Chapter Two: The Sentinel
Disclaimer: All belongs to Marvel. etc, etc, etc. Damn it all.
Authors' note: From now on the season 3 continuity REALLY goes through some major changes.
Words in //slashes// indicate telepathic conversation.
Gambit sniffed at his ruined shirt and grimaced. "Did dey have to throw us on the rubbish pit?" he asked Colossus. "Dat was really uncalled for."
"We failed," Colossus said miserably. "We could not defeat him."
"Of course not, mon ami, this is _Magneto_ we're talking about," Gambit looked ruefully at his shirt and then charged the cloth up. Casually he threw it across the room where it exploded with a loud bang that echoed through the mountain base and scorched the kitchen wall. "Hmmm, never did dat with clothing before"
"Then why did we bother?" the young Russian asked. "Why try to return Magneto when he doesn't want to come?"
Gambit opened his mouth and then shut it abruptly. The truth was he didn't have the answer to that question either. Sure, Magneto's orders before the accident had been very explicit and his threats about what would happen if the Acolytes neglected to follow those orders (even if Magneto was not personally leading the charge) had even more explicit, but none of them, not even Sabretooth, had anticipated their leader _wanting_ to remain with the X-Men in his current state. The Cajun shrugged. "He probably has a plan," he suggested. "Or," Gambit's smile turned wicked. "He wants to pursue that delightful femme."
Colossus looked shocked. "But she's younger than us!"
"So?" Gambit spread his hands. "A woman is a woman, mon ami. And she is pretty despite that make-up. I can understand that he wants to dally a while."
"And what about the plan? Luring the X-Men? Exposing them?"
Gambit threw himself down on a chair and switched on the TV. "If he wants us, he'll call, if not well, we can relax."
"You take life too easy," Colossus frowned, disapproving.
"I agree with him, mate," Pyro wandered into the kitchen and opened the fridge. "Maggie's been bloody rude lately, I don't really feel like trotting out and enacting that stupid trap tonight."
"Besides," added Gambit with a grin. "How're we supposed to get to de place wit'out Magneto transporting us, eh?"
"You have a point there," Colossus admitted.
The mansion was quiet after the team had left; even the New Mutants were subdued and attended to their homework with uncharacteristic zeal. Evan complained bitterly about being left behind, but Beast soon found him something to do that made him feel useful and less inclined to moan. And Rogue she searched for Erik who had vanished no long after the others left. She finally found him in the Professor's study, sitting by the window in the dark room looking out at the night sky.
"Are you okay, Erik?" she asked softly. Irrational fear rose up within her. What if he was regretting his decision to stay?
He turned and the frown marring his handsome features fell when he saw her. "I'm all right," he said. "Just thinking."
"About the mission?"
"Yes, and" he hesitated. "Rogue, does Xavier seem different to you?"
"Different?" She was puzzled. "How do you mean?"
"I've known Charles for years," Erik explained. "I worked with him, was his friend and then his enemy, but even though we haven't associated for years I _know_ him and tonight he seemed like a stranger"
"Maybe he was just stressed," Rogue offered. "Sometimes that can make a person behave weird."
"Perhaps," Erik mused. "Still, I feel uneasy. If I didn't know better I would assume that someone else was playing Charles' part, but the only person who could pull that off is...." he shook his head. "No, it can't be"
"You're talking about Mystique aren't ya?" Rogue felt a shiver run down her spine. What if Erik was right? Were her friends walking into a trap of Mystique's making? She swallowed, the bad feeling refused to go away. "Erik, Ah want to Ah think we should follow them."
He looked sharply at her, eyes narrowed. "Follow? Against Xavier's orders? Are you sure?"
The door opened then and they turned quickly to face a startled Tabitha Smith. "Oh!" she blinked. "I'm sorry guys, I heard voices and thought I should check it out considering that the room was dark and all"
"That's ok, Tabby," Rogue attempted a smile. "Erik and Ah were just chatting. How're you? Ya just got back yesterday, right?"
