The Jedi rushed to her fallen friend, carefully turning Rogue's body so that she lay on her back.
"Are you all right?" Nomi asked anxiously.
Rogue's eyelids fluttered open, revealing eyes that still bore the distinctive red-and-black coloration that belonged to the Cajun. The X-woman's expression was blank, however, and her gaze was unfocussed.
Concerned, Nomi rocked back on her heels, recalling what she had learned of Rogue's power. If the same rules applied here as in the physical world, it could well be that the personalities of the two mutants were struggling for dominance, or that some amalgamation of both of them would be in control.
Only one way to find out... the Jedi frowned.
"Rogue?" she asked tentatively.
Nomi watched as Rogue's eyes cleared and expression changed -- and that was enough to tell her who would answer.
"Not quite, chère..."
"Remy?" Nomi said, ignoring how odd it was to hear Rogue's voice with Gambit's accent.
"Oui... s'pose you're Nomi?"
The Jedi nodded.
"Enchantée... Rogue said y' were a friend."
"Can I talk to her? Is she all right?"
"She will be -- but it gon' be awhile 'fore she'll be talkin' t' anybody."
"Why? What's wrong?"
The expression on Rogue's face became somber as Gambit tried to explain.
"Dat little set-to we jus' had with what was left of de Phalanx took a lot out of her. It's like she's... closed herself off, while she pulls herself t'gether. I've tried drawin' her out, but it ain' working. An' I think that pushin' her t' come out right now ain' gon' do her or us any good."
"You think she'll just retreat further into herself?"
"Oui, as if dis wasn't far enough," he replied, the expression on Rogue's face sardonic. "If she goes much further, t'ings might get a whole lot more dangerous for ev'rybody."
"I don' know anything 'bout mythology where you come from, chère, but in ours..." he trailed off, then slowly finished his explanation, choosing his words carefully. "Rogue, her mind like a labyrinth -- deeper in y' go, harder it is to find y' way out. An' in the heart of every maze ... there's always a monster."
Gambit's words gave the Jedi pause.
He obviously knows something about that monster, whatever it is, though he isn't telling...
Perhaps the monster in question was some kind of personal demon which Rogue had never been able to face. Usually, those were the worst kind, and it would explain Gambit's reticence on the subject. Keeping the confidences of a lady was a character trait which was definitely in keeping with the personality of the man who could become her student...
"I see," she said, breaking out of her reverie. "So we're probably better off not forcing her hand, and perhaps making her retreat even further into herself by mistake. Remy, you know your way around in here. Do you think Rogue -- wherever she is right now in her mind -- is safe?"
"Oui. It's like there's a place inside her where she c'n go when she jus' can' deal wit' anything anymore -- like a sanctuary. She's used it before. I think she jus' needs some time there..."
"What do you suggest we do?"
"I say we go back. Rogue c'n come back when she's ready, an' maybe you an' Henri c'n do somet'ing f' her once we out, but we ain' got time t' wait on her now. Not if we're plannin' on savin' de world -- again."
"You mean you..."
"Oui. Rogue got what she needed out of de monster the Phalanx put inside her -- an' so did I."
Whistling as he walked through the secure ward's corridors, the medical technician checked the final room on his rounds. He had a light workload tonight, what with having only the one patient left in this wing.
The subject was just starting to come out from the anaesthesia -- another hour or two to monitor his condition and ensure there were no post-operative side effects, and this one would be on his way to his cell.
Not standard procedure, but then lately we've had a few that weren't. Oh well -- mine not to wonder why...
He shrugged off the thought, and made his way to the meds trolley. This part was standard procedure. Since the subjects were known to have violent tendencies, the combination sedative and paralytic was commonly administered.
He expertly drew the required dosage, and made his way back to the room. He was just walking toward the bed when what felt like a small freight train barrelled into him, knocking the syringe from his hand. He didn't even have time to cry out in surprise before he found himself pinned on the floor, with a hand clamped over his mouth. Some part of his mind that wasn't entirely in shock at his situation noticed the smell of burnt hair, then a sound...
