Remy couldn't believe the professor actually let him take Rogue out to Delaware. Either the man was going senile or he didn't give as big a shit about his students as the brochure claimed. Why this bothered him, Remy didn't know but experience inured him to worrying an hour before a job.
In the bathroom, Rogue hummed as she changed. Remy was doing the same, even down to the articles of clothing: dark, fitted pants tucked inside soft soled boots and the cheapest black T-shirts that could be found in Wal-Mart. The pants didn't shed and the shoes had only minute bumps as grips. Definitely not for playing ball in the gym with the guys but well suited to breaking and entering. He pulled on his trenchcoat with a grin. He'd gotten used to wearing it and having al his tools within reach.
The bathroom door slid open, pushed aside Rogue who was still tying her braid up into a bun. "I still can't believe the Professor let us go."
"He knows this is important," Remy lied.
She stuck her tongue out at him. "That sounded so untrue coming from your mouth."
"You know me too well."
The lab law a mile northeast of their motel room. Their gear was stashed in another car halfway between the two locations. Getting out of the hotel was easy; jogging half a mile in the middle of October wasn't. Remy spent his formative years in the sub-tropics and his adolescence in a desert; he didn't take well to wind chill. Thank God it wasn't raining either or he'd've been damned pissed off. At least the second car warmed him up a smidge on the way to the job.
The Dashwood Building was an inconsequentially stout structure in a nondescript section of Dover, Delaware set amongst other yawn-inducing buildings, the type of building that didn't garner a single synapse of memory even to those who drove past it every day all their lives. In other words, it was the perfect building in which to hide all manner of clandestine things.
On the count of three, Remy waved a forged electronic fob in front of the sensor at the same time that Rogue inserted a key in the analogue deadbolt lock on the other side of the doorway. The sensor light flashed green, Rogue turned the key and the door hissed open. A few feet in lay another door where they had to repeat the process. Before that, however, they unloaded their gear.
Disabling the building's alarms wasn't difficult; heck, any half-trained monkey could do it. The catch here was the motion sensors and the cameras. No one but no one was supposed to be in the building between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.; anyone who entered up-graded the sensitivity of the monitors. The motion detectors went on a wide scan and in-put information directly to the cameras so that they followed every move. Facial recognition was a guarantee. Move anything in the sensitive-items section and the sensors told wall-mounted guns to aim for the head. The set-up was pretty smart-- subtle enough to seem like your average security system but with a decidedly deadly twist. The wall mounts were what got Ms. Manners' boys.
Without a previously made plan, the place would have taken Remy at least a year to crack. Ms. Manners' Lefts were almost as good as him. The masks took care of facial ID but the monitoring system still had to be taken care off. Rogue popped open the electronic scanner, searching the guts for the proper cables. Remy handed her a specialized USB adaptor to attach to the cables' ports which would allow him to piggyback into the system. This interior scanner was linked to the same computer system as the sensors. There were redundant links, of course, not to mention several virus programs but this new one the NYGuild cooked up should keep the systems busy for at least twenty minutes.
Remy pressed the Enter button.
The scanner light turned green.
They leapt into action.
When the blackness of the cells became complete, Adam leapt into action. He threw his pillow through the opening. The soft projectile whumped against the wall on the other side, not the least bit scorched. He stared, jaw slack. It was actually happening. The Resistants were actually getting out of there.
"Hurry," Gav hissed at him.
"What the hell's going on?" demanded Scalphunter.
"We're free," Adam answered giddily, "C'mon, let's--"
"Move," said Gav insistently. "Quickly."
"Free? What do you mean--" But Gav tugged Adam away before Scalphunter could finish his question.
Gav yanked at Adam's arm all the way down the hall. "We must escape. Let others worry about releasing the rest."
A fleet of guards rounded the corner, invisible except for the heavy slamming of their uniform boots and the hollow clatter of their firearms against Kevlar.
"Hold!" shouted the captain.
