Locks and alarms made most people feel safe. They made Remy giddy. He loved puzzles more than anything. Locks, alarms, all security devices were the ultimate puzzle because they were never meant to be solved.
The lock on Scott's door was like the first level of a video game, not so much a challenge as an introduction. Push-knob locks needed nothing more than a tool long and narrow enough to fit through a circular opening on the outer side of the knob so to make things more interesting, Remy picked the lock with a paper clip. A long-handled hook took care of the chain-lock; he should really buy a better designed spring latch for Scott.
Scott's room was, naturally, in immaculate order. If there was one thing Chris Summers never had to remind his boys about, it was cleaning up after themselves. His dad's army pals called the habit the Summers Obsessive-Compulsive Gene. Strangely enough, Adam was the worse of all of them. Woe betide the man or woman who messed the perfect order of that boy's room; he could tell when a single pencil was out of its container or if a single wrinkle marred the crispness of his sheets.
"Okay, if I was Scott, where would I stash my stuff?" Remy turned slowly on his heel.
The nightstands on either side of the box bed frame had plenty of drawers but that was too obvious. The bed's wooden sidings held promise. Kneeling, Remy felt along the rim of the bed frame looking for a catch or a loose panel.
The closet then. Closets had tonnes of nooks and crannies to store things in. Having grown up with a bunch of nosy little brothers, Scott would know that he had to choose a container that was both incongruous enough to be passed at a third or fourth glance yet secure enough not to spill open when jostled.
Using a spray can of cooking oil, Remy greased the runners on the closet doors to keep them from creaking. He cracked both doors open and greased the hinges.
"Arranging your clothes according to colour." Remy clicked his tongue. "On anyone else, Scotty, I'd've said you'd gone straight over the line between neat and freak but I'll forgive you the dork points since you're a little colour-blind nowadays."
Gingerly, he felt around behind and under the stacks of folded clothing, then through the upper shelves and hanging clothes, and finally down to the wire shoe rack.
"Two loafers and one pair of ratty sneakers," Remy muttered. "Lord, where did I go wrong with this boy?" He slid the other side of the closet open.
It was an unholy mess. Clothes heaped haphazardly on shelves, draped over clothing rods, and stuffed into cardboard boxes. Books and binders filled in nooks and crannies-- at least three dozen-- open to damage. Scott would never treat books like that; he loved them too much. Remy fingered the beaded edging on a soft black and tan scarf. The clothes weren't his then; they were the girlfriend's, Jean's. Even then, after five years of living with Scott, the OCD-gene tended to rub off. At the very least, Scott would fix everything for her.
Remy's lips tightened. He'd look for what he needed later; first he had to clean up this mess and then make Scotty tell him--
"What the hell are you doing in there?"
Warren startled him but Remy would be damned if he'd show it. He turned slowly, taking the black and tan scarf with him. "Got a hot date tonight. I figured I'd take a peek in here and see if there was anything I could give her to soften her up."
Revulsion twisted Warren's face. "You're beneath contempt," he said. "Get out right now and I won't tell Scott about this."
Pasting a smirk on his face, Remy shrugged and complied. "It's not like Red's going to need them any more where she's at."
"You utter and complete ass!"
Remy saw the punch coming from a mile away. He bent back until his head nearly touched the floor, grinning as Warren's fist wooshed past his chest. Before the older man could recover his stance, Remy threw his body into a forward shoulder roll then a flip until he reached the hallway. He broke into a run as soon as he saw Warren barrel out of the room. The guy's expression was such a good study of controlled fury that Remy did the one thing guaranteed to get on his last nerve.
He pointed at Warren and laughed.
Yeah, that did it. The Winged Wonder Boy was going to get his Ralph Laurens wrinkled today, Remy thought as he vaulted over the banister, adjusting his somersault so that he landed on the second floor railing. Re-centering his gravity, Remy straightened on his precarious perch for a second before stepping off. He caught two of the sturdy wood balusters on the way down, twisted and flipped back up to the second floor landing just as Warren hurtled down to the ground floor, his wings barely keeping his speed in check.
He needed to stay indoors, Remy concluded, where the Flyboy wouldn't have the advantage. Hopefully some place well-populated, too; he really couldn't see Worthington losing his cool in front of a bunch of kids. If memory served him right, servants' stairs sat in the back of either wing. He could take those as a short cut to the kitchen or the library and he could hang out with the kids until Worthington gave up for the day or Scott showed up, depending on which happened first.
