Future Pluperfect: Chapter 9




"Everyone make it back in one piece?" Cyclops asked the video-phone screen before even sitting down. No sooner had the ramp extended from the Blackbird than Cannonball had told him that there was a transmission from Scotland and did he want to take it.

"Ja, nothing worse than a few bruises and some shredded uniforms," Nightcrawler confirmed from the other side of the connection. He looked tired-but-relaxed; the endorphins having been washed away with all of the grime accrued on a mission. "We kept the civilian casualties low, considering we got there after it started. The townsmen were well enough to chase us away after we were finished..."

"They're Frenchmen," Scott replied with a snort and a shrug. He knew Kurt really didn't expect any better treatment on that side of the Atlantic than they got here. "Mutants and Brits, their two favorites segments of the population."

"Brian took a few vegetables to the back," Kurt added, fighting off a grin as he tried to be deadpan about it. "If they really didn't want Captain Britain saving their derrières... Meggan was more put out than Brian was, however. Thankfully Piotr was standing close by..."

A wet washcloth floated into Scott's peripheral vision and when he turned to thank his wife for sending it, he was promptly hit in the face with a dry towel thrown by Bobby. He made faces at them both, ignored Kurt's delighted cackle behind him, and turned around to face the screen again.

"Speaking of, did Piotr's experience prove useful?" he asked as he wiped down his face with the washcloth.

Colossus had returned to Excalibur two days ago and probably wasn't even over his jet lag before the Harvesters had attacked a village in the lower Loire valley. Not that exhaustion would stop Piotr, even on a bad day.

"Quite. Lockheed roasted many of them by himself, although Wisdom had to see for himself that his hotknives were only going to defeat the purpose," Kurt sighed heavily. "Kitty had to phase him out of trouble... I've never really considered how many of our powers are energy-based before now. It is somewhat disconcerting to find almost all of your established strategies are no longer viable. More a problem for you than us, however."

"Tell me about it," Scott sighed in agreement. "I still have the bruises from where I nearly became lunch in Belize. He rubbed at his upper arm. He had a few new ones too, courtesy of this morning's foray. "But we've been lucky so far. Bruised egos mostly. I don't know what we're going to do if we don't stop this before it gets too big."

"Have you considered seeking the help of some more... traditional soldiers?"

"I don't know who I could ask, Kurt," Scott replied honestly. "It's not like it's just in the States, so even if I could just call up the Joint Chiefs of Staff and let them know that an almost unstoppable army has arrived from the future and will slaughter thousands in their quest to kill my son..."

"Ich verstehen," Nightcrawler agreed as he reached out to wipe a spot off of the video-phone screen. "The UN, perhaps... We're missing a lot of pieces, Scott. The villages we've found have all been relatively close to some sort of population center. But if your reports are correct," and here he waved the printouts that had been spewing forth from the printer all week long, his tail pointing at another pile, "then this Kurioon has been feeding in places we don't know about yet. They've found the energy to produce these 'Colorless' soldiers that weren't there before. From what Piotr said, those soldiers were no toys. But where are they getting this energy from?"

Scott leaned back in his seat and ran fingers through hair. "I don't know. We've wondered that as well. I can't imagine how many tiny villages in whatever corners of the world are lying empty right now. I don't know of any way to find out and we certainly don't have the manpower to run a global census. Joseph went off in a huff yesterday to Guatemala or thereabouts, determined to find out on his own... At least Rogue didn't go with him."

Kurt chortled. "Do Cable and..."

"Mirrin."

"...Mirrin have any suggestions? Do they only need human energy sources, or could they feed on a regular power source like a nuclear plant or hydraulic power..."

"We'd probably know if any reactors were under siege. Mirrin doesn't know what the Kurioon could use for energy - she says that they're only really used in areas where there aren't any other sorts of power, so she's never seen them use anything other than human sources." He shuddered in revulsion. That had been an unpleasant conversation.

"And Cable is keeping his own counsel," Kurt prompted carefully.

