Chapter One: A New Adversary
Disclaimer: All belongs to Marvel. etc, etc, etc. Damn it all.
Authors notes: This is a sequel to our previous story "Opposites Attract", an AU ending to Season 2. This story picks up somewhere around the end of Season 2.
Words in //slashes// indicate telepathic conversation.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was a Monday lunchtime at school. Despite this, Rogue was in a strangely upbeat mood.
"Ah feel good today," she said out loud. "Mah French test went unexpectedly well, and Ah had plenty of rest, thanks to us getting out of this mornings danger room session because Wolverine had to go clean up the rest of your mess."
"MY mess?" Erik objected.
"Well it was YOUR robot," Rogue shot back.
The cleaning up of the remains of the Nanny robot and its various clones after their destruction some weeks ago had taken a considerable amount of time. However, it now seemed that the end was in sight, and Wolverine had volunteered to go and double check that there were no loose ends.
Erik merely grunted and drank his juice.
"THERE you are," Risty said, walking up to them. "Nice table choice Erik, it took me _ages_ to find you. I'm starting to think you're trying to avoid me."
"Well I _was_," Erik muttered.
Rogue kicked him under the table. "Where's Wanda?" She asked.
"Dealing with her sockless brother," Risty sighed. "Boy that guy can whine."
"Tell me about it!" Erik sighed.
Rogue kicked him under the table again.
Risty regarded him with narrowed eyes. "I guess it's not _all_ Pietro's fault," she said casually. "He's obviously been poorly brought up. His father probably had no idea how to control him. He was probably too busy being out every night drinking and carousing with women."
The tips of Erik's ears turned bright red. "I doubt it," he managed to say. "He probably just had a lot of stress in his life."
"Carousing with women huh?" Rogue repeated, an evil smile on her face. "Ah can believe that!"
"Something the matter, Erik?" Risty enquired sweetly.
Erik wished that something would interrupt this teasing session. Rogue seemed to be enjoying it far too much!
"You are coming with me now!"
"Oh God," Erik buried his head in his hands as Colossus (in his non-metal form) came up behind him. "And I wish for a million dollars."
"Oh not _you_ again!" Rogue complained. "Didn't we teach you a good enough lesson this morning?"
Risty blinked. "Who are these people?"
"Aw crap." Rogue turned to see Gambit smiling at her. "Uh, Risty, can you go and get, um, Scott for me? Uh... these are people he needs to talk to as well."
"Sure, okay," Risty backed up. She clenched her fists, wishing that she could do something, but knew that any unusual activity on her part would reveal her true identity, and the time was not yet right for that. "I'll just go get him."
"Don't hurry off on our account," Gambit smiled, moving to intercept her.
"Get away from her!" Rogue got in between him and Risty. "Ya damn flirt!"
"Don't take it too hard, ma petit choufleur," Gambit laughed.
Rogue blinked for a minute, thinking. "You called me a cauliflower?" She asked incredulously.
Gambit sighed, "It's more romantic en francais, ne c'est pas?"
"You called me a CAULIFLOWER!"
"That is a bit off," Erik said, from where he was facing off against Colossus. "With all the green she wears I'd have gone for broccoli myself."
"Vegetables? When did that become flattering?" Rogue demanded.
"Pay attention!" Colossus grumbled, armouring up. "You will come with us."
"No I won't," Erik said. "And when will you people learn? Metal. Magnetism. STUPID!"
With one gesture, he sent Colossus flying.
"Honestly! Who hired these people?" He muttered.
"You did," Rogue reminded him. "Little help here?"
She was currently holding off Gambit with a magnetic shield, and trying not to look into his eyes.
Erik gestured again, and a rubbish bin flew over and upended itself over Gambit's head.
Rogue's eyes widened at the stream of French swearwords that emitted from beneath it. "And me without mah French dictionary," she murmured.
"Was it only the two of them this time?" Erik asked, looking around.
A ring of fire sprung up around the two mutants.
"Ah'll say that's a no," Rogue said, backing up against Erik. "Where is he?"
"Listen for the insane laughter," Erik said, gritting his teeth and holding up a hand to shield his face from the heat of the flames.
Right on cue, there was an insane cackling from behind some trees. Rogue and Erik squinted and were just able to make out Pyro's figure.
"Can you get him?" Rogue asked.
