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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 5

Remi took a moment to crouch down, stretching his knees. The street they were on had once been a quiet drive, lined by trees. Houses stood a ways off the road, their driveways often marked by wrought iron gates. Had he not been a mutant, Remi would have thought it was an ordinary neighborhood. But he was a telepath, and the emptiness of the houses around him was a wrongness that ate away at the edges of his mind.

They had arrived several miles farther south, at the only gate point Cody knew outside the city proper. At least, the city as it existed now. Bishop had drawn them a map when Cody had begun to explain how his power worked. What was now San Fransico was only a fraction of the city as it existed in Remi’s time. The Safe Zone, as Bishop had called it, was a small fortified enclave in the bay area, near the remains of the Golden Gate bridge. Cody knew a gate point in that area, but Bishop had insisted that they not gate into the city proper because of the alarms it would raise. So instead they were walking. It was about a six mile hike, which wasn’t too bad. But Remi had been through so much already that day that he was beginning to feel the strain.

They walked in silence, both physical and telepathic. The X-Men worked together with very little communication, and Remi had the distinct impression that they had simply been doing it for so long that they didn’t need to talk to know their responsibilities. It was impressive, but also eerie.

How you guys holding up? he asked Cody and Renee. For different reasons, he was most concerned about them. Cody was exhausted from the constant gating, and Renee was just... delicate. The radical change in their lives was taking its toll on her. She walked like an automaton, head down, steps shuffled. Her staff tapped against the blacktop in a steady rhythm.

Renee? he asked again.

The tapping of her staff continued, rhythm unbroken. Go away, Remi.

Remi and Cody exchanged glances. Remi had kept him included in the conversation, but he only shrugged.

It’s all gone, isn’t it? Cody stepped over a tree branch that lay in the street. A few brown leaves clung to the severed limb, and they rattled when his foot brushed the wood. Our world? He looked around. Now it’s like this.

Remi nodded. I think so. There’re just so many things that don’t make sense. If this is the timeline that I think it is, we shouldn’t be able to be here. We shouldn’t have been able to get here.

Can the chatter, boys. Jean’s mental voice was firm.

Why? Remi asked.

"I said, be quiet!" Jean turned to stare at them. "No telepathy."

"Why not?" This time it was Rachel who asked the question, and Remi was glad to have Jean’s wrath shifted to another vector.

But Jean simply rolled her eyes. "Betsy’s going to hear us coming a mile away."

"Is... that bad?" The image of Storm raining lightning down on them refused to leave Remi’s mind.

"It is if there’s a Mech between us and her," Bobby said.

Jean studied them for a moment, and then her expression melted into sympathy. "No, it’s not bad. Betsy is the Guardian of San Francisco. But, you’re going to have to learn some things about how this world works." She paused to let the four kids catch up to her. "Here, telepaths are everything. They are our only defense against the Shadow King. Unfortunately, he is a powerful telepath himself, and has developed technology that is psi-sensitive. The best way to get yourself spotted is to use your telepathic powers." She split her gaze between Remi and Rachel. "Now, you two do a pretty good job of shielding, but it’s not worth the risk. Understood?"

Remi and Rachel nodded in unison. The other X-Men had paused while Jean explained, taking the unexpected opportunity for a short rest. Jubilee was stretched out on the asphalt, eyes already closed. Forge sat next to her, his face pale and drawn. Renee seemed to suddenly shake herself out of her funk and went to sit next to him. Remi was glad to see that. Forge could use her help.

The others settled amiably on the street, stretching and searching through packs. Momentary laughter drifted up, and Remi smelled the distinct tang as Logan lit a cigar. He had forgotten that Logan used to smoke those things.

Remi took a quick inventory. It was the first time he’d really had a chance to just look at the X-Men. And what struck him was just how much they looked like the people he was familiar with. Angelo had brought out a battered deck of cards, and was dealing them out to Logan and Bobby. Warren sat by himself, wings arched over his head in a kind of canopy. It left nothing of his face visible in the shadows. Remi watched him for a while. Those wings were really amazing. Remi had never seen the metal ones before. Warren seemed to be nursing a simmering anger whose cause Remi couldn’t even begin to guess. But it was getting worse as the day went on.

Rogue had gone to stand with Bishop, who appeared to be on guard. They sounded like they were talking strategy, though Remi knew so little about the political situation he was only guessing. Rogue kept her back to the rest of the group, as if she were pointedly ignoring them. Or maybe just some of them, Remi amended as he watched Renee slide a hand out of her glove and lightly touch Forge’s forehead. A little touch was all it took, Remi knew. Renee’s power was growth. Any kind of cellular growth. She wore gloves because she, like her mother, had a great deal of trouble with control. But Renee could direct her power, at least. She could cause aging, or she could heal. She could even make living things get bigger. On one of his visits to Earth, she had grown a forest of giant irises in the front yard, mostly to get back at Brian who had run down the ones in the garden with his bicycle. He clearly remembered having to hack the two-story flowers down, too, to the chorus of "timber!"s as each one fell.

