Into the Heart of Darkness
Beeping. It echoed rythmically and steady in his ears. It annoyed him. Profusely. He must kill it.
Heero struggled to open his eyes but they seemed to have lead weights attached to them. His mouth tasted cottony and dry; he tried to swallow, and coughed instead.
A rustling sound cought his attention and he heard a gentle voice telling him to wait. Seconds later, he felt hands helping him to a sitting position and the rim of a cup touched his lips. He drank greedily at first, wincing slightly as it stung his sore throat and his eyes opened completely. A beautiful red-haired woman sat next to his bed, calmly putting the cup back down on the table. Heero's eyes narrowed slightly as he took in the I.V in his arm and he reared up from the bed, ripping the needles out. The woman backed up slightly, still wearing the calm expression.
" Calm down. No one's going to hurt you here. You're safe, Heero."
The voice sounded vaguely familiar. Heero focused on her face even as his body tensed in readiness for an attack. If this were an OZ trick, he'd be ready. The woman held up her hands placatingly.
" I promise you, you're safe here."
Heero listened to her voice and awareness slowly crept into his mind even though the tenseness did not leave. The woman sighed.
:: Maybe you remember this, hmm?::
Heero jerked backwards in shock, slapping a hand to his head.
" You," he whispered. " The telepath."
" You DO remember," she chuckled. " I'm glad."
Heero's eyes narrowed again as something else came to mind. He vaguely remembered being taken out of his...
" What have you done with our Gundams?" he asked in steely tones. " And where are the other pilots?"
The woman looked puzzled for a minute - and then her face cleared.
" Are you referring to those robots we found you in?"
For a minute, Heero had a mental image of the fit Wufei would throw if he heard a woman calling his Gundam a 'robot'.
" We've put them in our hangar. They're safe there. As you are here."
Reinforcement of safety. Heero grunted. " And the pilots?"
"--are all fine."
The door suddenly slid open and Heero automatically reached for his gun. Finding it missing, he scowled blackly at the woman who's attentions shifted to the newcomer. Heero's eyes widened and his jaw actually dropped.
A giant, fuzzy blue gorilla with fangs, a white labcoat and spectacles, carrying a clipboard, bounded into the room. Heero stared mutely, unable to say anything. 
" And how's our patient today?"
The gorilla headed for the his bed and his fingers clenched. The red haired woman's eyes widened.
" Beast, STOP!!"
Jean had been satisfied with the progress she had been making with the brown-haired boy. She had felt him relaxing slightly - inwardly, she wondered why a boy his age would be so mistrusting and wary. When the door opened, she knew exactly what he'd been reaching for - the gun she'd found on him and moved to a safe location.
_What kind of world did they come from_? she wondered.
Jean had sensed Beast coming and was unsurprised by his appearance. Heero, however.....Jean only had a split-second to register the shock and then the bizarre calmness of mind exhibited by Heero, as though some remote part of his brain had been turned on that shut off all emotion except what was needed to deal with the here and now. Heero attacked.
The boy rolled off the bed with lightening quickness, striking his foot out and connecting with Beast's stomach. 
" Oooooofff!!" Agile and quick as the Beast may be, he was unprepared for an attack from a child on a sickbed.
Heero ducked and wound up in the corner of the room. His mind noted the lack of any windows, coming to the instant conclusion he was on some sub-terrain level and that the door was the only way out. He began analyzing possible escape routes as he watched the blue-furred man rub his stomach.
Heero merely raised an eyebrow, his soldier mind already adjusting to the idea of telepathy, filing it away to use as a reference in the future.  Hank chuckled.
" The boy packs quite a wallop!" he said. Jean sighed.
" I'm sorry Hank. I should have warned him." She turned to Heero, marvelling at the feeling of deadly intent rolling off of him in waves. " Heero, I'm sorry. I should have prepared you. This is Dr. Henry McCoy, codenamed the Beast. He's been taking care of you and your friends."
" Pleased to meet you, young man, " Hank smiled.
Heero studied the man balefully, keenly noticing the words 'codename'. Jean stepped forwards.
Blue eyes snapped back at her.
" Where are the others?"
Jean smiled again. " I'll take you to them."
She gestured to the door and Heero moved towards it silently, keeping his eye on the bouncing blue doctor. Outside the room, Jean crossed the hallway and knocked once before opening it as a familiar voice answered. Heero slipped around her to see Trowa sitting on the bed where Quatre was currently lying. Both looked to be okay and Quatre seemed to be regarding Jean with some familiarity. He must have been one of the last ones to wake up, he reasoned. He was slightly disconcerted by that fact. Jean put her hands on her hips.
" And when did you get out of bed?" she asked Trowa with mock sternness. Trowa shrugged and stared at her impassively. Quatre smiled.
Heero stood next to the bed and gave them a quick once-over to see for himself that they were okay. He looked at Trowa who nodded fractionally. Quatre agreed.
" We can trust these people Heero, " he said eagerly. " My space heart tells me so."
Heero grunted and turned back to Jean. " Duo and Wufei."
Jean's eyes went dark and she looked away, biting her lip. " Wufei is fine," she said. " He's one room ov--"
" Where's Duo?" Heero cut her off, not liking the expression on her face.
" We couldn't find him," admitted a voice from the door. A tall man wearing a visor walked into the room. " We only found the four of you." He stuck out his hand. " I'm Scott."
Heero stared at the man, ignoring the hand. Scott shrugged and dropped it.
" Maxwell is missing?" Wufei apeared in the doorway. He took in his friends current state and seemed somewhat satisfied with their condition. " Was he not with Deathscythe?"
Heero closed his eyes and tried to recall what had happened. He remembered a black wave coming towards him as he fastened his harness. He remembered Duo...his eyes snapped open.
" He didn't make it into the cockpit!" he growled, anger and fear mixing together to create a deep wellspring of concern. " He was opening the hatch when that black thing hit us!"
" So he might have been transported elsewhere," theorized Hank, stroking his furry chin thoughtfully. Quatre's eyes widened in concern.
" Possibly another dimension altogether?" Scott asked, moving next to his wife who took his hand. Heero's gut tightened as he heard that and Quatre gasped out loud.
" Nah, he's here," came a gruff voice from the busy doorway. Four heads snapped up and focused on him.
" Logan - did you find him? " Jean asked hopefully. The feral man shook his head.
" Nope - but I smelled 'em."
The four pilots exchanged puzzled glances. Jean noticed their confusion and decided to explain.
