The Blackbird comes in low and swift, no more than a brilliant
flash in the early morning light, thanks to the Sh'iar devices.
The first strike nails the anti-aircraft guns. In moments,
the second and third targets are also taken out, leaving charred
metal remains. Dark smoke and flames erupt across the isle
of New Genosha, mixing with the belated wail of aircraft warning
sirens. Scott sets the Blackbird down in the middle of the
main internment camp. He turns to face the rest of the X-men.
"Everyone have their assignments? Valerie, you're in
charge of coordinating communications. Forge, Tseidel, we
need the collars off these mutants--fast. Do what you need
to then get them on the transports."
His jaw sets into a grim line as he continues.
"Hank, you know what you need to do here. Jean and I
will get the records to use as evidence. The rest of you--find
Rogue. Let's move, people!" Remy grabs Scott's arm.
"Goin' all out to bring Rogue back, eh? Too much for
me to be expectin' de same was it?"
For a long moment, Remy's steady, questioning gaze holds
Scott's. There is no anger, only traces of a hurt too deep
to speak of.
"I'm not leaving here without you, Remy."
"Jus' 'member dat."
"Ya ready, Cajun?"
Remy swallows hard against the sudden dryness in his mouth,
but he gives Logan a curt nod as he drops a trio of cards
into anxious fingers. The Blackbird's hatch opens onto hell.
Eric watches Ororo intently, concerned by the faraway look
on her face. A moment later, he understands, as Jean's telepathic
probing tentatively extends to touch his mind as well. He's
fascinated by the experience of so many minds interacting--until
he senses Rogue. With Ororo's guidance, he reaches out to
her. On the table, Rogue turns her head slightly towards them.
>>The others have arrived.<<
Sinister's fist slams onto the table.
"The tissue is genetically inviable."
Rogue struggles through hazy consciousness to understand
"Ah don't understand."
Rogue sees the hard lines of his face a moment before the
back of his hand strikes her cheek full force. His fingers
tighten painfully in her hair as he yanks her head back.
"Insufferable harridan! You try my patience pretending
ignorance of the cancer infesting your body."
Sinister releases her, his voice sharp with bitterness.
"Cancer cells have invaded the embryo, this specimen
has been rendered useless."
Rogue turns her face away from his, finally giving in to
tears. In desperation, she searches through the X-men for
the comfort of a familiar touch.
Even though she senses his presence, he does not respond.
This time, she feels a spark of interest, but grief chokes
her thoughts before she can form a reply. She's grateful beyond
words that he reaches out to her again.
The curt French: "I'm here."
"What are you doing?"
Ororo's concerned voice draws Rogue's attention back to Sinister.
She watches in confusion as he prepares another tray of scalpels
and sutures. Sinister strips his gloves. The distinct snap
of new gloves being pulled on sends a shiver through Rogue.
From the corner of her eye, she sees a flash of silver a second
before pain grips her. She bites down on her lip hard, digs
her nails into her palms, trying to bear the pain until it
subsides. Instead, it intensifies into a fiery blaze. She
Rogue's distress sears through the X-men's psi-link in spite
of Jean's efforts to dampen the effect. Jean feels Scott's
hand in hers, his mind reaching out in support to hers, and
she draws on that strength to offer comfort to Rogue. Her
brow creases in concern at Rogue's lethargic response to her
"Scott, we're losing her."
"Hank's prepping the Blackbird for field surgery. Valerie's
clearing us for emergency transport wherever we need to go.
All we have to worry about is finding Rogue."
"What about Sinister?"
"He better hope we find him before Mystique does."
Scott pauses, letting Jean narrow the psi-link's focus so
that he shares Gambit's turmoil. Shares the same love for
Rogue that Scott feels for Jean. The same loss that he has
experienced so deeply himself.
>>No one should have to go through this. Not even Gambit.<<
Jean's hand squeezes his. Scott returns the squeeze.
"I'll talk to him, Jean, when the time's right."
Continued in Chapter
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