Still chuckling to himself-- the look on that Albino Chicken's face when he jumped down the stairwell!-- Remy sprinted to the east wing. As fun as it was to rile Worthington up, he still had to find Scott's stash. He'd try again in a couple of days when everyone calmed down a bit.
Remy, the professor's voice was clear and icy blue in his mind. I need to have a word with you.
If they had nothing else in common, Cyclops and Remy reacted to high tension situations in the same way: They relaxed.
More specifically, their bodies relaxed. The change was subtle in Scott, who didn't tend to be emotive anyway: the lines bracketing his mouth disappeared, his breathing became deep and even, his entire body stilled down to the hair. Remy, on the other hand, appeared nearly asleep. Already quite fluid normally, he lost all semblance of having a skeletal system as he draped himself diagonally on the council chair, one leg on the table, the other bent nearly around his neck.
After a week of searching, Xavier finally called them into the council room to report his findings. The fact that it took him a week to gather information was not encouraging.
"If I'm understanding you correctly, Professor," said Cyclops, "you're saying that Adam's mutation has catalysed."
Xavier nodded, his eyes trained on the map of the United States projected on the main screen. "Correct. Not only did I find his biosignature in the mutant range but his thoughts were... scattered."
"Hell, that's normal for Adam," said Remy. "When he can manage to think more than two thoughts at a time, that is."
This time, Remy's remarks failed to elicit a smile from the professor. "I meant that his mind felt as though it was in many places at once, like a jigsaw puzzle scattered through the countryside."
"Still sounding like Adam on a normal day."
"Could his mutation be similar to Kurt's?" asked Cyclops.
"Possible but unlikely," replied the professor. "Mutations in siblings are usually similar-- you and Remy both have energy-based mutations, for example."
"But what about Pietro and Wanda?" asked Jubilee.
"They are a rare case," the professor said, "If teleporting required some sort of mutation on the atomic level..." He hummed thoughtfully then shook his head and said, "In any case, the connection to Adam tended to fade as though something were suppressing it. A few times, I lost him only to find his mind in a different city in the human range."
Storm watched the trainees who were earnestly listening to the professor. She'd seen similar expressions on the faces right before mid-terms. Was that healthy? She didn't know; her academic life in Xavier's hadn't involved exams and projects.
While Logan and Kurt were present, she and Cyclops were the only teachers in the council room. Beast was rarely on active duty, Warren, never since he took over part of his family's company, and while Kelly was aware of the goings-on in the sub-basement, as a non-mutant, she didn't think she could contribute much unless, she joked, it was as bait. Rogue, Piotr, Jubilee, and Bobby also sat in on the meeting although Cyclops had always given them a spiel about passing training before going on real missions.
"Couldn't that, like, be because he's a new mutant?" asked Jubilee. "Our powers all spazzed when they first come in, right? I mean, I know mine totally whacked out for a couple of hours but every time I tried to do zap something on purpose, zip."
"An excellent theory, Jubilee," said Xavier. "I considered that as well."
"But?" Cyclops prompted.
Xavier exhaled deeply. "There's a pattern in the fluctuation, one that is too consistent to be discounted as a catalyzing mutation."
"Consistency and Adam; that is weird," said Remy. "Unless you count consistently forgetful."
Studying the map, Storm said, "Most of the points seem to be here--" she tapped the monitor, "-- in Nevada."
"But that's only if you count mutant hits," said Cyclops. "It's smaller than the red, but the largest number of human hits is in Georgia."
"So let's go to the one with the mutant hits," said Logan. "If the kid's playing around with his powers, it'd make sense that he has a homebase. Maybe he's got to envision places like Wagner there."
All eyes turned to Kurt for his input. "When I was younger," he began, "I would never teleport farther than the perimeter of the camp. Visualisation is necessary to be a world-class acrobat but the idea of forgetting even the slightest detail worried me. I once teleported into the wrong tent because I did not see my destination very clearly in my mind."
"It's only a guess," said Cyclops, "but a guess is all we have to go on."
"So what's the plan?" asked Remy
"We go in, we grab your kid brother, we get out," said Wolverine. "Seems pretty simple to me."
The younger Summers cocked an eyebrow at him. Wolverine was used to One-Eye giving him that disdaining look but coming from a punk band reject, it was a helluva lot more insulting.
