"Your old roommate? Who is that?" Ray asked seriously.
"Josh... Josh Metcalf." Beau said as his mind whirled.
"And why is he your 'old' roommate?" Ray asked slowly.
"Because this afternoon he was really rude to Mark's girlfriend, Lisa." Beau said with a sinking feeling. "After that, I moved in here."
Ray nodded as he wrote another note on his notepad.
"Do you think he shot Mark?" Seth asked nervously.
Beau sat silently, not knowing what to think.
"Do you know if your old roommate owns a gun?" Ray asked seriously.
"I... I'm not sure. If he does, he never mentioned it." Beau said quietly.
Constable Fraser and Diefenbaker walked into the living room with the police officer following close behind.
"Officer Grossman has been very helpful. I'm going down to see if we can find any evidence in front of the building." Constable Fraser said seriously.
"We have a person of interest." Ray said as he stood.
Constable Fraser looked at Ray with question.
"We need to talk to a student named Josh Metcalf. He was in an incident with the victim's girlfriend earlier today and he's this guy's former roommate." Ray said seriously.
"And he hates mutants." Beau added under his breath.
Constable Fraser and Ray exchanged a significant look at the statement.
"If you would like, we can track down Mr. Metcalf for you." the police officer said professionally.
"Yes. Thank you kindly, Officer Grossman." Constable Fraser said courteously.
The officer blinked with surprise at Constable Fraser's unusual manner of speech, then keyed his radio as he walked out of the room.
"Is there any other significant information?" Constable Fraser asked professionally.
"Yeah. The phone and computer access were cut. We need to check that out." Ray said frankly.
"Understood." Constable Fraser said, then motioned for the wolf at his side.
The wolf made a little 'yip' then walked around the couch and started sniffing.
"What have you found Dief?" Ray asked curiously.
"He can't hear you Ray. He's deaf." Constable Fraser said seriously.
Ray rolled his eyes and watched as Dief started sniffing beside Louie.
//Nice doggy.// Jesus said in a quiet, nervous mind/voice.
"That's new." Ray said with mild surprise as he looked at Jesus.
"He appears to be telepathic." Constable Fraser said speculatively.
//Could you, maybe, stop this thing from eating me?// Jesus asked with a slight note of panic.
"Don't worry. Diefenbaker won't hurt you. I think he likes you." Constable Fraser said as he watched Diefenbaker nuzzling Jesus.
//Diefenbaker? Do you think maybe we could do this later? I'm sure you have work to do.// Jesus asked hopefully.
After a quick lick, Diefenbaker moved to Constable Fraser's side.
"Ready?" Constable Fraser asked Diefenbaker calmly.
The wolf gave one quick, quiet bark in response.
"Diefenbaker will be back to talk to you again later." Constable Fraser said to Jesus, then walked out the door.
"It looks like someone's made a new friend." Ray said with a mischievous grin.
//Oh. Lucky me.// Jesus said nervously.
"It's getting late. Is there any way I could take these guys to my house where they'll be able to get some rest?" Lee asked cautiously.
Ray looked around the room, then said, "I think we have enough to work with for now, but I'll need to be able to get in touch with you if we have anymore questions."
"Sure. I'll give you the address and phone number." Lee said as he held out his hand for the notepad.
Ray waited for Lee to write down the information, then looked it over when he received the pad back.
"Looks good. Get these guys tucked in and I'll be in touch if we have any more questions." Ray said seriously.
"Thanks." Lee said with relief.
* * * * *
"We're here for Mark... what's his last name?" Andrew asked Lisa at his side.
"Stanton, Marcus Donatello Stanton." Lisa said quickly.
"Are you family?" The nurse at the desk asked cautiously.
"No, but he's a student at the Wagner Institute. His family lives out of state." Andrew said anxiously.
"Are you a member of the Wagner Institute staff?" The nurse asked cautiously.
"Yes. I teach there." Andrew said, vowing to himself to teach at least one class at the Wagner school at some future date, just to make it not a complete lie.
"Have a seat over there and the doctor will be over to talk to you soon." the nurse said as she indicated the waiting room area.
Andrew looked at the crowded and chaotic waiting room and slowly nodded.
He put an arm around Lisa's shoulder and guided her to stand with him against a wall, since there were no chairs available.
