"Did you guys hear that?" Slash asked as he walked in the open bedroom door.
"Get down! Someone might still be out there." Beau said as he looked over Mark to see if he could find any sign of injury.
Slash immediately crouched in the doorway, then noticed the chilly breeze blowing in through the broken window.
Before all the pieces could fit together in Slash's mind, Beau quickly said, "FUCK!"
"What happened?" Slash asked in panic at Beau's desperate tone.
"Mark's been shot. Hurry and call 911." Beau said as he ripped Mark's shirt open to expose the wound on his chest.
"On it." Slash said as he ran out of the room.
"How you doing Mark?" Beau asked in a whisper.
"I... I don't know..." Mark said distantly.
Beau reached over to his bed and grabbed the blankets with one hand and pulled them to him with a jerk.
"Just relax and let me take care of everything." Beau said gently as he covered Mark with the blankets.
"Will you call Lisa and make sure she's alright?" Mark asked with sudden concern.
"Don't worry about it. I'll call just as soon as I know that you're okay," Beau said quietly as he took Mark's torn shirt and balled it up to press it over Mark's wound.
"But what if whoever shot me already shot her?" Mark asked with worry, then his eyes went wide as he asked, "What if he's over there right now?"
"I'll take care of that as soon as I can. I promise." Beau said, then noticed that blood was running down Mark's shoulder and starting to pool on the floor.
"I need to get a towel or something to do this right." Beau said helplessly.
"The phone's dead." Slash said as he rushed back into the room.
"Oh shit." Beau said under his breath, then looked up and said, "We're cut off from the computer network too. That could mean that someone is planning to come in here to finish the job."
"How is Mark?" Slash asked with concern.
"Bleeding pretty bad. Get me a towel or something to try and slow it down." Beau said as he held the balled up shirt firmly over the wound.
//I felt your panic. What can I do to help?// Jesus' voice sounded in Beau's mind.
"I don't know lil buddy. We need help but the phone and computer access have been cut. I'm afraid that if anyone tries to go for help that someone will be waiting to gun them down." Beau said into the air.
//Seth has a cell phone. I can get him to call for help.// Jesus said seriously.
"Yes! Good! Do that." Beau said with some small measure of relief.
"Here. What else can I do?" Slash asked as he handed a jet black towel to Beau.
After a moment to press the towel over Mark's wound, Beau said, "Jesus is getting Seth to call for help. When that's done, I think you should call the guys who just left so they can be on the lookout. If someone is hunting mutants, they might be in danger too."
"Call Lisa." Mark said in a small, weak voice.
"Right. I'll call her for you Mark. I promise." Slash said, then rushed out of the room.
* * * * *
"Seth, I need to use the phone to call the Xavier people. They might be in danger too." Slash said quickly.
"Hold on. The 911 operator wants to know how Mark is doing." Seth said in an overwhelmed tone as he held his cell phone out to Slash with a look of desperation.
"Mark was shot in the chest! How the fuck do you think he's doing?" Slash snarled into the phone.
"Listen lady. Whoever just shot Mark may be after my family too. Get an ambulance and some cops over to the Wagner school, the third floor of dorm 3. I need to call my brother and warn him." Slash said, then hung up the phone without waiting for an answer.
"Do you think they're going to hurt Quaid?" Louie asked as his eyes filled with tears.
Slash quickly dialed the phone, then tilted his head toward Louie.
Seth nodded, then hurried across the room to sit on the bed next to Louie and pull him into a comforting hug.
"Quaid is going to be just fine. Slash is just going to let them know to watch out for anyone who might want to hurt them." Seth said quietly.
* * * * *
"Xavier Institute." A woman answered pleasantly.
"Hi, this is Slash... I'm... Um, Andrew's uncle." Slash said disjointedly.
"Yes Slash. What can I do for you this evening?" Storm asked carefully, concerned by his tone.
"Someone just shot Mark. He's one of the new students at the Wagner school." Slash said as he felt his panic spiraling out of control.
"Have you called for an ambulance?" Storm asked calmly.
"Yeah. Right before I called you." Slash said quickly as he fought to keep his breathing calm.
