Four Armadillos and a Jelly Mould
By Thorne & Co.
Part Three

Back in the garage.

The clean-up operation came to a grinding halt as the full magnitude of the situation hit them.

"We'd better get down to Salem, fast. Wit' Maggie an' Jugs an' more, dey could be on a full scale rampage by now!" muttered a horrified Remy to himself. He turned to the other three in the garage. "OK you guys. We got an even bigger crisis to take care of. Roguey, Bishop drop what you're doin'. You're wit' me. Cyke, go see if you can round up de guys in de danger room."

Little Bishop stood to attention, letting the table he'd been holding fall to the ground. Unfortunately, the ground it was falling towards was covered by Rogue's foot at the time.

"Waahhhhhh!!!" yelled Rogue, hopping about, clutching her injured foot. "You clumsy, half-bald, brainless .... twerp!! Why don't you look where you're dropping tables?" She took a swing at his nose but, as she was hopping on one foot at the time, succeeded only in falling into a pile of debris, causing a small avalanche to fall on top of her. "Mmmphh .... Waahhhh!" came another wail, thankfully muffled by the cloths, papers and other garage refuse.

Remy peeped out from between his fingers. "Dis ain't gonna be as easy as I t'ought," he sighed. At least it had stopped raining, which meant Ororo wasn't in such a bad mood any more.

Little Scott decided to take charge of the situation. "Pull yourthelf together, Rogue - and you can thtop hiding behind that cupboard, Bithop. She ithn't going to eat you - are you Rogue?" There was a grumbling agreement from under the heap and Rogue reluctantly shook herself off and made a show of limping over, cross armed and frowning to Scott's side. Bishop peeked out from behind the cupboard before shuffling to the other side of Remy, as far away from the dangerously fuming Rogue as possible.

"OK, let's all go to de danger room and get de others," Remy decided and they trundled off into the mansion.

As they passed the kitchen on the way to the lifts, Baby Bishop's nose began to twitch. "Mmmm, cinnamon brownies," he enthused.

Scott glared at him. "We're in the middle of an exthtremely therious mission, Bithhop. How can you be thinking of your tummy when the thafety of all Thalem is at thtake?"

"How much damage you t'ink dey could cause?" asked Remy, alarmed.

"That all depends on whether they find ice cream or not, sugah," Rogue told him, knowingly.

"Onward troops," called Scott, halfway down the hall. The 'troops', two little and one grumbling "Who's supposed to be in charge here?" and not so little, moved swiftly to catch up.

In the sitting room.

"Hey, guys, I think I heard someone outside," said little Wolvie, sitting up gingerly so as not to disturb his stomach more than absolutely necessary.

"Erghh ..." Bobby moaned. "Unless its those vanilla breaths, they're gonna have to wait until my insides say I can move again."

"Shouldn't we .." began Hank.

"If you're planning to embark on another great long, tedious, brain-stultifying monologue, please desist tout de suite!" Jean intervened before he could get into full flow.

"What?" said Hank.

"She said SHUT UP!" yelled Wolvie and little Iceman, and they all collapsed into groaning heaps once more.

In the Danger Room.

There were rainbows, rays of sunlight and little fluffy white clouds galore in the "kitchen" that the danger room was currently simulating. It looked rather like something from a Care-Bears movie, all they were missing were the little hearts on their tummies and a cute moral story to act out.

It wasn't quite what little Gambit had had in mind when he'd got tired of sitting in knee-deep, cold rain water and tried out his newly enhanced charm power to get the Storms to subside in their sulking and dry the place out.

Nor had he planned them both beating him unmercilessly at Go Fish, fourteen times in a row.

Now they were using what was left of the flour, eggs and other ingredients to make twinkies. They were over by the oven, giggling and whispering together. Girls, huh!

Talking of girls, this new power would be very useful the next time he saw Rogue. He'd show that big girlfriend-stealer of a counterpart who was boss! He hopped down from the stool he was sitting at and headed for the door to claim back his little lady when she marched in and knocked him flat.

Hey! He thought as he struggled to breathe under her weight, it even works at long range!

"Bad news, guys," said Remy, who was desperately trying to reassert his authority. The effect was diminished somewhat as he fell headlong over little Remy and Rogue.

