Scott Summers woke slowly to the sound of dripping water. He didn't open his eyes until the steady weight of his ruby quartz battle visor reassured him that he wouldn't blast out the wall. There was packed dirt under his cheek. The weak light that filtered down from somewhere very high up made him wonder if he'd fallen into another old well. He'd never live that down. Especially if Logan had jumped in after him again. He lifted his head and bit back a groan and the shooting pain that caused. Damn it. He didn't have time for a migraine.
The room around him was stone. The ground was not wet, which was good. It meant that he wasn't going to drown. "Report." His voice was rougher than he'd expected.
Logan's voice was calm. "Battle was goin' fine until someone set off a concussion grenade. Ain't heard from any of the others on the link since then. You been out about half a day."
"And Gambit?" Scott could see the familiar trenchcoat in a crumpled heap.
Logan shook his head. "Still out. He was closer to the blast. Whoever dropped us in here weren't all that respectful."
Scott sat up slowly. He looked up. The light was steady, so it was probably electric. But it was very far away. It was reflecting off a patch of wetness higher on the wall. "Water? Food?"
"Nope." Logan grimaced. "Ain't gonna be an issue fer me, but..."
The sentence dangled there, worrisome. Scott looked up, judging the distance with quick angle calculations. He frowned. The pack he wore on his hip had a small stash of bandages and tape. It had been opened. "Head injury and what else?" Scott's own wrist ached and he was fairly certain he'd twisted something in his back, but he'd live. He wasn't bandaged at all.
"Broken ankle and looks like someone was chokin' him. Ring of bruises on his neck. He's breathin' okay."
"Bruises are from Rogue, I'm pretty sure," Scott drawled. "They were fighting last night."
"Non," came a weak, but grumpy denial from the Cajun. "Psylocke caught m' in her room. Hidin' from Rogue. Help m' sit up, cher?" Logan eased the young man to a seated position. Scott watched his throat work with sympathy. Neausea, but nothing more violent. "T'ink y' can dry swallow some Advil?" He opened one eye cautiously to look at the field leader.
"Hand over the painkillers and I won't have to kill you."
That got him a weak grin. Remy passed the bottle to Logan who crossed the room to deliver it. The young man couldn't take painkillers, but he kept a supply on hand for the rest of the team. It was secreted in one of his many pockets. "Well, ain't this cozy?" Remy had obviously taken a look around. "Any idea who got us?"
"Nope. Ain't heard anyone upstairs." Logan settled half-way between the two other men. "Tried climbin' it." He snorted. "Made sure I didn't fall on either of ya."
Scott just smirked. "Gambit, got any bright ideas?"
"Well, Cyke, I was hopin' that I'd stop seein' two Wolverines every time I opened m' eyes, but that ain't happened yet. Give a boy a chance t' t'ink."
"Think fast. I don't want to be here when there is someone upstairs."
"Oui, M. Cyclops. Ole Gambit he figure it out." The thief looked up. "Well, would've been nice if'n they'd left a rope." He looked down at his ankle. "How tight y' got m' strapped, ole man?"
"Yer probably okay fer standin'. Not fer jumpin'. If ya fall, let me catch ya."
Remy scowled at that. "Ain't no one done that since mon pere."
Logan snorted. "Ya ain't that heavy. Cyke there? Yeah, he might cause a problem."
"Fuckin' bird bones. Ain't got the wings niether. Ain't fair." Remy made it to his feet. "How deep, Cyke?"
"I give it four stories."
"Merde." Remy sighed. "Gonna try t' get t' the water at least. See if'n we can't get some of it down here. Anythin' smell rotten, cher?"
"Nope." Logan stood. He smirked. "Want a boost?"
"Ha. Ha. Y' amuse m' so." The young man looked thoughtful. "Cyke. Can y' come here though?" The field leader made it to his feet. He wavered a moment. His eyes blurred. He swallowed hard then made it across the room. "If'n I blow a hole int' one of these, y' think we gonna be okay or am I gonna bring down the wall?"
"Depends. A small hand hold probably won't do much. The stone's are pretty uneven. Anything bigger? I don't know what the outside is like."
"Gotta do this de old fashioned way den." Gambit's progress up the wall was slow. He was supporting himself on one foot and reaching for the next hand-hold when he just froze. "Wolverine?"
"I'm ready, kiddo."
