If Adam added up all the times he'd blacked out, he was pretty sure it'd come to a month. Maybe one day, he'd just stay in the black. It was fuzzy there. Warm. No hot, sociopathic nudists sleeping with him for information. No crazy British scientists poking at his insides. No brothers nagging him with post-it notes.
However, the black didn't have Vin Diesel in a Trans-Am. And it didn't have popcorn chicken and T-bone steaks rare enough to still be mooing. The black definitely didn't have masturbation and if there was one thing Adam couldn't live without, it was masturbation. So he'd just have to pop back into consciousness.
His leg shrieked with pain.
Okay, maybe he didn't have to pop back into consciousness. He should have slid into consciousness. Snuck up on consciousness wearing socks. Eased into consciousness holding a gift basket in apology for whatever it was that he'd done to consciousness that made consciousness want to soak his leg in habanero sauce and eat it.
Adam's vocal cords swam through the pain to register that Adam wanted to scream.
Which he did. Loudly.
"Oh, of all the--" Essex's voice buzzed through the pain. Moments later, the pain went away and Adam was so happy, he'd cheerfully give Essex the damned leg if he wanted it as long as he promised to never, ever, ever let the painkillers run out. "I apologize for that," Essex said. "My assistant must not have administered the proper amount. It is quite difficult to train them properly, don't you think?"
"Ungh-ah-eeeee," Adam gibbered.
He faded out again because after that little incident, Adam would sacrifice popcorn chicken and the Trans Am without regrets for a few more hours of numbness.
The next time he work up, Adam uncurled from a pretty comfortable pillow. Soon afterward, he took in the heavy quilt tucked snugly around him, the plush mattress, and the womb-like warmth of the room. He turned, eyes still closed, and felt for the edges. His hands bent limply on either side; it was a double-bed then.
He rolled over on his back.
He'd been on his stomach?
Eyes still shut, Adam gingerly felt out his thigh. Slick plastic and thick padding gave under his fingers but even as he braced himself for the habanero pepper pain again, he only felt pressure and solid muscle.
He pondered the futility of opening his eyes. Someone was bound to knock him out right after. Hell, he probably missed a birthday, he was out cold so often.
A door to his right hissed open. Essex walked in without his lab coat this time. His suit was nice; tailored, luxury-brand nice and Adam would know all about tailoring and luxury brands because he'd spent many a night fantasizing about magazine models in said suits.
"You're awake again. Good. I hope the accommodations are to your liking." He checked something beeping beside the bed and turned a few knobs on the headboard. "Despite our backers' haranguing, I am quote particular about mattresses for you and your companions. Sleep is quite necessary for the body's immune system as well as its repair functions. There are countless studies of the repercussions of sleep deprivation which, I'm certain, you are not quite as keen to learn about." Essex's lips turned up. "Such are the youth. I would highly encourage further studies for you, boy. Such heights you could reach given the proper incentives."
Adam turned his face away and closed his eyes.
"You must still be cross with me. I suppose I warrant a bit of it but you will soon see otherwise." More tapping and shuffling occurred around the medical equipment. "Someone will come in with food in a few hours. If you can hold that down, you will be permitted to access the cafeteria as long as you do not exert yourself. The last thing I want is for you to relapse."
"What do you want?" The question burst out of Adam's chest. He was so sick of everything-- the kidnapping, the experiments, the Resistants, the whole twisted secrecy of it all. Then to have this guy come in pretending to be some weirdo caring uncle when he was probably the reason Adam was in this freakin' hell hole to begin with? It was all too goddamn much!
Essex folded his hands and said lightly, "I want you, Adam. I want your talents, your gifts, your uniqueness. I want to show you how powerful you are and how to use that power to you advantage."
Laughter trickled out of Adam mouth. He couldn't help it. He had cracked completely now. His chuckles became guffaws and soon, he was laughing so hard, his body shook. Through his tears, he saw Essex watching him, his expression unreadable. For some reason, that struck Adam as even more hilarious. He rolled into his side and howled.
"Are you quite finished?" asked Essex when Adam calmed down to mere wheezes.
"No. It's just... when you said... when you said 'I want you' like... like some soap star. With the pause and everything." Adam threw an arm over his mouth in a failed attempt to stifle any more sounds. "Oh, God, my life is ridiculous."
"On the contrary, it is very special indeed."
"I bet you say that to everyone you kidnap, torture and jerk off with a computer."
Essex tented his fingers and tucked them under his chin. "Believe it or not, you are safer here than anywhere else in the world. Here, we encouraged your gifts and did all we could to raise them to their full potential. Do you know of the world outside? How persecuted mutants are?"
"Because it's heaven here," Adam shot back.
"It is if you are strong. We are but a microcosm of the outside world where just such a revolution is taking place."
"Why, the fight for the planet. At this very moment, evolution is acting upon the human population, imposing forces upon it-- tidal waves, earthquakes, man-made disasters-- that will guarantee that only the fittest phenotypes survive. Those who not only have the powers to survive world-wide decimation but the mental ability to adapt under stress. You have more than proven your worth."
"My worth." More chuckles threatened to escape his chest but Adam manfully quashed them. "Great. Can I get my secret decoder ring and go already?"
One of Essex's eyebrow rose. "You doubt my sincerity."
"Dude, I doubt your sanity. Are you hearing yourself? The world is going to end! The fittest must survive! Drink this Kool-Aid!"
Essex shook his head slowly. "That is precisely what I mean. That fire in the face of defeat. You brothers could not do the same."
"What the hell do you know about my brothers?" Adam demanded.
"I know they aren't here despite their many varied resources."
Adam couldn't say anything to that.
"And even if they were here, do you think they'd understand what you've had to do to survive? You've killed, Adam. There are corpses, both human and mutant, in the morgue, burnt from the inside out. Oh, certainly you did what had to be done to survive but would your brothers see it that way? Or would they simply see a killer?"
"With us, you need not fear such recriminations. We understand survival here. That is why I chose you above them all, you see. I knew that you were different from them."
"I said, shut up!" Adam rose on his elbows, wishing he had super-fast healing instead of energy powers because he'd love to get free and wrap his hands around that wacko's neck and squeeze until he became one of the morgue residents. As soon as that thought formed, Adam's breath caught. Oh, Jesus... he didn't mean... he wasn't a killer. He wasn't. "I'm not a killer," he said aloud, making that hope an incantation.
"You are a winner," Essex said softly.
"But I got shot--"
"In the attempt to attain the mission. And attain it you did. One of your number managed to escape."
The door hissed open. Someone walked in, someone with buzzed red hair, a painfully beautiful body and an unmistakable pride in his stride. GA-V-DRA7 turned, smiled and inclined his head. "Hello, Adam."
Scott could only remember two times he'd been this angry. The first was when he found out that the drunk driver who killed his mom and gave him brain damage walked away with a five thousand dollar fine and a bruised shin. The next was when he realised that Jean had every intention of killing herself to save them from the burst dam. Both times he'd yelled, as if bellowing could augment the force of an optic blast or a punch or anything that could purge this roiling, choking, burning anger that threatened to reach out from his guts and squeeze his head.
He couldn't seem to yell this time. The whole day while Rogue was in critical care, he visited only once. He hadn't trusted himself with his temper and the last thing the students needed right now was their teacher going apeshit. To top it off, Remy had disappeared for most of the day to who knew where. When Remy decided to disappear, no one could find him,
"If that brother of yours ran," Logan had growled as the lunch bell rang, "I'm going to find him and hurt him for a very long time."
Scott couldn't answer then and he couldn't answer now. Nor could he get feedback from Warren. He'd been having a digital conference in his room for the past five hours. That he had to take this conference whereas he foisted most others did not escape Scott's notice. He sucked at communicating with every goddamn person in his life but he wasn't completely clueless. He wished Jean was--
At around dinner time. Remy skulked in through the kitchen door. He never made a sound when he walked; the only reason Scott spotted him was because he'd been in the pantry. Cigarette smoke still clung to Remy's coat-- where did he get that trenchcoat anyway?-- and beer scented his breath.
Scott remembered all over again why his head felt like it wanted to explode.
With impeccable timing as always, Alex walked into the kitchen, an empty bottle of ketchup in hand. "Oh shit."
Remy didn't say a thing. Scott inhaled, opened his mouth to say something and exhaled. Words wouldn't form. The roiling, choking, burning anger had melted the speech sections of his brain. He headed for his office.
Remy trailed behind him, his cards hissing and snapping between his hands, a nervous shuffling that anyone else would take as nonchalance. Well, he damn well better be nervous. He'd better be pissing his goddamned pants after what he'd done.
His own brother... to Rogue.
Like a shield-bearer, Alex marched to one side, strategically between him and Remy. He must just be patting himself on the back, thought Scott. All those warnings that he'd waved off from Warren, Ororo and Narda, all the times he'd told Alex to stop haranguing him with accusations against Remy and they'd been true.
They followed him into the office, Alex shutting the door quietly behind him and throwing the bolt. Remy sank into the nearest chair, boneless grace and radiating guilt.
Let him fucking stew.
Scott opened his mouth again but he was still too furious to form words. He stood behind the desk, knuckles on the blotter, and glared. It was a miracle the ruby quartz lens didn't shatter with the force of his glare.
Alex coughed and shifted his weight to his right foot.
Remy scratched at his shoulder, the leather jacket creaking.
Alex shifted his stance back to his left foot.
Remy cracked first. "I... I didn't think--"
"No, you didn't!" Scott was finally able to shout. "You never think about anything! You just act completely without forethought or consideration of the consequences. You're just... so much like Dad I can barely look at you!"
