Into the Heart of Darkness
(THREE DAYS LATER)
Wufei had headed straight for his Gundam when he woke up the next morning. He remembered their little war council and snorted - all that talking with nothing to show for it. He knew Heero would be heading for the Danger Room again - after fixing Wing Zero, he had nothing else to do. Quatre and Trowa were conspicuous by their absense - they had been spending a lot of time with the Grey woman. Wufei snorted again. _Onna's_, he thought wryly. _Love to talk_.
Pausing at the base of Shenlong, Wufei bowed his head and had a moment of silence,as he always did when he greeted his Gundam. He'd renamed it Nataku - in memory of his wife Meiran.
Meiran. His lips curled into a brief smile. Wild, untamed, full of spirit and eager to defend her colony. She'd demanded that everyone refer to her as Nataku - the warrior goddess. Wufei chuckled as the old memories flooded over him - how he, a scholar had been paired with that disguised tigress was a mystery far beyond his comprehension. They had been engaged to each other, against their will, and married at a very young age. Wufei recalled the numerous fights that occured as two proud, stubborn people had to learn to give and take - and slowly, mutual respect had started to form between them.
Until she was killed.
Up until that day, they had never expressed words of love, preferring to try and keep the peace as friends. As she lay dying in his arms, Wufei remembered her softly spoken words. " Wo ai ni," she'd told him , a small smile on her face as her eyes closed forever. Then and there, Wufei had vowed to take up the fight in her name - to do all that she could not because of her early death. He would seek justice for all those who would harm the innocent. Wufei let the memories wash over him, bathing him in resolve and he looked up at the giant Gundam with a firm smile - he never ceased to be inspired by Nataku.
" Wow, you look so serious." A voice commented wryly from behind him. Wufei spun around, whipping out his sword and falling into a defensive stance as his eyes sought out the intruder.
His jaw dropped as he saw the small, slender black-haired girl standing there in a yellow raincoat.
" Meiran?" he whispered hoarsely, rubbing his eyes futiley. The girl gave him a wierd look.
" Who? Sorry pal - I think you got me confused with someone else." She snapped her gum and sauntered closer, sticking out her hand. " The name's Jubilee." 
Quatre smiled his thanks at Jean as she served him a cup of tea. She then turned to Trowa who nodded, accepting the cup graciously. Quatre was enjoying these little talks they had been having since their arrival. He remembered the first conversation they'd had, when Jean had asked to speak with him after the meeting with the Professor.
" What did you wish to see me about, Jean?" he asked her politely as she led him and Trowa into the mansion's living room. He seated himself on the large couch, Trowa next to him. Jean sat in a large, high-backed chair and regarded them thoughtfully.
" I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things," she admitted. " One is purely out of curiosity and I apologize if I'm speaking out of line but I wanted to know something about you and Trowa."
Trowa stiffened inperceptibly. Quatre squeezed his hand reassuringly and looked back at the red-head. She nodded at their joined hands.
" I wanted to know if your world is.....tolerant," she said at last. Then she shook her head. " Wait, that came out wrong." She stood and walked over to the window, gazing out at the sunny skies that had settled in over Westchester - probably courtesy of a certain weather witch, she thought. " It looks beautiful out there doesn't it?"
Quatre exchanged another glance with Trowa, confused. " I-I suppose so..."
" Beautiful - but deadly," she mused. " A cover-up for what lies beneath the surface." She sighed, turning back to face them with a faint smile. " One of the said things in life, OUR life, is that the people of this world, both human and mutnat, show very little tolerance for anything different."
" You're referring to our relationship," Quatre said slowly. Jean nodded.
" I was wondering what kind of world you come from - whether prejudice or racial bigotry is a common sympton of any world, regardless of timeline." She gave them a rueful look. " Forgive me for intruding--"
" Not at all," Quatre hastened to reassure her. He looked thoughtfully at her. " I've never really thought about it. The world we come from is at war, yes - but it stems not from difference of races. Only difference in opinions and world views."
" Couldn't that be construed as nearly the same?" Jean asked him sadly. Trowa shook his head and spoke up.
" While not common, our relationship is not...uncommon. Neither are more conventional pairings - or interracial. Who you love, isn't the issue of the war we fight."