Without breaking stride, Gav slid feet first into their formation, kicking out to disarm one guard. He plucked the loose rifle from the air and swung a perfect homerun into another one's ribs. Bones cracked.
"I got the skinny one!" Adam heard someone say seconds before warmth grazed his cheek.
Disbelievingly, he raised a hand to catch the blood.
"Adam!" Gav called out. He was still in the middle of that guard cluster, somewhere Adam couldn't see. "Run, for the love of all you hold--"
Something else crunched and Adam was very much afraid it was Gav. Resolve settled into his bones. Gav might have slight foot-in-mouth disease but he'd been nice to Adam and he was his only way out of here alive.
Adam rushed the guards.
"No!" Gav managed to gurgle out but Adam had already launched himself at the nearest body.
"Channel Alex, channel Alex, channel Alex," Adam muttered as he kicked and punched wildly. "Channel Alex. Alex smash."
His forearm serendipitously slammed into a rifle. Adam yanked it out of the guards' hands before it went off, flipped it around and fired. The shot boomed down the hall. Body fluids sprayed everywhere.
"Jesus," he gasped. "I... I..."
Gav grabbed the rifle and proceeded to gun everyone else down. "They must be under orders to keep us alive," he said. "That puts us at an advantage."
He pulled on Adam's arm again both slipping against bodies and blood.
"Jesus," Adam repeated. His breath wouldn't come out properly. He tripped to a stop, barely catching himself against some sort of pole as his stomach tried to invert itself.
"We have no time," said Gav.
"But... I killed..."
"And you will kill more." Gav shook him. "Do not forget what they have done to us, what they will continue to do."
"I think I have... pieces of... in my face." Frantically, Adam scrubbed at his hands and face. He had to get the pieces of human off him. They were stuck on him, staining him. Oh, God, what if some got in his mouth and he'd eaten--
What little Adam had in his stomach spattered on the floor. He was still spewing when Gav dragged him, half running, half stumbling, further down the hall. "You can do this," he told Adam. "We will escape. But first, you must get over this irrational fear of blood."
"Irrational?" Adam chuckled nervously. "I'm irrational. I burn people's blood, I'm breaking out of sci-fi lab and my boyfriend was literally a test-tube baby. How could I possibly be irrational in the face of all of that?"
"You are suffering from hysteria."
When the next corner revealed another half-dozen guards, Adam inhaled deeply. Six rifles aimed for various vital parts of his anatomy. With Alex's instructions in mind-- both eyes open, stay on target, don't stiffen your arm up too much, feet apart to brace yourself-- he fired.
This time, he refused to throw up.
Scott threw five flash bombs in quick succession up and over the razor-wire fence. Human traffickers and cargo alike screamed as SHIELD penetrated the last barricade in this sorry pit.
"Um anjo! Um anjo de morte!"
Warren manoeuvred around the stalactites, his heavy wings breaking through the wooden crates and corrugated tin sheets that Bobby had iced. He threw more smoke and flash bombs in the crowds.
"Jubilee, look for the main hold," Scott said into his mic. "Minimum fire, got it?"
Scott circled in the opposite direction. Two years ago, he'd struggled to shoot a blast at a person. Now, his visor's aperture was practically stuck on open. What did it mean when he made mentally corrected lecture notes in the middle of a battlefield?
A large cage lay at two o'clock. Two short blasts knocked the guards out; Scott rushed to the cage. As he soon as he opened the door, children and teenagers rushed out in a panic, still handcuffed to each other and making no progress outside of harming themselves even further. Glancing over his shoulder, Scott saw that a metric tonne of SHIELD agent now swarmed the cave; he had time to untangle these kids.
Several icicles flew past him as Bobby chased after some more bad guys. Scott continued to zap one handcuff after another. He knew he held the kids a little too roughly but he had to make sure he was shooting the cuffs and not their ankles which were pathetically emaciated already. Thankfully, by the seventeenth handcuff, most of them descended into confused silence.
