Anne absently tugged at the one piece suit of lycra that clung to her body. Logan noticed and casually looked her over. Gentle curves mixed pleasantly with long, lean lines, all accented by the tight work out uniform. The long treks in the forest had obviously done her good.
"Don't worry, Anne. We'll go easy on you since this is your first time." Bobby called, and disappeared into the Danger Room. Gambit, Rogue, Scott, and Jean were already waiting inside. Each held a position within the room and were waiting for Anne to enter to begin the program.
Logan snorted. Bobby had never seen Anne in a brawl.
He wondered briefly if the Professor had alerted the rest of the team to the strength of Anne's telepathic ability. He and Gambit had been present an hour earlier as Beast and the Professor used instruments to test their friend inside the workout room. Logan didn't bother himself with the details; all he knew was that the Professor had turned pale and Beast had begun to whisper, "Oh my stars and garters...".
Anne had merely looked at them, frowning.
"I take it I surprised you?"
She never did get a response to her question.
"Anne," the Professor's voice crackled over the intercom. "The purpose of this exercise is to force you to use your powers creatively. All of the X-Men are well aware that you do not have previous fighting experience, so they will be careful not to use extreme force on you."
Logan could not help but notice the small smile that touched Anne's lips at the Professor's last comment.
"Try not ta' hurt them too badly, darlin." Logan chuckled.
"You've all been doing this a lot longer than me," she snorted.
"Just do your best, Annie." Logan replied, and entered the Danger Room.
"Are you ready, Anne?" The Professor's voice came on over the intercom.
"Go for it."
Anne took a deep breath, and swung open the heavy steel door.
Anne found herself on an empty side walk at night, ramshackle buildings on every side. Shadows clung to walls and alleys, casting a dirty edge to the darkness around her. Dazzled by the illusion, Anne had to forcibly command herself to begin moving. She was supposed to have a two minute head start before anyone came looking for her, and she could not afford to waste a moment. If she could ambush someone, that would be one less X-Man to worry about.
Not for the first time, she wondered at the strange turn her life had taken. Who would have thought her world could change so quickly in just three days. The funny thing was, she did not regret any of it. Even this strange exercise that had her chasing some of the most notorious mutants in the world.
Anne caught a glimpse of white. There was the faint rustle of a foot scraping pavement, and then Bobby darted out in front of her, arms raised.
Anne fell to the ground and rolled as a flash of ice rushed over her head. Without stopping her forward motion, her mind fumbled for a weapon. The memory of her grandfather's bull whip came to mind, and suddenly she felt her right hand crackling with energy. Instinctively, Anne lashed out towards Bobby's feet. A blue-green whip of energy wrapped snugly around his legs and with a sharp jerk, Bobby fell flat on his back. Anne released her hold of the whip, but left it intact around the young man's legs.
"Hey!" he shouted, wriggling his body and flailing his arms. Bobby tried to shoot a bolt of ice at Anne, but she easily dodged him and disappeared down a side street, leaving him behind. One down.
Less than a minute passed before Anne felt a mental probe slide uselessly across her shields. Jean was trying to find her by scanning wildly, but she was not going to have any luck if she depended on just her mind.
Anne crouched in the shadows cast by a dumpster, marveling at the illusion even as she gently traced the probe back to Jean. Anne remembered Emma's attack of the night before, but she discarded it as too painful.
She could not bring herself to enter Jean's mind, but she could not think of an alternative that would disable the woman's telekinitic abilities.
I can do this. I just need to be careful. Come on, Anne...think.
Realizing she had to move fast before someone found her, Anne gave up on subtlety and instinctively wove a shield that she hoped would dampen Jean's powers. Not far away, she heard an outraged cry.
A red beam of light abruptly cut into the stone just above her head, forcing Anne to jump away from her hiding place. Scott stood at the mouth of the alley, his visor glowing. Without a second thought, Anne launched herself at him.
Her fists slammed into his jaw and kidney, her feet kicking at his knees. Scott's fist clipped her ear, but Anne was able to dodge the main force of the blow. Once again, she summoned the image of the whip, the coil of blue flame appearing in her hands. Before Scott could react, Anne disposed of him in the same way she had Bobby. He grunted in frustration as she quickly ran away from the scene.
Her heart pounded furiously and she forced herself to slow and take deep breaths. She hugged the shadows, her eyes scanning the seemingly deserted street around her. She tentatively reached beyond her shields, scanning for any approach.
She had the barest hint of a warning before Rogue, Gambit and Logan materialized out of nowhere, launching themselves at her. Anne managed to dodge Rogue's reaching grasp, nearly falling into Gambit's arms. Without missing a beat, she twisted away from the lanky Cajun, lashing out at his knee with her foot.
"Sorry," she muttered as it connected. She dimly heard the answering grunt of pain as she turned to find Logan facing her, his adamantiam claws emerging from the backs of his hands. His eyes were calculating, but not cold.
Anne sent out a brief probe and she ducked just in time to keep from being tackled by Rogue. Anne reached out blindly, pressed by her need to disable her. Her need impressed itself on the flying woman's mind, and abruptly Rogue fell from the sky. Her scream of shock and fear ended as Gambit caught her.
"M'ah powers! They're gone!"
Quickly, Anne inhibited Gambit and Logan in the same way, but that offered no respite as the two men, especially Logan, were not entirely dependent on their mutant abilities to aid them in battle. As Logan launched himself at her, Anne's psi-whip materialized in her hand.
She flicked her wrist, the coil of blue flame lashing out at him. He dodged the strike to his feet, and Anne threw herself to her right as his body hurtled towards her. Much to her amazement, he managed to twist himself in mid-air to follow.
Anne, who had fallen on the ground when she avoided his first strike, kicked out with her foot as he came down on top of her. Her heel caught him square in the chest, and he grunted with surprise and pain. For an instant, their eyes met, and in that moment of distraction Logan pushed her leg aside and pinned her securely to the ground.
Straddling her stomach, he placed his claws on either side of her head.
"First lesson, darlin'." He said harshly. "Don't ever make eye contact with an opponent in the middle of a fight." He leaned closer, his breath warm on her face.
"Second thing is, I know ya' didn't use all your weapons. Ya' could have won this fight."
"I refuse to do that to you, Logan." Anne gritted her teeth angrily.
For just a second, his eyes softened.
"Not askin' ya' to, darlin. But there are other ways for telepaths ta' disable the enemy."
"But you aren't the enemy. You're my best friend, Logan. I'll fight you physically, but I refuse to strike out at your mind. I will not." she growled.
"I've been hurt by a lot worse." He whispered heavily.
"I know," she surprised him. "But I wouldn't be able to forgive myself."
Without warning, the program ended, and the illusion of the city melted away. Not far from where she stood, Bobby and Scott still lay on the ground and Jean was clutching her head. Logan's eyes revealed nothing of his feelings as he rose and helped Anne to her feet.
"You may release them now, Anne." The Professor's voice echoed over the intercom.
The mutant inhibitors and restraints on Bobby and Scott disappeared immediately. Anne felt the weight of everyone's gaze settle on her, and she forced herself to straighten.
Bobby, a wry grin on his face, stumbled up to Anne and stuck out his hand. A quizzical expression on her face, she took the proffered hand and shook.
"Congratulations, Anne. For a new recruit, you sure know how to take care of yourself in a fight."
The door to the Danger Room slid open, and Professor Xavier entered, followed closely by Beast.
"That should be enough for today. You are all free to go. Anne, please stay for a moment."
Scott left immediately, Jean following close behind. Rogue gave Anne a friendly smile as she passed her to leave, but Anne could see the hint of shadows in her eyes as their gazes met. Bobby held on to her hand a moment longer than necessary until suddenly he looked past her shoulder.
His eyes widened and his face paled. With a weak smile he released Anne's hand and quickly left the Danger Room. Anne turned to find Gambit and Logan standing directly behind her. Logan was picking his teeth with one of his claws and Gambit was idly shuffling some cards.
Anne's eyes narrowed suspiciously. Before she could speak, the Professor and Beast approached.
"I did say that everyone but Anne was free to go, did I not?"
Gambit shrugged, and Logan sheathed his claw. "Yeah, Chuck. But ya' never said we couldn't stay."
Beast's eyes twinkled as the Professor sighed. With a look of resignation on his face, he turned to face Anne. She watched him expectantly, her dark eyes intense.
"I believe, Anne, that you exceeded our expectations in this exercise. Not only were you capable of using your powers creatively under intense situations, you did not require them in order to defend yourself. Most extraordinary, considering that your case file indicated no previous fighting experience."
Anne folded her arms across her chest. "My case file? Exactly what sort of information do you have on me, Professor?" She asked, not addressing his implied questions.
"Medical histories, arrest reports, high school and University records...I find it fascinating that you were accepted into Harvard Medical School when you were only 20, but dropped out after a year. Did that have anything to you with your parent's death?"
Anne's eyes hardened. "I would rather not discuss that."
"Forgive me." The professor apologized softly.
"Chere, how'd you take away Gambit's powers?"
All eyes turned on Anne and she frowned as she met their gazes.
"To be honest, I'm not sure how I did it. I wanted to disable Rogue, and I reached out and..." she fumbled for the words. "...dampened her powers. I suppose I did the same to Jean, but it felt different...more like I was encasing Rogue, Gambit and Logan in a bubble, while with Jean I just put a net around her mind." Anne looked at each of the four men helplessly. "I'm sorry, but I can't explain it any better."
"Just so long as you can repeat yourself, my dear." Beast rumbled. "And I must compliment you on the creativeness of your weaponry. The physical manifestation of your powers in the form of a whip. I almost felt as though I was watching an updated version of Indiana Jones."
"Yee Haw." Anne said dryly.
The Professor allowed them to leave not long after, Beast extracting a promise from Anne that she would come down to the Med-lab for testing later in the evening.
Bobby and Rogue were waiting for them outside of the Danger Room.
"Anyone up for lunch?" The young man grinned charmingly at Anne.
Logan scowled at him, and Rogue gave a long suffering sigh.
"How about we go out?" the beautiful southerner suggested, looking around at the four of them.
"Sounds good to me." Anne shrugged.
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