Future Pluperfect: Chapter 6


"So we just sit around?" Domino looked around the outdoor café. Not that Greece was a bad place to kill time in the winter.

"We just sit around," Cable agreed. "At least until the action starts."

She watched the old men at the corner table playing dominoes. There were two playing and four watching, leaning back in their chairs with their cigarettes in one hand and their combalos swinging back and forth rhythmically in the other. "Do we know that it will?"

"I'd bet on it," he said almost dismissively. "It was a slip-up to leave Evensea Isthmus on the list. If they could have used the contemporary name, they would have, which means that they didn't want to leave it off."

"What?" She took a sip of her frappé.

"Huh?"

"What are you betting," Domino elaborated. If Nathan was going to be like this, the least she could do was make it worth her while. He had been annoyingly quiet on the flight from New York to Athens and positively silent for the drive between Athens and Corinth. The comfort that she had taken in the fact that she knew more than the X-Men did had worn out long ago. So if she was going to be left to amuse herself, the least she could do was play on her terms.

"Betting... oh. Umm... I don't know, what would you like?" Cable looked thoughtful. Supremely confident, but thoughtful. He could feel Dom's irritation, even though he knew she had been shielding the link more and more since it had been re-established. Were he less focused on the mission, he would have realized that the past thirteen hours in transit would have been a perfect opportunity to mend the still-present rift between the two of them. But he couldn't afford to not focus on the mission, and besides, Dom was used to him keeping his own counsel... which is precisely why she walked out of your life last year, now isn't it, Dayspring?

"How about a nice weekend in Florence?" Domino cocked her head to the side.

"Florence? I didn't think you'd ever want to go back there," he replied, smiling that grin that Domino knew as the 'Remembrances of Damage Done' dreamy smile. "You didn't speak to G.W. for a week after that."

"Or you."

"Or me," Cable agreed, using a little telekinesis to subtly shift the umbrella over their table to block out more sun. "But only for a week. You were a more forgiving person back then."

"No I wasn't," Domino corrected, stirring her drink with her straw. At a kafenio like this one, the frappé was made with a blender so the foam would last. Elsewhere, everyone in Greece owned one of those plastic Nescafe jugs you had to shake yourself. "I just started to go a little crazy talking only to Grizz and Hammer for a week. A girl can talk about fish and football for only so long before she starts to crumble."

Cable chuckled. "It was a good mission."

"You weren't the one dressed up as a nun." Domino sipped delicately at her drink and watched the sweat bead down the side of the water glass. The Greeks understood that coffee was supposed to be strong. That's why a glass of water came with every coffee drink. You got rid of the bitter taste in your mouth afterwards, not during - outside of the tourist areas, an "American coffee" was merely a rumor. A bad joke, like cholesterol and lung cancer.

"No, then it would certainly have been a memorable mission. More so than it already was."

"So that's what I want you to put up. I'd kind of like to see the place without having to scout for good places to have a firefight. It's supposed to have a lot of nice art."

"It does," Cable agreed. "Architecture, too. You're serious?"

"No, this is all elaborate wordplay intended to get you to take me to Disneyworld," Domino retorted.

"I just never considered you as someone who'd like to spend the day looking at piazzas and fountains," Cable replied thoughtfully. There, now they had officially opened the can of worms labeled 'Private Life'.

"I've always liked old cities," Domino answered and shrugged. "We just never got to many while we were with the Pack. New money hires mercs, old money has their own soldiers."

"Just don't tell me you used to go antiquing on off-days," Cable implored, looking at Domino over the top of his sunglasses. She had never really shown an appreciation for the sights while they had been working together. Not, as she had pointed out, that they had seen many pleasant ones. Of course, he probably wouldn't have noticed if she had been playing tourist. For the longest time, down time was something she spent with Grizz.

"Is that a yes?"

"Yeah," Cable confirmed. "One weekend in Florence complete with sightseeing. So what are you putting up?"

"Me? Nothing."

"Nothing? That's not fair."

"It's not my hubris that's getting tested," she said as the waitress came by, refilling their water glasses.

"Hubris?"

"You're so damned sure that you're the one who is going to find the cyborgs - which are your idea, don't forget - and you are the one who wouldn't let anyone else come with you. You think you can do this all by yourself."

"Not by myself. You're here."