"He's not hiding anything," Scott replied, not bothering to be defensive about it.
"More he's just content to let Mirrin answer all of our dumb questions while he does his own research. He's been remarkably forthcoming, considering his usual behavior, so I'm not complaining."

"Take heart in small victories, ja?"

"Yeah. Although I don't think I ever envisioned my son following my footsteps in the business..." With both Alex and Nathan around, Scott had had more than enough cause to lament the course his family's history had taken over the past decade or so and while he hadn't gotten so maudlin as to prompt Jean to snap at him, it was weighing on him more than it usually did.

"At least you didn't draft him like Magneto did his own..."

"You're right," Scott laughed a little deliriously. Trust Kurt to find the bright spot in anything. "That means I'm down to 999,999 things I've done wrong as a father... Sorry. It's been a long day. We just got back from Madripoor." He picked ineffectually at the sleeve of his uniform. The one that wasn't slightly tattered.

"So I see... Pardon for a moment," Kurt replied, then turned and fiddled with the volume on the intercom. The faint strains of what was obviously Moira's voice could be heard in the distance. "Ja, ja, I'll tell him," Kurt responded to the doctor. "Moira asks that Hank please call her at his earliest convenience."

"That's not what she said," Scott pointed out with a snort of laughter.

"No, but it would be impolite for me to report that the chieftain of Clan Kinross warns that if McCoy doesn't get his big blue bottom over to a video-phone within the next twenty-four hours, she's got a battle axe and knows how to use it."

"Ever the diplomat, Kurt, ever the diplomat."

A flourish of hand and tail served as a response.

"Listen, this vid-phone may not be equipped with olfactory sensors, but I can assure you that I'm starting to offend myself here. Let me go debrief with the other stinky ones and I'll let you know if we have anything interesting to report... And I'll pass on Moira's message."

"Bis zu spater, then," Nightcrawler replied, nodding farewell.

On his way to the War Room, Cyclops tried to come up with something relevant out of the fact that the most effective ways of dealing with the Kurioon had thus far been extreme heat and extreme cold. In Madripoor, Bobby had frosted over the heads of the robot soldiers, knocking out their heat sensors enough to make the X-Men's disadvantage that much less overwhelming. But on the whole, the X-Men were barely holding their own against small groups of troops. Heaven only knows what would happen if the numbers got larger.

***

#Min?#

Mirrin woke up with a start. She had been at the Xavier mansion for a week and yet she still awoke each day to a moment of unease about her location. Sunlight streamed through the window. #Yes, Redd?#

#I just wanted to warn you that...#

There was a loud banging on her door. The kind that sounded suspiciously like techno-organic material on wood.

Repeating some of the Clan Chosen's most colorful invective - and Tetherblood could get very creative when in battle - Mirrin rolled out of the bed and reached for the sweats she had taken to wearing when not dressed for battle.

Without yet resorting to telepathic pushes, Mirrin had so far successfully spurned everyone's efforts to get her into the Shi'ar fabricator to find clothing that fit her perfectly. Understanding the simple generosity behind it, Mirrin still had gently refused even as she hadn't quite gotten around to confessing the reasons behind her decision. Instead, she had accrued a small cache of new underclothes and borrowed sweats that she wore whenever battle costumes were not required.

"Is this not the women's wing, Nathan?" she asked as her clansman opened the door. She spoke in English, still trying to get used to the way the words rolled off her tongue. Picking up understanding of it had been easy - Redd spoke a much more standard version of the language than Gambit had - but speaking it was a different matter. It was a sticky language, Mirrin had decided, and it was no wonder than it had become obsolete centuries before she had been born. Mother Askani's native tongue or not.

"Nothing I haven't seen before," he replied casually, crossing the room and standing before her. "Why don't you let them make you something a little less cumbersome to wear?"

"I like these. They're made from plants."

Nathan snorted, appreciating the comment even as he found it funny. Nothing in the thirty-eighth century was made out of natural fibers and he, too, had been embarrassingly awed by the softness and versatility of cotton cloth. Even the animal-hair fibers were softer here - wool was used as an abrasive in the time they had both left.