"So, what’s a Mech?" Cody asked, and Remi jerked back to the present.

"Mechanized infantry assault vehicle," Forge supplied. It was the first time he had spoken to them. He looked much better, Remi thought. His expression was bright, relieved of pain. "One of the Shadow King’s more dangerous toys. And they’re shielded, so we have a heck of a time detecting them."

"What do they look like?" Cody went to sit next to his sister. He was always fascinated by mechanical things.

"Ever seen ’The Empire Strikes Back’?" Jubilee asked without opening her eyes. "They look like big AT-ATs."

"Big whats?"

"Jubes, if they’re from the future, they’ve probably never heard of ’Star Wars’." Angelo grinned at her over his cards.

Jubilee raised her head and opened her eyes just long enough to stick her tongue out at him. Remi almost laughed. She was a fairly young woman here, and he had heard the stories about what she’d been like at his age. Now, he could see what they’d meant.

Forge was chuckling. "Think of giant headless ostriches. With really big guns."

Remi and Cody exchanged glances as they tried to imagine such a machine. Eventually, Remi had to give up.

They continued on after the short rest. Rachel chewed on her lip while she walked, trying to sort things out. She, of all people, shouldn’t be fazed by time travel. After all, it was a Summers family tradition. But to actually be the one dumped into an unfamiliar time was... unsettling. On the one hand, she knew that the people she cared about would live different lives. She understood that-- intellectually, at least. But she was still angry.

Finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer. She increased her pace until she was even with Jean. "Do you know who I am?"

Jean glanced at her, then looked back toward the approaching city walls. "I suppose so," she answered. "You said your name is Rachel Summers." She paused for a moment. "You don’t look like... the other Rachel I’ve met."

Rachel shook her head. "We’re not the same person, but I was named for her. I guess we’re sort of like sisters." Jean gave her a confused look, and she added, "We weren’t born at the same time in our different futures. We’re not genetically the same person."

Jean’s expression cleared, and she crossed her arms over her breasts. "Then is Scott alive in your time?"

Rachel’s heart sank. "Yes, he is." Her father was dead. She’d already guessed it, but that didn’t make hearing the words any easier. "What happened?"

Jean sighed. "He was killed by the Shadow King. On Muir Island." Her gaze darted to Rachel and then away. "That was eleven years ago." Her face was lined and sad. Rachel was amazed to realize that this woman looked years older than her counterpart in Rachel’s time, despite the fact that she was ten years younger.

"I don’t understand." Rachel was beginning to feel the threat of encroaching tears. "Why is it all so different?" She bit her lip harder and concentrated on the pavement beneath her feet. She was too old to cry.

Jean sighed. "Muir Island was a major turning point. It was the beginning of the Shadow King’s empire, really. He had established a base of operations and had made Lorna Dane into a living focus for his power. We... tried to stop him. But between Legion, Rogue and-- " she paused, almost abashed, "his Queen, we couldn’t get to Lorna." She shook her head, and her voice became shaky. "It was actually Rogue who killed Scott. She... was under the Shadow King’s control. She hardly remembers it." Jean’s gaze was fixed straight ahead. After a moment, she shook herself and went on.

"Anyway, Charles managed to free Rogue and the other X-Men that had been taken. We escaped with our lives, but that was all. The Shadow King expanded his influence from there. I don’t know who he uses for his focus now, but his mind spreads across the planet. Telepaths like Betsy maintain small Safe Zones where people still live free... but I think there are only a dozen or so left."

"And there’s no way to stop him?" Rachel wasn’t sure she could live in a world that was dying so quickly.

Jean’s expression lightened slightly. "Maybe now there is. Your friend, Remi--" she nodded towards him, "who is he?"

Rachel glanced at Remi in surprise. "Well, he’s Uncle Charles’ son. He’s half Shi’ar."

Jean’s eyebrows arched eloquently. "The Gamemaster promised us a mutant that would be able to challenge the Shadow King. Bishop believes he was talking about your friend."

Rachel thought about that for a while. Remi was powerful, she knew that. The adults were all waiting to see what the limits of his powers would turn out to be. Gambit’s powers had been burned out, so, although they’d know from the day he was born what kinds of powers Remi would have, no one could guess their magnitude.

"I don’t know," she finally said. "Maybe." She looked over at Jean. "He’s only fifteen." A small knot of fear was beginning to form in her stomach. There was a desperation in the faces of these X-Men that she had never seen before. She had no idea who or what they might be willing to sacrifice to defeat the Shadow King.


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