* * * * *
"Excuse me. I'm going to call for a ride." Lee said as he walked to the other side of the room, then fished in his pocket for something.
"Do you need my phone?" Seth offered quietly.
"That's okay. I've got it." Lee said as he faced away from the group, then pulled a metallic 'X' in a circle out of his pocket.
"That is, if I can figure out how to work this thing." Lee muttered to himself, then purposefully tapped the center of the 'X' twice.
The metal emblem chirped which made Lee smile with accomplishment.
"Hellport to Cyclops." Lee said into the emblem, then glanced over his shoulder and noticed a few of the boys looking at him curiously.
"We were in a rush to come up with a code name." Lee said in a shy whisper.
"Cyclops here. Go ahead." Scott answered professionally.
"We're done here for now. I'd like to get the kids to the boathouse where we know they'll be safe. But Portal is at the hospital with Mark, so we're going to need a ride." Lee said seriously.
"Storm is on her way. She should be there in a few minutes." Scott said seriously, then continued, "What can you tell me about your situation?"
"I'll fill you in after we get the kids tucked in." Lee said, then glanced over his shoulder and noticed Ray watching him curiously.
"Understood. Cyclops out."
* * * * *
"Code names, a private communications network... You know, I've heard a few stories about a mutant militia operating in this area." Ray said casually.
"Oh." Lee said shyly. "You weren't supposed to hear that."
"Don't worry about it. I didn't hear nothin." Ray said as he looked Lee in the eyes.
"Good." Lee responded with a relieved smile, then casually said, "And I haven't heard anything about a mutant militia, but I heard a few stories about a group of people who sometimes try to help out when good people are being treated unfairly and it looks like no one else will step up to defend them."
"Yeah. That's what I meant to say." Ray said slowly. "I was just thinking that if our new task force were to meet someone from a group like that, well, that we might have a few common goals."
Lee thought for a moment, then said, "You might. I guess if the people in that group found out that you were willing to talk, that they might get in touch with you to discuss it."
"Yeah." Ray said thoughtfully, then added, "By the way, since we're on the subject of getting in touch, here's how you can get in touch with me. You know, if any of the kids remember anything or if you need a little help."
Lee accepted a business card from Ray, then looked up curiously. "Chicago Police?"
"Yeah. Me and Frase were just assigned to the task force this week. In fact, we arrived in New York this morning to get the official assignment. But that cellphone number is still good." Ray said with a grin.
"So does that mean that you and Constable Fraser aren't mutants?" Lee asked cautiously.
"No. But..." Ray trailed off with a look of distant thought. "...Now that you mention it, that *would* explain a few things about Fraser."
Lee smiled at Ray's playful and casual nature.
"Do you guys need to get anything out of your rooms?" Ray asked the group of boys who had been listening.
"Yeah." Slash said and the rest of the boys nodded their agreement.
"Is it okay if I get my laptop? I mean, since my room is a crime scene?" Beau asked cautiously.
"Yeah. But I'll go with you so no one will be able to say that you messed with the evidence." Ray said, then gestured for Beau to walk with him.
* * * * *
//Professor?// Andrew called in his mind, hoping that Professor Xavier was using Cerebro and paying attention.
//Yes Andrew, what can I do for you?// Professor Xavier asked immediately.
//Could you check on the doctor who's helping Mark and make sure that he's really doing what's best for him? I don't know why, but I really don't trust these people.// Andrew asked hopefully.
There was a long moment of silence, then the Professor responded, //The doctor is currently with another patient, but Mark has received adequate care for his injury and is in post-operative recovery.//
//Thank you, Professor.// Andrew said quietly.
//Andrew. I believe what you are feeling is unease at being around non-mutants.// the Professor said frankly. //Perhaps you might take time while you have the chance to examine why that is.//
//Yeah.// Andrew responded quietly, then put a hand on Lisa's shoulder at his side and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
* * * * *
Someone rushing in the door caused everyone to jump.
"Mr. Wagner?" Seth asked with surprise, recognizing him from his picture on the website.
"Yes. I am Kurt Wagner." Kurt said seriously, then continued, "I came as soon as I heard about zhe incident. Can you tell me vhat has happened?"
