Story Notes:
Thanks go out to Shakespeare for the title, but this fic isn't based on any of his plays. This story takes place four to five years after the movie, and uses movieverse alone. I only refer to the comics when it suits my fancy.
Four years after X-Men: The Movie.

POV: Dr. John Thacker (original character)

"Dr. Thacker, the president will see you now."

I'm in the White House, and I'm about to talk to the President of the United States. It's so surreal that I feel even pinching myself won't wake me from this dream. It feels so right, though, like my whole life has been building to this moment. All the research, the achievement of FDA approval, the development of my company, becoming a billionaire, all of that was just leading me to where I am now, at the cusp of all the power I've ever wanted.

I walk into the Oval Office and sit where President Creed directs me, a small table in the corner. He signals his advisors to leave and soon it is just him and just me, man to man.

"Dr. Thacker, you're probably wondering why I asked you here today."

"Not really," I answer confidently.

"Oh," he says, leaning back in his chair, "well then, enlighten me."

"You're interested in my nanoscalpels."

The miniature robots I'd invented had revolutionized surgery. They made the need for large incisions to be practically nonexistent. Take heart bypass surgery for example. Decades ago, the patient's breastbone would be broken and the chest cavity opened wide enough for a surgeon's hands to work. Only ten years ago, heart surgery became laproscopic with the aid of a computer-guided robot. Still, that surgery resulted in three pencil thick wounds in the patient's torso. My invention had completely revolutionized medicine, requiring only the injection of nanoscalpels into the blood stream of the patient. They find their way to the damaged area and the surgeon controls them remotely to perform amazingly accurate procedures with little to no surgical recovery time.

"That's only part of the reason, Doctor. I'd like to discuss with you an alternate use of your invention."

I sat up and leaned closer, my interest piqued.

"I won my presidential campaign on the platform of mutant registration, and well, it's obvious the program isn't working as well as it should."

That's an understatement. It was a pitiful failure. Hardly any mutants voluntarily registered. The manpower required to track down and register rogue mutants was too demanding on our peace-time, cut-back military. The president could call in the reserves and initiate the draft, but it might turn public opinion against him if people felt they were living in a state of martial law. The mutants were disruptive and disturbing, but not enough to warrant such extreme action in the United States of America.

The president continues, "I have begun to research other alternatives to registration."

He lays out two proposal papers in front of me. Curious, I reach for the first one and leaf through it. It refers to something called Sentinels. As I read further, skimming the details, I discover that Sentinels are two-story, mutant tracking and capturing robots. As I read about how the Sentinels should fly over the city, swoop down and capture a mutant before taking off again, I can't restrain my laughter.

"They can't be serious," I say, tossing the proposal back on the table.

"They are, Dr. Thacker. I assure you."

"Two-story tall robots? Jet-powered lifts? Mutant DNA detection from far distances?" I shake my head. "It reads like science fiction."

"So you don't believe it to be practical?"

"No way. First off, the backwash from a jet-powered landing would throw pedestrians and vehicles everywhere. Second, DNA testing for the mutant gene can only be completed through blood analysis. Not all mutants look different and not all humans look normal. You just can't program a robot to guess. Third, the mutants are dangerous because of their powers. They would most likely fight back against these 'Sentinels,' and I would hate to think of the millions in property damage such a battle would cause, let alone the deaths of innocent, human bystanders."

"I agree, but that proposal and this one," he says, handing me the other, thicker booklet, "are the only reasonably practical ones."

If the Sentinels were reasonably practical, I'd hate to see the other submissions he'd gotten.

As I flicked through the new proposal he'd handed me, I could immediately tell that it was written by a research scientist. Only a doctor with no practical experience in treating patients could think up something so amateurish and dangerous.

"The Legacy virus?" I ask.

"Yes, a genetically-engineered virus designed to kill only mutants."

"It wouldn't work." I state, shaking my head. "Viruses are notorious for mutating, even under normal circumstances. A designer virus exposed to a twisted, unpredictable immune system would change even quicker. Before a few months passed, the virus would probably attack humans as well. We would be less likely to survive because we don't have the mutant, genetic advantage. We'd effectively wipe humans off the face of the earth, making it a haven for mutants."

"This is exactly why I asked you here, Doctor. My advisors have been suggesting that I choose from either of these programs, but I agree with you. I don't think either would work in the way their creators expect."

"Mr. President, excuse me, but you could have asked any number of robotic experts or practicing physicians about either of these projects and gotten the same opinion. Why did you want to see me?"

"Because I know your views on the mutant menace, and I believe you can provide me with a third option. How difficult would it be to modify your nanoscalpels to be mutant detectors?"

Now that is an interesting idea. The nanos would have to be slightly bigger to contain the DNA sampling equipment, but all the other equipment needed is already there. Deployment might be a problem. They couldn't fly. If we were looking at a small deployment, we could probably contaminate a person and then everyone that person contacted would be exposed. For large deployment, we could infest a city's water supply, or better yet, lace food in the grocery stores with it. A wide number of humans and mutants would be exposed.

We would have to activate the nanos simultaneously, though, so no one could catch on. For medical purposes, the surgeon controls the nanos through electromagnetic signals so they already have receivers. A sequence of signals could be programmed and broadcast to a wide radius to make the nanos respond at the same time. It could work.

"It would be possible, and it would probably work," I answer.

"Excellent," President Creed says with a satisfied smile.

"But..." I amend before he can say anything further.

"But? But what, Doctor?"

"Do you really want to eliminate all mutants? Some might be beneficial."

"All mutants are a menace to human superiority on Earth," the President replied, pounding a fist on the table to make his point.

"With respect, Mr. President, that's not true. Sure, all mutants are subversive, but some of them could be detained without restricting their mutation."

"For example?" he asked through gritted teeth, obviously furious at my suggestion that any mutant might be better off alive.

"Healing. That's relatively common as mutations go. The mutant who heals could be physically restrained and exposed to viruses, bacteria, any disease for which we don't have a cure. Can you imagine? We'd have a cure for Ebola Virus, Hanta Virus, AIDS, hell even the common cold. The possibilities are endless."

"I... That is a valid point, Dr. Thacker. What other mutations would you save?"

"It would depend on what we found. The DNA equipment in the nanos should give us a general idea of the type of mutation in each subject. We could decide to kill or capture on a case-by-case basis. Of course, telekinetics and telepaths would be uncontrollable and require elimination. So too for mutants with evading abilities or high-powered defenses. I'm not suggesting we save many, just that we save the few we can use."

"How soon before your modified nanoscalpels could be ready?"

"It'll take," I pause the calculate the time needed, "nine months to a year, and then we'll be able to start limited trials. I'd like to test it on a small area first."

"Not to worry, Doctor. We will start with the mutant lobbyists. Their strange politics make them more than likely to either have a mutant child or be friends with mutants."

"That sounds reasonable." I pause, and then continue with a tactful voice. "Mr. President, as excited as I am to be involved in this project, research and development costs money. My company..."

"The government will fund your research and pay you handsomely for your service to humanity," President Creed answers with a dismissive wave. He turns around and presses a button on the wall. In seconds, his two advisors walk back into the office. "Dr. Thacker, this is Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Duncan. They will work out all the details with you and prepare the contract. All I ask is that you keep me informed of your progress."

"Of course, Mr. President," I answer before I am led out of the room.

A year later.

POV: Logan

I wake to Marie filling my senses. Her scent, her appearance, her touch (even through protective fabric), it's more intoxicating than a bar-full of liquor. Even after five months of marriage, I still can't get over the overwhelming calm, the rightness I feel when I wake up with her every morning. It took me long enough to figure out, but when I did and when I convinced her to the point where she did, our love became heaven on Earth.

The sun's barely peaking over the horizon and it's a Saturday mornin', so there's no reason for me to be wakin' up. I'm still awake, though. I'm hot, but I don't know why. It was Marie's turn to dress up for bed so I'm pretty exposed here, but I'm still hot, almost burnin'. The itchin's back, too.

I don't get sick and I don't have allergies, but something was making me itch somethin' fierce yesterday for a few hours. It started in my arm and moved up my shoulder and into my chest. It didn't feel like my skin was itchin', though. It felt deeper, like my blood. I tried scratchin' at my skin, but it didn't help at all. In fact, it just made the itchin' more annoying. After a few hours, though, it went away and I forgot about it.

Now, the itchin's back and it's worse. Even though I know it won't help, I can't stop scratching. The itch's moving down my chest into my gut and then down into my thigh. I'm really scratchin' up skin now, but my healin' factor's replacing it as soon as I pull it up. It's not deep enough. My blood's itchin' and nothing but scratching my blood will help.

There's no other choice. I release my claws and plunge them into the flesh of my thigh, tryin' to find the itch and get rid of it once and for all.

POV: Rogue

I don't profess to have senses as strong as Logan's, but I don't need them when the smell of coppery, tangy blood practically fills our bedroom, waking me up. I roll out of bed and take a defensive position even before I open my eyes. Once I scan the room, though, I don't see any danger. It's just me and Logan. He's sitting on the bed, facing away from me and looking down, not even noticing that I'd gotten up.

"Logan?" I ask as I walk around the bed to face him.

Where from the back he looked perfectly fine, from the front, he looks like he just came out of a war zone. His claws are out and coated with blood as are his arms, chest, stomach, and legs. Old blood has formed an alarmingly-wide puddle on the carpeting at his feet. The only wounds I can see are bone deep slashes in his right thigh, and as I watch in shock, he slices into his flesh again with a frustrated growl. I'm at his side in an instant, grasping his wrists and holding the blades away from his body.

"Logan, what the hell are you doing?" I demand.

He looks up from the wounds as if noticing me for the first time.

"Itches," he mumbles.


He starts to shift around like a little boy in a starched suit and his attention falls back to his leg again.


He looks at my gloved hands holding his wrists, sheathes his claws, and grasps my hands with his opposite hands. Then, he pulls both of my hands into one grip. Even though his hands are slick with blood, the glove material provides enough traction that he can maintain a hold. Now that he has me out of the way, he releases his left-hand claws and slices at his healing leg again.

"Logan! Stop that!" I command, putting my leg on top of his wounded one to protect it.

He growls in frustration and tries to move me out of the way, but he won't release his grip on my hands so he can't get me far enough away.

"Marie," he warns, but I ignore him. Whatever's going on, I'm not going to allow him to hurt himself any further.

After about a minute of this, he stops and releases my hands, looking down at his leg in surprise.

"Stopped again," he says in low tones. Then, after a moment's contemplation, he adds, "Still hot."


