Having spent his weekly quota of medical emergencies, Alex roamed the halls in search for Scott. Whether his brother liked it or not, powers or not, he was going to help look for Adam and Alex was willing to go another round in the Danger Room for it. As he strolled to the main classrooms, he bumped into a rather hassled-looking Asian lady of indeterminate age, obviously a teacher. His first week in Hawai'i, Kim assured him that once Asians hit twenty-five, their facial features remained the same until they hit forty so please stop trying to flirt with his aunt.
"Lemme help you with that," Alex said, taking half of the files under her arm. "Narda, right?"
"Thanks," she said, flashing a smile. "They told me I had to be a teacher-of-all trades because of the, uh, extra-curricular stuff but I didn't realise I would get so stressed-out about it."
"Waiting for the others to get back," Narda clarified. "I like everyone here. They're my buds. But it's like being married to a cop every time they put the uniforms on." She opened the third door down the classroom wing.
"I wouldn't worry too much," said Alex, grinning nonchalantly. "Scott's like Superman. Injuries bounce off him and hit other people. Usually his nearest and dearest."
Narda stared at him like he just confessed to chasing puppies with a flamethrower.
"What?" asked Alex, genuinely puzzled.
"Nothing, I just " She adjusted her stance and tried again. "I'm not really sure if that was an appropriate joke, that's all." Stiffly she took the files from his hand and viciously concentrated on pretending to organize them. If hostility could injure, Alex was pretty sure he would be dying of blood loss by now.
"Wha-- huh? Time out, hon." He closed the door. "I get this feeling that I just stuck my foot knee-deep in my mouth and I didn't even know I was hungry."
Narda stared at him, her eyebrows wrinkled into a deep V. "I think I'm the one chewing on foot at the moment. Um, do you remember Jean Grey?"
"Mrs. Robinson, yeah." Alex's grin slipped. "Uh, did they break up or something?"
Narda glanced around for-- who knows, hidden mikes? Self-aware security tentacles? In this school, anything was possible. "Okay, I'm just going to tell you facts because I wasn't here when it happened." She paused, apparently bracing herself. "Jean Grey passed away a few months ago."
Alex's jaw dropped. He tried to say something, even something as clichéd as "What?" but his entire brain shut down. He'd met Jean Grey a handful of times, the last just after he decided to go to university after all. She'd been quietly encouraging, just sitting there, pouring him tea and listening so damn well and not really saying much. He'd wondered how her and Scott's kids were ever going to learn how to talk then reared back at the ease at which his mind created the image of Scott with a child.
Alex's knees went weak. "Holy shit. No wonder he's been so... but why didn't he just... damn, did Remy know?"
"I think he knows now."
That meant he hadn't known before. Remy must have flipped his lid. He was so strangely anal about things like that; Alex suspected exposure to mafia mentality combined with Remy's background before Dad adopted him resulted in a few fried circuits. Incidentally, this was also Alex's theory on why everything breathing fell for Remy lock, stock, and fruit-flavoured lube.
"Where's Remy right now?" he asked Narda.
She placed two fingers on her chin. "I think I saw him go out on his bike a couple hours ago."
A motorcycle. That meant that in Remy was off getting tail in order to comfort himself. Alex relaxed a little. Remy was easier to talk to after he found someone to jerk all his tension off.
"He's with Rogue again, one of the students," Narda continued. "Apparently, they've started a new training regime."
Alex tensed up again. He wouldn't.
"Which reminds me," said Narda, "I should tell Scott or Charles about that. I'm not sure Remy has permission to take students off-campus no matter what the training."
"Giving one of the boys a field trip?" Alex joked. Badly.
"Actually, Rogue's a girl."
Aw, fucksticks. Alex ran for Scott's office.
Scott didn't look up from the laptop which he and a young, dark-haired behemoth were consulting. "Did you need anything?" he asked Alex.
Leaning against the door, Alex said, "I wanted to ask you about one of your students actually. A girl named Rogue."
Scott tilted his chin at the door. The behemoth nodded, collected the laptop with a murmured, "I'll be with Mr. Worthington," and left.
"What about Rogue?" Scott asked as soon as the door clicked shut.
"Is she particularly pretty?" Alex asked in return. "Over the age of consent in this state? Heterosexual? Have any features that would induce Remy to be attracted to her such as breathing and proper hygiene?"
Scott's mouth flattened. "Are you trying to say that Remy's having sex with one of the students?"
"Scott, Remy would fuck a hole in the wall if it came in designer perfume. Hell, a rip-off of a designer perfume."
Rubbing his hands over his face, Scott let out a minute sigh. "Okay."
"You'll beat on him?" Alex suggested. "Maybe take him somewhere isolated for a few weeks and give him holy hell? And you'll both come back healthier, happier, and full of moral eptitude?"
"No," he said, much to Alex's disappointment. "I still haven't forgotten that you came in here guns blazing with an FBI file on Remy from God knows only where. I'll look into that situation. You concentrate on figuring out how to get back to Hawai'i so you can finish your degree and maybe learn that 'eptitude' isn't a real word."
