite the Shiíar peopleís prowess as fighters and their reputation for tenacity, they still retained some shadow of their avian ancestry. As a point in fact, the Shiíar language had no word for suicide. Remi had found it a baffling concept because among his own people, if someone were ever to become so desperate as to carry through on the act of killing themselves, they would already have long since died from the emotional stress. It was called "dying of pain".

Remi Neramani did not intent to die of pain. He was as much human as he was Shiíar, and to humans, pain was something that couldnít kill. In fact, thatís what they said, "Itís only pain. It wonít kill you."

He jumped at the sensation of a hand touching his face, and succeeded in slamming the back of his head against the door. Blinking away tears, he found himself staring into his fatherís concerned face.


Remi nodded, unable to speak. The blackness around his vision was slowly receding, chased away by his fatherís mere presence. The hand on his face stroked his cheek gently before moving to his hair. Remi slid forward so that he could lean his head against his fatherís knee and closed his eyes.

"Iím sorry, Remi. I didnít mean for this to happen."

Remi squeezed his eyes shut more tightly. "I almost killed them." It was an ashen whisper.

The strong hands cupped his face and forced him to look up. His fatherís expression was stern, but his eyes were shadowed with worry. "What happened?"

Remi thought back through the confusing montage of impressions. "I donít know," he was forced to admit. "For a minute, I wasnít in the Danger Room anymore. I would have sworn to you that I wasóthat I was in Dallas again. I could see it and feel it. And all I could think about was getting to the Queen before she killed Rachel." Deep inside, Remi was terrified. Every sense he possessed had deceived him into believing for those critical moments that he was in Dallas. Even his kinesthetic sense had identified the airborne forms of Scott and Warren as Ororo instead. He wondered if he was beginning to lose his mind.

"Will you show me?"

Remi bit his lip. The thought of anyone going through his memories was almost sickening. He didnít want to look at the past right now. He didnít want to think. He didnít want to remember. But this was his father asking, and there was no one else who could help him.

Hesitantly, he lowered his shields and felt his father step into his mind.

Charles steadied himself against the brief disorientation as he looked around at Remiís mindscape. He was standing in the midst of a desert plain. The brown dirt beneath his feet was hard and cracked, and stretched away from him in unbroken monotony. Far in the distance, Charles could see bluffs, more cheerfully colored in oranges and dusty roses. Overhead, the cloudless sky was a blue so intense it seemed purple. He found the desolation of the scene alarming, coming from the mind of a fifteen year old. Still, he could not deny that it had a kind of beauty to it as well.

Charles forced himself to quit gawking and get to work. He started walking toward the bluffs. The structure of Remiís mind would have to be around here somewhere, though Charles couldnít guess how it might be represented.

He found out quickly enough. As he walked, frameworks began to rise out of the ground around him. At first, Charles compared them to the I-beam skeletons of incomplete buildings, but then he began to see that the shapes they outlined were far more fantastic than any mere skyscraper. They stretched toward the sky, twisting and twining about each other in pure defiance of the law of gravity. The structures did seem to be made out of metal, and each piece was a different color until all Charles could see around him was a riot of different shades stretching up toward the purplish sky.

Relieved, Charles touched the nearest beam to identify it, and then began working his way up and along the intertwined frames, searching for what might be wrong. At one point, he reached for a new handhold, only to find it wet and slippery. When he climbed up to get a better look, he discovered that liquid was dripping down from above and pooling on the short stub of metal. The liquid had the consistency of water, but where it lay on the smooth surface Charles could see it swirling opaquely with colors, like a pool of mixed paints. He cautiously reached over to touch it, and felt a sudden sensation of warmth, along with a vision of a womanís head nestled against his shoulder, the white streak in her hair shining in the moonlight. Then the image was gone, almost before Charles could register what he had seen. It confirmed his fears about Remiís memory, which had been growing since he had heard the boy speak in Gambitís voice.

He went on, finding other signs of trouble easily now that he knew what kinds of things to look for. In many places, he found corrosion eating away at the undersides of the beams, and more of the watery substance running down the vertical surfaces in rivulets. What it meant was that the basic structure of Remiís memory was breaking down from the slow leakage of Gambitís memories into his mind. The hard box that contained Gambitís life was beginning to disintegrate, and the memories that were leaking out were running down through the structure of Remiís mind. Unfortunately, there was no physical means for Remiís brain to discern between the memories that belonged and the ones that didnít, and in some cases it was adopting Gambitís memories in place of Remiís real experiences. That, added with the terrible stress Remi had been under for the past weeks, and his subconscious desire to block out some of those more recent memories, was rapidly weakening his mindís ability to organize memory in general. Even to the point that he could become so confused as to think that a remembered event was occurring in the present.

