"How many families can we support at Raven Farms?" Remy asked.
"We're just about at the limit with the 100 from Nawlins. We'll move the others into the safe houses for the moment. Are the assignments being fulfilled?"
"Ninety-seven percent success rates," Remy informed his wife. "We need to set up Crow's Bluff then. That's where the school is going to be. They've got children in most of the families left."
"Home schooling will do for now. We've got tutors on hand. The reservation was pleased to find out that we've got environmental planners with us. We need a child Remy. Someone to take over in case the government decides to take us as well."
"Nightwind is untouchable."
"It may not stay that way."
"According to the accountants they've actually been getting a surplus of funds from their other business."
"We're profitable as an investment company?"
"Real estate is hot right now. There's a lot of flux."
Remy fiddled with the arm-band trying to make it lay flat. Belle rolled her eyes. "Let me." She straightened it for him. "I don't like the idea of you wearing this. It makes it too easy to identify you."
"I haven't got a choice, chere. Not with my eyes."
"We can get you contacts."
"Not when I'm going to work." He kissed her gently. "Meet you in five days?"
"Oui. I'll be more than ready to get out of town by then. And that'll give us one night of bliss before we need to get back to business. See you in Crow's Bluff. I'll have everyone moved out by then, whether they want to or not. Did you know the crime rate in the city has plummeted?"
Jean picked up Scott's visor and used it as a headband. Fuck them all. I know you're alive, honey. I'll find you, she promised. She would find the ones responsible for hurting her Scott and then they would find out why she was codenamed Phoenix. "May God have mercy on your souls, you fucking assholes, cause I sure as fuck won't." She straightened her long black skirt and closed the buttons on her blazer. She adjusted the alpha armband and stepped into the hall. She moved with the sure, swift steps that she'd always used.
Juliet watched her for a moment. Then, she fell into step beside her. "Jean."
"Can I help?"
"Taking Scott's classes?"
"Sure. Especially advanced literature. I think that group really needs you right now. They miss being able to talk to Scott the closet romantic about poetry. It was the bright spot of their day."
"Can I help when you kill them?"
"What makes you think Iím going to do anything but mourn my husband?"
"Because I know what I would do if I'd just lost the most handsome and sweet man in the world."
"I'd kill them all, then salt the ground when I was finished. You aren't alone, Jean. I don't care what it feels like in your head. You are not alone."
"Thanks, Jules." Jean tried to summon up a smile. "I'm sorry. My smile's not working today."
"I don't mind it." Juliet looked her up and down. "You have to tell me who makes your clothes. You look kick-ass."
"Jubilee designs them. Storm. . . I make them." Storm was missing as well and the whole team was off-kilter. "I'll make some for you if you like. I think we could do wonders with your frame instead of hiding it behind those bulky sweaters."
"Bobby keeps freezing my room."
"Then beat him. He responds well to that."
"I'm sure he does." Juliet smirked.
Jean did a double take. "You didn't."
"That's what he said."
Jean couldn't help but giggle. "He is so dead when I get my hands on him."
"No damaging my merchandise. Besides, he needs to be cheered up. I have plans for him. And his Spidey underwear."
"You are a good woman Juliet. Don't let Romeo break your heart."
"Bobby as a Romeo? That's a strange picture. Nope, I just don't see it. But as a really good man in bed? Yeah, that's Bobby."
Jean's smile wasn't comforting. "I'll have to talk to him about romancing a woman."
"Don't scare him off."
"I'll be good."
"And I'll be better."
"Thanks, Fixer. I needed that," Jean said as she overcame her laughter.
"Just doing my job, m'am." Juliet tipped an imaginary hat. "Now, if Iím not mistaken, Clara made chocolate chip cookies."
"That woman is too good to be true."
//Charles?// Eric blinked in surprise when he felt the touch on his mental shields.
//My condolences, old friend.//
//Thank you. I hate to think that this is it, Eric. That this is the straw that will make us into what we don't want to become.//
//Charles, my dear Charles, you were always too pretentious. You have been training those children as an army since you first recruited them. I was saddened by the reports of Scott's death. That was a cruel blow to your cause.//
//We will overcome his loss, as we have always overcome these things. We will not rest until there is freedom in this country once more. I cannot allow our people to be destroyed.//
//I will be waiting, Charles. We already own three islands. We will be working with the South American governments soon enough. Chile and Peru have already set up trade deals with us. You and your children will be safe and welcome here.//
//I will not run.//
//Give your children the option. I hear that McCoy is lecturing on the continent.//
//He is. And he is becoming more and more alarmed at their lack of response.//
//They have always been that way, old friend. They have always looked away as the atrocities take place under their noses. There were those living next to concentration camps that thought nothing of their existence. They have always shunned and harmed the different. Mutants are no different. I will not watch them suffer needlessly.//
//Then fight with me.//
//My people need me here. There will always be a safe haven for you here.//
//Do you have medical facilities?//
//Then, I may have to send some of my children to you, one in particular. She may never walk again. And she is so traumatized by the event that has stolen her legs, that she will not speak. If anyone touches her, she fades, as if she were a ghost. Can you watch over her?//
//She was raped and beaten by a gang of mutant haters.//
//Because she wore her band as she was supposed to.//
//I've warned you too many times, Charles, I won't waste my time. My gates are open for any of your children. Even if they don't stay. This is our country. They have no say over us.//
//Can you repel an army?//
//Do you doubt it?//
//Never. Goodnight, Eric.//
"It's time to step up, mama. We can't let this go on." Rogue slapped the paper down on the table. "I know we ain't the biggest, or the baddest fightin' force on the continent, but I ain't gonna see this go down without retribution."
"Cyclops wasn't one of us."
"He was, mama. He was a terrorist. We're in the same fight. It's time we took Nightwind up on that offer to work with us for intelligence. We set up an account and go for it."
"I will not be working with Nightwind. Gambit is a doll, but he is dangerous. He has more to do than keep us in information."
"But Gambit is better suited to workin' with us than the X-men. And Magnus went and hid his sorry ass on an island. We ain't got a choice."
"You really gonna trust those government controlled PR bullshitters?"
Mystique smiled. "That's my girl."
Rogue blinked. "How long have you been negotiatin' this?"
"Since the word went out that Cyclops was killed."
Nathaniel Essex smiled down at his charge. "Welcome back, Scott," he said warmly.
"Sinister," Scott hissed.
"That's right. What do you remember?"
"There's was an FOH SOB firebombing a school. I stopped him. Then, it gets fuzzy."
"You were shot in the back of the head by the US government. At least that's what the papers say. However, what they killed was your clone. They'll never know the difference."
"Why can't I feel Jean?"
"The link to your wife had to be severed. I'm sorry."
"You cannot return to the X-men."
"Then why did you save my life?"
"Because you are too valuable to lose. If things continue to spiral out of control as they have, my plans will be jeopardized. I have an offer for you."
"Oh?" Scott raised a brow over his visor. Sinister smiled.
"I have a spy. He gives me information in exchange for medical services. I have a group of mutants here. Mercenaries. Train them into a team. I will give you revenge. We can stop this before it gets any further out of hand."
Scott considered. "I could go back to Westchester."
"No, you cannot. If you return to Westchester, you will draw the attention of the very authorities you've been attempting to avoid. They will take the school and destroy or co-opt all of the children you've been attempting to save. Stay here with me and we will do what Charles Xavier has always feared. We will win the war."
Scott considered that. "I need time to make up my mind."
"Take all the time you need. However, you will need to remain in bed. You were clinically dead. Your heart needs to rest."
Scott shook his head. "I should have known there was a catch."