"I'm here only for the spectacle. It's either hubris or gross stupidity on your part. I think hubris is more flattering." At the nearest occupied table, a couple of college-aged girls were digging in to a massive piece of galatoboureko and Domino decided she was getting a little hungry.

"I resent that."

"Resent away. We're here by ourselves looking to take on some of the thirty-eighth century's most dangerous soldiers. You better hope all you have do is cough up a couple of days in Florence."

Cable said nothing then, but smiled inwardly. The block on her end of the psi-link was being held in place just a little less tightly.

***

"Anyone out there?" Cannonball asked Psylocke as they surveyed the small town in the valley below them. He wished Magneto hadn't spent so much time making him read history. Those who were ignorant of the past may be condemned to repeat it, but there was nothing comforting that the past could teach him about hiding out waiting for a fight in the middle of a Russian winter.

"I don't sense anyone," the telepath replied, her breath thick in the frigid air. "Either we're too late or they've already fled."

"I hope it's the latter," Archangel mused. He ruffled his wings to keep them warm. It had not been his first choice to come to this Ukrainian farming village, but Cyclops had correctly pointed out that out of the flyers, he was best suited to open country and not the vines and trees of the jungle. Not that he couldn't negotiate tight spaces - Charles had made damned sure he could do the best his condor-like wingspan could manage - but as long as there were others... So he had headed off to the Ukraine, where it was cold, very cold, and the sweltering dankness of Belize didn't sound so bad just about now.

"There's Gambit," Iceman said, pointing to a spot in the distance. "He's almost to the village." He frowned to himself as Archangel grunted. Were he the one separating the teams, he wasn't sure he'd have put Archangel and Gambit on the same unit. Of course, the alternative was to have the Cajun go with either Rogue's team or Joseph's, and, well, the former would probably use him as cannon fodder and the latter would be tripping over himself apologizing. Scott was just sadistic enough to make Warren deal head-on with his lingering antipathy towards Gambit. Sadistic in the sense that Fearless Leader wouldn't care who else had to suffer while Warren pouted.

"Are you sure we should have left him go alone to scout?" Colossus asked. "I at least speak the language."

Psylocke laughed gently. "No offense, Colossus, but you aren't exactly built for skulking. Gambit'll be fine. He's not supposed to be talking to anyone."

And there's the other misfit, Iceman thought to himself. We take Piotr because Kitty's treating him like Rogue's treating Gambit. Since when did I become the designated master of the reject rack?

#You and me both, Drake#, Psylocke sent back at him. #What? You're projecting.#

Down amongst the naked wheat stalks, Gambit moved carefully. He had been insistent on taking the point on the mission - he had claimed that his thieving skills would make him the best candidate, but in reality, he wanted to see if the Harvesters were there.

Breaking into open ground, Gambit looked around. Nobody was outdoors, which was not normal for a farming village in mid-day. Even during winter, when there were no crops to tend, someone should have been chasing a cow or something.

Gun cocked, Gambit edged around the side of a barn. In the distance, he could see movement. Soldiers - taller than he was, much more so than the Harvesters, and heavily armored. Their faces were obscured by reflective shields and they were all carrying large-gauge plasma weapons.

Too late. Running silently towards the column, he could see Harvesters moving in and out of homes, accompanied by the taller soldiers. Like Quebec, the people are 'asleep' throughout. But who knocked them out?

"Only one t'ing to do," Gambit mumbled as he took aim at a Harvester, careful to go for the head. The gun was not silenced and the shot rang out loudly in the thin, silent air.

#Gambit? Are you all right?#

We're almost too late, Psylocke. The attackers are going through town killing people in their sleep. Bring everyone down here. I'm trying to distract them.

Gambit was alternately firing his weapons and ducking away from the lasers returning in his direction when the rest of the team arrived. Archangel and Cannonball were airborne, Iceman ferrying the others on an ice slide. They set down behind the storehouse Gambit was hiding behind, all with matching looks of confusion.

"Why isn't anyone fighting back?" Cannonball asked.

"Can't," Gambit replied.

Iceman stood away from the wall and peered around the corner at the soldiers. "Let's see if an ice wall will slow them down. Pen them in, maybe."

Gambit couldn't see the wall that was getting built, but didn't need to.

"Err... maybe not."

"At least the odds are in our favor," Archangel called back to the others as he hovered nearby. "Five of them versus six of us."

"Dat don't count the ones on the other side o' town," Gambit pointed out. "Suspect the numbers are probably double what we got."