" Of course this doesn't mean that everyone approves," Quatre was quick to add. He winced at some old painful memories of thinly veiled insults, and the jeers he'd heard from people quick to harm his relationship with Trowa. " Bigotry seems to be a universal trait."
" I thought as much," Jean said, returning to her chair. " Mutants here are feared because of the power they wield - even if its a simple power like the ability to change one's hair color." At the look they both gave her she smiled. " Yes, that is an existing power."
" It sounds interesting," Quatre said.
" I wish all people would think that," Jean closed her eyes for a second and then opened them. Quatre looked at her.
" We don't require it to be happy but...I'm glad you approve," he said to her, knowing she'd understand. Jean's eyes softened.
" Oh Quatre - I didn't mean to pry like this! No one here would ever fault you for loving another - we face too much bigotry every day to mock another for their choices in life," she said, face solemn. " We'd be hypocrites if we did that."
" Thank you Jean," Trowa said simply. He spared a glance at the blond next to him, knowing that her reassurances were deeply appreciated by Quatre, and therefore, appreciated by him. Jean nodded.
" What else did you want to speak to us about?" Quatre asked suddenly, feeling there was more to this then he thought. Jean laughed outright - breaking the tension from before.
" Actaully, I wanted to speak to you of THAT - that little habit you have of sensing what's going on!"
" How did you--oops, uh, I forgot," Quatre grinned sheepishly as he looked at the telepath. " What did you want to know?"
" Do you have mutants in your world?" Jean asked bluntly. " Or are you all just highly sensitive to those around you?"
Quatre shook his head. " I think you're referring to my Space Heart - a Winner family trait." He smiled fondly, if a bit sadly. " I inherited it from my mother."
Trowa blinked at him. " You mean your sisters have it too?" He hadn't known that. Quatre shook his head.
" Oh no - none of my sisters possess the Space Heart - only--" he blushed. "--naturally born Winners."
Jean looked confused, brow creased as she tried to understand. " Your sister is a test-tube baby?"
" Sister's," Quatre clarified. " All twenty-nine of them."
Jean sat back, a stunned look on her face. " I..see." She tried to imagine her and Scott with twenty-nine children - and burst out laughing at the mental image of her husband buried under mountains of baby clothes and diapers. Quatre giggled - he could guess what she was thinking!
" Soo...." Jean wiped her eyes and grinned at them. " What is a Space Heart?"
Quatre sat back and pondered this for a moment. " It's kinda like...an insight. Think of someone who's naturally sensitive to other's feelings, and increase it."
" I thought you might be an empath," Jean admitted. Trowa looked at her.
" One who senses emotions and feelings - a mild version of telepathy," Jean explained. " I've long suspected Gambit of being and empath." 
" He's the man with the red eyes, right?" Quatre wrinkled his nose, trying to remember. " He seemed...very sad."
" This whole business is one bad memory for him," Jean sighed as she rose to replenish her teacup. " More?"
" Thank you." Quatre accepted the beverage refill and sat back, sipping quietly. " Duo's in big trouble, isn't he?"
Jean nodded, sad she had to admit it. " Yes." Her face hardened. " But we will get him back, Quatre, Trowa - I promise you that."
" Why?" Trowa asked suddenly. " Why would you go to all the trouble of helping us - you don't even KNOW us."
" Because I would never be able to live with myself if we let Sinister experiment on a child," Jean answered honestly. " And because it's partly our fault you guys are stuck here - it was OUR equipment that Sinister stole. You guys are innocent bystanders in a game that's been played for years."
Trowa nodded, satisfied with the answer. Quatre couldn't speak, but he bowed his head again. Jean clapped her hands once.
" Tell me more about your Space Heart," she entreated.
Since that discussion, he'd come to enjoy Jean's company. He knew Trowa did too - the red-head exuded warmth and friendship - something they'd hardly ever seen before outside of their own little group. They'd exchanged information on both worlds and realized in some ways, they were very similar. They'd also discussed Heero - and his subsequent feelings for his missing partner.
" They're close then, neh?" Jean asked him. Quatre shook himself and focused on Jean.
" I'm sorry - what did you say?" He grinned ruefully. " I must have zoned out for a minute."
