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"The Archetype Association"

The Archetype Association

Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49


 The patio door opened just after eleven-thirty. Ororo walked in, supporting Will, who was leaning on her shoulder. "Medical!" she yelled in her command voice.

"It's not that bad, Ororo," Will said.

"Oh, shut up," she ordered in an irritated tone. "Medical!"

Henry ran down the stairs and took Will from Ororo's grasp, leading him to a chair in the living room. "What happened?" he asked in the clinical tone he used when his friends became his patients.

"It's a long story, Henry," Will told him.

"And I will be the one who tells it," Ororo said imperiously as the rest of the team gathered in the sitting room to determine the source of the commotion.

Rogue, who had been awakened from a sound sleep, took one look at Will and sighed. "What did you do this time, Will?"

"Why does everybody always assume that it's my fault?" Will asked in a plaintive voice.

"He really didn't do anything, Rogue," Ororo admitted. "It was just the end to a very unusual night..."

Ororo and Will walked into the gallery, which was a riot of color and swirling fabric. Ororo cringed at the sight. "No one dresses like this in Nairobi."

"I see the same thing when I go to an Irish festival," Will told her. "People who've never been to the 'old country' have a tendency to romanticize things and ignore regional differences. Trust me, most of the people here have never been outside New York City."

They looked at the statues and masks that were on display. Ororo enjoyed explaining the significance of various items to Will. "Was this style a common one in your tribe?" he asked.

"There are some variations, but the basic theme is the same. Many of the people who I grew up with made figures that looked almost exactly like these."

A low commotion in another room caught their attention. "It sounds like the artist has arrived," Will observed. "Shall we meet him?" Ororo nodded in reply, and they joined the flow of people.

The room which they entered contained several other works placed on or near the walls, and two tables in the center, which most of the people were crowded around. Ororo adroitly made her way through the crowd and approached the table which did not have refreshments. Will, who wasn't comfortable with entering the crush of people, chose to look at one of the exhibits.

Ororo had a demeanor which caused people to defer to her, even unconsciously, and the crowd slowly made way for her. She soon reached the table, where the artist sat autographing folios. "Hello, Chinua," she said.

The young man looked up, and his eyes widened in astonishment. "Ororo! Wind-Rider!" He jumped out of his chair and embraced her.

Ororo smiled and returned the hug. "You have come far from our little village, my old friend."

"Yes, thanks to you."

"To me?"

"I decided that if a goddess could leave the safe haven of home, then there had to be something out there that was worth seeking out."

"And was there?"

Chinua gestured to a petite woman who was discussing one of the pieces with some of the audience. "I have been married to it for three years."

"Where did you meet?"

"In Nairobi. I was working to earn enough money to come here, and she was the daughter of the owner of the business. He offered to pay for our move here if I agreed to handle his business affairs here in the U.S. It pays me a good salary, and I can work on my art on the weekends."

"Do you live here in New York?"

"No, down in Perth Amboy, actually. It's nice and quiet down there." Chinua looked around. "Did you come alone?"

"No, I was invited by a friend. Come, I will introduce you." They wove their way among the other guests until they found Will. "Will, I would like to introduce you to my old friend, Chinua Moloba. Chinua, this is Will Riley."

Will shook Chinua's hand firmly. "Pleased to meet you, sir. Congratulations on a successful night. Your work is very impressive."

"Thank you. I was worried that it would not be appealing to an American audience, but I have been getting very favorable reviews."

"From what I've seen here tonight, you deserve them." He gestured at the mask on the wall in front of him. "What's this one, by the way?"

"It is a spirit mask. Traditionally, they are used to bring a sense of balance and power to the possessor. Different masks influence different attributes."

Will nodded. "And what attribute does this one represent?"


"How much time did you spend working on it?"

"A month, on and off."

"And how much are you asking?"

"Three hundred dollars."

"Ridiculous!" Will scoffed. Ororo's jaw dropped, shocked at his rudeness, but she didn't say anything.

Chinua looked flustered for a moment, but he recovered quickly. "I am sure that I can accept a lower offer."

"Lower? Oh, you misunderstand me, Mister Moloba. I meant that you are asking far too little. Three hundred dollars for a month's work? Ten dollars per day? Totally unacceptable. Am I correct in guessing that the wood was shipped from Kenya?"

"Er, yes, it was," Chinua responded.

"So you paid shipping fees, which I would guess were quite high. Add to that the cost of paints and stains, and then the price for advertising for this show, and I would put the price at about..." He pulled out his checkbook and wrote for a few seconds. "This seems about right to me," he said as he tore out the check and handed it to Chinuba.