"Well, that's certainly never stopped us before," Colossus shrugged. "Come, let us not waste any more time."

"Cannonball," Archangel began, gesturing with his arm in the direction of the village center. "You go with Psylocke and Gambit and see how bad the damage is over there. Colossus, Iceman, and I will stay here to see what we can do."

Cannonball nodded, waiting for the other two before blasting into the air.

"They're robots, don't bother wit' your psi knives," Gambit warned as one materialized in Psylocke's hand.

Psylocke arched an eyebrow in disbelief, but discorporated the knife after a telepathic scan of the visible soldiers produced no results.

"Well," she sighed. "Let's go."

Gambit gestured for Cannonball to take to the air, putting his finger to his lips to indicate that he should do so as quietly as possible and the younger man nodded before alighting with a muffled rumble. Gambit and Psylocke had no problems passing through the town by foot completely unnoticed. It was almost a race - his thief's grace versus her shadow-walking - although they kept within sight of each other for simple safety reasons.

Still at the storehouse, Iceman, Colossus, and Archangel took stock of the situation.

"Well, we aren't going to outgun them, that's for sure," Iceman said. "I guess we'll have to try for the best and outsmart them."

"I might have a little luck with more rudimentary means," Colossus said as he pushed away from the wall and moved towards some of the closest attackers. In his steel form, the plasma blasts ricocheted off and Iceman threw up a shield to deflect some of the blasts.

"Colossus, no!" Archangel watched helplessly as the super-strong Russian was quickly overmatched by a pair of the mirror-faced soldiers. A third came to help hold him in place as one of the smaller, more human-looking robots approached. These weren't even armed and Archangel wondered what function they could serve until one arm extended and a menacing-looking golden claw was visible at the end of it. The claw was apparently hot enough to melt whatever Iceman was trying to freeze it with and there was a flash of light when it made contact with Colossus's chest. The big Russian screamed in agony and the other two could see him visibly start to weaken.

"It's like a robot Rogue," Archangel murmured to himself as he went into a sharp dive, building up speed so that he would have enough momentum to grab the clawed robot. Careful to get a grip that would keep his face - the only part of him with exposed skin - away from the claw's reach, he banked sharply to the right and climbed again into the air, looking for a place to drop his passenger. Settling for dumping it in a fallow field, Archangel sped back to where Iceman was fighting off two soldier-robots in an attempt to free the slumped Colossus from the other three.

"Freeze the trio holding Colossus," Archangel called out to Iceman as he took the safety off his rifle. "And then I'll shoot. Hopefully, the ice will cool their metal enough to make them brittle."

<POW!><KaBOOM!>

The explosion, obviously coming from the other side of the village, was a surprise.

"What the..."

Down the street from where the smoke was rising, thick and acrid, Psylocke, Cannonball, and Gambit came running. They stopped before the remains of a burning house, evidence of charred robot shining in the sun as the smell of burning flesh filled the air.

"Friend or foe?" Psylocke spun around, psi knife in her hand. A strangely dressed young woman was standing a couple of yards behind them.

"The enemy of mine enemy is my friend," the woman replied in a heavy accent Psylocke couldn't recognize, her defiant posture matched by a disapproving expression. "It does no good, friend Gambit, to arm the soldiers if they will not fire."

"We do not kill, Askani."

"You know her?" Psylocke raised an eyebrow as she dissolved the knife. That Gambit had been the one to provide the X-Men with the crucial information suddenly seemed a whole lot less random. "Askani?"

"You didn't tell me 'bout dese new ones," Gambit told the new arrival, ignoring his teammate.

"It was not intentional on my part," she replied with a disappointed sigh, her expression softening marginally. "I apologize for not better anticipating our opponent."

Psylocke suddenly gasped and stumbled into Cannonball's arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Archangel, Iceman, and a wounded-looking Colossus down the street. They picked up their pace towards them as she fell.

"Are all telepaths here-and-now so devoid of manners that they invite themselves into even a stranger's mind?" The woman asked coldly, pushing aside the edge of her surcoat so they could see the weapon belted to her left hip. "Attempt such rudeness again and you shall be headblind for all your days."

"Gettin' back to the matter at hand here," Cannonball spoke up, keeping up his grip on Psylocke so she didn't karate chop the woman before they got answers. He, too, was confused about Gambit calling her 'Askani', but pushed aside his curiosity for now. "Didn't you just kill a house full of civilians to get to a few robots?"