"Yeah thank God. It was nice staying with Amara and her folks for a while, but having restrain myself all the time argh! But I guess I needed the break, what with Nanny and everything else," Tabitha shrugged. "Trust me to get in a screwy situation like that, maybe I should've stayed with the Brotherhood, even if Mystique was running the show again."
"What?" Erik crossed the room rapidly to face the younger girl. "What did you say?"
"That I should've stayed with..." Tabitha's eyes widened. "Didn't you guys know that Mystique was back? She came with Wanda oh shit... I thought you _knew_!"
"We didn't," Rogue's mouth flattened to a thin line. Wanda knew that Mystique was around and she hadn't said anything anything. Rogue felt a surge of anger well up within against her friend. She looked at Erik. "Maybe your theory isn't so farfetched after all."
"Let's get McCoy," he said and they bolted from the room leaving Tabitha staring after them.
"All I want to know if HOW my socks got in the oven!" Pietro was yelling as Wanda walked downstairs. "It's not like they got up and WALKED there!"
"I dunno Petey," Lance shrugged. "Considering how often you don't wash your socks I wouldn't be surprised if they had developed intelligent life."
Pietro shot him a suspicious look. "Your sympathy overwhelms me, Alvers."
"Yeah, I'm a bleeding heart," Lance yawned. "Can you move outta the way? I can't see the TV."
"We're talking about my property here! Someone in this house STOLE my socks! I had to walk around sock less ALL day!" Pietro zapped agitatedly around the room.
"Will you just shut up about your socks!" Wanda spoke quietly, but there was a timbre to her tone that promised her brother immediate pain if he didn't heed her. Pietro's mouth closed abruptly and he eyed her warily.
"None of you morons checked, but Mystique left us a message," she said. "Apparently we have to be somewhere in... hmmm, twenty minutes."
"Why?" Fred asked through a mouthful of food.
"I don't know," Wanda said coldly. "She just gave the location and said 'be there'."
"Well, it beats sitting here listening to Pietro whine about his underwear," said Lance, he stretched and got to his feet. "I'll get the jeep started."
"If my sweetums is going then I'm going!" Todd smiled sickeningly at Wanda who immediately resolved to make sure Fred was sitting between her and Todd.
"I don't WHINE!" Pietro yelled.
Scott threw himself to one side, narrowly avoiding the laser beam firing at his torso, and sort cover while trying to work out if everyone else was all right and figure out where everything had gone horribly wrong.
The first part of the mission had progressed well enough. The Professor took them to a location on the edge of the city and landed the Blackbird in a warehouse backlot. No one was around and they disembarked without encountering any problems. The Professor kept in contact with Storm via a comlink and directed her to an apparently empty warehouse. Once inside they had to search for an underground entrance, which Kitty stumbled on after ten minutes. With a bit of teamwork they opened the trap door and descended into darkness, the faint smell reaching their noses telling them that they were close to the sewers. For a while they groped around in the dark, not knowing what they were looking for and then they saw the huge doors guarded by soldiers in unfamiliar uniforms. Via the comlink the Professor agreed that this was the place they were looking for and ordered them to 'take down' the guards as quickly and as quietly as possible. This was achieved and then Kitty phased through the doors to see what lay beyond. She returned, her face white, to tell them that there was a huge something fighting Wolverine and he looked like he was struggling.
So they did what good X-Men did when one of their own was in danger....
They rushed in to help.
Now they were scattered, desperately fighting a huge robot Wolverine called it a Sentinel - intent on destroying them. This was worse that Nanny, Scott thought, much worse. Nanny was smaller for one thing and had enough of a 'personality' that she could be distracted. Even her clones had been easy to fight compared to this massive thing programmed to kill. Nothing they did seemed to dent it. Even Kitty's phasing powers did little the robot had some sort of self-repairing system that adapted to her powers. It was too big for Jean to lift with telekinesis or for Kurt to teleport a piece of it away. Scott's blasts and Storm's lightening were virtually ineffective and Wolverine's claws only made it pause for a brief moment. For once Scott wished that Erik was with them. The former evil mutant's power would be very useful right now hell, his power and Rogue's new abilities combined would give them a better chance of surviving this!