"So what's the plan?" Remy asked Cyclops again.
"How's your aim?" Cyclops returned the question.
Remy flourished his fingers then, with several rapid flicks of his wrist, pulled four throwing knives seemingly out of the air. Pulling his arm back, he let the knives loose. They embedded themselves on the opposite wall in a column, each blade exactly one inch apart from the other.
"You could've just said 'I've been practicing,'" said Cyclops wryly.
With a shrug that was Storm now thought of as his signature move, Remy said, "Now where's the fun in that?"
Rogue exchanged grins with the other trainees.
Cyclops fiddled with the keyboard. The map closed in on Nevada, the distance between each dot widening. "What about your other hobby?"
"I've been practicing," Remy drawled.
"Good. Then you have reconnaissance duty. I want any connections with Adam-- online buddies, friends and their relatives, theatre companies-- as well as any possible threats. I want buildings, land owners, local businesses..."
"Partridge in a pear tree," Remy ended. "As a bonus, I'll give you the sheriff's porn collection."
"Whatever floats your olive."
"What do the rest of us do?" Logan asked.
"We can't do anything until Remy comes back with information," said Cyclops. "But the security system needs checking while he's gone."
"Hell, I haven't even really canvassed the place," Remy said. "What can he do?"
"You'd be surprised at the amount of destruction Wolverine can wreak."
Wolverine extended his middle finger.
"You'll need a partner," said Cyclops.
"First you think Adam's just having a temper tantrum now you're telling me it's dangerous enough to need a partner," Remy said dryly. "Make up your mind."
"I do think that Adam's having another temper tantrum," Cyclops said as he began cleaning up the council table. "But if his power's catalysed then you're going to need a little bit of help taking him home. I don't care what Hank says, when I hit you with a blast, you get hurt."
"Says the bruise I gave you last time we met up."
Remy exhaled. "That little red tap didn't bother me. I got that from a particularly enthusiastic date."
"Spare me," said Cyclops. He consulted his agenda. "Storm and I have to be here to interview more teachers and we can't spare someone for seven days." He tapped his pen against the device's edge. "Take one of the junior members."
"What?" Remy boggled for a moment, his perpetual grin failing him. "Did one of them put a whoopee cushion on your seat or something?"
"They just seem to be under the impression that being an X-Man involves daring escapades and life-or-death situations."
"Gee, I wonder how we got that impression," Bobby whispered to no one in particular.
"They all need a lesson in staying still," said Cyclops. It was difficult to be sure but he might have been smiling. "Except Piotr. He's pretty good at that."
"How am I supposed to get anything done properly with a trainee?"
"It's scouting, Remy, not D-Day. You'll be fine."
Remy secured his shades and slouched deeper into his seat.
Standing on the edge of a lava flow imbued a sense of power. No matter how often Alex watched the glowing stone ooze into the water, heard the crackle-hiss of the ocean, felt the infernal steam blast his skin, he'd never get tired of it. It was like being transported back in time to the millennia when the Earth was in one of its more mobile phases.
Technically, he wasn't supposed to be on this team he was still an undergraduate. But the professor was ex-military and anyone who was anyone in the armed forces had heard of Corsair Summers and his prodigious Y-chromosome count.
"Scott! Come over here, m'boy!" The professor-- Dr. Leighton-- waved him over from where he stood at a higher elevation.
Alex rolled his eyes but climbed up. "It's Alex, sir," he said when he reached the older man's side. "Scott is the eldest. He's got brown hair."
"Ah, of course, my apologies." Leighton brushed his moustache in an embarrassed manner. "I'm afraid I'd transferred by the time you were born but Chris always brought little Scott around. The child could take apart any machine you put in arms reach, neat as you please."
"Yeah, Scott's always been very technical."
"Of course. It's in the genes. Your dad used to modify our planes. He used to-- ah, what is that word you kids use nowadays?-- ah, yes. Pimped them up. You're all very good at pimping up jets, cars and the like."
Alex didn't bother telling him that he could barely change a tire, never mind a jet. "Yessir. That's Dad."
Thankfully, one of the grad students announced that the temperatures had lowered sufficiently to make some measurements. The reminiscing ended and the real work began. Alex quickly snapped his protective coveralls closed and checked to make sure his boots and gloves were fastened tightly. Even the smallest spark from a stray burst could burn straight through muscle in a manner of seconds. The heat cauterized any wounds but it would hurt like hell while it happened.
