Remnant of the Past: Chapter Four
Marvel owns everyone but Remnant, so this qualifies as textual poaching.
The muffled sound of twigs breaking under leaves and plants was all he heard. And that was enough.
Victor Creed, as long as he had known who he was, knew that he was not, as Remnant might call him, a people person. Mystique was a people person. Literally. Toad... Toad was fascinated by people, if not necessarily equipped to run among them. Magneto, as evidenced by his closeness to both Remnant and Xavier, was much more socially inclined than he would have others believe. Remnant tended to ignore others.
But Sabretooth was not a social butterfly. His association with the Brotherhood, as with his previous working relationships, was one of convenience. A necessity. Wreaking havoc was not a one-man job anymore. At least not in any major metropolitan area, which were now the only places where it was worthwhile to play.
Another necessity was time away from people. Even those who understood him, as well as he could be understood. And so Toad had dropped him off on the edge of the Pine Barrens on his way back from depositing Mystique in Washington. Meet back here in two days at midnight, Toad had told him, knowing that Sabretooth wore no watch and knowing that he would be prompt regardless.
Peace and solitude were precious to him and, if anybody had ever bothered to keep track, most of Sabretooth's body count came from those who tried to take either of those from him. It could be a random hiker in the woods, tin pot clanking against his designer camping gear. It could be the hooker who didn't understand just how literally he meant Leave now!. It could be the whimpering hostage who wouldn't keep quiet. Silence is golden.
Of course, that wasn't the only time he killed. Human, mutant, animal, it did not matter to him. He did not kill for principles, he did not kill for fun (even though it was fun); he just killed because it was necessary. Bloodlust must be fed. Survival of the fittest included elimination of the less fit. That needed to be understood. If you could not kill, you were not most fit to survive.
He had started to doubt Magneto, a man filled with hatred and rage and seemingly content to sit on his island and stew in it. Until they brought back the girl. Any plan worth undertaking must be worth risking a life for. That life didn't have to be your own, but the plan had to be, as Mystique had said, to die for.
A deer paused several meters away, staring at the massive man who moved as silently as it did. Right now, Victor decided, I plan on having venison.
He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. The lids were closed, of course. Although frying the file folder to a crisp with a laser blast was one way of solving the current problem.
But hardly the most efficient, Jean commented. Eyes still closed, Scott could almost see her smirk. Her telepathy wasn't very strong just yet, but connecting with Scott had been pleasantly easy.
The first time had been humorous. At least for Jean. She had had Scott's ears ringing for a week because all she could do was shout telepathically. It was like the psi version of typing in all capital letters, which sort of fit as Jean had been a telepathic newbie.
But now, more than a year later, Jean could do more than shout. A lot more. She could whisper, the way she did during faculty meetings when Xavier was retelling an old story. She could laugh, the way she did when her need to be considerate of others prevented her from giggling out loud at someone. She could purr, the way she did when he rubbed her back after too many hours in the lab. And she could crack wise, the way she did at times like this, when Scott was frustrated and debating the merits of putting up a mental 'knock before entering' sign.
I never barge in, Jean harrumphed. Indignance was another new note her mental voice could sing.
Her more 'practical' telepathic skills were still developing at a slow and steady pace, but Jean's psychic rapport with Scott was at a totally new level. The first time she had let him into her mind while they made love... it still sent shivers down Scott's back. Of course, they both strongly suspected that the Professor had 'heard' them as well -- they didn't find out until later that Jean projected -- but he was too discreet to say anything.
Right now, however, making love was not on Scott's mind. Or at least not at the top of it. Tonight, as it had been for every night the past week, the matter of returning Rogue to her rightful place within the Xavier estate was atop the agenda.
Cerebro was proving no help in finding the girl, not unless Magneto was hiding her in plain sight. The police had been unable to track the flight of the helicopter the Brotherhood had used to escape from the train station, so all that was left to do was hope for a miraculous accident that would lead them to Rogue.