This was not going well. Scott's usual reaction was righteous indignation, followed by resignation, and ending with at least a week's worth of bonding time with Remy after which heads of state no longer feared for their positions and dads could unlock their daughters' doors again. That was how the system worked. Alex started to gesticulate. "But Scott--"
"Alex, Rogue's power prevents her from touching anyone skin to skin. Remy knows that. He couldn't possibly be having sex with her because within five minutes, he'd be dead." Scott laced his hands together on his desk. "I'll look into it."
Alex couldn't believe it. "Okay, who are you and what have you done with the real Scott?"
"I have no idea what you mean."
"Y'know the Scott who swooped in all the time to kick Remy around when he was messing shit up? The only one who could actually get Remy to listen to him, explosive playing cards or no? The one who threatened to stuff a cigar up his ass and light with a flame thrower if he so much as said 'larceny' within hearing?"
Scott angled his head to one side. "Do you really care what happens to Rogue or are you picking a fight again?"
"I don't pick fights!"
Scott gave him a withering glare. Alex knew it was there even though the glasses hid his eyes. It was all in the eyebrows. Scott gave whole dissertations with his eyebrows.
"Okay, so maybe I do pick fights but only the important ones."
"I have it all under control," said Scott.
"Bullshit," Alex shot back. "Adam's still missing, two of your kids got kidnapped by spies who live in an airship, and another one is kanoodling with Remy! Scott, for fuck's sake, can't you see he's just doing this to get your attention?"
"Yes," said Scott. "And I'm not going to make the mistake of over-reacting and causing an even bigger argument. I've done that too many times."
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have, as you mentioned, two kids and a brother to look for." He pointed turned his face to his computer.
Alex's shoulders tensed up with disbelief. It was official. Aliens had taken over Scott's body.
Okay, really? The whole waking-up-groggy then drugging-back-to-coma thing was getting so old so fast. For once, Adam would really freakin' appreciate going to sleep because he was tired instead of getting pumped up with whatever tranq these guys kept shooting into him. If he ever got out of here, he was going to be seriously addicted to drugs by default.
When he got out, not if he got out.
Jesus, he was getting fuckin' morbid, wasn't he?
Part of it, he knew, was losing track of time. He had no idea how long he'd been missing. Sometimes, it felt like at least half a year but he really couldn't accept that. If he'd been gone for more than a month, surely one of his brothers would have picked up on it, right? So Adam preferred to think that he'd only been gone for three and a half weeks. Anything longer than that and it wasn't just that he was hard to find; they were also not trying that hard. Adam refused to believe the latter because if he did, he'd start bawling like a baby and God knew he had enough points against him in this place.
He heard a few people shuffle in and out with the guards, some with more resistance than the others. Scalphunter snored really loudly and there was someone about ten yards away who got up to pee every fifteen minutes. Everyone farted. No one ate. Or at least, no one chewed food. A few times after waking up, Adam's stomach felt full and his throat, raw. So much for no more tubes but at least they weren't permanently attached.
Gav-7 interested Adam the most and not just because of that weird conversation about rainy weather. He was so zen, like a kung fu master. He didn't seem to be afraid of anything but neither was he one of those idiots who looked for fights. Scalphunter said Gav-7 was weird even by vat-rat standards.
Adam was learning a lot of slang up here, too. He was an outsider because he'd been kidnapped and taken to the labs unlike Gav-7, who was a vat-rat. He was honest to freakin' God born in a laboratory and lived his whole life like this. The guards were called sticks because they loved to stick needles in people-- tranquilizer darts, hypodermic needles, and the occasional bullet if some of Scalphunter's wilder tales were to be believed.
The training room was called the box, the pens, or the acid trip, depending on the speaker's feelings about it. In the six sleeps that passed since he came to the third floor, he had yet to see the pens again. The weird thing was, Adam wasn't sure if he was relieved or insulted. Yeah, the fighting hurt but it was also kind of like being picked last for basketball. Scalphunter went out four times. Gav-7 had gone out twice that he knew of. No one brought up the weather, rainy or not.
Worst than that, it was *really* freakin' boring being in his room all day conscious. No TV, no radio, nothing to read or draw with and, if Gav wasn't around, no one to talk to. Adam took to tricking out cars or reciting more Shakespeare in his head to keep himself from going absolutely nuts, murmuring aloud for the sake of hearing someone else's voice.
Adam was almost finished tricking out a Volkswagen Jetta when the sticks came for him again. The invisible doors hushed open just as he was replacing the coil covers. Adam stiffened in bed.
"I won't struggle," he said, trying to get in touch with his inner-Scott. He sat up slowly, putting his hands up.
The guards didn't speak-- they never did to conscious prisoners-- but they didn't zap him with a tranq either. Adam heard his collar whir-click; moments later, a wave of nausea came over him. His arms dropped right into the guards' waiting hands.
The walk out his cell was a drunken joke. No lights other than the usual blinky reds and greens which danced around in tight spirals. He wondered how the guards found their way around. Maybe that was why they wore goggles, for night vision.
A few things swished opened and closed, a huge something blared blue-green light all over the place, and finally something buzzed like an ant-sized engine revving. Then Adam's body snapped back under control and he found himself shuffling along the four-way line-up for the pens.
He blinked the fuzz from his eyes. Stupid drugs. He hated all this missing time. It made him feel messy, like an Alex-made tornado ripped through time, dropping timeframes willy-nilly on the floor. The guards who held him had disappeared although there were several pacing the floor, just like last time. Other grey-clad prisoners shuffled along like last time. Four pairs of prisoners fought in four holodecks, also just like last stime.
The acrid scent of ammonia hit Adam's nose. He grimaced. The person in front of him had wet himself.
"Don't worry," he said. "You only have to destroy your opponent."
The other prisoner stared up at him in shock. His wet spot grew wider.
Adam tried again. "Uh. Yeah. Go with the Force?"
His collar whirred and before Adam could get an "oh crap" out, his brain smacked around inside his skull again. He really hated those collars, slightly less than the ass-tubes but more than the test-tubes. When he came too, the guy in front of him had graduated from pissing his pants to full on whimpering. Adam felt like smiling. He was officially *not* the biggest loser in this place. That would be a nice position to hold on to especially seeing as how Scott and the others were taking their sweet time finding him. Maybe if he could hotwire a car in three seconds, he'd be worth looking for. Or maybe if his mutation kicked in a little earlier. Or maybe if he just agreed to slavishly worship Alex, they'd be willing to put a little more effort into a search. But nooo, he was Adam the Drama Queen and it wasn't like his running away meant anything except for a little extra attention.
By the time he stepped into his pen, which looked like a typical seedy backalley, Adam was in a fine froth of resentment. If anyone actually gave a shit about him, he'd be out of here by now. If anyone bothered to fucking visit home once in a while, they'd notice he was gone.
Adam finally realised why Alex took such joy in pounding the ever-loving crap out of a punching bag three times a day. When his opponent came around, he didn't see a fellow prisoner so much as a stand-in for his brothers. That the other prisoner was a female made no difference. Adam wanted to feel something crunch under his fist.
Swooping down from a fire escape, a positively inhuman woman with muscles the size of Rhode Island thumped on the ground. Growling as she fell, she swung her arms together. Adam jumped away, expecting her two massive hands to smack against his ears. Instead, a quiet crack and a rush of force not unlike a six-foot wave threw him off his feet. Adam curled his body into a ball, spotting the ground and reaching a hand out to balance himself before he went into a shoulder roll. It was messy but he was conscious and, really, that was a good thing considering the last time he was in here.
Steroid Woman strode forward, intensity in every elephant step. Scrambling backwards, Adam tried his damnedest to remember how he brought that other guy down--Teke-2 or Bruno. Whoever. The one who groped his crotch and really deserved to get his arm burned off was just like this chick who looked like she wanted to roast him over an open fire after she slapped his head off sucked the marrow out of his bones for flavour and really "bone" and "suck" did not sound awesome in this context.
Adam felt a burn start behind his eyes. The same burn that happened back with Bruno/Teke-2. Satisfaction rushed up his spine. He had a chance.
Setting his attention on Steroid Woman, Adam waited for something to happen. Preferably screaming and squirming on the ground as skin blistered.
Panic set in once again. Steroid Woman was getting closer, her arms bent a shoulder's width apart. She was going to do that air-cracking this soon and, with a wall a scant three feet behind him, he wasn't going to be able to make that same dodge.
*Come on, brain, come on. Kick in. Think of yourself as a car with a faulty transmission. Something kicks back then makes the gears catch on each other. What was it?*
As he crouched backward, Adam's hand caught on something sharp. He hissed, drawing his arm up. There was a bead of red on his palm, caused by broken bottles.
In his head, Adam saw Bruno/Teke-2 biting his arm until his teeth went through skin. He remembered a flare of heat behind his eyes. And then he remembered Bruno/Teke-2's wound blistering before the rest of his arm, going bright red as the rest went pink then curling black as the rest went red.
His hand closed in on a bottle neck.
This time when Steroid Woman clapped her hands, Adam dove forward. He held the broken bottle out as he came out of the roll. There was a sickening resistance as the ends of the bottle caught cloth then slashed through skin. It felt like hacking through old leather upholstry in the theatre backstage. Adam swallowed the bile threatening to wimp out his great offence.
Instead he turned around and concentrated on that burning behind his eyes. *Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn!*
Steroid Woman's face crumpled as she clutched her thigh. Adam almost smiled when he smelled cooking meat. "Toasted like Wheat Thins, bitch."
"Wait!" said Steroid Woman. She held her free hand palm out. "Is it rainy out?"
Adam was nonplussed. "What?"
"The weather," Steroid Woman repeated tightly. "Is it rainy outside?"
The conversation with Gav-7 popped into his head. "Uh, yeah. I hope it'll stop soon."
Steroid Woman's expression cleared slightly. "That's okay. I really like umbrellas anyway."
Adam grinned. Something important had happened here. Something that, if he tapped into his inner optimist, he was sure meant good things. Good things like finding people who weren't freaky like Scalphunter or insane like Bruno/Teke-2. It might even mean freedom.
She shyly returned the grin. And then she pounded his face into the dirt.