Hurt & Comfort

Book 3: Deepest Hurt

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Chapter 6: A Trilogy of Nightmares

Professor Xavier, Magneto, and Emma Frost entered the room, all looking grim and determined.

"Everyone, may I have your attention." Professor Xavier said loudly to the room.

Magneto raised his hand and his people quieted. Emma cast a look at her students and they too fell silent.

"First things first, we need for the children to go to the common room. Andrew, Jubilee, and Angelo, I need for you to come with me for a moment." Professor Xavier said and moved to leave the room.

The children and named individuals followed the professor out of the room.

Outside the common room the professor said, "Magneto and Emma are talking with the rest to bring them up to date on our current situation. Andrew, I need for you to open a portal to your dimension and take the children to safety. I assume that Buffy won't have a problem with that?"

Andrew thought for a moment before answering, "I don't think she will, but she also won't be able to accommodate all the children. There are nearly three dozen children all together. She doesn't have that kind of room... but I think I know someone who does... I'll need Xander's help." Andrew said in a considering voice.

After a moment of silence the professor said, "He's on his way. Do what you need to do to get the children to safety."

Andrew felt his heart sink as he realized the implication of what the professor was asking. He couldn't help but ask, "Does this mean they've developed the virus here?"

"Yes." The professor said grimly and turned to Angelo and Jubilee.

"Professor Frost and I have talked it over and decided that you two are best to watch over the children while we fight the coming battle." Professor Xavier explained.

"I've trained with the X-Men. I can fight." Jubilee said indignantly.

"Yeah, I can fight too." Angelo said in offense.

Professor Xavier looked at the two with admiration and said, "I know, and that is why I'm entrusting the safety of our children to you. The world you are going to has vampires, werewolves, and demons. Just so you know, the reason the two of you were chosen is because your relationship with the children is one of respect. Jubilee, all the children know and like you. There is no one else that I can think of who I can say that about. Angelo, Professor Frost says that you have a gift for dealing with children. With the great number we are sending, we need both of you to be dedicated to their care and defense. If either of you are not up to that challenge, we will make do with someone else."

Jubilee and Angelo thought for a moment before agreeing to the professor's request.

Xander walked into the room and Andrew pulled him away to talk privately.

"Good." The professor said then continued, "Angelo, if you will stay with this group of children, I need for Jubilee to gather the rest of the children and bring them here as well. As soon as Xander and Andrew are ready, we will move you all to safety."

"Yes Professor." Was their simultaneous response.

"One other thing..." The professor said reluctantly.

Angelo and Jubilee gave matching looks of inquiry.

"I will need for Clarissa and Artie to be sent to the dining room." The professor said somberly, obviously not happy with having to say those words.

Without further comment, Jubilee left to gather the remaining children. A moment later Angelo went into the common room.

* * * * *

The portal opened in the living room of Buffy's home, known to all as 'Slayer Central'. Buffy and Willow looked up with matching expressions of worry, both knowing that the next scheduled portal wasn't supposed to open till noon the next day.

"What's up Andrew? Xander?" Buffy asked as the two stepped through the portal and it closed behind them.

"Too much to tell, Buffy. Short version, a virus is about to be unleashed on our world, it could kill everyone, we want to bring our children here to keep them safe." Andrew said with abject despair in his features.

"Shit... Okay, what can we do?" Buffy asked, knowing that she had no other choice.

"I need to borrow a few Slayers to help with the children. There are nearly three dozen of them and we can only afford to send two people to watch over them." Xander said with his own grim look.

"I can do that. What else?" Buffy asked with the need to help if she could.

"Come with us to talk to Angel. He has a hotel... it's the best place I can think of to keep three dozen mutant children safe." Andrew said somberly.

"And you need me to come along to provide credibility for your story?" Buffy asked, knowing her role in this scenario.

Andrew nodded and waited for her answer.

"Let's get going, I take it that time is an issue." Buffy said and grabbed her scythe.

"Are you going to be needing that?" Xander asked in confusion.

"I don't leave home without it." Buffy said and motioned for Andrew to open the portal.