"Mark got shot. He went to the hospital in an ambulance. Andrew and Mark's girlfriend, Lisa, went to the hospital to be with him." Slash said seriously.
Kurt slowly nodded in consideration, then said, "I believe ve vill need to find you anozher place to stay until zhe police haff concluded zheir investigation."
"Lee said that we can stay at the boathouse tonight." Slash said immediately.
Kurt considered for a moment, then nodded decisively. "Zhat is probably best. Ve know zhat zhey vill be safe zhere."
"Hello?" Ray said cautiously as he walked down the hallway with Beau at his side.
"Detective... um, Ray. This is Kurt Wagner, the dean of the Wagner Institute." Slash said haltingly, trying to make a formal introduction.
"Detective Kowalski, but you can call me Ray."
"Unt I am Kurt. Please let me know if zhere is anyzhing zhat I can do to aid in your investigation." Kurt said seriously.
"I'd like to talk to the campus security in case they saw anything." Ray said immediately.
"Of course. But I doubt zhat zhey vill be of much help to you. Zhey vere investigating a case of vandalism at zhe administration building vhen zhe incident occurred." Kurt said carefully.
Ray thought about the words for a moment, then said, "I'd like to talk to them anyway."
Kurt nodded his agreement.
"But first I'd like to get these guys settled in for the night." Ray said seriously as he glanced at the group of boys who were listening intently.
"Storm is on her way with a van." Lee said quickly.
"Zhat may pose a bit of a problem. I noticed several reporters in zhe parking lot." Kurt said seriously.
"Yeah. I should have expected that. An attack on a new mutant school has all the makings of a full blown media circus." Ray said frankly.
"Are we going to be on the news?" Seth asked with a tremble of fear at the idea.
"Let me worry about that." Ray said decisively. "I'll go down and make sure the locals let your friend past the barricade and keep the reporters back."
"Thank you." Kurt said sincerely, "I vould not want zhe children to haff to be exposed to zhat kind of public scrutiny."
"She's probably out there waiting for us by now." Lee said seriously.
"Then let's do this thing." Ray said as he started walking for the door.
"I vill go viss you." Kurt said as he moved to Ray's side. "Perhaps my appearance vill be enough to distract zhem from zhe children."
Ray chuckled and said, "Yeah. You might be right about that."
* * * * *
Seth's cell phone started ringing and he looked at it apprehensively before accepting the call.
"Hello?" Seth asked anxiously.
"Hey there Horney! I just wanted to call you and wish you a good night in your new home." Junior said cheerfully.
Seth blinked at the statement, then quietly said, "Thanks."
"Did I wake you up?" Junior asked with concern.
"No. I wasn't asleep." Seth said, then glanced around the room at the others who were pretending not to listen to his side of the phone call.
"Is everything alright? You sound weird." Junior asked curiously.
Seth thought for a second, then said, "Everything's fine. I guess I just wasn't expecting you to call. It's good to hear from you."
"Yeah. Well, to tell you the truth, Mom is kind of freaking out here. One minute she seems fine, then the next she's blubbering 'My baby! He's just a baby!'." Junior said frankly, then in a lower voice he continued, "Personally, I think she's going through 'the change'."
Lee poked his head in the door and made a motion for everyone to follow.
"Listen Junior, I've got some stuff to do so I have to go now. I'm really glad that you called." Seth said as he leaned down and picked up his suitcase.
"Yeah. But remember that this phone thing works both ways. Next time it's your turn to call me." Junior said seriously.
"Okay. I'll do that. I've got to go. Thanks again for calling." Seth said quickly.
"No prob. Have a good night, Horney." Junior said with an obvious smile in his voice.
"You have a good night too."
* * * * *
"Who is here with Marcus Stanton?" the doctor asked as he walked toward the waiting room.
"That's us!" Andrew said immediately as he stepped forward.
"Come this way." The doctor said and led them past the reception desk and down a hallway.
He led them into a large room that was partitioned off by curtains.
"We performed emergency surgery to remove a bullet from the patient's chest. There is no indication that any vital organs were damaged and his prognosis is a full recovery." The doctor said in an emotionless and detached tone.
"When will he be able to leave the hospital?" Andrew asked hopefully.
The doctor looked down at the chart in his hands, then seemed to freeze in place.