"The occupants were already dead, although everyone in this encampment is dead in spirit if not yet in body," the woman replied. "We are too late."

"I can't feel anybody," Psylocke agreed reluctantly as she stood up, working hard to dampen her outrage at the stranger. Yes, barging into someone else's mind was somewhat rude, but the response had been something well beyond a simple mental door-slamming. Far be it wise to trust one of Gambit's friends without caution, but he did treat her as though she knew what was going on. Which was more than any of the X-Men could say. "Were they rendered unconscious?" Even as she asked, she knew that wasn't the answer. The utter lack of any sort of mental activity was not that of any sleep.

"Mindwiped," the woman answered, shaking her head as if in disappointment. "They are catatonic and will never awaken. Those that are not killed this day will perish of dehydration and starvation."

Gambit waited for Iceman, Colossus, and Archangel to pull up before speaking. "How bad is it?" he asked the Askani.

"Have you destroyed any of the Harvesters?"

"The X-Men don't kill, Miss," Cannonball warned.

"Then you shall sentence the future to unending horror as well as cost one of your cohort his life," she replied with a disgusted expression. Gesturing at Gambit, she added, "The students of Xavier have already shown themselves capable of the latter. Would your selective passivity allow a holocaust as well?"

"We are no cowards," Colossus spoke up. "Some of us have already died to prevent such atrocities."

"Then show your courage," she challenged. "The window of opportunity is rapidly closing and the Harvesters feed even as we fuel our own discord. Your quarry is not sentient, far indeed from human, so do not lets pangs of misguided guilt carry this day." With that, she disappeared.

"Your friend's got an attitude," Psylocke said dryly, frowning at Gambit.

"Friend?" The just-arrrived Archangel raised an eyebrow. "You do seem to have them in the most peculiar places, Gambit." And what secrets does she hold for you this time, dear teammate? None pleasant, I'm willing to guess...

"Peut-être." Gambit shrugged, imagining what was going on behind the sudden darkness in Archangel's eyes and pushing aside the thoughts. "But she's also right. We gotta get back to work. What's left behind after the Harvesters are done ain't pretty."

"Well, since we don't have to worry about any more fatalities," Cannonball began ruefully.

"Let's split into pairs and go robot-hunting, huh?" Iceman suggested, picking up Cannonball's cue. Best get Warren away from Gambit now, before someone says something else.

"Don't worry 'bout the big ones," Gambit told the newer arrivals. "Harvesters are the trouble."

"Trust me, tovarisch," Colossus replied ruefully, touching the scorch mark on his chest that would need treatment the moment he reverted back to flesh-and-blood, "This we know well."

"Keep in contact with me," Psylocke told everyone.

Mindful of their opponents' abilities, the X-Men fared better on their second attempt at drawing out their opponents. After years of Danger Room sessions with Rogue, dealing with the Harvesters proved relatively easy, while the challenge lay in getting them away from their so-far invulnerable escorts.

A half-hour later, the team was going house-to-house looking for either survivor or attacker, the mirror-faced soldiers seemingly having vanished into the mist. In one small farmhouse, Archangel walked into a bedroom to find Psylocke holding a child in her arms.

"I can't undo it," she whispered brokenly, looking up at him with tear-laden eyes. "The girl is alive, but I can't fix her mind. There's nothing left to reconstruct. She's going to die, and the only choice I have is to let nature take its course or take care of it myself."

Coming over to them, he could see the child's blue eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. She couldn't be more than five or six years old and, even expressionless, her face had the shine of innocence.

"Let me take her," Archangel said quietly. For I am Death, and I have come to claim that which is mine. Psylocke handed over the child reluctantly, smoothing her soft hair once she was settled in Archangel's arms. Holding the child close and feeling her slow, even breathing, Archangel turned away from Psylocke and walked to the window. "Do it."

Behind him, he heard Psylocke sigh deeply. After a moment, the girl's breathing stopped. Archangel closed the child's eyes, but did not otherwise move. He felt Psylocke's hand on his arm.

"Let's go," she whispered.

He put the child back into her bed, tucking in the covers like he imagined her parents would do (were they not in the same vegetative state in the room next door), and turned away.

#She died in the arms of an Angel, Warren. The best fate of anyone in this town today. Would that be enough to comfort us.#

Once out on the street, they caught up with the other four.