* * * * *

Alan was concerned to see the professor enter the room without Andrew.

"Good, we just finished the history lesson." Emma said and moved out of the way to accommodate Professor Xavier's chair.

"Then down to business. We've developed an anti-viral agent that will neutralize the virus. But it will only be effective while the virus is contained. If the virus gets loose, we're dead... all of us." The professor said to the room with grim determination.

Magneto stepped forward and said, "We will deploy three primary strike teams and two secondary teams to take out the virus before it can be distributed. The first strike team will neutralize the research facility in Piedmont, Virginia. The team will consist of Mystique as team leader. Gambit, Avalanche, Pyro Quicksilver and Nightcrawler will be her support.

Emma Frost stepped forward and continued, "Team two will neutralize the research facility in Beijing, China. The team leader will be Banshee. His team will include Monique, Mondo, Paige, Shadowcat and Havok."

Kitty and Alex were shocked to be included in the GenX team but moved to Professor Frost's students, so as to stand with their team.

Professor Xavier moved forward and said, "Team three will neutralize the research facility in Johannesburg, South Africa. The team leader will be Cyclops. His team will include Portal, Colossus, Rogue, and Iceman."

The team followed Kitty and Alex's lead and moved together.

Professor Xavier continued, "The secondary teams will be dispatched to neutralize the data warehouses where backups of the research data are maintained. None of this research should be allowed to survive the night. The first secondary team will include Wolverine and Angel. The second will include Storm and Gemini.

Clarissa and Artie entered the room quietly, looking as though they were in trouble.

Professor Xavier noticed the children. "Clarissa and Artie will be joining team two. Clarissa, your code name will be 'Blink'. Artie, yours will be 'Leach'. This is Sean Cassidy, he will be looking after you for a while. Just do what he says and come back home safely." He said in a pained voice, indicating Banshee.

The adults in the room looked at each other, suddenly realizing the gravity of the situation if the professor was willing to use the youngest children in his plan.

"What about us?" Dawn asked, directing her gaze toward the professor.

Magneto looked with contempt at the two women and said, "You're not mutants, what do you intend to do? Bore our enemies to death with long winded stories about your pathetic existence?"

"I've been fighting things that would make you wet your pants for the past three years, but you don't care about that." Dawn said and gave Magneto a considering look before she said, "Maybe you'll care about this." Dawn took Tara's hand into her own and raised her free hand toward the middle of the room.

A wind began to blow from nowhere and spin into a mini-tornado that reached from floor to ceiling, right in the middle of the dining hall. A moment later, Tara raised her free hand toward the tornado and it began to darken and twist wildly. The waterspout made its way across the room toward Magneto and stopped right before him. Dawn squeezed Tara's hand in signal and with a simultaneous motion they lowered their hands and the waterspout fizzled out of existence.

Magneto looked in wonder at the two women then said, "Good enough. Charles?"

Professor Xavier looked with pride at the two women and said, "Tara, your code name will be 'Sprite', Dawn, yours will be 'Tempest'. You will be joining team three."

* * * * *

Angel got into battle stance, with sword in hand, as he saw a vortex open in the lobby of the hotel.

Buffy, Andrew, and Xander stepped out of the vortex and it closed behind them, obviously under their control.

"Buffy?" Angel asked in shock as he straightened and relaxed his hold on his sword.

"Angel, you know how you always say that you help the helpless? We've got about three dozen children that need a place to stay for a few days... you up to it?" Buffy asked casually as if she were talking about the weather.

"What? I mean, of course I'll help but... tell me more." Angel said, obviously wanting to help, but hesitant to give a blank check.

Xander walked across the room and sat on one of the couches in the large room. The rest of the group followed and sat as Andrew began to speak.

"Angel, I've been in a parallel dimension since the hellmouth in Sunnydale was closed. In that world, mutants are beginning to emerge from the general population. Some of the mutants have abilities far beyond those of ordinary men, and this scares the non-mutant population." Andrew said then waited a moment for that to sink in.