"Cyclops, we're almost clear," a SHIELD agent buzzed in his head.
"Copy," said Scott. "I found one package here and possibly three more within the perimeter."
Zark. Eighteen handcuffs.
Zark. Nineteen handcuffs.
Zark. Twenty handcuffs.
"We'll send someone over to check it out. And sign of the prize package?"
Zark. Did these people land a sale or something?
In the end, Scott snapped sixty-three handcuffs, having skipped most of the ones locked to wrists. They could run and it was probably better to be in groups. A lot of them just huddled in piles, too worn out to do anything but watch reams of black-clad agents beat the holy hell out of their captors.
Scott shook off the chill creeping up his arms. "Iceman, Angel, Jubilee: report."
"All clear," said Bobby.
Angel dropped down a few yards away and folded his wings. "All clear."
"All clear and peachy keen," said Jubilee. "So did you find the prize package?"
Scott's lips twisted. "No. But I'm sure Fury's already magically discovered it."
A SHIELD agent snapped into his earpiece. "We've found the prize package! I repeat: we've found the package!"
"Right on cue." Contacting Bobby and Jubilee, he said, "Let's round up the kids and make sure they're okay. Most of them are malnourished but if any have severe injuries, take them straight out to the Helicarrier."
"Excuse me, Cyclops, sir." An agent snapped to a stop and saluted. "General Fury would like you to stay on to retrieve the prize package."
"Tell Fury that I came to give extra firepower without extra bloodshed," said Cyclops, infusing the last of his strength into maintaining an even tone. "If he wants me to act as a courier, it'll cost him."
"That package is the payment," said Fury, clomping through the carnage without a change in expression. "This isn't just any human trafficking conglomerate."
Scott lifted his eyebrows.
"We can really tell this is a higher level of child abuse," said Warren dryly. "The undeground labyrinth was a nice touch."
"While you were playing angel of Christmas, did you happen to notice anything special about these kids?" asked Fury. He flicked cigar ashes at the huddles headed out the tunnels.
"They're all hungry?"
"They all look alike."
Warren was rolling his eyes but Scott took a closer look. He did note similarities in the ones he'd freed but he'd been so concentrated on moving to the next batch of huts that he dismissed them as siblings. Now, without debris and bullets fogging his field of view, he didn't know how he could have missed the resemblances.
"They're kidnapping entire families?" Scott said.
"They're growing people," Fury corrected. "Genosha has a pretty good rep with the UN at the moment because it's so goddamn boring. Vanilla beans and environmental preserve-- some bullshit like that. We have reason to believe that illegal eugenics is alive and well on Genosha and these kids are the end result."
Xavier's cloning file popped into Scott's mind. He had this information. Dammit, he had this information and he didn't do anything about it. How could he possibly fail in so many fucking ways? Scott dug his fingernails into his palms.
Unaware of his friend's anger, Warren said, "The technology doesn't exist for cloning people."
"That's what you think," said Fury. "It's been theoretically viable for the past eight years; no one's done it because of the backlash. But if someone had access to an inconsequential island in the asscrack of the Indian Ocean and funding from several interests groups, I say you could go ahead and clone your piddly little heart out without so much as a handslap. The prize package is a few women they're using as incubators. Kidnapped, of course, fooled into thinking they were signing up for city jobs."
"That's preposterous," said Warren. "Something that secret can't happen any more."
"Don't be too sure," Scott said. "You could keep anything a secret with enough money and influence."
"Even so, all it would take is one successful breakout and the whole thing goes on CNN." He looked to Scott for verification but Scott's mind had already moved to a tangential thought.
"Why would this mission and the prize package be important to me," he asked Fury, "if it wasn't directly related to Adam?"
With Kitty typing up a whirlwind beside him, Alex easily accessed more information in an hour than in the past three months. Most importantly, he found Scott's private folder.
He could strangle his big brother. In fact, as soon as he read the first two files-- one on a biotech company another on a kidnapping ring in Eastern Europe-- Alex actually planned out Scott's assassination. It would involve a tire iron, a garrotte and ten pounds of sambuca, an alcoholic beverage that had Scott gagging as soon as he smelled it. If he, Alex, had gotten his hands on this information the day after he landed in North Salem, Adam would have been here in September. No, instead, he had to rely on the bits and pieces Remy tore out of the damn Guilds.
Alex was so mad he could choke a bitch.
"Did you find anything else on Genosha?" he asked Kitty.
"No," she answered. "It's just like you said, it's all the same over and over again. I've even tried falsifying my IP and accessing it from different parts of the world but it's still the same. Totally a smokescreen."
He nodded, self-satisfied. "Okay, now we just have to figure out what a biotech company, desert real estate, investment firms and freedom fighters have to do with Genosha."
Six minutes into their time window and so far, so good. Remy crouched on a desk, careful not to kick any material to the floor. Rogue balanced on a chair and a desk at five o'clock. Without touching the floor, they jumped, crawled and flipped to the corridor on the opposite side of the room. Remy sprayed the camera lens pointed at the corridor's mouth a second before Rogue dove into it. She landed in a perfect shoulder roll and was running as soon as she got her feet back under her.
Three, four, five... Remy waved his electronic key at the sixth door. When it popped open without a sound, Rogue let out a relieved sigh.
The filing cabinet they needed stood just to the right. Remy boosted Rogue on top of the heavy metal shelving then jumped up as well while she searched for the proper drawer.
"It's at the bottom," she signalled.
Of course it would be. Remy bit the tip of his tongue and waved her over. "You go down," he countersigned.
Rogue's eyes widened.
He winked, holding his thumb and forefinger in a circle in an "A-OK" signal. Taking her gloved hands, he quickly kissed each palm and pressed them together.
Her wobbly smile lasted for a second before she composed herself again. Lying on her stomach, Rogue edged over the side to study the lock upside down. Remy sat on her legs for extra balance. Twelve and a half minutes left. Rogue could pick a lock in about three minutes; five when she was upside-down. Providing this was your standard filing cabinet, that gave them more than enough time to find the file and leave.
The drawer creaked open.
After a few minutes of shifting, Rogue stuck a three-foot cardboard roll up in the air. Gambit grabbed it and stuffed it in a nylon case which he slung around his back as Rogue pushed back up on the top of the cabinets.
Seven minutes left until he blew this whole place up and sealed his fate with the New York Guild.
In six minutes and twenty-seven seconds, Adam and Gav met up with four other groups of Resistants. The plan was going well so far. Two of the guards were on their side, unlocking their suppression collars in the two seconds allotted to catch a second wind. The compound's alarms threatened to burst Adam's eardrums.
One woman-- Adam always forgot what her name was-- pushed towards the middle of the group. "You the one with the brothers?"
Adam nodded numbly but they were off and running again before he could elaborate. He, Gav and the woman stayed inside the group while bullets and tasers crossed with energy blasts and telekinetic shields. He cringed back the first time a dead body fell back on him but after everyone glared at him for tripping, he pretended the bodies weren't real and stepped over them.
"Keep running," Gav shouted. "Remember: leave the ones who fall behind."
The halls blurred into endless charcoal tunnels marked only by the size of the guards that came after them and the number of obstacles that he had to jump over. Thankfully the running stilled his gag reflex.
"Almost there," someone yelled.
Adam looked around. He was pretty sure there were supposed to be more people surrounding them than there really were. "Where did everyone go?"
Gav shook his head. "Keep moving. Attack at will."
"But Gav, you said the plan said we should just concentrate on getting to the exits."
"The plan is now flexible!" he shouted. "Move if you want to live!"