" I said Heero and Duo must be close," Jean repeated. Quatre scratched his head.
" Not in the sense that you mean like me and Trowa," he said at last. " At least, not yet."
Jean raised an eyebrow. " Heero has spent nearly every moment in the Danger Room, shooting down numerous targets that resemble the description we gave him of Sinister, since you got here."
Quatre chuckled quietly at that - it was typical Heero.
" Actually, the potential is there - and Heero's finally starting to wake up," he admitted. " Duo's the only one that could get beneath his skin - and live to tell about it. He has a way of waking Heero up from his Perfect Soldier mode, to make him live in the now so to speak." He grinned briefly. " Duo's a very effective counsellor."
" Something tells me I'd like this Duo of yours," Jean said. Quatre's smile disappeared.
" You would," he said quietly. " Everybody does. He has a knack for making people like him." He gestured at Trowa. " He brought all of us together in friendship."
" What kind of life did he have?" she aasked curiously. Quatre hesitated - he wasn't sure how much of it was his to tell.
" He had a...hard life," he admitted. " Part of his desire to make friends with everyone, is to keep from being left alone again."
Jean's eyes softened in sympathy. She could feel Qautre's pain for his friend as keenly as though he'd screamed it out loud. " I'm sorry."
Quatre shrugged. Trowa cleared his throat. " More tea?"
Heero fired two more times, killing the last two Sinister-looking snipers on the roof. He stood up slowly, watching their bodies fall to the ground dispassionately. Before they hit though, they disapeared. Heero blinked, recognizing the familiar hum that signified the end of a session. The holograms vanished, the buildings and destroyed mobile suits melting away. Heero grunted and looked up at the observation deck. A woman with a white skunk streak - _Rogue_, his mind supplied - waved cheerily at him and he idly glanced at the gun, wondering if the bullets would penetrate the thick glass separatiing them. _Probably not_, he decided ruefully.
" I wouldn't do dat," came a husky laugh from behind him. Heero whirled around and came face-to-face with the red-eyed man from before. " Even if ya made it t'rough da glass, de bullets would bounce off her - got a hide like adamantium dat girl does." 
" I heard that swamprat!" came an amused snort over the intercom. Remy waved at her and she nodded, exiting the room. Remy turned back to the boy.
" Heero, right?"
Heero shrugged, watching him.
" Don' talk much, dat's for sure," Remy commented mildly. He observed the boys tense stance. The gun he held was at his side but Remy knew from the Danger Room readouts that he could aim in fire in about as much time that it took him to charge and throw a card. _Dat ain't much time_.
Remy shrugged. " S'okay - I know you're worried 'bout your friend--"
The boy twitched.
" --but I'd say he's still alive f' now. Sinister likes to play wit' his new toys first." Gambit's lips curled in disgust. Heero trembled, a low growl building up in his throat.
" How do you know?" he bit out, trying unsuccessfully to push all his anger and worry down. Then memory hit him. " You....Cyclops said you knew the most about Sinister."
Remy looked at him. " Yeah, I--HEY!"
He dodged the boys lightning quick attack, rolling to his feet and whipping out a card. Then he froze. Heero stood there, gun slipping through nerveless fingers before they clenched into fists so tight his knuckles turned white from blood loss. His shoulders were shaking violently, and though his eyes were dry when he looked up, Remy almost recoiled from the pain radiating out from the pale face with the force of a blow. " Heero?"
" You're....right. I....I'm.....worried. About...Duo." The boy's words were stilted and halting, almost as though it pained him to admit it. " Not used to....being....helpless." He locked eyes with Remy and Remy again felt the weight behind the gaze. " What...what did Sinister do to you?"
Remy exhaled noisily, feeling a cavern open up in his chest, swallowing him hole.
*Needles stinging, hurts me, likes to hurt me, screaming, trapped, pain, hurt, pain, sadness, emptiness, pain, fists striking me, must prove I'm stronger, must fight back, hurts so bad, kill me, kill me, pain, won't stop, please stop--*
Remy's head snapped up and he took a deep breath before he answered.
" He trained me."
Heero's blue eyes pierced his and he saw it then - saw a boy who knew what training meant, saw what it did, knew how it felt.