"He has to get me first!" Sabretooth roared, leaping over the flames. As he landed he brutally struck Rogue to the ground, before grabbing Erik by the collar. "You know," he hissed into Erik's face. "That trick with the metal bars this morning _really hurt_. I ought to..."
"You do realise that if you do manage to return me to my former self, the first thing I will do is rip both your arms off," Erik ground out.
Before Sabretooth could reply, a blast of ruby red light lanced through the flames and hit him in the side, knocking him away from Erik. The flames suddenly parted, and Scott ran through, followed by Jean.
"Are you guys alright?" Scott shouted.
"Ah'm fine, just bruised," Rogue called.
"I am uninjured," Erik added.
Jean turned and telekinetically dampened the flames. "Let's get out of here," she said. "Before anyone comes along."
"What are we going to do about these guys?" Rogue asked. "We left them in the alleyway last time, but that was obviously a bad idea."
"WHAT?" Scott demanded. "You fought these earlier and you didn't say anything?"
"It was this morning," Rogue protested. "Ah was gonna tell you after school. Or maybe in geography."
"You just _left_ them there?" Jean asked incredulously.
"We were late for school," Erik added. "Besides, what do you suggest that we do with them now? Go to the principal and have him call the police for some trespassers?"
"My point exactly."
"How about we dump them somewhere?" Rogue suggested. "Like garbage tip?"
Jean smiled. "Oh that sounds like an excellent plan."
Scott sighed. "Jean, sometimes you're just as bad as they are."
However, he didn't argue with Rogue's idea and even chuckled at the sight of the Acolytes sprawled out on the garbage.
"This doesn't mean I don't want to talk to you two about this later," he said as they walked back into the main school building.
Erik raised an eyebrow. "Why so reluctant to discuss it now, Summers?" he asked arrogantly. "Why bother waiting to scold Rogue and I like errant children?"
"Because it's bad enough that Risty saw them, we don't need anyone _overhearing_ us now!" Scott snapped and stalked away.
Erik opened his mouth and Rogue pinched his elbow. "Stop that," she said sharply. "Scott's right – about us not yelling about it in the middle of school that is – don't make things any worse."
"All this hiding and skulking in the shadows is wrong, Rogue."
She rolled her eyes. "Here we go again. Can't it wait until later? I'll be late for class," she shoved a book in his hands. "And so will you, see you later, bye!"
Erik glowered after her retreating figure. Why was it that every time he was trying to make a point about the current status of mutants, she managed to find an excellent reason to leave?
The rest of the day passed without any further incident, although Risty was awfully curious and constantly peppered Rogue with questions about her new "friends". And Wanda sulked because she had missed the fun. Rogue tried to tell her that she really hadn't missed that much but when they said goodbye at the end of the day, Wanda was in a rather huffy mood.
Consequently the morning's attacks were still high in Rogue's mind, especially the reasons behind them.
"So, why do they want you back so badly?" Rogue asked Erik as they entered the mansion at the end of the day, having been given a lift back by Risty.
"Flattering as always Rogue," he said wryly. "Maybe they like me."
"Do you owe them money or something?" Rogue ignored his earlier comment.
"I don't think so," he replied. "I do have an idea why, but I'm not a hundred percent sure at the moment."
"So you're not gonna tell me then."
"Correct!" Erik grinned.
"Jerk," Rogue muttered.
"Rogue! Erik!" Scott came down the stairs towards them.
"Oh, hi Scott," Rogue sighed. "Ah guess ya want to have that little talk with me and Erik now?"
"Well, I did, but…" Scott rubbed the back of his neck. "Something's come up…"
"What has happened now?" Erik inquired.
"Wolverine was due to report back on his progress around lunchtime and he didn't… so Storm and Beast went to the sewers to see if he needed help and he's vanished!"
Rogue's eyes widened. "It's not like Wolverine to disappear, not when he's on a mission anyway."
"Yeah," Scott agreed. "The professor is trying to contact him telepathically, but so far he's had no luck."
"Are we forming a larger search party?" Erik asked and Scott shrugged.
"Depends on what the Professor finds… or doesn't find," he said. "You two get some dinner, we'll be having a meeting soon."
Rogue frowned as Scott walked away.
"It's all very strange…. How could Wolvie just disappear like that?"
"Hmmm..." Erik responded. "Do you think the Acolytes got him?"
There was a pause.
"You can stop laughing now Rogue!"