Charles sighed and stepped back into his own body. He had seen enough. He opened his eyes to find Remi staring at him expectantly. The fear and confusion was still visible in his eyes, but he had gained control of himself. Briefly, Charles described what he had seen.

Remi stared at the floor, his gaze unfocused, then looked back up at Charles. "Can we fix it?"

Charles nodded slowly. "Some, yes. I can strengthen the walls around Gambitís memories so that they wonít cause any further damage. But what has already been done... that will only heal with time." The task of figuring out which memories belonged to Remi and which were mixed with Gambit was an impossibly big one. But over time, he believed that Remi could, whether consciously or subconsciously, separate the two. Time would also help heal the raw wounds of his friendsí deaths and cover over many of the terrible experiences that were still very fresh in his mind. Charles could not force any of those things to happen more quickly.

"Am I going to have any more of these... spells?" Remiís voice held a quiet terror that disturbed Charles. He wanted more than anything to tell him no, that it would never happen again. But he knew he couldnít lie about this.

"Itís possible," he answered slowly, "but I donít think so unless youíre in another situation like today."

Remi looked relieved, but Charles was secretly afraid that there would be far too many days like today. He knew the enemies the X-Men would soon face. The Inner Circle, Magneto, Apocalypse, and eventually, even the Shadow King himself. They would run across Sentinels much like the ones Remi had fought in Dallas, and Nimrod and MasterMold. The X-Menís lives would always be hard, and Charles was uncertain if Remi would be able to control his memories, considering the damage that had already been done.

The grandfather clock nestled in the corner of Charlesí study chimed once, but Charles didnít bother to look at it. He knew it was hours past midnight, and the exact time had no meaning for him tonight. He was not going to be sleeping. The burden of decision weighed heavily on his shoulders, so much so that he felt like he was being bent double by the sheer immensity of the choice he had to make.

Charles glanced at his coffee mug, but did not pick it up. The dregs inside had been cold for hours, and he did not feel like going to the kitchen to brew more. Frustrated, he wished he could walk, simply for the ability to pace the floor tonight. His whirling thoughts demanded action that his body could not provide.

There were two basic issues that Charles could identify. The first was the matter of choosing the course of the future. On one hand, he could do everything in his power to hold the X-Men to the path of history Remi had shown him, in the hopes that it would be close enough to bring them the same rewards of peace and acceptance that existed in Remiís time. The price for that choice was sending Remi to New Orleans, condemning him to live Gambitís life. And Charles would spend the next twenty-five years knowing the future, both good and bad, and knowing that he could not interfere, no matter how painful the consequences.

The other choice was to build an entirely new future. Remi could remain in his home, and neither of them would know the consequences of their choices until they happened. The risk was that they would fail in the dream, and condemn the entire world to darkness. It had happened twice already, both with Apocalypse and the Shadow King. Charles held no illusions that it might not happen again. But, with the sheer volume of knowledge they now possessed, about the enemies they would soon face and the mistakes that the X-Men had made, they stood the chance of building a world far better than any they had yet seen.

The second issue was far more personalóthe matter of Remiís mental health. In Charlesí mind, the chances were good that Remi would always be the most powerful of the X-Men, with the possible exception of the Phoenix Force. For that reason, he would also always bear the bear the brunt of the conflicts with their most powerful foes. Charles was afraid that Remi simply would not be able to handle the strain, and his memory structure would disintegrate. Charles had no desire to see him lose his mind, for many reasons. In a small corner of his mind Charles admitted that it would break his heart to see that happen, but the most pressing reason was the damage that an insane mutant with the kinds of powers Remi possessed could do.

An example from the future came to mind, and Charles shivered. Legion had very nearly destroyed them all by creating an alternate future where Apocalypse reigned supreme. Charles wondered if he might be able to convince Gabby to let him see the son he had never met. If he could somehow act now to prevent the psychosis that had made Legion who he was. But if he could not, what would happen when the brothers ended up pitted against each other, both with the ability to travel through time? Or, if instead of facing one psychotic, the X-Men were faced with two? The thoughts was staggering as Charles began to imagine the possible results. He was almost appalled at himself for portraying the boys in such a cold light, but he could not deny the possibility that such things could happen. And perhaps were destined to happen, if Charles did not interfere.

Charles closed his eyes and covered them with one hand. He could chase these thought around in his head forever, but it would not change the facts. And he could not avoid his responsibility. He had to make the best choice he could, for everyone.


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