"What he'th trying to thay is that the Baby Bad-Dudes are heading for the town and we mutht thtop them before it'th too late!" interrupted Baby Cyclops, importantly.

"Yeah, like he said," Remy scowled, picking himself up.

Ororo and Baby Storm turned reluctantly from their twinkies.

"Who are they?" whispered Ororo to Baby Storm.

"The BBDs? Don't worry. They're quite cute really - especially Maggie," sighed Baby Storm. The pair giggled, cutely.

"What happened to them?" Remy asked little Gambit.

"Oh, y'know -girls' stuff," he tutted.

Little Rogue batted him on the head with a convenient rolled up newspaper.

"Ow," he protested weakly. "I think she likes me," he confided to Remy, grinning. Remy threw up his hands in exasperation.

"Dis is getting us nowhere. Will someone take dis seriously!"

"Seriously!" said Ororo and she and little Storm began giggling afresh.

"Attention everybody!" commanded little Cyclops and there was immediate hush.

How does he do dat? Remy wondered, paying attention.

"Everyone to the mini-van. Follow me."

They all obediently followed little Cyclops, both Storms skipping along in the rear, garlanded with cute rainbows and fluffy white clouds.

Remy scribbled a quick note for Scott, more than a little worried about what his leader would have to say about all this, and then hurried after the others.

In Salem Center.

"Are you feeling better now, Jugs?" asked Baby Sabretooth, grinning unsympathetically.

"Go 'way," said Baby Juggernaut.

They had made their way into the shopping mall and found a bench on which they waited for everyone to recover.

"Hey, guys, look what I found," grinned Baby Sinister, holding out his hand.

"It's just a bug," said Baby Magneto, dismissively, turning back to his precious helmet. He almost had it back into some sort of shape now.

"Yeah, but not just any bug," replied Baby Sinister, giving little Eric his best, disdainful 'I know far more about bugs than you do' look. "This bug will complete my collection of genetically superior beetles which I intend to breed to create the world's first bug master race."

"And why would anyone in their right mind want to do that?" asked Baby Magneto.

"It's just a sort of hobby," said Baby Sinister, defensively.

"It's a waste of time," said Baby Magneto.

"Why not try to create the master race of ice cream?" asked Baby Sabretooth. "That would be really useful."

Baby Juggernaut groaned.

"Duh. Ice cream's already perfect," said Baby Mystique. "For a cute little kitten you can be really dumb sometimes."

She looked at Baby Juggernaut. "Why not try to make humans more intelligent - now there's a challenge!"

" Why waste time on humans? Surely Homo Superior would be more worthy?" declared Baby Magneto, striking a pose.

" Now there's a thought," Baby Sinister mused, sinisterly.

"Hey," protested Baby Juggernaut, who had just realised that an insult had been tossed his way. The others ignored him.

"Right, we've wasted enough time here. Let's find the ice cream," said Baby Sabretooth.

They all got to their feet, including Baby Juggernaut , and looked around.

"Which way?" asked Baby Mystique.

"I suggest we formulate a plan of action," announced Baby Magneto, still half-heartedly holding the pose.

"What plan of action? It's simple - let's .. find .. the .. ice .. cream," Baby Sabretooth spelled out. "Intellectuals! Huh!"

As they rounded the corner Baby Juggernaut shot forward, their journey forgotten.

"Ice cream!!" he yelled, bowling over Baby Magneto and Baby Sinister in his hurry.

Little Eric's lower lip trembled as his helmet spun off into the crowd.

Outside the mansion, by the mini-van.

"Um, Mr Remy thir, can I drive? Pleease?" asked little Scott, in his best, most pleading tone.

Remy looked down at the little leader.

"For someone who's supposedly bright, you can be awful' dim sometimes."

Scott looked perplexed. Remy opened the driver's door and gestured inside.

" Now, you got some special fast growth power I don' know 'bout? 'Cause otherwise how d'you expect to reach de gas pedal wit' dose legs?"

Cyclops blushed scarlet and looked at the ground sheepishly.

