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"Death of a Dream"

Death of a Dream

Chapter 1: Homecoming
Chapter 2: Old Ghosts
Chapter 3: Strange Bedfellows
Chapter 4: Melancholy Memories
Chapter 5: Of Love and Betrayal
Chapter 6: Innocence Lost
Chapter 7: Of Friendship and Discovery
Chapter 8: First Blood
Chapter 9: Cast Out
Chapter 10: Revelations
Chapter 11: Of Love and Hope
Chapter 12: Stolen Lives
Chapter 13: Bad Dreams
Chapter 14: The Ties that Bind
Chapter 15: A Hero's Life
Chapter 16: Old Wounds
Chapter 17: A Time of Last Things
Chapter 18: The Final Countdown
Chapter 19: Battlezone
Chapter 20: Zero Hour
Chapter 21: A Glimmer of Hope

The sequel to this story is "The Resurrection Gauntlet."

Death of a Dream

Chapter 6: Innocence Lost

"Sister, oh dear sister. Wake uuuuupppp..." the sing-song voice intruded against her dreams.

Rogue blinked against the harsh light of the room as she opened her eyes, pulling herself reluctantly from the deep sleep she'd been enjoying. "What?" she asked, annoyed as she shielded her eyes from the florescent lights her visitor had apparently turned on.

"Now, is that any way to greet your favorite brother?" came the voice from the shadows again.

She sighed, heaving herself up into a sitting position. "You're mah only brother, sugah." Rubbing her eyes, she glanced at the clock and resisted the urge to fall back onto the bed. "You gonna hide in the shadows all day, or come out here and tell me why you woke me up at the ungodly hour of 6am?"

Yellow eyes appeared in the darkness, blinking once as they adjusted to the light. "Rough night, Rogue?" he chuckled as he moved forward into her line of vision, revealing his blue furred features, still pooled in shadow somehow, though they were fully exposed to the light. He had grown even darker since coming into the Shadow King's control, she thought.

"I heard Gambit was here quite late," he went on, his voice coy as he cut her a playful, sidelong look.

"An' so what if he was?" she countered, still grumpy at being awakened so early.

He shrugged thinly. "All the better for us, I say. What's good for you, is good for the Brotherhood."

Stretching, she yawned and rose from the bed, bending to pick up the uniform she had so hastily discarded the night before. A faint smile touched her lips as she remembered, but she forced herself to concentrate on the matter at hand, pausing before picking it up. "Should ah put on mah uniform, or did you just come here to discuss mah love life?" she asked with a small grin.

"Well, that was part of it, of course," he said, chuckling again. "But ja, you'll need your uniform."

She nodded and began to slip into it, struggling with the spandex material for a few moments before seeming satisfied. Smoothing out the few remaining wrinkles, she stopped to regard her reflection in the mirror. It had been years since she'd worn this outfit, it dated back to her original days with the Brotherhood. Never thought ah'd see the day ah'd don this old green and white hooded thing again, she thought, giving herself a final once over before turning back toward her brother.

"So what's come up? We under attack, or what?"

"Nothing so sinister, sister," he grinned, leaping up onto her bed and crouching there. "In fact, it's a rare bonus. We've captured another refugee. One whose power would be very useful to you...," he trailed off suggestively.

She stood in silence for a long moment before replying, "Ah see."

"He awaits your presence even now," he continued, his grin broadening to reveal his frighteningly sharp teeth.

"Well...let's get this over with, then, shall we?" she asked, forcing her tone to be casual as she moved toward the door.

"Ja, let's. I can hardly wait to hear him scream," he replied, hurrying out the door behind her.

"His name is 'Wildchild'," the Black Beast explained in a conversational tone. "A mutant possessing some of the same powers as Sabretooth and Wolverine. Sort of a watered down version, though." He set his chart aside and moved toward the shivering subject, stroking his chin and regarding the mutant much as one would a bug under glass. "It's the healing factor we find most intriguing. Weaker than Creed's or Logan's on a cellular level, but still just as effective in the long run." He turned and looked at Rogue intently. "It could be very useful to you in the coming battles. We thought you might want to add it to your...collection...before adding him to Sinister's gene pool."

She swallowed hard and looked at the young boy bound in iron manacles before her. She knew him, sort of. He'd been part of X-Factor, once, before the Psi-War, a mutant who had fought for the same beliefs she'd once followed. "He's to go into the gene pool? The master doesn't want to subvert him?" she asked, fighting against the conflicting emotions in her heart.