"Gonna do somet'in' stupid, me."
Scott snorted. "That'd be new and different."
"Love you too," Remy shot back. The thief jumped across the room. The impact made no noise, but they could hear the sharp breath. Logan was prepared, but the young man didn't fall. He stayed still, balanced on an edge of a stone, fingers gripping some edge that they couldn't see from the bottom of the hole. A quick calculation placed the Cajun at about two stories high. From here on out, if he fell it wouldn't be pretty, even if Logan did catch him.
//Phoenix, we could really use you right now.// Scott thought as loudly as he could. There was no reason to believe that Jean would hear him, or that she was even awake. The professor might, but only if he was listening or looking for them. It wasn't enough to pin their hopes on.
"Got a pool of water here." Remy tasted it. He took another gulp, then managed to pull out a collapsible water bottle.
"I swear I am going to catalog that damned coat," Scott muttered. Logan grinned at him, showing off his sharp teeth.
"I'll hold him down fer ya."
"Be nice or I won't drop this," Remy said. He waggled the bottle. He dropped it into Logan's waiting hands.
"You drink first," the Canadian stated.
Scott took a tentative sip. His stomach didn't rebel. He took another then handed the bottle back.
"Remind m' t' start carryin' rope, oui?"
"Sure, kiddo." Logan took a sip of the water, then set the bottle down carefully. The thief seemed to be hanging on the wall effortlessly. "You okay?"
"Fine. Jus' fine."
Nauseous, dizzy, and dehydrated, Scott thought to himself. It would only get worse if they didn't have a way out. The climb was obviously more nerve-wracking for him than it was for the Cajun. The young man was moving more quickly now that he'd adjusted to not relying on his right ankle. The field leader forced himself to breathe. He'd only ever lost one team member in battle. It wasn't something he wanted to re-experience. Soon enough the young man was too high for him to watch. He was beginning to affect the light level in the dungeon. He'd blocked whatever was reflecting light into the hole. "Incomin'," the Cajun said cheerfully. A fire ladder rolled down the wall.
"That was far too easy," Scott muttered.
"Go up. I'll bring up the rear. Ain't sure what that thing'll take."
Scott nodded. It'd take at least two of them to pull Logan up. The adamantium made him heavier than a normal human. Scott hung the water bottle on his belt. He'd never hear the end of it, if he let it get lost. He only had to stop twice to get his stomach under control. He got to the top and took the offered hand. He looked down into the oubliette to watch Logan's progress. The ladder seemed to be holding well. He turned his attention back to the room. It was not what he'd expected to see. The walls were stone, true, but the rest of the place gleamed with stainless steel and chrome. Computers and wiring covered the left hand area. An examination bed and medical scanners took up the other side. It wasn't a lab he recognized.
"Ideas?" he barked at Gambit.
"Well, it ain't Moira's. It ain't Hank's. It ain't Sinister's. Don't look government t' me." The thief shrugged. He looked down at Logan and wobbled. He closed his eyes and took a slow breath.
"Sit down before you fall down."
"You boys play nice." The Canadian's grumble indicated he was nearing the top.
"Oui, M. Wolverine," Gambit said in a sweet, little-boy voice. The thief slid down the wall to a seated position, his wrapped ankle stretched out in front of him. Scott examined the room. There were three doors, all of which were locked. There was a sink, which ran seemingly fine water. There was a refrigerator which held a variety of blood and tissue samples labeled with arcane abbreviations. The computers were linked together in a strange configuration that he'd need Kitty to figure out. As soon as Wolverine cleared the top of the dungeon a cover slammed down on it. The monitor on the nearest table flickered to life.
"Mr. Montgomery, I see you and your friends have made it out of the oubliette in record time. It only took you fourteen hours. I'm impressed. I remember you free-climbing a few of the university buildings."
Gambit's face was ashen and Scott was pretty sure it wasn't because of his concussion.
"Now, you'll find three doors here. Those doors lead to additional doors. Behind one of those additional doors, you will find another member of the terrorist cell you're a part of now. You'll have to keep going to find the others." The face on the screen frowned. "While I do understand why you would feel the need to join such a force, given the vitriol from Dr. Swenson and the others, I do wish you'd come to me. Ah, well, it can't be helped. I've set up this test. None of your friends have been harmed. Yet. There is a parallel test running with the group you were fighting with. It happened to be a perfectly even test, for once - eight against eight. Good luck, Mr. Montgomery. If you survive this, I do hope to see you publishing with someone other than Essex." The monitor went dark.
"Something I need to know?"
"Non, it'll keep."
"This guy telling the truth?"
"Oui." Gambit flipped a card between his fingers. "We got two ways I can see. Got a feelin' that once we choose a path, the others are gonna close behind us."
"We're not splitting up."
"Let's see what we've got to work with here. Wolverine, see if we can't make a crutch."
"Non, just a harder splint." Gambit got to his feet fluidly. "I'll use m' bo." He pulled the weapon from its holster at his back and spun it out to full length. "This place been set up f' mutants. Dr. Amit there, he got this idea that studying mutant communities was the way t' understand the effect on the larger population. He weren't usin' folks as lab rats last time I heard though. He was just observing. He hired mutants as research assistants t' infiltrate and take notes. Someone must've gotten t' him." The thief frowned. "He weren't like that before. He didn't have this kind of equipment neither. I'm guessin' those samples are from the folks here. He'll be lookin' t' see what the mutations he studyin' be." Gambit leaned on his bo. He leaned his forehead against his hand. "Which way we goin', cher? I can pick whichever."
Cyclops nodded. He studied the three identical doors. He picked the first one on the left. "Wolverine, did you find something to beef up his ankle?"
"Yeah. Com'ere and sit here for me." olverine patted the office chair. He had a metal strut and an ace bandage. "Ain't got nothin' to help ya with pain."
Gambit shrugged. "Eh. Pain's just pain. I'll live." He closed his eyes and his breath caught as Wolverine manipulated his ankle though. Scott rifled through the first aid supplies and refilled the pouch on his hip. He pocketed the sealed packets of medicines.
"You have a bag of some sort in that coat of many pockets?"
"Y' got t' tell the girls no more musicals. They affectin' y' speech patterns." The strain in the voice told Cyclops more than anything else. "Oui, t'ink I do. Merde, Ole Man!"
"Almost done, kiddo."
"Ain't... Ain't big." Gambit tossed over an oddly patterned shopping bag.
"Is this as ugly in full color?" It was bad enough in shades of red.
"Worse, mon ami." The thief was cheerful now, hiding whatever pain he was still feeling behind a facade of lies that was far too practiced for Scott's peace of mind.
He stuffed it with supplies until the white thread at the seams showed. "Any sort of weapons around here, Wolverine?"
"Nothin' useful, Cyke. Less you want me to find something to block doors open?"
"Might not be a bad idea. See if we can't keep the way open here."
"Mebbe M. Bete understand it all?"
Scott nodded. "Open it."
Remy limped over to the door and picked the lock. It opened gently. "Wolverine, I need y' t' cut the hinges. It ain't not'in' but a steel firedoor. Hinges ain't even that."
Logan cut the hinges and Scott helped move the door out of the way. "Can you unlock the other doors, but leave them closed for now?"
The thief nodded. "Might set off whatever traps he got further in though."
"Not worth the risk." Scott pulled out his Sharpie. He scrawled an X inside a circle and an arrow toward the hall. "Let's get this little adventure started." He marked the wall every three feet.
"Property destruction, graffiti. It's like I don' know y', Cyke."
"This is not property destruction. What Wolverine did was property destruction. When I destroy something, it *stays* destroyed." That got him a snort of laughter from Wolverine. The hallway was brightly lit and tiled with industrial green tiles. "Former high school?"
"Insane asylum." Gambit's voice was subdued.
"Oh, good, we'll feel right at home."
Remy looked over at Logan. "When'd he become the comic relief? T'ought that was my job."
Logan snorted. "Yer on med-leave." He pointed to the broken ankle. The first door on the right opened almost too easily. Sitting placidly in the middle of the room was a dark-haired woman with dark glasses. She turned her head toward the door. Her brows went up expectantly.
Scott squinted in the low light. Her chair was connected to something and she was connected to the chair. He bit back a curse as he realized that they were either sensors or electrical wires. He craned his head up to see where they connected over-head. The woman cocked her head to the side. "There are three ways this can end." Her voice was calm, rhythmic. "I'll be electrocuted. You'll free me and leave me to find my own way out. Or we'll work together."
Scott wanted badly to go with option one or two. Since X-Men don't kill, he was forced to concede two or three were his real options.
