"Cyke, if we were any more ready, we'd just have to lead a trail of breadcrumbs to the van," Storm grumbles from the driver's seat of the second vehicle she has... liberated... for their use. She's waiting there with Bobby, who has spent time earlier that morning testing his powers on a water main under the street. Con Edison has since blocked off 94th Street between Madison and Park to deal with the mess.
"Marvel Girl, is your team in place?" Cyclops asks into his headset.
"The eagles have spotted the field mouse and are going in for the kill, Fearless Leader," Jean chirps back. Standing nearby the courtyard entrance and like a student from the Lycée Francais around the corner - complete with casually dangling cigarette - she watches both the scene in front of her and the kids in the schoolyard behind her. It is oddly unfamiliar to be standing among a couple of hundred kids all roughly her age. Before her telepathic powers had been harnessed, she never could. After she had been trained, she had never wanted to. "Will you relax?"
"I'll relax when this is all over," Cyclops retorts. When they were all safe and sound - especially Alex - and back in Westchester. He leans back in the driver's seat, able to see Jean in the rearview mirror.
The plan is simple in its elegance, Scott is sure, but not without its trouble spots. Getting Alex is the easy part. Piotr has assured him that he had done enough... pickups... for his old bosses down in Little Odessa that things would go smoothly. It is the rest of the plan that Scott is more worried about. Anything that depends any more than incidentally on Manhattan traffic is not a good idea.
Across the street from the parked van, dressed identically in sunglasses, black jeans and t-shirts in the peculiar shade of green that was favored by members of the Human Supremacy League, Piotr saunters up 94th street from Madison toward Park and Henry comes in from the other direction. They intercept Alex and his group a few feet from the courtyard entrance and Alex's guard immediately and visibly goes up. The HSL is a poor man's Friends of Humanity - a group comprised mostly of suburbanites and New Jersians with similarly bland methods of operation and a strong distaste for intellectual interaction. They are quite public about their desire to eliminate Alex X, but neither the FoH nor the police seem to think they have the energy or ability to put action to words.
Piotr calmly pulls out a very large gun and aims it at Alex. Before the younger man can even put up his hands, three shots - no silencer - ring out and Alex's chest is a bloody mess as he falls to the ground. Piotr turns and flees the way he came, toward the vehicle Storm's revving up on Madison Avenue. He dives into the rear passenger door Bobby has thrown open and the trio speed off uptown to the sound of squealing tires.
With a little help from Jean, nobody in the rapidly growing crowd of students takes their eyes off of the retreating Colossus (whom all would describe to police as blond and wiry) until after Beast has scooped up the messy, limp body left behind and landed with graceful panache into the back of the van Cyclops now has ready and idling on 94th. They, too, speed off down the cleared street and skid into a left turn onto Park Avenue heading uptown.
In the confusion that ensues - the school has a nonexistent criminal element as well as the sensibilities of its more socially elitist private academy neighbors - Jean barely has to use her telepathic powers to assure that her stroll down to Fifth Avenue is unnoticed. A bicycle was earlier chained to a No Parking sign and she unlocks it with casual grace, puts on her helmet, and pedals away. "I'm clear," she says into her headset as she coasts downhill on Madison past the Mount Sinai Medical Center. "How's it going, Cyke?"
"We made it without even running a light," he answers as he parks the van in the dark, unmanned lot underneath the stone bridge that supports the just-emerged-from-underground Metro-North tracks. "We're going to start the clean-up. Storm, where are you?"
"The car is parked - legally - on First Avenue," Storm replies as she saunters up the street with her arm through Piotr's and with Bobby tagging along right behind like the annoying little brother dragged along on a date. She can hear someone yelling out a window about how she shouldn't dirty herself with white folk and she flips the bird in return as Piotr pulls her closer. "We're walking up 103rd now and Colossus would like to register a complaint about having to change clothes in the back of a compact car."
"Tell him to take it up with you - you're the one who hotwired the Lexus," Cyclops replies as he moves into the back of the van to help Beast. "You've got fifteen minutes, people, assuming the train left Grand Central on time. Everyone head up to the station and we'll see you at the meeting point."
