Remnant of the Past: Chapter Five



Marvel owns everyone but Remnant, so this qualifies as textual poaching.

"You have to help me... please..." Kelly's wide-eyed plea had met with a variety of reactions. Jean Grey stifled a smug rejoinder before it could overwhelm her professional veneer. Scott had hidden his loathing behind the impenetrable façade of his sunglass-obscured face. Storm had been courteous, if cool. Xavier did not bother to hide his eagerness for information. All of them, however, were unified in their relief that Logan was off on one of his walks around the grounds.

The Senator had been rushed down to the medlab, Storm noticing a trail of water even though it hadn't been raining for days. Xavier, with permission of course, probed his mind to see what had happened to him.

Through Kelly's eyes, Xavier saw the commandeered helicopter ride, got dragged along by Toad and Mystique and mocked by Remnant, heard a girl's voice screaming in the background (Rogue?), got dragged out to the cove and then strapped into a chair, listened to Magneto discourse on god's grace and fear, felt the unbelievable pain vibrate through his very core as the radioactive light coursed over his skin, and then "Welcome, brother."

Erik plans to turn anti-mutant leaders into mutants, Xavier considered as he watched the events squirrel around Kelly's agitated mind. It is much easier to preach to the converted -- in this case literally so -- and Erik is going to force acceptance of homo superior through such drastic means. But how are you going to effect this genetic rebaptism, Erik? And why do you need a sixteen year old girl to do it?

Most of what was floating around Kelly's head was distasteful to Xavier. Fear of mutants had turned into a hatred that now warred with the knowledge that Kelly was now that which he despised. The newly born self-loathing was coated in the stickiness of self-pity. Do you blame yourself for anything, Senator? Xavier asked himself, careful to keep his thoughts from traveling back down the telepathic bridge to the other man. It was not for him to judge, as much as he dearly wanted to do just that. The moment you rise to take the bait is the moment you abandon the high moral ground. Keep repeating that, Charles.

The escape was less interesting -- Kelly had little memory for aquatic detail -- except for the beginning, where Xavier had been able to pick out a few details that might, with Cerebro's help, provide a clue where Erik was holed up. Ororo had drawn circles on the map detailing where Erik's various underlings disappeared from the astral plane. While some of the circles were pointless -- Remnant, presumably knowing from Erik how Cerebro worked, would present mental pictures of herself in faraway places such as Bombay and Argentina before winking out -- the rest had given them a vague idea of the headquarters' location. And now, because the newly mutated Senator Kelly had stepped on a sea urchin while under water, they had a better idea.

***

Logan having returned from his time in the estate's woods, the team met in the War Room. Xavier explained what he had seen and what he hoped to get from Cerebro.

"And you're going to take care of the guy?" Logan asked is frank disbelief. He hadn't survived fifteen years on his own by nursing his enemies back to health.

"Why not, he's certainly not a supporter of the Mutant Registration Act anymore," Scott shrugged. "An ally in government is just what we need."

"He's going to tell people about your little setup," Logan waved his arms to indicate the subterranean headquarters. "And then it will all be over."

"You'd kill him just to keep him quiet?"

"You want to get a real job, Summers, instead of teaching a couple of kids history and pretending you're a superhero?"

"Gentlemen," Xavier raised his hand. "Not that this is a matter worth discussing," and here he glanced at Logan, "but let us at least assure the Senator's survival of Magneto's manipulation before we debate the merits of secrecy."

Scott was about to say something when the door slid open and Ororo rushed in. "He's dead."

"Was it his heart?" Jean asked, jumping up. They did have the paddles for emergency shock...

"He... melted," Ororo shook her head. "He turned to water before my eyes."

"Where's Bobby when you need him," Scott mused and then winced from the withering look Jean shot him. No telepathy required.

"Can't say he'll be missed," Logan drawled. "Need help wiping him up?"

"Let me go," Jean stood. "You two obviously don't need me to contribute anything to the debate. Besides, I want to test what's left of him." She smirked at the coldness of her clinical nature emerging. She turned to Ororo, still looking awed by the door. "It's your turn with Heckle and Jeckyl."

With that, the door swished open and closed and Logan and Scott were left to look at each other. Even with Scott's glasses, Logan could detect a quirk in his pursed lips that indicated that the two men could find a common ground, even if it was in irritating the girl they both wanted.

Xavier cleared his throat and the moment passed. Ororo sat down and the three men proceeded to update her on their tentative plans. Jean returned a half-hour later, baffled.

"Water," she shrugged. "He turned to water. Not a single trace of genetic material there. Some traces of the Long Island Sound, but nothing human... or mutant."

