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By Bobbi Todd
The peaceful silence of a mid-summer's night at
Charles Xavier's mansion was shattered by a terror filled scream.
Lights flicked on in bedrooms throughout the building as the X-Men
leaped from their beds to rush to the defense of ... someone.
"Jean!" Cyclops held Jean's hand and she sat, wide
eyed, in her bed. "What is it? What's wrong?" She stared through him,
sweat beading her forehead. Wolverine and Beast reached the room
simultaneously, followed, in short order, by the other X-Men, all in
dishevelled sleeping clothes.
Jean took a shuddering breath and finally looked at
Cyclops. "There's a mutant in trouble. She's terrified. And in a lot
of pain." Jean closed her eyes, and could hear the terrified pleading
echoing through her mind. (Please! No more dark! Please! I'm sorry!
Please!) "We've got to go after her." Jean go shakily to her feet.
Beast nodded and said, "I'll get the blackbird ready," and turned away from the door.
"Storm," Jean turned to her friend. "She's stronger
than I am." Cyclops and Wolverine stared at her in disbelief. "I won't
be able to control her by myself."
"I will get what we need from the dispensary." Storm
turned and was gone. Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee hurried
away. Cyclops still held Jean's hand.
"We'll find her, Jean."
At the blackbird, the X-Men reassembled, uncertain
as to what they would face, but eager to get started. Jean stood in
the open hangar door, listening. Suddenly she staggered and almost
fell. Rogue steadied her.
"She's ... gone," Jean said in explanation.
"Dead?" Rogue asked.
"No. It felt more like ... a door being closed."
"Can you still find her?"
"I think so."
"Well, we better get goin' then. Ever'body's ready. Which way?"
"South." The blackbird, with the X-Men on board, took to the skies.
The X-Men flew South until well after the sun had
risen. Jean, seated next to Cyclops, recoiled as if she had been
struck, then fell from her chair, both hands to her head. Wolverine
and Rogue helped her back into her seat as Cyclops tried to keep his
attention on flying, then Rogue asked,
"What happened, gal?" Jean raised her head and said shakily,
"I think they opened the door." She shook her head
gingerly, "She's gone again." She looked out the window of the
blackbird. "Just a little further now." She turned to the other X-Men,
"I don't know what is being done to her, but if we don't stop it
quickly, she will go mad. And then she will be beyond our help."
"What you saying, Chere?" Gambit asked.
"She's saying a crazy telepath ain't gonna be easy
to stop," Wolverine snarled. "So we gotta go in fast, one way or the other."
Cyclops landed the blackbird near a large house Jean had pointed out. The X-Men poured
"Down. Right there." Cyclops turned his deadly gaze
where Jean indicated and blasted a sloping tunnel in the ground. The
X-Men hurried down it and into the underground lab through the smashed
wall. Several technicians in white lab coats were getting to their
feet, having been knocked down by the blast. Five or six guards
scrambled for the automatic weapons which had been knocked from their
hands. Most turned toward the X-Men, but one turned toward an enormous
cylinder in the center of the room, obviously intending to open fire.
In the transparent cylinder was the contorted body of a young woman,
screaming soundlessly in terror or pain.
"No!" Jean shouted, reaching out with her mind to
stop the guard. The gun flew from his hands as Rogue swooped down upon
him, smashing him backwards into a wall. Storm called upon the power
of the winds, catching two of the guards and one of the technicians up
in a whirlwind. Cyclops blasted the floor in front of a guard, hurling
the guard away from the fray. Wolverine bounded into the smashed
laboratory, followed closely by Beast and Gambit, with Jubilee, the
smallest X-Man, bringing up the rear. Wolverine snarled when he saw
the cylinder. It was the same type he had found himself in, so long
ago. He leaped toward it.
Gambit stepped in front of Jean, blocking the technician who had shakily raised a handgun
and pointed it at her.
"I t'ink not, mon amie." He tossed as charged card
at the tech, striking a bank of instrument panels and exploding the
whole in a shower of sparks just as Wolverine reached the cylinder.
His claws slashed the cylinder. A torment filled shriek struck a
tremendous blow through the mind of everyone in the room as the
woman's body tumbled from the cylinder. The X-Men, the remaining
guards and technicians, all dropped, stunned by the unexpected strike.
Wolverine picked himself up, flinching as the terror filled scream
continued in his mind. He was convinced that they had arrived too late
to help this mutant.
The woman was curled in on herself at the base of
the smashed cylinder as Wolverine reached her. He grasped the front of
the body suit she was wearing, turning her toward him as he extended
his claws, wanting to make a quick, clean kill, to put her out of her
obvious misery. As he was about to strike, her odd silver eyes seemed
to focus on him and the screaming stopped abruptly. Her hands clutched
his arm as he held her.
"Please," she whispered, "hurry!" and she pushed her
head back, giving him a clear shot at her throat. He felt the scream
beginning to build again and knew she wouldn't be able to stop. He
retracted his claws and struck her in the jaw with his fist. The
scream stopped as the woman went limp.
The other X-Men began to pick themselves up, shaking their heads. Gambit turned to
"You stop her, no?"
"Yeah. I stopped her."
"Jean!" Cyclops' shout caused them both to turn.
Jean Gray lay unmoving. Cyclops lifted her and cradled her in his
"Jean!" She did not respond. Storm hurried to the stricken telepath's side.
"Cyclops, she is breathing, but we need to get her
back to the mansion so we may care for her properly."
"Right." Cyclops got to his feet, Jean in his arms,
and carried her out of the lab, back toward the blackbird.
Gambit turned back to Wolverine.
"You kill her, mon amie?"
"Not yet." Wolverine snarled, glaring down at the
limp figure still in his grasp. Her body was sprawled, her head back,
still exposing her white throat. She was a small woman, no larger than
Jubilee, and probably not much older. Some of the fury went out of his
eyes as he looked at her. She was completely helpless.
"Flamin' hell." Wolverine growled under his breath.
He retracted his claws yet again and lifted her slight body to his
shoulder. Gambit held his tongue.
"What is this thing, Beast?" Jubilee asked as Beast
examined what was left of the instruments and the cylinder.
"It seems to be a sensory deprivation tank, although I've never seen one which was
That would seem to defeat its purpose. Unless, of course, you were blind."
"Hmmm," Beast said thoughtfully, looking after
Wolverine as he disappeared up the tunnel after Cyclops, Jean, and
Storm, with the girl over his shoulder. Gambit and Rogue rounded up
the stunned guards and technicians.
"What's this stuff for?" Jubilee asked, pointing to a complicated electrical array.
"I don't know. Let us inquire, shall we?"
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