The laptop didn't know how close it was from being jettisoned out the window. Nothing made sense.
Three months of research-- three-- and everything came to a dead end. Alex had called neighbours, Adam's friends, Adam's enemies and the San Diego police department. No one came forward with new information. He even called Adam's online friend in Oregon but she was as helpful as everyone else, which was to say, not at all. Needless to say, his schoolwork suffered as a result of the obsession.
Adam's computer sat in the middle of Alex's alcove off the side of the medlab, its guts hanging from the frame. Like a squid devouring a whale, Alex's laptop exploded with wires that reached into Adam's computer, sucking information from its harddrive. On his left were the government files from Milbury, the contents tiling the parts of the floor that were still bare. Remy's picture was no-where in sight. Alex couldn't have him watching all of this going on, not in that damned washed-out photograph usually saved for celebrity mugshots.
"Something is missing," Alex muttered. He stepped between the papers, picking his way from between the components just as his cell phone played a Ludacris song.
He juggled the phone a few times before answering it. "Heya, Butthead."
Remy snorted. "I wouldn't talk, Bevis. You're not busy right now."
"What if I am?"
"Don't care. I need you to look at a set of files."
"Do I look like your assistant?"
"My assistant's a helluva lot cuter and besides, you're not doing anything right now anyway."
"How do you know?"
"If you were really busy, you wouldn't've heard the phone ring."
Damn the man for having a good memory. Alex sighed. "Okay, what is it?"
"On the far left side of my closet upstairs, there's a laptop. It's in the bottom drawer on the first column that you see on your left. I've got the keypad locked to my fingerprint but I can give it an override through my PDA so you can get into it."
"Geez, what's in that file, the cremated remains of Jimmy Hoffa?"
"I know nothing about him nor have I been anywhere near Giants Stadium," Remy replied. "The password on the main screen are our birth days and it'll give you two tries before locking down for twenty-four hours so make sure you know which order to key the date in."
"How do I--"
"Hell, boy, you got an IQ of ten billion, figure it out." He heard Remy murmur to someone before continuing. "Rogue wants to know if Hank expects her for collar testing tomorrow."
"Yeah, at around ten in the morning."
Remy passed the message on before continuing with his own instructions. "There's a file there called Account39. I sent some information there that might help you. Just be careful about letting any hard copies out; lock them back up for the night and shred them after you're done."
"Do I have to give anyone a secret handshake?"
"Alex, no one wants to get a handjob from someone as sexually incompetent as you." Remy signed off before Alex could retort.
Remy's room was in immaculate order, as always. If only his many conquests knew that Remy got more excited over a California Closets sale than a black thong, they might coo a little less about his manliness. The laptop lay exactly as described inside a black neoprene envelope. Alex pushed the fingerprint pad open and waited for the display to go from red to green; he couldn't even flip the screen up with the lock engaged.
Alex's cell phone rang. "You got the laptop?" asked Remy.
"Yes, oh, master."
"Okay, putting in the override. You got five seconds to open it."
"Why don't you do this yourself?" asked Alex, fumbling with the latch. "I do have schoolwork to do, y'know. You aren't even paying me to be your personal investigator."
"I'm busy getting information that you need," said Remy.
"You mean information that'll clear you of the FBI file."
"Listen, Moshpit, whoever gave you that file is stringing you along. I don't get caught."
"That you know of." Alex clicked through the icons until he reached the specified file.
"I am teflon."
"Funny." Muffled sounds came from the other end. "Look, I gotta go. Take a look at those files and let me know what you can put together. Tomorrow morning, maybe?"
"What are you doing tonight?" Alex wanted to know.
He almost grinned as he imagined Remy's teeth gritting. "Don't start, Blondie."
"Dude, you're the one biting at jailbait. I just--- huh." Alex stared at the phone. Remy had hung up on him.
Oh, well. Back to real work. Alex brought the other laptop downstairs, placing it beside his. His fingers hovered over the keyboard. Everyone's birth days, huh? Knowing Remy's background, the password wouldn't be something as simple as just numbers. He'd mean the actual days of the week. It would be easy enough to find his, Scott and Adam's birth days but Remy's was a little bit harder. Dad hadn't really gotten any information about Remy's birthday and Alex had never heard him talk about birthday celebrations in New Orleans. They just always celebrated Remy's birthday as the day Dad brought him home.
Alex typed MonThuThuSat.
The computer pinged at him.
Okay, take two. If he got this wrong, he'd have to call Remy for help and Alex wouldn't give him any more ammunition.
He typed Mon2ThuSat.