"Well, yeth." He conceded. "That might be a problem, I admit." He recovered quickly, " Right, well, I'll sit up front while you drive then. Maybe I could give directions or thomething!?" he asked hopefully.

"Yeah sure, dat'll be really helpful." Remy sighed, climbing in.

Round the back of the van, things were proceeding rather less smoothly.

"Hey! Dat's my seat!" yelled little Gambit pushing Bishop aside to secure the place next to Rogue.

Rogue quickly unbuckled herself and moved along out of reach.

Gambit's face set with stern concentration. So, she wanted to play hard to get did she? Well, he had just the thing. Time to use his secret weapon!

With a little frown he sent all his charm flowing in Rogue's direction.

Unfortunately, at that precise moment Ororo bounced into the van and took the charm wave full on.

A feeling of disconnection rippled through the van, perhaps the world. But it was only momentary, causing a shiver to pass through Ororo and the rest of the van's inhabitants.

"What is happening here?" demanded the weather goddess in her most regal tones.

"Oh hi dere!" Remy leaned over the back of his seat at the sound of Ororo's normal voice. "You're back." He allowed himself a discrete sigh of relief.

"Back? Remy, what are you talking about? I repeat. What is happening here?"

Remy waved his hand in a calming gesture.

"Oh, don't you worry about a thing; everything's fine, sugah," said little Rogue, patting the woman on her bare arm, smiling smugly as Ororo returned to her cute, giggling former self and sat down beside Rogue, bouncing slightly under her sunbeams.

Remy did a double take. Then he glared at little Rogue. "You did dat on purpose."

She feigned hurt. "Moi?" She batted her eyelashes at him dolefully.

Remy wanted to forgive her but he resolved to remain strong and unwavered by her cuteness, which he was beginning to think was one of her powers. "Yes you. Put your gloves on. I need a 'Ro who can t'ink straight."

Baby Rogue shrugged, looking slightly peeved.

"What did happen?" asked Remy surveying the little team. Baby Gambit looked away from his gaze. "Did you try somet'ing?" Remy asked him.

"Moi?" said little Gambit, innocently.

"Don't you start. Come on - dis could be important."

"I was only trying a liddle charm," said Gambit, blushing hotly.

Remy rolled his eyes. "Hm, for a moment dere it seemed Rogue's own brand of cutey charm was canceled out. Now 'Ro's acting like a t'ree year old again. And dere was something else." Remy frowned, remembering the strange feeling. He shrugged it off. "Anyway, dere's no time for dat now. We' gotta get down to Salem. I'll ask Hank about your powers when we see him. He might know what's goin' on. You all strapped in? Right. Rogue, no touchin', Gambit, no charm, an' 'Ro, get dis, rainbow out my face, I cain't see not'ing." Sighing for the hundredth time that day, Remy shook his head. "OK. Let's go."

Somewhere else.

Somewhere you'd rather not be.....Ever..

Somewhere dark, cold, silent ... until ..

"They were almost ours ... " rasped the first.

"They will be ... " breathed the second.

The four peered intently into a large, misshapen vessel containing a viscous glowing liquid. Then their exoskeletons creaked as they leaned back onto their encompassing carapaces. Their tiny heads nodded in unison.

"They will all be ours."

A fast car on the road from Salem.

"Hey, wasn't that our van?" said Scott, craning his neck to peer through the rear window.

Indeed, thought Bishop. Then he frowned really deep furrows, his eagle eyes catching a glimpse of several small heads in the back of the mini-van. "I do not believe so. We don't have any children."

Scott turned back to Hank. "I hope things are all right back at the mansion."

"Fearless leader, Ororo and Remy are grown ups and are both perfectly capable of managing the X - residence for a few hours."

Bishop raised an eyebrow but declined to comment, making a mental note to check the silverware when they returned. A few minutes later they pulled into the gravel drive in front of the main entrance. Scott was worried. The security system was activated.

"Why would the defenses be in place when Ororo and Gambit are at home?"

Bishop frowned wrinkles on his furrows.

"Perhaps they are being cautious. Maybe they are engaged in a Danger Room activity and wanted to be secure?" Hank suggested.

Scott and Bishop exchanged looks. "Maybe." Scott was unconvinced. "But I think proceeding with caution would be appropriate."