"I know you've been cold since you got here, but they can make you something that will fit a little more snugly." He picked at the shoulder of the sweatshirt, frowning in recognition.

"How would you know if I was cold?" She looked up at him sharply. She was a stronger telepath than he was, she'd have known if he was in her head.

"It took me years in this time before I warmed up," he explained with a snort. "And I didn't arrive in Antarctica. Although Scotland in winter was bad enough. They have warm clothes that are more flattering here, you know..."

"You want to dress me up like..." Mirrin trailed off, making a face and gesturing vaguely.

Nathan laughed heartily, knowing exactly whom she was referring to. "Since when were you such a prude, Min?"

Not wanting to go into any reasons, she tried for a change in subject. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

Nathan and Domino had spent very little time at the mansion, returning to his safe house after the two recent battles against the Kurioon and even taking part in some of the strategy sessions via teleconferencing. Cable's general loathing of anything that could be construed as bonding with the X-Men had been explained to Mirrin, but she also suspected that Nathan was fighting extreme discomfort at her presence.

"There are some things I need to discuss with Scott. He's easier to convince face-to-face," he explained vaguely, looking out the window.

"You mean he's a lot harder to intimidate over a vid-phone."

"Same thing."

Mirrin sat down to put on socks. "Was it odd to see Redd and Slym again? As they really are, not as we knew them?" It was certainly disconcerting for her to dimly recognize in Scott and Jean the pair whom she had thought of, for a brief period, as a second set of parents. But these actually were Nathan's parents.

Nathan paused to consider the question and turned around to answer. "I didn't think much about it. When I arrived here-and-now, I was too focused on my mission to deal with anything as inessential as emotional ties," he laughed bitterly, knowing that no battle is fought on auto-pilot and still amazed that he had tried so long to deny it. "And by the time I was ready to deal with it, with them, especially after we got the whole clone thing straightened out, there was too much new history between us."

"You hated each other?"

"I don't know if Jean and Scott can hate," he replied.

"You hated them, then."

"I didn't respect them. And I don't think they felt any differently towards me. I was forgiven a lot once they realized who I was - even now, they accept explanations from me that they'd never take from anyone else. Once in a while that bothers me - don't start talking about guilt, Min - but the rest of the time, I know I'm doing what I do for their own good."

"You just wish they'd appreciate you more for that, hmm?" Min fought back a laugh as she stood up and moved towards the door. It was good to see that Nathan had regained his innate belief that he knew what was best for everyone. That maddening aspect of his personality had disappeared for a long time after Aliya died and Tyler... reappeared. And, surprisingly enough, it had been missed.

Nathan shrugged as he followed behind. "After all we lived through in our own time, to come back here and watch them try to fight for survival without actually harming anyone..."

"It's strange," Mirrin agreed. "But it's a different battle here. There are still shades of gray here-and-now. They can afford to be... merciful."

"They can, but how much do they affect the future - our own time - through being soft?"

The two went down the stairs slowly, avoiding stepping on the books that someone had left on the bottom of the landing.

"History, Nat'an, says that there's very little anyone could have done to prevent the ascension of the Tomorrow Walker."

"But that's history as it was," he contradicted. "When they fought in ignorance of the stakes."

"And now that they know the prize, now that you have told them, they still haven't changed and that bothers you."

"Wouldn't it you?"

Mirrin laughed knowingly at Nathan's arrogance. "'The wisdom of experience cannot be taught.'"

"Skip the proverbs, Min," he groused as they walked into the kitchen. Domino was sitting with Sam at the table while Jean and Ororo were puttering around. "Coffee?"

"Good morning," Mirrin greeted everyone, watching with amusement as Sam tried to decide whether or not he needed to stand up in her presence. Domino must have kicked him in the shins, however, as he suddenly lost the poised-to-rise pose and sat down heavily.

"Eat your Cheerios, Sam," Domino ordered.

