Disclaimer: All belongs to Marvel. etc, etc, etc.
Authors notes: This is an AU ending to Season 2 and the timeline begins during the first half of 'Hex Factor', with references to 'Operation Rebirth' - where events have been changed for the purposes of this story (and will be explained - don't worry! ).
Words in //slashes// indicate telepathic conversation.
It was a beautiful day in Bayville, sunny and warm with just the hint of a cool breeze to keep the weather from being too uncomfortable. The weather seemed to have put the teachers in a good mood because there were no surprise tests that day, and even the harshest taskmasters set relatively light homework. All in all it was a perfect day and everyone was happy, except for one...
"Something bad is gonna happen, Ah just know it!"
Kitty rolled her eyes. "Oh come ON, Rogue," she shut her locker with a slight bang. "Like, how pessimistic can you be?"
The Southern girl shrugged. "Ah think Ah'm being realistic," she said. Her upper lip curled slightly as she regarded Kitty. "But if _some_ people wanna pretend life is wonderful then who am Ah to pop their deluded little bubble?"
Kitty scowled. Sometimes Rogue could really drag a persons mood down! She stuffed her books in her bag and then slung it on her shoulder. "The way you're acting you'd think we're going to be attacked, like, this minute!" she looked around. "By the way... where's Risty? I thought..."
"She had to go visit some family or something, she's been gone for a couple of days," Rogue's expression was sulky and Kitty laughed.
"Oh, so that's why you're so grumpy!"
"Are you stupid or something? No, wait... Ah have the answer to that, you ARE stupid," Rogue glared. "Ah am NOT grumpy! And even if Ah was it wouldn't be because Risty ain't here!" and with that she stalked off, the expression on her face causing the other students to give her an even wider berth that usual.
Kitty muttered a few uncomplimentary things under her breath and trotted off, eager to get home and check out the latest gossip on the new variety TV show she had started watching.
"Hey Kitty!" a hand tapped her on the back as she bounced down the front steps of Bayville High. Turning, Kitty smiled into the face of Evan Daniels. "Hey, Evan!" she said, her cheery mood once more back in place. "Going skateboarding?" she asked, noticing the board under his arm.
"Yeah, one of the guys told me about this thrashing place in the park," he grinned. "Thought I'd check it out. Want to come and watch?"
Kitty giggled. "Like, no offence Ev, but I really want to see Stars Stars and it's on in ten minutes!"
"In that case, you want to take the fast trip home?" Kurt Wagner joined them. "Express bamf!"
Kitty's nose wrinkled slightly. "I don't know..." she said. "Last time I did that my clothes smelt like brimstone for AGES!"
"Hey guys, want a lift?" Scott Summers called from the bottom of the steps, where he had just pulled up in his sporty red convertible.
Kitty cheered. "Yeah! Problem solved!"
She charged down the steps, Kurt on her heels.
"See ya later, guys!" Evan waved and, hopping on his skateboard, zoomed off towards the park.
"One of these days, he'll break his neck," Scott grumbled as he manoeuvred the car down the road.
Jean swatted him on the arm. "Lighten up!"
"Look - there's Rogue!" Kurt pointed.
Kitty groaned. "Aw... can't we just let her walk? She's all doom and gloom today... not that that's different from any other day, but..."
Scott ignored her and pulled up beside Rogue. "Want a ride?" he smiled. "There's plenty of room."
Rogue hesitated briefly, then shrugged and nodded. "Sure."
She squeezed in the back with Kitty and Kurt, smiling at him and glaring at her. Scott accelerated and the car was soon zooming towards the Xavier Institute.
"Stop!" Jean screamed.
Scott braked abruptly. "What? What?"
"Evan... the park..." Jean's hands fluttered to her head. "Something's very, very wrong!"
"Aw man..." Kitty groaned. She caught Rogue smirking at her and scowled. "Don't you DARE say 'I told you so'."
"Ah wouldn't dream of it," Rogue said sweetly.
The park was in chaos. People ran, screaming in panic, in all directions, but the thing causing the ruckus was not interested in ordinary humans. Its attention was centred on the boy desperately trying to lure it to a less populated area. Evan Daniels.