//Andrew, I am seeding the idea in his mind that Mark is sufficiently well to leave immediately. Sign him out, then port him to the med lab at the mansion. I assure you that Mark will receive far better care from Hank than he will in that place.// The Professor said firmly.
Andrew couldn't resist the temptation and asked, //Is this because they're non-mutants?//
//No Mr. Summers, it's because these people are so overworked and jaded that no person who is conscious should ever be left in their 'so called' care.// Professor Xavier responded frankly.
//From what I've seen since we've been here, I completely agree.// Andrew said seriously as he noticed that the Doctor seemed to have become animated again.
"I think that as long as he has someone to watch after him, he should be fine to leave with you now." the doctor said seriously.
"Then if you'll tell me what I have to do, we'll be on our way." Andrew said as he tried to restrain a smile.
"There's some paperwork that you'll need to fill out at the desk to sign him out." the Doctor said, beginning to sound impatient.
"Will it be okay if Lisa stays here with Mark while I do that?" Andrew asked hopefully.
"Yes. Fine." The Doctor said with barely a glance at Lisa. "If you'll excuse me now..."
Andrew nodded and watched as the doctor rushed out of the room.
"I'm going to the front desk to fill out some paperwork, then we're going to take Mark someplace where he'll receive the best possible care." Andrew said assuringly.
"Thank you, Andrew." Lisa said sincerely, then walked to Mark's bedside and took hold of his hand...
Andrew watched for a moment, then went to the front desk to work on paperwork.
* * * * *
"What happened? How are all of you?" Julia asked as she and Angel rushed up the stairs, meeting the group on the second floor.
"Mark was shot. Lisa and Andrew are at the hospital with him now." Slash answered immediately.
"Andrew?" Julia asked cautiously.
"My um... nephew. Andrew Summers." Slash said a bit shyly.
"Of course. I remember him now." Julia said with a smile at Slash, then looked around the group and asked, "How are all of you?"
"I think we're fine, Dr. Hoffman. Lee is just going to take us to his house so we won't be in the police's way while they figure this out." Seth said calmly.
"Maybe we should hurry and get them out of here. It looks like there's quite a crowd forming out front." Angel said gently to Julia.
"Right. Let's get you out of here so we can get this mess all taken care of." Julia said and ushered the group to walk with her.
"When we get to the entry hall, let's wait for the detective and Kurt to come get us." Lee said decisively.
At Julia's look of question, Lee explained, "We have a ride on the way. The Detective, Ray, said that he was going to clear it so she could get up to the building."
* * * * *
As the group reached the entry hall, they found Kurt waiting on them.
"Zhis is not going to be easy." Kurt said frankly.
"What's wrong?" Julia asked with concern.
"Zhere is quite a crowd of people assembled, and zhere are news reporters." Kurt said apologetically.
"What do you want to do?" Julia asked Kurt quietly.
Before Kurt could answer, Slash said, "When I got kicked out of my home for being a mutant, at first I tried to hide."
Everyone looked at Slash with question, wondering what this had to do with their current situation.
"After a while, I realized that it didn't help. Acting scared and trying to hide didn't make anything one bit better. If they're going to look, they're going to look."
"So vahat are you saying?" Kurt asked hesitantly.
"We're mutants. Stuff like this is going to happen. I know it sucks, but we just have to do it and get it over with." Slash said frankly.
"As much as I would like to protect you and shield you from this, I think maybe Slash is right." Julia said regretfully.
Slash looked around the group, then his gaze stopped on Seth.
"It's okay if you want to put your hood up. Just think of it as depriving the infotainment industry of one more sensational mutant picture." Slash said frankly.
"Thanks." Seth muttered, then pulled up his hood to hide his horns.
"We ready?" Slash asked as he looked around. "I guess I'll go first."
"Not without me." Lee said immediately. "Brothers need to stick together."
Slash smiled at Lee, then stepped forward to open the door.
* * * * *
"Are you ready to go?" Andrew asked Lisa as he walked into the recovery room.
"Yes. Do you really think he'll be okay to travel?" Lisa asked with concern.
Andrew's gaze became distant and unfocused for a moment, then he smiled and said, "Yes. I think so."
Lisa looked at him curiously, then realized that they were standing in a different room.