She handed the printouts to Xavier, who looked them over briefly -- he was not medical or biological expert, technology was his thing -- and then passed them on. After a few more minutes of generally productive conversation, he left them then, Scott drawing up battle plans that only needed a destination for completeness.

Xavier wheeled himself outside the room and to the left, waiting for the retinal scan to be complete as the door to the War Room closed behind him, drowning out another brewing argument between Logan and the rest.

Fortunately, Jean understood why it was so good that the Canadian was around, even if it meant she was placed at the apex of an uncomfortable triangle. Logan's claws drew away any semblance of complacency that might have set in. Logan did not like to theorize, Scott had never had the chance to do anything but. With luck, one would learn the powers of preparation and the other would fully develop the leadership-in-battle skills that were so plainly waiting to be used.

If we are not so lucky, Xavier mused as the door to Cerebro slid open, Jean is going to be broadcasting a headache for a very long time.

Cerebro's crown came down as it always did. Only Erik knew just how much using Cerebro hurt. Not physical pain, but mental anguish. Surfing the astral plane, touching all of the minds of the species homo superior, was a banquet of fear, self-loathing, terror, angst, and pure pain.

Most mutants were in hiding the way Remnant and Logan had been before their involvement in this most unholy war -- keeping their dirty secret from those whom they loved as well as those they feared. Afraid for their own safety, afraid even more of themselves. And so physical signs of mutation were mangled or removed, be it in the form of a tail being amputated or a pair of eyes being put out. But it was the attempt to cut down mental manifestations that caused the much deeper wounds.

This was the real impetus behind the school -- to end this fear and teach mutants to love themselves for who they were. If they could not do that, if they could not accept themselves, how could they expect that of anyone else? Rogue, wherever she was, embodied this dichotomy so clearly -- a lovely, charming young woman, she hid her inner beauty under a shell of self-hatred as effectively as she covered her skin in her cowl. It was Xavier's job to convince her to be proud to display both.

But in order to do that, Rogue must be returned home. And so Xavier pulled the crown down over his head and muttered the same incantation he had used since Erik had built the machine in order to get his brain waves syncopated with Cerebro's controls.

The astral plane appeared, but it was foggy. Concentrating on making it clear up, Xavier saw it instead go black. And then the world faded away...

***

Jean stood up suddenly, effectively stopping the shouting match between Logan and Scott. If I had known that this would shut them up, I would have done this a half-hour ago, Jean thought absently to herself before concentrating back on what had caused her to rise in the first place.

"Jean? Jean!" Scott was calling to her.

"Something's happened to the professor," she whispered, holding her head. "He disappeared."

"Disappeared how?" Logan asked, eyebrow cocked. "Isn't he with Cerebro?"

"He keeps a link with all of us," Jean tried to explain. "You don't feel it because you're not a telepath. But... the line just went dead."

The group got up and ran next door, Jean the only one able to submit for the retinal scan. Xavier lay on the floor next to his chair. Logan could hear Scott and Ororo praying to their chosen deities, too softly for the other to hear. Jean knelt by the fallen professor, searching for vital signs.

"He's breathing," she looked up. "Barely."

Logan crouched down and scooped up the unconscious man. "Let's go," he said simply.

The lab was clean when they got there, all traces of the late Senator Kelly had been erased by the mop still standing in the corner.

Later on, when Xavier had been stabilized, Jean went to Cerebro. Looking over the console, she found nothing. Opening up the various doors that lead to the intricate machinery, she saw the offending item. A cylinder filled with a brown liquid that had obviously leaked into Cerebro's fluid-based system.

She took it back to the lab to analyze, pausing outside the door as she 'heard' Scott talking to the professor, promising him that he would not only make sure that the dream went on, but that Xavier himself would be there to see it. When he paused, she opened the door and walked in.

Ororo's entrance surprised Jean. Looking around, she saw Scott was no longer in the room.

"I brought you dinner," Ororo smiled, nodding at the tray. "Scott cooked, so you should take it for what it's worth."

"What time is it?" Jean looked at her watch. "When did it get so late?"

"While you were busy with the poison. Did you find out what it is?"

"As far as I can tell, it's a combination of drugs designed to let all the consciousnesses that Cerebro can find in at once," Jean ran her fingers over her hair, smiling bitterly when Ororo's confused look did not clear up. "It's kind of like a lubricant -- grease the skids so that the thoughts of every mutant Cerebro can find all hit Xavier at once. It overloaded him."

"Can you undo the damage?"

"I don't know. Were I a stronger telepath, I might be able to, but medically? All I can do is keep him sedated heavily enough that he won't hear the voices until we can figure out what to do."