The grey screen blinked away to a plain textured desktop completely devoid of short cuts. After a few minutes of exploratory clicking, Alex found the specified folder. Most of them were database documents, page after page of accounting. He groaned. Dammit, Remy would give him all the boring information. Why couldn't he ever process mandates or security camera footage? No, he got bills for office supplies and vacation pay logs.
Grumbling, he set the laptop on his crossed legs, pulled a pad of paper to his left and started number crunching.
Being angry at Rogue took a lot of effort. Not only did Remy have to constantly remind himself that she'd been a bitch to him but he also had to avoid thinking about that hot dream. For the rest of the week, he tried to avoid touching her as much as possible. He was, by habit, a very tactile person, a characteristic that multiplied when he was around people and things he liked. He'd never noticed how often he reached out to pet Rogue's hair or rub her shoulders in encouragement until he forcibly stopped himself.
The situation made training... interesting. Fortunately, Rogue was the quickest study he'd ever met. Back in August, when it first occurred to him to teach Rogue to dance, he'd only wanted to loosen her up a bit more to the idea of close contact. Oh, he knew she had to stay careful but some of that skittishness had to drop around him. A lot of jobs occurred in closed in spaces and he couldn't very well have a partner that freaked out when he had to reach over her shoulder. He hadn't expected her to take to dancing like a fish to water, especially knowing ninety percent of the songs on her mp3 player were skinny, angry men with too much make-up who screeched at their daddies for leaving.
"We'll start on the third bar," Remy said, lifting Rogue's hand high and securing her flush against his thighs with his other hand.
Rogue held her head high although he didn't know if that was because of the suppression collar she was testing for McCoy or because she was still pissed at him. "What'll we do if someone asks me to pass a message to you?"
"Stall. I'm an important man, remember and as my apprentice, you're trying to screen my messages." He cocked his head, waiting for the proper beat. "And... back. Two. Three, four, five. Side. Two. Three, four, five. Don't forget your shoulders, three, four, five."
"I guess I should be thankful that you never wore your skeezy, navel-revealing tango shirt," Rogue said as they twirled between two TV trays. No one used the boathouse much this time of the year but Rogue had advanced past completely clear dance floors so Remy placed a few obstacles here and there to make things more difficult.
"I save that navel-revealing to girls I really hate," said Remy, trying to make his tone light. "I make sure to paste a whole lotta hair on my chest too for that authentic bar-lizard look."
Rogue stepped out of rhythm, causing their bodies to collide. Suddenly, he was hyper aware of how close her hips were against his. Flashes of his dream returned and with it, his groin's inevitable reaction. This was just ridiculous. He should be concentrating on Adam, dammit.
"Hey!" Remy snapped. "Concentrate!"
Her eyes widening, Rogue retorted, "I am concentrating!"
"This is one of the most important drops we're going to make and a little more dedication would really help." Taking a calming breath, he said, "Let's try again from the spin--"
"Hey, I'm dedicated as hell," Rogue shot back, stopping entirely, her hands on her hips. "I've been dedicating my sweet tush twenty hours a week to my training and I'm damned good compared to three months ago. If you're mad at me for shouting at you last night, then get mad at me for that, not my training because we both know that I'm kicking ass."
"Your training might be kicking ass but your attitude fucking stinks."
"You're talking to me about attitude?" scoffed Rogue. "This should be good." She jerked back into position.
Gritting his teeth, Remy clenched his hand around Rogue's waist and led her back into the tango. Four bars in, they misstepped again. "Goddamn, Stripes!"
"That was your mistake, not mine!"
"All right already, it's my fault like it always is. Can we move the hell on?"
By the tail end of an adorno, Remy couldn't stand the silence any more. He had to find a way to talk to Rogue again without snapping or else he'd go nuts with boredom. Breaking in a friend this late in the game was damn hard and besides, he had to be on good terms with his partner for the drop to actually work.
"This info about Adam sounds like a big breakthrough," he said, hoping to work the pity angle.
"Why don't you and Alex work with Mr. Summers about it?" asked Rogue. "You'll get a lot further if you three worked on it together, you know."
"After everything you seen, haven't you figured out that we work better when we're not working together?"
"That's stupid," said Rogue bluntly. "I'd've given anything to have brothers or sister growing up."
"Funny enough, I did, too." At her questioning stare, Remy said, "I was adopted when I was ten, Sugarplum. Scotty and Alex are full brothers but I've got a different mom. So does Adam. We got him when he was four."
"Oh." It took all of six seconds before her curiosity got the better of her. "I don't get it."
"Our dad got around," he drawled. "He was a navy pilot. Girl in every port and all."
Smirking and trying not to show it, Rogue said, "That explains a lot about you."
Acknowledging the comment with a nod, Remy walked them to the end of the dance floor. "Yeah, he liked the ladies but he went out of his way to look for us and take us in. Pretty good penance, in my opinion."