"Slash. you need to maintain your composure for one more minute. I'll call Andrew and he can make a portal to bring you all the help you'll need." Storm said gently.
"Just tell them to be careful. Whoever shot Mark may not be gone." Slash said quickly.
"I'll let them know. One minute... just hold on for one more minute." Storm said, then hung up the phone.
Slash squeezed his eyes tightly shut, then realized that tears were falling down his cheeks.
//You need to call Lisa.// Jesus said quietly.
"I want to check on Mark. Seth, do you think you and Louie could call Lisa and make sure she's okay? Tell her not to go outside until the cops get here. It may not be safe." Slash asked as he walked to the bed where they were sitting and holding each other.
"Yeah." Seth said as he held out his hand for the phone.
As Slash held out the phone to him, he noticed that it had become completely black.
"Sorry." Slash whispered.
Seth looked at his phone, then gave a one shouldered shrug, obviously not bothered by it in the least.
* * * * *
"How is he?" Slash asked as he rushed into the room.
"Not good." Beau said as he held the blood soaked towel firmly in place.
"Seth called 911 and I called the Xavier guys. Seth is calling Lisa right now." Slash said quickly.
"Good." Beau said seriously, then leaned down and quietly said, "Did you hear that Mark? Help is on the way and they're calling Lisa right now."
The sound of the front door slamming immediately drew Beau and Slash's attention.
"I'll go check." Slash whispered.
"Be careful. It might be the gunman." Beau said quickly.
"Yeah. I will." Slash said, then noticed that the bedroom door that he was touching had turned black.
* * * * *
"Who was it?" Beau asked as Slash hurried back into the room.
"No one. I think the new guy just left. He's not in our room." Slash said as he knelt in the floor at Mark's other side.
"Oh." Beau said thoughtfully, then thought to ask, "What's his name, anyway?"
"I have no idea. I introduced myself, but he just ignored me the whole time we were in there together." Slash said frankly.
"What's taking them so long?" Beau asked in frustration.
"It's only been a couple minutes. I'm sure they'll be here any second." Slash said as he looked at Mark helplessly.
"Lisa's fine." Seth said in a rush as he hurried into the room with Louie held tight to his side.
"Is she safe? Are you sure she knows not to go outside?" Mark asked quickly as he tried to sit up.
"Stay still Mark. You need to stay calm." Beau said as he continued to hold the towel firmly to Mark's chest.
"Yeah. She wanted to come over but I told her to stay there until the cops get here and we're sure that the guy who shot you isn't around anymore."
A rumbling drew everyone's attention.
"Oh God! What now?" Beau asked as he looked around.
A plume of flames erupted from the middle of the floor, leaving a gaping hole in it's wake.
Seth clutched Louie tight to his side as he backed against the wall just inside the door.
All the boys watched as something started to emerge from the burning pit.
Slash wilted with relief as he saw Lee and Andrew slowly rising from the flames.
The boys watched with amazement as the flaming hole faded and the floor became solid under their feet.
"Sorry about the dramatic entrance guys. Dad's portal ability forces us to travel through a hell dimension. But since he knew exactly where we were going, this was the quickest way to get us here." Andrew said, then hurried to Mark's side.
Slash ran to Lee and pulled him into a firm hug.
"How is everyone doing?" Lee asked Slash gently.
"Mark's hurt... I think the rest of us are just scared." Slash said past his tears of relief.
"Is your name Mark?" Andrew asked gently.
"Yeah." Mark said uncertainly as he looked at the stranger who had apparently just risen from the depths of hell.
"My name is Andrew and I'm something like a paramedic. Just relax and I'm going to check you out to see how you're doing." Andrew said as he moved his medical tricorder over Mark's body.
Everyone was silent, waiting anxiously for the results.
"Good news." Andrew said as he looked up from his medical tricorder.
All the boys looked at Andrew with hope, urging him to continue.
"The bullet didn't hit anything vital. Mark should be fine." Andrew said, then injected a hypospray into Mark's neck and whispered, "I just gave you something to ease the pain a little."
"That's really good news." Slash said, maintaining his hug on Lee.
