Remy hiked to the ridge over looking the mine, glancing over his shoulder to check on Rogue every few minutes. She was stirring the soup and going through the pictures on her camera. He wondered if she'd be up for a card game; he still had to win back the pennies he lost to her a couple days ago. Somebody taught that girl to play a mean game of poker.
He'd just ducked behind a boulder to see to his business when something about the scene below tickled his senses. Remy squinted, wishing he had telescopic vision instead of explosive touch. Most of the huge lamps were dark, like dying pines. Titanic digging machines rested under a pair of canopies resembling blankets thrown over giants. Two smaller single lamps lit the building that marked the entrance to the mine but their harsh yellow beams revealed nothing.
Not taking his eyes from the mine, Remy plucked a pebble at his feet and threw it at Rogue. He heard her start and he gestured for her to come over.
"What?" she whispered.
He pointed down at the darkened buildings. "This far from the city, where do you think they get electricity?"
"A generator, I guess."
"Do you hear any generators?"
Rogue strained to hear the low buzz of an engine. "They could have a really high-tech generator."
"To light those up?" Remy asked, pointing at the nearest spotlight. "We'd hear something from the lights at least but nothing. No heat waves coming off the ground either."
"That's not right." She crouched closer to the edge of the ridge. "It's been hot all day; there has to be heat waves. You sure your eyes aren't tricking you?"
"You can see for yourself."
"We should be taking videos of this," Rogue said after a few minutes' observation.
"Smart girl." He headed back to their campsite to fetch his camera. "Let's get a little closer."
"We climb down, of course."
Gulping down her apprehensions, Rogue tucked the hem of her skirt into the beltline and followed Remy's slow descend into the ravine. Although he chose the most moderate angle of descent, she still felt loud as an elephant. Sand and bits of stone stuffed her nose; it was all Rogue could do not to cough. Throughout the climb, she felt an itch at her back, like her body was anticipating a blow. She jerked when Remy tugged at her skirt folds.
"You okay?" he whispered.
"Fine," she replied. "Could do this forever."
He patted her knee and continued. When she finally reached the base, Rogue resolved to train on the rock wall a lot more. Her lack of upper body strength was frightening.
They clung to the cliff walls, giving the wide beams of light a wide berth as they made their way to the opening. The stepped formation of an open pit mine changed to a tunnel mining at three hundred feet; the building sheltering the entrance grew out of the walls like succulents from rocks.
Remy slipped a thin, palm-sized case from his back pocket. Rogue had a brief impression of a dozen slender handles before Remy chose three and hid the case away again. He wedged one of the tools between his lips then inserted the remaining ones in the door lock.
Rogue tapped his arm. "Alarms?" she whispered.
He shrugged. "Might be cameras but it's too dark to see anything important."
"Night vision? Infrared?"
"Stripes, this is a mine, not a government facility."
Rogue's lips pursed. "I could tell you stories."
He flashed a quick smile then turned back to the lock. In a few seconds, the tumblers clicked hollowly. Remy peered into the windows and, apparently seeing nothing amiss, cracked the door open. He felt around the jamb. No wires or laser receptors.
He gestured her in with two fingers. "Breaking and Entering 101: Step where I step."
Sand, fine as dust, whirled up to their ankles as their feet disturbed the loose gravel on the floor. Windows on either side of the building sent fat beams of light into the small space but they weren't enough to banish the darkness. Rogue had to blink a few times to follow Remy especially when her gaze shifted from the dark tunnel in the back to the windows.
Just as they reached the mouth of the tunnel, Remy faced her and tapped his camera. "No flash," he told her.
"Then how will they work?"
"The cams have night vision. Use the video option; I'll worry about stills."
The tunnel was something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Rusty tracks and rickety cable cars slept in the darkness.
Rogue pulled on Remy's sleeve. "I can't see anything."
He fumbled in his pockets. There was a tearing sound and a snap then a dim orange glow lit Remy's features. Rogue barely stopped herself from screaming. With the harsh lighting and his red-on-black eyes, he looked like something out of a horror movie. He handed her the glowstick, grinning, well-aware of her thoughts.
"C'mon, Stripes. Let's go spelunking."
The glowsticks only gave them a four foot field of view. Remy held his high while Rogue kept her low, ensuring that they wouldn't get any nasty surprises as they walked on. Rogue wished she'd changed into pants; every time her skirt snagged on a rock, she was sure something was going to fall on them.
They travelled on a slow incline. The brighter mouth of the tunnel seemed to float above their heads but only after the longest fifteen minutes in the world. The darkness was starting to take its toll on Rogue.
"Do you see--"
"Shh!" Remy hissed harshly. He pointed his finger straight forward.
At first, Rogue couldn't see anything. Then, in the distance, she spotted steel door.
"Not that," Remy said when she was about to head in that direction. "That."
Rogue tilted her head back. There, tucked in an outcropping was a tiny, red, blinking light.
"What is that?"
Remy squinted. "Motion detector." He swivelled his head around. "There too." He held the glow stick higher. "And there's the camera."
"Do mines usually have those?"