" Logan's a mutant. As we all are."
" Mutant?" Trowa asked, speaking for the first time. Logan chuckled, somewhat amused at their naivity.
" Guess they don't have those where they're from."
" Mutants are humans that are born with special abilities."
" Abilities?" Quatre asked this time.
" What do you mean Duo's here?!" Heero slammed his fist into the table by the bedside, splintering it. THAT certainly recaptured their attention. Hank clucked his tongue disapprovingly as he noticed the long slivers now deeply embedded in Heero's fist. _He acts like he doesn't even feel it_.
In reality, Heero didn't feel it at all. Al he knew was that somehow, they'd been transported to a strange world and Duo was missing. He stared fixedly at Logan, not even flinching as the wildman glared back at him. " You said you SMELLED him?"
" Logan has extra-heightened senses as part of his mutant abilities," Scott explained. " He also has an accelerated healing factor - most injuries don't even faze him."
" Sounds like Heero," Wufei commented. Hank picked up his ears.
" Yeah, I smelled him," Logan said, ignoring the chatter around them. He had to admit - he liked this Heero kid. Logan couldn't smell a hint of fear in the boy, only anger and concern for his teammate. He nodded approvingly. Something in him told him that this boy wasn't used to feeling concern over someone - that's why he could sense Heero's anger so strongly. In an effort to understand, he'd wrongly identified it as anger instead of what it really was. Logan leaned against the wall. " He was there at one point. I was checking out those robot things--"
Wufei's eyebrow twitched.
"-- and caught a whiff of a scent on the black one that I smelled back at the warehouse. The kid, Duo or whatever, was there."
Scott's lips thinned imperceptively and even Jean and the Beast looked somber. Heero focused on Wolverine.
" Is he dead?" he asked, in tones so quiet, they chilled. Logan shook his head. Heero let out a silent sigh of relief, his stomach unknotting and his heart obligingly climbing back down out of his throat and into his chest where it belonged.
" Thank Allah," sighed Quatre. Wufei looked relieved and Trowa lifted his head.
" Then where is he?"
" Probably with Sinister," Beast murmered, eyes vacant. Heero pounced.
" With who?"
" One of our enemies," said Jean quietly. " Duo must have been caught in Fatale's teleportation radius and transported with Mr. Sinister."
" Where?" Heero asked, already running through rescue scenarios. Quatre and Trowa seemed to be thinking the same thing. Wufei addressed Jean.
" Your enemy is named Mr. Sinister?" He shook his head, a harsh laugh issuing out of his throat. Jean glared at him.
" I wouldn't laugh Wufei," she said, and the serious tone in her voice cut through the dragon heir like a knife. " Sinister is a twisted, diabolical madman who delights in tormenting and torturing people. He's responsible for the suffering and deaths of so many innocent people--" Jean broke off and turned her head as memories of a group of people being slaughtered like cows danced through her head. " He's a monster."
" And he's got Duo," Heero finished. Wufei bowed his head at Jean.
" I apologize for my rudeness."
Jean gave him a weak smile and nodded. Quatre seemed to be twisting the life out of the blankets covering his lap and Trowa captured the hands in a soothing gesture. Quatre leaned against him. At the sight of this, Jean smiled faintly, sensing the connection between the two. Scott noticed too, and he squeezed his wife's hand once. Heero began pacing the length of the room.
Duo was in the hands of a madman. Duo. Laughing, life-filled, violet-eyed Duo who loved ice cream sandwich's and stargazing on the roof of their safehouses. Heero felt a burning rage well up within him at the thought of his partner being in the hands of a man like Sinister seemed to be.
::You care about him.::
Heero glared at Jean who wore a sad expression.
:: Stay out of my mind:: he mentally growled at her. Jean nodded, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. Heero felt the faint tingle leave his mind. He changed his look over to Scott who seemed to be the leader of the group.
" We're going to rescue him." It wasn't a request.
Scott nodded, already knowing that the professor would be monitering the conversation.
:: I'm here, Cyclops. I've already begun searching for Sinister's location using Cerebro. If we could find the signature once, we may be able to do so again.::
:: Have you been listening the entire time?::
:: Yes.:: The professor's mental voice sounded sad. :: They're so young, yet so old. There's images of such devastating pain literally radiating off them - it's all I can do to shield myself from the worst of it.::
Scott frowned and looked at his wife who nodded, hearing what the professor had said. :: That bad, huh?::
" Talk out loud," Heero growled at them. Jean looked at him in surprise and then laughed out loud - Heero had caught on pretty quick. Wufei raised an eyebrow. Quatre and Trowa looked puzzled.
" She's a telepath," Heero said, jerking his thumb at Jean. Quatre's eyes widened and he clapped his hands.
" How interesting!" he said, eyes shining. " You sense things too?"
" Too?" Jean echoed. Quatre nodded.
" My space heart lets me feel things - emotions of the people I care about, or am close to."
" That sounds like an empath," commented Beast with interest. Logan snorted, knowing what would happen if he let this conversation continue.
" Back to the kid...."
" The professor's trying to track down Sinister," Scott announced. " Meanwhile, Hank is going to check you kids one more time and then we'll take you to the hangar so you can see for yourselves that your robots are okay."
Wufei's other eyebrow twitched.
Quatre noticed and smothered a laugh. " They're called Gundams, sir."
" And I'm called Scott, or Cyclops," Scott answered. " I'm not old enough to be a sir, yet."
" I'd like to know more about your Gundams," Beast said eagerly, barely containing his excitement. " I've never seen that type of metal before - it seems almost as dense as adamantium." 
" It's called Gundanium," said Trowa. " And it's indestructible."
" Hopefully after you find that everything's okay, we'll have tracked down your friend," Jean said. " We'll find him. We won't let Sinister have him."
Heero merely nodded and allowed Scott and Jean to herd them upstairs. He could hear Quatre asking questions about mutants and powers and he watched heard Wufei ask Logan where his sword was. Heero tuned them all out as he thought of how Jean had described Sinister. He wondered if Duo was okay.
" Y'okay sugah?" Rogue came up from behind Remy and wrapped her arms around his waist. She knew what kind of memories the Cajun' had floating around in his skull - heck she'd experienced them first hand  - and she knew that this mission would be preying on her man's mind for some time. Remy sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Jean had telepathically relayed their conversation with the Gundam pilots - knowing that Sinister had one of those kids in his grasp made Gambit sick to his stomach.