"Ah think we're done, for what that's worth," Cannonball said once they were all together. His eyes were dull, Gambit noticed, the same way they had been after he had gotten back from Slovenia. Boy's too young to be seeing this. "We got the claws and the big ones disappeared."

"Maybe we should take one of the robot carcasses back with us," Iceman suggested. "See if Hank or Kitty or someone can take it apart and make something of it. Keep this from happening again."

Colossus found a relatively intact Harvester - one that had been decapitated earlier, its head lying next to it - and the group slowly made their way back to their plane. The town felt haunted in a way it hadn't before, the wind whistling through the streets in eerie echoes.

As they passed in front of the last house before the fields began, a laser blast exploding behind them shattered the heavy silence.

"Damn it, so much for getting out of here unscathed," Psylocke hissed as she brought her gun around.

"Look, over there, they've got a hostage!"

At the edge of the field, a dozen of the mirror-faced soldiers stood. Two of them were guarding a terrified young woman holding an infant.

"Let her go!" Colossus called out, first in Russian, then in English. Nobody moved.

"Aim for their heads," Gambit suggested as he saw Psylocke put the gun sight to her eye. The bullets ricocheted off the mirrored masks. "Mebbe not."

"On the tractor!"

Cannonball nudged Gambit as they all turned. "Your friend is back."

Looking over, they could see the woman aiming a shotgun at the soldiers.

"Maybe she's got bigger bullets."

The blast echoed loudly and they could hear the hostage scream. The baby lay on the ground and the woman was huddled in pain, blood pouring from her chest. The baby had been hit as well and Colossus nearly retched as he saw the damage done by the blast to the tiny head.

"What the..."

Horrified, Gambit shifted his attention between the Askani and the Kurioon soldiers that were not moving to either retaliate or take aim at the X-Men.

"That's quite enough," Psylocke snarled as she pulled a pistol out of her holster and fired. The woman collapsed a moment later, the shotgun clanking loudly against the tractor hood. "Sedative darts. We have an inhibitor band in the mini-jet. That'll keep her from running off before we deal with her."

"Cannonball, go get her and meet us at the plane," Archangel ordered angrily.

"Where did the soldiers go?" Psylocke asked in surprise.

The space where the dozen soldiers had been was empty.

"The baby and the woman are gone, too," Iceman said in disgusted awe.

Gambit followed behind the others, nauseous with the fear that he had just accidentally run counter to the good guys once again.

***

Storm watched as Colossus carried an unconscious figure in from the hangar. "That is the woman from Belize."

"Funny, we found her next to a barn in the Ukraine," Iceman replied with a frown as he tagged along behind. The ride home had been... charged. It was almost as if they had brought home two prisoners - Gambit and his mysterious friend. "Where's Cyke?"

"Coming... What? How did you end up with her?" Cyclops asked as he approached. "Piotr, take her to the med lab and have Hank keep an eye on her. She's a teleporter and I don't want her popping out until we get a few answers out of her."

Colossus nodded, but Cyclops tagged along anyway.

At that moment Gambit jogged through the door, avoiding everyone but keeping an eye on the retreating Colossus and his burden.

"Gambit, I think you had best go upstairs," Archangel said coldly from where he stood next to Psylocke and Phoenix. "I'm sure everyone will want to talk to you shortly."

The Cajun turned sharply at the command, glared, but left without a word.

"What was that all about?" Jean raised an eyebrow meaningfully at Warren.

"The lady in question is apparently a friend of our mysterious teammate," Psylocke said evenly, debating whether to share with Jean the two images that she couldn't shake from her mind: the half-headless baby and the child she and Warren had found. As far as she was concerned, the woman was responsible for both deaths.

Remy went directly up to his room, pondering whether or not to pack his things and leave before he was asked to go. He didn't consider himself a coward and fleeing would be hard on the ego, but a second pardon would be too much to ask for. He wasn't even sure he wanted another pardon and sincerely hoped he didn't need one. I'm not the only one with secrets, but I'm the only one who has to apologize for them.

"Goin' somewhere?"

Wolverine was in the doorway as Gambit stood in front of his open drawers. The younger man covered his surprise at the visit and shrugged indifferently.

Logan took it for what it was worth. He had seen Archangel bark at the kid and thought it uncalled for, especially with Cyke right there. Scott had been saying as much to Warren when he had slipped past Storm and moved upstairs to find Gambit.