"Stop it!" Scott chided himself. He couldn't give up, he was the team leader. Gritting his teeth he got to his feet and moved so that he could see the robot clearly. Ripping his visor off his face he opened his eyes and let his optic blasts go at full blast.
The force of the beam made the Sentinel stagger, some of its armour even started to melt. It struggled to turn and fire at Scott, but now Storm added some force of her own, helping Scott to push the monster back.
"Retreat!" She yelled. "Go back into the tunnel!"
Wolverine grabbed Kurt's arm the elf was dazed from a narrow escape and beckoned to Kitty. "Come on!" he growled, shoving them towards the entrance.
There was a sudden spay of gunfire and Kitty screamed, automatically phasing her body so that the bullets passed through her. Wolverine dived to the ground, pulling Kurt with him. "Damn!" he swore. "Trask must've posted people to stop us leaving."
"Who is Trask?" Kurt choked out.
"The bastard who built that thing. Storm! We're cut off!" he yelled.
Scott heard Wolverine's words just as he blacked out from power overload. Cut off and trapped by the Sentinel. Could things get any worse?
Inside the Blackbird Storm's voice crackled over the com, describing the desperate situation. Charles Xavier's eyes widened and changed colour just as 'his' body rippled and changed to a feminine form.
Mystique stared down at the comlink and frowned. This was an unexpected turn of events. When she took the form of a bird and listened outside Xavier's study, she assumed that the story about the Sentinel project and the rogue organization had been some lie that Magneto spun to lure Xavier and his X-Men into a trap. The sudden appearance of Sabretooth and Magneto's other lackys had already made her suspicious that some plan of Magneto's was under way - an assumption that she believed confirmed when Erik spoke so bluntly to 'Charles', revelling that his amnesia act was a sham, just as she had guessed. Now it seemed that Erik was telling the truth.
Well, she still had her back-up team ready and even if they weren't going to be fighting the enemy she expected, well, they could come in useful.
"Storm," she said in the Professor's voice. "Hold your position! I will send some back-up immediately."
"We will try, Professor."
Storm sounded weary, Mystique thought as she exited the Blackbird and hurried around the corner of the warehouse. Her mouth curved into an evil smirk. Truth be told, she wouldn't care much if Storm and some of those other annoying little X-geeks got hurt or killed. However, the smirk vanished, Kurt was in there too.
With a frown she shook away thoughts about her son, now was not the time.
The Brotherhood was waiting exactly where she told them to be. All looked bored, especially Pietro who seemed very edgy.
"Finally!" he said when he spotted Mystique. "What's the deal here?"
"The X-Men have encountered a little difficulty," Mystique smirked. "And you're going to help them."
There was a confused tangle of questions and indignant exclamations before Wanda's voice broke through, silencing everyone else.
"What are you up to, Mystique?"
Mystique opened her mouth to answer when the question was repeated, from above.
"Yes, Mystique, please enlighten us what are you up to?"
Erik, Rogue and Spyke floated down to the ground Spyke being carried by Erik's power and glared at the shape shifter.
Wanda's _expression lightened when she saw Rogue and her lips curved slightly in one of her rare smiles, but it was soon replaced with confusion when Rogue shot her an unfriendly look.
"What are you doing here?" Mystique demanded.
"Your game's up, Mystique, you forgot that Tabitha knew you were back and she spilled the beans," Rogue said angrily. "Where's the Professor?"
Mystique looked innocent. "Xavier? How should I know? He's probably off trying to save some humans from their own stupidity."
Rogue growled. "Fine then, there's more than one way for me to find out. Hang on to her, Erik." Meaningfully, she began to take off a glove.
"Hold it right there!" Lance stepped forward. "Noone absorbs our leader!"
"You want to go instead, Lance?" Rogue bluffed. "One, two, three makes no difference to me! Hell, the more the merrier."
Mystique tried to back up but was prevented by Erik floating down behind her. "No more games, Mystique," he said, staring at her.