Bony skewers appeared just in front of his face, and there appeared to be a dribble of blood running down them ... then a chill voice broke the silence.
"I'm thinkin' you an' me should have a little talk, bub..."
For some time after voicing their concerns about Rogue, both Gambit and Joseph had lapsed into an uneasy silence. Unable to keep up the pretense of the card game any longer, they found themselves able only to think about the possible threats they had to face.
Itching to do something -- anything -- more productive than the waiting his current situation required of him, Remy at last decided to put some of his nervous energy to good use.
"I'm goin' t' try an' reach 'Ro again," he said. "It's been a while since de last contact wit' her, an' I said we'd be keepin' in touch until we got her out. Don' want t' give her any more things t' worry about..."
Closing his eyes, he concentrated and reached out to his oldest friend through the Force. As soon as he touched her mind, his eyes opened wide in shocked surprise.
"What is it?" Joseph asked. His voice was tight, anticipating that something had happened on the planet to worsen the situation.
Gambit said nothing for a minute, then a wolfish grin slowly spread across his face as he turned to reassure his teammate.
"It's a li'l early to say f' sure yet -- but it looks like we jus' might have one less t'ing on our plates, mon ami. Logan's alive -- an' he's free."
Back on Earth, the reason for Gambit's sudden change of mood had just sliced through the transparent polymer coffin which had held Storm prisoner since her initial capture. It took him only a little longer to do the job with his bone claws than it would have done had he still had his adamatium, but even that small delay frustrated him.
She better be OK. Bastards knew leavin' her in this thing was the surest way to mess with her head, and we ain't got time to deal with any aftereffects now...
To his surprise however, Ororo was almost calm as she came through the opening he had carved for her, betraying her nerves with only a small shudder and a sharp intake of breath. Usually her claustrophobic attacks were so severe, she would be near hysteria after such a long confinement...
"You all right, darlin'?" he asked, concerned.
"Yes," she replied with a weak smile, "Thanks to the help of a friend."
"Anytime, 'Ro" Logan said, grinning in relief -- then started as he heard a familiar chuckle in his head.
#You ain' de only one Stormy's talkin' about, mon ami#
Logan snarled, reflexively moving into a battle stance at the unexpected mental intrusion. He knew that voice, but to hear it like this was impossible -- unless their enemies also had telepaths on their side...
Ororo laid a steadying hand on his arm.
"It is all right, my friend. It is truly Remy that you are hearing -- he has been in contact with me as well. We had thought you dead."
"Takes more 'n falling out of a plane ta kill this Canucklehead," Logan grunted, "An' I'd ask when Gumbo joined the Mind Corps, but we got other things ta worry about just now."
"True -- we must first find the others..."
#T'ink Logan's already a step ahead o' you, chère#
From Storm's cocked eyebrow, it seemed as if the voice was audible to the both of them now, Wolverine noted. "Too right, kid," he said.
#Bien -- so what's de plan?#
"Between me an' Cyke, we figured out the basic layout o' this place -- an' where everyone is. He's gone ta spring Sam and Jeannie, then we're gonna rendezvous by the hangar, steal some transport, an' get the hell out of Dodge. After that, we'll see," Logan said bluntly. He turned to Storm, a somewhat apologetic look on his face.
"I'm covered, as far as disguises go," he said, gesturing to the guard uniform he wore, "but you're gonna have ta put this on. I disabled the lock, though, so your powers should still work."
He held out a Genoshan collar. She paled somewhat, but took it from him nonetheless. Steeling herself, she clasped it around her neck, bracing herself for the deadening sensation of her powers being blocked -- and felt nothing. To reassure herself, she called up a trail of mist, quickly dispelled, and allowed herself to relax as much as she could under the circumstances.
