The Shi'ar cruiser lurched and spun like a leaf in the wind
through the stargate, drawn through the passage in the wake
of the enormous mystery vessel; which itself proceeded on
its course, oblivious to the mote of destruction behind it.
Within the battered cruiser, the occupants began to take
stock of themselves.
"Is everyone all right ?" Rogue called out anxiously.
Invulnerability was one thing, she grimaced, but it sure didn't
keep motion sickness at bay.
"I knew I should have followed standard precautions
and taken Gravol before traveling," muttered Hank McCoy.
He and Trish Tilby were getting up from where they had fallen.
"At least nobody can see if you've got a green tinge,"
she retorted, "but I think I'll live."
Gambit and Joseph staggered in together. Although Remy limped
slightly, he walked with an arm around the other man to steady
him. The man once known as Magneto had been grazed by a piece
of debris, and was still a little groggy.
"We a little worse f'wear mes amis, but we all right."
Bishop and Deathbird were the last to report in. Despite
the chaos of their surroundings, they seemed calm. Both warriors
by training, it was their way to take any situation as it
came. The anger behind Deathbird's demeanor showed in her
cold, clipped tone.
"By Sharra, whoever dares such wanton action against
my house shall answer to me! It is my duty to safeguard your
passage, and that I will do. And I will seek vengeance on
those who interfered with that trust! But we must first see
to the ship's damage
Computer! Damage report."
As the computer ran down the list, Rogue saw to Joseph's
injury. It wasn't serious, but she sternly told him to lie
down for a moment, as she went to the galley in search of
an ice pack.
*Almos' makes me wish it was me* Remy thought ruefully.
He faced down his jealousy. After all, Rogue had called his
name, when it seemed certain that she would die. Maybe he
still had a chance
but she deserved so much more than
he was able to give her. And as long as his secret existed,
he would never have her trust.
*Loaded dice* he thought bitterly.
*I don' tell her, I can' face her or m'self. I tell her,
she'll hate me
an' dat's de one t'ing I know I can' handle
Lost in these melancholy thoughts, he hadn't even noticed
Rogue standing beside him. She coughed. Gambit started.
t'inkin'. What is it?"
"Ah said, if'n ya sit back, Ah might be able tah bandage
that for ya."
"You not a good nurse, chère," he replied lightly,
"if you be takin' care of us, me an' Joseph take our
time gettin' better."
Rogue tried to look annoyed, and failed.
"Don't you be tryin' ta charm me, swamp-boy," she
smiled, then turned serious.
"It looks like we're gonna be here foh a while, at least.
The damage ain't as bad as it looks, but it's bad enough.
What did y'all sprain?"
"Quad. Right 'ere, but it's not bad."
As Rogue carefully wound the tensor around his thigh, Remy
thought to himself:
*Mebbe I should do dis more often
* and returned to
his previous dilemma.
*Better take what ya can, LeBeau
dis as close as y'ever
gonna get * he concluded wistfully, and watched Rogue walk
back to the front of the bridge.
"How're we doing ?" she asked Bishop.
The time-displaced X-Man had been sitting by Beast and Deathbird
as the reports came in, and was already rummaging in a toolkit.
"Surprisingly well, all things considered. The life
support modules didn't take any damage. Our weapons capacity
has been knocked back to minimal, but the shields are still
holding at about fifty percent. The propulsion system is our
main problem; we're stuck here indefinitely until we get a
handle on the necessary repairs. And I don't like being stuck
here while that ship, whatever it was, is headed for Earth.
I don't like it at all."
Bishop was always suspicious by nature, a result of the future
from which he came, but his instincts were seldom mistaken.
And after the narrow victory they had won over the Phalanx
on the Shi'ar throneworld, it didn't take genius to make a
Rogue hugged herself, shivering.
"You an' me both, sugah
you an' me both
"Our sensor net is still operational, so we'll at least
know if they throw anything back at us. It's possible they
don't even know we're here. Deathbird said that thing's wake
should have completely masked our own energy signature, so
at worst we'll have some breathing space before we're discovered."
"Anyt'ing I c'n help wit' ?"
"Not at the moment, LeBeau. Beast, Trish and Deathbird
have started repairs, and I'm about to join them. You might
keep an eye on the scanners, though, in case we get company.
Since the Blackbird's defense system is similar, it would
be better to have someone with experience at the helm, just
"Joseph an' Ah will come with ya, in case ya need us."
"Anything is better than just sitting here waiting,"
Joseph winced, "between us and our powers, we can perhaps
expedite our repairs."
"Ah'll be along in a couple of hours ta spell ya, Remy.
Keep us posted."
"Once we meet us with Beast and Deathbird, we'll probably
divide into work parties for different areas. Once organized,
we'll set up a schedule rotation," Bishop stated.