The young man took the check and looked at it. His eyes bulged and his jaw dropped. "Sir... I-I don't..."

"Don't worry," Will promised him, "the check's good." He leaned in close. "Mister Moloba, I made that much before noon today. I'm not going to miss the money. But, once I start spreading word to this crowd about how much I paid, they're going to start a bidding war that will not only enhance your reputation in the art world, but will also give you a nest egg to draw from if there's ever an emergency... or a blessed event." He looked meaningfully at Chinuba's young wife.

Chinua blushed. "Would you like to take it home now?"

Will shook his head. "I have a better idea. Make a little tag that says 'Sold' and put it on the mask. I'm going to mingle for a while, and both Ororo and I are going to be raving about your work. Since most of the other people here wouldn't know a dream mask from a hockey mask, they're going to look on your works as investments, and snap them right up. Within a few months, you'll be the Next Big Thing, and you may be able to hire someone to assist you in the business. Just give me a little while to work the crowd." He shook Chinuba's hand again and continued to make his way among the exhibits.

Ororo promised Chinuba that they would talk again later that evening, then joined Will on his rounds through the gallery. "That was a very nice thing you did," she told him.

"I like to help my friends," he shrugged, "and the friends of my friends. Besides, it is a nice mask, and he doesn't seem to have any idea of just how good his work is. I can spare the money."

"How much did you pay?"

"Three thousand."

"You paid ten times what he asked!?"

"It was part of my strategy to enhance his reputation. By the way, was there anything here that you liked?"

"I don't think I could justify spending the money," she admitted.

"I'll pay for it. I've been looking for a reason to spend some money, anyway."

"You don't strike me as a spendthrift."

"I'm not, but at my income level, I have to find ways to spend my money and keep my name circulating in the social register, and I'm not the type for yachts and sports cars. Art's a good alternative, and if I ever get bored with it, I can always donate it to a museum. So go ahead, pick something out."

"Well, if I had to choose something, I think that I would like that wall hanging." She pointed to a woven tapestry which portrayed a gazelle drinking from a lake.

"It's yours. When was this showing scheduled to end?"

"Ten o'clock, I believe."

"Find out if Mister Moloba and his wife have plans for tonight. You can catch up on old times over coffee."

That would be wonderful."

Chinua and his wife, Nana, which she pronounced with a long 'a' in the first syllable, welcomed the opportunity to sit and rest after the showing, and joined Will and Ororo at a small café. They sipped their drinks as Chinuba and Ororo caught up on old times. Nana was very quiet, choosing to listen, as did Will. After about twenty minutes, Ororo realized that Will had been silent, and looked at him. "You have not said much."

"Why interrupt your fun?"

"Well, you are paying," Chinua said, "and my wife and I owe you a great deal. We sold everything we had on display, and I now have four commissions. The gallery's owner even said that we may be scheduled for another showing in a few months. I don't know how to thank you."

"You don't have to. You've been working hard enough to deserve a few breaks. Besides, I'd rather support a couple who only want to make beautiful art than some egotistical twit just out of college who thinks that people should be willing to pay ten thousand dollars for a four foot tall bronze baby rattle."

"You do not approve of modern art?" Nana asked.

"It depends on the intention. If the artist is saying 'I made this because I thought it would awaken a response in the viewer,' or even 'I made this because I thought it would look nice,' then I can accept it. But if the artist is saying 'This is what my work means, and you're an ignorant lout if you can't see that, and by the way, that'll be six thousand bucks,' then I think they should look into job training."

Chinua nodded. "I know a few of the second type. They are annoying, aren't they?" He looked around to make sure that there was no one else within earshot, then turned to Ororo. "So how is life as an X-Man?" he asked her casually.

"Quite fine, thank you..." Ororo said before her voice trailed off. She and Will exchanged astonished looks, then looked back at Chinua.

"You should not be so surprised, Wind-Rider," he said with a bland smile. "I did grow up with you, after all. It was hardly difficult to recognize you on television."

"You always were highly perceptive," Ororo admitted.

"This is going to stay between the four of us, right?" Will asked nervously.

"Do not worry," Nana replied. "We have known for years, and this is the first time it has escaped our lips. We may have moved out of Kenya, but we are still our people's children. We remain loyal to our kin."

"We thank you for that," Will said.