The work was hot and sticky, even more so than summers usually were in the tropics. To Alex's discomfort, Leighton hovered, taking his side in a lot of the disagreements but he promised himself he'd make it up later especially to that girl helped him sketch down a conclusion to his group's assignment.
He explained the situation to Lorna later that evening while they hung out at a low-key pub ten minutes' walk from campus. The Blue Lotus wasn't five-star but she was practical about things like that. The necklace and the hokey card that came with it more than made up for missing their lunch date for the field. Sometimes, it paid to listen to Remy. Just sometimes.
She didn't mind that their friends were over either since he met them all through her. With a beer in one hand, his girl in the other, a position in the grad school all but in the bucket, and his buddies slowly but resolutely getting drunk along with him, Alex couldn't be happier.
One of the girls from the expedition-- Marianne? Miriam?-- approached their table. Alex smiled tightly at her and would have called out an inane greeting but she beat him to it. "So you're Leighton's little Ganymede," she said, scornfully flipping one of her pigtails over her shoulder.
"What's a gannymeed?" Lorna asked her seatmate softly but not quite soft enough for the newcomer to ignore.
She rolled her eyes and turned to her two companions. "Great minds. I always knew the military circle-jerk went far but I didn't know they let their kids in on the action, too."
"Alex, don't!" Kim made a valiant grab for his friend's arm to try and hold him back but Alex was too fast and too far away.
"What did you say?" Alex crowded the girl, using his height to his advantage.
Marianne/Miriam's friends, two properly husky guys-- one in a ludicrously loud dragon shirt, the other looking like he could go three rounds against a raging bull-- closed ranks around her. "Hey, brah, what's the deal? Getting in a girl's face?"
"If she can't take it, she shouldn't hash it," countered Alex. He was still taller than these guys but they had bulk. "I'm an equal opportunity trasher."
The big one on the right puffed up. "You calling my girl trash?"
"Nobody's calling anybody trash," Kim said, bravely shoving an arm into the fray. "Look, guys, we're all way too sexy to get into this so--"
"I may be trash, but at least I'm not sucking off my daddy's cast-offs." The Marianne/Miriam slipped out from behind her bodyguards. "Do you know how long it took me to get into this program?"
Alex sneered. "Not my fault you don't have what it takes."
"Bullshit," she said. "I have what it takes. I could have a goddamn position in the department right now if Leighton wasn't such a mysogenic relic. But of course, when one of his air force buddies pays him a little night visit and asks for a favour for his son--"
"My dad has nothing to do with what I can or can't do!"
"Tell it to someone who'll believe it."
"Fuck you, whore."
A fist roughly the size and weight of a granite bookend, slammed into Alex's jaw. He spun with the hit and came back around with his own. He connected but the boyfriend didn't move. Alex tried again, this time with a chop to the neck but the dragon-shirted guy came around behind him to capture his arms. Alex lifted his leg then rammed his heel down on the other guy's foot. The guy released him, howling as his toes cracked.
Unfortunately, this only made the boyfriend angrier.
"Oh, shitcakes," Kim groaned as he dove in to help. "Lorna! Mike! Someone get the cops!"
Lorna was already at the bar, yelling for the bouncers. She knew Alex wouldn't stop fighting until someone was unconscious.
As Kim fended the dragon-shirted one off, Alex and the boyfriend concentrated on pummelling each other. The boyfriend had gotten a few good shin-kicks in but Alex had retaliated with a blow to the kidneys. Alex threw another gut punch but the guy just took it expressionlessly. He aimed another hit to Alex's face but Alex twisted away from it only to get his head snapped to the side with a left hook. Alex shook the darkness edging into his vision and let his fists go wild.
He caught the other guy with an undercut then again with a knee to his side. But while Alex was bent over, dragon-shirt rammed an elbow into his spine. Alex staggered, almost dropping to his knees, but Kim-- who'd shaken the bouncer off-- jumped in and tried to lock dragon-shirt into a half-nelson. The boyfriend took that opportunity to kick Alex's knees out from under him. Alex slammed into the floor, his lumbar screaming as the concrete joined in the conspiracy to get him down.
The boyfriend managed to get one good stomp in Alex's gut before the bouncers came in, hoses on full-blast. As he sent a prayer up in thanks, Kim paused. He could have sworn steam rose from Alex's body when the water first hit. Dragon-shirt must have hit him hard.