She stopped the dance and this time he didn't comment. Her narrowed gaze roved all over his face until he felt like he had to say something or else she might stare right through him.
"If you love them that much," she began, faded off and began again, "If you love them that much, why do try to piss them off so badly?"
Doing his best to sound flippant, Remy said, "Because it's fun." Then, because she wouldn't stop staring at him, he added, "They're gonna get pissed off at you anyhow; might as well be for a good reason, right?"
"Remy, that's " Rogue's forehead crinkled. "That's some kind of twisted but I'm not sure which type yet. Did they tell you what the news was?"
Shaking his head, Remy said, "That's part of the reason why this drop is so important. In exchange for the package, Ms. Manners promised to give us a huge lead. And, more importantly, if one of the mobs or other Guilds had a hand in it, Ms. Manners is offering to give me carte gris."
"Basically I can act like a freelancer until I get the person responsible."
Rogue whistled. "What are we stealing: a truck of gold bars?"
"Nothing that sexy, Sugarplum." His smile couldn't help but be full of excitement. "It appears Ms. Manners has a bit of a grudge against a company that put two of her people away."
"I thought you didn't do kills."
"I don't. This is a mutually beneficial job. We go in and get blueprints that we need, the building gets blown to smithereens like they need."
While she was busy trying to get her mouth to do anything more than gape, Remy walked them both back to the dance floor, this time to a rhumba.
"Blueprints to the place in Nebraska that had the semen samples?"
"Naw, this one's for another place, an island off the east coast of Africa."
"Adam's in Africa?"
Remy shrugged. "Got no idea why he would be but this whole thing's stunk since summer. Apparently, this Delaware office is the go-between for several biotech companies-- including the one in Nebraska-- to a bunch of places around the Indian Ocean that does cloning research."
Rogue whistled. "Just when I thought being an X-Man couldn't get weirder, they develop a new type of weird."
"They tell me it's a real Cooper." Remy winked. "You're gonna get one hell of an initiation into a big heist. Too bad you don't actually get cash."
"If I wanted cash, I'll just go through your wallet." To Remy's shock and delight, Rogue waved his wallet in front of his nose. A swift check showed that, yes, she had picked his pocket and quite cleanly, too.
"You're way too smug, Stripes, especially for someone who a little over seven weeks ago couldn't tell a blue diamond from a lab-made sapphire."
"It's not every day I get to pick the pocket of a top-notch pickpocket," she said pertly. "Neither is it every night a girl gets to make a total idiot of herself in a New York's dance club just to drop off a package."
Without warning, Remy arched over her, making her bend back then, with their arms clasped over their heads, he used their torsos to draw circles in the air. "More than dancing, Stripes. If the revenge angle don't work, what we're gonna be stealing is gonna guarantee a carte gris in Guilds."
"Information," said Rogue. She flexed her fingers on his shoulder. "I don't have perfect control over it, you know. Just because I hear people that I absorb in my head, it doesn't mean I can just call up information."
"You don't have to. You just have to convince them that you do. And when that happens..." Remy clicked his tongue. "Peaches, you're going to be one of the most powerful people in the East Coast. How bad do you want that?"
"I want it," she said, grinning through her bangs. "I want it bad."
Remy stumbled. Rogue laughed at him.
"What," she asked, "was that?"
"Warped hardwood," he lied.
Adam still struggled when the sticks came to get him, even the sticks he knew were on their side. It had something to do with face, he thought; Gav and Scalphunter always fought it if the sounds coming from their cells were anything to go by. Besides, Alex and Remy would always fight back. Scott... well, he wouldn't but probably only because he had some sort of plan brewing in the back of his head.
He came to in a little office. In the far corner, Gav stood on his hands doing upside-down push ups.
"My brother does those," Adam said.
Gav didn't pause as he spoke. "Remy, I presume."
"Yeah." Glancing around the room, Adam asked, "So, what am I supposed to do, boss?"
"The computer before you has the information from the last meeting. We were able to ensure two hours without interference but you must find it all now else we'll not get another chance."
"Geez, no pressure or anything." Adam sat cross-legged in front of a crate which held the computer. In under two minutes, the silence drove him nuts; he'd never done well with solo studying. "Scott taught me to use the computer."
"The eldest," said Gav.
"Yeah. Did I tell you he's a teacher?"
"A teacher for mutants."
"I bet he totally power trips on being a teacher," said Adam, equal parts fondness and resentment in his tone. "When we were little, he'd boss us around all the time. Even when he moved to New York, he'd call every night and tell us to fax our homework to him and--"
Gav rolled out of his handstand, rising fluidly to walk to Adam's side. One muscle-hewn arm draped around Adam's shoulders.