Right now, Scott sat with a collection of papers, all possible leads depending on what particular theory you subscribed to as the reason Rogue was taken in the first place. Was she bait to attract Logan -- the man in question certainly seems to think so (Stop that, Scott, Jean chided in his head). Was she being used for her own powers -- did Magneto hope to turn Rogue against the X-Men? Was she just convenient -- could it have just as easily been Kitty or Bobby or Jubilation or any of the other angst-ridden teens running around the Xavier estate? Was she even still alive?
Of course she is, Jean interrupted. We can't let ourselves even consider the alternative. We'll find her and bring her home, safe and sound.
I hope you're right.
I know I am, she answered. And then you and Logan can go do some male bonding, or whatever it is two alpha dogs do, and stop barking at each other.
Male bonding? Scott chuckled as he put his glasses back on. Me? Logan? I don't see that in the forecast, honey.
Just as long as you two stop sniffing each other's behinds. It's tiresome, you know.
He starts it.
And you finish it, Jean didn't hide the chuckle in her mental voice.
It's about you, you know.
Flattery will get you nowhere. That it involves me just proves how juvenile you two are being. As if I am a prize to be won by the dog that barks loudest. It's funny -- I'm the telepath, but you two keep pretending that I don't have enough of a mind to be able to make up with regards to whom I want to be with.
That's not true.
'Stay away from my girl'?
It's an expression... A guy thing...
You're a dog making a mark on a fire hydrant.
Why are you so insistent upon using canine metaphors this evening?
I spent all day teaching the kids about Pavlov's experiments.
I already know what I'm trained to salivate over, Scott tried to make his mental voice sound sultry. He didn't think he succeeded.
Uh-huh. Why don't you quit while you're only a little behind?
"Ah, my two favorite words," Jean said with a smile. She got up off the bed where she was reading and went over to Scott, sitting at the desk by the window. Kissing him on the forehead, she grabbed her robe and headed for the bathroom.
"We'll find her, Scott. Safe and sound."
"Mortimer, hand me the needle-nose pliers, please?" Remnant asked from her work-bench.
She heard his tongue slip out and around and was soon presented with a slime-covered pair of pliers. Turning around, she could see Toad had not budged from his spot on the windowsill.
Looking down at the now-hardened slime, which rendered the tool unusable, she picked it up and dropped it again, the clunk attracting Toad's attention.
"Do you mind?" She glared at him. "You can do that without gumming things up." He shrugged indifferently and in a fit of pique, Remnant gave him a blast of vertigo. Toad wobbled in the open windowsill before falling to the floor.
"What?" Indignant, but mindful that he was on the floor when it could have just as easily been the several-story drop off the other side of the window ledge.
"How am I supposed to use this now?"
"I'll bring another when I go pick up Mystique," he replied as he got up off the floor.
"And what am I supposed to work with in the meantime?"
"Pots and pans. It's lunchtime," Toad supplied helpfully. "What are we having?"
"Frogs legs," she glared.
"I taste like chicken," he shrugged. Pissing off Remnant was a pleasant sport, so long as you could put up with the aftereffects. Magneto ensured that she never let them last too long.
"Actually, you probably taste closer to pork," she replied after taking a deep breath. "We'll have to ask Victor. Maybe we'll give him a taste test."
"Where is our oversized compatriot?" Magneto walked into the workspace, intentionally ignoring the waves of irritation Amalie was projecting.
"On holiday," Toad answered. "He's gone walkabout in New Jersey. I pick him up at midnight."
"Your retrieval of Mystique and our newest guest is still on schedule?"
"She hasn't called to change anything. Three at the west heliport."
"Good," Magneto nodded and then turned to leave.
After lunch, Remnant took a tray down to the prison. Rogue had taken off her gloves and reached out for Remnant's wrist as she knelt to deliver the food.