"Before you take off, answer me this: who is she?"

Remy sighed and pulled his cowl off, ruffling his hair where it had been pressed against his skin. "Tol' you already. She's the woman who rescued me from Antarctica."

"Relax, Gumbo, I'm not Archangel. Or Rogue," Logan said, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him once he heard the voices of the others as they emerged from the basement complex and moved around the main floor below him. "What do you know about her?"

Remy pulled off his body armor and his uniform shirt before replying.

"Said she's from Cable's time," he said as he leaned against the chest of drawers, now closed. "Told me 'bout the Harvesters and 'bout where we'd find them. She gave me the disk."

"The Harvesters are those robots?"

"The ones wit' the claws," Remy nodded, seemingly taking strength from the other man's even tone.

Logan frowned to himself. The kid was entirely too preoccupied with what others thought about him. "What did she want you to do?"

"Destroy the Harvesters and keep Cable as far away as possible."

"That's it?"

Remy nodded vigorously. "Told her I didn't want to keep secrets from you guys, not after Antarctica, but she didn't give me much alternative..."

"She threaten you?" Logan pushed up off the wall, concerned.

"Non! Just made it sound like anyt'ing I said would put Cable's life in jeopardy," Remy explained, then frowned with obvious disgust. "Did what she said 'cause it was a debt to be paid. For saving my life. For a t'ief, I get into awful problems with owing people, hein?"

Logan said nothing for a long moment, chewing thoughtfully on his unlit cigar.

"She killed a maman and un bébé today, Logan," Remy sighed heavily, looking at Logan with a gaze that was never anything but shockingly penetrating. Even now, when it was accompanied by such a soft, defeated tone of voice. "Jus' took out 'er gun and bang... She was aimin' at them. No accident. Even if she's here to help Cable..." He trailed off, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Won't be the first psycho we've had on our side," Logan replied with a shrug. "But we'll see."

Remy made an indecipherable face, but said nothing.

"Alright," Logan said, turning to reach for the doorknob. He was almost out the door before Remy said anything.

"C'est tout? 'Alright'?"

"What else ya want? I know you're not lyin', so now it's just a matter of gettin' Wings off yer back. Cyke's reasonable, even if the girl's a nutjob," Logan said, shrugging. "I'm not gonna tell ya to lie low or anything; you lie any lower then you been doin' and you'll be in the basement."

"Yeah, well," Remy replied, shrugging. "Shower clear?"

"Yeah."

***

"She's either tellin' the truth or she's a real good liar," Logan spoke quietly to Jean and Scott as he finished retelling Gambit's story. They were standing in the hallway outside the med lab, awaiting Hank's return. "Remy's even more freaked then when he came back from Antarctica, but he's not lyin' now... anymore than he was then."

Scott took the silent rebuke without comment. Issues surrounding Gambit had yet to be fully resolved and every reminder of that fact bespoke a weakness on his own leadership. "I don't know what to do, then. Even if she saved Remy's life, she's killed how many others? She doesn't look like an Askani sister. The clothes are close enough, but everything else..."

"Her shields are so complex, I can't even begin to explain," Jean added. "They make Nathan's look simple and his are quite impressive."

"Ah, there you are," Hank called as he appeared at the bottom of the stairwell. "So much for my attempts at taking the initiative by tracking you down to the study. Shall we?" He gestured grandly towards the med lab.

The mysterious woman was still unconscious. Jean felt a moment's guilt about the inhibitor band they had placed on her ankle, but, well, she was a teleporter.

"Do we know what those things on her hands are?" Scott asked, gesturing at the thin metal bracelets that were on each wrist. They were delicate and marked with some sort of design and would easily be able to pass for jewelry were there not some sort of flexible metal ribbons stretching from them to the webbing between each of her fingers. "Are those robotic... or techno-organic?"

McCoy held up a limp hand. "She has no anatomical irregularities in her wrists or hands and the bracelet part moves freely around, but these... attachments seem to be bonded to her skin."

"Are they dangerous?"

"The entire contraption is probably some sort of weapon," Hank allowed, "but I can't remove the bracelet and I dare not remove the rest."

Scott nodded and ran fingers through hair. "Even if she's from the future, she could be a Canaanite spy, or even part of Apocalypse's minion. They got a little spiteful, Nathan said, after the boss died."

