Break Through
by Kassia

Chapter 3

The vibrant colors and dead mutants that had been dancing around Bobby's head faded into darkness as the voices around him slowly became louder and more intelligible.

"Just a routine scan," a voice somewhere above Bobby said, resonating with irony. "They won't find anything."

"So they found something. This isn't my fault."

"Questioning your new alliances?"

"Over this?" A woman's voice, bright with indignation. "No. You weren't so much better. You have no right to cast stones."

"If Cadran is just as bad as I," said Magneto quietly, "why the coup?"

"You're tired and weak, Magneto. We telepaths could see that even when the others couldn't. You were unsure of yourself, of us, and you tried to hide your thoughts. Did you think we would attack you? Cadran may not be perfect, but he has confidence. He has strength."

Magneto's voice grated. "I can see that. It obviously took a man of great strength to accomplish that."

A brief pause, then, "Look, the X-Man isn't my business. This is his own people's fault. You can take it up with them the next time you're leading the X-Men. He's awake, by the way." A second later, Bobby heard the door slam.


Bobby opened his eyes. They stung, and his left ear was aching. He was lying on the bed and it had never seemed more luxurious.

Magneto's voice held the usual monotonous calm. "Can you hear, Drake, can you understand me?"

What's there to understand? "Yeah, I hear you."

"Can you tell me what happened during the interrogation? At least what you remember?"

Bobby bit his lower lip thoughtfully. "Les'see ... what can I remember? People slowly chiseling away at my sanity. People messing around with various functions of my brain to get past my non-existent mental defenses. Do you make them take Telepathic Torture 101 or something?" His memories seemed to ache; old hurts, long forgotten, throbbed in the front of his mind.

"The mind is a delicate thing. I've been told by telepaths that it's so easy to hurt someone once you reach the subconscious, you have to concentrate not to do it. But tell me, do you know what they were looking for?"

Thanks for the sympathy. Crazy, they were all crazy. "I have no friggin' idea. They don't either."

"Cadran is taking no chances. That was why he was my second in command. It's too bad people are so fickle in their loyalties."

That's 'cause if you stay loyal to someone, they abandon you instead. Stupid, stupid X-Men.

"Which brings me to Skirrow. I think she may come over to our side. She's only a guard, but Skirrow always had the courage of her convictions. She's just not sure of what she's convinced of."

Our side? Uh-huh.

"If we had her help, escape would be a possibility. For both of us."

"Yeah," said Bobby. "But what makes you think I care? The worse that happens to me is that the telepaths fuck with my mind and walk away with fake memories."

When Magneto replied, his voice was icy, "Do you want to know why you should care? If I leave here without you, you are dead. If I'm free to disprove any false information they've planted in you, they have no use for you."

"Only if you make it out," Bobby pointed out. "Only if Skirrow will help you. And I don't think she will."

"She may once she better understands Cadran's plans. I don't trust him. He's always been ruthless."

Just 'cause you're a prisoner doesn't mean you have the moral high ground, Maggie. "And you're not?"

"Only when the ends justify the means. Cadran ... he enjoys the means."

"Ah, a sadist. I can dig it."

"This was supposed to be a sanctuary, a prototype of the perfect society..." Magneto's voice was rife with frustration, and he suppressed it with an obvious effort before he continued, "Cadran is unfit to wield power on his own."

"And he's gonna destroy all you've created, yadda yadda yadda. So, wanna play rock-paper-scissors or something?"

Magneto sat down on the bed, and covered his face with his hands.

"It's not like you've got anything better to do."

Magneto shook his head, not removing his hands.

"I guess I could go to sleep," said Bobby. "I am kinda tired after the interrogation."

No answer.

"Okay then. Good night?"

"Good night." Magneto's reply was muffled by his hands.

Bobby climbed onto the top bunk, and sat there for a moment, biting his lower lip. He blinked rapidly, and glanced down at the tallies on his arms. The blurred as he looked at them. He closed his eyes tightly as he realized he was starting to cry. Over what, for God's sake? He buried his face in his pillow, trying not to remember the X-Men who still hadn't come for him, trying to forget the humiliations of the day, trying not to cry. Magneto would probably be able to hear him if he did.

Nightmares jolted Bobby awake while the lights were still off. His dreams were more confusing than before, seeming to reflect the telepathic upheaval of his mind. They were also creepier. He drew in his arms, making sure no part of him was near to the edge of the bed. You couldn't be sure what was waiting out their to grab you.

It was a bit comforting to know that someone else was in there, though. Then again, maybe no one else was in there. He couldn't be sure in the complete darkness. He began humming something, to maybe get Magneto's attention if he was awake but not take the chance of waking him if he was asleep. It was something for an overnight, a kid's trick. But Bobby wasn't feeling too grown up.

There was no response, not even the sound of someone shifting position. Bobby fell perfectly silent and listened intently. Gradually, as Bobby tuned out all the sounds made by the blood pumping through his body, the breathing from the bunk below became clear. Bobby breathed a sigh of relief.

Why do you care? You're such an idiot. But he couldn't deny to himself that, when you didn't think Magneto was going to kill you, his presence was very reassuring.

He found he couldn't fall asleep. so he lay awake listening to the steady breathing.

It was an odd situation, to say the least. A really fucked-up situation, to say the most. It had been weird enough before, when Bobby was just a prisoner, when he didn't have Magneto for a roommate. Magneto, the X-Men's original archenemy. Bobby could even remember their first encounter with him. It couldn't have been that long ago, yet there seemed a century worth of memories since that time, and each memory had a different Magneto in it ... the insanely powerful mutant hovering in the air, declaring "I am Magneto!", the unexpected leader of the X-Men, trying to make amends for past crimes, the world-weary recluse hidden away on his asteroid ... Magneto had a love-hate relationship with the X-Men like no other person Bobby knew.

For his own part, Bobby had never really hated or -- to be perfectly honest -- loved the X-Men. He had been infatuated with the idea, yeah. It was a beautiful idea, and the mansion a sanctuary like most outcast teenagers only dreamed of. Love and hate and infatuation aside, though, the X-Mansion was home, and the X-Men were family.

At least so long as his X-family didn't leave him in this God-forsaken place. Then he'd never forgive them. Of course, then he'd never see them again. Scott, Hank, Jean ... hell, Gambit, Bishop, I'm not picky, just someone, get me out of here.

"Help me out here. I know Brittany, of course, and then there's Eleanor, who I remember because that rhymes with 'Theodore', but what about the tall one?"

Magneto spoke into his artificial coffee, "I have no idea."

"Too bad they didn't have a song. Alvin, Simon, Theodore. Brittany, dun dun, Eleanor. Damn it, I won't be able to stop thinking about this all day."

"Good. Concentrate on that if they interrogate you again. It should help."

"Really? That how you do it? No ... They'll probably think it's just another of my clever techniques for resisting the telepath."

Magneto took a sip of the coffee, made a face, and took another sip. "Why, do you have many of those?"

Bobby whirled his coffee-flavored sugar-milk around in the cup. "To hear them tell it. Apparently I'm some sort of super spy with top-secret info buried in my subconscious."

A nod was the only reply, but then Magneto did a minute double take. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Yes, unfortunately."

"So that's why they were so hard on you during the interrogation. I assumed Cadran was merely being spiteful, but no ... he's being paranoid." He snorted disdainfully. "I take it they found nothing?"

"Of course. There's nothing to find. But it seems I have some really strong psychic shields buried deep in my subconscious."

"You don't know what they're guarding?"

Bobby shook his head.

"Probably just childhood traumas. Were you beaten as a child, Robert Drake?"

"Not that I recall."

"There you go," said Magneto.

Bobby had begun gulping down the last of his coffee before Magneto's words caught up with him, and he had to spit the drink back into his cup to stop himself from choking.

Meanwhile, with a look of resignation, Magneto tilted his coffee cup back and drank it all down in a fabulous show of stoicism. He set the cup down and said thoughtfully, "We really need to began discussing escape."

Bobby glanced around nervously. "Can't she hear us?"

"She's been able to hear these thoughts any time in the past twenty-four hours. If Natalie hasn't objected to them yet, she certainly won't start now."


"Skirrow. She seems to be our best hope hope, since none of my people have tried to contact me."

Maybe they're happier with Cadran, thought Bobby, but he didn't speak the thought aloud.

"I expect you will be interrogated again, if they didn't find anything yet."

"Yay me. What about you?"

"Me?" said Magneto, as if surprised by the question. "I'm awaiting my execution."

The room faded in and out of focus for a brief moment. "Your execution?" Bobby echoed.

"Officially, my exile. But I have no doubt I will be killed."

"When -- when will this be?"

"After the trial."

"Oh," Bobby breathed a little easier, "a trial."

Magneto seemed amused by this bit of naivete. "The trial is just show, Drake. Cadran knows exactly what the outcome will be."

"That's sick."

"No, that's smart."

Bobby shook his head. "I don't get you dictator types, I just don't. How can you manipulate people like that?"

"Ask Charles -- he does exactly the same thing, in his own way." Bobby opened his mouth to disagree, but Magneto continued before he could, "Do you think the only reason they send boys in their teens, their twenties, into war is because they're in better physical shape? No, it's because they are the ones you can mold, the ones whose minds are so malleable that they'll follow you off a cliff if you train them to."

"I don't see the Professor as doing that," objected Bobby, "and I'm definitely past that age."

"Not in my eyes, and certainly not in Xavier's. You will be soon, though, so Charles had better hurry; you're certainly not well conditioned yet."

"Oh, thanks a lot."

"I ... didn't mean that as an insult."

Feeling awkward, Bobby stood up and went over to the bed. "I don't see why I have to be awake just 'cause they decided to turn the lights on," Bobby said lightly. "Anyway, if you're right about them interrogating me again, I'd better be rested."

Magneto nodded abstractedly, and from the look in his eyes, his thoughts were already somewhere else.

Every now and then, Bobby would wake up from a nightmare, or even just an odd dream, and just lay there for about an hour being thankful that none of it was real. It was a sweet and sour sort of feeling, but mainly sweet. It wiped out all the other problems in your life for the time being, where you just lay there and reminded yourself that so-and-so wasn't really dead, that there was nothing after you, that you hadn't just been shot.

And every now and then, as an X-Men, you'd wake up, and for a moment whatever dream you'd been having would seem more plausible than your actual waking existence, and that's why it would feel so horrible and surprising when you realized that this time the nightmare was real, and the comfortable, believable things, just a dream. And that feeling just sucked.

And sometimes, when you woke up into a nightmare, some stupid telepathic woman snatched you away from the nightmare and took you to a small, white room that smelled of hospital and contained worse fates than the sleeping mind could invent.

"I expect you to get the information this time," said Cadran. "I've got better things to do with my time, and my telepaths."

"Yes, sir. How about I call you when I'm done, then?"

"No, I'd rather watch."

A look of combined anxiousness and pride crossed the telepath's face, and he said, "Yes, sir." Cadran took a seat in the corner, and the telepath sat down across from the chair that Bobby was strapped to. "The trick," he said, "is to break through the defenses without making him completely forget whatever is back there."

"I don't need a lecture."

"Sorry, sir."

"But if you don't feel up to breaking past them, you can always convince him to do it for you. He made them, after all. Maybe you should be trying to break him instead of his defenses."

"Maybe, sir. I'll try."

Bobby felt the too-familiar sensation of someone else slipping into his mind- he had never been this sensitive to it before his encounter with the psi police. Then the man went deeper into his subconscious, and Bobby felt vaguely nauseous.

Total silence in the room for awhile, and no feelings except the nausea. Maybe the guy was going to be more subtle this time.

Then he began to feel cold. A consuming, under-the-skin sort of cold. For a moment Bobby thought his powers were being reactivated, but this hope was quickly dashed to bits as he suddenly began to feel heat instead of cold. Not even a fever heat; one like there was real fire under his skin. His breathing became gasping, and he began to sweat.

What do they think this will accomplish? he thought despairingly. That all depends on you, Mr. Drake, replied a voice in his head, and Bobby shivered, though he still felt on fire.

Then the fire stopped, and a numbness extended through his body, and he suddenly he couldn't move. Not even to brush away whatever was making that weird crawling feeling all over his body. He could feel the numbness extending through his mind, further back into his past. He wanted desperately to move, to have some control, but he couldn't, except for the occasional involuntary twitch of his leg or his hand, and that was even worse than not moving, because it was someone else's doing.

He wanted to close his eyes, so that maybe when he opened them again it would be to find this was all a dream. And then he didn't even want that any more, because something was smothering all his thoughts, and the only thing he knew was that he should be able to think more than this.

"Look in his eyes. My God, I've never seen that. What's going on in there?"

"For lack of a better phrase, he's on pause. He's not even breathing on his own anymore. It's complete mental saturation."

"Oh, to be a telepath."

He found a brief moment for thoughts, as the telepath answered the question, and wished he hadn't been given the chance. Being let up for air only made it more painful when he was pushed down again.

His breathing stopped for a moment, and he would've panicked if he could.

"It's difficult, and for awhile you're confused as to who you actually are," explained the telepath, "but you'll never feel more like God."

"I don't know about that."

Some hand inside his mind clutched at his old thoughts, since he was creating no new ones, turned them over and checked underneath them. No stone unturned.

But whatever it was had just as much right to the thoughts as he did.

Then suddenly the numbness left him, and he felt as if the blood in his veins had been sucked into a vacuum, and the sting of being alive again washed through his system. His mind snapped back on but he wasn't quite sure he knew what he was supposed to do with it.

The telepath looked exhausted, and he said in a hushed tone, "I can't get to whatever is back there. It must be because he can't."

"How is that possible?" hissed Cadran.

"I -- I don't know."

Cadran stood up, and went over to his victim's side. The prisoner would've looked up at him, but looking up required too much energy.

"He needs a haircut," said Cadran, and the prisoner felt a hand ruffle his hair, and then the small shock tingled his scalp, and grew. The electricity ran down his body and into his bare feet so that he was grounded, part of a circuit with no means of escape. And this time he could scream, so he did.

"You're going to kill him," he heard through the electric haze and the screams.

"No, I'm not," the other replied casually. "I've had a lot of practice."

Sometimes, when you woke up to a nightmare, there was at least the knowledge that it could have been a worse nightmare. It was cold comfort, but better than no comfort at all.

He didn't open his eyes, lest he find that he was still strapped to a chair. Because any nightmare was better than that one.

"You haven't had an easy time of it here, have you?" A deep, calm voice, so comforting that Bobby was sure it must be a relative, or a childhood friend speaking.

"You've really been taking it quite well, all things considered. Better than I would've expected, I have to admit. Maybe Cyclops or Phoenix or Storm would have held up better, but it rather seems like they would've been given an easier time, doesn't it?"

Keep talking, Bobby thought back hazily. Talk about them. I like that.

"You should eat. There's a tray here. The food is disgusting, but it's good to eat after you've been electrocuted."

Electrocuted. Bobby's eyes snapped open, and he scratched his arm because it began to itch horribly, and then so did his thigh. More than that.

"Is Robert Drake in there, or did they erase you? That would be a waste. Xavier would have to make an all new you, and I somehow doubt you'd turn out as interesting this time around."

Bobby found, to his delight, he could lick his dry lips. It was cold, so he pulled the blanket up around him tighter, and licked his lips again just because he could. But his feet were burning, so he pulled the blanket up more so they could get some air, and he could cover his neck better.

"Pay attention, Drake. Whatever you do, don't drift off again. You have to stay awake now."

Stay awake? That sounded like it required energy. Bobby wasn't sure he liked that.

"Sit up. I've seen cases like this before. You don't want to fall asleep." Bobby felt someone take hold of his arm, and he jerked it away, but then they took a firmer hold and pulled his arm, so that he had no choice but to follow it until he was sitting up.

A tray was set in his lap, accompanied by the order, "Eat."

One of Bobby's feet began twitching, and he sat on it to stop it. He had not appetite, and he stabbed a piece of chicken hesitantly with his fork and put it in his mouth just as hesitantly. To his surprise, he found he was hungry.

Then the door swung open. Bobby flinched, and he watched as a woman in uniform stormed in. He couldn't see her head, since he was on the bottom bunk and his view was blocked, but he saw her stop in front of Magneto, and saw her arm swing, and heard the thunk of a fist hitting someone's face. Bobby took a hesitant bite of the apple on the tray and continued to watch the headless people's antics.

"What was that for?" said Magneto.

"Do you realize how close I came to treason?" the woman shrieked. Bobby covered one of his ears; he couldn't cover both since he had an apple in one of his hands. "Do you realize I could've been killed? You even have propaganda in your mind, for God's sake! Trying to convince me you were the good guy when all along ... all along..."

"All along what?" Magneto prompted her.

But she had stopped, bending down to look at Bobby. Bobby tried to take another bite of apple, but missed as his arm twitched sideways. But on the second try he got the apple to his mouth.

"My God, did they erase him?" said Skirrow.

"I don't know yet. But you were saying...?"

"We'll talk later," said Skirrow, sounding much less sure of herself. The headless body turned around and the door slammed shut.

Magneto sighed, and sat down, cross-legged on the floor, and looked at Bobby, pressed against the wall, with the blanket up around his shoulders. "Good. Keep eating. Stay awake."

"If you insist," said Bobby, around a mouthful of apple.

Perhaps that was relief that flickered across Magneto's face; Bobby couldn't be sure. "You're still in there."

"Yeah," said Bobby. "What was up with Skirrow?"

"I wish I knew. I expect I'll find out eventually. Or not, since I'm informed I'm on trial tomorrow."

"No!" Bobby almost shouted, spraying bits of apple everywhere. He paused and tried again, "You can't. You're my only hope of getting out of here."

"And Skirrow's my only hope, and I don't exactly seem to be in her good graces."

"None of your other people have come?" He rubbed his scalp, which ached.

"I'm too closely watched. If they're organizing anything, it will be without my knowledge." Magneto actually smiled weakly, as if trying to reassure Bobby, though Bobby had no idea why he'd want to. "But don't worry about that now. Just eat."

Bobby obliged, and Magneto stood and began to pace. Watching him made Bobby feel dizzy, and it made it hard to get the food to his mouth, but he didn't dare take his eyes away. If he looked away, Magneto might disappear. And who knew what or who would appear in his place.

continued >>

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