"But what about the other-- Gah!" Adam's leg buckled as heat spread from his thigh outward and he thought nothing would hurt as much as getting punched in the face by living stone but this was way, way worse because as he went down, he could see what happened and oh, my God, his leg was in pieces!, it was just mush from his hip down and he didn't know he could bleed this much and still be conscious but he really wished he could pass out soon because his leg looked so gross and Gav, Jesus, a guard had a gun pointed right at Gav's head.
Adam concentrated all his energy on the cut on that guard's forehead. "Burn, burn, burnburnburn."
Howling, the guard grabbed at his head and went down.
"Move." Gav yanked at Adam's arm but the pain went all the way up there, had migrated from his leg, which had to be dead by now, up to his body where there were more nerve endings that could torture him. "Get up, Adam."
"I can't," he said as he watched the rest of the group run for the door.
Gav crouched down, slung Adam's arm around his shoulder and heaved. "Move." He tried to drag Adam forward but his leg refused to work.
"The others are getting away."
"Let them. We can fight our way out ourselves."
With the number of guards stomping down the halls, Adam seriously doubted that. "Go ahead," he said, failing to keep the tremor from his voice. This heroism crap was hard. "You're one of the best fighters. You can still get on that plane off this island."
"Not without you."
"For fuck's sake, my brothers'll help you even if you don't bring me along!" Adam yelled. "I'll slow us down."
"I know," said Gav. "I'm not leaving without you."
The guards stormed their way. Adam took advantage of Gav's momentary distraction to punch his shoulder. "Leave before I chicken out!" He punched him again. "Go!" Punch. "Go!" Punch, punch, punch, "Go, go, go," and Adam knew it was desperate because Gav never let him get a punch in this easily.
Sure enough, Gav slapped away the next blow and, in the same movement, leaned down to give Adam a hard, breath-hitching kiss. Then he whirled around and ran because both their lives depended on it.
Scott ran as if his life depended on it, blasting the damn stalagmites that got in his way. Even on wing, Warren only reached the entrance at the same time as he did.
"I can get you to the Blackbird faster," he told Scott.
Scott was tempted to accept but, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bobby and Jubilee.
"We'll meet you up," said Jubilee. "I totally don't trust some of these guys with some of the packa-- the, uh, women."
"After what I've seen today, I'm not going home without the two of you," said Scott. "Warren, prep the Blackbird to pick us up as soon as I call." Warren nodded and took off. Turning to the kids, he asked, "Did they teach either of you to fly?"
Jubilee shook her head but Bobby raised his hand. "I wasn't really taught but I logged ninety hours at the simulator."
"Good enough; you're acting as my co-pilot."
"Are we... taking a copter?"
"Commandeering," said Scott.
"I want to be back home as soon as possible."
"Do you really think they kidnapped your brother for this cloning stuff?" Jubilee asked as she jumped in.
Scott didn't reply. He was too busy throwing the pilot out of the closest copter.
"Uh, I just overheard a transmission from the Helicarrier," said Bobby, almost apologetically poking his face into the conversation. "Logan escaped. Again."
"Everyone inside," said Scott. "We're heading home ASAP."
Alex had to get back to his research wall ASAP. With papers threatening to fly out from his stack of folders, he sprinted to the medlab with Kitty at his heels yelling something about the US military.
"Hello, Alex, I--"
He didn't hear the rest of Hank's greeting and was only vaguely aware of the student he'd been treating. Throwing the files down on the floor, he pulled out the valid papers and began jogging from one wall to the next, pining up information with colour-coded tacks and drawing Sharpie lines between the sheets.
As he marked the final line in his research map and sat back, panting with exertion, Kitty stood behind him and whistled.
"I found something else that might push it into X-Files territory." She handed him two papers: an article from the early eighties with the name "Michael Milbury" highlighted and the other dating to the nineteen-twenties with a "Michael Essex" in a caption under a photograph. Michael Milbury was being commended for the most successful births in the 55th Medical Group Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. Michael Essex stood beside Charles Sherrington of the Royal Society in England. Michael Essex wore Michael Milbury's face.