She glared at him and then slowly smiled. "All right then," she said sweetly. "No more games... In which case, I suggest you release me and run in to the rescue. Your friends are in trouble."
"She's telling the truth," Wanda said, unsure why Rogue was so angry, but wanting to try and help. "She just told us we had to go rescue them."
"Then by all means, let's go," Erik said. "_All_ of us..."
In his control room, Boliver Trask smirked as he watched his Sentinel battle the six mutants. This was working out better than he'd even dreamed. Six mutants at once, six! And his Sentinel was still winning. Mentally he moved up the production schedule. Soon the world would be rid of the mutant menace, and he, Trask, would be the saviour of mankind!
"What is it?" He snapped.
"We have more mutant signatures incoming."
"How many more?" Trask demanded.
Jean grimaced as the Sentinel renewed its barrage of attacks against the telekinetic shield she had raised over herself, Scott and Kurt. Kitty and Wolverine had successfully distracted the Sentinel for a few minutes, but had been knocked aside and now the Sentinel was once again concentrating on Jean. With a cry, Storm flew at the robot, throwing bolts of lightening at its face. It stumbled, swivelled around and shot some green goop at Storm. She tried to swerve out of the way, but the goop enveloped her and hardened. Jean screamed as Storm fell to the ground, frozen in place.
"STORM!" Kitty ran towards her teacher.
"Kitty! Look out!"
Flaps opened all over the Sentinel's torso and missiles blasted towards Kitty. She looked up and screamed, almost too terrified to phase. Then, abruptly, the missiles stopped in mid air.
"Huh?" Kitty looked around and was confronted by Lance.
"Don't just stand there, idiot!" He grabbed her arm and dragged her aside. Kitty saw Erik and Rogue standing beyond him, their arms outstretched, eyes fixed on the missiles.
"Where did you guys come from?"
"Is this really the time to ask stupid questions?" Wanda snapped. She narrowed her eyes as the Sentinel sent a laser blast straight at her. The beams suddenly swerved and hit the wall.
In his control room, Trask swore as half of his analysis instruments fried.
Meanwhile, half the missiles diverted at Erik's control and returned to the sender. The Sentinel staggered, and then fell back as the one's which Rogue had been holding exploded, sending a shock wave through the room. Most of the others were knocked off their feet too.
"Why didn't you hit that thing with those?" Blob grumbled.
"It's harder than it looks," Rogue snarled.
"You really need to practice more," Lance said.
Kitty punched him in the shoulder.
"Sorry, but she's _my_ teammate. I can insult her, but _you_ can't."
"Thanks Kitty, Ah feel so loved."
"Um, guys, Jean's unconscious. I think she hit her head when she fell."
"Gosh, darn," said Rogue.
Erik shot her a look.
"Okay, okay Ah'm sorry!"
"The Sentinel's getting up!" Pietro said.
The Sentinel began firing at them again and everyone quickly dived out of the way, dragging various injured people with them.
Erik eyed the huge robot speculatively and then a very large, very smug smirk spread across his face. "You'd think that the person who created this would have bothered to make it out of something that is invulnerable to everyone," he said.
"Huh?" Rogue dodged a laser beam.
"It's made of metal."
A truly evil grin curved Rogue's lips. "Ooooooh...."
Trask's jaw dropped open as two of the mutants began peeling the Sentinel like a banana. *How could this be?* He thought in terror. *What kind of freaks are these?*
A sultry voice spoke up behind him. "Hello..."
Trask turned to see a blue female mutant smile at him, before lashing out with a vicious punch that knocked him flat.
Smacking him again to make sure he stayed unconscious, Mystique pushed him out of sight, and then morphed into him. Sitting down, she began calmly downloading the Sentinel data, a little smile playing across her face.
Erik nonchalantly tossed a missile away. Unfortunately it went up, straight up, through the roof. He looked up at the rather large hole and the daylight streaming through. *That's right... we're under that empty lot in the middle of the city...*
"The middle of the city..."