"Beats the living hell outta me, Peaches, but let's err on the side of paranoid." Crouching down, he picked up three pebbles and charged them. One flew straight to the camera, the explosion small enough to take out the lens. In a second, the motion detectors were similarly disabled.
Remy then felt around the walls and found a panel that Rogue couldn't have made out if she had a flashlight in the daytime. A flash of the cutters and a few twists of the wrist later, he turned back to her with a self-satisfied grin.
"Let's go, Sugarplum, double time. If there's anything here other than gold, we need as many pictures as possible." Remy pressed his ear against the door, his eyes closed in concentration. "Pretty thick," he whispered. A dollar bill appeared in his hand. He tore it into eighths and handed Rogue half.
Each small square of paper glowed a dim purple. They crackled in Rogue's hands. She had a million questions: How did Mr. Summers' brother know so much about picking locks? Why were they bothering to enter this place? Why did a mine have motion detectors and a steel door? And, most of all, was she ready to go through something like this so soon after Alkali Lake?
"Been doing great so far, partner," said Remy as he wedged his makeshifts explosives in the doors. "Here's Breaking and Entering 102: Hydraulic locks. Slip one even between the hinges and the door seam."
Rogue set to work. She'd bank those questions for later. Right now, she had to answer the growing glow of accomplishment.
Dusk in Hawai'i was more encompassing than in San Diego. Southern California seemed to reject the night to the point of fearing it while here, it was as accepted as the sun. Not that it was safe, but the muggers here tended to stab you in the front.
He meant to head for Lorna's dorm but his feet refused to obey him. They knew how much of an asshole he'd been the past couple weeks; they wanted nothing to do with the apology that surely had to pass. Not yet.
Taking a weed-strangled path around the campus hub, Alex secured his backpack then stretched his legs into a jog. Despite the fact that he had just spent all night weight- and weapons-training, he still had excess energy. He always felt hyper these days. Maybe it was the idea of finally graduating or being completely on his own but Alex was getting serious case of ants-in-the-pants that nearly rivalled Adam's.
Not that he'd ever admit the similarity out-loud.
Nocturnal eyes peered out at him, glowing with moonlight. Alex grinned, paying them no mind. They actually comforted him, again so different from SoCal.
If he hadn't raised his hand to wave at the lizards and stuff, he wouldn't have seen the knife. Painted matte-black, it would have stayed hidden in the bushes unless the moonlight caught it at just the right angle. Alex cursed and dove to one side.
The knife disappeared into the leaves soundlessly. Moments later, its owner dove out of the greenery. Alex had a second to register the make of the knife-- a pretty sweet KA-BAR with a thicker-than-usual handle-- before it breezed by his jaw. Alex let his body fall back in a natural arc to escape the close shave. Literally. He felt the slight sting of a dry-shave. Gotta love those KA-BARs.
Alex tumbled back, using a shoulder to control the roll. He didn't hear footsteps following him but that didn't meant that his attacker was gone. He threw himself sideways just in case. And a good thing too. Alex got his feet under him just in time to see feel air whoosh past the spot where his ribs would have been two seconds ago. He whipped a leg out, catching his attacker around the ankle.
To his surprise, the attacker made a quick, smooth hop and recovered. Alex blinked. Okay, this was not your average mugger. Ebay could explain away the knife but throwing aside one of the best moves in judo? This guy was SEAL-trained.
Why the ever-loving fuck was a SEAL mugging him?
Scott and Dad would tell him to run. Hell, Remy would have run as soon as he saw the knife. Alex drew a pair of sais from his backpack.
"Lookey, lookey," he said, twirling the blunt, three-pronged weapons confidently. "Mine's bigger than yours. And I've got two."
His attacker reached back to his own belt. Alex didn't wait for him to draw out another weapon. He feinted a stab to the gut and, when the other guy lowered his arms to block, he flipped the other sai around, aiming the butt of the stem towards the vulnerable hollow under the chin.
The guy bowed backwards. Alex blinked in disbelief. He only knew two guys who could do that and while his two older brothers always seemed to be pissed off at him, they would never come at him in the middle of the night. Hell, if they were that mad, they'd kill him in person, not send a masked-lackey.
"Who the hell are you?"
The attacker didn't answer but then, Alex really didn't expect him to. For a few seconds, he contemplated running. This guy was out of his league. Years of indoctrination kicked that thought out of his head. He was out of everybody's league, goddammit, if only as a result of being raised third in the Summers Dysfunction Show.
So when he backed away from the black-clad attacker, it wasn't to escape. He had to get his bag. Alex successfully blocked a side-stab and a hooked jab but the latter left him open for a knee in the kidneys. A blast of fire roared down Alex's spine and he sucked air into his quickly deflating lungs. He hated kidney hits. No one ever did them properly so he hadn't hardened himself to the pain. Fortunately, he stumbled into his backpack.
As Alex kicked the attacker away, he groped for an open pocket on the slippery nylon. His hand made contact with a well-worn plastic handle. When the attacker came back for another strike, the matte-olive nozzle of a GLOCK 22 greeted him.