"How long can he hold out?"

"I really don't know."

****

"I was watching that," Mystique growled as Remnant turned off the television.

"Pascal Gervais is honored to be part of the entourage representing Canada at this international conference," Remnant smiled a saccharine grin. "And he is most looking forward to meeting Senator Kelly at the conclusion of the conference."

Mystique giggled.

"You'll have fun with him, Raven," Remnant's eyes grew dark. "He has such a low tolerance for pain."

"Remnant!" Toad called from the doorway leading to the prison cells. "Want to come help us out with the girl? She's got her gloves off and is putting up a fight."

She went down the stairs. Sabretooth and Toad were waiting.

"Why do you have to be difficult," Toad asked Rogue. "It hurts less when you don't fight."

"Ah don't care. If Ah'm gonna die anyway, Ah might as well take you with me."

"Well, that attitude is going to get us nowhere," Remnant frowned. "Rogue, please put on your gloves."

The girl refused to budge, instead crossing her bare arms in front of her in defiance. Sabretooth growled menacingly.

"Relax, Victor," Remnant sighed. She closed her eyes and concentrated. "Now, Rogue, please put on your gloves and stop fighting."

"No!," Rogue wailed as she felt the tough of the other woman in her mind. "Stay outta my head!"

"Now, Rogue, please?"

Rogue, visibly trying to fight off the mental push, slowly bent down and picked up her gloves. Sweat beaded on her forehead as the strain mounted.

Xavier never taught those kids about shields, Remnant mentally frowned. I can have her doing the lead number of Riverdance and she won't be able to stop me.

Rogue, stop fighting me and I'll stop fighting you, Remnant spoke gently into the girl's mind. You can't win. You can only make things hurt less.

Finally, Rogue nodded and nearly collapsed when Remnant dropped the mental link. Gloves now on, she didn't dare remove them.

"Victor, treat her gently until she tries something," Remnant cautioned, heading back upstairs. "But the moment she pulls something, do whatever you want so long as she's still alive. We don't need her cooperation and we don't need her conscious. Just alive."

The last remark was spoken looking directly at Rogue, and for her 'ears' only, Remnant added an extra caveat. Don't try anything, child. I can read your thoughts and if I catch you... Sabretooth is very creative. Especially when all he has to do is make sure you still breathe when he's done.

Back upstairs, Magneto and Mystique were almost packed. Toad came up with Sabretooth and a shackled Rogue.

"We all ready?" Toad asked Mystique. "We'll hop over and get things ready before we come back for everyone, right?"

Mystique nodded. A night full of shifting disguises. Quite apart from the anticipated results of the evening, this would be fun. Gyrich was no challenge and apart from that, she'd only been a ditsy blonde and a few children.

Toad and Mystique went off and returned an hour later, dressed in the garb of the harbor patrol.

"Ahoy, matey," Toad greeted Sabretooth, who just snarled in return. Sabretooth hated boats.

The group loaded the gear that hadn't already been transported -- it had taken too many surreptitious trips in the middle of the night to get the device installed where it would be most useful.

Magneto tried to be sympathetic to Rogue's plight as he explained why she had to die. For the greater good and all, you know. Charles, for all of his liberal beliefs, does not teach about self-sacrifice, he mused as Rogue again tried to fight her way free. Sabretooth had swatted the girl hard across the head, knocking her out, before Remnant could calm the girl telepathically. Six one way, half dozen the other -- whatever worked.

Getting onto Liberty Island was too easy, Mystique mused. As had been the Xavier school. Is everyone getting complacent, or am I getting too good?

"Station yourselves around the base," Magneto told Mystique and Toad. "Make sure we have no visitors. I'll need Remnant and Sabretooth to help me and the girl."

"I can take the girl," Sabretooth replied.

"I need you to take care of me," Magneto shook his head. "Let Remnant deal with the child, especially after we transfer the power."

The quartet headed for the stairs as Toad went back outside. Mystique looked around the souvenir shop for a good place to wait... ah... perfect. Her skin started to turn the color of polished copper even before she reached the side of the room where the miniature Statues of Liberty were lined up. Picking up one of the hand-sized pieces, she felt the crown grow out of her forehead and the cloth swirl around her ankles and then freeze.

"Walk or he carries you," Magneto told Rogue once they reached the bottom of the stairs, nodding back towards Sabretooth. "A word of caution, though. He's most unconcerned about whether you hit your head. Or anything else for that matter."

Rogue, eying Remnant standing behind Sabretooth, was about to say something when she felt just a nudge against her mind. Instead, she decided to walk.


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