Chinua looked at his watch. "We should be going. We still have to clean up. Ororo, I would like to invite you to our home for dinner one night. May I have your telephone number?"

"Of course." They exchanged numbers, and Ororo hugged both Chinua and Nana tightly, kissing them both on the cheek. Will shook Chinua's hand, but was visibly surprised when Nana embraced and kissed him as well.

As the couple left, Ororo noticed that Will's face was reddening. "Rogue is right," she observed. "You do look cute when you blush."

Thanks," Will said dryly. "Do you want to head back yet?"

"Would you mind if we walked for a while? I still feel a bit too excited to settle down for the night."

"So do I. Do you have anywhere particular in mind?"

"Not really. We can just wander."

"Sounds harmless enough," Bobby commented.

"And it was, up to that point," Ororo confirmed. "It was after we started our walk that the trouble began..."

"So you have been to Africa during your travels?"

To certain parts of it. Egypt, Mali, Morocco. I spent a very entertaining week in Casablanca."

"How entertaining?"

"Oh, intrigue, knives in the dark, men in black, that sort of thing."

"Busy week."

"I was a bit more driven back then."

"Yes, you are much more laid-back now," she said with a straight face.

"I'm glad you noticed."

Ororo laughed as they continued down the street. They eventually entered an area where some of the street lamps were broken. As they passed by the space between two buildings, they heard footsteps coming up behind them. "Keep walking," Will told her without moving his lips.

Before they had taken another ten steps, two men wearing sunglasses and sports jerseys stepped in front of them. They each held Beretta 92 F-M pistols in their hands. "Don't move, sister. You're too fine to blow away, but if you don't have some cash, you're screwed."

Will quickly stepped in front of Ororo, keeping her out of the line of fire. "All right," he said, "it's yours. I'm reaching for my wallet." He slowly moved his hand back towards his back pocket.

The man to their right fired at Will without warning. He didn't even change expression.

The shot hit Will in the abdomen, and he slowly crumpled to the ground, collapsing against the wall of the nearby building.

Ororo automatically went into a defensive posture, her awareness of the elements seeking out sufficient electrical potential from the air to create a lightning bolt. She slowly backed away from the assailants, who kept pace with her.

"Sorry, sister," the second man said, "but we can't have nobody talkin' to no cops."

"I don't know, man," the shooter said, "I think I wanna have some fun first."

"If you touch me," Ororo warned, "You will be in pain for a very long time."

"Yeah, yeah," the one in the cap replied, "but not near as much as you."

They were all distracted by a low, scraping sound back in the alley, which was soon joined by a dry hiss. "He's still kickin'," the shooter said to his companion. "Finish him off."

"Right." The man in the cap turned around and walked back towards the alley. As he started to turn the corner, something flashed in the darkness, knocking his gun out of his hand. "What the..." He didn't finish the sentence before being knocked to the ground by a punch to the face.

His companion spun around, and nearly dropped his gun. Will was walking out of the alley, his sword in hand. His eyes were glowing brightly, and he seemed to be cloaked in the shadows of the alley. His shirt and jacket were covered in blood. His eyes met those of the remaining gunman, and his lips curled up into a diabolical smile.

He raised his sword into an attack position and looked at both of the men. He took a deep breath, and yelled five words to them in a deep bass voice which had shades of his echoing timbre.

"There can be only one!"

The two men screamed with one voice and ran like hell down the street, turning the corner a few seconds later.

Will waited a few seconds, then burst into laughter, leaning against the building to keep from collapsing. He slowly slid down into a sitting position, continuing to laugh. He looked up at Ororo, tears streaming down his face. He managed to choke out one sentence before collapsing back into a new wave of laughter.

"I've wanted to do that for years."

Bobby looked at Will after Ororo was done telling the story. "You are crazy," he told him, shaking his head.

Will grinned. "I just couldn't resist."

"Well, it looks like you're all right," Henry said. "The bullet went straight through, and didn't hit anything vital. There's a small scar, but I think that will be gone by morning, given the way you heal."

"I told you that it wasn't that bad, Ororo," he said as he stood up with a grunt and made his way towards the stairs. "There wasn't any reason to get everybody up. I'm just going to wash off the blood and go to bed."

Will stayed under the shower for quite a long time, letting the heat penetrate his aching muscles, then toweled himself off and walked out of his bathroom.

"You feeling okay?" Rogue asked from the chair by his desk.

Will was too tired to even do a double take. "I'm fine. Just need a little sleep, that's all. You should be in bed yourself."