"You did exactly the right thing by keeping pressure on the wound and keeping Mark warm. You probably saved his life." Andrew said as he looked Beau in the eyes.
"Thanks. It was all I could think of to do to help." Beau said honestly. "Oh, and I'm Beau Collins."
"And that's Seth and Louie over there by the door." Slash said quickly, just understanding that Andrew hadn't met any of them before.
The sound of sirens drew everyone's attention.
"C'mon Slash. Let's go out to the living room to let the police in the door." Lee said as he encouraged Slash to walk with him.
* * * * *
Slash looked out the peephole to find two uniformed police officers standing in the stairwell.
"Come on in. Mark's back here." Slash said as he opened the door.
The first policeman did a quick visual survey of the room while one of the others blocked open the door.
Slash noticed that the officer's name badge said 'Grossman'.
An adolescent and completely inappropriate bubble of laughter welled within Slash, wanting desperately to escape.
Officer Grossman followed Slash down the hall as the other three police officers filed out of the room.
* * * * *
When officer Grossman saw Mark's blood pooling onto the floor, he picked up his radio and said, "What's the ETA on the ambulance?"
A moment later a voice on his radio responded, "They're pulling into the parking lot now."
"Send them up to the third floor with a stretcher. We've got a chest wound and a lot of blood here." Officer Grossman said firmly.
"Confirmed. They'll be to you in just a moment."
"Out." Officer Grossman said, then looked at the people around the room.
"Who's going to tell me what happened here?" He asked impatiently.
"Someone shot Mark." Slash said immediately.
"Do you have any idea of who that someone might be?" The officer asked firmly, directing his full attention to Slash.
"No... No sir. I was across the hall in my room when it happened." Slash said in a quieter voice.
"I was here when it happened, but there's nothing to tell. Gunshots, breaking glass, squealing tires, Mark bleeding," Beau said frankly.
"How many shots?" Officer Grossman asked immediately.
"Three or four," Beau said in thought.
The officer looked at the window, then at Beau sprawled in the floor.
"Where was he when the shots were fired?" Officer Grossman asked cautiously.
"He was standing over there, a foot or so from the desk." Beau said as he gestured in the general direction.
The officer walked to the indicated spot, then looked toward the window again.
Andrew and Lee exchanged a look at the officer's line of questioning.
"He's in here." they heard Seth say, then turned to see Seth and Louie leading the paramedics into the room.
"Back up guys. We need to get in there to have a look at him." One of the paramedics said as he rushed to Mark's side.
"His pulse is strong and 85, his BP is 105/73. There's one entry wound, no exit. So he's still got the bullet in his chest, but from the amount of blood and his breathing, I'd guess that it missed his heart and lung." Andrew said professionally.
"You a doctor?" The first paramedic asked as he started to get Mark's vitals.
"I'm studying to be a paramedic. Actually, I've got the training, just not the certification for this state." Andrew said carefully.
"Stick with it. From what I'm seeing here, your assessment seems to be spot on." The paramedic said to Andrew, then turned to his partner and said, "It looks like he's stable enough to transport. Let's get on the road and call it in along the way. Bullets have a funny habit of going to the worst possible place if you leave them in there too long."
"Are there any special considerations we need to take into account?" the other paramedic asked seriously.
Everyone was confused by the question, but Beau finally realized what the paramedic was asking and said, "He's not a mutant."
"Sorry. But we have to ask, sometimes it's important." the paramedic said with apology.
"Mark!" Lisa called as she ran into the room.
"He's going to the hospital now. But he's going to be fine." Slash said quickly as he ran to intercept her before she could get in the paramedics' way.
"Lisa!" Mark called across the room.
"I'm here Mark. I'm right here." Lisa said as she fought against Slash's grasp.
"Lisa. Listen to me." Mark said as he strained to see past the other people in the room.
Lisa calmed slightly as she watched Mark through tear filled eyes.
"I'm going to be fine, I really am." Mark said with conviction, then winced as the paramedics lifted him onto a stretcher.
"I love you, Lisa." Mark said as he forced an assuring smile onto his face.
"I love you too." Lisa said as she finally stopped struggling against Slash's hold.
