Into the Heart of Darkness
(Year: 195, Location: the outskirts of the Sank Kingdom)
" Oi Heero!" Duo Maxwell jogged frantically to catch up with his erstwhile partner, long braid flapping behind him wildly. " Wait up!"
Heero Yuy turned slightly at the sound of his partner's voice, faint smirk already in place. Duo jumped and landed next to him with a flourish.
" Well, ya could've waited for me, you know!" Duo ignored the pointed smirk and waggled a finger at him. " I would have for you."
" Like you'd ever have to." Heero faced forwards again, long legs eating up the ground beneath him. Duo sighed and tried to match him. And failed. Spitting out a curse, he began jogging again.
" No wonder I'm so skinny," he grumbled. " All I do is run everywhere."
Heero hid his smile beneath of mask of casual indifference. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched his friend flail his arms, ranting about justice in a way that would have made Wufei proud. On the outside, Heero looked to be ignoring Duo's attempts to make conversation, but on the inside....on the inside, Heero was focusing on every word the braided baka said.
_Focus on the mission, baka_, he told himself angrily. Heero hated arguing with his own mind - he had a habit of losing, especially when it concerned a certain American pilot. His mind knew that if he were to ever approach Duo and let him know his budding feelings - feelings which the Perfect Soldier felt he had no right in having - he was sure that the American would understand, maybe even reciprocate those feelings. But that would mean opening up in such a way as to leave him completely vulnerable, and Heero knew he couldn't do that. He was vaguely aware of a tugging on his arm.
" Heero? Man, you in there?"
Duo's worried voice broke through the wall his thoughts had produced and he shrugged Duo's hand off his arm.
" I'm fine." He picked up the pace. " Come on. We're going to be late."
Duo stood there, and watched his partner accelerate. " Sure, you're okay," he muttered. " Damn." Then he growled in frustration. " ARRRGHH!! Dammitt Heero - WAIT UP!!"
" I HATE math!" Duo groaned as he flung his book bag into the corner of the dorm room he shared with Heero. Pulling a dramatic face, he collapsed face first onto his bed, body twitching in an attempt to imitate the throes of death. Heero, following behind him, smirked at the American's antics.
" Baka. You should know more then the teacher. Didn't Professor G teach you ANYTHING useful?"
Duo sat up, wounded, and stuck out his tongue. " I'll have you know, he taught me LOTS of useful things."
Faintly interested, Heero looked up. " Such as?"
Heero had the pleasure of watching Duo's face burn a faint shade of red and was about to make a comment when he saw the uneasy look on his face. It occured to him, not for the first time, that he knew very little about his braided partner. Perhaps this would be a revelation. Holding his tongue, he waited to see if Duo would elaborate.
" Aw, nevermind," Duo mumbled, suddenly finding the pattern on the bedsheets extremely interesting. " Nothing important."
Heero thought he felt a faint pang of disappointment as Duo's face resumed its normally cheerful expression.
" But I still hate math!"
Heero hmph'd and turned around, heading for his laptop set up at the small desk. in the corner. Booting it up, he clicked on his incoming mail messages and heard the familiar beep. Duo stopped playing with the bedspread and looked up, eyes interested.
" You could say, ' Yes Duo. We have a mission.' Or even a, ' Duo, as usual you were right - we have a mission'." Duo flopped forwards on the bed and propped his head up on one hand. " Hn. Hn. That's all you ever say."
" Shut up."
" Okay, you say that too," Duo conceded with a sigh. He pointed at the laptop. " Well?"
Again, Heero was hard-pressed to cover the smile before Duo saw it but the American had an uncanny ability to sense these things. His eyes widened to the size of dinner plates and he sat up, pointing a finger unerringly at Heero.
" You're...you're....." Duo swallowed and tried again. " You're SMILING?"
Said smile abruptly vanished to be replaced with a familiar neutral expression. Duo bit back the cry of disappointment at seeing a normal look on his partner's face vanish so quickly. He covered it up with a quick, " I didn't know you could do that without your face cracking."
Heero shot a glare at him and Duo 'eeped and held up his hands in surrender. Satisfied, Heero turned back to the laptop and finished reading the email from Dr J. Duo smirked at his partner's unyeilding back. _ Oh yes, that was a smile Heero Yuy. You're not as inhuman as you make yourself out to be_. Duo chewed on the end of his braid thoughtfully, a faint smile on his face. _ Just you wait Yuy - I'll make you human, yet_! Cheered by that thought, he got to his feet and walked over to the desk, draping himself over Heero's shoulder to stare at the screen. " So what's up?"
" There's a base, quite a ways from here, doing experiments with space matter." Heero shifted in his seat, slightly unnnerved by the Deathscythe pilot's close proximity. Duo wrinkled his nose.
" Space matter? You mean debris?"
" No. Matter - as in black matter. Much the same kind of energy one would find in a black hole."
Duo leaned back and Heero gave an inward sigh of relief. Duo resumed chewing on his braid, eyes narrowed as he thought about the implications of what Heero had said.
" Why would Oz be studying black holes?"
" Not studying them," Heero said. " Creating them."
Duo's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. " What the hell for?"
Heero shrugged. " That's what we're supposed to find out, baka!" He turned around, sliding the chair back, missing Duo's toes by mere inches.
" It's a mission for the five of us," Heero continued. " Apparently this base is one of the more heavily guarded ones and will require all of the Gundam pilots."
" You mean.." Duo's voice trailed off as a huge smile broke out on his face. " All RIGHT! We haven't seen the others in WEEKS!"
Four, to be exact. Duo and Heero had been sent to this school for the purpose of infiltrating an Oz base to steal the data for a new underwater suit, similar to gundams, called the Aqurius. Having finished their mission in record time, they had been told to remain at the school, until further notice. Duo had initially pouted, wanting to go back to Quatre's estate for some R&R before their next job, but they'd been told that Quatre and Trowa were also away on a mission. Similarily, Wufei had been sent to do a solo run that would keep him busy for a while. That had been three weeks ago. Suddenly, Duo was champing at the bit in his eagerness to see his buddies again.
" Are we gonna meet up at the base? Or do we meet first, then blow up?"
" We're relocating to one of Quatre's safehouses, in a place that used to be called New York," Heero said, fingers once again flying over the keyboard. " I'm erasing our school history now - start packing. The others are already there."
" Whoo-hoo!" Duo cheered and pranced back over to his side of the room. Throwing open drawers, he began haphazardly throwing articles of clothing into his ever-present duffle bag. Heero finished initiating the procedure that would erase any trace of them having been there in the school records, and would show a transfer to a new, made-up school, to throw anyone off. Satisfied, he turned the computer off and stretched, feeling his muscles bunch and tighten. He gave a faint grimace and rubbed the back of his neck. Suddenly, a warm pair of hands were there, kneading the tense flesh with a skill and gentleness that surprised the Zero pilot.
" Relax, man!" Duo clucked his tongue disapprovingly. " No wonder you're always so grumpy - you've got knots that size of rocks taking up residence in your shoulders!"
Moving quickly, he pushed the pilot back into his seat before he could object and began to seriously massage Heero's neck and shoulders, digging his fingers deep into the muscle trying to dislodge all the tension.
_Man, I'll bet no one's ever given him a massage before in his life_, he declared silently. _Gonna have to use some muscle to get iron boy to relax_.
Heero sat there stiffly, unsure as to why he was allowing Duo to do this. Despite his reservations, he felt himself leaning back into the pilot's touch, giving an inward sigh of relief as Duo found a trouble spot and applied pressure to the knotted muscle, painfully kneading and twisting it until it gave up the fight. Heero closed his eyes and let Duo work on the rest of the knots. _I'll yell at him later_.
After a few minutes, Duo patted Heero's shoulders. " Better?" Without waiting for an answer - and not really expecting one - he returned to his side of the room and resumed packing. Heero slowly opened his eyes and watched his partner for a minute. Then he stood, noting immediately the difference in his sore muscles and gave a very faint, almost hidden smile. Walking to the bed, he pulled out his own bag and opened it. Then he looked at Duo.
" Huh?" Duo looked up - but Heero had already turned away and was going through his own drawers, picking out each article and folding it neatly, a contrast to Duo's grab-and- stuff technique. Duo grinned anyway, recognizing Heero's attempt to say thank you and returned to packing.
_Oh yeah - definitely more human_.
( Year: 2000 Location: New Orleans - alternate dimension)
The young man slipped through the crowded streets of the market. Devastatingly handsome, he attracted the attention of both the young ladies AND the young males who were all out in abundance. He flirted here and there, never stopping long enough to give anyone more then a tantalizing glimpse of long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, and a lean, hard-muscled body swathed in a dark brown trenchcoat. No one could see the man's eyes, hidden from sight in a pair of expensive black sunglasses, but if one looked hard enough, one could see a red gleam of excitement. The man exuded energy and confidence as he moved through the throngs of people, never once wavering from his intended course.
He caught sight of his destination: a road leading away from the market place and down into a more quiet area. Tall grass and various marsh plants sprouted along the way, tribute to the waterways on either side of him. Picking up the pace, the young man broke out into a slow job, relishing the feel of the wind in his hair as he moved.
A large rusty gate loomed up before him and he pressed a button from a controller, hidden within the folds of his trenchcoat. Alarms deactivated, he pushed the deceptively old gateway open and entered the yard.
The house itself looked abandoned. The man snorted - for all intents and purposes, it WAS. He hadn't been back here in years. The long grass was choked with weeds and other wild flowers, the stairs leading up to the large estate looked to be falling to pieces. Deciding to bypass the stairs completely, the man leaped to the porch in one graceful movement, barely exerting any effort and entered the house.
Inside was a mixture of dust and history. Antique furniture adorned the hallway and large living room that lay sprawled out to the right of him. The only modern looking object in there was a laptop computer. The man headed for it, stopping just before he got there and disarmed it. A simple trick really - but effective. Anyone attempting to use his computer without knowing the passwords - _Or without the disarm button_, he thought - would be blown to itty-bitty pieces. He grinned.
He turned it on, waiting for it to load. His wrist-communicator squawked at him again, and he stuck his tongue out at it.
" I hear ya, I hear ya," he muttered with a wry grin. The laptop finished booting up and he flicked the switch that allowed the camera on his computer to give the person he was contacting a visual image. With a beep, the screen flickered and a beautiful red-and-white haired woman appeared on his screen.
" 'Bout time ya answered, swamprat!" she said sassily. The man chuckled and blew her a kiss.
" My apologies, petite. I was busy."
" Yeah. Probably flirtin' with every gal in the city. Dang you Remy!"
" You know I only got eyes for you, chere." Taking off his trenchcoat, Remy Lebeau leaned back in his chair, lacing his black, fingerless gloved hands together behind his head. " Anyt'ing wrong? I only been gone two days - ya miss me d'at much Rogue?"
" Always, sugah," Rogue said softly. Remy leaned forwards and placed his hand on the screen.
" Me too chere."
" But that's not why Ah called." The girl's face dropped the gentle demeaner and she raked a hand through the white skunk streak in her hair. Recognizing the gesture as a sign of nervousness, Remy leaned forward intensely.
" You finish up your business there, cajun?" Rogue asked him hopefully. " 'Cause we need ya back here, soon as possible." A frustrated expression stole over her features. " Believe it or not - we were robbed!"
Remy choked. " What!? " A grim smile surfaced. " W'it all d'at security and high tech stuff le Bete is always tinkering w'it - someone broke into da mansion?"
Rogue scowled at him. " It ain't funny Gambit!"
Uh-oh. Remy knew when Rogue called him by his codename, he was in trouble. Besides, this worried him slightly - there were very few people in the world who could break the security on the mansion, himself being a Master Thief, [2b] being one of them. " What was taken?"
" Some gear we use to fix cerebro, and some Shi'ar technology. I ain't too sure what it was exactly, but ya remember Reed and Sue Richard's little guy?"
Remy closed his eyes. Reed and Sue Richards - leaders of the Fantastic Four - had a young son named Franklin. A mutant. A damned powerful mutant.
Normally, humans with the mutant gene, didn't manifest any powers until they hit puberty. _What a growing pain_, Remy thought ruefully. _One morning, ya wake up w'it your voice changed AND maybe fire shootin' outta your hands or somet'in'_. He eyed his own hands, knowing the destructive power they contained.
Franklin, however, was unique because his powers manifested at the ripe old age of four. Remy remembered hearing the story - the time when the super-mutant teams of the world banded together to stop one powerful mutant, Onslaught, from taking over the world. Remy shivered at the memory. Franklin's parents had been involved and at the climax of the battle, had been destroyed with the rest of the world heros. The Fantastic Four. The Avengers. Iron Man. Captain America. All of them, gone.
Or so they thought.
Franklin, terrified of losing his parents, had released his power unknowingly. The pain and fear that can only be felt by a petrified child, culminated in a devastating wave of power that had engulfed the heros.
And no one knew.
No one knew what Franklin had done, and the world mourned the loss of the few decent mutants in the world, the few humans that risked their lives everyday in battle against evil. Mutants were generally feared and reviled, but a few had garnered respect, such as the Avengers, who worked with the governement. Or the Fantastic Four - regular humans granted powers thanks to beams of cosmic light during a fateful space voyage. Captain America, turned into a super-power by his government. Iron Man - a human inside a metal suit. All of them were mourned.
Until they returned. 
No one could figure out how the heros had survived the battle. It was impossible! Until it was discovered that little Franklin, who loved "ma-croni 'n cheese", and playing with his Nintendo 64, had the mutant ability to generate a pocket dimension - a whole new world, created and soley maintained by a four year old mind.
It was the fear of losing mommy and daddy that had caused his power to come forth and sweep the hero's into his own little world, to protect them unknowingly, saving their lives.
Frightened that their little boy had so much power, Reed Richards, one of the world's smartest man, set about studying his son's powers, working with Professor Xavier , the renowned expert on mutants and their abilitys, to learn how to help Franklin control his power. They had then discovered that Franklin could not access his powers anymore.  It seemed it had been a one-shot deal, born out of desperation, and the power had settled back into latency. Still, using Shi'ar technology, given to them by Empress Lilandra years ago, they were still able to capture some of the excess mutant signature residue, found on all the survivors of the battle. Franklin's mutant signature.
Using the Shi'ar technology, they were able to somewhat replicate little Franklin's powers and discovered that theoretically, it might be possible to create a kind of portal to other dimensions. They al knew of the existence of other dimensions - with all the time travellers popping out of the space/time continuom, forging alternate futures and side time-lines, it wasn't that big of a stretch for the imagination. It was just one of the many experiments that the Professor kept track of, even after Reed decided not to pursue it.
Reed had enough to do with the Fantastic Four, and it was enough for him to know that his son's powers would remain dormant for the next few years. When they next manifested, Franklin would be old enough to train in the use of them. The professor took Reed's reluctance to continue with amazing aplomb and passed the work onto one of his students - Dr. Henry McCoy, codenamed The Beast, due to the blue fur that covered him head to foot on that muscular and agile body. Together, they were very close in discovering a way to travel to other dimensions, using the theories they discovered with Franklin's powers, the Shi'ar matter container, and applying various time-travelling devices they had discovered over the years.
But now, it was gone.
Remy cursed softly, ending his reverie. Rogue blinked at him from the screen.
" Language, sugah," she admonished him, a smile curving her lips. Remy grinned, and then let it fade.
" When was the stuff stolen?"
" 'Bout twenty four hours ago. We wanted ta give ya as much time as ya needed to get your stuff done. The Prof's tryin' ta track down the guys who stole it with Cerebro - Jean's helpin' - but Cyclops wants you back here now. We need your help."
Remy's eyes widened.
" Cyclops wants MY help?" he asked incredulously. " Now I KNOW somet'in's up."
" Remy." The concerned tone in Rogue's voice, caught his attention. He shifted in his seat, looking at Rogue.
" It was stolen by Mr. Sinister."
Sinister. For a moment, Remy couldn't breathe. He was lost, trapped in a haze of memories that swept over him with the force of a tidal wave, washing away all coherent thought. Images of tanks, filled with murky water, beeping lights on computer consoles....Remy could almost feel the shackles on his hands and feet, needles in his veins withdrawing his life's blood. He could hear panicked screams of innocent people as blood painted the dark walls, feral snarls echoing around him, the frightened sound of a young girl crying, what looked like sticks pointing out of places on her body. Dimly, he was aware of Rogue shouting at him.
" Remy! REMY!"
Remy forced his thoughts to stop spinning and he squeezed his eyes shut for a minute, trying to quell the panic seeping through him. Opening his eyes, he noted with faint amusement that his nails had dug crescent-shaped grooves in the leather palms of his gloves, so tightly had he clenched his fists.
" Remy, please!"
Remy focused his eyes on the worried woman on the screen and he forced a smile to his lips.
" You okay sugah?" Green eyes peered at him fretfully. " Thought Ah lost ya for a second."
Remy released a shaky breath. " I'm still here - no worries chere."