Angel looked at Andrew, prompting him to continue.

"These frightened people have created a virus for the singular purpose of exterminating all mutants. We know of one other world where this has been done and the virus mutated and killed everyone. The children we want to bring here are mutants. If we aren't successful in preventing the release of the virus, then at least, they will survive." Andrew said sadly.

"And you want to leave the children with me because...?" Angel asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.

"Because not all of the children look entirely human. Some have physical abnormalities, others have little or no control over the manifestation of their mutant abilities. If they should be stranded in this world, you could integrate them into the demon community and they might have something resembling a normal life." Xander said quietly.

"So are you a mutant?" Angel asked Xander.

Xander gave a tired chuckle and said, "No deadboy, you can't explain me away that easily. I'm just your standard, run of the mill, one-eyed demon-magnet."

"I'm a mutant." Andrew said with pride.

Angel looked with surprise at Andrew, recognizing him as one of Buffy's hangers-on, a nerdy little fellow.

"And thank all the Gods that you are." Xander said with a genuine smile.

At Angel and Buffy's look of confusion he explained.

"If you weren't a mutant, the children wouldn't have any chance of survival, and as I understand it, the professor wouldn't have had any warning until the virus had been released." Xander said with pride in his friend's importance.

"I suppose so." Andrew said in a considering tone, then turned to Angel and asked, "So can the children come here? Either way, we need to get things moving."

"Just one more question." Angel said and looked toward Buffy. "Why did you bring Buffy along?"

"Because she can testify that what I'm saying is true. She has been to my dimension and has met some of the people we are talking about." Andrew said with strength.

Angel nodded and finally said, "Go ahead, bring them here and I promise that they'll be safe."

"Thank you Angel. If we survive this, maybe you could visit my dimension for a vacation... we have almost no demons there." Andrew said pleasantly.

"You keep saying 'my dimension', aren't you from this one?" Angel asked in confusion.

"Yes, but that one is my home now. And I'd better get back to defend it." Andrew said and the portal appeared with a sweep of his hand.

"Does this thing lead to my place?" Buffy asked before following.

"Yeah, three steps and we'll be there." Andrew said and stepped into the swirling vortex.

* * * * *

"I'm going to deliver the children, then I'll be back for whichever Slayers are going to help out." Andrew said as he opened another portal.

"We'll be ready." Buffy said, noticing Willow and Faith watching.

Andrew nodded and stepped into the next portal, followed closely by Xander.

"Good Luck." She said and turned to get to work, organizing her troops.

* * * * *

Andrew and Xander emerged from the portal in the MedLab. At Xander's look of surprise Andrew said, "I know that this is where you really want to be, Xan. I needed for you to be there to back me up with Buffy and Angel. Now that they've agreed to help, you can stay here with Remy and protect him."

"Thanks Andy. If you need me for anything, just call." Xander said as Andrew stepped to his next destination.

* * * * *

"Is everyone ready to go?" Andrew asked the group of children who were all carrying suitcases, boxes, blankets, and assorted toys.

"Yeah!" the kids chorused.

"Follow me." Andrew said with false enthusiasm and led the way through the portal to emerge in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel.

The children were unusually quiet as they explored their new environment.

One of the children from the GenX school walked up to Angel and whispered to him. Shock registered in Angel's eyes and if it were possible for a vampire to go pale, anyone watching would have sworn that was what had happened.

Andrew turned to face an empty wall and opened a portal into Buffy's living room.

"All ashore that's going ashore." Andrew said to the group of Slayers who were laden with possessions much as the children had been.

"Is anyone staying in Cleveland?" Andrew asked as Slayer after Slayer stepped through the portal.

"Yeah, Rona and Caridad are staying. They'll be able to handle it alone for a while. When I told these ladies about the chance to go to L.A. for a few days, I was overrun with volunteers." Buffy said proudly.

"Thanks Buffy. I hope to see you again soon." Andrew said sadly before closing the portal and creating one for him alone.

"We'll keep a light on for you." Buffy said as Andrew walked through the portal and vanished.

To Be Continued...