Rogue wiped her eyes.
"Seriously though," she said. "What do you think happened?"
Rogue raised an eyebrow. "Well?"
"Considering the location Wolverine was searching in, I wonder," Erik said slowly, "if this has something to do with the Sentinel project."
"The what-what project?"
"Sentinel." Erik pursed his lips. "Giant robots designed to hunt down mutants."
There was a long pause.
"YOU SAID YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANY MORE KILLER ROBOT THINGS!" Rogue screeched at him.
"They're not mine," he said defensively. "I had nothing to do with them. They're being created by a rogue government organization to hunt down and destroy mutants."
"Oh, is that all?" Rogue said in a sarcastic tone. "Well, if all they're going to do is hunt down and destroy mutants then WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU MENTION THEM EARLIER??!!!"
Erik winced. "I had other things on my mind?"
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'OTHER THINGS'?!" Rogue screamed. "This is IMPORTANT! I can't BELIEVE you!!!"
"Rogue, please stop shouting at me. I was keeping an eye on their little organization before, all of this," he gestured to himself, "happened. Then it became less of a priority, and anyway, I knew I wouldn't have any problem against their machines."
"And you know this _how_?"
"I had Gambit steal the design specs," Erik said calmly. "That's where I got the mutant-tracking program I installed in the Nanny robot."
"You _stole_ the software?"
"I had a lot of things to do back then, Rogue," Erik explained patiently. "Minions to recruit, myself to rejuvenate, the X-Men to thwart, a world to overthrow, a people to lead... I was swamped. I didn't think there would be any harm in, er, borrowing..."
"... stealing someone else's software. I do have limits you know." Erik considered this. "Not very many, of course," he added.
Rogue rolled her eyes.
"But I do have a few. Anyway, I supplemented their code with old software from an original design of Cerebro, and so I think it would be fair to say that _my_ version is superior to theirs in every way," Erik said loftily.
"But they still _have_ mutant hunting software?"
"A very crude version, yes."
"Great, just great," Rogue sighed. "We're gonna have to tell the Professor."
Rogue raised an eyebrow at him.
He fidgeted uncomfortably. "He'll give me that Look again," he mumbled.
Rogue sighed in exasperation. "Ah don't blame him! You kept this to yourself when you knew it might come up later! You deserve any number of Looks!"
"Ah can't believe you're acting like such a baby. Honestly," Rogue sighed. "Ah'll come with you and protect you from the Professor, alright?"
He spluttered. "I don't need to be protected!"
Professor Xavier ceased his fruitless mental search for Wolverine and looked up at the knock on his door.
As Rogue and Erik filed into the room he suppressed a quick flicker of fear. Everything had been going well so far, there was no need to jump to any rash conclusions.
Erik sat down in the large leather armchair. Rogue seated herself on the arm of the same chair, and leaned on the back of the seat, propping herself up on one elbow. She smiled at the Professor X like the cat that ate the canary.
The Professor began to sweat.
"Charles," Erik steepled his fingers and tried not to notice Rogue's free hand resting possessively on his shoulder. *She's just being friendly and supportive, she's just being friendly and supportive.*
*She's NEVER friendly and supportive.*
"I have some important information which I think we need to discuss."
*Oh God,* Professor X rallied as best as he could. "And what would that be?"
"I believe that Wolverine's disappearance could be due to a secret rogue Government project..."
Charles listened with growing horror as Erik told him all he knew about the Sentinel project.
"Why didn't you bring this to my attention earlier?" He demanded.
Erik drew himself up in his chair, preparing to deliver a scathing, arrogant retort.
Rogue calmly began to play with his hair, stroking it and smoothing it down, then parting it differently.
"I, uh, I, that is..." Erik stuttered to a halt, blushing fiercely. He shrank down in his chair. "I didn't really think it was a threat. Well, not to _me_ anyway," he said, rather shamefaced.
"I see," Charles tried to pretend he wasn't seeing what he was seeing. "Arrogance, Erik."
"I know," Erik sighed, both in admission and in relief as Rogue stopped playing and settled down again. "I'm not used to thinking any other way though."
"Try," the Professor suggested.
Erik hesitated slightly, but then inclined his head in agreement. "Yes, Charles."
The Professor sighed and rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "We'll have to investigate this. Discretely of course, but I'm concerned at this semi-overt anti-mutant activity."