" You know," he whispered in surprise.
Heero thought it was odd that he was shocked to hear Gambit's words. He recalled the numerous training sessions he was put through by Dr. J - everything from beatings to build up his pain threshold, to rape, so that he would never break. Sensory deprivation. Mind terrors. More beatings. More pain. He saw all that and more reflected back at him through red-on-black eyes. 
He swallowed convulsively. " Yeah....I know."
Gambit sighed. " Good."
" Good," Gambit repeated harshly. Then his tone softened somewhat. " You know what its like. You'll be able t' help your friend."
" Help him...." Heero repeated numbly. He shook his head. " No - Duo's stronger then that. He's been tortured before....he's never been broken..." his voice trailed off into a whisper Remy nearly missed it. "...like me..."
Gambit's heart clenched at the self-recrimination in that voice. Then he froze, as the implications of what Heero had said hit him. " Oh, merde..."
Heero stared at him. " What?"
Gambit chuckled harshly, remembering what he'd gone through at the hands of Sinister. After he'd been broken. When he'd...
" Maybe de physical pain's gonna be de last of your worries," he said, half-snarling, half chuckling with bitterness. Heero's eyes narrowed as Remy rubbed his eyes wearily. " S'metimes it's too much trouble to break 'em. It's easier to CONTROL dem."
" Control?" Heero echoed uncertainly. Remy nodded.
" Sinny's got a lot of toys to help him get people to do what he wants," Gambit explained roughly. " He couldn't use 'em on me - my metabolism's too screwed up for mind imbalancers, or drugs. He once injected me wit' a shitload of phenobarbitol and I was still able to resist anyt'ing he tried, when I should have been mindless as a newborn." He grinned darkly. " Handy trait." 
He crossed his arms, leaning against the door. " But Remy hear a lot of t'ings while he was dere....I remember a mutant was brought in. Feisty kid - could hear 'im yellin' from my cell. He stopped soon enough - could never figure out what happened to him to make him Sinny's new pet."
" Den I joined de X-men. Tried to save de world." He chuckled grimly. " And I met Morph - a mutant wit' de power to shapeshift into anybody or anyt'ing, just by t'inkin' 'bout it. During a battle wit' de Sentinals, we t'ought he was killed."
Heero recalled hearing something about Sentinal - like Gundams on a less technologically advanced scale. " Go on," he said curtly.
" He disappeared - we never found his body. Time passed and eventually, Cyke and Jeannie decide to tie de knot. A beautiful wedding too - Remy, he kissed almost all de bridesmaids. 'Cept Rogue - she got away," he grinned. Heero was getting impatient, even though his stony demeaner revealed nothing.
" Does this have a point?" he growled. Remy shook his head.
" Impatient, " he said softly. " But yeah, dere's a point. De minister turned out to be Morph - working for Sinister."
" A traitor?"
" Dat's what we t'ought. 'Til we battled Sinister an' his goons on an island where Jeannie and Scott were supposed to be havin' d'ere honeymoon. Turned out Morph had a little bug in his head dat made him evil, eager to kill. Probably what happened to de kid in de cell. Now Morph be a peaceful kinda guy - and he fought de implant wit' every part o' his being. Dat's why he was able to stop himself from killing Cyke." His eyes glowed briefly and Heero grunted at the sight of the red ligth, giving Remy's face a positively fiendish look. " Dat's why he left." 
" Didn't wanna hurt nobody 'till he gets control o' himself. We took out de bug - but de programming, it remains up in his brain."
" And he could do this to Duo."
Heero winced. " But Morph didn't like killing.." he whispered, horrified at the thought of a blood-crazed Duo rampaging through ranks of civilians. " How effective could a bug like that be on someone who's used to it - who sees killing as an order to be followed?"
" De ends must justify de means in your world," Remy muttered, eyeing the boy sharply. " He might not fight de implant as much."
" That's what I thought," Heero sighed. " But if we get to him, we could stop him, right?" He couldn't believe how he was acting - practically BEGGING Gambit for some reassurance. But his thoughts were raging out of control and he pleaded silently with the red-eyed man to agree with him. Gambit dropped his eyes.