"Andy, do you think you could take Lisa to the hospital? I'd like to stay with these guys." Lee asked hopefully.
"I'd be glad to," Andrew said with a smile, then walked to Lisa's side.
"Lisa. I'm Andrew. If you'll come with me, we can go to the hospital and wait for Mark there." Andrew said gently.
One of the paramedics glanced at Andrew with a grateful smile, then lifted his end of the stretcher to carry Mark out of the room.
"Where are you taking him?" Andrew asked the first paramedic seriously.
"Women's and Children's." The paramedic answered immediately.
"We'll meet you there."
* * * * *
"Hold on. I need to get statements from everyone about what's happened here." Officer Grossman said firmly.
"I already told you, we were here in our bedroom, minding our own business when someone shot Mark through the window." Beau said as he stood. "What more do you want to know?"
"Can you think of anyone who would have a reason to want to attack him?" Officer Grossman asked seriously.
"I'm sure there are a few 'friends of humanity' who would think it's a real hoot to shoot up a school for mutants." Andrew said as he held Lisa to his side, then asked, "Can we leave? We weren't even here when it happened."
"If you'll give me your names, we'll contact you at the hospital if we have any questions." The police officer said irritably.
"LeeAndrew Summers." Andrew said quietly, then looked at Lisa.
"Lisa Brogan... can we go now?" Lisa asked desperately.
The officer wrote down the names, then said, "Go on."
"Come on Lisa, let's go to the hospital." Andrew said gently as he guided her out of the room.
A pair of police officers walked into the room as Andrew and Lisa left.
"Any word on forensics?" Officer Grossman asked immediately.
"Half an hour or more." One of the officers said with a look of apology.
"We've got a motive." The other police officer said firmly.
"What have you got?" Officer Grossman asked curiously.
"Fresh graffiti on the front of the building. 'Die! Mutants! Die!'." The officer said frankly.
"Did you already call it?" Officer Grossman asked thoughtfully.
"Yeah. In fact, they said that the task force is already on their way and could be here any minute." the second officer said seriously.
"Then pull our men out. Get them on crowd control and protect the crime scene. This is out of our hands now." Officer Grossman said firmly.
"What's going on?" Lee asked curiously.
"That graffiti has just elevated this to a full fledged 'hate crime'. That makes it federal jurisdiction." Officer Grossman said firmly, then noticed the looks of concern around the room.
"That means that this is going to be done right. They have the manpower and resources to do the things we wish we could do." Officer Grossman said seriously as he looked Lee in the eyes.
"Thanks." Lee said with some small measure of relief.
"Why don't you guys go into the other room so we can preserve the crime scene... besides, it's cold in here." Officer Grossman said more gently.
"Yeah. Thanks." Lee said to the officer, then turned to the rest of the group and said, "Let's go into the living room."
* * * * *
"How are you doing Louie?" Seth asked as soon as he and Louie were settled on the couch.
"Do you think Quaid is okay?" Louie asked in a small voice.
Lee heard the question and squatted beside the couch to look Louie in the eyes as he said, "Quaid is completely safe. The place where we live has all kinds of security so there's no way anyone could get in and hurt him."
Louie looked at Lee uncertainly, not fully trusting his words.
"I'm pretty sure that we're going to have to hang around here for a while to answer a lot of questions, but when we're done, what would you think about coming over to my house and spending the night with Quaid?" Lee asked gently.
"Really?" Louie asked with excitement.
"Yes Louie. Really." Lee said with a smile, then stood and looked at the rest of the group as he said, "That goes for all of you."
//Including me?// Jesus asked cautiously from Louie's other side.
"Of course that includes you." Slash said immediately.
"I have a room at the boathouse. It's really nice there and I know that you'll all be welcomed." Slash said with certainty, then turned his gaze to Jesus and said, "And that definitely includes you."
"I don't know..." Seth began to say.
"I doubt that they'd let you stay here, even if you wanted to. And I don't think anyone else would be able to rest comfortably if they were worried about your safety." Lee said frankly.
"Slash." Seth said hesitantly.
Seth looked down at the couch that Slash was leaning against.