Adam's breath hitched. "--and, uh, he'd correct them which was fine--"
Gav's other hand snuck down to Adam's thigh, massaging just outside his flank. "Go on."
"Uh... fine." Adam gulped. "The homework. Was fine. Really fine."
"Good. He is a solid brother to have."
"Yeah, I guess." Adam tried to concentrate on the computer but he was getting all hot and bothered by the hand on his leg and Gav's breath warm in his ear. His eyes fluttered. "Um, not that I'm complaining or anything but, um, if you keep doing that, we're going to cut into research time and... oh, hell!"
Gav cupped his crotch. The bodysuits did nothing to dampen the sensation. "Think of it as incentive," the other boy whispered. "The sooner we leave, the sooner we can do this without rush." With that, he slipped back to his corner where he was now doing power crunches.
Sounded good to him. Adam caught his breath and attacked the computer with twice the urgency. Yeah, it was shallow and maybe a really stupid incentive but he'd never felt like this with any other guy. Not that there'd ever been a lot of guys anyway but Gav was just so... wow. He was all secretive and rough on the outside but when they were together, he was really nice and actually listened to his babbling and, oh, hell, he was going back into fantasyland which would really not help out with his assignment but would actually help the lab a lot not that he wanted to help the lab but hey, if they'd just collected his sperm this way the first time around, he might have volunteered for it instead of getting kidnapped which would be less of a headache for everyone concerned especially himself because he still couldn't find whatever it was he had to look for.
"So after we find what we need," said Adam, "what do we do?"
"Escape," said Gav. He rolled over to do side crunches.
Adam rolled his eyes. "No shit, Sherlock. I meant specifics."
"We fight out way out. You, me and others."
"Wait... what? Have you seen the metric assload of guards they have around here with the nifty suppression collar remotes? And bullets, we can't forget the bullets."
"Those will be taken care of," said Gav calmly. "We need only worry about the security information so as to more efficiently escape."
"In what universe is this a good plan?" Adam demanded. "We don't have a map. We don't have weapons. We have no way of communicating. We don't have security codes or any way around them. The only thing we might have are specs on the security and we don't even known how old they are. And we're supposed to escape how?"
"Not every is privy to the entire plan so that we cannot reveal anything when we are questioned," said Gav. "And also, we don't all have to escape. A few will be sacrificed for the whole."
"Great, that makes me feel tonnes better."
"Would you prefer we rot here?" said Gav, his voice as near to an angry hiss as Adam had ever heard it. "You may not care to return to the outside but there are hundreds here who have never had the pleasure of the sun on their faces."
"I never said I didn't want to escape. Just that it's a bad idea to make me one of the escapees. Aren't there other uber-warriors or something out there who can do this instead?"
"No one else has your brothers," Gav said simply. "Without them, we would have no chance of returning to free the others."
Adam opened his mouth to respond but he didn't have anything that could top that. Him and his big, stupid mouth. All this time that he'd been going on and on about Scott and Remy and Alex, he'd thought that Gav was actually interested in his family. In him and what he was saying. Adam knew he wasn't the brightest of the Summers', but he could put a few obvious pieces of a puzzle together. "That's why you started sleeping with me. You wanted my connections for the escape plan and you figured out that I'm gay and desperate and you fucking slept with..."
Gav did his crunches in double time.
"Did you tell Frenzy what I told you about my brothers?"
He didn't answer.
"Did she tell you to fuck me to get my co-operation?"
He was doing his crunches at a ridiculous speed now, sweating rivers and panting.
Tears blinded Adam. "Well, fuck you and the Resistants and the horse you all rode on." He pushed away from the computer, half-tempted to throw the damned thing at him but knowing Gav, he'd probably catch it and pitch it back at his head.
Gav's arm slammed against the door. He was stronger and better at fighting but Adam had untrimmed fingernails and a really bad temper. He gouged into Gav's arms.
"Burn," he whispered. "Burn, burn, burn, burn--"
Only specks of blood rose on the other boy's arm but it was enough for Adam's power to catch. Gav kept his arm stiff, his body shaking with pain as the energized electrolytes travelled up his arm, firing more and more of their kind.
"There are thousands of us here," Gav said quietly. "You would deny them their freedom because you misinterpreted my actions?"
"Yes!" Adam snarled. Then, after a deep breath, "No." He closed his eyes. The fire in Gav's arm died. "You could have just asked me. You didn't have to... Christ, I sound like some... so stupid."
Gav stayed silent.
With slumped shoulders, Adam returned to the laptop on the crate. "So we're looking for security information," he said dully. "I think we'd better look for the actual systems first and then figure out a way around them."