Remy looked to Alex for back-up but his younger brother leaned away, his arms crossed. "As much as it pains me to agree with Scott, that was utterly uncool, Remy. I told you she was jailbait."
"I've never touched her before last night," Remy said but even he didn't sound convinced about the excuse.
"I don't give a shit! She's only seventeen! You're twenty-eight! You're a fucking gangster; you should know the definition of statuatory rape."
"Technically, it's not--"
"She's one of my students, Remy and I fucking trusted you to have some goddamned responsibility towards her but hell, why am I talking to you about that? Since when have you been able to spell responsibility never mind understand what the fucking word means?"
Even Alex winced at the tone. "Uh, Scott..."
Scott whipped around to snarl, "You shut the fuck up, too."
For once, Alex obediently backed down.
"Do you have any reason why I shouldn't throw you in a room with Wolverine and let him carve his name in your guts?"
If Scott had been waiting for a glib reply, he was disappointed. Remy squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head and said, "No."
Remy raised his head and said louder, if not any straighter, "I don't got an excuse."
"Dandy," said Scott. Poison dripped from every syllable. "He can have you as soon as I'm finished."
Scott. Xavier projected so urgently that Alex and Remy cupped their hands over their ears. I need you in my office right now. Remy and Alex, too. We have a visitor.
Remy sighed, relieved at the timely reprieve. Hearing it, Scott threw him another glare and said, "Don't think we're done here."
"I feel like I should've saluted," he heard Alex whisper to Remy as they went to Xavier's office.
Remy was smart enough not to answer, at least not using words.
The kid in Xavier's office looked like a ginger tom from the streets. His hair was buzzed to a prickly red fuzz and his eyes were so big and blue that he should have looked like he was barely in high school. But his body was too toughened to be that innocent and there were shadows in his gaze that made Alex look away in discomfort.
"Perhaps you can help me," said Xavier. He was unnaturally calm for someone who had a knife at his throat and a gun in his ear. Scott noted how still the professor was and followed suit. This kid was spooked. "This young man came in asking for you."
"Me?" Scott asked.
"All of you," said Xavier. "He spoke your names."
The kid shifted the gun's nozzle at the brothers. "Scott. Alex. Remy." His voice was rough and his intonation strange, like he'd learned the language from a broken machine.
"I'm Scott." He raised his hands palms out. "That's Alex on my left and Remy on my right. Put the gun down so we can talk comfortably."
"Scott." The kid's lips tightened. "Scott. Can help."
"Yes, I can, but not if you don't tell me--"
"Remy: Algorithmic laser pattern in the tunnel." The kid spoke more confidently. "Kaneshiro-based alarm system but with modifications. Taiwan parts, German engineering. Killed the modifiers. Arthurmeister lock through the main system doors--"
"Kaneshiro and Arthurmeister?" Remy's brain whirled. "Hydraulic double doors?"
"Yes." The kid nodded curtly. "Three feet thick, sensors through the mechanism and on the hinges."
"All of them."
"Remy, what's going on?" Alex asked.
"He's telling me about a security system," said Remy. "One hell of a security system. Like if Fort Knox was in the middle of Las Vegas."
"He wants you to steal something?" Scott demanded. "To hell with this." He lifted his hand to remove his glasses.
"Adam!" the kid blurted out. "Adam sent." He shook his head violently, his mouth working to form words. "Adam sent. Me to get you he said. That you always come." He clenched his eyes, his face wrinkling as he tilted his head to one side. "Interference chip. Can't get words. Arthurmeister lock through main system doors. Double redundancy program, two-second window. Laertes, Misaro, magnetic suspension."
"He's seen Adam?" Alex asked.
"Do you have a blueprint?" Remy asked the kid.
He shook his head. "Electromagnetic disruptors. Destroy discs and flash drives. Have it here." He tapped his head with the nozzle of the gun. "Wiring in walls. Panels every five feet. Titanium under drywall, Giger locks on panel doors. Sensors routed through three control booths."
"Fuck me, that's impossible!" said Remy. "Two control booths, maybe, but three is ridiculous. Do they take care of the other doors, too?"
The kid nodded. "Double redundancy, too. Each set has. Three control units each doors, corridors. Locks, fences."
Remy threw his hands up. "If I had five years straight to plan and an army of experts, I might have a fifty-fifty chance of getting in and setting off only three alarms."
"Adam said you always came." The kid's hold on his weapons solidified. "Adam said. Scott'll make up some. Brilliant plan, Remy'll sneak them in, Alex'll kick. Ass and take names. I promised him I would get. Him home."
Alex turned swiftly on his heel and punched the bookshelves. Again. And again. And again. "Okay," he said. "I feel better now." He caught Scott's gaze then Remy's. "We're getting in that place and we're hurting everyone responsible. No one beats on my brothers except me."