All he had to do was redirect his energies to the metallic platform that was beneath the Sentinel's feet and use his power to bring it up to the surface along the Sentinel and the X-Men. The sudden appearance of a fifty-foot robot and a large group with strange powers was bound to attract attention, even if the lot was vacant. The helicopter carrying the local traffic reporter would be in the air right now and would definitely divert to find out what was happening. The world would learn about mutants and Charles Xavier's unrealistic dream would be shattered.
Determination surged through him. This was his chance! He could still action his original plan. He flew back, out of the fray, and prepared himself, doing his best to ignore the small voice within that objected to this course. *It's for the best, this has to happen.*
But just before he started to lift the platform, Rogue flew into his line of sight. She was intent on the Sentinel, her expression fierce, and didn't notice his abstraction. Erik hesitated, staring at her before glancing down and looking at the others - all doggedly fighting.
Erik experienced a brief flash of foresight. Exposing them now would prove his argument, but the cost would be very high. He saw the X-Men hunted, imprisoned and ostracised by society and, more devastatingly, rejected by their friends. He knew the hurt, the crushing sense of loss they would experience when they realised how much they were hated... just for being different. He knew because long ago the same had happened to him.
And he realised that he did not want to see Rogue, Kurt or any of them no, not even Scott trapped behind bars, miserable and bitter.
His resolve died, the moment passing. With little regret Erik abandoned his plan and rejoined the fight, comforting himself that there really was no need to hasten the inevitable.
Rogue was really enjoying the chance to cut loose with her new magnetic powers.
"The left hand's connected to the left arm!" She sang as pulled the left hand clear off and tossed it aside. "The left arm's connected to... something with lots of hydraulic liquid..."
Kurt ducked a spray of oil. "Oh no, that stuff's never going to come out of my fur," he moaned.
"Watch where're you're throwing that stuff!" Lance shouted as he dodged a limb. "And why is she singing?"
Wanda laughed. "Because it's FUN!" She cracked her knuckles. "Now, what can I do with that leg?"
"Oh God," Pietro moaned. "There's two of em now!"
"Quit moaning brother, and do something useful for once," Wanda snapped. She threw a couple of hex bolts at the Sentinel, one of which missed and hit the wall.
Mystique swore as the rest of the cameras and recording equipment melted. *Time to go,* she thought to herself as she pocketed the data she'd collected.
With the combined effort of all the mutants, the Sentinel was soon in tiny little pieces.
"Wow, déjà vu," said Kitty.
"I think Nanny was tougher," said Erik. *After all, _I_ built her.*
"Smaller though," said Lance.
Erik glared at him. "Size isn't everything."
"That's what all the guys say," Wanda murmured to Rogue.
"Hm." Rogue shrugged and moved away. Wanda stared after her in surprise and hurt, before narrowing her eyes as the anger kicked in. *What the hell is her problem?*
"Let's get out of here," Spyke said. "I just want to go home and sleep!"
"How are we going to get Storm out of this green goop?" the newly recovered Scott asked, leaning heavily against Wolverine.
"No problem!" Kitty said, phasing into it.
"Thank you Kitty," Storm said once she was free. "Is everyone alright?"
"Noone's badly hurt," said Wolverine. "A few bumps and scratches is all."
"Good," Storm beckoned Kurt over. "If you will teleport me to the X-Jet, Kurt. The Professor and I will get it ready for departure."
"Yes Ma'am!" Kurt took her hand and they vanished in a puff of smoke.
"Uh..." Rogue looked at Erik.
"Funny that Chuck hasn't contacted us yet," Wolverine muttered.
Erik cleared his throat. "Well, that's probably because..."
Wolverine erupted out into the open. "MYSTIQUE!" He roared. "Where the hell are you?"
"Wolverine, how... nice to see you again," Mystique paused and turned around. "I see you're... uninjured."
"Cut the crap, where's the Professor?" He demanded.
"Oh I'm sure you'll figure it out," Mystique said with a smirk. She turned to leave just as the other mutants emerged.
"Not so fast! You're not going anywhere until you tell us where the Professor is," Erik said, grabbing Mystique by the arm. "I told you before, no more games."