"There's fresh fruit in the bowl, Min," Jean told her, pointing towards the island by the refrigerator. "It has to be washed, though."

Much to Bobby Drake and Hank McCoy's dismay, Mirrin had proven no fan of marshmallows, Twinkies, or sugared cereals. She had explained to them that having grown up in a time when the earth was simply too polluted to grow much in the way of edible produce, synthetic foodstuffs were neither a novelty nor a treat. Jean had been most accommodating and new varieties of fruits and vegetables appeared daily. Alex, however, only made her envious by describing the sorts of things that grew in Hawaii.

This morning, however, Alex wasn't around and Mirrin was halfway done with her toast and pear and Nathan was on his second cup of coffee when commotion from the hallway that housed the door to the underground complex attracted everyone's attention.

"...And that's because I'm not a super-hero, Scott," Alex was yelling behind him. "I'm in great shape for a normal human being. Dare I say I'm even in enviable shape for a normal human being." It was not Alex but Havok who appeared in view, dressed in his costume and face flushed from both exertion and anger, sweat slicking his blond hair against his forehead. He marched into the kitchen, roughly wiping his face with a towel and ignoring everyone's eyes upon him.

"So, I guess this means the Danger Room is free," Nathan mused aloud casually, ignoring Jean's pointed look.

"When the hell did you manage to convince yourself that you were normal," Cyclops' angry words followed after Havok into the kitchen, the man himself two beats later. "Alex, you're in danger right now. And we can protect you as best we're able, but you of all people should know that there's a really good chance you'll have to fend for yourself at one point. This isn't a game. You just can't raise your hand and say that you're not playing any more."

"I'm the weak link, brother mine, I always have been," Alex snarled, spinning around to face his brother. "And pounding me into obedience in the Danger Room isn't going to change that. I know this 'family' and its mafia tendencies."

"Oh, cut the self-pity crap, Alex," Scott sighed heavily, anger still in his voice but fading fast. "You've led teams. You've died a few times. Your lover's been co-opted by the forces of evil. That makes you a perfectly average member of the Summers family. Accept it and move on."

Simultaneously, Domino and Jean made murmurs of objection, but Cable laughed and Sam coughed as he swallowed a grape whole.

"Dad never had the possession problem," Alex said quietly after a long pause spent watching Sam deal with his grape.

Scott recognized it for the tacit truce offer it was and shrugged. "With Hepzibah, who knows?"

"Actually," Ororo said, "He did, but as he was similarly possessed at the time, I am not sure whether you would like to count it..." She kept a straight face while she spoke and were it not for the fact that most in the room had known her too long, there would be no way to realize that she was making light of the situation.

"You were in Genosha at the time, I think," Jean added for Alex's benefit. "Scott and I were still with X-Factor... it was right after Gambit joined the team."

"Dat things went t'hell in a handbasket, or are we talkin' 'bout something else?" the man in question wandered in.

"Skrulls," Scott elaborated. "Or was that a different time?"

Remy shrugged indifferently as he headed for the fridge. "Who can keep track?"

"You people have the strangest way of trying to make me feel like part of the group," Alex sighed as he pushed himself off of the counter he was leaning against. He bowed towards the table where Mirrin, Domino, Sam, and Jean were sitting. "Apologies for the temper tantrum. I'm going to shower."

A little later, things had settled back to silence. Cable and Cyclops were arguing in the War Room, Ororo had gone in search of the newspaper, Remy had found a comfortable perch on an empty space of counter, and Sam had finally gotten up to get Domino an apple after getting tired of her reaching over and picking the blueberries out of his fruit salad.

"Do you want to join them," Jean asked Mirrin, indicating the direction Summers père and fils had traveled.

"Not especially," Mirrin replied, dabbing delicately at her mouth with her napkin. "I've never been good at battle strategy and I certainly am unfamiliar with the terrain. I would just be in the way, else a pawn for one to use against the other." She turned to Domino, "But Nathan seems to respect your war instincts..."