"I won't be able to sleep again for another hour or so, thanks to you."

"Waking everybody up wasn't my idea. Neither was getting shot, for that matter."

"Nice solution, though."

"Never let it be said that I don't have a sense of humor, warped though it may be." He combed his hair back and climbed into bed as Rogue politely looked away.

"I wanted to ask if you felt back up to full strength," she asked as she turned back around.

"I think so. I healed from that shot quickly enough, and I really don't feel that drained. I'm definitely ready to go back on duty."

"Me too. We'll have a team session in the Danger Room at nine."

"In that case, I'd better get to sleep."

"Okay. See you in the morning."

"It's twelve fifteen," he pointed out. "It is the morning."

"Good night, Will," she said firmly as she closed the door behind her.

Nine hours later, Will and Rogue joined Ororo, Bobby, Logan, Betsy, and Henry in the Danger Room. Xavier, Jean and Scott manned the controls. "This'll be a combat scenario," Jean said through the speaker. "The objective is to defeat the attackers as quickly as possible."

"And who are the attackers?" Henry asked.

"It's a surprise."

"Yippee," Bobby muttered.

"Beginning in three... two... one."

Six panels opened in various parts of the walls, and their opponents stepped out.

"Lovely," Henry groaned. "The Acolytes."

"Will," Ororo ordered, "you take Voght; Bobby, Unuscoine; Betsy, Milan; Henry, Javitz, Rogue, Frenzy. Logan, you and I have the Kleinstocks." Everyone nodded, moving into position.

Bobby had encountered Unuscoine on several occasions, and as a result had spent many solo hours in the Danger Room developing strategies to use against her. He quickly iced up and froze the moisture in the air around her, encasing her in a cocoon of ice. He kept her face exposed, but made sure that the rest of her head was immobilized, preventing her from seeing her teammates and possibly shouting warnings.

Logan and Ororo quickly teamed up against the Kleinstock brothers. Ororo threw them off balance with a gust of wind to their chests while Logan took the direct approach and kicked their legs out from underneath them. Once the fell to the ground, he gave them a sharp blow across their windpipes, stunning them.

Betsy found that the best way to deal with Milan was a combination of physical and mental attack. She kept up a steady psychic barrage to his shields, while delivering a series of blows to his vital areas which addled him. After about thirty seconds of such treatment, he collapsed to the floor in a heap.

Henry and Rogue worked together to take down Frenzy and Javitz. Rogue kept her attention on Frenzy, since her invulnerability gave her a greater edge than Henry would have. They quickly brought the pair down.

Once everyone was certain that their targets were down for the count, they turned their attention to Will. He hadn't moved from his starting position, but had his gaze fixed on Voght, who was trying desperately to transmute away from him. He was not having an easy time of it, and his gasping from exertion.

"Will, are you all right?" Xavier asked.

"This isn't working, Xavier," Will choked in reply.

"What's wrong?"

"Just turn it off."

"Shutting down." The illusions vanished, and Will weakly slumped to the floor.

Rogue knelt next to him. "Are you all right?"

Will held up one hand, signaling her to wait. He looked up at Xavier. "What... what did you do to simulate Voght's transmutation process?"

"We set up a compact spatial distortion field."

"That's a neat trick," he mused. "The local pull must be strong enough to throw me off. It's distorting space-time," he clarified when he saw the confused expressions on everyone's faces. "It felt like I was swimming against a strong current. If you hadn't shut the program down, the spatial backwash would have done a number on my mind."

"You're okay now?" Jean asked.

He nodded. "Does the real Voght's power act anything like the simulation?"

"No," Xavier answered. "She may be a case where you'll have to learn by experience."

"Oh, no, not another learning experience!" Will and Bobby whined simultaneously.

"We have got to keep those two separated," Henry observed.

"Can we do this again?" Will asked as he stood up. "I'd like to try a different strategy."

"Sure you're up to it?" Scott inquired.

"I'm fine. Ororo, would you be insulted if I asked you to take my lead?"

"Go right ahead."

"All right then, everybody takes their cue from me. Stick with your original targets." Everybody nodded and got into position.

"Restarting sequence," Xavier announced.

The androids vanished, reappearing a few seconds later. Will immediately became a blur of motion, sweeping his arms back up above his head and snapping them back down. Voght was hurled against the wall a moment later, screaming in pain as she was pinned by the two daggers which skewered her. A heartbeat later, Will knocked her out with a glancing blow to the nerve cluster on her chin.

As the others, both X-Men and Acolytes, watched him in stupefied shock, Will dropped to the floor and glared at them. "Take them down!" he roared in a voice which commanded instant attention.

The X-Men stood stock still for a moment, then exploded into action, dispatching their opponents with the same efficiency that they had displayed in the earlier exercise.

"End sequence," Scott ordered angrily. "What the hell did you think you were doing!?" he demanded of Will.

"I dealt with the primary threat as quickly as possible," he shrugged.

"Bobby's power allows him enough range and creativity to keep him out of Unuscoine's grip. The Kleinstocks, Frenzy, and Javitz all have limited range, so they aren't a threat as long as you maintain your distance and keep an eye on them. That leaves Milan and Voght. A telepath can take down Milan without extreme difficulty, as long as he's not near a computer.

"Voght is the primary threat, because her power leaves you vulnerable once you finish the transit, even if you only do it once, unlike the multiple teleports that my power would require. My problems are compounded by the fact that because my psychic abilities disrupt our androids, and they don't have any connection to the Chorus, I can use any attacks that would be effective against a real person. That means that my attack has to be physical, and it has to be severe enough to keep her out of commission.

"So I have two choices: do I 'kill' Voght, or 'hurt' her? Either way, I have to do it quickly enough to keep her from attacking me or anyone else. Pinning her not only did that, but it also immobilized her, so we don't have to worry about her dropping on one of us, or of tripping over her later in the battle. My attack sent her right into shock, but didn't cause any life-threatening injuries, so we can treat her after we have everyone else in custody. Since she is in shock, she won't be able to focus enough to use her powers against us. Lastly, the sudden, unexpected nature of my attack distracted the other Acolytes long enough to give the rest of our team a tactical edge.

"In closing," he said as if giving a business presentation, "I feel that my actions were warranted, and gave the X-Men a strategic advantage over a force which had the potential to rival them." He paused. "Any other questions from the floor?"

Everyone looked at one another for a few seconds, then shook their heads. "I'm satisfied," Logan said. "What would you have done if this was the real deal?"

"Depends. If no lives were in immediate danger, I'd try to teleport Voght, like I did the first time, and see if it worked. If it did, I'd use rapid-fire transits until she passed out."

"And if you couldn't?" Xavier pressed.

"I wouldn't have changed a thing."

"You could have killed her!" Scott exclaimed.

"If I'd wanted her dead, she'd be dead," Will snapped back in reply. "I could have aimed for her heart or head, and my blades would have gone through her just as easily. I had the goal of immobilizing and neutralizing her, and that's exactly what I did. Should we be deliberately handicapping ourselves, when we know the brutality that the Acolytes and some of our other opponents are capable of?"

"We do not use methods like that!"

"Well, you'd better start thinking about it. Either that, or be prepared to bury more of our own, because in case you haven't noticed, our opponents have been getting steadily more pathological over the years. We're not dealing with bank robbers anymore. Now we've got psychopaths who have unlimited bank accounts and weaponry that can take down Third World countries. Most of the time, they've racked up a body count before we've even heard of them. So I have no problem with dispensing a little pain when it comes time to deal with them."

"Eye for an eye?" Bobby asked.

"Stripe for stripe," Will confirmed.

"What if you're dealing with a person who's trying to make amends for what they've done?" Rogue asked. The question was an important one to her, given her history prior to joining the X-Men.

"I wait to see how sincere they were. I'd observe them, and see how they acted. If I decided that their change of heart was genuine, I'd set up a new identity for them, then relocate them and get them a real job. Once they were settled in, I'd make sure that they did something that would help people - disaster relief, environmental restoration, that sort of thing. I'd make sure that they would be low-profile and isolated enough not to bother or be bothered by others."

"No prison?" Jean asked.

"You can't pay off a debt to society if you're cut off from it, and the only thing that a prison does today is make a criminal a more efficient criminal. And if the person we're dealing with is so far gone that they have no desire to atone for their crimes - Sabretooth, say - then they're an animal that needs to be put down."

"Damn straight," Logan muttered. Will had just described a philosophy that closely mirrored his own.

"I think that's enough discussion for now," Xavier announced. "Why don't you all hit the showers and relax until lunch?"

As the team filed out of the Danger Room and headed towards the elevator, Xavier switched off the intercom and turned to Scott and Jean. "As much as I hate to admit it, his strategy probably was the best one available to him."

"He didn't do it out of malice," Jean agreed. "He was cold as ice."

"But it was complete overkill," Scott protested.