He doesn't answer, apparently still captivated by his thigh, but he doesn't seem to be hurting himself anymore so I think it's safe to risk it. I run to our bedroom door, unlock and open it, and shout, "Jean!" down the hallway.

After waiting a few seconds, I shout her name again, my voice rising in pitch as my worry increases. Finally, she rushes out of her room at the end of the hall and runs toward me with Scott close behind her.

When she reaches me, she asks, "Rogue? What is it?"

I just turn and let them see Logan. It's like he's in some sort of trance, mumbling to himself and rubbing his hands over the healing tissues. Jean gasps and rushes to his side while Scott looks around the room, trying to see what might've caused this.

"Logan, what happened?" Jean asks, and I answer for him.

"He cut himself. He said that it itched."

"Itched," Logan agrees.

After running tests in the Med Lab for hours, Jean finally sits down to talk to us. During that time, Logan had healed and gone back to his usual, alert self. However, we both are more than ready for answers as to what had caused his strong reaction in the first place.

"Well, Logan," Jean begins, "you're running a fever, but I don't see any indications of increased histamine in your system."

"What?" Logan and I both ask.

"I can't find a reason for why you would be itching," Jean clarifies. "I also don't know what's causing this fever. All the viral and bacterial tests I ran came back negative."

Logan gets up from his chair and starts to pace Jean's office. "Jeanie, I didn't just do this for fun. Somethin's wrong."

Jean holds up her hands up in surrender. "I agree. It's just going to take more tests to narrow it down."

"What kinda tests?"

"You seemed slightly disoriented when I first saw you. I'd like to take a spinal tap and check for meningitis."

"I wasn't disoriented. Just confused 'bout what was goin' on."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Logan can't get sick like that with his healing factor anyway."

"We don't actually know the limits of Logan's healing factor," she explained in a voice she usually reserved for students. "He has a fever, and whatever's causing it needs to be treated."

Needless to say, she talked us into it. Logan was now sitting on a hard exam table dressed in a revealing, paper gown for the second time today. I don't mind the revealing part, but the outfit and our location leaves much to be desired. Jean's in the middle of explaining what a spinal tap is like when Logan startles and he releases his claws.

Jean reacts before he can make a move, freezing him in place.

"Itches... it's movin'... itches," Logan whines.

"Moving? What's moving?" Jean asks, as I watch my husband helplessly strain against her hold.

"Itch... movin' up... my back," Logan grinds out, his face twisted in uncomfortable agony.

"Jean?" I anxiously ask. "What's going on?"

"The itch is moving?" she asks Logan, ignoring me. She walks around the bed that he's sitting on so she can see his back. "Where? Where is it on your back, Logan?"

"Middle... movin' up," he answers in a shaky voice.

"Jean, do something!" I demand.

"I don't see anything," she says, then she puts her hands on his back, drawing a moan from his clenched lips. "Where is it now, Logan?"

"Shoulders... movin' up... neck."

As soon Logan says that word, his body collapses bonelessly across the bed. In only a split second, I collapse in much the same way, falling into a twisted heap on the floor. In my line of sight, I can see Jean sprawled on the floor on the other side of the bed.

I try to get up, to go to Logan or crawl towards Jean, but I can't move. I can't move anything! My legs, my arms, nothing responds. Not only that, though. I can't feel anything below the neck, either. My cheek feels cold on the metal floor and my forehead aches where it struck, but my arms and legs are gone, nonexistent. If I wasn't still breathing, I might think I'd been decapitated.

"Marie?!?" Logan calls out desperately from far above me.

"Logan, I can't move! I can't feel!" I answer in panic.

"I can't either, darlin'," he answers in a voice that is equal parts anger and fear. "What about Jeanie? Where'd she go?"

"She's on the floor, too," I answer. That's odd. Why doesn't she speak up? "Jean?" I ask, but no answer comes from her still form. "Jean?" I ask again with still no response. She's facing me, but her red hair is drawn across her face, so I can't see if she's awake.

After about a minute of silence, I speak again, "Logan?"


"What happened?"

"Dunno. Must've had somethin' to do with the itchin'. Moved up to my neck and now I can't move."

"But Jean and I didn't have any symptoms. Why're we like this too?"

"Can't answer that, darlin'."

"Do... do you think someone'll come find us?" I ask, my slightly shaking voice giving away some of my fear.

"Scooter's bound to any second. He and Jeanie got that mind-link thing. He'll know that somethin's wrong with her."

Yeah, that's right. Scott'll be here any second.

A seeming eternity passes, probably a minute or so, and still no Scott. I start counting the seconds so I can better judge how long it's taking. After about ten minutes, I hear a shuffling above me.

"Logan?" I ask.

"I'm healing, darlin'. Gimme a bit longer and we'll be fine."

I start counting again.

It takes another fifteen minutes before a clumsy Logan is crouched at my side, straightening my body out on the floor. When he's done, he draws his bare fingers through my hair in a comforting gesture and for the moment, it's everything I need. I can't take more than a moment, though. I'm not the only one lying on the floor.

"Logan, check on Jean."

I'd been worrying about her all this time. She'd probably been knocked out by the fall and could be seriously hurt.

"Don't have to, darlin'," he answers in a gentle voice, tinged with sadness.


"She's dead, Marie."

"What?!?" I yell.

"Probably been dead since she fell."

"What?! How?"

Logan opens his mouth to answer and then jerks his head up instead, listening to something I can't hear. Then, he quickly starts gathering my limp body into his arms.

"Logan..." I start to ask, but he stops, placing a finger over his lips.

"Quiet, Marie. We've got company."

I listen as he quietly stands up, holding my dead weight. There are voices, unrecognizable men's voices in the lower levels of the mansion. We've been invaded.

POV: Logan

My skin feels like pins and needles are pressin' in all over it. It's like the tingling you feel after your foot falls asleep and you finally let the circulation come back, only spread out over your entire body.

Still, I'm healin'. Marie's not. As soon as I see her crumpled on the floor, I want to touch her and let her heal, too. Before I get a chance, though, I hear the voices.

"Those last two have to be down here somewhere. Check every room." a deep voice commands.

Other male voices answer with a unified, "Yes, sir."

They're military, and they're after me and Marie. From the sound of footsteps echoing down the metal-plated hallway, there's gotta be at least twenty of 'em. They're splitting up, but if they find us in here, the sounds of fightin'll let the rest of 'em know just where to come. I've gotta get Marie outta here. I can't fight and protect her at the same time.

I lift her into my arms, but she's limp, a dead weight. The way I'm cradling her, her head lolls back at what's gotta be an uncomfortable angle. I can't carry her like this. I set her down and instead lean over to pull her over my shoulders in a fireman's carry, but before I can move her, she half-whispers, half-says, "Logan."

I freeze, waiting for the voices to get louder and the footsteps to speed up, but they don't. They must not have heard her.

"Marie, you gotta be quiet," I whisper, barely audible.

"My skin," she whispers back, quieter now.

Dammit. I'm still wearing that damn hospital gown, and even though she's fully clothed, there's no way I'll be able to pull her over my shoulders without her face touchin' my bare skin. That's why she stopped me.

There's no time, though. The footsteps are gettin' closer, and I'm sure those doors'll whoosh open any second. We can't be here when they do. Cradling her in my arms as quickly and gently as I can, I hurry over to the pile of clothes I'd changed out of behind the privacy screen and lump them onto her stomach before heading to the back of the lab.

There's an elevator back there leading down to the flight deck that's used mostly for medical emergencies. Despite my healing factor, I've become very well acquainted with that lift over the years. I usually haven't had to stay in the lab more'n a few hours before I heal, but until then, Jeanie's insistent on checkin' me out.

The lower levels are made up of two stories to give the plane enough room and the Med Lab is on the higher level. The lift'll get us deeper into the underground, but it'll also get us further from whoever's lookin' for us.

I set Marie down as soon as I enter and have a long sleeved flannel shirt pulled on by the time the bell dings. I press myself against the wall next to the doors and am ready for a fight when they finally open onto the flight deck.

As soon as the air from the massive room invades the elevator, I know that no one's waitin' to capture us. They probably haven't made it down this far yet. No, only the scent of death hangs in the air.

Marie's facin' away from the doors and I'm glad, 'cause Hank's body is lyin' on the ground underneath the jet in plain sight. Even if I could fly the thing, there's no way we'd escape in that. The engine's in pieces, parts spread neatly around Hank's body on tarps. He must've been working on it when it happened. Just like Jean, it looks like he died instantly.

"Logan? What is it? What's going on?" Marie asks, startling me from Hank's limp form.

"Nothin'," I say quickly, then return back to my clothes. "There's no one here. I'll just get dressed, and we'll get movin'."

I don't think she believes me. Hell, I've never been a good liar, especially with Marie. She knows me in some ways better than I know myself. Still, she lets it slide. In no time, I've got my jeans snapped, my shirt buttoned, and my boots pulled on. We're good to go. Just one more thing.

"Marie, I kinda... well, I gotta use you as a doorstop. We can't let 'em follow us with the elevator."

"It's ok, Logan."

"I'll be right back," I assure her.

Pulling Marie half-way out of the lift, I use her to keep the doors open as I run to get one of Hank's screwdrivers that I can use as a more permanent stop.

As I crouch down by Hank, though, I see two more bodies on the other side of the Blackbird: the Popsicle and his wife. They've collapsed into each other's arms, sitting on crates where they'd probably been keeping Hank company. I thought I'd smelled them in here, but I was hoping I was wrong.

I feel my rage risin' when I look at Kit Kat's pregnant belly. She was expectin' in three months. I want to turn around and hunt down the faceless men followin' us. I want to plunge my claws into them and watch them die for what they've done.


Marie. Gotta stay focused. She's completely helpless, paralyzed like this. If I run off and get myself killed or captured, she'll be caught too.

"I'm here," I answer, picking up a flat-head screwdriver and going back to where she lay, using it to jam the doors open.

Now that I'm covered, I pull her onto my shoulders, her right arm and leg hanging over for me to grab onto. With her positioned like this, her head isn't bobbing around so much and she's facin' so she can only see what's right below her on the floor.

Heading for the auxiliary stairwell, I take a wide path around Hank, so she won't see him lying there. They'd become good friends over the years, and I didn't want her to have to see him like that, his eyes staring lifelessly up at the hangar doors high above.

Once I enter the stairwell and reach the top, I stop before opening the door, listening for any movement. There isn't any, and when I crack the door open, I can't smell anything but more death. Slipping out into the open foyer, I see even more bodies. Kids are strewn where they fell, in the hall, on the couch by the TV, around the foosball table, everywhere. I can't hear any breathing, so they're not paralyzed. They're all dead.