" Maybe," he allowed, not wanting to destroy all of the boy's hope. " De X-Men - we don' go down wit'out a fight ya know."
" Neither do Gundam pilots," Heero returned, regaining his iron control. Blue eyes glinted like ice chips. " We'll find him. And he'll be fine."
" Le's hope so, mon amie," Gambit whispered, watching the boy walk away stiffly. " Le's hope so."
Shinigami crouched, motionless on the ledge of the office building. His heart was pounding with excitement even though his face didn't reveal any emotion. He felt the thrill of the hunt singing through his veins, his senses keyed up and focused on his target. he knew that Forearm and Harpoon were around somewhere - on the rooftop most likely. They were too large to shimmy up the side of a building and perch on the foot wide ledge that circled the building on each floor. He snorted silently at the thought of them trying to do the balancing act he was pulling off right now - it almost made him wish Fatale had made good on her threat to teleport him fifty feet in the air and let him drop when he'd tried to cop a quick feel off the Asian assassian.
It was weird. Shinigami felt a surge of uneasiness everytime he was around his two 'partners' - and suffice it to say, Sinister scared the shit out of him. But the fighting, the training...that had been familiar. And so was this.
He couldn't help it - he broke out into a grin as he licked his lips in anticipation. The night was calling to him, drawing him out. It didn't matter who his target was - all that mattered was that he had a job to do. Something to focus on, to carry out. A purpose. HIS purpose.
Reaching over his shoulder to the harness on his back, he pulled out his scythe, running his fingers over the metal grip lovingly. Holding this weapon in his hands, focussing on what he had to do, drowned out any other concerns he might have had. This felt RIGHT.
Tapping the button lightly, a faint greenish glow drifted out of the end; not enough to draw any undue attention, but enough to literally melt away the glass, separating himself from his targets apartment living room. He didn't hear anything from Harpoon and Forearm - nor did he really expect too. He had the feeling that this was a test for him - designed by Sinister and carried out by his two goons.
He wasn't sure why he wasn't very afraid of them. Both three times his size, in both height and bulk, with mutant powers far beyond his comprehension, he knew he should be shaking in his shoes each time they came near him, each time they sparred with him. Sinister had told him that he was an advanced human - lacking the mutant gene, but making up for it with increased speed, strength, flexibility and agility. Adding in the scythe made him a formidable opponent, even against mutants. Still, the rational part of his mind was arguing that he should be afraid. But he wasn't. Not a bit. The thought of dying didn't faze him. He wondered why that was.
He shook his head - too many thoughts to worry about now. Slipping in through the now-melted window, Shinigami turned off his scythe and slipped it back into the leather harness, making sure not to accidently cut off his braid. That was another thing to think about - he'd gotten awfully possessive about the darn thing. _Later_, he told himself.
Slinking through the main room of the modest brownstone apartment, he coldly noted the family pictures on the mantal of the fake fireplace, and the certificates lining the walls. His target was educated. A pity.
The light blinked on the communicator he'd been given and he growled softly, pushing the button.
" What?" he whispered harshly. " I'm kinda busy."
" You're taking too long," Harpoon said bluntly. " Just do it and get it over with. Now."
The picture went dark and Shinigami stuck his tongue out at the blank screen. _Spoilsport. No finesse, no style at all_. With a shrug, he strolled into the master bedroom.
Ah. There was his goal.
Crossing the room swiftly, he slammed his hands over the woman's throat and mouth, cutting off any sounds she might have made and waking her instantly.
Brown eyes blinked wildly at him, unable to make any noise from the grip he had on her voicebox.
" Dr. Cecilia Reese, I presume?" he asked coldly. The target's eyes were filled with terror - Shinigami knew the darkness of the room combined with his black clothing and black cap made it difficult for her to see him. It should have unnerved him to be attacking a woman. Looking into her eyes, her fear only amused him. " Allow me to introduce myself - I am Shinigami."
His eyes glowed dangerously. " And you have something I want."
Cecilia didn't know what to do. One minute she'd been sound asleep, exhausted from pulling a twelve-hour shift at the Salem medical center - not unusual, but definitely hard to get used to. The next thing she knew, a stranger dressed in black had a death grip on her throat. Normally her mutant power of constructing a bio-psionic shield would have kicked in automatically but she didn't even have time to think about it. If she put it up now, it would merely include her attacker inside. 