" Not really, petite." Gambit turned to face her and smiled at the open look of concern on her face. Once again, he found himself thanking whoever it was that delivered this woman to him. " I'm worried 'bout dat kid."
" Me too, sugah."
Rogue lay her head on Gambit's chest and just listened to his heart beat for a while. Remy stroked her hair idly as he sifted through his memories.
Growing up on the streets of New Orleans was rough when you were a cute kid. It didn't matter how old you were - there were enough perverts in the world that wanted young boys, males and females. Young, old, ugly, beautiful - it didn't matter to the pimps on the streets what the customer looked like. All that mattered was what the customer WANTED. Remy had fought against that for so long - and it earned him numerous battles against the gangs who wanted a piece of him for themselves. And that was BEFORE he learned he was a mutant.
Remy remembered a dark alley, a street gang and fear. A lot of it. Pain too. Terrified and out of control, Remy had lashed out with uncontrolled powers, blowing up the alley, and the surrounding buildings to boot. For a long time, he couldn't gather up the strength to move.
And then he appeared.
Dazed, weak from both weeks of little to no food, and the release of such energy had drained Remy to near-death and he was certain he was about to die when a deep voice spoke to him and a large hand pulled him out of the wreckage.
Sinister took Remy in and taught him in the use of his powers, taking vials of his blood for experiments, and teaching him how to be the best. Remy shivered at the memory of some of his training methods: the spilling of innocent blood to teach the concept of no mercy, pitting him, a child, against a group of insane mutants that Sinister cloned, to teach him how to kill. The beatings to weaken his resistance. The nightmares of tanks filled with half-grown clones.
It had taken a while before Remy had regained the strength needed to break free while Sinister was away. Back on the streets, Remy ended up pick-pocketing the pants pocket of a man who took Remy in and adopted him as his son, and made him a member of the Thieves guild. his prior 'training' under Sinister helped him leap through the ranks until he was granted the title Master Thief at the unheard of age of nineteen. 
Sinister hadn't forgotten him though - oh no, that would have been too much to hope for. Sinister had appeared to him one night and told hiim that Remy's skills were required and that he would be rewarded if he helped. If he didn't, Sinister would destroy the Thieves Guild and everyone Remy loved. Including his then-girlfriend, Belladonna.
Remy agreed, and he'd undertaken the job. He had to devise a way to enter some underground tunnels, bypassing the security, and leading a team in to dispose of some 'troublemakers'.
The troublemakers turned out to be cast away mutants, whose main powers seemed to be simple deformitys that marked them as such and therefore made them need to live away from people who would torment them. They were the old, the weak. Some were sick. Most had no dangerous powers. Many were women and children. Sinister had thought them to be a disgrace to the mutant race. The slaughter was on.
Remy remembered the horror and nausea that welled up within him at the sight of the Mauraders tearing into the flesh of the innocent mutants who's only crime was looking different from other people. Stricken, he'd tried to stop the carnage and was attacked by the mutant powerhouse Sabertooth. Hardly able to breathe and bleeding profusely, Remy managed to gather up one child and flee the bloody scene, the screams of the innocent ringing in his ears. 
Remy shuddered and Rogue tightened her grip. " Stay with me, Remy," she murmered, lending him her vast strength. Sometimes she wished that her superhuman strength also meant being able to physically take on the pain of others as well, to burden herself instead of her loved ones. It would be a fitting penance for the lives she'd literally stolen, thanks to her mutant power of absorbing a person's very life energy through skin-skin contact. But all she could do, was be there for Remy. And she knew in the end, that was all he really wanted. After a few minutes, Remy backed up a bit. Rogue glanced at him.
" A bit." Remy decided to turn the conversation away from himself and he looked over to where the five machines,or Gundams, as the small blond kid had called them, stood against the wall. Five gundams. Four pilots. Remy's eyes narrowed.
" We gotta help dat kid Rogue," he whispered harshly. " It can't happen again."
" We will, sugah," Rogue said soothingly, feeling her own resolve within herself. " It won't."
Everything hurt. Arms, legs, body - even his braid hurt. Duo's awareness slowly seeped back into him in gradual staged. It took him a few minutes, but he eventually realized that something wasn't quite right. For one thing, he seemed to be surrounded by water. The filter strapped to his nose made a snorkling sound as he breathed and he watched the bubbles float by his line of vision with each breath.
The other thing that bothered him was the fact he had no clothes on except his boxers. Now Duo may be an exhibitionist at heart, but he preferred his little shows to be on his own terms.
_Not while I'm floating in a tank, like a scene from a cheesy horror movie_!
Duo's eyes opened all the way and he peered through the discolored water, trying to catch a glimpse of what he was dealing with. He could see a row of computers along one wall, and he could see other tanks...Duo inhaled sharply and nearly choked. There were what looked like half-formed humans in those tanks. And most of them were looking at HIM.
Duo wanted to scream. Instead, he began thrashing his arms and legs, trying to break the glass. After a few minutes of futile kicking, all he had to show for his efforts were some bruised and bloody toes.
_Okay, THAT was pointless_. He mentally sighed, keeping his gaze away from the...things, in the tank. _So where am I_?
Duo tried to retrieve those elusive memories that would give him some kind of clue as to what happened. As far as he could tell, he was the only one there - no sign of Heero or the others in that creepy room. From what he could see anyway - and there was no way in HELL he was opening his eyes over there again.
" Ah, you're awake. Wonderful."
Duo snapped his head up at the deep voice. And immediately wished once again, that he could scream.
A powerfully built man stood there, encased in what looked like bluish-black armour. Blue-black metal tendrils of ribboned-cape swirled about his shoulders, rippling as though they had a life of their own. That was creepy enough. He had white skin and black hair severely pulled back off his face which revealed a blood-red diamond on his forehead. Blackened lips curled back in a sneering smile, revelealing sharp white fangs. But it was the eyes that made Duo cringe in fear. Deep red, pupil-less, and GLOWING. They looked like a demon's eyes. _I've died and gone to hell, just like I said I would_. Duo shrank back from those eyes, as much as he could in the limited room in the tank.
" I wasn't going to spare your life when I found you among the remains of my laboratory," the man said, arms crossed as he stared mildly at his prisoner. Duo was sure that the man could SMELL his fear. " I couldn't see why I should."
Even in the grip of terror, confusion shone through his eyes.