"Sooner we get out o' here de better. Me, I'm kind o'
tired o' bein' on de target side of a Space Invaders game.
I'll watch t'ings from 'ere."
With that, Remy turned to the bridge viewscreen as the others
made their way to Engineering.
Some time later, Gambit was playing his ninth game of solitaire
in as many different versions, while keeping an eye on the
scanners. He sighed in frustration. The damage to their engines
had been worse than expected. It was all reparable, but with
only seven bodies available to work (six, if one person was
on the bridge at all times) they were going to be stuck for
longer than any of them liked. Deathbird and Bishop were getting
the weapons on-line, while Joseph was patching stress points
in the hull with Rogue, and Beast begun rewiring the propulsion
systems with Trish's help.
He cast his eye back to the sensor grid. Nothing unusual,
as before. Yet something about the view nagged at him. He
sat back in his chair and gazed intently at the screen, trying
to isolate whatever it was that triggered his attention. It
He increased the magnification on the sector that had drawn
there was definitely something there; what,
he wasn't sure. Gambit brought up the close-scan, and finally
isolated his quarry.
One of the bits of flotsam had a shape that was far too regular
for simple space debris. Eyes narrowing, he targeted the object
in the scangrid, and set it for full analysis. The computer
"English please, unless y' can manage français."
"Survival pod of unknown type
"Carbon-based, humanoid occupant
Quickly, Gambit contacted the others with news of his discovery.
"C'n we get a lock on it an' bring it in?"
"Tractor beams have been up for an hour, due to the
distinguished diligence of our multi-talented newswoman and
your resident blue genius. Given the co-ordinates, it should
pose no problem."
"But who else could be out here? And how did he or she
or it get here?"
"Good questions, Trish. That's what makes me urge caution
- we don't know what's there or if our friends decided to
leave something behind before they blew by us."
"But Bishop, we cain't just leave whoevah it might be
"All the same, X-man, caution is mandated. The aft shuttle
bay is fully shielded, and we are all well-stocked with arms.
We may use one of the docking mechanoids to open the craft
from a distance, while the computer runs a full-scan. We shall
take minimum risk this way," Deathbird stated.
"Real warm welcome dey gonna get," Remy muttered,
" but after what we been t'rough, be nice t'have a deck
stacked in our favor for a change."
"Agreed then. We seven castaways shall pluck from the
blackness of space another shipwrecked soul. The aft bay it
Soon after, the small foreign craft was gently pulled into
the bay. Joseph used his power to manipulate its path, as
the tractor beams alone would have made for a bumpy ride to
an injured occupant.
The mechanoids opened the hatch without incident, and the
computer scan showed only a barely living humanoid. Gambit
and Beast were first to the tiny vessel, with the others close
on their heels.
Within the pod lay a woman. She looked peaceful, even serene.
Red-brown hair spilled over her shoulders, framing a gentle,
fine-boned face. She was dressed simply, in a trouser tunic
of some unknown material, with a kind of robe over top of
it. At her hip was a kind of energy pistol, and a metallic
cylinder with a handgrip, almost like a flashlight, was hooked
to her belt.
Bishop moved in and disarmed their unconscious guest.
"She's clearly been in here for quite some time,"
Beast mused as he commenced his examination, " At first
glance, it's incredible to believe this thing kept her going
- it appears to be geared for short-term survival, but according
to these readings
"Will she recover ?" asked Joseph.
"Yes, but that's something else again
"How do ya mean, Hank ?"
"Well Rogue, after extended time in suspended animation,
it usually takes days to recover, but according to this
"Uh, Hank ? I t'ink she be wakin' now
The Cajun was quite right. The woman's eyelids were already
fluttering. They opened, squinting at the light. Her eyes,
a bright blue-green behind her long lashes, slowly focused.
Weakly, she half-sat up, until Beast gently pushed her back.
"You had better take it easy, at least for a while,
She muttered something in another language, and the ship
computer began translating.
"Wh.. where am I ?", she asked weakly, eyes half-closed.
"I think we better leave that discussion until we know
," began Beast.
"Don' worry p'tite. Y' be okay pretty soon."
In his attempt to reassure the woman, Gambit had used all
the charm at his disposal in his voice.
At this, she suddenly appeared fully alert. Her eyes snapped
open, scanned their faces
and stopped at Remy. She stared
intently at him for a moment, and he started as he felt
something in his mind
Seeing his reaction, she sank back exhausted, smiling.
," she whispered, as she lost consciousness.
Continued in Chapter
"To win one hundred victories of one hundred
battles is not the acme of skill; to subdue the enemy without
fighting is the acme of skill." -- Sun-Tzu, The Art
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