Her first instinct was to panic as he leaned in closer, whispering in chilled tones that she had something he wanted. What could he possibly want from her?
A voice in the back of her head told her probably many things. Judging from the black leather costume she could feel against her skin, he was probably not your run-of-the-mill robber.
During her short stint as a member of the X-Men, she had run into many different super-villains and she wondered if this person was working for one of them. She wanted to ask him what he wanted but he wouldn't let go of her throat. His grip was also making it hard for her to breathe. Her attacker seemed amused by this and chuckled harshly.
" I am going to let go of your throat so that you can breathe. If you scream, I will crush your windpipe and let you choke to death," he said, almost conversationally. " Do you understand?"
She nodded her head minutely and his hands slid off her.
" What do you want?" she finally croaked. It occured to her that since the X-Men frequently used her medical center as a drop-off center for various packages, this person might want the address of the X-mansion. _not that its a big secret_, she thought bitterly. Or maybe he wanted the medical files she had on all the mutants she treated.
She inhaled a few quick breaths, never taking her eyes off him. Suddenly her body began to glow slightly as her mutant shield kicked up. She then grinned at him.
" Hah! Try to hurt me now, sucker!" She backed away from him, intent on reaching the phone to call for help when the man sighed in annoyance and pulled a long metal stick from his back. She watched it light up in green fire and he spun suddenly, so quick she almost didn't see it, slicing the air and melting the phone, the lamp next to it and the table on which they both stood. About to scream again, he reached forwards and grabbed her chocolate brown hair, numerous little braids each incased seperately in it's own little field. He grabbed one braid, shield and all, and lowered the flame on the scythe until it looked like a green match tip. He then sliced through her hair.
Cecilia felt an enormous surge of pain as her shield was cut. Her mutant power was an extension of herself that tended to manifest involuntarily and it always hurt when anything impacted against it, even if it protected her from any actual damage. But to cut through it....
She sank to her knees, clutching her head as her attacker dangled the pitiful little strand of hair in front of her.
" Nice little trick, neh? My boss added a few tricks into this thermal scythe - it has an effect on energy. Any energy. Including bio-energy." His grin grew wider, even more malicious then before. " I could have done that to your arm or leg, just so you know. But you're worth more to Sinister alive."
_Sinister_? The name snapped Cecilia out of her pain-induced haze and she stared up at him blindly. The man chuckled again and she wished she could see his face but the darkness kept her from seeing anything more then an outline.
" Who are you?" she whispered brokenly.
" I am Shinigami," he said coldly. A manical-edged laugh issued from him. " And you're not. Now Dr. Reese - you are going to keep that little shield of yours down while I take a few things from you. " At her horrified gaze, he barked out a laugh. " Oh, give me a break - I'm not interested in your body."
Cecilia felt a bit of her normally fiery temper return as he said those words. He sounded sincere enough - well, as sincere as any leather-clad looney carrying a thermal device could be. Then again, for a short time, she had BEEN one of those leather-clad looney.s 'Why not', was at the edge of her tongue when he gave his frank statement but she forced it back. _Keep your mouth shut Cecilia_, she told herself. " Then what do you want?" she asked him, proud to hear the trembling in her voice had gone.
" I vant your blood!" he giggled in a bad attempt at a Transylvanian accent and Cecilia shivered at the hysterical pitch in her accoster's voice. Then the name from before hit her. Sinister. _Oh my god_.
" My blood? Sinister wants my blood?" She backed away slowly, fear returning in waves. " Oh no. I am not a pincushion--"
A quick swipe and her bed was neatly sliced in two. The maniac laughter was gone and that metal rod was at her throat. She froze, fighting to keep her shield from manifesting. He might actually go through a few limbs to make a point.
" It will only take a minute of your time," he said, smiling beneignly. He whipped out needle and a small vial. Cecilia closed her eyes, hoping that the damn thing was sanitary. A pin-prick made her flinch, and a few seconds later, she felt it withdraw and she opened her eyes warily.
" That's it?" she asked incredulously. The man looked at her and grinned.