"No more so than clawing her, or electrocuting her with lightning, or clobbering her with an optic beam, or throwing a car at her..."

"Okay, okay, point taken. And I have to admit, he is right about the opposition getting more unstable as time goes by. God help me, some days I wish for the days when we were fighting the Wizard and Factor Three."

"Ah, to be young again," Jean reminisced.

Warren had created a light lunch of soup and salad, which everyone quickly decimated. Bobby and Logan took security duty for the afternoon, and Bishop started his surveillance of the grounds. Bishop had taken some advice from Will, and now wore a casual shirt with a vest and jeans, rather than his usual uniform. Will had helped him design a vest that hid a shoulder holster, containing a pistol-sized version of his plasma rifle. Bishop's boots each held a knife, one of which was the Damascus that Will had given him, and a pouch on his belt held a taser, which was intended to give Bishop a source of energy to absorb.

Will had dish duty, so Rogue waited for him to finish cleaning up after himself, then joined him in the parlor. "You feeling okay?" she asked.

"Just a little frazzled. Nothing worth worrying about. How about you?"

"I feel fine. You want to do anything today?"

"I had enough entertainment last night. I think I'll just stay in. Did you have anything in mind?"

"Not really. Feel like renting some movies again?"

"That's a possibility. Maybe something new came..." He was interrupted by the ringing of the phone in the hallway. "I'll get that." He teleported to the hallway and picked up the phone before it had finished its second ring. "Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. How can I help you? Of course, she'll be on in one moment." He covered the mouthpiece with one hand. "It's for you, Rogue," he said, raising his voice slightly.

Rogue quickly flew from the parlor to the hallway, taking the phone from Will. "Hello? Hi, Momma! Oh, I'm doing fine. How did you hear about... oh, Val blabbed, huh? No, everybody's okay. Will got us out of there without much fuss... Will Riley, Momma. Yes, that's right, that was him on the line before. Yeah, I'd say I know him pretty well, he's been my boyfriend for a while now... Hello? Momma? Hello?" She looked at the receiver for a moment, then placed it back on its cradle. "She hung up."

"That's odd. Any idea why?"

"Not a clue. Maybe she was running long distance charges on Val's home phone again. She'll call back later. Let's get those movies now, before things get crazy."

"All right." He opened a Door, and they walked through it.

Two hours later, Bishop had finished his second lap around the grounds, and was planning to come back inside so that he could watch the Law & Order episode that he had taped earlier, when his communicator beeped. "Bishop here," he said, activating it.

"We've got a bogey coming in fast, Bish," Logan's voice said, "Heading for the southeast yard. It's broadcasting one of our recognition codes. Be there ten seconds ago to see who it is."

"Right." Bishop broke into a run, taking the main road to the front entrance to the mansion, entering it and going out the back door.

The aircraft - a supersonic hovercraft from the looks of it - was landing just beyond the pool. Bishop waited for it to settle to earth, then drew his sidearm and aimed at it. "Exit the craft slowly, with your hands up!" he barked.

The windshield of the cockpit popped open with a pneumatic hiss and lifted up and back. A single figure stepped out and jumped to the ground.

Bishop sighed softly and slumped his shoulders. "What are you doing here?"

"Personal business," the newcomer snapped. "Let me inside."

Bishop pondered his choices. We don't kill unarmed people, he reminded himself.

Still, it's so damned tempting...

"All right," he decided. "Come on."

Will and Rogue walked in through the front door. "You were the last person I expected to be a Denis Leary fan," she told him.

"Well, let's see... Irish, cynical, smartass... what could there be for me to relate to?"

She laughed. "Let me get some snacks," she told him as she handed him the videotapes. "We can watch them in my room."

"I'll be right here."

Rogue entered the kitchen, where she found Bishop, Logan, and Xavier deep in a conversation. "Hi, guys!" she said brightly as she grabbed a two liter Pepsi and a bag of Tootsie Roll assorted miniatures.

The three men looked at her oddly. "What's wrong?" she asked. "Is there a note pinned on my back or something?"

"You didn't see her when you came in?" Logan asked.

"See who?"

Logan didn't say anything, but looked at Xavier and Bishop, then back at her. "Where's Will?"

"In the front hall, why?"

"We've got a visitor."

Will smiled and leaned against the door jamb, relaxing. It looks like it's actually going to be a quiet afternoon.

An arm shot out from behind him, placing a knife to his neck.

"You're gonna die, you manipulative bastard!"

Then again...


Continued in Chapter 34


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