"His mind is considered too savage by the master to serve any kind of purpose. It would take more effort to bring him under control than he would be worth to us," the Beast replied, shrugging.

She nodded, forcing herself to take a step closer to the subject. There was no hope for him, she knew, not now that he'd been captured. The gene pool meant the same as death. They were simply salvaging out the parts of him they could before turning him into scrap material, much like an old machine that had outlived its purpose. The lack of humanity made her cringe to her soul...and yet, what choice did she have? If Kyle, Wildchild, was scheduled to be terminated, then there was nothing she could do to save him...and his healing factor would help her a great deal. And if she refused, suspicion would turn upon her. Pushing her doubts to the back of her mind, she rationalized it as her only choice.

Steeling herself, she moved directly in front of the subject, trying desperately not to see him as she pulled the gloves from her hands. Closing her eyes so that she would not have to see his expression, she touched her hands to his face, and felt the trembling of his body. Forcing the sensation from her mind, she reached out with her power as the master had taught her, searching through the memories and synaptic patterns for the one power she sought.

But she had not counted on the number of images and memories that assailed her. His fear was a living thing within him, he knew his fate, and yet he struggled, fighting against her with everything he had. She was too untrained for this she thought, sweat breaking out on her forehead as she struggled to screen out the essence of this boy. Ah can't, she thought, ah can't see him as human. Ah can't see him as anything but a tool to be used, or ah'm lost.

With a terrible scream of anguish, his body sagged within its bonds as she wrenched free the one piece of him that she needed, holding him fast as she prolonged the contact, making the transfer permanent. She felt something within her body start to grow and change, even as her heart broke and some small spark within it died out forever. And then, she was lost in darkness.

"Well," the Black Beast said with an eerie smile. "It seems our experiment was a success."

She awoke moments later, on the cold floor of the laboratory. Eyes fluttering open, she wiped at the wetness on her face. Expecting to find blood, she was only dimly surprised to discover the salt of her own tears. Forcing herself to sit up, she ran the sleeve of her uniform across her face and groggily looked about the room.

"Wunderbar, Rogue," her brother laughed, applauding her efforts.

Dragging herself weakly up from the floor, she nodded, eyes moving to follow the Black Beast's movements as he flipped switches like a madman, entering data into the computer with a feverish speed. He paused for only a moment, turning to give her a broad, fanged, smile. "Very good, Rogue. All tests verify that his healing factor has been removed."

She nodded again, her mind too numb to focus on anything except escape. "Ah'll be going then...ah'm...ah'm not feeling so well."

The Beast nodded his approval before turning back to his experiment. "Go on, then. I imagine the stress was tremendous for you. I'm about to initiate the meltdown sequence now, anyway. No need for you to see that...unless of course, you want to?" he asked with a dark chuckle.

She shook her head and struggled her way to the door, leaning against it for a moment to gather her strength. She gave them one last nod in goodbye, trying to ignore the gleeful smile on her brother's face.

Kyle's screams followed her all the way back to her room, echoing in her head long after the door slid shut behind her.

Gambit gave a sigh of satisfaction as he sank down into the hot tub, feeling his muscles begin to unwind with the extreme heat. He leaned his head back against the edge, and let his thoughts drift back to last night. Despite the situation, he could not help but smile as he remembered her. It had been far too long, he thought. She had fairly intoxicated him with her mere presence.

"Ah, Rogue...what is about you, petite?" he wondered aloud, sliding deeper into the tub.

He was playing it too close this time, he knew, walking a dangerous line. He wondered why that should bother him now. After all, he had spent most of his life on a tightrope, hadn't he? And in the case of Rogue, rational thought had rarely, if ever, had any bearing. The question was, what was he going to--


The voice startled him from his thoughts, and he sat suddenly upright in the tub. He relaxed a moment later, recognizing the owner of the voice.

"Stormy, you scared de hell out of me," he laughed, sinking back down into the tub.

With cat-like grace, she moved to the edge of the ceramic tile, sitting down and dipping her feet in the steaming water. Smiling slightly, she looked at him, eyes seeming to form a question.

"So, tell me, goes our plans with the Brotherhood?"


Continued in Chapter Seven


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