" Not quite."
Cecilia never saw the adamantium rod of the scythe impact in the side of her head.
Shinigami watched her where she lay, blood seeping from the wound he'd delivered, pooling beneath her unconscious body. He calmly put the vial into a pouch at his waist and turned away. The target had been dealt with, as per instructions. He felt a faint twinge at the state he'd left her in but then pushed it away. After all - he was Shingami right? And Harpoon said he was used to this.
He froze as his mind registered the words - where had that come from? Then the light blinked on his communicator again. He ignored it, stealing back out of the apartment with all the stealth he'd used upon entry, climbing from the ledge, up the side of the building, digging his fingers into the miniscule handholds he could find in the rough brick, and finally hoisting himself over the rooftop iron fencing. A huge hand gripped his collar and hauled him the rest of the way.
" What took you so long?" Forearm snarled at him. Shinigami pushed him away and reached into the pouch, pulling out the vial.
" I got it, didn't I?" he asked sarcastically, not backing down. He knew if he did, Forearm would clobber him. Badly. Forearm snorted.
" Lucky you did, punk," he growled. Harpoon spoke up from where he leaned against the wall of the building that lead to the stairway.
" Did you leave her alive?" he asked, eyes pinning the boy in his spot. " You were not to kill her - she's important as a research tool to Sinister."
" Hey man - if there's one thing I know how to do, it's follow orders," Shingami barked. " She's alive. Hurt, but alive."
Harpoon nodded, flexing his giant fist. " Good."
He pressed a button on his own communicator and suddenly, Fatale was there, light glowing in it's usual display of her powers.
" Let's be off, 'gentlemen'," she said, stressing the last word sarcastically. She watchd them gather near, eyeing the smallest one thoughtfully. He was an interesting creature, she mused. Highly attractive, and apparently very skilled. Sinister wouldn't be eager to let this little one get away. She raised her arms and focused. They disappeared in a blinding flash of light and sparkles.
Cecilia groggily lifted her head and groaned.
_G-Get it....together girl_, she told herself, fighting the black spots that were dancing in front of her eyes. She wanted nothing more then to sink into the black oblivion, hovering just beyond the edge of her vision, but she knew she couldn't. She tried to focus her bleary eyes on her dresser. _Have to....do this...._
She dragged her resisting body to the wooden dressor, grasping at the handles to pull herself up to a sitting position. She swayed momentarily, breath rasping, and then bit her lip, reaching for the top drawer. It slid out and she patted her arm around it's innards blindly, searching for it....where....Ah! There it was.
She pulled out the small object and cradled it. One of the few things she kept from her stint as an X-man, she was now ferverently glad she did. She pressed the top button on her communicator. A familiar, fuzzy blue face finally greeted her, blinking at her curiously and then in horror.
" H-help me Hank," she breathed, and then her strength left her in a rush. She vaguely heard Dr. McCoy shout something but she was too tired to listen as her awareness slipped away.
Heero sat up as he heard the alarm go off in the mansion. A quick check confirmed the presence of his gun and he slid out of bed, pulling on his tanktop and customary spandex shorts in seonds. Exiting his room, he saw Trowa, Quatre and Wufei having the same idea. Wolverine loped into the hallway. Seeing the boys there, he was about to order them back to their room when Jean's mental voice stopped him.
:: Let them come, Logan::
He growled. :: The kid?::
A mental sigh. Then resignation. :: Yes::
Logan cursed under his breath and turned back to the four pilots who were all watching him with looks that screamed both confusion and seriousness.
" What's happening?" Heero demanded. Logan jerked his thumb back down the hall.
" Situation," was all he'd tell them " Follow me."
Quatre was a bit surprised when Logan didn't stop the elevator at the floor where he knew the War Room was situated. He could sense the tension level and he rubbed his chest absently. Trowa glanced at him and he shrugged. Fixing his eyes on Heero, Quatre winced - he had a feeling this little emergency might concern Duo.