I don't know how long I stood there, staring at their innocent, pale faces before Marie whispered my name. That's when I came back to my senses and realized that my claws were out and I was growlin' low in my throat. When I clamp my mouth shut, though, I can still hear noises, outside. Men's voices, shifting fabric, and muffled, soft thumps. I wanna go over to the window and check it out, but there's no way I can move without Marie seein' the bodies. They're too close together for her to miss them in her peripheral vision.

"Marie, baby," I whisper. "Close your eyes."

"Logan, what..."

"Trust me, darlin', just do it."

She doesn't answer, but as I walk over to the closest window, she's still breathin' evenly so she must've listened. Once I've siddled close enough that I can just barely see what's going on without being visible to the men outside, I feel suddenly sick to my stomach and am glad Jeanie didn't let me eat lunch. The muffled, soft thumps I hear are the sound of children's bodies as they pile 'em up like dry cord wood. They're collecting them from the grounds, and I'm sure they'll soon start on the inside rooms.

There's no one alive here, no one but me and Marie and the soldiers. They killed everyone else. How did we survive? Was it my mutation? Does Marie still have some of it that's keepin' her alive?

Even as I wonder this, I see two soldiers walk past my window carryin' Cyke's body, only he's not dead. I can hear his choking sobs and see the tears streaking down his face from under his glasses. I get closer to the window, tryin' to see where they're takin' him, and I can just make out the back of a black van.

When they open the back, I see a few more kids in there, paralyzed and cryin', and just before the doors shut, I can hear Cyke say Jean's name through his hitching breaths. He knows she's gone, just like Marie and I thought, but he couldn't get down there to help us 'cause he was just as bad off as we were.

Whoever these soldiers are, they killed whoever they didn't want and paralyzed the rest. Judging from the back of that van, they didn't want very many. They've killed children without a second thought and I don't want to know what they have planned for the people they wanted to keep.

Just as I'm thinkin' about how I can get to that van, I hear a door opening on the other end of the foyer and start to run in the opposite direction. I can't let 'em get Marie. There's no way she's ending up in the back of that van, too.

I make it into the kitchen, and I don't hear anyone followin' so I don't think they saw us. Still, I can't push our luck any more. We've gotta get away, regroup, and then rescue Cyke and the others when we've got a better chance at winning. I head towards the garage.

It doesn't smell like anyone was in here when it happened, no death, just stray people smells and gasoline. I lower Marie off of my shoulders and into the passenger seat of Scooter's black, convertible Porsche. He's fitted it with the same turbo engine that's on his motorcycle, and it's the only thing that'll get us far away fast enough that these guys won't be able to follow us.

I strap Marie into the passenger seat and lower it down until she's practically lying flat on her back. They've got guns and automatic weapons, holstered and casually slung but still there, and I don't want her gettin' hit. Sniffin' and listenin' by the garage door, I don't hear anyone close by, still I'm not takin' any chances. I start the car at the same time I trigger the doors. Just when we've got enough clearance, I speed outta there, racing down the driveway.

We caught 'em off guard, but they're professionals. They start shootin' at our disappearing vehicle, but I know it's too little too late. Of course, that's before I take a bullet in the back of the head.

POV: Rogue

I'm so scared about so many different things right now that I can barely keep them straight. Even just focusing at what's currently happening, I'm dealing with more than enough to terrify practically anyone.

Logan's been shot in the head. I watched helplessly as he whipped forward, his skull clanging on the steering wheel at about the same time I heard the rapport. He stayed in that position, slumped over, so I have a good view of the injury. It actually blew part of his scalp off and the wound bled heavily for the few seconds it took his healing factor to kick in. Once it did, the bleeding slowed and his scalp started regenerating. He seems to be healing, but the fact that he was shot in the head has added to my worry because...

Logan's unconscious. Even though the adamantium protected his skull, getting hit in the head that forcefully will probably knock anyone out. In any other situation, it wouldn't be so bad but...

Logan's driving. His foot's eased up on the accelerator now that he's out, but it's still there and we're still speeding up. The only reason we're going straight is that both of his hands are caught in the steering wheel. At any second, a bump on the road could knock one of them loose, causing the car to veer off the road. I could even deal with that if it weren't for the fact that...

I'm paralyzed. I can't move; I can't take the wheel or push on the brake; I can't even see where we're going. I'm practically lying down in this reclined seat, and the only thing I can actually do is scream at Logan to wake up.



I watch as the top of the school gates rush past our convertible. The road is only straight another two hundred feet or so before it ends and we have to turn onto the main road.

"Logan, please, wake up!!"

No response.

We've reached the first of the trees that shade the road. Only about 150 feet to go.


"Hmph." Logan's groaning, and he's moving his head a little, but he's still not sitting up.

There's the tree that was struck by lightning last summer when 'Ro and Remy split up. Only another 100 feet.

Logan's moving his head back and forth a bit, and he's trying to pull his hands free from where they're caught.

"Logan! No, you're driving. Keep your hands on the wheel!"

He groggily turns his head just slightly back in my direction and squints at me like he can't quite get his eyes to focus. I can see he doesn't really know what's going on yet and yelling at him isn't going to help him move faster. I have to be calm and give simple instructions.

"Logan," I say, but despite my efforts, my voice is shaking. "Put your foot on the brake and stop the car."

We only have about 50 feet left, but Logan still isn't stopping. He just blinks at me then turns back around to look down at the steering wheel like he doesn't know why it's there. Finally, he slowly lifts his head to face the road.


Logan slams on the brakes and spins the wheel around to turn us onto the main road and away from the forest that we'd be racing towards just seconds earlier. We make it with about two feet to spare.

Before we'd left, Logan strapped me into a seatbelt, but the shoulder strap doesn't move along with you when you recline the seat. My body shot up and forward, jerking against the shoulder harness before bouncing back onto the almost flat seat. If I could feel anything, I might be sore, but as it is, I'm just relieved we're still alive.

"Marie, you ok?" Logan's blinking at lot and turning his head right and left, but he's awake now and watching the road as we pick up speed again.

"Yeah, you?"

"Gettin' there."

We sit in silence for a few minutes, then I ask the question that's been bugging me since we got out of the Med Lab, "Logan, why did they leave us?"

Logan turns back at me for just a second with a puzzled expression on his face. "What?"

"The school was attacked. It took at least thirty minutes for us to get out of the Med Lab, and by that time, they'd already left. I understand that there was a battle going on and they probably had to retreat, but if not for us, I would've thought Scott would at least come back for Jean. Oh, unless he knew she was dead. Maybe..."

"They didn't leave us," Logan answers so softly that I barely hear it. His voice has a rough edge to it that I've never heard before, like it hurts him to push out the words.

"They were coming back?" I ask. "Are we rendezvousing with them?"

"No," he answers curtly, his posture tensing and his eyes fixed straight ahead.

Something I'm saying is really upsetting him, and even though I'm really confused, I push my curiosity down, choosing to wait until we have a quieter moment to discuss it. Still, I have to talk about something. It's not like I can pass the time by watching the scenery. I can only see the bits of trees that are high enough and close enough to the road to be visible from my prone position.

"Logan, we have to get rid of the car," I say, changing the subject.

He relaxes a bit, probably relieved I'm not pressing the other issue.

"Yep, it's too identifiable. I'm gonna trigger the supercharger on all the straight stretches of road until we use up the nitrous oxide, then we'll look into getting another car."

I try to nod, but I can't so instead, I say, "Sounds good."

Logan just doesn't feel like talking. Whenever I bring something up or ask a question, he gives me short answers and then goes back to brooding. It's making the time pass so slowly for me. The only interesting moments are the times Logan's used the supercharger. I can feel my head getting pushed back into my seat when he turns it on, and when he flips it off, he has to put one hand on my chest to keep my body from flying forward again.

With that last burst, we're pretty much out of the nitrous oxide and running on gasoline only. It's time to go looking for a new set of wheels. The title to the Porsche is in Scott's name, but Logan's sure he can find a buyer in New York City. That's where we're headed. We'll get lost in the urban jungle and come out camouflaged, ready to head for Canada.

Until we get the new car and find a place to hole up, I can't let Logan touch me. We're sitting targets right now. Whoever took over the mansion, government soldiers Logan thinks, got a good look at our car and probably has the license plate number. I can't believe that we haven't been pulled over yet. Even if we don't have an APB out on us, Logan hasn't exactly been following the speed limits. I'm not complaining, though. The sooner we get to a safe place, the sooner I'll be healed.

I just keep telling myself that over and over. I just have to hold on for a few more hours and I'll be able to move again. Of course, that's easier said than done. You never realize just how much your nose can itch until you can't lift up your hand to scratch it. Sure, Logan tried once I got so obsessively frustrated that I actually asked him to, but gloved hands just don't do the job. I wonder if anyone's ever died from itching. If this keeps up for a few more hours, I know I probably will.

Finally, I'm lying on a bed in a relatively nice hotel. 'Relatively' is the operative word. It's better than most of the memories I absorbed from Logan about his standard accommodations, but Motel 6, it's not. Still, I have a roof over my head, a spring-like material under my body, and a $6,000 Jeep in the parking lot with plates we swapped with a Ford Explorer's in a mall parking lot, hoping that the owner doesn't notice the change too soon. That's more than I could say a few hours ago, but it's a huge chasm away from what I had just this morning.

It just feels unreal how I woke up in my warm, comfortable bed this morning to find my husband cutting designs into his thigh and now it's night and I'm a quadriplegic in a ratty, hotel bed waiting for self-same husband to heal me. He'd better do it quick, too. I haven't had much in the way of food or water today, but if I'm paralyzed, that means I can't control anything. Let's just say we're extremely lucky my pants are the same color tonight that they started out as this morning and leave it at that.

Logan's never been nervous about my skin before, but ever since we stopped, he's acting like he doesn't want to touch me. He brought me in first, then he spent an inordinate amount of time checking the hotel room and killing the roaches he found. Usually, he lives in a sort of peaceful coexistence with the clicking insects, but tonight, it's like he's looking for anything that will keep him busy and away from me. When he finishes searching the room at 11 p.m. and says that he wants to go out shopping for us before bed, I can't keep quiet any longer.

"Logan, you don't have to touch me. Maybe... maybe it'll wear off on its own. We can wait until tomorrow."

"No," he says sharply, spinning around to look at me. Then, his face softens and he says, "No, darlin', you shouldn't wait. It's just..." He sits down beside me and places a hand on my limp arm. "Before I touch ya and you get my memories and all. I've gotta tell ya somethin'. It's about the, uh,... about what happened today."

POV: Dr. John Thacker (original character)


The captain standing in front of me cringes in reaction to my shout, and I take a little bit of pride at that. I've never been in the military, but I didn't become a billionaire standing in the background and letting other people take control.

"The healer and the question mark escaped," he repeated, more timidly this time.

The healer and the question mark. That's how I'd designated the mutants, by their abilities. The healer is the only mutant with regenerative abilities in the school, and the question mark had been classified as such because her abilities can't be determined by the nanos. Her DNA seems to fluctuate even as they try to read it. That's what saved her life. I want to see her mutation in action before deciding on her fate.

"How did they escape?" I ask, my teeth gritted together in frustration.

"They fled in a vehicle. We gave chase, but..."

"No, captain," I say, my voice shaking in anger as I try to keep my emotions under control. "You were told to secure the healer first. How did he escape?"

"We couldn't find him right away, so I thought we..."

"You thought!?!" I scream. "I am responsible for this mission, not you. I report directly to the president about our progress, not you. I gave you strict instructions to capture the healer first."

"But sir, we couldn't find him."

"You wasted time collecting dead bodies and processing mutants who couldn't escape from a wet paper bag." I let out an exasperated sigh, trying to think of a way to explain my plan to this simpleton. "The nanos destroyed the brain stems of those mutants scheduled for disposal and severed the spinal cords of those mutants kept alive for processing. The only threat you faced was the healer because, given time, his spinal cord will regenerate. All the other surviving mutants are permanent quadriplegics. That is why I told you to find him first and that is why you were instructed to physically restrain him. Do you understand how incredibly incompetent it was to disobey orders?"

"Sir, if I could just explain," he says, holding his hands out in a calming gesture.

"Ok," I snap, "what?"

"The reason why we couldn't find him is that there are a hidden sublevels to the mansion. They are well hidden and strongly fortified. That's what took the time. We searched everywhere else. The healer had to be down there and it took us too long to reach him."

"That's... why would a private school have secret levels?"

"Well, sir. Judging from the X's all over the walls, the black leather uniforms, and the modified Blackbird jet we found, I'd say that this private school was the headquarters for the X-Men."

"The X-Men? Are you sure?" I ask, incredulous.

"As sure as anyone can be, sir."

I've never gone from absolute anger to all-consuming euphoria so quickly. The X-Men? It's a remarkable find. Just the discovery that Charles Xavier, mutant advocate, had been harboring a school full of mutant children was incredible, but him, the creator of the X-Men? It's unbelievable. We've effectively taken out one of two strongest opponents to mutant extermination without even knowing it. Now all we have to do is find the Brotherhood, and mutantkind will crumble before us.

POV: Rogue

"Marie, uh," Logan pulls his hand away and runs his fingers through his hair.

"I've gotta..." He looks up at the ceiling then down at the carpet, like he can't bear to meet my eyes.

"Gotta tell ya..." Looking away isn't enough. Now, he's standing up and starting to pace back and forth in front of the bed. Whatever he's trying to tell me is really upsetting him.

"Logan, it's ok. Just say the words," I coax.

"They didn't leave us," he blurts out.

"Logan, you told me that before, but you didn't say what you meant. Where are we going to meet up with..."

"No, Marie," he says, shaking his head and looking down at his feet. Then, he stops pacing and turns sorrowful, haunted eyes towards me. "They didn't leave at all. They were still there."

"Where? The mansion was quiet. We were in the lower levels, if they were hiding down there..."

"No, Marie," he interrupts again, shaking his head vigorously and moving back to sit by my side on the bed. "They were... most of 'em were like Jeanie."

Jean? No, Jean died, he couldn't mean... But then it all made sense. That's why he was so upset while we were sneaking our way back upstairs, why he was growling in the foyer, and why he'd wanted me to close my eyes. I thought there'd been a battle and he didn't want me to see the dead and dying soldiers the X-Men had left behind, when in fact, he didn't want me to see the dead... dead X-Men? Dead children? No. No, they were innocent. Humans couldn't be so cold as to slaughter children.

"I didn't wanna touch ya," Logan continued, "'cause I was hoping it'd wear off and you wouldn't have ta get my memories, but it isn't. I... when I touch you, I want ya to try to push away my thoughts. You shouldn't have ta... I don't want to you see."

Stunned, I found myself gasping for breath, trying to understand. Not everyone. It couldn't be. Not literally everyone. Wait. Didn't Logan say...

"Logan, you said most of them were like Jean. Who... What happened to the others?"

Letting out a long, weary sigh, he says, "Cyke and a few of the other kids were loaded up into a van. I don't know where they are, but as soon as you're ok, we're gonna find 'em. I... Back at the school, I couldn't get to 'em. There were too many soldiers around. If I tried, they would've got us, too. I wanted... but I couldn't get to 'em."

I want to hug him, to hold him in my arms and take away the pain, but I can't. I can't even get off of this bed. Instead, I say, "Logan, it's not your fault. We'll go; we'll go and find them. It'll be ok."

He looks down at me, lying limp on the bed, and apologizes, "I'm sorry, Marie. I'll touch you now. I just... try not to see my memories, ok? Just promise you'll try."

"I'll try, Logan," I promise. I can count on one hand the number of people I've touched since I manifested, and I haven't been able to keep one out of my head. Still, I'll try for Logan.

He leans over to kiss me without a barrier between us for only the second time in my life, but...

"Stop," I say, and he does, his face hovering just inches away from my own. He looks confused, almost hurt. "It took you about a half hour to heal from this paralysis, right?"

"Yeah, about," he answers, definitely puzzled.

"You can't kiss me." Ok, now he really does look hurt. "If you collapse on top of me, I won't be able to push you off. I'll absorb everything and you'll die."

He nods, understanding my concerns now. "Ok, how about I sit on the floor by the bed and kiss ya? Then, I'll fall back away from you."

"Yes, that's better," I agree.

He settles himself down on the floor, and asks, "Ready, darlin'?"

When I don't object, he leans forward and brushes soft, tender lips against my own. For a second, it's heaven and then it's hell.

No matter how hard I try to push them away, the images flood my mind. I shut my eyes tight against the flashing horrors, but it doesn't help. The pictures float behind my eyes, inseparable from the healing strength that Logan's passing to me, and with the visions come other sensations.

I see Hank's glazed, unseeing eyes, staring into nothingness, Bobby and Kitty collapsed against each other, hands clasped in an eternal embrace, Jubilee's twisted form, lying like a discarded doll in the foyer, and 'Ro outside, crushing her precious roses beneath her unmoving body. I see children, piled on the lawn like morbid tinker toys by the bench where I'd eaten lunch yesterday. The smell of fresh death fills the air, coating my skin with its horrid perfume. Worst of all, though, is the silence. Where before, life echoed in every room, now there is only quiet. No voices, no heartbeats, no breathing disturbs the tomb-like stillness.

Then, I hear the callused, rough voices of men, the humans who did this. I want to change things. I want to paint the walls with the blood of the guilty. I want to watch them suffer before succumbing to the inevitability of their death. I want to smell their blood and hear their screams. I want revenge.

Just as quickly as they started, the memories stop as Logan falls away from me, breaking skin contact. Still, everything that has been haunting him, now haunts me as well.

When I was seventeen, I put my first real boyfriend into a coma and lost my first family because of prejudice. Now that I'm twenty-two, I've lost my second family for much the same reason. I can't help but wonder how old I'll be when I lose Logan.

POV: Logan

Salt. The smell of wet salt mixed with sadness brings me back into the world. I'd collapsed on the floor, but now I'm lying on the bed. Marie's in the crook of my arm, her head resting over my heart. My shirt's soaked with salty tears, but Marie's heartbeat is steady and her breathing's slow and deep. She must've cried herself to sleep.

Dammit. I don't feel as weak as the last time I touched her, so she couldn't have been too worried about me. The only explanation for the tears is that she got my memories.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should've touched her right away. It doesn't matter that the soldiers were comin'. I could've found a safe hideaway. I should've touched and then led her out so she couldn't see. Now, instead of protectin' her, I've just given her a whole new set of nightmares.

I told her we'd go after Cyke and the kids once she was better, but now... If she goes back with me, those government goons could hurt her again. Maybe they'll decide she's too much trouble and just kill 'er. I can't take that risk. O' course, if I leave her behind, then I won't be around to protect her if they do come lookin' for her.

Just leavin' Cyke and the kids behind ain't an option. He's a cocky kid but a good leader, not that I'd ever admit it. Besides, I just can't leave a teammate behind. There's no tellin' why those heartless monsters kept us alive when they murdered everyone else. Whatever the reason, I aim to see their plans and their lives end on my claws.

"Mmm," Marie moans by my side.

Hell! I'd pulled her too tight against me in my anger and now she's waking up.


"Yeah, baby?"

She pulls herself up so she's leaning over me and gives me a critical look. "You ok?"

"Yeah. You?"

She pauses a second. "I think so."

"I'm sorry, darlin'. I..."

"It wasn't your fault, Logan," she insists.

"But now you've got more nightmares to deal with."

"You didn't attack the mansion, and we're going after who did."

"Marie, about that..."

"We are going after who did," she repeats.

This plan stinks. It's only been a day and a half since we escaped and now we're back. We had to do this now, though, or there'd be nothing to come back to. A stray scent or scrap of paper could make all the difference. If I were them, I'd have set up a surveillance team or at least planted a few electronic detectors in case we returned, but I can't smell or hear anyone or anything yet.

We left the Jeep about five miles away and are sneaking through the woods onto the school's property in the near pitch darkness of the overcast night. We could've got a lot closer in the darkness, but I don't wanna risk someone coming across our only transportation. If they're lookin' for us, we won't have a quick getaway, but hopefully the woods and the night'll cover our escape.

After about an hour of hiking, we're as close as we can get without leaving the tree cover. The mansion looks the same as it did two days ago, but the feelin's wrong. There was always light, sounds, and smells broadcasting the life of the place. Now, it's dark, quiet, and musty. Even the smell of death is stale.

The grounds are clean of the bodies, but I don't smell freshly tilled soil so they can't have buried 'em here. They took 'em, took their corpses for whatever desecration they wanted to commit. Just the thought makes my claws snikt out.

"Logan?" Marie whispers behind me.

I growl and pull my claws back in. "Outside's clear," I say striding out over the manicured lawn towards the ornate building. She follows me without further comment.

Once we reach a door, I check around it, but still don't find any tampering. I can't sense anything past the door, either. It's like they got what they wanted and left, not caring who came after them.

The scents in here are stronger, and I pause a moment to memorize the musks of the unfamiliar men who passed through. I will find every one of them and make sure they meet the people they killed face to face. No mercy, only justice.

"Logan, there's nothing here. Let's check the security tapes."

I turn and nod, following Marie to the staircase we'd ascended only days ago.

The jet's gone, Med Lab's ransacked, Cerebro's scrap, Map Room's dismantled, and the Security Room's trashed. There are no tapes, no clues, no hope. Still, we spend hours going over everything carefully, looking for anything they might've left behind.

Once we're done in the sublevels, we check the main level and upper floors with the same dedication to detail. The sun rises to its peak and descends to the horizon before we're done.

The rooms are intact. I can smell that the killers came up here, but they only collected whatever bodies lay around and left. No one's possessions were handled. Maybe they didn't have time. Maybe a mutant kid's baseball card collection isn't interesting to his murderers. I don't know.

Still, it's a lucky break for us. Our clothes are still in our room, so we can save on that cost. I got twenty-five thousand for the Porsche from that New York fence. It's less than half of what the car was worth, but I didn't have time to be picky. With the six grand I spent on the Jeep, we've got plenty to tide us over for a while, but it's nice to have our own stuff.

It isn't until we're packing that I look down at my hands and notice it.



I hold up my hand for Marie to see.

"My ring."

It's got a strip cut out of it from when I'd released my claws. In a house full of kids, I've learned to keep them sheathed even in the most exasperating of circumstances, and I always take my ring off on missions so I won't lose it. It just never occurred to me that my claws would damage it.

Even though I've never been very superstitious, it gives me pause. Five months ago at our wedding, Kurt had explained the ring symbolized eternity and our everlasting love. With a notch cut out of it, the ring ends.

"It's ok," Marie comforts. "Gold's repairable. We'll get it taken care of soon enough."

I nod and go back to packing, but I can't shake off that weird feeling.

POV: Dr. John Thacker (original character)

"So it wasn't a total success?" President Creed asks.

"Not totally," I answer truthfully. "We've discovered one mutation that is harder to contain, but I still believe capture is possible and desirable."

"The healer?"

"Yes, but I have an idea. Right now, if one nano is in the host body, the other nanos move to the skin surface to be passed along to other hosts. We could subtly change the programming so that several nanos stayed in the body of a healer. Then, if it takes longer for the body to be collected, the unused nanos could continue to recut the spinal cord and keep the mutant immobile."

The president nods. "That seems reasonable. I heard you eliminated the X-Men. What about the Brotherhood?"

"We don't actually know where the Brotherhood's headquarters are," I answer. We hadn't known where the X-Men were, either, but that's a fluke I'm willing to take credit for. "But, they should be as easily defeated as the X-Men," I add. "We'll just eliminate them with all the other mutants in our national deployment."

"How long until you have enough nanos to lace the food supply?"

"We're at full production now," I said, pausing to calculate the time necessary. "It should take about three months, so early Fall."

POV: Rogue

"Nuh... No... Mar..."

I can hear Logan's voice, but I don't see him anywhere. All I see are the bodies of the fallen as I walk through the foyer. They're so cold, lifeless. In some places, there are so many that I have to watch where I step.

Paige, Jennifer, David, Everett, Jacob, Malcolm, Peter, ... Jubilee, my roommate for so many years. She embodied life and energy, and now she lies crumpled, pale, eyes forever closed in death. She is just one of so many taken from me, a family forever lost.

As I watch, her pale blue eyes snap open, the orbs clouded and her gaze cutting right through me.

I stumble back, away from that accusatory stare only to trip over another body, Peter's. His eyes are open as well, and as his dead, gray arms reach out for me...

My eyes snap open to find myself twisted in the covers of a shabby bed. I'm not at the mansion; I'm in a hotel room, sweaty and gasping for breath.

"It was a dream," I whisper to myself. "Just a dream."

"Mm... No..."

Logan's mumbling next to me, shifting in his sleep. He must be having a nightmare, too.


"Mar... Nn... Stop..."

I reach over and gently nudge him, but he remains asleep, so I start jostling his shoulders. "Logan, wake up."

"Marie!" he shouts as his eyes shoot open. He moves like lightning, pulling me into a tight hug, and I can barely breathe; he's squeezing so hard.

It's a good thing it was Logan's turn to dress for bed tonight. He's not thinking about my skin and my face, held close to his chest, could've killed him.


"Marie... Marie. You're alive."

He's clutching me so tight it's like he's afraid I'll disappear if he lets go.

"Logan, it's all right. I'm here. I'm here."

"I thought... thought I'd lost you."

He's kissing me all over the top of my head, where it's safe, and his gloved hands are starting to stroke my bare back.

"It's ok, sugah. I'm still here. We're together. We're alive."

We spend the next few hours proving to each other just how alive we are.

Logan's playing with his ring again. Whenever it's my turn to drive, he just sits silently, twisting his ring around his finger. I've asked him a couple of times what he's thinking, but he just brushes me off or changes the subject. Whatever it is, it's bad. His face gets all tight, and he hunches his shoulders down like he doesn't want me to see what he's doing.

At first I thought it was the cut in his ring. I told him we'd find a jewelry store and get it repaired, but he said not to bother. That it wasn't right to fix it until... but he never finished the sentence.

"How far?" he asks, and I'm surprised to hear his voice. He's taken off the ring and is running his fingers over the break.

"About another hour," I answer.

He doesn't say anything else, returning to his quiet contemplation.

It's been two weeks and we're going back to the mansion. We've been sniffing around all the military bases in the area, literally, without finding anyone who was involved in the murders. Logan wants to go back home in case we missed something, but I don't hold out much hope. The attackers could've been from a unit in another state, men from several units, or even not in the military at all. With so little to go on, I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever find them.

Even if we do, what's next? Hunting down only those men directly involved leaves the men giving the orders alive. There's no way two mutants can get revenge on the entire U.S. government, although I'm sure Logan would love to try.

It's not just about revenge, either. We need to find the soldiers to find Scott and the other captive mutants. If they're being kept together at a base, how will we get through the defenses? What if they are being kept in separate facilities? If we attack one place, will the mutants at the other locations be killed before we can reach them?

I've never felt so powerless as I do right now. If I didn't have Logan, if he'd been taken or killed too, I know I'd just give up. He's the only thing keeping me going right now, with the world against us.

"Marie?" Logan's put his ring back on and is pulling my right hand into his grasp.


"It'll be ok. We'll find them, and get them out. We're gonna be just fine."

He tenderly rubs my hand between his clasped ones, but I don't know who he's trying to reassure. Himself or me.

POV: Dr. Elizabeth Mason (original character)

Latitude: 41.2512
Longitude: -73.54092

"What is he doing back at the mansion? Doesn't this guy have any survival instincts?"

I'm fuming at my computer, reading the current location of a man I know only as the healer. He escaped when the troops invaded Xavier's school, but the damn man keeps coming back. If I don't do something, he's going to ruin everything. It's not like they're looking for him right now. Dr. Thacker decided to just pick him up along with all the other mutants in the national sweep, but he isn't exactly acting like a person who doesn't want to get caught.

He's been traveling around New York, going to military bases and hanging around the bars the soldier boys frequent. If he asks the wrong people the wrong questions, there'll be nothing I can do to save him.

I've been following his movements ever since the day I picked him up on the GPS by a fluke. There's something about the guy that makes him the perfect antennae for the nano laying dormant in his body. It's almost like a large part of the guy is metal. That's impossible, though.

Anyway, if his meddling makes Dr. Thacker speed up the project, I won't be able to finish and everyone will be screwed, himself included. I've stalled Dr. Thacker saying that it'll take three months to get the nanos built, which isn't exactly true. It'll take three months to get the nanos built to complete my plan. Theoretically, it would only take a month to get done what the doctor has in mind. If he gets involved deeply enough to figure that out, no one will be safe.

"Hello, Elizabeth," a deep voice sing-songs behind me.

I quickly switch my screen to production readouts, covering the global positioning information on the missing mutant.

"Hello, Dr. Thacker," I say, mentally adding, 'you bigoted, heartless prick.'

"How are we doing today?"

"Fine, just fine. We're running at full production. The machines are testing every hundred and I'm personally testing every few thousand in detail for flaws. So far, we're at a success rate of over 99 percent."

"Even 99 percent is insufficient. We're talking about over 270 million humans and mutants. Ninety-nine percent leaves a few million flawed machines."

"We can't fully test every nano. That would take forever. Maybe we should plan on a second wave after this first one."

"That will give any remaining mutants time to fight back. No. It must be simultaneous. Perhaps I should look at the schematics myself and see..."


'Calm down, Elizabeth,' I mentally reprimand.

Composed, I continue. "No, you're too important. We won't get done without your management skills to oversee the entire project. I'll go through the process step-by-step personally and bring down the error rate."

"Very well, Elizabeth. I trust you."

I smile, but the smile fades as soon as the little weasel is out of my sight. That was too close. He could have caught on to the fact that I didn't want him anywhere near my blueprints.

'Two and a half months, Elizabeth. You just have to keep everything together for a little while longer.' That's what I keep telling myself, but when I switch my screen back to the global positioning information, I wonder if I'll be able to do it.

No. Not while he's roaming around. I need to chase him away, just until I'm ready.

POV: Rogue

I can't sleep.

We went back to the mansion last night, again, and didn't find any new clues, again. It's only been a few weeks, but I'm beginning to lose hope that we'll ever find Scott and the children. It's like they disappeared into thin air.

I've tried to talk to Logan about it, but he won't listen to anything that sounds like giving up. It's not that I've given up on them, I've just lost faith in the methods we're using to find them. Logan's a great tracker when there's a physical trail to follow, but there just isn't one in this case. He relies too much on his senses, and I can't convince him to switch to another tack.

Of course, I don't have many ideas other than what we've tried. If either of us had any computer skills, I know we could find them through the government databases, but the only person I know even close to being that computer savvy is... was Kitty.

I hate that. I hate having to correct myself, having to switch my friends, my family, from present to past tense. It isn't right. It's not fair. Kitty should be shopping for cribs and baby clothes, not rotting away in some government facility.

No, can't think about that. I can't imagine what everyone's bodies would look like now. They're not in them anymore. They're gone, free, whatever's happening to their bodies isn't happening to them. Stop it. Don't think about it.

I sit up and pull the covers away. If I'm not going to sleep, I might as well get up and do something, get my mind onto something else.

Logan groans at my movement, but he doesn't wake up. He hasn't been sleeping well, what with the nightmares and all, and we just got back to the hotel at six this morning after searching the abandoned mansion all day yesterday and all night last night. I don't want to wake him up from what little rest he's getting. Of course, he'll wake up pretty soon if I'm not lying beside him.

Hmm, there's a 7-11 down the block. If I ran down there and got a book, I could stay in bed with Logan all day and still keep my mind distracted. It'd really help him if he could get a decent amount of sleep.

In fact, we probably shouldn't try heading out today. I should stop by the motel office on my way and pay for another night. It's already 8 and if everything works out, Logan will sleep long past the 11:30 check-out time.

I'm almost dressed when Logan moans, "Marie?"

Damn that man. He's such a light sleeper that despite the fact that I've been whisper quiet, he's woken up.

"It's ok, Logan," I whisper. "I'm gonna go pay for another night. I'll be right back."

"You tired?" he asks in a weary drawl, his eyes still closed.

"Yes, sugah, really tired. I'm just gonna pay for the room, and then come back and get some more sleep."

"Kay," he answers as he snuggles his face back into the pillow.

When I walk into the worn down, dingy lobby, there's no one at the front desk, but I can hear a guy talking in the back office, so I wait. There's a newspaper on the desk so I pick it up, intending to flick through it and kill a little time. Of course, that's before I turn it over and see the front page with a grainy black and white picture of Logan's face staring back at me.

It looks like it was taken by one of the security cameras in the mansion from what little I can see of the background. It's the corresponding title, though, that makes my blood run cold, "Mutant Suspected in School Disappearances." I scan the article only to find that Logan is being accused of the disappearances of sixty-one students, faculty, and staff at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. The police want him for questioning. They suspect foul-play. There's a manhunt on.

"Look, I told you. He's here!" The voice from the back office has risen in volume and frustration and now I can make out what he's saying. "Yeah, the guy from the paper. He's travelling with some woman."

He's turning Logan in. We've gotta get out of here, get as far away as possible. Now.

"I don't know who she is. Are you gonna send someone? Ok, but make it quick. I don't wanna be the next one to vanish."

That's the last of the conversation I hear before I'm out the door and running back to our room.

"Logan! Get up. We have to get out of here. Now!"

I'm already rummaging through his duffle bag, pulling out jeans and a T-shirt, when he sits up groggily in bed.

"Marie? What..."

I just throw the clothes at him. "Dress. Now."

Running into the bathroom I start dumping shampoo, conditioner, soap, all of my stuff into my overnight bag. There's no time. We have to get everything and get out.

By the time I leave the bathroom, Logan's dressed and packing any clothes we'd left out in the room into his bag. He's wide awake now and gathering all our stuff together just as frantically as I am. I pick up my other bag and his boots on the way out the door, and he follows me with his own bag in tow.

Running to the Jeep, I pull out the keys and, throwing the bags into the back and Logan's boots to the floor on the passenger side, I get in and start it up. Logan jumps in on the passenger side, and as soon as he shuts the door, I'm backing out of the parking lot and speeding towards the freeway. We have to get as far away as we can as quickly as possible.

Logan waits until we're speeding down the highway before he asks, "Marie, what's going on? We can't leave. Not with Cyke and..."

"They're looking for you."


"The police. They think you're involved in what happened at the mansion. They can't get you, Logan. If they do, the soldiers'll find you and then..." I let my voice trail off. I don't want to think about what would happen if they captured Logan.

"We can't leave, Marie. We can't stop just because..."

"No. We have to, Logan. Just for a little while. Please. I can't lose you, too."

POV: Dr. Elizabeth Mason

It worked, and I have to credit myself for my own ingenuity. The GPS data shows that the mutant just crossed over into Pennsylvania. I've scared him away.

Now, all I have to worry about is the thousands of other things that could go wrong with this plan before it's over.

For one thing, they killed a lot more mutants than I'd expected during the trial run. To make matters even more complicated, one of them was pregnant. Although the resources are available to keep my plan working, the computer power necessary to keep everything running smoothly is incredible. If anyone bothers to check, the gigabytes per second of data I'm processing through the mainframe will give me away.

Fortunately, Dr. Thacker's been so focused on the logistics of collecting bodies from all over the United States and transporting them as discretely as possible to disposal facilities, that he's left the technical aspects of the project to me and my team. Since I'm in charge of the assignments, I can ensure that none of them detect what I'm doing.

It is quite a conundrum Dr. Thacker has. How do you kill or capture over a hundred thousand mutants from all over the United States quickly and efficiently? He doesn't want to disturb the moral sensibilities of the public by allowing the bodies to remain visible. After all, the citizens of the United States voted for mutant registration, not mutant extermination.

If I wasn't totally against everything he's doing, I might feel sorry for him. As it is, I only feel sorry for myself. The logistics of my counter-plan are more complex than he could ever dream, and the stress of fooling an entire bureaucracy is weighing on me.

I don't sleep well. I wake up several times during the night with ideas to make the plan better or realizations of faults where my work could be detected, or worse, where the plan could fail on its own.

Sometimes, I wish that it were three months from now just so I could know how everything turned out.

POV: Rogue

We drift.

The days lengthen, reach their peak, and then shorten again. The weather warms then starts to cool. Summer passes into fall.

We travel, endlessly searching, trying to find our way back to some semblance of the lives we lost. We are existing, but not living. We are in the world, but not of the world. Things change around us, but we stay the same. We're stuck.

We can't go back to New York. They're still looking for Logan even months after the first article. It's like someone's watching us. Whenever we try to go back, Logan's face appears on every paper, the television news starts reporting sightings, and we have to run again. To Pennsylvania or Connecticut, never to Canada. Leaving the states would be too much like giving up.

Our six-month wedding anniversary came and went without either of us noticing. In fact, I just realized the other day that we've been married eight months. Looking at us, you wouldn't think we were newlyweds. What we've been though these past few months has aged both of us.

Other couples might have grown apart after having our experiences. Logan and I have only grown closer together. He's all I have in the world, and I won't lose him, too.

Lying here in his arms, touching but not, always separated by sheets or clothing, we're still as close as two people can be. I love; I am loved, and for one moment, I feel safe.

Then, Logan groans in his sleep and rolls over on his side away from my grasp. I scoot closer to him and wrap a covered arm around his chest, only to have him pull further away. In the darkness, I start to hear the high-pitched scritching of nails on skin. Scratching. Logan's scratching.

With his healing abilities, he never has allergies, never itches, except for once. Once, over three months ago, when this all started. It began with itching; it ended with death.

I roll over to my side of the motel bed and flick on the light. Turning back around, I can see Logan scratching frantically at his stomach in his sleep, and I am terrified for him.

"Logan... Logan, wake up."

"Mmm, Marie?"

"Logan, you're scratching. Why are you scratching? Is it the same..." I can't say it. It can't happen again. Not to Logan.

"Marie. It itches."

He's scratching vigorously with both hands now. No... I have to get him away from here. Now.

I grab him and start urging him to get out of bed and towards the door. It doesn't matter that he's only half-dressed. It doesn't matter that I'm leaving our bags behind. He can't stay here. If I can get him far enough away, maybe... maybe it won't happen.

He stumbles a few times, but somehow, I pull him out into the Jeep, and we speed away. It's around one in the morning and the streets aren't nearly as crowded as they usually are. We're on the freeway, miles away from the motel in minutes, but it's not helping.

Logan's released his claws, and now I have to drive with one hand on the wheel and the other on his stomach to keep him from ripping into his own flesh.

"Logan, stop it!" I yell over the wind whipping past us as we race down the highway.

"It's moving," he mutters, barely audible.

"What?" No. It's just like before. "Where is it moving, Logan?"

"Up... my chest."

Towards his neck. I... I have to stop the car now. If it happens again, and I can't move then we'll crash. But what if I stop us right before we would've gotten away? My foot's jumping back and forth between the gas and the brake and time's running against me, but I can't choose.

Logan makes the decision for me, cupping a bare hand against my cheek. I can feel him, his emotions, thoughts, and strength flowing into me, and I slam on the brakes in surprise. Logan's hand flies away from mine as we stop, and then a familiar numbness fills my body, and I crumple against my seatbelt.

I can't move, and slumped over like this, I can't see Logan. All I can see is my own legs and the floorboard of the Jeep. Why did he touch me? Even as the question enters my mind, I have my answer. He thought they'd kill us this time, and he didn't want me to die. That means...


No answer.

"Logan... please!"

I can't see him, touch him, but I need to know. Please... please don't be dead. Don't leave me.


The tears flood my cheeks, and I'm choking out sobs 'til I can hardly breathe, but I don't care. He's not answering me. He's dead, and the only reason I'm not is that he touched me. It wasn't more than fifteen seconds, but it must've been enough.

These months alone but together, this summer of searching. It wasn't what I thought. We were so focused on finding the part of our family that survived, that we didn't realize what was going on. The attack on the school wasn't the end. It was the beginning. We weren't supposed to have these three months of summer together, this stolen season. Now, destiny has caught up with us, and our lives are over.

POV: Logan

A deep, mechanical rumbling wakes me up. I'm lyin' on some sort of metal floor, and my head keeps bumping against it when it drops or rises below me. I must be in some sort of truck or van.

What happened? More importantly, where's Marie?

I open my eyes, and I can see several bodies lying at odd angles in the back of what I can now tell is a covered, army truck. I can't see Marie, though. I try to get up, but my body won't move. I can't even feel anything below my neck. It's just like before, only this time, I've been captured. I'm in the back of a truck, just like Cyke was. I guess this is one way to find out what happened to him.

What about Marie? I touched her. Did she get away?

"Mm-ree?" I'm still so weak from the touch that I can't make my voice louder than a mumble. Still, somehow, she hears me.


Dammit, she's here, and although I'm glad to know she's still alive, I wish she was safe somewhere else.

I can hear her crying now as she repeats over and over, "You're alive. You're alive."

"Marie... How long?"

She tries to control her sniffling as she answers, "A half-hour... an hour. I don't know. Logan, I thought you were... Everyone else in here with us is..."

She's cryin' again. I gotta get us outta here. I won't let them hurt Marie anymore. Only question is... how? Wait, I touched her. What about...

"Marie, baby, are you healin'?"

Swallowing her tears, she answers, "Um... Uh huh. I... my hands are tingling."

"That's good, darling. Let me know when you can move again, ok?"

"Ok... Logan, what about you?"

Nope, not a feeling, not even a tingle, but I'm not gonna tell her that. She won't leave me behind if she doesn't think I'll follow right after her. "Yeah, darlin'. It's coming back."

Several hours later, we're still in the back of the truck, and Marie's holding my head in her lap. She's all healed up now, but she won't leave me. Not until I can get up and jump out onto the road with her.

I don't know why my healing factor isn't working. I didn't touch her that long; it's gotta be working now, but just when I think my arms are tingling, the feeling fades and I'm numb again. It must've happened ten times by now, and it's really beginning to piss me off. If I could just get up, I could get Marie outta here before...

The truck's slowing down. We must've reached wherever we're going, and there's no more time.

"Marie. Go now."



"I won't leave you, Logan."

"You can't stay."

The truck's stopped now and I can hear voices approaching us. She only has seconds to get out, but she won't. Instead, she lies back and allows her muscles to go limp just before the back of the truck is opened.

I can see them out of the corner of my eye. Two guys pull a body out, and another man scans it with some sort of computer and says, "Dead." Then they grab the next body.

"Dead... Dead... Dead..."

Then, I feel hands grab my legs, and I'm pulled away from Marie. Where they touch me, my skin tingles and the sensation's not going away. Whatever was stopping my mutation must be gone or worn out, and I'm finally healin'. O' course, now Marie and I've been captured.

"This one's alive," the guy says, pressin' buttons on his little machine. "Healer."

They move me to another room and soon Marie joins me there. For a few minutes, we're alone lying on separate stretchers in the white, sterile room, and I've gotta tell her now.

"Marie, get ready," I whisper under my breath.

"I won't leave you."

"I'm healin'. We'll go together. Just wait for my signal."

I hear the door click open, they bring another mutant in, and we can't talk anymore.

With every passing minute, I can sense more. Soon, I can feel the bed underneath my entire body. Now, all I have to do is move. I'm just stretching my fingers when a new group of people come in. They're a group of men and women in tailored suits.

One of them, a woman, is pokin' at a hand-held computer, but the others are completely focused on Marie, me, and the other nine mutants in this room.

Another group comes in, and they're doctors. I can smell it on 'em. They split up, fanning out so at least one or two of 'em is at every bed. I can't stop my growl when they come towards me, but when they head for Marie...

"Hey! You stay away from her!"

The doctors don't step away, but I've got the suited people's attention. One of them approaches me, asking the doctors, "Which one is he?"

"A healer, Dr. Thacker. The original one that escaped during the first trial."

"Ah," he says with a twisted grin. Then, turning towards Marie, he says, "Then this woman must be the question mark."

"Yes, sir." Sir. He must be the guy in charge.

"Well, let's find out what she does."

He walks over towards Marie, and I yell after him, "You touch her, I'll kill you."

He just smiles back at me. Then, when he reaches Marie's bedside, he says, "Strip her and start your tests."

"No, don't touch me. Please."

I can't stand that. Marie's begging them to stop, and I know they won't. Gotta get up. Gotta stop them. Move, Logan!

"Ahhhh!" One of the doctors screams and falls. He touched her, and her skin got 'im. I have to get to her. Just gotta make myself move.

Marie's out of the bed, backing into the corner and peeling her gloves away so she can defend herself. As for the humans, that one woman with the little computer is typing frantically now, but everyone else is completely focused on Marie. Now's my chance. I push against the bed, forcing myself to sit up, even though my body and gravity are fighting me.

Three soldiers run through the door, guns out and ready, and the head guy orders, "Shoot her!"

I scream, "NO!!!" and release my claws at the same time the guns fire.

The room falls into silence at my outburst, and everyone turns towards me, but I don't pay attention. I can't take my eyes off Marie. Blood blossoms on her shirt where the bullets entered, and she falls to her knees with a choking gasp.

The tinkling of metal falling to the floor echoes in the silent room, and when I look down, I see the two-halves of my wedding ring laying on the tile, cut by my claws.

POV: Dr. Elizabeth Mason

"This is it, Elizabeth. The final solution." I almost expected Dr. Thacker to rub his hands together in evil glee.

It's do or die time, literally. The teams are in place, the nanos are primed, and all my work comes down to this moment. My programming either works or it doesn't.

Dr. Thacker leans over my keyboard and places his finger over the "enter" key, playing up the drama of the moment before pressing it. Nothing happens, at least in our office, but all over the country, mutants drop dead or paralyzed wherever they are. It's nighttime, and we have approximately six hours to collect all the bodies and ship them to processing plants before the sun rises.

I have six hours before I can implement the second part of my plan. A little over six hours before I can drive to the airport and leave the country. I'm already packed and ready to disappear, ready to move to London, change my name, and live out the rest of my life with a clear conscience. All I have to do is wait by my computer until the time is right, and then...

"Dr. Mason, come. Let's go to the New York processing center, and see the fruits of our labor." Dr. Thacker's pulled out my chair and is signalling me to follow him.

"Uh, I'd rather observe from my station."

"Nonsense. Our work here is done. Come on." He raises his voice and invites everyone to join us.

I have to go. If I refuse to leave, he'll get suspicious and my plan might be discovered too soon. But if I do leave, I won't be able to initiate the second phase. Unless...

While Dr. Thacker's gathering everyone together, I connect my computer to the internet and shut off the screen, but not the tower. If I can get my handheld computer to link up with this one, I'll have access to the mainframe and I can enter the final commands from wherever I go.

This damn computer isn't working. I've been here for hours, and I can't get connected. I keep trying to send the codes, but I've been plagued by weak signals and faulty connections. I should've gotten a better internet service provider for this piece of crap.

My time is almost up. They're taking us down to observe the start of the mutant processing, and I still can't send the codes.

"Elizabeth," Dr. Thacker's hand rests on my shoulder as he leans down over me. "You're been fiddling with that thing for hours. What are you doing?"

Oh no. He knows.

"Ah, the internet. How can you think of your email at a historic moment like this?"

"I... um... I need to make a stock trade, and I can't connect." Yeah, that's it. That's stupidest possible explanation you could think of Elizabeth. Great job.

"Here, use mine."

What? He's handing me his personal assistant. "Top of the line in every way. It's even got a satellite connection so you're never out of contact."

I don't believe it. There's gotta be some catch. I never have luck this good.

"Elizabeth? Are you coming?"

"Yeah," I answer distractedly, following the group but not taking my eyes off the screen. It's a different configuration than I'm used to, so it's going to take a few minutes, but I've gotten connection up and it seems to be holding.

We enter a white room, and I glance up to see eleven mutants lying limply on stretchers. I've got to hurry, but in my urgency, my fingers stumble over the micro-keyboard, and I have to go back and re-enter my last five commands.

Everyone's screaming and when I look up again, I can see one of the mutant women is out of bed and backing away from our group with her bare hands outstretched like weapons. Why isn't she paralyzed? She shouldn't be able to move.

The doctors and my teammates are backing away from her, and Dr. Thacker is pressing the alarm button in his hand over and over. No. They're going to kill her. Four more entries. Just four more and I'm done. But, there's no more time.

Soldiers run into the room and Dr. Thacker immediately commands, "Shoot her!"

"NO!!!" another mutant yells as the soldiers open fire. The woman collapses to the floor in a bloody heap, and the other mutant is up, long, metal claws flashing. He shouldn't be able to get up, either. What's going on? Why aren't the nanos...

Uhhh. I think I just found out where my luck ends. He... he was going for Dr. Thacker and that bigoted prick... he pushed me in front of him... onto those claws. I can't... I need to breathe, but... Ahh... he's pulled them out... I'm falling.

The mutant's slashing again... everyone's running. I can feel... feet on my back and legs... They're running over me... trying to get away. Then, everyone who could leave... is gone. The clawed mutant doesn't follow... He's pulling that woman... into his arms.

I have to... to send the commands. Before I... Uh, I can't breathe... but I've got to finish.

I get... the last four entries in... I just have to... press the last key.

"Hey! Stop whatcher doing!"

I thought... she was dead, but that mutant... she's up now... heading towards me... Can't let her stop me... I push the key, and activate the nanos.

POV: Rogue

Blood's spreading out around me in a red pool, but there's no more pain. Everything's hazy, fading, and then Logan's strong arms are lifting me towards him, and my bare hands brush against his still uncovered chest as he bends over and kisses me.

It hurts. The gunshot wounds hurt so much as they pull themselves back together in my chest, healing as Logan gives me life again. Even as his strength floods my body, his overwhelming love floods my soul. But I can sense him weakening. I'm killing him.

As soon as I have enough energy to move, I push him away and stop the connection. He falls onto the tile floor, and for an endless moment, he lies perfectly still. Then, he takes a deep, gasping breath, and I can breathe again, too. He's going to be ok. Now, all I have to do is get us out of here.

Scanning the room, I only see one human still alive. It's the woman with the computer. Even terribly wounded, she's still pecking slowly away at the little machine. Before the soldiers came, Logan'd noticed how her typing speed increased when I fought back.

~She was probably tryin' to stop you, Marie. She's probably tryin' to kill us, now. You can't let her finish.~ Logan's thoughts echo through my mind.

I get up and try to get to her, but she presses one last button and drops her head to the floor.

The mutants on the other stretchers start getting up, no longer paralyzed by whatever'd been done to us, and suddenly, a voice starts broadcasting over the loudspeaker.

"Attention. You have been captured by the federal government as part of a plan to exterminate all mutants within the United States borders. I allowed them to think they'd succeeded until you all could be united and informed. Your human captors have been incapacitated for one week. I suggest you use that time to leave the country. For your own safety and the safety of your loved ones, do not return to your homes. Do not contact anyone. Leave and live, or stay and die."

The voice stops broadcasting, and everyone in the white room starts yelling at each other. Where do we go? What do we do now? How do we get out of here? Everyone's asking questions, but none of us knows the answers.

A few at a time, my fellow prisoners leave the room determined to either find the person who broadcast that message or to find their own way out. Soon it's just me, Logan, and the dead humans. Well, dead except for one. That woman's still wheezing on the floor.

I already have my gloves pulled back on and I'm dragging Logan across the floor, when the woman gasps, "Help me... Please."

It might be because of Logan's senses, but even through the bloody gurgling, I recognize her voice. It's the same as the loudspeaker voice. She's the one who helped us. She's a human, but she saved us. I can't leave her to die. But I can't carry both her and Logan out of here, either.

Laying Logan down gently, I walk over, kneel by the injured woman, and roll her onto her back. Even before I've inspected the wounds, though, I know she won't leave this room alive. The smell of death is on her.

I grab a sheet off a nearby stretcher and press it to her chest where the claws punctured her flesh, but it's not helping. She's trying to talk, but the gurgling is worse, and I can't understand her. She's drowning in her own blood.

She needs a doctor, and for once in my life, I wish I'd absorbed someone. If I'd only brushed against Jean once in all those years at the mansion, I might know what to do now. As it is, the only doctors here are human, and she "incapacitated" them so we could escape. All I can do is watch her die.

There are footsteps echoing in the hallway, and I think some of the mutants might've returned until I look up at the doorway. I see Jean standing there in a white bodysuit, and then I see nothing as I faint dead away.

POV: Rogue

Kitty had her baby yesterday. It's a boy. James Benjamin Drake, 8 pounds 1 ounce, 20 inches long.

Bobby's couldn't be prouder. He keeps passing out sticks, telling people to pretend they're cigars since we don't have any in the camp. Well, I take that back. I happen to know Logan has a few hidden away, but Bobby'll only get them over his dead body and Logan's a tough guy to kill.

I still can't believe they're all alive. Over these past two weeks, I've caught myself several times just watching everyone walking around the camp. Talking, joking, laughing, crying. My family. I'd never dreamed I'd see them again.

Logan had been so sure they were dead. They weren't breathing, had no heartbeats, even smelled like death. We mourned them, but we had to move on. We had to keep living.

Now, they're all here. Well, most of them are. Some of the children that were taken with Scott didn't survive.

I remember thinking when we were finally taken that the three months we'd spent alone had been time that Logan and I had stolen from the government, three extra months to be together before we died. Now, I realize that the summer was actually stolen from us. We had to spend three months mourning our family, searching for the survivors, and running from those who hoped to capture Logan. The lucky ones were the people who "died."

One minute, they were in the mansion, and the next minute, they were in a tube full of some sort of preserving solution. Those three months passed as easily as a heartbeat for them, while those who remained suffered through three months of sadness and uncertainty, and in Scott's case, three months of living hell.

At first, no one understood what had happened. When I finally woke up from my fainting spell, everyone who'd died at the mansion was either standing over me, milling around the room, or hanging out in the hallway outside. It almost made me want to faint again.

For a moment, I wondered if it was a dream, if Logan hadn't really touched me and I was still dying on the floor. I even thought that maybe I was already dead. But it didn't feel like a dream, and the strong Logan presence in my mind eliminated all doubts that I might not have survived. This was reality.

Everyone assumed I knew what happened because I wasn't with them, in a tube down in the lower levels of the complex. Unfortunately, the only person that could answer their questions couldn't speak. She could barely breathe.

It took Jean and Hank a half hour to stabilize our human savior, and then they shooed us out of the white room while they performed emergency surgery. Logan'd gotten her good with his claws. He'd punctured her lung and cut a few vital blood vessels. It took time, but they finally put her back together. Still, she wasn't in any condition to answer questions so we had to piece things together on our own.

Once Jean assured me that Logan was going to be ok, I left him on a bed in the white room and did a little exploring. Scott and the other kidnapped mutants hadn't shown up, and I needed to try and find them.

The humans strewn throughout the complex seemed dead at first glance, but they were still alive. If I knelt down beside them, stayed very still, and listened carefully, I could hear the occasional heartbeat. It was real slow, though. So slow it's no wonder Logan didn't notice it with the mutants at the mansion. They're barely there, balanced on a razor's edge between life and death. There was no one else around, and for a second, I was tempted to nudge a few of them off the razor. I pushed that urge aside, though, and kept up my search. I satisfied myself with taking their wallets. You never know when you'll need cash.

Logan's senses can come in really handy when you're trying to track someone down, and after walking every corridor in the complex, I could definitively say that if Scott had ever been in this building, it was too long ago to detect. That meant that he was being kept somewhere else.

Jean didn't react too well when I came back with that bit of news. I'd told her that Scott had been captured when she'd asked me why he wasn't in the tanks with the rest of them. I didn't go into details, but just the thought of Scott in the hands of heartless killers like these humans was frightening her almost beyond reason.

If we had Cerebro, the Professor could've found him in a minute, but we were hours away from the mansion and the computer had been destroyed months ago anyway. The Professor thought maybe the human woman might have some ideas on where he'd been taken, and after getting Hank and Jean's permission, he psychically linked with her.

Her name's Elizabeth, and she answered a lot of questions about what had happened to us, but didn't know anything specific about Scott. As it is, the whole story sounds like a bad science fiction movie. Miniature robots were implanted in our bodies by Big Brother, meant to kill or paralyze us depending on whether our mutation could be harnessed for their uses or not. Because of Elizabeth's inference, the tiny robots instead feigned those symptoms in us and kept the "dead" in suspended animation, their health maintained by a mainframe computer.

In fact, no one had aged except for Kitty. Because of the baby, she'd been flooded by nanos to keep her body alive and the baby developing while, to all outward signs besides the size of her belly, she was dead. When I think about it, it's kinda freaky to be so completely controlled by machines. She's been laughing it off, saying she didn't have to experience the last, most uncomfortable months of her pregnancy, but I know she's upset.

The only reason the bodies weren't autopsied, experimented on, or disposed of was that the government was more interested in perfecting the mechanism of capturing mutants nationwide than spending time on the mutants they'd killed. To prevent the bodies from decaying, however, each one was placed in a separate tube that was filled with chemical preservatives. Because of their hidden programming, however, the nanos used that environment to sustain life not just preserve death.

Even with all these answers, we still didn't know where Scott was being kept. Wherever he was, he should be released now, like the rest of us, but he wouldn't know how to find us.

Kitty was the one who eventually found him. She had accessed the computer network while the rest of us had searched the compound. Mutant weren't named on the database, but Scott's abilities were unique enough that she could figure out who he was by a description of his mutant abilities. There aren't many mutants out there who have eyes that can shoot concussive blasts, but can't control them because of a old brain injury. He was being kept in a facility in Ohio of all places.

She found the other children who'd been taken with him, too, but only two were still listed as viable, one in California and one in Idaho. The rest had been disposed of. When I heard that, I couldn't help but see Logan's memory of them, crying in the back of that van. They had been stolen from us and taken to their deaths.

We had to go after the survivors, and we only had a week to do it. The professor mentally called everyone together and we left the facility, Hank carrying Logan, Jean and Ororo carrying Elizabeth on a stretcher, and Bobby carrying the professor. There weren't any planes so we had to settle for the trucks we'd been brought in.

Riding in the back of one of those trucks again, Logan laying unconscious with his head in my lap, was unsettling to say the least. I don't think it's been a full day since we'd been in this same position, riding towards our deaths. This time, though, I had my family around me, and just their presence helped tremendously. An ache in my heart that I didn't even realize I had, eased and faded now that I knew they were alive.

It took us over a day to reach Ohio, driving straight through, the wallets I'd swiped coming in handy for food and gas. When we reached the base, though, it appeared abandoned, the only remaining occupants were unconscious humans lying where they'd fallen. However, Jean assured us that Scott was still there.

She'd regained contact with him during the night and had been almost hysterical with tears. Logan had woken up to her joyful screaming and panicked. He'd grabbed me around the waist and tried to get us out of the speeding truck. He's much stronger than me so I couldn't stop him physically. Instead, I started talking, telling him to look at and smell who we were travelling with, explaining that they weren't dead after all and we were safe.

Now that we'd reached our destination, Logan and Jean lead us right to Scott. He was trapped. An attack vehicle of some sort had been built around him, confining him to the frame. It only took a minute for Logan to cut him out, but when he got to the mechanism over his face, Scott screamed at him to stop.

Logan had said, "Just close your eyes, Cyke. Jeanie's got a pair of glasses for ya." We'd picked up several pairs of glasses and a few other bare essentials on our way out of New York.

"I can't!" Scott cried.

Jean went to him, wrapping her arms around him where he was still trapped in the wreckage, and then told everyone in no uncertain terms to back off.

We did, waiting in the hallway until she came back and asked for Logan and Hank. Logan to help carefully extract Scott from the rest of the metal frame, and Hank to help her with the surgery.

I found out later why Scott couldn't close his eyes, and it makes me want to go back and kill every last one of those human guards that I'd stepped over but left unharmed. Scott can't control his optic blasts. They used that fact against him, paralyzing him and building a machine around him, turning him into a living weapon. They built an eye covering that they could control, opening it whenever they wanted to shoot at something. In order to prevent Scott from resisting and closing his eyes, they... Uh, I can't even think of this without wanting to punch something... They removed his eyelids.

Jean and Hank took Scott up to one of the operating rooms and performed corrective surgery right then and there. They used the ruby quartz, laser thin, protective contacts to cover his eyeballs, then they used skin grafts to create new eyelids for him. Once they were done, we used the plane we found at this larger base to go and retrieve the two remaining kids before leaving the United States forever.

Scott got the bandages off a few days before Kitty delivered, and it seems to have worked. He's different, though. He won't talk about what happened to him, and I don't really blame him. No one really understands what he went through, except maybe Logan when he got his metal skeleton. Wait, now that I think of it, I have seen Scott and Logan alone outside of camp. They don't seem to be talking, just sitting together in quiet companionship, but maybe that's enough for now.

"Whatcha doin'?"

I turn around and Logan's standing there, looking at me with curiosity. I must've been too lost in my thoughts to hear him approach.

"Just thinking."

"'Bout what?"


He sits down next to me, obviously waiting for a more specific answer.

"About what's happened to us over the past few months, mostly."

"Hey," he says, putting an arm around me and pulling me close. "We're gonna be ok. We're all together now."

"I know, and we're safe for a little while. At least 'til the Aussies figure out we're here."

"Outback's a big place," he answers, "although why we couldn't have just gone to Canada..." My laughter interrupts him, and he says, "What?"

"The big, bad Wolverine can't take the heat, huh?"

"Hey, it's hot enough to cook stuff out here, and my clothes ain't exactly made for this weather."

"Well then, use those claws and make yourself some cutoffs, or I guess you could go shirtless."

"Nah... don't want my wife to wear herself out."


"From beating away all the women when I walk around shirtless."

I just shake my head. "Cute."

"You comin' back to camp?"

"In a little bit... Logan, do you ever think we'll go back to America."

"Maybe, what with all the trouble Magneto's causin' could be sooner than later. Bet they didn't figure on a guy who could control metals when they made those little nano things. Why? Do you wanna go back?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Why can't humans just accept us for who we are?"

"I dunno, baby. Why do you need their acceptance?"

Hm... I'll have to think about that one. For now, though, I think I'll spend my time with people that I know love me for who I am. I stand up from the rock I've been sitting on and pull Logan up with me.

"C'mon. Let's go back," I say, putting an arm around my husband. Back to my camp, back to my home, back to my family.
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