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Marvel's, not mine. I'm using them without permission, getting
no money, yadda yadda yadda. You can reach me, as always,
The Professor's study was...not exactly a comfortable room,
Remy thought as he stepped through the door. High windows,
dark wood and scant furnishings lent it an austere, utilitarian
air despite the fire roaring in the hearth. The Professor's
calm demeanor seemed stretched, the raw strength beneath prodding
at the surface. Remy wondered what had happened since dinner,
when he had seemed to be relaxing.
It had been interesting sitting there, listening to them
laugh and talk. For perhaps the first time since Remy's arrival,
the X-Men had seemed completely at peace. He had watched it
all bemusedly, the wild melange of hair, costumes, accents
and powers blending together in a melting-pot of friendship
and good-humored teasing. Voices, mental and oral, were raised
in toasts; old stories were taken out and dusted off.
Differences faded away and joy swirled around the table in
the light of the man with the piecing blue eyes.
Remy had never felt so alone in his life.
Now he sat down in the hard-backed chair Xavier gestured
towards, watching the light pool on warm wood as the desklight
flicked on seemingly of its own accord. He wondered idly if
it was motion-sensitive, or if Xavier somehow had it wired
to trigger telepathically. The technology at the mansion was
nothing short of amazing. Undoubtedly another reason why Scott
was so edgy around him. Prob'ly t'inks I'll go sell it
t' de highest bidder.
*The X-Men are...not always an easy group to join.*
Face carefully under control, Remy's gaze sought the Professor,
a shadowy form behind the desk. With a hum, the hoverchair
rolled forward and Remy could see the glint of cold humor
in the man's eyes.
*I assure you, I cannot read your thoughts unless you
project. If that is what you are wondering.* Remy felt
himself bristle against the amused undertone to the pedantic
delivery. *But I am not totally unaware of my surroundings.*
*I'm a little different den most of your recruits.*
Remy said dryly, choosing to ignore the subtle barb.
*True.* The blue eyes held his seriously for a long
moment. The thrumming of his powerful mind was almost hypnotic.
*What do you know about the Mutant Underground?*
For a heartbeat, Remy wondered if it was an accusation. No,
the man genuinely wanted to know. He was going someplace,
but Remy wasn't sure he wanted to find out where.
*Only what Storm told me,* he replied, picking his
words carefully. *Dey're a group of mutants who consider
demselves outside de law. Dey're committed to ending opposition
t' mutants, by any means necessary.*
*And sometimes,* Xavier said with a surprising touch
of bitterness, *their methods succeed where ours do not.*
He pressed a button on his hoverchair, and a holo-image flickered
into existence over the desk. Words scrolled by, accompanied
by various high-resolution images. Remy recognized a chromosome
chart and several diagrams of what appeared to be DNA strands.
He felt certain this was not a good sign.
*This is the contents of the disk you procured from the
Remy suppressed a jolt of suspicion, wondering why he was
suddenly so trusted.
*What is it?*
*Do you know anything about gene therapy?*
What the hell was this, twenty questions?
*Then you probably know that scientists have been getting
steadily closer to finding a viable method.* Xavier slipped
easily into a lecturing tone, and Remy suppressed a ripple
of annoyance. *The first attempts used retroviruses to
"carry" the correct genetic code and splice it into
the mutated DNA strand, as is their nature. When scientists
encountered difficulties in "placing" the code where
they needed it and thereby correcting the mutation, some began
to look at other vectors, such as oligonucleotides and other
chimeric molecules. Present research is focused on genetic
diseases such as Lesch-Nyhan syndrome and PKU, but while there
has been some success in correcting mutated DNA strands in
lab rats, a clear answer for humans has not yet been reached.*
His tone turned grim. *At least not in the private sector.*
Alarms began to scream in Remy's head. *You mean de government--*
*The government has apparently been funding gene therapy
research of their own. This document,* he scrolled back
up to the top, *Was narrowly uploaded from a government-funded
lab by a hacker inside the MU. It's very arcane, and even
Beast was unable to conclusively decipher it. Cerebro completed
its analysis a short while ago. This,* he pointed at one
of the images, *is one of their test samples. But it's
not a cancer patient. This sample belongs to an Alpha mutant.*
Ice crawled up Remy's spine.
The Professor continued. *From what Beast has told me--*
Dieu, but his mind was cold.
*--The results here indicate that they are very close,
if not already perfecting--*
The thin layer of velvet was gone, leaving nothing but unyielding
*--Permanently reversing mutations.*
Remy leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.
As soon as Remy exited the study, Xavier felt Cyclops approach
*Come in, Scott.* he said wearily as the X-Man lifted
his hand to knock.
Scott entered the room, face twitching with conflicting emotions.
"Where is Gambit going, Professor?"
Xavier rubbed his temples. *To bed, Scott. He's in no
condition to meet with the Underground right now.* He
chided himself for the edge to his tone, reminding himself
that it was unfair to take out his frustration on Scott. He
just wanted to be still and think...and yet was afraid that
the moment he did, the implications would start to sink in.
How long before he could think about this without a glazed
mind? Do I want to?
"Professor..." Scott hesitated, then plowed on
forcefully. "With all due respect, why did you insist
on telling Gambit what was on the disk? We haven't even
told the rest of the team yet!"
Xavier sighed at the disappointment and hurt he felt roiling
in Scott's mind. He knew Cyclops didn't fully trust the Cajun.
For that matter, neither did he. But at this juncture, what
choice did they have left?
*First of all, Scott, I didn't think Gambit needed to
be there tomorrow morning when we sit down and discuss this
as a team.*
He felt again the throb of guilt, the aching certainty that
their world would soon be shattered. Whatever the current
formalities, the X-Men were his students, his
responsibility. This was blindingly personal.
*And second, from everything I can read from him, he wouldn't
stay simply to deliver mysterious packages between the X-Men
and the Underground. He needed to be told the gravity of the
situation, to have a vested interest.*
Scott snorted derisively. "Gambit? Professor,
that man doesn't give a damn about human-mutant relations!"
*Maybe not,* Xavier acknowledged without concession,
remembering the haunted look on Gambit's face before he closed
off. *But he knows trouble when he hears it, Scott. He
caught the implications right away. He's extremely intelligent.*
Scott was surprised and skeptical at that statement, but
Xavier knew the sharpness and intensity of Gambit's mind were
unmistakable heralds of brilliance. Privately, he thought
Remy was a great deal more than he appeared.
*Get some sleep, Scott. We'll see what the morning brings.*
To be continued.
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