"And I agreed with you..." Mystique smiled triumphantly. "Magneto!"
Erik's gaze faltered and his grip loosened.
BAMF! "Hey guys, the Professor's disappeared! Guys?"
Mystique tugged her arm free and smirked at him. "What's the matter Erik? Still trying to pretend that you don't know who you really are?"
Scott looked at Rogue. "What's she talking about?"
Rogue bit her lip.
"Oh, how precious, you haven't even told the X-Men," Mystique said mockingly. "Surely you know that Erik is the former self-proclaimed Master of Magnetism."
"We all know that," Wanda said pointedly. "But he doesn't remember it any more. He's changed. Right?"
She turned to look at Rogue, who wouldn't meet her gaze. "Right?"
"Oh, but he does," Mystique felt a wave of triumph wash through her. At last she would beat him. "Why don't you tell your dear children and your precious 'teammates' the truth? That you've regained your memories!"
"What? No way!" Spyke looked shocked. "You've been spying on us man?"
"It's not like that," Erik protested, turning to face his teammate.
Wolverine narrowed his eyes. He didn't feel so betrayed. After all, Xavier would have known that Erik had his memories back. He noticed Mystique backing away, grinning at the chaos. Swiftly he turned and grabbed her. "Not so fast," he muttered. "I still have a few questions for you."
She glared at him.
Wolverine smirked and activated his communicator. "Ororo, we know what happened to Chuck..."
Meanwhile a nasty scene was developing.
"Oh my God, you mean it's TRUE?" Kitty shrieked. "I don't believe this!"
"WHAT?!" Wanda screeched. "You mean it's really him!"
Jean looked at Rogue. "This is terrible!"
Rogue looked away.
Jean stretched out a hand, but Rogue ignored it and walked past her to stand by Erik.
Wanda watched as she took his hand in hers and squeezed it. Erik shot her a grateful glance in return.
"You _knew_," she said, pain and anger filling her eyes. "You knew all along and you never told me!"
"That's right," Rogue said. "Because he's changed. He's really changed Wanda."
"HE'LL NEVER CHANGE!" Wanda shrieked. Eyes blazing, she turned on Erik.
"I'll KILL you!!"
Erik stared at the furious Scarlet Witch.
"Wanda, please wait," he held out his hands. "I really am sorry for everything I did to you."
"LIAR!" She screamed. She advanced on his, hands outstretched to grasp and tear at him.
Rogue stepped into her path. "Stop it Wanda!"
"Get out of my way traitor," Wanda glared at her.
"Isn't that my line?" Rogue demanded as her temper boiled over. "Why didn't you tell me that Mystique was back?"
"It was none of your business!" Wanda snapped. "And you, I thought you were my friend, but you sided with HIM! You have no idea what he did to me!"
"Ah have a VERY good idea of what he did to you!" Rogue shouted. "Ah've got BOTH your memories, remember?"
"It's not the same!" Wanda shrieked. "You'll NEVER understand!"
"GET OUT OF MY WAY!"
Hex bolts blasted Rogue away.
"Sweetums, please stop this, you're scaring me," Toad implored from behind Blob.
"Wanda! That's enough!" Erik seemed to grow taller as he straightened up and loomed over her. "This behaviour is unacceptable!"
"Oh crap," said Pietro. "It's true. It's really him!" He paused. "Oh... now I know what the Rogue thing is... GROSS!"
Erik ignored his son's outburst, focusing on Wanda.
"Calm down," he ordered. "Think before you act Wanda. I don't want to hurt you, not anymore. You're my daughter."
"Okay, now this is just wrong," Spyke said to Kurt.
"You're telling me? He's only a year older than her now! But I'm not saying anything about it. I just want to get out of here. Now."
"Me too," said the Blob, who hadn't really understood much of what was going on, except that he didn't want to get involved.
"Then go," Rogue grated, stumbling past them, her eyes dark with rage. "Ya can't help anyway."
Kurt caught her arm. "How long did you know?"