#Once you out, we're goin' to have to co-ordinate, mes amis. We ain' dirtside yet, but we're close -- an' there's more goin' on here than Bastion an' his anti-mutant crusade. Be prepared.#
"Guess havin' one crisis at a time is just too much ta ask for," Wolverine growled.
#You been an X-Man longer 'n me -- y' tellin' me you just got dat figured? Corridor's clear -- you should get movin'. We'll be in touch...#
With that, their connection to Remy was gone. Logan shook his head in mock exasperation and turned to his teammate.
"Kid's always got ta get in the last word... you ready to roll, darlin'?"
Storm nodded in reply, and they assumed their positions, Ororo just in front and to the left of Logan. He took her roughly by the arm, jabbing the carbine he had stolen along with his uniform into her side.
"Ya might end up with some bruises, but we gotta make this convincin'..." he said awkwardly.
"You need not apologize -- it is hardly the first time we have had to resort to such deception. Which way?"
"Turn left at the door, an' I'll steer from there -- let's go..."
Elsewhere in the massive base, Jean Grey-Summers was growing anxious. She couldn't be certain exactly how much time had passed since her capture, but she guessed she had been conscious for an hour or so -- and still no one had so much as looked in on her.
Probably want to make sure I stew long enough to be as nervous as possible for questioning, she thought darkly.
Just then, the small slit in the door opened, revealing part of a helmet and visor, then quickly shut again.
Jean tensed in the corner as the door opened.
A guard stood at the entrance, carbine trained upon her.
"Up," he grunted, gesturing with the weapon.
Warily, Jean slowly got to her feet and managed to stand without swaying, though the pounding in her head worsened with the effort.
Another wave of the gun indicated that she was to move toward him, and she complied, running over possible escape scenarios in her mind.
I need to wait and see what else is out there at least before I make a move...
Taking her arm and keeping his carbine trained on her, he marched her out the door. They were in a corridor, lined with what seemed to be several cells similar to the one she had occupied, and there were a variety of personnel strolling about.
So it was just a holding cell...
"Where are you taking me?" she demanded, but silence was the only reply.
They were moving away from where the other guards were, however, and she realized her chance to escape could present itself at any time. She concentrated, focusing only on herself, her captor, and the immediate surroundings. As they moved further away from the cells, she noticed that there were far fewer people in the area. She fought against tensing her muscles and possibly giving away her intention as they made a turn into a deserted room.
As soon as the door closed, she acted.
Spinning out of the guard's loosened grip, she slapped his weapon aside and shoved him against the shut door, claiming his lips in a searing kiss.
When breathing again became a necessity, she broke away from him, her eyes bright with relief.
"Thank God you're all right..."
"So you did know it was me," Scott said, amused.
"After how long we've known each other and all we've been through, did you honestly think I wouldn't recognize you?" she asked coquettishly, then became serious. "Do you know where the others are?"
"Yes," he said, fishing the electronic key from his uniform pocket. Quickly, he unlocked the collar which held Jean's power in check -- and she sighed in relief, free of its deadening effects. Reaching out to her husband through their mental bond, she got caught up with what had happened.
Sifting through Scott's mind, she learned how Logan had escaped; how he had found Scott in the ward; how they had managed to obtain information from the orderly about the base, and left him in Scott's place; how through some quick investigating the two of them had learned where the others were being held, and the plan they had launched...
#I don't mean to be critical, but the plan gets rather sketchy once we're out of this place.# she thought at him.
#I know -- we'll have to play it by ear. They were obviously prepared for us when they attacked, and from what I've managed to piece together, we could have a real security breach on our side. I don't want to chance going home for a while yet...#
#You think they know about the mansion?#
#I think that right now, I don't want to risk it. Let's go and get Sam -- the holding area they've got him in is nearby.#
Almost before he had finished the thought, she reached out with her power, locating their missing teammate, then frowned.
#We better hurry -- he's in trouble.#
#Are you up to maintaining an illusion and using your TK on any security cameras we come across?#
#I should be...#
#Good. Here's what we're going to do...#
To be continued.
"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 of
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