And hovering above, watching the proceedings with a twisted smile, was a woman with black hair.
"Who the hell is she?" Evan swore, flicking a barrage of spikes at the mechanical creature pursuing him. "And what the hell is THIS thing? YARGH!" his skateboard hit a rock and Evan tumbled to the ground.
The creature, a seven foot man-shaped robot with red eyes and long limbs, loomed over the boy.
"Excellent, Alpha!" the woman cheered her creation. "Let him be the first!"
Frozen with fear, Evan watched as Alpha opened its mouth wide and revealed a glowing ball of light sitting there. *I am SO dead...*
//Not yet, Evan!//
His eyes widened and he gasped in surprise and relief as a ruby red bolt slammed into Alpha, knocking it back. Before Evan could comment he was grabbed from behind and phased into the ground and away from immediate danger.
Scott fired several more blasts at Alpha while Storm added lightening bolts to help drive it back. Wolverine burst from the trees and slashed at it from behind, attempting to hamstring the thing.
But all the woman did was laugh. "Fools! You've done exactly as I expected!"
"Zaladane!" Storm cried, "What do you think this will accomplish?"
"Why nothing less than your ultimate destruction!" Zaladane laughed down at her.
"Oh mah God, and Ah thought Ah'd heard ALL the corny lines," Rogue grumbled.
"Who IS this crazy lady?"
"That ain't no lady," Wolverine growled. "She killed her sister and stole her magnetic powers and went on a rampage five years ago. Storm, the Prof and me managed to take her down. We thought she was safely imprisoned – apparently we were wrong. And she ain't happy about what we did to her!"
"Man, what IS it with people with magnetic powers, they all gotta be crazy psychopaths with delusions of grandeur?" Evan moaned.
"Maybe a side affect of their power?" Kurt suggested.
"Ah don't... look out!" Rogue yanked Kurt to one side as a bolt of sizzling white light shot out from Alpha's mouth and straight for the blue-furred boy. It missed him by inches and hit a large tree. Rogue and Kurt watched in astonished horror as the tree exploded.
"Aw shucks," Rogue said.
The battle began in earnest as Zaladane brought out more of her robot minions. The X-Men battled valiantly but it soon became clear that they were outnumbered and outgunned. They fought on, utilising every skill and tactic, and yet...
"Okay, she's just taken Storm out, does anyone ELSE see this as a losing situation?" Kitty demanded. "Yikes!"
"Less talking, more phasing!" Kurt warned her.
Rogue looked up at the woman floating above them. "Kurt, ya think you can get me up there? If Ah can drain her..."
"That is very dangerous..."
"You got any better ideas?"
They both ducked as Wolverine went sailing overhead.
"Not a one. Hang on!"
"What do you, aaaahhh!" Zaladane screamed as Rogue's bare hands grasped her upper arms.
"Ugh, come to mama little powers," Rogue muttered, hanging on to Zaladane, knowing that if she let go she would plummet to a rather nasty end.
"It's working!" Kurt cheered from the ground. "It's.. oh no!"
Both Rogue and Zaladane screamed, and electro-magnetic energy tore the robots nearby apart. All around them, metal unravelled and looped.
"Oh no," Jean said. "Something's gone wrong! It's a power overload! //Rogue! Let go!//
Rogue tried to release the screaming woman, but Zaladane grabbed her hands and screamed, "What are you doing to me?"
"Ah'm trying NOT to do it to you!" Rogue screamed. "Let me go ya megalomaniac!"
"Tell me what you're doing!"
"Let GO!!!!" Rogue twisted as memories and powers surged into her. "Make it stop! Make it stop! I don't want it any more!"
The X-Men attempted to get near to force the two women apart, but the electrical energy was so fierce that even Kitty couldn't approach.
"I can't separate them!" Jean moaned. "They're too..."
Scott put his hand up to his visor. "I... can't get a clear shot!"
"You are ALL USELESS!" A new voice spoke behind them.
Below Zaladane and Rogue, one of the broken robots quivered, and then flew up to strike them, knocking them apart and sending them both crashing to earth. Kurt bamfed below Rogue and caught her in his arms as she tumbled down.
"Oof! Rogue, you need to go on a diet!"
The joke was lost as Rogue stared into space, her eyes not registering him.
"Is she alright?" Jean came rushing up.
"Nein! She's not responding!"
"It's probably just a power overload, she should be fine in a few minutes. Whatever it was she was trying to do, doesn't seem to have worked. Was it supposed to be some sort of telepathic attack or something?"
"Who ARE you?" Scott demanded, turning to meet the gaze of a young man, his own age, with shoulder length white hair and icy blue eyes. The man looked at him with a superior expression on his face. Something about him awoke a memory in the back of Scott's mind.
Meanwhile, at the base of a tree, Zaladane opened her eyes and tried to focus on the figures in front of her. She could feel consciousness slipping away, but was determined to make one final gesture of defiance against these hated enemies. Using what little power she had left, she reached out to the power cables above her.
"WATCH OUT!" Kitty yelled as the cables suddenly surged towards them.
"Take cover!" Scott leapt aside, grabbing for the white-haired man, but failing to save him as the cables wrapped around his arms and threw him violently against a tree.
Zaladane smiled as oblivion took her. At least some portion of her revenge had been achieved.
"Get them to the medical bay! Quickly!"
"Well, the prison has locked Zaladane into the same type of stasis chamber that holds Cain," Xavier said. "So it is most unlikely that she will escape again. Now, as for the other matter." Xavier looked gravely at Storm and Wolverine. "I'm sure that I do not need to tell you who our new visitor is."
"But it doesn't make sense," Storm frowned, rubbing absently at the bandage on her arm. "When Rogue and Scott last saw him he was middle aged, if not older. How can he now be about sixteen?"
Wolverine frowned. "If he used Operation Rebirth on himself and it went wrong... I wondered after seeing the mess at his Sahara base when I went with Rogue and the elf. We couldn't find anything conclusive, but it looked like a tornado had hit the place." He smirked. "Heh, talk about poetic justice!"
"But he has little memory of his... shall we say... former self," Xavier mused. "Which puts us in a delicate position."
"What do you mean?" Wolverine asked. "I know exactly what to do with him," he unsheathed his claws. "Fricasse Magneto."
"Logan!" Storm glared. "The boy is no longer the Magneto we knew! And remember he did save the students."
"For what purpose?" Logan growled.
"Please calm down, both of you," Xavier held up his hands. "We need to discuss this in depth, along with the students."
"Why do they get a say this?"
"Because if we decide that Magneto should stay here then it will affect them."
Half an hour later a stunned group of teenagers stared at their mentors.
"You're kidding," said Kitty. "MAGNETO? HERE??? Mega-bad killer-mutant? I don't THINK so!"
A babble of voices rose up in response and Professor Xavier listened carefully. The student body appeared to be split more or less evenly, Kitty, Kurt and Evan seemed in favour of taking this opportunity to rid themselves of a menace, whilst Jean and Scott were undecided, but leaning towards incarceration or exile.
"Um, if Ah can say something...?"
"Of course Rogue," Professor Xavier motioned for the others to be quiet as the Southern girl stepped forward from her place in the doorway. "Are you feeling better now?"
"Uhm, yeah. Ah guess," Rogue said. She stood in the middle of the room, twisting her fingers together nervously.
"Um, well, you know, Ah'm not a big fan of Magneto," she looked at Kurt briefly. "But, at the same time, Ah was once a member of Mystique's Brotherhood, and if Ah hadn't found out that she was tricking me, then Ah could've done some very bad things. And Ah absorbed a little bit of him recently and there was something," she paused, struggling to explain the vague images in her head. "Well, Ah just get the feeling that he was, he coulda been an okay guy if... Well, anyway, if we condemn Magneto while his memory's gone, then we could be doing something really stupid, because we have the opportunity to... how can Ah put this? Um, to... turn him to the light side of the Force?"
Logan groaned as Kurt and Kitty giggled.
Rogue blushed. "Okay, so Ah'm not a great speechmaker, but y'all get what Ah mean."
"We do Rogue," said Jean. "And I agree."
"Me too," said Kurt. He shrugged. "Okay, so the guy did something to me once, but we have the chance now to change that. And to make sure that it doesn't happen again to anyone else. I would do the same if this happened to Mystique."
Logan, Storm and Xavier paused. Kurt looked at them.
"Wow, are you saying that none of you thought of that? I've been wondering why she wasn't around and what might have happened for ages."
"No, but now I'm going to have nightmares about a teenaged shapeshifter, WITH her memories," Logan growled.
There was a quiet snicker from various people.
"Very well then," Professor Xavier said. "Erik will be allowed to stay."
"Who's Erik?" Everyone asked.
"Well you didn't think Magneto was his REAL name did you, Cyclops, Nightcrawler?" Xavier smiled. "His full name is Erik Magnus Lehnsherr."
"Hey, who's gonna look after him?" Evan asked.
"Magneto you dork, who do you think I'm talking about?" Evan yelled at Kurt. "One of us is going to have to show him around and I for one am NOT volunteering!"
"Oh, I think it should be Rogue," said Kitty.
"Yes, Rogue is the perfect choice," Jean agreed.
"I agree Rogue, after your impassioned defence of him, you would seem to be the obvious candidate," Professor Xavier agreed. "Well, that's decided then."
"Huh? What? WAIT!"
"Well, I think you should all get some sleep. Ororo, will you check on Erik please. Good night everyone!"
The X-Men slowly filed out talking amongst themselves, but Rogue lingered behind.
"Yes Rogue?" Professor Xavier inquired.
"Ah'm not sure that..."
"But I am." He said firmly. "Just treat him as you would anyone else."
Rogue surprised him by raising an eyebrow at him. "Are you sure you want me to do that?" She asked with a slight smile.
"Ahem, I'm sure you'll do your best."
"Yeah. Um... Professor. There was another thing. Ah... Ah still have Zaladane's powers. Well not all of them of course, but, they're there."
"I know, you'd still have some of her memories too, but I have blocked them off for now. I can only theorise that the extended contact with her has caused you to retain her powers for longer than normal, but I wouldn't worry about it. They'll probably be gone by morning, so I suggest you get some sleep."
"Thanks!" Rogue flashed him a rare smile. "Thanks Professor! Goodnight!"
In the infirmary, Ororo watched the newest resident of the institute slowly open his eyes.
"Oooohhh..." Erik moaned. "What hit me?"
"A tree," Ororo told him. "How do you feel?"
"Like I was hit by a tree!" He replied with some heat. "Where am I? Who are you?"
"My name is Ororo Munro, you are at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters."
"Xavier... Xavier... that name rings a bell."
"Good evening Erik," Xavier wheeled himself into the infirmary. "I'm pleased to see that you've taken no lasting damage from your fight this evening."
Erik stared at him for a minute. "Do I know you? I feel I should? But... so much is... blurred."
"I understand, I know about your memory loss," said Xavier.
"But I know my name, and I know I have these powers..." Erik said. "But everything else is just... like a dream..."
"Don't push yourself, these things will come to you in time. For now, you just need to know that we are your friends, and are here to help you."
Erik relaxed a little. "I feel like I can trust you. Like you really want to help."
"I do. Believe me, I do." Xavier replied. "You and I have known each other for some time..."
"You're not my father are you?"
"No I'm not. Rather an old colleague."
"Yeah, very old," Erik muttered.
"But I want to help you, and so I am offering you a place at the institute. All of the other people here are like you, mutants. They come here to learn and to hone their abilities in peace and safety. So what do you say Erik, will you stay here?"
"I..." Erik frowned. "I came here because I remembered this place, Bayville. I don't know why, but I felt I could find the answers here. So for now, I will stay."
"Excellent. I have asked one of my students to guide you around and help you with finding your way around school..."
"So for now I'll have Ororo take you to your room..."
"And then in the morning Rogue will help you."
Xavier left the room and Erik stared after him.
Go on to Part One
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