" You fascinate me," the man said, finally turning away. Duo breathed an inward sigh of relief as those eyes left him. " One of my minions scanned you to see if there was anything worth gleaning from your little mind before I disposed of you." He turned back and Duo whimpered. " You are a child. Yet you are also a trained terrorist. A highly skilled one." His eyes narrowed as his lips pulled back in an evil smile. " You remind me of another I once had in my possession. He escaped." The man growled at the memory of loss. " But YOU won't." 
Duo closed his eyes tightly. He was definitely NOT a prisoner of OZ, that was for darn sure. On the other hand, he got the distinct impression that this was not a good thing. Duo whimpered again. Pain, fear, confusion all welled up within him, stripping away his normal defense mechanism - how the hell was he supposed to cover up his emotions with denial when he was floating in a tank, staring at a demon? He didn't know where his friends were, if they were even ALIVE.....a feeling of hopelessness overwhelmed him and tears began to leak out of the corners of his eyes, mixing with the saline solution he was in, and disappearing.
" You'll be happy to know I'm going to spare your life."
Duo's eyes flew open.
" Your machines....Gundams....they fascinate me. They are of a material I've never seen before, capable of causing more destruction then Sentinals. And you will help me to retrieve them."
Duo shook his head wildly. NEVER! He would NEVER betray his friends like that. Sinister chuckled, a dangerous sound that sent another bolt of fear through him.
" Oh you will help me - you won't have a choice." Sinister snapped his fingers, and a door opened. Two large men entered the room. One was Indian-looking, tall and broadshouldered, with a harness over his shoulder that looked to house a bow against his back. His eyes were dark and deadly. The other was shorter but equally dense-muscled and compact, even moreso then his tall companion. Wearing black leather trunks, boots and gloves, the man had FOUR arms! Duo's eyes widened in complete shock. Four muscular arms, rippling with power, the man had a decidedly evil smirk on his face as he fixed his stare on Duo.
" This is Harpoon and Forearm," Sinister informed him. " They will be your....trainers." He chuckled. " They will teach you a few things you will need - and they will teach you to obey. Once you heal enough to begin." 
Again, Duo's eyes registered confusion amidst the fear. Sinister understood.
" It won't do to have you half-healed before you begin - they wouldn't have any fun. Besides - I have a feeling you would die before giving in to me - your mind revealed to me that you have had much experience dealing with torture. " He smiled, and Duo shuddered. " That is another reason you prove interesting." He walked over to a computer and tapped a key. A small platform raised itself from the ground, a plastic, dome-shaped shield over the top. The shield slid back and Sinister plucked a small object from within the protective tower. He held it between his thumb and forefinger in front of Duo.It looked like a tiny, metal scorpion. " Do you know what this is?"
Duo shook his head frantically.
" This is a handy little object I created a long time ago," Sinister said in reflective tones. " I used it on a young mutant codenamed Morph. It increased his efficiency, boosted his power level - and as an added bonus, it made him completely loyal to ME." 
Duo's eyes clouded over with terror.
" Oh yes little one," the evil mutant smiled. " I will increase your skills, make you better then you've ever been before. And in return, you will help me retrieve the Gundams, teach my men to use them - and you will help me destroy the X-men!"
More confusion. but Sinister wasn't looking at him anymore.
" I didn't recieve biological weapons or armies through that blasted machine - but one step at a time I suppose." He turned back to Duo. " At least with the X-men out of the way, I'll be one step closer then i was before."
A truly evil look spread over his face as he pressed a button on the side of Duo's tank. The water level began to drop somewhat until Duo's head was above it. Duo tried to speak but the filter prevented him from making a sound. Sinister pressed another button and a small window slid open at Duo's ear level. Duo whimpered in his mind as he watched Sinister bring the little scorpion thing closer to him until he placed it on Duo's temple.
Duo felt a prickling, crawling sensation that made him want to scream. Then pain, blinding pain as something burrowed into his head. He felt blackness creeping up on him on all sides and he thrashed wildly.
_NO!! HEERO! QUATRE! ANYBODY_! He screamed within his mind, even as he felt his resistance crumbling. The last thing he remembered before the room went dark was a pair of prussian blue eyes straing at him, imploring him to not give up. _I'm sorry Heero_, was his final conscious thoght before his eyes closed.
Sinister watched the little scorpion dig its way into Duo's scalp, embedding its way into his neural pathways and rerouting them accordingly. He turned to Harpoon and Forearm.
" He'll wake up soon, and then you are to train him," he said coldly. " From what I recieved from his mind, he's normally a very vibrant--" he sneered at the word."-- and caring person. They say that the greatest cruelty comes from the kindest person. I believe we shall put this to the test." His eyes gleamed. " Break him."
Harpoon and Forearm exchanged eager grins. " Yes sir."
Heero whirled around, blinking furiously. For a second, he could've sworn he heard Duo's voice in his head. _What the..._
Jean watched him with concern. " Heero?"
" I'm fine," Heero said, shaking his head. He must be imagining things. They were on their way to the war room, where Cyclops said everyone would gather to start making plans. Heero was getting impatient.
Cyclops hit a large flat button on the wall and the metal door in the shape of a rounded X, pulled apart. He led the way inside. Heero, Quatre, Trowa and Wufei stood against the wall where they could see everybody. Jean again marvelled at this.
_Like little trained soldiers_, she thought.
Cyclops decided to start things odd.
" First of all - let's finish the introductions. Heero, Wufei, Trowa and Quatre." He pointed out each pilot to the other X-men. " You've already met Jean Grey and Beast and Logan, also known as Wolverine."
Wolverine lifted his lip in imitation of a smile. Again, Heero was nonplussed. He'd seen worse.
" This is Ororo Monroe aka Storm - co-leader of the X-men. She can control the weather."
The white-haired goddess nodded at the boys, wearing a friendly smile. She was wearing her battle suit of black and purple skintight material. Quatre returned the smile tentatively. Trowa merely nodded back. Wufei bowed and Heero folded his arms as if to say, 'Get on with it!'
" This is Rogue. She has the powers of flight, super-human strength and invulnerability. She can also absorb a person's energy through skin to skin contact. If they're a mutant, she can absorb their power and use it for a brief period of time."
A red-haired woman with a white skunk streak waved at them, green eyes sparkling. She was dressed head to toe in dark green material with white trim. " Look but don't touch fellas!" 
" This is Remy Lebeau, codenamed Gambit. He can bio-kinetically charge any object with explosive energy."
A serious-looking young man raised a hand in greeting. Heero studied him for a moment - he could sense a feeling of urgency in him, like he had a personal stake in what was happening. The man lowered his sunglasses and Heero blinked in spite of himself - the man had red and black eyes!
" Oh!" he heard Quatre exclaimed softly. Remy shrugged as though he were used to the reactions. Scott cleared his throat.
" Remy has had the most...experience in dealing with Mr. Sinister. "
Heero's eyes flew back to the brooding young man. Remy met his gaze squarely. Heero saw it then - a connection between the two of them. Hate. Grudging respect. The same feelings he himself felt when he thought of Dr J. The feeling of angry acceptance over acknowledging who it was that taught you what you know. The hatred you feel towards the same person, for the methods they chose. Remy nodded slowly, recognizing the same in Heero.
" Will he hurt him?" Heero asked Gambit quietly. Remy hesitated - and then nodded.
" Yes." Remy listened to the intake of air from the young boys. He hated to do it - but it was best that they be prepared. " If he finds him useful, he'll torture him, break him 'til he'll do anyt'ing Sinister wants in order to stop de pain. De harder he struggles, de worst it will be."
Quatre closed his eyes. Trowa's narrowed into angry slits.
" If he don't find him useful....he'll just kill him."
" Would he?" Wufei asked. " Find him useful, that is?"
" Maybe." Remy shrugged. " Hard t' say." He folded his arms and leaned back against the wall, lost in memories.
" Duo's from another world, the operator of that large Gundam," Jean said thoughtfully. " Sinister's got a few telepaths of his own - he'll probably keep Duo around long enough to get all the information he can."
" Worst case scenario is dat Sinister makes him one of DEM," Remy shuddered.
" Them?" Trowa asked.
" A Maurader. " 
Logan growled dangerously. Beast and Storm exchanged deadly looks, the pain on the weather goddess's face almost palpable.
" What's a Maurader?" Heero asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer. His fists tightened in anticipation of Cyclop's answre.
Cyclops sighed and brushed a hand through his hair.
" Sinister's hitmen. Murderous, bloodthirsty assassins' who thrive on bloodshed. Give them a target - they don't care who - nothing makes them happier." His matter-of-fact answer hit the gundam pilots with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the gut.
Quatre envisioned their smiling Duo painted in blood. He recalled vicious battles against OZ where Duo's maniacal laughter rang out as he mowed down his enemies and a tremor ran through him.
" Maybe not so much of a switch," he whispered. Trowa tightened his grip around the blond's waist.
" What?" Cyclops stared at Quatre. Jean felt the uneasy agreement echo through the four boys and she started violently.
" What kind of world DO you come from?" she asked incredulously.
In the end, it was Quatre who told them of their war-torn world. How five colonies sent five boys to battle against an entire federation. How they had been denied their childhood, forced to spend their free time recovering from battle wounds and nightmares that made them scream into the night. Jean closed her eyes as she tried to imagine these four innocent-looking children as trained terrorists.
" Dear god," she whispered. Logan pointed his stogie at Quatre.
" Why'd ya say it wouldn't be much of a change?" he asked. " This Duo of yours a killer?"
Heero's eyes blazed in righteous fury and only Wufei snatching the back of his tank top prevented him from leaping at the feral man. He had the vague impression that Logan could easily take him, regardless of his Perfect Soldier training, but he found he didn't care. He spat out angrily at Logan.
" Don't you EVER say that about Duo!"
Trowa and Wufei levelled deadly stares at the X-men for seemingly condemming their team mate. Storm looked at Quatre - yes, even the friendly-looking boy had the angriest expression she'd ever seen.
" Well, that was obviously the wrong thing to say," Hank said, scratching his head in confusion.
" Everyone just calm your hormones now," Rogue said as she stepped forward. " Logan didn't mean it that way - right sugah?"
Logan shrugged. " Sure."
Quatre fought the anger down. They didn't know. He had to make them understand.
" We're Gundam pilots," he said at last, wondering how he was going to explain this. Technically, they WERE killers - and weren't at the same time. " We fight, yes - we kill. But only in battle."
Cyclops nodded, still looking skeptical.
" But Duo - Duo's different." Quatre rubbed his eyes. " We kill and hate killing. So does he. But when he's in the heat of the battle - he's not Duo anymore."
" He's Shinigami," muttered Heero.
" Death?" Beast asked curiously. Quatre nodded.
" He kills - and takes pride in doing what he does. Because he does it so well. On some level, we all feel the same way."
" But Maxwell also takes it twice as hard," said Wufei. " He's lost his family - everything to war. He's devoted to protecting innocents. When he kills, he sees in front of him the people who took his family and friends away."
" Outside of war, Duo's the happiest person to be around - he won't rest until he's cheered you up. Underneath that goofball facade, he's one of the most fiercely loyal people you'll ever know." Quatre rubbed his face again. " It would take a lot to make him fight innocent people - I can't see him doing it. But I can see him killing his TARGETS."
Quatre stressed that last word and Jean realized with a start, that she understood. Regardless of who was there, if Duo saw it as a target, especially after being in Sinister's clutches - he'd destroy it. It was perfect. Sinister had dozens of ways to manipulate minds - and then he'd have a child doing his dirty work for him. One that was used to it.
" That bastard," she whispered. Quatre nodded - his eyes shone as he saw her come to her conclusions.
" Now you understand."
" As we all do," came a new voice from the door. Everyone turned and saw a bald-headed man enter the room in a flying wheelchair. Minus the wheels. " I am Professor Xavier, founder of the X-men." A sorrowful look crossed his face as he addressed the group. " And I have some bad news."
The boy opened his eyes again. This time though, he wasn't surrounded in water. No - he was on a table. He blinked and sat up slowly. Where was he? Something about the room seemed familiar but pain spiked in his head when he tried to remember...anything. What the....
He swung his legs off the table, wincing as the pain in his head flared briefly before disappearing. He couldn't recall anything - where he was, even WHO he was. He looked down at himself - he was dressed in black, leather-like material. Not quite leather - he touched the material curiously. It felt like his whole body was encased in some kind of pliable armour. Interesting. Black boots, black gloves - he felt a weight swing behind his head and he captured it in a quick move. It was a briad - his braid. He felt some kind of significance attached to it but when the familiar apin began to return, he decided it wasn't important. But he checked and - yup. The tie at the end was black too.
The door opened and the boy leaped to his feet, landing in a crouch. _Automatic instincts_, his mind told him and he briefly wondered what other instincts would come to mind. Then he saw two men enter the room and he focused on them.