"Aye-eye, sir," Jean affirms.
"Gotcha," Storm replies.
"How's it looking?" Cyclops asks as he flicks on the portable flashlight he has brought and uses its suction cup to stick it to the roof of the van to supplement the insufficient car light. The day is bright and clear, but it is dark and cool underneath the stone vault arch.
"Messy," Henry replies with a cheerful grin as he finishes undoing the laces of Alex's combat boots. "Do you want to strip him or dress him?"
"Let me dress him," Cyclops says. "I'm still clean, so if I don't have to change, that'll be a few less minutes wasted."
"Good idea," Henry agrees and pulls off his own shirt before he takes off Alex's shirt and undershirt. He dumps the former in a plastic bag and leaves the latter two on a towel on the van floor. A bucket of water is uncovered and Henry dips in a washcloth to wipe Alex's chest, arms, and face clean. Toweling him off roughly, Henry turns to the other man. "All yours. The darts did their thing without so much as tearing the skin near the puncture points. He'll have some bruising, but nothing else. Certainly not what it looked like."
Henry moves to the other end of the van's rear and goes about changing the rest of his clothes as Cyclops moves in with a fresh t-shirt and army pants for Alex.
Up close Cyclops can see the resemblance between himself and Alex. The jaw is the same, the nose is the same, and they are built the same way. He wonders why none of the others have seen anything from all of the photos from the briefing and the surveillance they have done themselves. But as far as they know, Alex X is just another screwed-up kid, history unknown and uncared about. For the time being, Cyclops is grateful.
"Are you sure about leaving all of this behind," Henry asks, gesturing toward the wrecked shirt and bucket of bloody water. "It's your blood, after all."
The tranquilizer darts had been attached to stage bullets, the kind with little bladders to be filled with something that would look like blood for the cameras. But this being theater of the real, they have used actual blood. Cyclops's blood.
"Not only am I sure, I'm going to add to it," Cyclops replies, pulling out a unit of blood. All of them had blood on file in case of emergency and this certainly qualified as enough of one to him. Uncapping the bag, he pours the contents all over the towel and Alex's shirts and tries not to be squeamish as he massages the blood into the fabric.
"Aren't they going to test this blood?" Henry asks, confused. There had been a lot of discussion about this part of the plan during the procedural briefings. Neither Cyclops nor Xavier had allowed any questions on the decision, a choice that only added to the disquiet instead of eliminating it. "And aren't they going to notice that it doesn't come from Alex X?"
"Yes and no," Cyclops replies, struggling to pull Alex's arms through the polo shirt they have brought for him. "They'll test it, but they won't do the tests that will show that it's not his. It'll be close enough."
"Professor Xavier's going to fog the mind of the Medical Examiner? It shouldn't come out similar unless you two are..." Henry trails off, realization dawning. "Oh my stars and garters."
"Henry McCoy, please meet my little brother Alex," Cyclops says ruefully, gesturing down at the unconscious boy.
"Jesus," Henry mutters. "I knew there was something about him that reminded me of someone, but I never would have made the connection. Your glasses, they completely throw people off... He doesn't know, does he?"
"No, and that's going to be the fun part," Cyclops says. "Which is also why we should make sure we're in Westchester before he wakes up. He's liable to be... pissed off when he comes to."
"Completely understandable," Henry agrees, producing a Yankees cap and sunglasses. "Let's transfer him to the car." Putting the cap and glasses on Alex, Henry scoops up the younger boy and backs out of the van door that Cyclops has opened for him. Getting the all-clear, Henry half-carries, half-drags Alex to the car parked next to the van and waits for Cyclops to open the rear door. Alex is placed in the right side seat, buckled in, and then handcuffed to the door.
Cyclops does a last once-over of the van. He has the duffel bag containing Henry's clothes with him and everything else is to be left behind. The police will eventually find Alex's bloody clothes and wallet, the towel, the bucket of water and washcloth. The latex gloves he and Henry still wear - they had each worn several layers of gloves - are in the duffel bag that will be burned upon return to the mansion.