Slash followed Seth's gaze and was surprised to see that the couch had become a deep, midnight black.
"Sorry." Slash said in a whisper. "When I get nervous, I forget to control it."
"Just do the same thing to the chairs, so they'll match, then don't worry about it." Lee said with a grin.
Slash thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah. At least it'll give me something to do."
"I heard that someone around here got shot. Is this the right place?" A smallish dark blond haired man asked from the doorway.
"Yeah. C'mon in." Lee said as he tried to restrain a chuckle.
"Thanks. I'm Detective Kowalski, you guys can call me Ray. This is my..." Ray trailed off when he noticed that no one was with him.
"Fraser! Where'd you go?" Ray called into the stairwell.
"Be right back." Ray said impatiently, then hurried back out the door.
"Is *that* the federal agent we're waiting for?" Slash asked cautiously.
"Could be." Lee said hesitantly.
* * * * *
"Sorry about that." Ray said as he walked back into the room, then muttered under his breath, "Sometimes it's like taking care of a three year old."
A man in a striking red uniform followed Ray into the room. He stopped suddenly when he heard Ray's comment and seemed to be confused by it.
"Okay. This is Constable Benton Fraser." Ray said seriously, then added in a conspiratorial whisper, "He's a Mountie."
A few looks of confusion went around at the announcement.
Constable Fraser cleared his throat, then nodded downward to his side, to indicate the large wolf that had just sat down by his foot.
"Oh, and that's Diefenbaker." Ray said casually.
"Hold on." Lee said cautiously, "*You're* the feds?"
Ray seemed to be considering his response when Constable Fraser answered, "No. Not as such. We represent a newly formed international task force that was created to address the increasing problem of hate crimes directed at mutants."
"Yeah. What he said." Ray said with a smirk.
As everyone considered what Constable Fraser had said, Ray asked, "Where's the police guy that's supposed to be up here with you?"
"He's in the bedroom back there. He sent us out here so we wouldn't mess up your crime scene." Seth answered honestly.
"You wanna talk to the local? I'll get statements out here." Ray said seriously, revealing the tiniest glimmer of professionalism.
"Understood." Constable Fraser said, then made a motion to the wolf at his side before walking down the hallway.
Lee watched curiously, noticing that Constable Fraser walked directly to the proper room without being told which one it was.
"Okay guys. Who wants to fill me in on what happened here?" Ray asked as he took a small notepad out of his pocket.
"I guess I will." Beau said cautiously.
"What's your name?" Ray asked seriously.
"Beau Collins." Beau answered hesitantly.
"Just tell me what happened in the order that it happened." Ray said as he wrote down Beau's name.
"Would you like to sit down?" Lee asked as he indicated one of the armchairs that was unoccupied.
"Yeah. Thanks." Ray said casually as he took the offered seat, then continued, "Go ahead Beau."
"Well, Mark and I were in our room... he was unpacking." Beau said carefully.
"What were you doing?" Ray asked curiously.
"I was trying to sign onto the campus network to print out my homework for tomorrow. But I couldn't make a connection." Beau said seriously.
"The phone is out too." Slash added.
Ray nodded and made a note.
"Well, Mark wanted to listen to some music and I offered him one of my CDs. When he was about to take it from me, that's when he got shot." Beau said carefully
"Was he in front of a window when that happened?" Ray asked curiously.
"Yeah." Beau said quietly.
"What next?" Ray asked as he looked up from his notebook.
"I guess I heard a loud car engine and tires squealing outside." Beau said distantly.
"Loud? How loud?" Ray asked slowly.
Beau blinked with confusion at the question.
"Did it sound like a small car, a sports car or something else?" Ray prompted.
Beau considered carefully as he tried to remember the sound.
"Actually..." Beau said as he looked up with dawning realization, "...it sounded a lot like my old roommate's truck."
Editor's Notes: That is strange, isn't it? I have to wonder if it was more personal than it might seem to a casual observer.
Let's hope that we get some answers soon, in the way of another chapter of this exciting story. As is always the case with a story by MM we all care deeply about the people in the story, and we certainly want to know what happens to them.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher