This story is a sequel to When Things Get In the Way
. (I think everybody reading this already
knew that, but I can・t resist plugging my own story.)
Monet rounded a corner and ran full on into Bobby, who was looking frantically around in every direction.
"Bobby! Where is she?!"
"I don・t know! I lost sight of her, and I guess she musta turned a corner or something!"
Monet jumped in the air and tried to fly, only to fall back down again. How had she not noticed her powers turning off?
Bobby saw what she was doing and attempted to use his powers, also to no avail.
* * * * *
The X-Men and Monet crowded around the kitchen table. Not only had they been unable to find out which direction Jubilee had been taken in, but no one had seen any sign of Bastion and his intruders. Literally. One minute the alarms were blaring, the next they turned off. No one was observed entering or leaving the premises.
All they could do was wait for Nick Fury to arrive, even though when he did, he was just as clueless as they were. He asked them to call if they figured out anything, and he would do likewise. In the meantime, they had to simply sit and wait. By midnight, their powers still hadn・t returned. Monet and Wolverine hadn・t said a word since Jubilee was taken, and Jean was beginning to worry.
"Okay, I・ve got it." Everyone turned to look at Bobby. "Maybe they have control over a mutant who can teleport, like Gateway."
"Maybe, but how were they able to use their powers and teleport them back out if they negated mutant powers? By the way, I would still like an answer as to how they accomplished that." Jean slumped down in her seat. "I can・t believe I didn・t notice. I was just so caught up in talking to Emma."
"Maybe they have personal cloaking devices, like on ・Star Trek.・"
Jean looked back to Bobby. "I don・t think I・m even going to dignify that with an answer."
"Why not?" Heads swiveled to look at Monet. She had finally lifted her head and now regarded them out of tear-reddened eyes. "I mean, I bet that given enough time, I could whip one up using an image inducer." She looked at Jean. "Did you have one aboard when your plane was captured?"
Jean looked at Wolverine and Sam. "I don・t know. There could have been, I guess."
"Well, there you go. They just stole the technology and messed around with it. I bet that・s how the cameras and security systems at the school were turned off- all they would have to do is station someone to watch and learn the codes."
"Still, this is highly speculative." Hank tapped his fingers on the table. "It would also seem to imply a large bit of pre-meditation. Logan, you said that Jubilee told you that she was to be terminated?"
"What would make him change his mind? Is he planning to continue with his attacks upon mutants now that he・s escaped? And, if so, where is his new base of operations? He can・t go back to the Hulkbuster base...can he?"
"No, No, that・s definitely out of the question. He would need somewhere that we don・t know about. I don・t suppose we know of another abandoned military base?" Monet looked to each of the X-Men in turn. They all shook their heads.
"What if it・s not in this country?" Marrow picked at a piece of bone in her arm. "I mean, like when your enemies find out where you live so you, uh, relocate. Go to a different city, start a new life, get a new identity."
"Great. So, now, instead of searching one country, we・re gonna have to search them all? Do you have any idea how long that・ll take?" Monet looked incredulously at Marrow. "For all we know they can be in China! Or Russia! Or-"
"Or Australia." Wolverine got to his feet. He looked around at them. "We don・t know how much information Bastion got outta her head. How are we to know that he didn・t find out about our old headquarters in the Outback?"
"Oh, Goddess." Storm held a hand to her head. "Of course. We never even finished clearing out our belongings, plus there・s the added bonus of whatever the Reavers left."
"There・s one way to find out." Jean stalked into the other room and picked up the phone. She thought hard for a moment before dialing, then hung up a few seconds later. She looked at her fellow X-Men. "Busy signal. I・m pretty sure that Dazzler・s not staying in her old house, so I can・t help but wonder who would be on the phone." She smiled grimly at her companions. "Who wants to go check it out?"
* * * * *
tap tap tap
Jubilee blinked and raised her head. Squinting, she thought she could make out a figure standing in the dim area outside her cell. "Daria?"
"Shhh!" The other girl turned quickly to check behind her before continuing. "You have to get out of here!"
Jubilee jumped up and placed her hands on the clear barrier between them. "I thought Bastion was gonna reprogram you!"
Daria placed her hands against Jubilee・s, the cool glass keeping their hands separate. "He was, and he did. But I kept a back entrance open so I could go in and fix whatever he messed with. I don・t think he realizes how much control we have over our operating systems."
Daria looked glum. "Turns out we・re all manufactured in a lab. I・m not sure how. I just listened to some S.H.I.E.L.D guys who were talking over me. We・re basically just big, walking computers."
Jubilee laughed. "・No disassemble Johnny 5!・"
Daria laughed back. "・Johnny 5 alive!・" The two of them giggled for a couple of seconds before acknowledging that now was not really a good time for telling jokes. "Anyway, you have to get out of here. He・s not going to just sit back, messing with your head, waiting for you to tell him something important. He-" She was cut off by the sounds of approaching footsteps. She cast a desperate look back to Jubilee.
"Don・t worry. I can take whatever that bastard can dish out." I wish that was true, she thought to herself. Remembering her panicked flight at the mansion, she winced. Ya big baby.
Daria looked at her and shook her head before running back to wherever it was she had come from. Seconds later, the guards rounded the corner and entered the room she was being held in.
"Oh, goody, an escort." Jubilee squared her shoulders and lifted her head. "Lead on, boys."
* * * * *
The Blackbird was in the process of fueling up while the X-Men went to change into their uniforms. Wolverine noticed Monet standing a distance off and walked over to her.
"She・ll be all right. We aren・t going to leave her in there." He put what he hoped was a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Monet looked at him with a dull expression in her eyes. "How can you say that? I saw your face when that alarm first went off. You didn・t even make a move, like you knew that it was too late, that we weren・t going to get her back once he had his hands on her." She looked away from him.
He sighed. "I know. And I know why I did. I just- I saw in my mind how we failed to escape from him the first time, how it was Jubilee who let us out. I honestly don・t think that we would be free today if she hadn・t been there. O・course, we didn・t know it was her at the time, but that doesn・t really matter now. Now, there・s gonna be no one to pull our tails outta the fire if we get inta trouble."
"What about Mr. Fury?"
"I don・t know. He・s mobilizing an attack force. Hopefully, he・ll get there around the same time we do." He slid down the wall and leaned back before tapping her on the back of her legs. She sat down beside him and he pulled her into his arms. "All we can do is try our best. As for the X-Men, I don・t think there・s a person here who wouldn・t die trying to get her away from him."
"What about Marrow?"
"Uh..." He paused. "I think I・ll just avoid wondering about that. Anyway, all I・m trying to say is, we・re not gonna back away from this. We・ll get her back t・ya, I promise."
She hugged him. "Thanks. I kinda feel like a movie-extra around here. The only reason we came up this weekend was because we were dying to get out of the school, what with the heavy snows and all." She laughed. "Did you ever see ・The Shining・? We were just like that, except with superpowers. Of course, she wanted to see you, too." She looked up at him solemnly. "She really loves you, you know. Even when she doesn・t see you, you・re all she talks about."
He held her tighter. He loved Jubilee, more than anything else, so he knew better than anyone how Monet felt at the moment. He couldn・t remember ever having been as scared as he was now, at least not where his little girl was concerned. He had always tried to keep her away from serious trouble, but she just seemed to attract it like a magnet. Usually, he・d been there to help her out, but now? Now he was just frightened.
"And then, this had to happen." She looked heavenward, trying to compose herself. "She・d gotten so good at pretending that Bastion had never even existed. It was just easier that way. I know you guys didn・t get to see each other very much during the past few months, so I don・t think you really knew just how affected she was. I used to hear her crying at night. She・d deny it in the morning, of course, but everyone knew. We just didn・t say anything about it. We made every effort not to learn what she went through, not to know anything about it, to just pretend that she・d been with the teachers during that time, or something. Anything except the truth.
I remember, we were talking one time, and she said that if she could just go back and make it all go away, she would. And then, she whispered under her breath, ・Except that I wouldn・t have known Daria.・ And all I could say was, ・Who・s Daria?・ But she wouldn・t tell me. She said that thinking about it made her hurt, and then she went into her room and cried for twenty minutes. I felt so bad for her, but I was mad, too, because she would rather sit alone in her room and cry about it than talk to me. I feel that way a lot, like she・s keeping things from me. And now, it・s too late to do anything about it."
"Don・t say that." Logan scolded her, his voice thick with shared emotion. He tried to sound more confident than he felt. "She・s been through worse, and always come through. I know that it won・t end like this. We・ll get her out, and we・ll all come home, and we・ll be able to sit back and watch the destruction we wreaked on the six o・clock news."
Monet tried to smile, but couldn・t quite get her face to obey. It kept tying to make a more unhappy expression. "I・m just so scared that I・m going to lose my...my only real friend." She sniffed.
He tilted her face so that she was looking at him. "Are ya sure that・s all she is? Just yer ・friend・?"
She stared into his eyes icily for a second before pulling away, her tears drying in an instant. "Of course." She hurriedly stood up and brushed dust off her uniform, her customary mask of indifference falling into its accustomed place. "I don・t really see what else you could mean." She stood straight and looked him in the eye again before moving off to join the other X-Men.
"Whaddya know." Gambit appeared at Wolverine・s shoulder as he stood up. "Looks like you right, mon amis. She be gettin・ a bit too close to our li・l Jubie. I be t・inkin・, mebbe dis a good t・ing, no?"
"Me too, Gumbo. An・ it means one thing・s fer sure. That prim young lady there isn・t gonna let Bastion get away with this without a helluva good fight."
"Neither am I, Logan. Neither am I."
* * * * *
"Ick. I was so hoping never to see you again." Jubilee glared at Bastion, trying to look more fierce than she felt. Inside, she felt more like the stuff that goes inside a tuna casserole. Unbelievably, nauseatingly bad.
Bastion stared at her briefly before gesturing for his guards to move her into the adjoining chamber. Jubilee gulped. Last time he had at least indulged in some verbal bantering. She found his silence now more than a little unnerving.
"Hey! Hands off the merchandise, bub!" She snapped at a guard. He ignored her, grabbed the wrist that she had yanked away from him, and shoved it roughly into a metal cuff affixed to the wall behind her. He moved to the other side and did likewise to her opposite wrist before bending down to do her ankles.
"Now then, Ms. Lee." Bastion folded his arms and regarded her leisurely. Her guards now attached small clamp-like objects to each of her fingertips. "I believe you know the drill."
"Yeah, I remember. Guess what?"
"I・ll never win, I・ll never succeed, you・ll never break?"
"Uh...yeah, somethin・ along those lines. But, what the hell." She cleared her throat. "You・ll never win! I・ll never break!"
He smiled grimly. "I see you・ve retained your unique ability to find humor in the least likely of places. However, you・ll find that I・m done playing with you. While you told me much that was interesting during your first...visit, the methods of extracting that information took far too much time. So, I・ve decided that this time I・ll take the old-fashioned route."
"Torture?" Jubilee squeaked.
Bastion gave her the ・on-the-nose・ sign and waved to a guard who was standing at a control bank. He reached over and flipped a switch.
* * * * *
"Looks like the welcome wagon・s here." Wolverine pointed out one of the windows of the jet.
Directly ahead, Monet could glimpse over a hundred Prime Sentinels flying towards them. "Oh, my...How many of them are there?!"
"Impossible to say," Hank said, leaning over her to see out at the oncoming horde. "What we・re seeing here must have taken months of work. There・s no way he could have put together a force like this in such a short time without help of some sort...unless..."
"Unless what, Hank?" Jean asked.
"Well, unless they were not all completely destroyed during the final battle as previously thought. Is it possible that he could have had a secondary force hidden away somewhere, just in case he failed the first time?"
"I suppose..." Wolverine said, before smacking himself in the head. "No! I mean, no, we・re overlooking the obvious here. Now, you・re assuming that the Sentinels we see here were created along with the others months ago and then secreted. But, he could have just implanted the technology into a load of unsuspecting folks, then, instead of making them mutant-sensitive, they need to be activated by a broadcast code. That way they wouldn・t be found out until he was good and ready to use them. They・ve probably been hiding in plain sight, maybe not even knowing that they even had the implants, not knowing what they were capable of becoming until he escaped and it was too late." He ceased talking and suddenly realized that everyone was staring at him with various degrees of amazement and fascination. "What? I・m capable of deep thoughts sometimes, too, y・know."
Hank continued to stare at him for a few seconds longer before shaking himself back to reality. "Well, then. We now have a workable theory for where they came from. So, what do we do now?"
Monet stood up and moved to the outside hatch. "We do what Jubes would want us to do." She suddenly grinned, her smile greatly resembling that of her lost companion. "Let・s go kick some ass!"
*to be continued (duh!)