"I hope it's not that. Gambit would never get over it," Jean said sadly, then frowned in irritation. "Nor would Archangel. Hank, do you know when she'll wake up?"

"I can wake her now, if you'd like."

"Might as well," Scott said.

Fifteen minutes after she had nearly taken the blue-furred beast's arm off as he waved smelling salts beneath her nose - a move that had prompted another of her captors to pin her arms in an uncomfortable position until she could convince them that she meant no harm - Mirrin sat on a bed in the medlab surrounded by the X-Men.

And so my third introduction to the most important heroes of all goes no better than the first two, she thought to herself. When she had been a child, she had heard many stories of this group. Brave, virtuous fighters who battled against the forces of evil for good, not for conquest. Warriors who showed compassion to all and used their mutant abilities to help humanity instead of enslave it.

When she was older and her childish naiveté had been replaced by the grim realities of a life on the run, Mirrin had listened enraptured because the Askani passed on these stories as treasured tales. For these were the compeers of the Mother Askani herself, the clan of the First Ones. Nathan's parents were standing before her and Mirrin was filled with an awe she didn't think she was capable of anymore, a new brightness to counteract the bitter resentment that usually went along with any consideration of her life's mission.

Mirrin closed her eyes to center herself. Awe and hero worship had its place, but not here. Not when she had a job to do. These may be the original followers of Xavier, but until she found Nathan, they were to be given no quarter. Especially when they were keeping her prisoner without access to her telepathy.

She opened her eyes when someone spoke.

"Take those off," she was told, indicating the armor on her wrists.

"I cannot," she replied, acutely aware of her accent. "They are attuned to my psi signature and I do not imagine that you will be removing the inhibitor anytime soon." She lifted her ankle slightly and was rewarded with a menacing step forward by the short man who had so recently held her arms back.

"Who are you?" Scott asked in the language he had used in the thirty-eighth century. It was one of the few phrases he still remembered.

Mirrin smiled at the use, albeit heavily accented, of a tongue she had not heard since her childhood even as she was surprised. But this was Nathan's father - the Mother Askani's father - so the surprise was not so great. "I am called Askani," she answered back in formal speech.

"But what is your name?" Scott asked with a frown, reverting to English. "It's something else. Even if you were Askani, it would be something else."

"I am called Askani."

"Fine," Scott growled. "Then what are you doing in this time?"

"The affairs of the Sisterhood are not to be discussed freely or with outsiders."

"We're not outsiders, damn it!"

Mirrin cocked an eyebrow.

"You rescued one of our friends," Jean began in a gentle voice. You attract more flies with sugar... "Why?"

Mirrin laughed sharply. "Because he was freezing to death."

Behind her, Mirrin heard the small man bark out a laugh.

"But why were you in Antarctica?"

The why of any situation... "The affairs of the Sisterhood are not to be discussed freely or with outsiders."

Jean frowned. If sugar didn't work, she knew of a certain cosmic entity that had a better success rate. From personal experience, Jean knew that the legend of Dark Phoenix had survived until the thirty-eighth century.

#Be careful, Jean,# Cyclops sent over their psychic rapport. #There's no point in antagonizing her any further until we get some information out of her.#

Jean nodded silently to her husband, and then turned the charm back on to deal with their 'guest'. "Who do you work for?"

"I am called Askani."

The interrogation went on in a similar vein for some time before an exasperated Cyclops left Wolverine and Colossus to escort Mirrin up to one of the spare bedrooms on the main level. The room was psi-dampened and had no means of easy escape.

"I find out ya used the Cajun and I'll send you back to your time in a pine box," Wolverine hissed at her once inside the room, extending a claw for emphasis. Piotr frowned, but did not say anything.

"Pine is a most valued material in my here-and-now," the woman told him indifferently. "It would be a generous gift well appreciated by my clan."

Logan snarled. "I wouldn't be so cocky. That anklet knocks you down a peg or three." He indicated the inhibitor latched to her right leg.

"Only the weak rely on their powers, feral one. Headblind and bound, I need no gifts to survive."

Logan was about to say something else when Piotr finally stepped in. "Tovarisch, let us go. We are not being productive here. She will not cower and you will not strike her down."

"Until later," Wolverine told the Askani.

"G'Journey."

***


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e are not being productive here. She will not cower and you will not strike her down."

"Until later," Wolverine told the Askani.

"G'Journey."

***


feedback?


Back to the fic index