"Try it and I'll kill you before you can suck the first memory out of me," Remnant cautioned. "You are a convenience, not a necessity."
Rogue responded with a scream of frustration and picked up the covered bowl in order to throw it. Remnant used the magnetic forces her constant proximity to Erik had seemingly made permanent and floated the projectile back down to the tray without a drop of soup escaping.
"Don't do that. I'm not bringing another and you are starving. Not eating out of spite is also pointless, in addition to being quite personally uncomfortable. Convenience or no, we spent a great deal of effort on keeping you alive and we will ensure that you remain that way."
Rogue sat down, the smells of the food overcoming her anger at least for the moment. She had flung her breakfast tray at Toad that morning and the frogman had made no attempt to rescue the food.
"Ah don't see what Logan ever saw in you," Rogue said after she had slurped down the soup. "He's usually a good judge of character."
"Logan is a character," Remnant shrugged, not knowing how Rogue had come by the knowledge of her and Logan's prior involvement. "And he's very judgmental. He's also spectacularly lazy when it comes to leaving well enough alone. I didn't bother him, that's what he saw in me."
"Why are you doing this?" Rogue asked, nibbling on the bread she had been provided. Logan didn't rattle around in her head much anymore, although there were times like this where she really could have used his berserker's rage. His confusion over Mali... Remnant... this person, however, was still clear to her. Logan thought of Mali as vaguely compassionate, if impersonal. Remnant was nothing short of a heartless bitch. That the two were the same person was the subject of much more thought than Logan would probably have liked to admit to anyone.
"Is there an answer that I could give you that would make you happy?" Remnant almost sighed.
"Ah suppose not," Rogue allowed. Rogue was expecting a verbal lashing. She didn't expect the sadness in her captor's eyes. A plan... "Logan loves you, you know."
Remnant laughed gently. "Nice try, kid. Logan doesn't love. He likes you a lot, but he loves no one. Least of all me. And second-least is himself. You don't need to be empathetic to get that one. Now finish eating." With that, she left Rogue to her milk and her apple.
When Remnant returned upstairs, Toad had returned with Mystique and Senator Kelly.
"Bienvenue, Senator Kelly," Remnant smiled at the chained politician. He cursed at her in return, but she ignored him. There was a minor scuffle as Mystique and Toad brought him down to the prison, far away from Rogue, but nothing that required assistance.
Remnant instead went to go find Magneto, who was tinkering with his device.
"Far be it for me to criticize your thus flawless plan, Erik," she began as she glided up to the console of the device. Until she could be near someone who could fly, using magnetic forces to levitate up the sides of metal structures was as close as it go, and Remnant enjoyed every second of it.
"But..." he did not look up as he tinkered. She did not sound terribly concerned, so he did not sound angry in return.
"But have you given thought to what we do with Rogue should the test not work out as planned? We have, for all intents and purposes, purchased the battery without knowing if the toy even works."
"Do you doubt me, my darling Amalie?" His voice was gently mocking.
"Doubt you? Not at all, Erik, but I've done enough medical experiments... things don't always turn out optimally the first time, no?"
"You sell your own work short, my love," Magneto now looked up. "You spent months working on the rats and dogs. The gene mutation was complete and the test subjects survived. Why the sudden cold feet? Are you developing feelings for our little... battery?"
"Not hardly," Remnant scoffed. "She's got that lost-puppy look and I hate dogs."
"But if -- and I mean if, not when -- we are going to have to find an alternative arrangement for her disposal, I'd rather it be constructive, that's all."
"We will send her off in spectacular fashion, Amalie, I can assure you. This one is just too useful to be another chew-toy for Victor."
"Good, that's all I wanted to know."
"So you weren't coming up here for positive reinforcement? Confirmation that we are doing the right thing?"
"I don't doubt that we are doing the right thing, Erik. You cannot teach acceptance. Turning the oppressors into the oppressed is about as close as we can get to mutual understanding," she smiled ruefully. "Besides, I really, really want to see Pascal's face once he realizes that not only is he a mutie freak like his late, unlamented wife, but that his late, unlamented wife isn't so late after all."
Magneto smiled vaguely. Amalie did not often speak of her life before they met and she never spoke in terms of past debts due. Remnant did not leave behind debtors.
"Don't worry, Erik, I don't see a reconciliation in the cards," she smiled. "In fact, once I get Stephane back, I don't see Pascal surviving all that long at all."
With that, Remnant kissed him on the cheek and stepped away to glide down to the walkway.
Dinner was eaten quickly -- so much to do! -- and once Toad returned with a visibly relaxed Sabretooth, the group set to work. Kelly was brought out to just before the device and Magneto raised himself up to the control. The metal rings started circling and soon the entire unit was awash in a radioactive glow. The beautiful white light spread out, bathing both Kelly and the group, before finally dying off.
Toad and Mystique dragged a shaken Kelly back to his cell while Remnant and Sabretooth went up to Magneto, who knelt in exhaustion by the console.
"I'm fine, my love," he whispered with a smile as she eyed him critically.
Remnant frowned. "I'll be the judge of that. Victor, please help me bring him to our room." Once there, she examined him quickly, bullying the imperious Magneto with such efficiency that Sabretooth had to hide a smile. Magneto fell asleep as soon as she left him alone.
"He looked the same to me," Toad was telling Mystique as Remnant and Sabretooth joined them in one of the workrooms. "Didn't turn blue or green or anything."
"It's too soon," Mystique shrugged, hiding her irritation. Why was blue skin so much more a signifier of freakdom than a twelve-foot-long tongue?
"Tomorrow morning should answer some questions, although his mutation may not be anything so dramatic," Remnant caught Mystique's expectant look, "or so aesthetically pleasing as blue or green skin."
"I just hope he's not a telepath or anything," Toad frowned. "One of you is bad enough."
Mystique could never figure out why they'd never changed the locks. It was one thing for the students at the Xavier school to come and go as they pleased, but really, the same open-door policy should not hold true for arch-enemies.
But then again, she smiled to herself as she found herself wandering the halls of the school, we are not technically enemies. Merely ideological opponents fighting for the same side.
"Hey, Jubes," a boy walked by. "You see Kitty anywhere?"
Mystique rolled her eyes the way she had seen the actual Jubilation Lee do and shrugged. She dared not open her mouth for fear of getting the voice and speech wrong.
"Yeah, I figured as much," the boy smirked. "See you in bio!"
Jubilation/Mystique nodded and wandered off. Checking that the coast was clear, she went down the hall and around the corner, finding the secret panel that Magneto had told her to activate. Sliding across to the metallic walls of the underground tunnels, she headed towards the round door at the end of the hall.
"Retinal scan complete," the computer announced. The door slid open and Cerebro waited, unprotected.
It was all too easy. Xavier himself was off with Jean Grey at a conference at the United Nations, so the chances of being interrupted were minimal. Cerebro had not been significantly altered since Magneto had put it together, so adding in the cartridge Remnant had supplied her with took Mystique only a moment. Getting off the grounds of the Xavier estate and into the waiting van took only a few moments more.
"How do they expect to fight a battle when they can't even remember to lock their front door?" she asked Toad once they were a few miles away. He only shrugged and giggled in return.
They returned to find an irate Magneto. "Kelly's gone," he fumed. Sabretooth and Remnant were nowhere in sight and Toad wondered whether they had gone off to look for him. A familiar roar from the prison level suggested that perhaps only Remnant had gone out.
That evening, Remnant returned empty-handed. She had waited at the beach all day to see if he washed up along the more secluded spots, but he had not. She used her minor magnetic powers to free Sabretooth from the cell Magneto had put him in earlier and found out from Mystique that Toad had gone to scout the Xavier school. Magneto had a suspicion that Kelly would turn to Jean Grey for guidance.