" Who are you?" he snarled, watching them warily. The two men grinned. The boy noted the huge size of the one, and the two extra arms on the other. _More interesting_.
The big one gave him a slow smirk.
" We're your....training partners."
Quatre watched Heero go to work through the plate-glass window of the Danger Room. Beside him, Wolverine grunted in appreciation as Heero performed a series of picture-perfect rolls out of the line of laser fire, coming up in a ready stance and firing back with precision accuracy. Quatre wasn't surprised at how easily Heero had taken to the virtual reality room - it was just one more example of the Perfect's Soldiers ability to adapt and adjust.
Since that moment three days ago when the Professor had told them they couldn't find Duo via the residual energy they did last time, Heero had been a walking bundle of nerves and tension. Smiling faintly, the Arabian pilot remembered the Japanese man's introduction to the Danger Room.
Heero slammed his fist into the table, a dangerously calm look on his face as he stared up at the bald man.
" You can't find him."
Professor Xavier looked at the boy sadly, knowing how he felt without having to delve into the boys psyche. For all his control over his facial features, the boy didn't know the first thing about masking his emotions or his thoughts. The professor winced at the pain and worry he could sense on all of them.
" Sinister either has found a way to shield the energy coming from the dimensional generator, or it was completely destroyed when the four of you--"
"--five," corrected Trowa.
" Five," the Professor allowed with an apologetic nod. " When the five of you came through."
" What about Cerebro's normal method of searching?" mused Hank thoughtfully. " Surely since the boy hails from another dimension, his brain wave pattern would be noticeably different and therefore easier to track?"
" That works in theory," the Professor said, folding his hands in his lap. " Unfortunately, it requires a great deal of energy to search a limited area. And we have no way of knowing whether Sinister is even in the area - Fatale knows no earthly limit when she teleports."
" If we could expand the search radius...." Hank's voice trailed off as his mind began thinking alternate ways of boosting Cerebro's power. Quatre winced as he felt Heero shudder with repressed tension, and he rubbed his chest. Jean flicked her eyes at him.
" Quatre? " she asked, a gentle smile on her face. " Since it seems we're going to have to wait, at least for a little while until we're able to find your friend, I wonder if I might be able to talk with you later."
" I'd enjoy that," said Quatre, bowing his head in a show of respect. Trowa tilted his head slightly.
" May I join you?" he asked quietly. Jean felt a wall of unease and mistrust directed at her - nothing personal, she realized. Simply years of not being able to trust ANYBODY made him very over-protective of the people he'd eventually let into his heart. She smiled at Trowa, trying to convey all her sincerity to him in that single glance.
" I would be honored if you joined us," she said.
Wolverine grunted and pushed himself off the wall, grounding the cigar he'd tossed so casually, under the steel toe of his boot. He motioned towards Heero.
" I don't know 'bout you - but I prefer to work off my tension," he said simply. " Too many things are jumbled around yer mind right now - and since we ain't going anywhere, anytime soon until the eggheads--" he jerked a thumb at the Beast and the Professor. "--figure it out. Up for a little excerise?"
Heero's eyes barely flickered. " Show me."
That had been two hours ago. Upon hearing the kind of missions they usually undertook, Wolverine had programmed a kind of high-tech shooting gallery, with lots of targets. Quatre stifled a giggle at the remembrance of the look on Heero's face when the wild man had handed him a shiny, high-powered laser. It was like a kid at Christmas time. Quatre and Trowa had returned from their little talk with Jean  and stopped by to see how Heero was doing in the Danger Room, a virtual reality room used for the training of mutants in the use of their powers.  Watching Heero take out another target and then leap what looked like three stories to the ground with deadly grace, pivoting on one foot to crush another target's windpipe, Quatre chuckled.
" You do realize that you'll probably never get him out of there," he said casually to Wolverine who was monitering the kid's progress.
" He's doin' real good," Logan commented - rare praise indeed from a man who spent over a decade training with some of the finest assassin's Japan had to offer. " Must be some kind of world you guys live in."
" Some kind," Quatre repeated. Trowa, at his side as always, chuckled softly at the understatement. Then his eyes narrowed - a man had snuck up behind Heero who was busy taking two others down at the same time. About to call out, he watched Wolverine jab a button and end the sequence. Heero whirled around and fixed a deadly stare at the observation room. Wolverine shrugged.
" You missed one."
" No I didn't," Heero said quietly. He hit the door release and exited the room, pausing only long enough to grab a towel to mop up the sweat dripping off him. Wolverine raised an eyebrow as he looked questioningly at Quatre and Trowa.
" That's where his partner would have taken him down," said Trowa quietly. Quatre watched Heero disappear, heading back to his designated room. " He knew the guy was there."
" He just didn't care," Quatre finished as the two of them left the observation room. Wolverine watched them leave and a faint look of approval crossed his face. He fished another cigarette out of the belt of his costume and lit it up, blowing smoke rings into the now empty room.
" I'll be damned."
Sinister watched the monitor with obvious delight, the bluish light reflecting off his pale face. With the contrasting shadows, it made the dark man seem even more like his name then before.
The screen showed what his clones had dubbed their 'playroom'. It was there that that his newest acquisition was receiving his specialized training. Under his 'care' for two days now, he felt his protege was coming along nicely - the implant in the boys head helped a lot. It also helped that his two trainers were very thorough. Harpoon and Forearm had commented on how the boy's natural fighting instincts had come into play, dramatically enhanced by the foriegn technology embedded in his skull. Sinister chuckled and turned away from the screen and focused instead on another one, this one filled with lines of text instead of a video feedback.
Threnody stood next to him, faintly puzzled. Normally, hers was not to question why - but Sinister didn't usually keep to many humans alive. She knew that part of the reason was because the boys mind revealed the information needed to pilot the Gundam machines that had been brought to their world, but such information could be extracted easily. They didn't need the boy. " Master? Why is he still alive?"
Sinister spared her a level glance, and she felt herself shrink back slightly.
" The boy's not a mutant," he said finally. " But his reflexes, his agility - they far exceed normal human levels. Whether this is a direct result from his extensive training he underwent to become a Gundam pilot, or whether it is plain genetics is undetermined." He smiled, teeth flashing. " And you know how much I hate leaving anything undetermined." He turned back to the screen and highlighted a string of text. " Observe. Since coming under my control, he's increased his natural abilities by nearly seventy percent. On normal humans, the bug only reaches a maximum of thirty percent, and then in only a few select humans of superb physical shape." He nodded at the boy's chart. " I would determine him to be at the class of a low-level Beta with the powers of enhanced speed, agility and strength. That's with the bug, and being human." He shook his head. " It's almost unheard of."
" But why bother training him?" Threnody persisted. She knew she was pushing her luck but to be perfectly honest, she was bored. This was interesting. Do the math. " You used a low-level telepath to scan his mind - you don't need the boy to operate those machines."
" I know. The boy serves another purpose. " Evil eyes gleamed with an unholy light. " Consider him...insurance."
Threnody's eyes narrowed...and then widened in realization.
" The X-men won't fight back at full strength against a child. And I don't believe the boy's friends will hurt their comrade deliberately to prevent him from stealing the machines. Besides," he added, his tone going cold. " I take great amusement in causing emotional pain - broken bones heal, wounds scab over - but the human mind is so frail. I want to watch him fight his friends. I want to see him live up to his name. I want to see the look on HIS face when he sees what I've done."
" HIS?" Threnody asked. Sinister chuckled.
" What I lost when Remy escaped, shall be made up with this boy," he murmered. " He can't emit bio-kinetic energy - but his skills are so closely matched to that of Remy Lebeau...parallel worlds are such interesting topics of discussion, don't you think, my dear?"
Threnody knew when she'd reached her limit. Sketching a quick bow, she turned to go back to her research work. On the way out though, she paused and watched the monitor where the boy was battling Harpoon.
" Shinigami," she mused thoughtfully at the name Sinister had given the boy, and then shrugged. It wasn't her business.
Shinigami snorted, inhaling great gulps of air as he watched his opponent. He could feel cracked lungs screaming at him with each breath, ribbons of blood continuing their downward trek on his body - but still he smiled. The name the dark man had given him seemed familiar - at any rate, he couldn't remember what his name HAD been, or if he even had one. At least this one had meaning.
" Not bad kid," growled Harpoon as he flexed his arm, gingerly. " But I still have to hurt you for that."
" Try it," Shinigami hissed as he prepared for the attack. He had only known the his two sparring partners - Harpoon and Forearm - and their dark master for two days, as far as he could remember. But they seemed to be like him - or the him they said he was. Shingami recalled the discussion from two days before:
" We're your....training partners," said the big man with a decidedly evil smirk. The boy crouched down, ready to defend himself. Suddenly the door opened again and a man in dark armor walked in. The boy caught his breath at the corpse-like visage.
" What the..."
" I am Sinister," the man said, cutting him off smoothly. " I am the one who healed you."
" Healed me..."
" You were injured quite badly during the explosion," the man continued. " You suffered a concussion as well as other injuries - but you're awake. Good."
" Who are you?"
" I told you who I am," Sinister said with a cold look. The boy shivered under its icey gaze. " You may consider me your...employer."
The boy looked distrustingly at him and Sinister met his look evenly. " Who am I?"
Sinister smothered a dark laugh as he decided what to tell the boy. Recalling the interesting tidbits of information gleaned from the boy's mind, he settled on one. " You are called Shinigami."
" Death..." the boy's voice trailed off as he thought about it. Shinigami. It rang a bell, deep in his mind. It sounded familiar - accepted. " I think I remember..."
" Good." Sinister pointed at the two men in the room. " They will be training you, to regain what the...explosion, took from you."
" But I-"
" Quiet!" Sinister whirled around and backhanded the boy who hit the ground. Hard. He hadn't even seen it coming. " You will train with them. You have a mission coming up - you will not fail me."
Shinigami glared up at him from the floor, and Sinister grinned at the look of hatred. _Oh yes - it begins_! His training methods were a bit unorthadox, but he didn't want his minions to care for him - he wanted them to hate him. To fear him. To become as ruthless as he himself was. He restrained himself from chuckling at the combined fear and hate directed at him from the young boy. A curt nod, and Harpoon moved towards the door.
" Let's go, punk," he growled. Forearm jerked the boy upwards and propelled him to the door. Shinigami spared one last glare at the dark man before he was dragged out the door. Sinister watched him disappear and the dark man began to laugh. Shinigami heard that laughter echo in his ears over and over again - he had to make it stop....
Two days and numerous fights later, Shinigami had grudgingly won the respect of his sparring partners. They had accepted him as one of them - a cold-hearted killer. Didn't he just kill a guy in that morning's fight? Riptide or something - he had expected to feel remorse over the man's death, but all he could feel was a sense of elation as his enemy fell beneath his attack. Maybe it was because they'd told him the man would simply be cloned. He'd be back. Shinigami shrugged. He watched Harpoon circle around him - one of the unspoken rules in all the fights was that no one could use their powers. Shingami didn't care - as far as he could tell, he didn't have any. He wondered vaguely whether or not that would make him a liability in a fight - he had the strangest feeling that at one time he had a power....a weapon of some kind. Guns he found, were extremely familiar to him, but he still had the oddest sensation of something being missing...
He focused back on his opponent - watching with satisfaction as Harpoons one arm remained limp. _Where'd I learn about pressure points, anyway_? he wondered before Harpoon leaped at him with a snarl of rage.
Forearm stopped the match just as Shinigami ducked out from under the big man's attack. He felt his body shriek in pain and was grateful for the stop - but he knew better then to tell anyone that. The door opened and he watched the dark man - or Sinister - enter, feeling the fear well up again. Even Harpoon and Forearm shuddered slightly - the man fairly exuded evil, like a sickly stench.
" I think you're ready for a short mission," the man said. " There is a mutant I need a sample of DNA from - and then he is to be disposed of. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get back in...the swin4g, of things."
Shinigami kept his eyes lowered as he nodded. Sinister laughed.
" You'll need a weapon," he said. " You have no real powers--"
Shinigami felt an odd sense of shame creep over him.
"--so you'll use this."
He tossed a metal staff at the boy. Shinigami's eyes narrowed as he caught it deftly. It was silvery in color, with a smooth handled-grip for easy manipulating. At the one end, there was a large indention in the metal and he felt the staff hum with a faint, familiar energy.
He noticed a switch on the handle. Pressing it, he cried out in surprise as a greenish flame arced out of the end and sayed there, in a curved shape. Shinigami's eyes widened in shock as he stared at the flame, feeling the heat wash over him.
" I KNOW this," he murmered, staring at the flickering light. Sinister snorted.