Satisfied, he gets into the passenger side of the SUV Storm has left for them - Piotr will undoubtedly fume some more once he knows that Ororo has left the big car for Henry. Henry has his prescription sunglasses on and between them, the car, and the loud Hawaiian shirt Henry has on, they looked like the Jersey boys returning from a party in the city that the license plates says that they are.
But instead of heading to New Jersey, they stay on the East Side and drive downtown to the 59th Street Bridge and head into Queens. It's a no-toll bridge, which means no cameras at the tollbooth that could catch any of them on tape. Henry takes an early exit off of the Long Island Expressway and then a 'scenic' route to the meeting point outside a junkyard by Shea Stadium.
"We're in place," Cyclops says into his headset to Storm. "Where are you?"
This is the part that Cyclops isn't happy with. The quartet is supposed to take the Metro-North one stop from 125th Street in Manhattan to Fordham Road in the Bronx, then pile into yet another vehicle Storm has arranged for them to use. They'll drive down from the Bronx into Queens and meet up among the discarded metal and scraps of planes and cars across the inlet from LaGuardia Airport. Successful completion of the plan requires some faith both in a few of Storm's less savory connections (not a problem) and in the satisfactory course of traffic on the Whitestone Bridge (definitely, definitely a problem).
"On the Grand Central just passing underneath the N train," Storm replies after a moment. "We should be there in five minutes."
Eight minutes later, Storm pulls up and parks underneath the 7 train's elevated tracks.
"You stole a church bus?" Henry asks in disbelief.
"I didn't steal it," Storm huffs. "I traded it in for the Lexus I left in the city."
"Do I want to know?" Cyclops asks.
"The chop shop gave me this and the van you used in the city," Storm explains anyway. "I told them where the Lexus would be parked."
"I didn't want to know," Cyclops sighs. "So how are we getting back to Westchester? Is this a rental?"
Bobby's with Jean by the bus, kicking at bits of junk on the ground until Jean hits him in the arm and he stops.
Cyclops would have preferred that Colossus, Storm, Marvel Girl, and Iceman stayed on the train to Salem Center and wait at home instead of joining them here. The plan is unstable enough that he'd prefer that it not have become a school trip. But pissing off both of the girls by cutting them out of the action and then leaving Colossus to deal with them just didn't seem fair, hence the reunion.
"We'll go back to Salem Center in the bus," Storm says, flipping back the hair that has been swept forward in the breeze off of the Long Island Sound. "I'll drop everyone off and someone can follow me to the chop shop in another car and then we'll come home."
"Do we want to have the bus seen at Xavier's?" Henry asks.
"It is not a vehicle we used at the scene," Piotr replies with a shrug. "I'm guessing the Lexus and the van will be in tiny pieces by sundown and the bus was never in Manhattan."
"Besides, there are only so many places we can drag an unconscious person around without drawing attention," Cyclops agrees. "Speaking of, is he still sufficiently out, Marvel Girl?"
"Yeah. Dreaming nasty little mutant-hating plans, but out cold," Jean answers with a sneer. "Can we get a move on? It doth stink here."
"I'm glad someone else said something," Bobby mumbles.
"It's low tide and the sulfur is high," Henry says, gesturing in the direction of the swampy area that borders the inlet of the Long Island Sound.
"I don't care why it stinks," Bobby grouses. "I just want it to stop stinking."
"Well, let's be mindful of Iceman's sensitive schnozz and get going," Cyclops announces. "Into the bus, everyone."
Traffic on the westbound Grand Central is light considering the time of day and it is a clear ride through to the Triboro Bridge. Jean gives a telekinetic kick to the camera at the toll plaza and they continue on to the Bronx, getting only mildly delayed by traffic before arriving in Westchester.
The bus pulls into the circular driveway at the mansion without notice - it is still early enough that the neighborhood kids are still in school and the nannies have yet to leave the house to wait at the bus stop. Colossus, carrying Alex, follows Cyclops into the house while Henry goes around back to return a few minutes later behind the wheel of the Mercedes.
"Well, I suppose this will do," Storm sighs as she heads back toward the driver's side of the bus. "I don't think the Professor owns a car that won't look out of place in the South Bronx."
"Be back by dinner you two," Jean says and waggles a finger at the pair before following Bobby up the stairs.