She was still holding Mark's hand, but he was on a different type of medical bed.
"What happened?" Lisa asked as she looked at the brushed steel walls of the Xavier Institute's MedLab.
"I used my portal ability to relocate us." Andrew said frankly.
Lisa looked at Andrew with concern, then hesitantly asked, "Why couldn't you have done that before? When Mark was shot?"
"I could have. But by the time I got there, the ambulance had already been called." Andrew said frankly.
At Lisa's anxious look, he continued, "If Mark's life were ever in danger, I promise you that I would have ported him here or anywhere on the planet where he could have received the care that he needed."
Lisa gasped as she saw what appeared to be a large blue furry animal walk into the room.
"Dr. Hank McCoy, this is Mark and his girlfriend Lisa." Andrew said pleasantly.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Lisa." Hank said gently. "The professor already filled me in on Mark's condition. You need not worry. Mark is going to receive the best of care."
"Thank you." Lisa said, as she looked up at Hank with wonder.
* * * * *
Everything that Slash had gone through as a homeless mutant kid on the streets hadn't prepared him for the experience of stepping out of the front door of the dorm building.
Within two steps from the building, six spotlights from television cameras flared and blinded him.
He heard a terrified cry and turned to see Seth clutching Louie close to his side, shielding his face with one hand.
There was a clamor of voices yelling, all trying to gain their attention. Mostly they were reporters trying to scream questions at them from behind the police barricade.
"Komen ze, Storm is over zhis vey." Kurt said as he moved to Slash's side.
//Calm down, Louie.// Jesus said into their minds. //You need to breathe.//
Slash felt a mix of anger and frustration well up in him at the humiliation they were being forced to endure just to get to safety.
He also felt responsible for encouraging everyone to go outside with him. He never imagined that it could be this bad.
One of the camera lights blinded Slash and he instinctively brought up a hand to shield his eyes.
"STOP IT!" Slash screamed in frustration and without thought, his mutant power welled up and flowed out toward the people massed behind the barricade.
"Come on, Slash." Julia encouraged a moment later, snapping him out of the shock of what he had just done.
"You need to move." Julia said more insistently as she took one of his arms.
Lee took hold of the other as they half encouraged/half dragged him toward the waiting van.
Slash looked back at the huge cloud of blackness that was slowly dissipating over the crowd of people.
"Step up." Julia said, finally drawing Slash's attention.
Slash looked forward and blinked, then realized that she was telling him to get into the van.
"Aren't you coming with us?" Louie asked, still huddled under Seth's arm.
"No, Louie. This is my college and I'm going to stay here and find out what happened tonight so we can make sure that it never happens again." Julia said seriously.
"Do you zhink zhat you vill be safe to travel to Xavier's alone?" Kurt asked with concern.
"Yes Kurt. I promise you that we'll be fine." Storm said from the driver's seat.
"Zhen you should go." Kurt said with concern, then closed the door of the van.
* * * * *
"Did you see what I did?" Slash asked Lee in a whisper.
"Yeah, Slash. That was really great." Lee said as he hugged his adopted brother to his side.
"I'm really sorry guys." Lee said from the seat beside Storm.
"For what?" Seth asked as he continued to hold Louie close.
"If I'd learned my ability better, I might have been able to get you out of there without you having to go through all of that." Lee said despondently
"Lee, you can't know that it would have helped." Storm said gently. "The children are safe. Take consolation in that. And use this experience to inspire you in your future training to learn your ability."
"Thanks, Storm." Lee said weakly.
Seth felt an unusual movement under his arm and realized that it was Louie holding Jesus in his arms between them.
"How are you doing, Jesus?" Seth asked quietly. "Do you need anything."
After a moment to consider, Jesus responded, //Well, there is one thing you could do for me.//
"What's that?" Seth asked immediately.
//One word: Deoderant.//
Editor's Notes: It's really nice to see another chapter of this story.Thanks MM for bringing us more info on what has happened here. Of course, any new chapters would be appreciated.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. Lately, I have been mentioning, in my notes, that I would greatly appreciate it if readers would drop a line to the authors and let them know that you have read their work and enjoy it.
It really does help us to know if people like what we do, and we really do enjoy hearing from you.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher