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"You're free to leave. There's nothing keeping you here." Emma Frost said in a voice as cold as her name implied.
"I'm keepin me here, Em. You need me." Logan said frankly.
Emma composed herself for a moment, gathering her thoughts, as well as her temper, before quietly saying, "Yes. We do, in fact, need you. However, I can't have you going off like a renegade, seeking vengeance, and endangering everything we've worked so hard to accomplish."
"I'm not the one endangering everything. Look around, Em. Take a good long look. First, we lost Gene, then Angel and Gambit. Now Cyclops, Iceman and Pyro. What's left to save?" Logan implored her to understand.
"Like I said before, you're free to leave." Emma said in a much softer voice.
"No way, Professor. If you're stayin, I'm stayin. All's I'm sayin is that we can't keep waitin for 'em to attack. I know that dark ops and sneak attacks goes against yer grain. But the fact of the matter is, this is all we got left. Diplomacy failed. Following 'the rules of war' failed. All we got left fer a hope of survival is guerilla warfare." Logan said frankly.
"I can't... I won't accept that. If we abandon our principles and attack without obvious provocation, then we're living down to their expectations of us. We will be proving all their anti-mutant propaganda to be true." Emma strenuously explained.
"What good is it if we held true to our convictions, if we're all dead?" Logan asked simply.
Emma took a deep breath, then released it slowly before saying, "No. I refuse to believe that things are that grim. We simply need to regroup..."
"If that's yer decision, then that's what we're doin. I just had to have my say." Logan said coldly.
"Thank you, Logan. I honestly don't know why you have chosen to stay. But I'm grateful that you have." Emma said with a weary smile.
"You're the telepath. I figured that if you wanted to know somethin, you'd just look fer yourself." Logan said with a smirk.
"If it were anyone else, I might. But looking into your mind gives me nightmares." Emma admitted shyly.
Logan had no trouble believing her.
* * * * *
As Emma was sorting through dozens of reports, trying to find some sort of a haven for her people, should the need arise, she was suddenly aware of a psychic intrusion in very close proximity to her.
She turned in time to see a swirling vortex form in front of her desk. Relief and dismay fought for control of her emotions as she saw the image of her long-time friend, Scott, resolve into being in the mist.
He appeared to be in a bed, obviously injured, but also seemed to be alive and in reasonably good spirits.
"Hello Professor." Cyclops said to her calmly.
"Scott? It's good to see that you aren't hurt. We've all been quite concerned." Emma replied carefully, not wanting to display too much emotion, in case this whole event was somehow staged.
"I am fine. After Gene's death, I... um... did something stupid." Scott said with a blush of embarrassment.
Professor Frost only responded with a raised eyebrow of inquiry.
Scott raised his arms and showed the bandages.
Emma nodded in understanding, then asked, "So, where are you?"
"I'm in a neighboring dimension. Andrew... Professor Frost, this is Andrew, he found me near death and brought me here to save my life." Scott said timidly.
"Hello Professor Frost." Andrew said quietly.
"Hello Andrew, thank you for saving Scott, he is very important to a lot of people here." Emma said without a hint of emotion showing through her look or voice, still not willing to fully believe what she was seeing.
"I just wanted to let you know that I am alive and well. I have been ordered to stay in bed for a week until I am healed." Scott said, with a bit more confidence.
"You must admit that this is quite a bit to take on faith, Scott. Do you think that you can provide me some sort of proof to verify your claim?" Professor Frost said professionally.
"Orroro, could you come here and say hello to Professor Frost?" Scott said to someone who was still outside the view of the portal.
"Hello Professor Frost, from what Alan has said, you can verify the location of my other self in your dimension to corroborate his story." A woman who looked very much like Orroro Munroe said in a self-assured and dignified manner.
"Alan?" Professor Frost asked cautiously.
"Yes, that is what we call your Scott, since we have one of our own." Orroro said with a gentle smile. The mannerisms were undoubtedly those of Orroro Munroe. If this were a shape-shifter or some sort of elaborate holographic construct, it was flawless.
"May I ask, why you didn't have him here to verify your story?" Professor Frost asked cautiously, becoming more and more willing to believe what she was being told.
"Because he is at the bedside of his injured fiance, Jean Grey." Scott, or Alan, as he was now known, said in a pained voice.
"I see." Professor Frost said and cast a glance toward another person she could see through the vortex. The young man was completely unfamiliar to her.
"Oh, Professor Frost, this is Xander. He is a visitor from yet another dimension." Scott said formally.
Emma nodded in introduction then turned back to Scott and asked, "Then you will fully recover?"
"Yes, I just need to take time for the wounds to heal and I will be fine... There is one other thing I need to tell you." Scott said with nervousness in his voice.
Emma again prompted him to continue, with her eyebrow.
"Andrew and I have become involved, we are planning a commitment ceremony in one year." Scott said anxiously.
The Professor betrayed her shock for an instant before saying, "You have only been gone for three days and are very emotionally unstable, as evidenced by your suicide attempt. Are you sure this is a wise course of action?"
"That's why we're waiting for a year. I love Andrew completely, but I have enough sense to realize that this is not the time for me to be making life-altering decisions. Please be happy for me, Professor." Scott said in a pleading tone.
"I will do this for you, Scott. I will reserve judgment until I have had a chance to get to know Andrew. It may not be a blessing as such, but it is not disapproval by any means." Professor Frost said in a voice that might almost be considered tender. Part of her was still on guard, but doing this wouldn't compromise the safety of the mansion to any appreciable degree.
"Thank you, Professor, that is all I can ask. As soon as Andrew and I are released by our doctor, we will probably be returning to your dimension." Scott said seriously.
"How did Andrew come to find you?" The Professor asked curiously. If the story Scott was telling was true, it might somehow be of use to her in the future.
"Andrew has the ability to open interdimensional portals, apparently my... suicide attempt... had the effect of throwing my counterpart in this universe into a coma. When Andrew came to help, he was able to see what was happening to me and... he saved me." Scott said in wonder, giving it voice for the first time.
"So our Scott was in a coma, Alan was near death from blood loss, and Andrew had a stroke from overusing his mutant ability. That is why we haven't contacted you sooner, Andrew has been recovering as well." Orroro said informatively.
Professor Frost nodded in acceptance when Scott said, "I'll check back with you in the next day or so, I just wanted for you to let everyone know that I am well and not to worry. How are things there?"
"Much the same as when you left, however, the news of you being alive and recovering will be a much needed morale boost. Everyone is becoming weary of the fight." Emma said as the tiredness she was feeling could briefly be seen.
"How are Remy and Warren?" Scott asked quietly.
"Warren seems to be recovering well, but Remy is inconsolable. I don't know what else to do for him." Emma said, this time actually betraying worry for an instant in her expression.
"Would you mind if I were to talk to him next time we contact your dimension?" Scott asked with his own worry showing.
"No, I don't know that it will help, but I don't see how it could cause any harm. And doing something is preferable to doing nothing, which is all we have left to try with Remy." Emma said in an uncharacteristic ramble.
"Please let him know that I may be calling on him. We'd better close the portal now, Andrew still has to contact his home dimension later this morning." Scott said with a grim smile.
"Be well my friend." Emma said, then watched as the swirling vortex dissipated into nothingness.
* * * * *
"Cyke's alive?" Logan asked with an uncharacteristic smile.
"Yes. Although he will need to recover from his injuries, I would venture to say that he might be able to rejoin us in two to three weeks." Emma said carefully.
"What ain't you sayin? Yer holdin somethin back." Logan said suspiciously.
"According to the story I was told, he was discovered by a mutant from another dimension..."
"That can't be good." Logan interrupted.
"Actually, if all is as it appears to be, the person who found him seems to be not only a mutant, but sympathetic or at least indifferent to our cause. I couldn't detect any deception or coercion during my interactions with them." Emma said carefully.
"But you're still not completely buying it." Logan said speculatively.
"You know what they say when something sounds too good to be true." Emma said frankly.
Logan nodded his agreement.
"It would also appear that the mutant who discovered Scott and saved his life, is planning to return here with Scott when he is fully recovered." Emma said thoughtfully.
"So we'd have a guy who can cross dimensions?" Logan asked cautiously.
"Yes. That's what they indicated." Emma said carefully.
"Too good to be true." Logan said in a low voice.
Emma nodded her agreement.
* * * * *
As days passed, Emma was no less concerned for her friend, Scott. But she took some consolation in the apparent fact that he was safe and well cared for.
Emma was going through the MedLab, inventorying supplies and preparing for another emergency, hoping that her preparations wouldn't be needed, when she sensed several presences forming into being behind her.
She turned suddenly, and was relieved to see the ghostly images of Scott and Andrew, as well as Xander and another man who seemed to be vaguely familiar, but whom she was sure that she didn't know.
"Welcome gentlemen. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?" Emma asked pleasantly.
"We came to visit Remy. I was worried about him." Scott said, revealing his concern in his expression.
"He's just in the next room, I'll go get him for you." Professor Frost said and left the room.
* * * * *
"Remy. Would you like to get up for a minute? You have some visitors in the main room." Emma asked quietly. She had discovered early on that speaking to Remy in a professional or authoritative voice automatically compelled him to rebel against her. However, the southern gentleman deep within him tended to be well mannered and respectful when she treated him gently.
"Non. Remy don wan to be seen if Remy can't see who dere." Remy said as he remained on his bed.
"Of course. You can do as you like. But Scott was concerned for you and asked if he could speak with you." Emma said in a low voice, hoping not to spark Remy's independent streak.
"Scott be here?" Remy asked with surprise and sat up on his bed.
"That's right. And he came here, specifically to visit with you." Emma said as she took his hand and led it to her elbow.
"Do Remy look right? Don wan go out dere lookin sick." Remy asked as he stood.
"The bandage on your eyes is the only indication that you aren't in perfect health." Emma said softly.
* * * * *
Professor Frost entered the room leading the distraught form of Remy LeBeau.
"Remy, I've been worried about you." Scott said and fought the urge to run and hug the man.
"Scott? I could say the same for you, mon ami." Remy said in a weary voice.
"Professor Frost, may I have a word with you?" The unknown visitor asked hopefully.
"Please call me Alan. In the dimension I've been in there is another Scott. It's just less confusing. Remy LeBeau, I'd like to introduce you to Scott, my brother from another dimension, Andrew my fiancee, and Xander my caregiver. Dr. Hank McCoy is also here, talking with Professor Frost." Scott, now known as Alan, said formally.
There was a course of 'hi' when Remy gave a small smile and said, "Remy blind, non? You need to talk one at a time for Remy to tell one from another."
"Okay, I'm Scott. It's nice to meet you Remy. Alan's told me... actually nothing about you, but he seems to like you so that's good enough for me." Scott said, ending with a smile.
"Fair enough." Remy said, turning his face toward Scott's voice.
"I'm Andrew." Andrew said shyly.
"You got you a real talker der Sc... Alan." Remy said with a teasing tone.
"Hi Remy, I'm Xander. Nice to meet you." Xander said quietly.
"Xander? As in Alexander, non?" Remy asked, turning to him.
"Yeah, I got the choice of Alex, Lex or Xander. This seemed to be the coolest." Xander said in a seemingly lighthearted tone.
"So, are you all mutants too?" Remy asked as he felt for and found the bed behind him and took a seat.
"All but Xander. Andrew is called Portal, and I've been renamed Gemini. Scott is Cyclops."
"But that name might fit me best." Xander said under his breath.
Remy turned to Xander and raised an eyebrow above his bandage in question.
"Xander had one of his eyes gouged out by a... demon?" Alan asked uncertainly.
"By a priest of the first evil... but he was kind of demony with super strength and stuff." Xander said in a more comfortable, conversational voice.
"You sound like you're talking through a tunnel, why it be like dat?" Remy asked of the group.
"Andrew is sort of projecting us here with his mutant ability. We're still in our own universe, we're just able to see and hear yours." Scott said in explanation.
"So did you see what you came to see? I be here, all dats left of me. Bout time for ole Remy to be put out to pasture." Remy said, looking more tired.
"I came to visit with you to see if I could help you." Alan said seriously, worried by Remy's attitude.
"Ain no help fo da Cajun. Nuthin left ta help." Remy said and got off the bed.
"I wouldn't say that Mr. LeBeau." An unfamiliar voice said from behind the group.
"What's up Hank?" Andrew asked in confusion.
"I have been talking with Professor Frost, I won't bore you with details, but suffice it to say, I may be able to restore some sight to Remy." Hank said seriously.
"Hank? What do you mean? Is there something you can do to help Remy?" Alan asked excitedly.
"Perhaps, I would need to examine him to see if he would be a likely candidate for a live organ transplant. I had actually been looking into the possibility for Mr. Harris." Hank said professionally.
"You be sayin dat you can get Remy some new eyes?" Remy asked with excitement.
"I'm saying that I can examine you to see if it is a possibility." Hank said calmly.
"Dr. McCoy and I have discussed this and decided that, if you are willing, you may go with them to their dimension to receive the medical attention that we frankly cannot provide for you." Professor Frost said without emotion.
"While I am familiar with the theory, I have not performed the procedure myself. Therefore, I have contacted a specialist who will be at the mansion later today... that was the matter I wished to discuss with you Mr. Harris. I see no reason why he couldn't look at Mr. LeBeau while he is there." Hank said, pleased that he might be able to help these men.
Xander and Remy were both dumbstruck. Finally Andrew broke the silence by saying, "Let's open the portal and get Remy to our universe then."
"Give me a moment to collect Remy's medical records, that should save you some work." Professor Frost said and opened a file cabinet drawer.
"Thank you Professor, I'll take good care of him." Alan said seriously before Andrew interrupted.
"We're going to fade out now, but the doorway will open in just a minute."
Professor Frost nodded as the men faded. A minute later a swirling vortex appeared before her and Alan stepped out.
"You ready to go Remy?" Alan asked with happiness showing through his voice.
"Oui." Remy said and followed as Alan led him back through the portal.
* * * * *
"Thank you for coming on such short notice." Emma said as she walked into the dining room. Normally, when she called for a meeting of everyone at the institute, there would be people left standing. But today, they didn't completely fill the places at the head table.
"What is it, Em? It sounded important." Logan asked in his usual, informal way.
"Rumors, mostly. But some very disturbing rumors, to say the least." Emma said as she took her seat.
"What are they up to, now?" Warren asked darkly. He had only been released from bedrest the day before, and wasn't fully recovered from the surgical removal of his wings, or the castration.
"A group in New York city was able to get word to me that they have intercepted some intelligence related to a biological weapon that is being developed." Emma said carefully.
"What does this have to do with us? I say, let the Feds handle it." Warren said grimly.
"If only it were that simple." Emma said, then gave a long sigh, which revealed her exhaustion. "If the intelligence is right, the biological weapon was engineered to seek out the active X gene and destroy the host."
"Is that even possible?" Paige asked incredulously.
Paige was a fairly recent arrival. She was beautiful, brilliant, but also very young. She was one of a small group of students that had arrived when their school had been attacked and destroyed.
"Theoretically, yes. But genetic engineering is such a new science... honestly, I just don't know." Emma reluctantly admitted.
"So. If it's true, what do we do?" Logan asked bluntly, always ready to cut to the chase.
"For now, I need for everyone to covertly gather as much information as you can. The threat is too dire to disregard the possibility simply because it seems so far fetched." Emma said honestly.
"Angelo's got some serious hacking skills. He might be able to find somethin." Mondo said enthusiastically.
Angelo and Mondo had arrived with Paige, and while they might be valuable members of the team, someday, they were still terribly young and in need of much more experience before they could be trusted as full fledged X Men.
"Find out what you can... all of you. Just, please, be discreet. We don't need to be drawing attention to ourselves at this fragile time." Emma said cautiously.
"Don't no one catch me. I'm an Internet ninja. I'm in and out before they ever know I was there." Angelo said confidently.
"I pray that you are." Emma said quietly.
* * * * *
"What is it, Em?" Logan asked as he rushed into her office.
"Grave news, I'm afraid." Emma said as she looked up from her desk with concern filling her eyes.
"What now?" Logan asked as he took the chair across from her.
"Everyone has been searching for information to confirm or refute the report that a biological weapon is being constructed." Emma said very precisely.
"Yes or no. That's all I need to know right now. You can fill me in on the details later." Logan said forcefully.
Logan was surprised by the single word answer.
"I've heard from two different sources that not only are they working on the virus, but also that they may have already completed it." Emma said quietly.
"Alright. Then all we need to do is find out where they got it, and take it from 'em." Logan said simply.
Emma smiled at him. And while that was normally a pleasant thing to happen, Logan found it to be unusually irritating at the moment.
"What aren't you telling me?" Logan asked gruffly.
"The United States, South African and Chinese governments are apparently collaborating on the effort. With our depleted manpower and dwindling resources, I can't see any way of doing anything meaningful to prevent the distribution and deployment of the biological agent, if that's what they're planning to do." Emma said frankly.
"Give me somethin, Em. Even if it's a one in a million shot. I can't just sit and wait for it to happen." Logan said in an imploring voice that he was unaccustomed to using.
"Very well. At this point, I don't see that it can make a difference. I will give you copies of all the reports that the others have collected. In the interest of protecting the mansion, I don't want to know your plans. Go and do what you feel is necessary, and know that my hopes and best wishes go with you." Emma finished in nearly a whisper.
"It's really that bad?" Logan quietly asked.
"Logan... Johnathan, by what I've seen, this could exterminate all of mutant kind. I keep hoping that I'll find some error or falsehood, but everything seems to corroborate everything else. This viral weapon is supposed to be lethal to mutants one hundred percent of the time." Emma said seriously.
"Give me the intel, then set me loose. Let me see if I can fix this for you." Logan said gently.
"It will take me a minute. Why don't you go pack the things you'll need and I'll have it ready for you by the time you return." Emma said quietly.
"I'll fix this. Just watch me." Logan said before hurrying out the door.
* * * * *
"...So far the reports indicate that the, so called, super flu has only affected one underground community in lower Manhattan. The 'Friends of Humanity' spokesman, Charles Xavier, has stated that the flu is God's just retribution on the scourge of his creation. Reportedly, most, if not all, the deaths were of people that the friends of humanity identified as mutants."
"Will you turn that shit off? I'm trying to eat." Logan said as he tried to ignore the television in the greasy spoon diner.
"Serves 'em right." The cook/waiter said gruffly as he walked to the television and hit the 'off' button.
"...not right. Shouldn't be like this." A man muttered from the other end of the breakfast bar.
Without looking, Logan knew the man was homeless, or at least hadn't bathed for an untold number of weeks.
"It's wrong! It's all wrong! It's not supposed to be this way!" The man ranted.
"Git on outta here, Garvin, or I'm gonna have'ta call the cops on you again." The cook/waiter said impatiently.
"They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind!" Garvin urged him to understand.
"Now, how'd I know we was gonna be talkin bible before this was all done? Git ya ass outta here, or I'm callin the cops ta stick ya back in tha nuthouse."
The vagrant finally got to his feet and tottered toward the door as he quietly said, "Whispers of the talking dead, going through the motions, thinkin they're still alive..."
Logan felt a chill run up his spine at the words. He wasn't usually one for superstition, but knowing the things that he did, the words hit too close to home.
* * * * *
"It's a chilling spectre in Times Square. There are no people out. The super flu that has already killed thousands, seems to have mutated and become impossibly more infectious. Doctors are at a loss to find an effective treatment. No comment has been made by the CDC except to say that they are studying the problem. Doctors are advising people to stay away from public areas and groups of people and to thoroughly wash their hands after any physical contact with another person." Logan heard on the tinny speaker of the radio one of the other passengers was listening to.
"Like some hand washing's going to stop this thing." A man chuckled from beside Logan.
Logan turned to glare at the man.
"It's a government plot, you know. Those vapor trails that the jets put out... that's how they keep us all docile and complacent. This flu, I bet it's to cull the herd. They's got too many workers and not enough work. Instead of having to feed them all, it's best to thin them out and make sure the rest is real scared."
"Did I say or do something to make you think it'd be alright to talk to me?" Logan asked curiously.
"The vapor trails, the water supply, the genetically modified foods... It's everywhere! You can't escape it!"
Logan stood and walked to the back of the bus as he muttered, "Why is it when I sit down every lunatic in a six mile radius is drawn to me? This is why I don't like to take the bus."
* * * * *
"London is reporting a catastrophic surge in new influenza victims. The hospitals are closing, unable to cope with the influx of new patients. It is estimated that seventy five to eighty percent of the population are infected. As in other countries, no effective treatment has been found to prevent, postpone or cure the disease. The Italian government has withdrawn all it's foreign diplomats and closed all governmental offices. In a statement released to the public yesterday, the Italian Prime Minister urged all uninfected people to remain indoors and avoid contact with others at all costs."
"Mister? You sick?" A teenage girl asked quietly.
"No. Not so far." Logan answered cautiously as he stepped away from the television in the deserted department store.
"I don't know what to do. My dad..." The girl trailed off as she started to cry.
"Go on home. Stuff like this brings all the crazies out." Logan said gently.
"But my dad, he's dead. So's my mom and my little brother. I don't know what to do." She said past her tears.
"None of us knows what to do. I tell you what. I'm heading back up North. If you want to come along, I wouldn't mind."
"Yeah? Really? Where are we going?"
"I gotta stop in a town, up north, and tell a friend of mine that I'm sorry about something, then I'll probably go on up into Canada. There's places up there where you can go and not see another living soul for months at a time." Logan said with a smile.
"From the look of it, you could stay here and do that." The girl said as she looked around.
"Like I said, stuff like this, it brings the crazies out. It's best if we're somewhere isolated until this all blows over." Logan said seriously.
"Okay." The girl quietly agreed.
"Name's Logan. What you called?"
"Come on, Ruby. Let's load some of this stuff in my pickup and get on the road."
To Be Continued...
First, let me say that I am so very pleased to have a new chapter in this amazing story. If you have come across this chapter without having read the previous chapters, you have a lot of catching up to do.
Don't worry, you'll enjoy reading it, but it will take you a while. This is not a short series by any means, but it is definitely worth the time it will take you to read it.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher