Chapter 3: The Center Cannot Hold

"In a surprise move today, the military has announced that all mutants will be evaluated for a new assignment of duties. Due to the possible dangers of some powers, mutants whose powers are found to be too unstable will be granted a medical discharge. In other news today, widespread rioting continues in Washington, Oregon, and California. The local governments are calling for the National Guard to be mobilized for the protection of life and property. And on a more positive note, well-known mutant rights activists Scott Summers and Jean Grey were married yesterday in a ceremony presided over by Ororo Monroe. Here's Joan with the story." Bobby clicked off the television set. He was not anymore pleased with the publicity surround his friends' marriage than they were.

He was bored with all of the news. It just seemed to get a little worse everyday. There hadn't been a night when the X-men hadn't been called on to rescue a young mutant or put down another FOH riot. The mutants weren't the problem. No, the FOH was the problem. They were attacking stores that employed mutants, the mutants owned, or were known to give aid to the many runaway mutants that littered the streets of the cities.

Runaways like Bobby had been. Like Scott. Like the majority of the students he taught in class every day. He was beginning to feel it was useless to teach them anything but how to protect themselves. Luckily, the school provided that as well. There were already plans to expand the dorms and raise the roof. The added space really was needed. There were over thirty new students in the past week. There were still enough beds to fit about fifty more, but there was going to be a lot of adjusting to do. Xavier had already ordered bunk beds to expand the capacity of the current rooms. And the common thought was that they were going to need more than those soon enough.

It was enough to put Bobby off his Saturday morning cartoons with the kids. But he wasn't going to show them his melancholy. In fact, a good prank would raise his spirits mightily. If only Hank would come home, things would settle down a bit. Kurt was feeling overworked in the med-lab and people were being pressed in to service. Luckily, Logan knew enough field medicine to bind up knees and set bones. And there was a report of a doctor from downtown who had just been outted. Maybe they could convince her to join up. And then, the professor had a medical degree too. Bobby just prayed that it would be enough if one of them were seriously hurt.

*****

Belladonna's hand tightened on her husband's shoulder. He looked at her with a small smile. She knew this was terrifying him. He'd been up most of the night rearranging finances and the like. But tonight, he had a job to do. And, for the first time, he had a reason to come home. "You can do it. It's routine."

"I know. I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about the traveling." He pointed to his eyes. "I've spent most of my life getting beaten up over these damned things. I don't want to go though that again. And the rest of the country is not like here."

"I know, Husband-mine. Here, let me give you a kiss for luck." His tension lessened under the influence of the kiss and the hand that stroked through his loose hair. They broke apart reluctantly and he pulled his hair back into a ponytail. "I'll be here. Well, in the town at least. Call me?"

"Sure. Is Julien working on the housing situation?"

"We've got contracts on four properties as of today. We go to closing on in a month or so."

"Where?"

"Houston, Chicago, DC and Ft. Lauderdale."

"Great. Only about sixty cities left. I'll get the property in Switzerland taken care of as soon as possible. And do you think Vienna or Milan would be better?"

"I was thinking Italy first. They have a better reputation."

"Right. Mussolini."

"Better than Hitler. And they don't have a habit of keeping Nazi gold."

"Hey, that's why I have account in Switzerland. They don't ask. I don't tell."

"I'll call my contact in Moscow and have him refer me to someone in Prague as well."

*****

"Scott, do you really think we should move out to the boat house?"

"No, I don't want to be that far away from the Mansion. But, we're going to need the room sometime soon."

"But we don't have to do it right now. We can put it off. I just hate the thought that they could trap us in there."

"They can't get on to the grounds any longer."

"Right."

"How about we send the runt out there? He likes the outdoors and it's much closer to the forest." The comment was made with such an innocent tone that Jean smacked her husband's shoulder.

"Scott!"

"What? It's a legitimate suggestion."

"Next, you'll be suggesting that Ro go out there because she could have a bigger garden."

"Actually, that might not be a bad idea. We're going to need more food available. And I think we're going to need it very soon. We don't have nearly enough laid in for the kids we do have in case of an emergency. If the answer is to build a greenhouse and grow some of it, so be it. And I think Storm would love to do that. She could even make it a part of her classes. We can grow corn and wheat even. We have the room. And then we'd have some nice fresh bread."

"Scott." She shook him gently. "Scott, snap out of it. It's our honeymoon. Think later. Love now." Scott grinned.

"I thought you'd never ask." He grabbed her hand and led her back to the bed in what was now their room.

*****

Remy LeBeau, known variously as "Gambit," "Jack of Diamonds," and "King of Hearts," depending on his mood counted in his mind as he timed the guard movements. He was surprised at the security on the building and was going to have words with his father about lying to him about what the place actually was. It was a bad thing to go into a covert military base without foreknowledge. It was dangerous.

But he didn't argue the need for the information. And if he was especially good it would be days until they realized it was missing. In fact, it was about time for the generators to go down for an unscheduled maintenance run. The lights cut out and there were muffled curses as the guards prepared for an attack. The walkie-talkie on the closest guard hissed below him. "Goddamned generator's down again. And the back-up before some jerk decides to make that suggestion. Get to the entrances. No one comes in or goes out. Got it? And someone check the skylight in the lab."

As if that's the only way in to this place, Remy thought to himself. He heard the sharp clack of boots on the tile as the guards pelted to their posts. He shook his head. Someone needed a lesson in security planning. Remy's red and black eyes were good for something, he didn't need night-vision goggles. He could see in almost pitch black darkness. The light filtering in from the outside made the hall as light as day to him. He slid out of the air shaft and dropped to the ground as lightly as a cat. He found the office he needed. Picked the lock on the door and was satisfied when it locked behind him automatically.

He scanned the filing cabinets, picked the lock on the one he wanted and flipped through the files. He clipped a small light to the drawer, and making sure it was hidden from the camera even though they were effectively off-line in this room anyway, he photographed the documents. The lists were going to be very interesting reading. Especially for what he and Belle seemed to have in mind. They hadn't actually talked about their plans yet, but they seemed to have come to the same conclusions. They'd been friends before Remy go adopted in to the Thieves' Guild. They refused to stop being friends when he did. He replaced the documents, re-locked the cabinet, and pocketed the light and camera. Then, he left the base, a ghost as far as security would be concerned.

*****

"I've gotten the information," Mystique informed her troops. "Our next targets are in Colorado and California. California is probably the last option we want right now. They are on guard there because the locals have been threatening to over-run the military bases. We hit Colorado in three days. That's when their regular supply shipment comes in. It won't be getting there."

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