"Indeed," Bishop agreed.

They entered stealthily and Scott and Bishop went to investigate the sub-basements. Hank made a quick tour of the first floor before heading towards the stairs. As he was about to ascend, his sharp ears picked up a little moan. The scientist moved stealthily in the direction of the sound. His jaw dropped in astonishment as a miniature version of himself staggered from the room, clutching its stomach. They stared at each other, eyes wide for a whole minute before little Hank dived back through the door.

"I, I, there, um, big, blue, outside, like ...." Wolvie, Jean and Bobby looked at each other.

"Hank?" asked Jean. "You're making even less sense than usual. What are you talking about?"

From outside in the corridor there came a huge roar.

"Cyclops!!! Bishop!!! I need immediate assistance!!! Make haste! Quickly!"

"That!!" cried little Hank and dived behind a sofa.

The others looked at each other, worried.

"Don't be such a sissy," said Wolvie scathingly . "There's nothing gonna scare me." He strode confidently to the door.

"Wait," said Jean. "Let's hear what Hank's got to say first."

But Wolvie was already in the corridor.

By this time Scott and Bishop were arriving from different directions and Wolvie saw the large adults rushing towards him. He instinctively popped his claws and launched himself at the closest figure - Cyclops.

Taken by surprised, Scott automatically raised his glasses. Luckily his aim was high as Wolvie was short, even for an X-Baby. He did succeed, however in blasting away the peaks of Wolvie's headgear, which brought him to an abrupt and incandescent halt.

Reaching up to touch the smouldering remains on either side of his head, a grumbling roar began in the depths of his throat and rose rapidly to become the injured wail of a wounded puppy. "That's it bub - you asked for it and boy are you gonna get it." He leapt forward and with pin point control landed precisely on Scott's big toes with all his strength.

Scott let out an injured "Yaaahhh!!!" as Jean and Bobby emerged from the room. Hopping from one leg to the other Scott overbalanced and fell in a heap to the floor, whereupon Wolvie took advantage of the posterior neatly presented to him and, grinning, raised his claws ready to make minced Cyke.

"Stop!" pleaded Jean and was about to hold Wolvie's downward lunge with her TK powers when she was distracted by the charging Bishop, determined to come to his leader's aid.

Phoenix turned, sweeping her TK to the side and directly impeding Bishop's legs. Unfortunately the rest of Bishop's body had not got the slow-down message from his lower half, as a result of which he fell head over heels alongside Scott. Unimpaired, Wolvie's claws pierced Scott's behind, drawing another anguished shriek from the leader.

"Wolvie stop that right now!" ordered Jean.

"But look what he did to my costume!" griped Wolvie.

"That's an order! These are friends, not enemies!" commanded Jean.

Wolvie, sulkily lowered his claws. Scott and Bishop got slowly to their feet, brushing themselves down. "Just 'cause you fancies him," he muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" asked Jean, glowering.

"Nothing," said Wolvie, his smile returning as he noticed Scott having difficulty deciding which part to rub first.

"Now promise that you won't attack the nice Mr Scott again and shake his hand nicely," said Jean.

"Do you want some ice for your sore bits?" asked Bobby. As he reached his hand forward, helpfully, instead of the usual ice cubes he managed to produce a wonderful strawberry and banana striped ice pop.

"Huh??" he stuttered, "What I do? What I do?" Instead of pondering the situation further, he decided to take the practical view "waste not want not", and hastily began to suck the ice pop before it could melt. "Hey, this is good! Mmmm," enthused the little ice-cube.

By this time Wolvie, under Jean's stern glare, had grasped Scott's hand. The expression of extreme pain smoothed from Scott's face to be replaced by a smile of surprise.

"What? ..... I feel fine. ... The pain's gone. How did you do that?" he asked Wolvie.

"Do what? Don't tell me I've fixed you. Awwww, that poots," he complained. "Why do those dimension portals always mess up our powers Jeanie?"

Phoenix shrugged. " I don't know. All I know is it always takes my telepathy away." She frowned.

Then Wolvie's eyes lit up. "OK, bossman," he said, prodding Scott in the stomach, "Seein' how I patched you up, whatcha gonna do about my costume? Huh?"

By this time little Hank was peering round the door. "Is it safe to come out yet?"

Bobby looked up from his iced lolly. " Hey, Hank. You make sense when you're scared."

Little Hank breathed a sigh of relief. "I was unable to prevent myself invesgitating the commodition but I am expediently grantified to observe that the alteration has dinimished and normal communications can résumé."

"What??!" groaned Bobby.

"You almost have a most eloquent turn of phrase my diminutive doppelg(nger," commented the larger Hank. "With just a soup(on of tuition I feel certain that I can address your malapropisms and rectify the semantic content of your utterances."

"What???!!!" said everyone in the corridor, including little Hank, though there was half a smile of admiration on his lips.

"Hank, I'm amazed," grinned Jean, addressing the little blue fur ball. "We've finally met someone who makes you sound almost comprehensible!"

" What?!" Bobby was still confused from the previous speech.

Jean groaned.

"Sorry to drag you away from this most interesting subject," said Scott, once more in leader mode following the subsidence of his hurt, both physical and mental in terms of this pride, " but can we get back to more important matters; such as why you're here and what has happened to your powers?"

Bishop nodded behind him in stern agreement. "Indeed," he said.

Jean rolled her eyes. "Well, it beats 'Indeedy doo doo', I suppose."

"Talking of our Bishy, where are the guys?" asked little Iceman. "We've been here ages, how come they haven't shown up?"

"There are more of you?" Scott didn't like the sound of that.

"Not all that many," little Jean soothed her boyfriend's big counterpart. "Only, Scotty and Bishy and Remy..."

"And Storm an' Roguey," finished Wolvie, moving swiftly in between Baby Jean and Cyclops.

" Are you sure that shouldn't be Stormy?" enquired Beast frivolously.

"Nah," Wolvie told him knowledgeably. "She fries people who call her that."

"Ahem," said Scott, butting in before they could digress again. "And you're not with your friends, because...?"

"Well, we were trying to find them," Jean glared at little Logan, "but someone led us to brownies instead."

"I see," said Scott, not quite following. "So, you think they're here in the mansion?"

"There are no adults, barring we three, in residence," Bishop put in. "However, I checked with the computer and the Danger Room has been in use recently. I suggest we check there first."

Arriving at the Danger Room, ten long minutes later.

"Now, if everyone has managed to remove the remains of the ice lollies from their hands, mouths, ears and whichever other unexpected places they found their way into - I told you it wasn't a good idea to experiment with Bobby's new power at the moment, Hank - maybe we can have a look around this ... kitchen?" Scott raised an incredulous eyebrow at the scene in front of him.

Bishop was the first to find the message. "Gambit has left us a note, though it is barely legible." He handed it to Scott.

"Hmmm, Let's see now. What?! I don't believe that man! He even writes in Cajun!"

"Yes, but what does it say, honey?" asked Jean.

"It sounds as if more than your little friends have joined us. Do you know anything about the........ Baby Bad-Dudes??"

" Oh darn," chorused the X-Babies.

"I guess that means 'Yes'." Scott sighed. "I knew this was going to be a long day."

"I propose that we make haste to aid our compatriots," suggested Hank.

"Are you listening to him?" Jean elbowed little Hank in the ribs. "That's how you're supposed to say it."

"I thought that's what I did say," replied Baby Hank, looking a little blue.

"Not quite, dear. But I'm sure you'll get the hang of it eventually," Jean reassured him.

"Beast's right, we'd better get moving. To the Blackbird!" commanded Scott.

"Don't you think that's a little overkill?" said Hank.

"Indeed," agreed Bishop.

"I suppose so," conceded Scott, reluctantly. "Bishop, you take a bike and we'll squash the rest in the jeep. Let's go, people!"

So how'd you like the "armadillos"? And the "jelly mould". It "came" to Co. In a dream. Yes, he is a bit weird. Anyway, things could go just about anywhere from here on in ( they keep happening while I'm not watching grrrrr) so hold on to your hats!

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who sent feedback, it is very much appreciated. Um. Any more would be cool too. Flames anyone?!

Still to be continued...

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