"We help, chere."
The woman jumped. "Oh, blast. It really is you." Her voice was sour now. Finally, a woman besides Betsy who wasn't taken in by the Cajun's charms. Maybe three was the way to go. He could use another level head with him.
"Y' wound m', Destiny."
"And you are a married man who wishes to date my daughter. I find that disturbing."
"Bah. M' wife don' care."
"Really." Destiny shook her head carefully. "I'd rather not be electrocuted."
Logan snorted. Scott looked up at the ceiling again. Remy studied the floor. "Looks like the entire room is the circuit."
"Oui. Really wishin' we had TK available right now."
"Teach me to let Phoenix talk me into letting her go to Toronto without me."
"She went to Toronto with Wings?" Logan poked Scott in the side. "Yer an idiot."
"He knows better than to try something. His girlfriend would kill him."
Destiny's lips twitched in a repressed smile.
"Your ankle up to it?"
"Ain't like there's a choice."
"There's always a choice. Not always a good one, but a choice."
The thief studied the field leader for a long moment. "We get home, we work on it. 'Til then, Wolverine, I need y'." Scott nodded to confirm the promise. Charles would kill him for taking another step into the grey, but it couldn't be helped. Soon enough Remy was in the ceiling, muttering at the electronics. "Done all I can. Wolvie, y' follow m' voice. T'ree tiles forward. Two tiles t' your left." Slowly, the Cajun guided Logan to the prize. Destiny's shoulders slumped and she rested against Logan's shoulder for a moment as she stood.
"I have been still far too long."
"Destiny, let Wolverine carry you."
"I can follow the trail back."
"Non, it's changed. Wolvie, two tiles left."
"This is so undignified."
Remy dropped to the floor when she was safely standing with them. He rested a hand on the wall to balance himself. He swallowed hard twice, then lifted his chin and took a deep breath. "Y' okay?"
Destiny cocked her head to the side. "I am well. You are not."
"Ole Gambit'll live. Y' need a cane or y' okay wit' usin' someone's arm?"
"I'll be fine following Cyclops' footsteps."
Scott inscribed the door with a large X. "I'm going to take your hand for a moment to show you where to grab on if you need. If you sense something we're missing, grab one of us. We're being studied by some flatscan scientist. I won't leave anyone in his grip."
He showed her the height of his shoulder, his elbow and his belt. Then, he guided her to the left hand wall. "This side seems to be the outside wall. Gambit has a broken ankle. I have a concussion. You have a level head. I expect you to use it."
Destiny smiled. "Havok always forgets you're practical."
"Okay, I take it back. We'll take Polaris, the scientist can have Havok."
She patted his shoulder. "There, there. Polaris will keep him in line."
Gambit stumbled a bit. His fingers clenched onto the back of Scott's collar. "Breather?" Scott offered.
"Non. We push on. See what fresh Hell be waitin'."
Destiny put a gentle hand on Gambit's arm and he adjusted automatically to escort her like a gentleman. Scott smiled softly at the sight. The younger man leaned a little more heavily on his bo than he liked to see, but having someone on his other side seemed to make him steadier. "The next room, Cyclops," she said. Her voice never lifted above a murmur. His head thanked her for the courtesy.
"And what will we find there?"
"Yours or ours?"
"Does it truly matter?"
Scott released an angry breath. "No, it doesn't. That doesn't mean I'm not annoyed."
She smirked at him. "You have so much in common with your brother."
"Gah." Scott shuddered. The smothered laughter from his teammates made his own lips quirk up. "Gambit, the door."
Remy knelt in front of the lock. He closed his eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath. He picked the lock quickly and opened the door. Logan sheared off the hinges. Scott marked the wall with an X in circle. The room was small and smelled like rotting meat. Scott swallowed hard. Logan's nostrils flared. "Get away from there, kid," Wolverine growled. Gambit moved with surprising alacrity. He planted himself in front of Destiny.
"What do you smell?" Scott kept his voice low.
There was a low moan from the room. "Who's out there?"
Scott frowned. "Crap, Pyro, that you?"
"Oh, fuck me, Cyclops?"
"You're not my type. What's the situation?"
"Rats. There are lots of fucking rats. I've been burning them, but I can't get them all."
"Caged up. Can't get the flame hot enough to get out of here."
"Is it iron?"
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