"In practice, not in theory," Domino said and took a bite of apple. "The secret to my success is to let Nate think I'm going to do what he tells me to do until I'm too far away to hear him bitch that I'm not."

"It's not such a big secret," Sam corrected gently. "None of us ever had the guts ta try it ourselves, though. Cable'd never put you through a no-powers solo training session as punishment."

"Perqs of sleeping with the boss," Domino replied primly, causing Sam to blush furiously and Jean to hide a smile. Like father, like son. "Don't tell me you never let Tabitha off the hook..." Domino continued.

"Ah wasn't exactly in charge of X-Force," Sam demurred, shaking his head as he focused intently on spearing a piece of pineapple, clearly unhappy with the direction the conversation had taken. "'Sides, Ah don't scare anybody, not 'nough ta try enforcin' the rules at any rate. Ah was more the head lunatic in the asylum. Lettin' everyone think they had a say was the only way Ah was gonna get anyone to listen ta me."

"I knew there was a devious side under that sunshine exterior," Domino said approvingly. "So, Mirrin, what are they arguing about?"

Mirrin looked startled and slightly embarrassed for having been caught telepathically eavesdropping. "Weapons training. There seems to be a difference of opinion as to the proficiency of this unit with respect to munitions... Something about broad sides of barns?"

"The gang dat couldn't shoot straight," Remy clarified from his spot on the counter. "Wolverine calls us that all the time." He leaned over to pull the style section out of the newspaper Ororo had gone off for and come back with. "We're not as bad as he t'inks, least not some of us."

"The use of conventional weapons is a long standing debate among the X-Men," Ororo explained to Mirrin as she sat on one of the stools by the island. "We are fighting for peace and co-existence, but there has been occasion when the emphasis has been on fighting, not peace. We are sworn to preserve life, yet that oath must also include ourselves. Our various life experiences have made it inevitable that we disagree on the point that separates the best defense and a good offense."

"Most of us have honed our powers so that they are our first defenses," Jean continued, tracing the rim of her coffee cup with a delicate fingertip. "But there are some cases when they are not - or cannot - be sufficient," and here she nodded towards Domino and Sam. "There have been enough incidents where powers have been inhibited that everyone accepts that we need to be proficient in the more... traditional elements of self-defense, but it isn't easy to be a high-profile advocate for peaceful co-existence if you're running military-style training drills."

"Public perception is not a factor in my own time," Mirrin observed. "Of course, almost all fighting is done in what you call 'traditional' fashion. Powers are to ameliorate, they are not a substitute for battle readiness."

"That's X-Force in a nutshell," Sam agreed. "Cable used ta yell that at us all the time." Of course, it sounded much nicer to hear it in Mirrin's calm voice than in Cable's training-room roar.

"That is why he is clan leader," Mirrin replied, then smiled. "At least in my time."

Jean rubbed her temple and winced. Scott was usually quite considerate about what he asked his wife to bear as part of their psychic rapport. But when it came to arguing with Nathan, Jean was often asked to siphon off some of his frustration. "Domino, I'm giving them five more minutes before I ask you to go down there brandishing something dangerous."

"Why five," Domino asked, the same tension evident on her face for a split-second. "I forgot this part of the psi-link. Apparently, so has Nate." With each day together, the mental blocks both of them had placed on the link that joined them were loosened a little more. Sometimes it was nice. Sometimes it was unpleasant. And the knowledge that Cyclops was irritating his wife to a similar extent was not enough to make up for the increasingly less dull ache in the back of her head.

"Nathan has always been generous with sharing his frustration," Mirrin commented as she watched the two women with frank amusement. "It is the moments of joy that have to be pulled out of him with aid of sharp implements."

"And to think he was such a happy baby," Jean sighed, more because the two men had finally shut up for a moment than out of guilt. "I suppose it's Scott and my fault, though."

"No, it isn't," Mirrin corrected quietly, thinking of an otherwise beautiful afternoon turned dark with the smoke of burning rubble and roasted flesh. "It is Stryfe's work. The boy you raised could light up a room with his laughter."

Domino felt a pang of pain somewhere inside and had she thought to look around, she might have seen a similar effect on the others in the room.

"I don't think I have ever heard Cable laugh," Ororo said thoughtfully. "Rather, I have never heard him laugh other than in derision. Never in joy."

"I have," Domino said before she realized that she had opened her mouth. And she had. But only a few times. It was loud laugh, deep, and almost perfectly clear of the pain that colored every word Nathan spoke. The best part was that it came accompanied with a smile that actually went up to his eyes, one glowing bright gold and the other a shining blue, a smile that would make Domino wonder for a split-second what the man might have been had he not had to be who he was. Nate's laugh was like the Liberty Bell, she had once decided - once upon a time it rang out freely, but now it was cracked, permanently broken, and even if it did sound, it was never the same again.

"Uh-oh," a voice from the doorway warned. "Hank, I think we've stumbled across an X-Men Angst Moment. Our mission might be more complicated than originally planned."

"Get in here, Bobby," Jean mock-snarled, shaking her head to clear the sad thoughts. "But what are you planning?"

"Eggos. Chocolate chip Eggos," Bobby announced cheerfully as he crossed the threshold, Hank McCoy following behind. Spotting Remy, however, his face fell in mock dismay. "But the whole point was to get at them when no one would be around to criticize."

"Told you, Drake, you want ta eat fake food, I ain't gonna stop you," Remy replied laconically. Considering Drake's newfound closeness with Rogue, especially after Seattle, Remy hadn't expected Bobby to treat him with anything short of disdain or perhaps even anger. But Bobby was his own man and the two had rather quickly returned to their bantering routine. "Not everyone can be taught good taste, neh?"

From behind the Op-Ed page, Ororo could be seen trying to suppress a grin.

"As unindicted co-conspirator, I happen to consider myself quite the gourmand," Hank sniffed. "Even Cordon Bleu chefs occasionally eat French fries."

"They just call them 'pommes frites' so they can keep their noses in the air," Bobby added, waving the box he had retrieved from the freezer towards Gambit. "Not to mention that it's a wonder you can taste anything at all with all the nicotine and tar you inhale."

Gambit's eyes narrowed even as he smiled. "Va ta fai..."

"Language, boys, language," McCoy cleared his throat loudly. "We have ladies present."

"As if any of the ladies present have neither heard nor uttered an uncouth word," Alex contradicted dryly as he entered the room, dressed in civilian clothes and his hair damp from his shower. "Even Ororo got pretty creative in Australia."

"You speak unfairly of our guest," Bobby protested, indicating Mirrin. Of course, she barely spoke unless spoken to...

"I believe our fair Askani could outdo everyone present, if her conversations with Nathan are any indication," Alex replied, smiling at the woman as he sat down next to Domino so she'd know he meant her no ill will. "She just does so in another language."

"I had a very good teacher," Mirrin said, shrugging artlessly.

"Cable's got a potty mouth," Bobby sang out, then paused to look consideringly at Mirrin. "Another useful thing he taught you, right up there with bomb-making and how to fix plasma cannons. With all due respect, Jean, your step-son really shouldn't be left in charge of impressionable minors. I'm actually starting to feel sorry for X-Force instead of my usual disdainful loathing."

"Hey," Sam piped up, then thought better of it, lest someone get around to coming up with a list of his former team's dirty deeds. Especially those in which he had a part. Domino, he noticed, was keeping curiously silent.

"This once, Nathan's not to blame," Mirrin corrected. "Now should I start singing bawdy drinking songs..."

"Nate sings?" Domino arched an eyebrow. In especially good moods, Cable was known to hum, and (after eight hours of lessons from Grizz and Kane in a dinghy in the port of Tanjungpinang) he could whistle in tune, but singing?

"Nathan and Tetherblood are, between the two of them, a walking library of off-color lyrical poetry," Mirrin confirmed. "They used to make our convoys most... entertaining. T still breaks out into song during battle, but usually when Nathan's not in earshot."

"Stryfe took away his singing voice?" Jean knew the answer before she asked the question.

"Aliya hated it when the two of them would get going. After she died, there was no more singing. At least not when Nathan's around." Mirrin looked carefully at Domino, wondering if there was any discomfort behind the impassive expression. She knew Domino held a special place in Nathan's life - it had been the residue of the psi-link between them that had convinced Mirrin to find Domino and have her join Nate in the first place. But the woman was as much an enigma to Mirrin as Aliya had been an open book, and Mirrin did not like to meddle with enigmas.

Domino waited for the conversation to pick back up around them before saying anything.

"I've met her, you know," Domino spoke quietly, turning to Mirrin as McCoy and Remy distracted the others by getting into a mild tussle so that the latter would move from in front of the toaster. "I've been to your future."

Mirrin looked surprised. "I did not know. Either I was not there at the time, or it has yet to happen in my lifetime." She paused. "Was Nathan there as well?"

"He was. Twice, actually, if you count the younger self," Domino confirmed, questioning herself for saying anything in the first place. This was not something she wanted to get into. Not with anyone, certainly not with someone who had been a confidante of the late Aliya. Mirrin was one of the only people qualified to make a comparison between the two women in Cable's life and Domino didn't want to know how she matched up against a devoted martyr to the Clan Chosen's cause. "Nate never got around to explaining to me how he could be in the same time as himself."

"Temporal physics." Mirrin waved her hand vaguely, accepting the change in topic for what it was. "The timestream is in constant motion, so you can never truly return to the same time-and-place as you once occupied. It's not a fascinating explanation, but it's enough to throw fear into amateur time walkers."

"Time walkers? Such as yourself?" Alex had turned half of his attention to the women when he had overheard 'physics', but a non-theoretical conversation about time travel was of infinitely more interest than what he presumed was the latest rerun in the Remy and Bobby Cuisine Debate and he swung around physically to face them.

"I am no amateur, Alex," Mirrin corrected, her accent making his name sound infinitely more exotic than it was. "Although a leap of two millennia is admittedly uncharted territory for me, I have made prodigious use of my gifts."

"Just don't ask her when the flonq she's been," a deep voice said from behind Domino. Cable rested his hands on her seat back, taking care not to pull any stray hairs. He had been drawn upstairs by a maelstrom of emotions on the link, although Jean's telepathic warning for him and Scott to cease and desist before she came down and went cosmic avatar upside their heads probably had something to do with it as well. Domino was shutting him out now, though.

"Is time-travel inherent within you, or was it something that you acquired?" Hank asked from nearby. He had bodily removed Remy from the toaster area and was now awaiting his prize. "I still haven't quite figured out how your teleportation works, admittedly, but I am curious. We haven't really run across any 'time walkers' as you called them. Yet you sound as though they are common in your time."

"It's an Askani thing," Cable answered. "They can all time walk, although Mirrin's ability to teleport allows her to do it in substance, not just in essence."

"As was the case with our other visitors," Jean added, frowning ruefully. "At least the Askani ones. That's one of the reasons we were suspicious..."

"Although playin' all mysterious didn't help you none, either," Remy contributed from his new spot next to the sink. Alex saw that the Arcadian was charging whatever silverware was at hand, but chose not to say anything. Whoever picked them was probably deserving of whatever Remy chose to inflict.

"Back to the matter at hand," Hank spoke sternly, not wanting to lose out on any useful information by getting sidetracked into another round of the X-Men's second-favorite game, 'Who Apologizes Now?' "What are the limits to your temporal wanderings?"

Mirrin frowned, partly in thought, partly because she knew Nathan was dying for the answer. "It depends. To get here-and-now, I needed help. But I could take everyone in this room to last year without difficulty."

The conversation continued for a short while longer - Mirrin politely refused to get into the specifics involving her abilities - and Sam was already most of the way back to his room to change for his Danger Room session when he heard Bobby yelping about hot silverware.

***


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