Erik snorted loudly.
"_Thank_ you Erik, I'm well aware of your opinions," the Professor said. "If that's all?" *Please let that be all.*
"Then I'd better get onto this," Charles said. "If you think of anything else, _please_ tell me."
"Of course," Erik got out of the chair. "Er, coming Rogue?"
Rogue, still without speaking, languidly detached herself from the chair and followed Erik out of the room. She paused at the doorway and shot a quick smirk back at Professor Xavier.
"Oh dear God," the Professor buried his head in his hands.
"Was all of that absolutely necessary?" Erik asked Rogue plaintively as they walked down the hall.
Rogue considered this. "Yes."
She smirked at him. "Ah like to watch you both sweat. My, look at the time. Better get started on mah homework and get something to eat before the meeting. See you later sugah."
Bestowing a quick kiss upon his nose, she fled down the corridor.
Erik watched her go, unsure as to whether he should be annoyed, outraged, or embarrassed. He settled for being absurdly happy about her quick peck on the nose, and very, very worried.
Three hours later, all of the X-Men (and Erik) were dressed in their uniforms and waiting for their briefing from Professor Xavier. Erik was wearing his own costume, which consisted of a black outfit with a blue armoured front. It was in fact, very similar in style to his old Magneto costume, without the helmet or cape. No one had dared to comment on this.
"So where's the Prof?" Kitty asked.
"He went out to check in on some sources, and make sure that Juggernaut was still securely in place," Storm said.
"Why?" Evan asked.
"I'm sure the Professor will explain when he returns," Beast said.
At that moment, the door opened and the Professor entered.
"Good evening X-Men," he said. "I'm sorry to keep you all waiting. I have been making some enquiries, and I believe I know what has happened to Wolverine. It seems he has been captured."
Everyone reacted with varying degrees of shock – save for Erik and Rogue who just glanced at each other.
"Captured? Wolverine?" Kurt spluttered. "How?"
Xavier held up his hands. "Please calm down, this is serious but it will not be helpful if we succumb to panic."
"Of course, Professor," Scott nodded.
Erik rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath about 'teacher's pet'. Rogue elbowed him in the stomach and then looked innocent when people turned to see what Erik was wheezing about.
"Achem," Xavier cleared his throat. "I have received information about a rogue organization that has been developing technology designed to hunt and capture mutants. From what I've learnt leads me to believe that Wolverine was taken by them and this means that we have to take an immediate course of action."
Erik frowned slightly at that, but remained silent at Xavier continued to speak.
"Firstly we need to retrieve Wolverine and secondly we need to find out how much they know about us, if necessary shutting down their operations."
There was a brief silence as they all digested this information, and then Scott spoke up. "How do you know all this, Professor?"
"I have my sources, Scott," Xavier's tone did not invite further questions. "What is important is finding out what has happened and therefore I have decided on a small, select group as the scouting group. This team will be lead by Storm and will consist of Cyclops, Jean, Shadowcat and Nightcrawler. I will also be going along to assist the operation."
"Professor, I need to speak to you," Erik murmured as the rest of the X-Men left the room. Xavier paused and turned to face Erik.
Erik waited until the door had closed and they were alone. "What the hell are you thinking, Charles?"
Xavier looked coolly at him. "You have a problem, Erik?"
"Why did you not put me OR Rogue on the team? With our magnetic powers we could…"
"Be a liability."
"In this particular situation I think that your… beliefs might interfere with your better judgement," Xavier said smoothly. "After all, isn't this the sort of thing that you always believed would happen?"
"Then why not send Rogue?" Erik demanded. "Surely you don't question HER loyalty!"
"Rogue is still new to her magnetic powers and I felt that it was best to include those who have more experience."
Erik stared at Charles. "That's ridiculous! Rogue also has her absorption powers and could therefore fill in for any of the others in the event they were incapacitated, and she has shown that she has plenty of experience with those!"
"Erik, my decision has been made!" Charles glared at him. "If you feel that you could do a better job, perhaps you should form your own team!"
"Really Erik, Sabretooth? You know what a dangerous and uncontrolled person he is. And those other two, what were their names again...?"
"Colossus and Gambit," Erik replied. "And the fire user is Pyro."
Xavier sighed. "You never change. My decision stands Erik. You will remain here as part of the back-up team."
And with that, he exited the room.
Go on to Chapter Two
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