" Of course you do," he said with disdain. " What is Shinigami without his death scythe?" 
Shinigami froze - that was SO familiar it hurt. The feeling of rightness swelled within him and he believed, now more then ever, that this was the truth. He had the feeling that the truth meant a lot to him....
Sinister watched the boy carefully swing the scythe in a low arc, gradually adjusting to the feel of it. His no-name telepath had picked the image of a scythe quite clearly out of the boy's head. Thermal energy was nothing new to Sinister - it had been mere child's play to create the weapon being held so carefully by his new toy. And this served two purposes: a) It would make the boy believe in him even more stringly, something he'd never been able to accomplish with Remy years ago, which would make him fight more effectively. And b), it would make him even more dangerous. That fiery blade would cut through anything short of adamantium - the material that made up the handle. The mission wasn't necessary - but he needed proof of the boy's loyalty. This little test would prove whether or not the boy was worth killing, or worth keeping around. He watched as the boy's eyes lit up and a sinister smile curved his own lips.
" Shinigami lives," he hissed, staring at the scythe in rapt admiration. He whirled around, slicing a deep tear in the metal wall and watching as the jagged edges seemed to literally melt away. He hugged the staff to him possessively.
" Mine," he breathed and then he began to laugh - loud, maniacal and completely hysterical. " MINE!"
Harpoon chuckled as he patted his bow in understanding. Forearm growled.
" So the kiddies got a new toy," he taunted, eyes hard as diamond. " Can you handle the mission with it, pretty boy?"
He froze as the deadly blade slid to a halt directly under his throat, the heat rising from it stinging his skin until he could smell the scent of burnt flesh. Shinigami's eyes glowed with feral intent.
" I think I've got the hang of it," he whispered conspiratorally. " Wanna test it?"
Sinister watched the whole proceedings with interest. This was working out even better then he had planned. He cleared his throat and the three of them snapped to attention.
" The mission," he said. " Do not fail me."
" No master. " Harpoon, Forearm and Shinigami bowed their heads. Sinister tilted Shinigami's head up, digging deep clawmarks into the tender skin.
" Do NOT fail me," he said again, watching with delicious glee as the fear waged war behind those violet-eyes. Then came grim acceptance and then sheer anger at being bullied. Unable to strike out at his master, Sinister knew that the boy's target would feel the brunt of his rage. " Or you will die. And you will not be cloned. UNderstood."
" Understood," the boy bit back, fingers caressing his new weapon with purpose.
What's a fic without Notes?:
1. C'mon - wouldn't ya know something would shock the Perfect Soldier this badly and Duo's not around with a video camera?
2. For those of you about to argue with me that Jean could've stopped the attack because thoughts move faster then actions, let me remind you that A) she believes Heero is a normal human child, none of this enhanced Perfect Soldier stuff and B) he was just out cold - they weren't expecting such a violent attack from a bed-ridden child! Ah, the joys of surprise!
3. I believe part of Heero's training was to learn to quickly accept the unexpected and adapt accordingly. that's why he caught on so quick. Dr. J done good for a change!
4. Jean was referring to the Morlock Massecre that occured in Uncanny X-men, issues 208 to 212 I believe....*goes to rummage through her comic collection* Anyhoo, the Morlocks were a band of mutants who's mutancy were too apparant for them to attempt to live normal lives as humans. They lived underground in the tunnels beneath the X-mansion until Sinister decided that they were the "pollutants" in the mutant gene pool and had them exterminated in a massive slaughterfest by the Raiders. It was recently revealed in Uncanny X-Men #350 that Gambit was one of the Raiders that initiated the attack. To Remy's credit though - he didn't know why they were there until the slaughter began. Then he tried to stop it and managed to rescue one little girl who grew up to be the mutant child psycopath, Marrow.
5. I'm sure some of you are raising a few eyebrows (typical Wufei syndrome) as to why Jean or anyone else for that matter, weren't immediately disgusted by the apparent relationship between Trowa and Quatre. Actually, the X-men are among the most open-minded individuals due to the racial bigotry directed at them just for being mutants, nevermind their sexual preference. Also, it's nothing new - they're friends with the Canadian superhero Northstar who came out of the closet in Marvel comics YEARS ago.
6. Adamantium is the strongest metal on earth, indestructible and a large chunk of it is currently taking up residence in Wolverine's body - his skeleton was fused with the metal years ago. I am ignoring the storyline where Magneto ripped the metal out - Wolverine still has his metal body!! This will be demonstrated and explained better, in chapters to come.
7. Rogue was referring to the time when their timeline was disrupted. She kissed Remy - their first kiss - when they thought their world was about to end. But it didn't and that kiss left Remy in a coma for days, and all of his memories were left in Rogue's head. She knows first-hand all the terror and pain Gambit felt at the hands of Sinister - and that's why she's equally determined to help Duo.
8. I'm taking some more creative liberties with Gambit's history - don't quote me as being exact.
9. See my notes on the mutant massecre in the last chapter.
10. Who do YOU think it is? *grins*
11. Harpoon and Forearm are established villains in the Marvel universe as Sinister's hitmen, also known as Mauraders.
12. Here's where I'm doing a mini-corssover between X-men the comic and X-men the cartoon. Morph was never in the comics - the closest he was was a character known as the Chameleon who died back in Uncanny X-men #50 - YEARS ago. In the cartoon though -Morph was thought to be dead until he turned up, working for Sinister courtesy of that little bug thing implanted in his head. I figured that was as good an explanation as any as to why Duo would work for Sinister.
13. I'm using Storms costume from issues #350 on up - the black/purple shorts and shoulderless (but not sleeveless) top spandex armour suit with the boots and wrist and ankle bracers.#355 or #356 has the best pic of it.
14. Mauraders! I mistakenly called them Raiders when I was describing the morlock massecre - they are called Mauraders, not Raiders. And they're ruthless killers.
15. Jean's little talk with Quatre and Trowa will be elaborated on next chapter. And we'll find out what Wufei's been up too as well!
16. The Danger Room is a large room, secreted under the mansion. Programmed with alien technology, it creates solid projections, used in the training of mutants in their powers. It can simulate long falls, space conditions - and it is possible to die in the simulations because they are SOLID projections. If you program a beach scene with an ocean and a man-eating shark, you'd better not count on the shark's attack passing through ya 'cause you'd be DEAD!
17. I have been WAITING for this - I've had an image of Duo in black combat clothes, waving his scythe around for the last three chapters!