Alex slowly stood up. "Okay, asshole. Who are you and why the hell are you trying to kill me?"
"Orders," said the attacker, preternaturally calm for someone who had a gun aimed between his eyes.
"From people you don't want to mess with."
Alex snorted. "Dude, you let a civvie pull a gun on you. Not exactly an expert move." He cocked the gun. "I could pop your grape right now."
Even through the mask, he could see the attacker smile. "But you won't. You want to know why I'm here first."
"Gold star, noob. You've got ten seconds."
"I only need five," the attacker shot back. "Tell your brother to back off."
Alex opened his mouth to ask "Which brother, asshole?" but a stinging cloud of pepper dust blew into his eyes. Gagging on the pain, Alex stumbled back, fighting not to rub face.
By the time tears cleared his vision, the attacker was gone, leaving Alex just as pissed off with his brothers as he had been when he first moved across an ocean to get away from them.
In the movies, the guy would be covering the girl when the explosion hit. In this case, the opposite was true. Remy read up on Rogue's powers; she had some sort of healing factor from Tall, Dark, and Hairy and a little left over magnetic powers from Erik Lensherr. She was better equipped to give the two of them cover when the door blew out.
"Wait," he whispered as Rogue started to get up from her crouch. He had to make sure the alarm hadn't tripped. Of course, there was the chance that it was a silent alarm but he wouldn't worry about that yet.
He tapped the video cam in Rogue's hand and raised his eyebrows questioningly. She nodded and showed him the steady red light near the lens. Flashing a brief smile of approval, he gestured her forward.
She followed directions well, copying his body movements. Was that innate or something that came from her powers? Whatever it was, she had potential. Too bad he was too busy to take an apprentice; he'd offer in a heartbeat.
Remy had no real idea of where he was going, just a general sense of building construction. People instinctively turned to the right first which was why most front desks lay to the right if not directly in front of the entrance. Architects always designed buildings in this manner, consciously or not, so Remy took the first right.
It was all corridors in all directions, smooth taupe drywall intermittently broken by flashing amber and green lights the size of his palm. Military installations tended to form concentric circles for faster access to all points whereas most other buildings worked on the familiar grid pattern. Remy bet on the side of military; if they kept walking down this hall, they'd hit an arterial corridor eventually.
He glanced at Rogue to make sure she was holding up okay. She held the cam steady at shoulder level. Her gaze met his confidently but with that sheen of excitement that he knew too well. He winked, crooked his finger at her then straightened it in the direction he intended to go. She nodded.
Taupe worked well for security cameras. They didn't reflect light as harshly as white but provided enough contrast for dark colours. Unfortunately, they were also immensely boring. The corridors seemed endless with neither doors nor intersections to break the monotony. Remy saw their video cam drooping in his peripheral vision. He reached back to tap Rogue encouragingly.
The intersection, when it finally appeared, took them by surprise. The floors were the same colour and the even lighting fooled the eye until you almost hit the wall. Remy quickly peered around the corner. This new hallway had dozens of shadowy alcoves indicating other corridors or, even better, doors.
They passed by five taupe doors and three taupe hallways before footsteps forced Remy to break pattern. He dodged into a hallway, pulling Rogue beside him. He felt for the door lock. A card scanner. Of course. He slipped the scrambler out of his wallet. It took two swipes but the doors clicked open and not a moment too soon. He and Rogue ducked into the room just as voices filtered down the hall.
Remy leaned up against the wall, his heart thundering, his eyes closed, and a smile playing on his lips. Bungee jumping just couldn't top this kind of rush.
"Oh, my gawd."
Remy opened his eyes. His smile disappeared.
A huge glass cylinder bubbled sluggishly before him. A small person curled within it, naked and poked through with so many tubes they seemed part plastic. Rows of the glass cylinders hung between metal poles like a macabre pantry in a giant's kitchen.
"Are they alive?" Rogue whispered. She reached out.
"Don't!" Remy slapped her hand away.
The person in the jar spasmed. Rogue covered her mouth to muffle her own scream.
"This is seriously fucked up shit," Remy said softly. He backed away slowly, pulling Rogue with him.
"We have to help them," Rogue insisted.
"Stripes, there are dozens of them," said Remy. "How much you want to bet they're hooked up to alarms? Hell, we don't even know if they'd survive out of the jars."
"But we can't just leave!"
Remy nodded. "No, we can't." He tapped her camera. "Take pictures. I'll see what's down there."
"Shh!" His eyes glowed briefly. "Now, Peaches. Before we trip any alarms."
He didn't tell her that he was afraid they were too late. Something this big did not have a mere card-pass for access. He figured they had five minutes to gather as much information as possible and another three to get the hell out of Dodge. After that, they would be lucky if security just used guns.
Looking back at Rogue snapping away, Remy's lips thinned. He forced a voice screaming "Mistake! Major fucked up mistake!" to the back of his head along with the one hollering "Don't leave the newbie alone!" Rogue could take care of herself; Scott trained her after all.
The landscape was Adam. He might be pickled in one of these jars. Remy was going to find him and to hell with the consequences.
He should have known even thinking of the worst would bring it about.