Wufei stared at the wall, wishing it would hurry. He was still on edge from meeting that Meiran look-alike in the hangar earlier - he winced at the memory of him mumbling some excuse for mistaking her for someone else and then dashing out of the hangar, the girl's amused laugh trailing behind.  _Onna's_! he thought waspishly. Unbidden, the thought entered his mind that Duo would have gotten a kick out his surprise and he scowled at the wall blackly. _I bet this concerns Maxwell_, he thought.
The door opened and the pilots blinked at the sheer size of the room.
" Why is it each time we go down another level, the rooms seem to get bigger?" Quatre asked Trowa quietly. The unibanged boy shrugged. Quatre noticed Jean and Cyclops, and recognized the blue-furred man as the Beast. Wufei's eyes widened as he saw the girl - Jubilee, he tried to remember - leaning against the counter, watching them enter with interest. Despite the apparent severity of the situation, she threw him a quick wink when their eyes met and he looked away. Heero's eyes zeroed in on the group gathered in the middle of the room, focused on someone lying on a cot.
Heero pushed his way past Cyclops and Jean to get a good look - and stopped, disappointment seizing his chest. It was a woman, apparently of central-American descent with chocolate skin and hair. A white bandage covered a wound on her head. Jean's voice spoke up.
" Her name is Dr. Cecilia Reese," she said. " She was...attacked tonight."
" By who?" Quatre asked, watching the girl curiously. Jean exchanged a look with her husband.
When Hank had gotten the call from Cecilia, he had alerted the red-head immediately before racing out to the hangar and firing up the Blackbird. Jean had monitered the whole pickup, Beast having assured her that whoever had attacked Cecilia had already left. Nonetheless, she and Cyclops had stood by, ready to join him if necessary. leaving only when Beats told them that he had the Doctor, and to make sure that the sickbay was prepped and ready.
Jean had been astonished at the fomerly fiery-tempered doctor's condition and had gently delved into her mind to get a picture of her attacker. All she could make out from the blurry images was a greenish weapon, the outline of a slender build, and a name. One that was familiar, thanks to the numerous talks she had with Quatre. She bit her lip and looked at her husband nervously, unsure of what to say.
:: Just tell them, Jean:: Scott advised her softly. She looked at Heero.
" Her attacker called himself.....Shinigami."
1. As far as I know, it's " I love you," in chinese. Don't quote me on that - I'm getting much of my Japanese lessons from watching Ranma 1/2 tapes....^_~'
2. Everyone's favorite firecracker!
3. Gambit being an empath is a favorite topic of discussion on the mailing list I'm on - he seems to have the uncanny instinct for feeling other's pain, and he's very sensitive to people's emotions - at least when he's written by Joe Kelly or Claremont. ^_^ I just thought I throw it in - and see where it goes....
4. Rogue's powers also include a thick skin - enough to deflect bullets, lasers, tanks and falling buildings (that one was my favorite episode!) See previous chapters and notes for more details on her powers.
5. I'm just guessing what kind of training Dr J and Sinister put the two guys through - there's that creative license again!
6. Again, I'm using discussion from the mailing list - it seems to take Gambit longer to succomb to deadly gases and other poisons so again - I'm blaming his physiologal makeup as a reason. 'S'alright? 'S'alright.
7. Now I'm kinda mucking up the TV series....but I pretty much followed inside the lines. If you'd like anyt'ing...excuse me, anyTHing (damn cajun's accent is addicting!) explained further, please email me.
8. Cecila Reese was a member of the X-men for about 5 or 6 issues before being relagated to a supporting character role with minimal appearences. Her mutant power is a bio-filed that kicked up autmatically whenever she was in danger, but she could never figure out how to consciously turn it on or off. Here, I'm giving her a little more control - it takes a little bit but she can will the field into existence, and she can shut it off. The deal with Shinigami''s blade being able to cut through it - well, Sinister's a genius right? he can build all sorts of do-dads on that scythe - why not make it powerful enough to give Shingami and advantage over more mutants? 85% of all mutant powers are bio-kinetic, psionic, or energy-based - it makes sense that Sinister would take that into account when constructing a weapon for Duo.
9. For those about to scream I cheap-shorted Jubilee - hold yer horses! That little by-play served its point - Wufei had mistakenly identified Jubes as his long-dead wife and that freaked him a bit, hence the running from the hangar. But she's not being thrown aside - trust me. We will see more later on.