"A while," she said shortly. "Look, Ah know Ah should've said something, but we talked to the Prof and it seemed best not to... ya know it would've made things awkward."
"That's true," Kurt agreed. "But Rogue... I don't think you should get involved in this now. Isn't it his fight?"
"But..." she bit her lip, looking at Erik and Wanda.
"Daughter by blood only," Wanda choked. Her hands wavered and lowered a little. "You never cared about me."
Erik sighed. "I do now," he said softly.
Everyone strained to hear his words, except for Wolverine who simply smiled slightly and tightened his grip on Mystique. "Well, well," he said. "Looks like he's getting her to calm down."
"I hope so," Kitty bit her fingernails. "She's freaking me out!"
"She has every reason to be angry," Scott growled.
"Scott," Jean laid a hand on his arm. "Not now."
Erik faced Wanda, mind racing as he tried to think of the words that would calm her down and make her stop. Nothing was coming to mind however, and he realised that the only way out of this was the truth. She deserved that much.
"It's true," he acknowledged. "I was a terrible father. I used you and threw you aside when you were no longer of any use to me. Worse than that, I imprisoned you. I was never there for you when you needed me, either of you." He threw a quick look to Pietro. "I'm sorry I ignored you son."
"Uhh..." Pietro looked surprised. "Are we really sure he's my father?"
Erik winced and turned back to Wanda. "Nothing I can say or do can make up for the past."
"No, it can't," said Wanda. "But... perhaps I won't kill you today. I know you'll show your true colours eventually. It's just a matter of time. And then you'll get what's coming to you."
She turned her back on him and stalked away. Toad ran after her. "Sweetums! Wait up!"
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" She gestured and the ground beneath his feet rippled, tripping him up.
"So I guess we're going home separately then," Lance said in the uncomfortable silence that followed. "All of us." He looked at Wolverine. "Including Mystique."
Blob turned to look at Wolverine too. Pietro was still in a daze.
"Not until we get some answers out of her," Wolverine replied. He touched his communicator. "You been listening, 'Ro?"
"Yes," Storm's voice crackled over the link. "But I'm afraid there is another problem. Beast just contacted me. Juggernaut is loose!"
Wolverine narrowed his eyes at Mystique. "Juggernaut, huh? Didn't you play this little game out once before, Misty? Getting stale in your old age?"
"Mind your own business!" she twisted in his grip, her form blurring with such speed that he couldn't maintain a firm grip. Wolverine snarled and slashed at the small bird that fluttered beyond his reach and into the sky.
"Well, you know where your Prof is," Lance shrugged. "We're done here."
Kitty rounded on him. "You can't just leave!" she cried. "Lance! You KNOW what Juggernaut is like!"
"Let him go," Scott sneered. "If Alvers doesn't want to help let him scurry home."
Lance jabbed a finger at him. "I'll deal with you later, Summers!" he stalked away, dragging Pietro along with him, Blob and Toad falling in behind.
"SCOTT!" Kitty yelled. "What was all THAT about?"
Jean shot Scott an irritated look. "Taking your anger out on other people isn't very mature Scott."
He flushed, already regretting his hasty words. Then his chin went up. "You're right, Jean. I should be angry with the person whose fault it really is... MAGNETO!"
Erik turned and glared at him. "Summers, I may be accountable to Wanda and Pietro, but I do not have to answer to YOU!"
Scott's hand flew up to his visor. "Why you..."
"QUIT IT!" Wolverine grabbed Scott's shoulder and pulled him back. "You can sort out your little differences later, bub. Right now there are more important things."
"Yes... you're right," Scott glared once more at Erik and then turned away, heading for the X-Jet. Everyone exchanged significant glances and followed.
"I can't believe that you liked that... jerk," Erik muttered to Rogue, falling into step beside her.
"And your character is just SO much better," she snapped, averting her face.
Erik hesitated and then placed a hand on her shoulder. "Wanda will come around. It wasn't your fault and she'll understand that... after a little time to herself."
"Yes, after all she's such a _forgiving_ person," Rogue said quietly as they entered the X-Jet.
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