" Fool cajun," Rogue said, a smile playing about her face. Then she bit her lip. " Y'all right?"
" Honestly?" Remy thought about that. He did NOT want to chase after Sinister. He didn't want anything to do with that madman ever again. " No. I'm not." He looked back at her. " But d'at don't matter now, does it?"
Rogue sighed and idly traced the outline of his face on the screen. " We could really use the help, Remy. But you know we ain't gonna force ya to do anything."
" D'at's why I got no choice, chere," Remy said with a sigh. " My business here is finished - ahead of schedule too. I'll be home tonight. " 
" Thanks Remy. See ya soon." Blowing him a final kiss, the moniter went dark.
Remy shut off his computer, the faint light being extinguished and draping the room in shadows. Remy blew out a sigh and pulled off his sunglasses and in one smooth movement, swept them back on his head, keeping his reddish-brown bangs out of his eyes. Gleaming eyes, blood red pupils, on inky black stared thoughtfully at the now-dark computer.
_Sinister. Other dimensions_. he shuddered. The two combined didn't make him feel very happy. Standing up, he pulled his trenchcoat back on and packed up his laptop. He doublechecked the security on his one-time home, and then stepped out the front door. Sunlight assaulted him and he pulled the sunglasses back down on his nose, wincing at the faint pain bright lights caused. Arming the final locks, Remy stepped off the porch and went to the side of the house. A large shed was there, preceeded by a long, smooth expanse of grass with odd-looking tred marks in the grass.
Opening the doors, Remy flicked on the light and walked over to a large, sheet-covered object. He pulled the covering off and there stood a small, sleek-looking one-man jet. It didn't resemble any other known jet in the modern world. _Lotta difference a few Shi'ar trinkets will make_, Remy thought as he patted the dark blue exterior. Keying in his access code, a light flashed and the opaque canopy hatch opened up, allowing him access. Settling down into the comfortable leather interior - another perk - Remy started the engines and taxied out of the shed. Activating the VTOL  , the small plane began an even rise into the air, metallic wings expanding slightly. Hovering for a few minutes, Remy punched in the coordinates of the X-mansion, home of the famed X-Men, activated the stealth mode, and then let her rip out into the Louisianna sky at a speed not yet reached by even the Concord.
_Sinister_. Remy closed his eyes, and when he opened them, it was Gambit looking back at him in the mirror.
2. Yeah, I'm keeping ye old faithful together - Rogue and Remy have a nicer relationship here then in the comics. In my world, Rogue discovers Remy's shameful past (which will be explained later on when the G-boys arrive ^_^), and eventually forgives him and forgets it. They are a solid unit, 'kay? Don't flame me for being a sap!
2b. Yep, Remy is one of 3 Master Thiefs in the world, the youngest to reach that level in thieves history. This will be explained later when the G-boys arrive.
3. Referring to the Hero's Reborn mini-series which explained the hero's unbelievale return. Hardened followers of Marvel will notice I'm taking a few creative liberties here.
4. A prime example of my creative liberties - in the comics, Onslaught was, in a sense, Professor X's mind on crack. ^_~ The prof went mental and unleashed this entity from his mind that resembled Magneto and was completely insane and destructive. In my fic, some time has passed and he has been, not absolved, but at least forgiven for his transgressions - considering he really didn't have complete control over his mental faculties anyway. So he's working at his redemption and is hard at work in his lab and helping the mutant/human peace issue again. I just needed the tie-in with Franklin.
5. Ahhh...little Franklin. A couple of mini-series during the time his parents and the rest of the Hero's were still thought to be dead, it showed Franklin using his powers several times. In my fic, it was a one-shot deal brought on by desperation. Again, I just wanted Franklin's powers to help explain why dimension-hopping would be possible and I had to give you guys some background. Franklin probably won't be making an appearance in this fic and nor will any other teams other then the X-men.
6. Why was Remy in New Orleans? Well, as a member of the Thieves Guild and a Master Thief at that, Remy has certain....obligations...that he must take care of and all will be explained in the coming chapters - including why Duo Maxwell will play a large part in that business. *grins*
7. VTOL - Vertical Take Off and Landing capabilities that all X-planes are equipped with, including the famed Blackbird. Basically, the plane can hover, rise straight up and do a completely vertical descent, unlike normal planes that need taxiing and runways.