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Volume 2 -- Issue 22 -- Family and Fiends Part 1 Download Issue
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Family and Fiends Part 1
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It is a tenuous time in the ever complicated conflicts between humans and mutants. In the months following Magneto’s uprising, the world has changed a great deal. A new order has arisen on the island nation of Genosha. Led by Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, the island has become a haven for mutants all around the world. But while many hail this new nation, it is not without complications.

Leaders around the world have watched the new Genosha emerge anxiously. The rift between humans and mutants has continued to widen and many nations see a mutant-run order as a threat. But keeping the peace between both sides is Professor Charles Xavier and his mutant team of gifted youngsters, the X-men. They pledge to fight for peace in a world that hates and fears them and have worked extensively with leaders and the Maximoff twins to keep the situation from erupting.

While the X-men and Genosha struggle to maintain order, other more personal affairs develop unnoticed. With the imprisonment of Magneto, the Brotherhood has been disbanded and former members now seek to find their place in this new order. Some, however, have a much more mysterious agenda. One in particular has been taking shape in the rural lands of Germany.

Rural Germany – Sefton Farm

Life on a farm always seemed so much simpler. No matter how chaotic the world at large got, it never seemed to affect rural life. Wars could be fought and governments could fall, but life on the farm would continue as normal. People would wake up, tend to the animals, look after the crops, and that was about it. And with the world undergoing so many changes lately, Kurt Wagner was insulated from the chaos on a small rural area in the heart of Germany.

It was a good thing too. Unlike other mutants, his abilities were impossible to hide. He could teleport and he had greater than average agility, but that was the least noticeable part of his mutation. It was his appearance that garnered the most attention. Many say beauty is only skin deep. But whoever coined that saying didn’t have blue fur, yellow eyes, a tail, and a disposition comparable to demons of lore. That was what Kurt saw every time he looked in the mirror.

He had been dealing with his inhuman appearance all his life. From an early age, he learned how to fight for his survival. As time went on he learned to fight for much more. He was only eighteen years old, but he had seen his share of battles. Conflict was a part of his life and even at times like this when he was trying to stay away from it he made sure he was ready in case the need arose again.

As the sun rose over the rural German landscape, Kurt was outside on a hilltop with a sword. He was practicing his fencing skills, going through the range of motions he had learned as a boy. It was an exercise of body and mind, honing his focus and training his reflexes in the ways of combat. He was so focused he didn’t notice a presence coming up behind him.

X-men Supreme Issue 22: Family and Fiends Part 1 Panel 1

“There you are, Kurt,” said a groggy voice, “What are you doing up here this early?”

The young mutant turned around to face a beautiful young woman still wearing her pajamas. Her presence quickly affected his demeanor, causing his focus to shift as he looked into her concerned eyes.

“Sorry if I vorried you, Amanda,” he said in his thick German accent, “But I couldn’t sleep. And zhis is vhat I do vhen I can’t sleep. I practice.”

“Out here all by yourself when the sun isn’t even up?” she said skeptically.

“I figured I vould enjoy zhe sunrise,” he shrugged.

“Is that the only reason?” she asked, still not convinced.

Kurt rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. It was hard to put anything past Amanda Sefton. She knew him too well. Ever since she and her mother took him in three years ago she had become his closest friend. In recent times she became a lot more. She knew his history and his many issues. They didn’t just stem from his powers or his appearance. They revolved around a more complicated and far darker part of his life that he could never seem to escape.

It also helped that she had a complicated history as well. She and her mother, Margali Sefton, were very reclusive. They came from a family of mystics who practiced magic and witchcraft, something Kurt knew to be real from previous life experiences. Amanda rarely employed her mystical talents though. It often attracted more attention than they cared to deal with. She and her mother were wanderers with no citizenship and no paper trail. Why they were so reclusive was more complicated, but they accepted Kurt for who he was and embraced him as if he were family.

“You’re starting to worry me, Kurt,” said Amanda in a serious tone, “I know we’ve all been a little stressed after what’s happened with mutants these past few months. But when I see you doing this, I worry that you’re falling back into old habits.”

“It’s not like zhat, frauline,” he assured her, “You know I vould never revert to my old vays. I made you and your mother a promise and I’m not going back on it.”

“I didn’t say you would. But you’ve worked long and hard to get away from your old life. I just don’t want to see you get stuck in the same mindset.”

“Zhat isn’t going to happen. You know it isn’t,” he said strongly.

“Then why do you keep doing this? Why do you keep training as if another fight is inevitable?”

“Because ve have to be vigilant,” he said, gently cupping her chin as he affectionately gazed into her eyes, “You’ve seen zhe news. Zhe vorld is changing. Mutants everywhere are being scrutinized more and not in a good vay. Zhere is only so much zhis secluded farm can hide us from. Ve have to be prepared to defend ourselves.”

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t be vigilant. I’m just saying you should be careful. You’ve come so far and I don’t want it fall apart for either of us.”

Kurt fell silent. He didn’t blame her for worrying. Three years ago, he was heading down a dark path. He was born, raised, and trained to be a mercenary. The family that raised him, the Wagners, were close associates of his biological father. They trained him to fight and use his mutant powers to overcome his enemies. By age 13 he was already doing missions, breaking into secure areas and stealing expensive artifacts. By age 15 he was getting into major fights, using his demonic appearance to his advantage to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies.

But all that changed when he crossed paths with Amanda. She and her mother convinced him to walk away from his old life. They showed him he could be more than just a freak destined for a life of darkness. They took him in and gave him a sense of purpose he never could have had with his old life.

“I know the transition hasn’t been easy for you,” she went on as she caressed his furry face, “Three years isn’t nearly enough to get away from a life of violence and seclusion. Even if the world around us is getting more dangerous, that doesn’t mean you should forget everything you’ve accomplished.”

“Believe me, frauline. I von’t forget,” he said strongly, “But you know as vell as I do zhat zhe vorld is a complicated place. It has a vay of finding people like us.”

“That doesn’t mean we should stop having faith in it.”

“I know it isn’t. My faith has never waned. Zhat much you can be sure of,” said Kurt with a reassuring smile, “My father once told me faith and vigilance are like zhe sun and zhe sunrise. You cannot have one vithout zhe other.”

Amanda still showed concern. To her, preparing for a fight was the first step in instigating a fight. In a ways she was right and that’s why he had to maintain a fragile balance. That’s where his faith came in and Amanda was the driving force behind it.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful, Kurt,” she told him, “You know how I feel about violence.”

“You have my vord,” he said in an affectionate and confident tone, “I promise you, I vill not let you down.”

“Good enough for me,” she said with a smile, “While you may find it annoying, I’ll keep reminding you for good measure.”

“I vouldn’t have it any other vay,” he said playfully.

“So for future reference, is there anything I can do to drag you away from your training?”

Kurt smiled mischievously as he put his sword aside.

“Oh I can zhink of a few things. Some of zhem could even be done in front of your mother.”

“Like what?” she asked curiously.

“I seem to recall some leftover bacon and sausage from zhe other morning. Zhat and some scrambled eggs should be more zhen enough to keep me distracted.”

Amanda couldn’t help but laugh. Even though Kurt was serious when it came to keeping his promises, he had a playful side. He also had his share of weaknesses. Food, especially breakfast, was one of them.

“You and your food,” she grinned, “It’s still your greatest weakness.”

“Vell…second greatest,” he said with a tender tone.

“Oh? And what’s your first?” she asked as if she didn’t already know.

“Vhy don’t I show you?”

Still locked in her embrace, Kurt leaned in and captured the lips of the girl who had done so much for him. No matter how dark his past was, she always had faith in him. She and her family showed him that even a man in the body of a demon could have the soul of an angel. For her support, she held a very special place in his heart.

But just after their lips touched, the young couple was hit with a mysterious surge. It seemed to come from all directions. Some strange force entered their heads and sent a paralyzing feeling all throughout their bodies. They each let out pained groans as they fell away from each other and went ridged. Kurt was able to maintain his balance, but Amanda fell to the ground in a daze.

“Hnn…Kurt. Wha…what’s happening?” she groaned.

“I…I don’t know,” he said, grunting in frustration as he tried to fight it.

Kurt tried to grasp his lover and teleport them away to safety. But he couldn’t move his arms. He could barley think straight. As he struggled, he heard a mysterious tone in his head. It didn’t sound like a normal voice. If he wasn’t mistaken, it sounded like singing. Before he could make anything out of it, everything went dark.

While he and Amanda gave into the voice, an ominous female figure loomed from the trees less than a hundred feet away. She was in camouflaged cloak that covered a revealing yet tight-fitting body suit. Her alluring figure, long auburn hair, and penetrating gaze broke the serenity of the rural environment. As she watched Kurt and Amanda freeze where they stood, she grinned with sadistic satisfaction.

“That’s right, Kurt. Listen to the song of Siryn. Come to me. Bring your little girlfriend and her mother with you. My father wishes to have a word with you.”

Xavier Institute – Cerebro

Professor Xavier had been a busy man these past few months. Between counseling policymakers and keeping tabs on affairs in Genosha, he had little time to carry out his day-to-day duties with the X-men. Classes and training sessions still went on, only now Hank, Ororo, and Logan were in charge of it. They along with the rest of the team worked hard to do their part. The responsibilities of the X-men may be changing with these chaotic times, but their duties remained constant.

Xavier continued to push himself, playing the part of mediator between humans and mutants. One of his most important allies was Wanda Maximoff who, despite disagreements between her and Magneto’s followers, kept her end of the peace bargain brokered during the uprising. She and her brother, Pietro, were by default leaders of Genosha. She seemed overwhelmed much of the time, but she remained strong much like her father. She had to for the sake of mutants everywhere.

For the second time in a week, she and Xavier were having a private video conference. Using Cerebro, the Professor created a secure line for them to talk. On her end she used a secure laptop provided to her by Hank while Xavier sat in the main chamber, her worried image projected on the large holographic screen.

“These bureaucrats you’re dealing with aren’t making my job any easier, Charles. I know they’re supposed to be peacekeepers, but the mutants here aren’t sleeping any sounder with all these soldiers and diplomats looking over our shoulders.”

“I understand it’s burdensome, Wanda. But please be patient,” assured Xavier, “I’m doing my best to reassure the president and the UN that Genosha can be peaceful without an international police force. But it’s proving more difficult than I hoped.”

“Is it at all possible for you to just probe their minds? It would make this whole affair go a lot smoother.”

“I’m sorry, but you know I can’t do that. It would go against every principle I’ve been fighting for since this process began. It may not be efficient, but it’s better than the alternative.”

Wanda looked frustrated. The rigors of this adjustment process were taking a toll on her. But Xavier maintained a reasonable tone.

“I know you’re doing your best, Wanda. But the public at large still has many concerns. These past few months, your mutant population has caused quite a stir by pressuring the island’s human population to leave. Many in the UN are fearful this will only further isolate both sides.”

“I told you I’m dealing with that. But my influence only goes so far! My brother sure isn’t helping. He’s too busy hating me for working with you. And the rest of the Brotherhood jumped ship a month ago. I don’t even know where they went. I guess peace just wasn’t their thing.”

“That’s unfortunate,” sighed Xavier, “My X-men will keep an eye out for them. We’ll also schedule another visit to help move things along. I also wish to meet personally with Pietro.”

Wanda scoffed at the notion.

“Good luck working that out. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s behind a few of those ‘outbursts’ we’ve been having. It seems as though it only takes one disgruntled mutant to take charge and mess things up. I’m sure you’re getting tired of me calling the X-men to fly over and contain it.”

“Don’t worry about bothering us. We’ll make as many trips as we have to, but we’ll need a long-term plan for Genosha soon. We can’t keep taking things on a day-to-day basis. If Genosha is to be a viable country again, there needs to be a plan for it.”

“I agree. Aas soon as we have one, you’ll be the first to know. It’s just too chaotic at the moment to put anything together. I don’t know how much longer it will last.”

“I don’t think anybody does, but we have to have faith that it will,” urged the Professor, “Just keep up the good work on your end. It may not seem like it right now, but we are making progress. In the long run it will pay off.”

“I hope you’re right Professor. I really do. I also hope you’re prepared if things start falling apart. We’re all walking a fine line here. It won’t take much for another more destructive conflict to begin.”

“I’ll do my best to see to it that it never comes to that. You have my word, Wanda.”

“And you have mine…for now.”

She didn’t sound too optimistic. Hopefully some progress would be visible soon so she and the mutants of Genosha didn’t start losing hope. In Xavier’s experience, losing hope was the first step towards conflict.

With the meeting now over, Wanda closed the link and Xavier powered down Cerebro. The professor sighed to himself as he thought about what Wanda was going through. Everyone was turning to her for guidance on Genosha and she had no experience in dealing with bureaucrats. She was not like her father in that respect. Erik knew how to deal with people of authority. It also couldn’t be easy working with the people who put her father in jail. To her credit she showed no malice towards him or those just looking to further the peace process, but that didn’t mean she was without resentment.

As Xavier wheeled himself out of the chamber, Ororo was standing there waiting for him. Usually Hank was there to greet him with his latest report, but he was glued to his laptop again much to Ororo’s dismay.

“How did it go?” she asked as she wheeled him to the elevator.

“As well as one could hope given the circumstances,” said the Professor, “Genosha has a long road ahead of it. Wanda’s doing the best she can with what she has to work with.”

“Are you worried she won’t be able to do her part?”

“Wanda isn’t who concerns me. It’s those who would disrupt the process for their own agenda that are the real threat. Men like Senator Kelly and the disbanded mutants of the Brotherhood have the capacity to re-ignite the conflict. Then there are always the foes we have yet to meet that come about.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s always a possibility,” said Ororo, shuttering at such a daunting notion, “Let’s just focus on the challenges at hand. We can deal with other personal battles later.”

“That’s the plan for now,” said Xavier as they entered the elevator, “But in my experience, new conflicts have a way of finding us regardless of whether we’re ready for them.”

Xavier Institute – Outside Main Classroom

“Hey Rogue, wait up!”

Rogue groaned as she turned around to face Kitty, who came running out of the main classroom. She had just finished a long morning of classes and had two training sessions scheduled for the afternoon. She was already out of it and Kitty was bound to add to it.

“You forgot your textbook…again,” said Kitty as she handed her the book.

“Ah dang,” she muttered as she took the book and stuffed it into her bag, “No wonder mah grades are slipping. Ah can’t even keep track of mah stuff.”

“Hey, join the club. I think everybody’s grades have been slipping lately,” said Kitty, trying to remain cheerful, “Between class, training, and playing traffic cop on Genosha I don’t think anybody’s head is in the right place.”

“Easy for you to say. You never get lower than an A-minus.”

“That doesn’t mean I sleep any easier.”

“Ah’ll bet ya all the straight-A’s in the world ya got it better than meh,” sighed Rogue.

“Why do you say that? Or is this just melodrama talking?”

“Ah’d rather not talk about it,” she answered.

Rogue turned and started walking away, leaving Kitty concerned and curious. Rogue was not the most open person on the team. Sometimes she gave Logan a run for his money. But lately, Kitty noticed a change in her. For a while she seemed to be managing as well as the rest of the team, but something else was clearly bothering her.

“You sure you don’t want to talk? Maybe I can help,” said Kitty.

“Don’t start playing Oprah with meh, Kitty,” said Rogue strongly, “You can’t help with this.”

“Why not? I thought the X-men were a team. And teammates are supposed to help each other.”

“That’s just something Storm and Wolverine say to get us through the Danger Room.”

“Do you always have to be so cynical, Rogue?” scorned Kitty.

“Cynical? Me? Seriously, how long have ya been here?” laughed Rogue dryly, “Maybe you ain’t as smart as your grades after all.”

“If you’re trying to push me away with insults, it’s not working,” quipped Kitty, “I mean it, Rogue. Why are you so off? I was just getting used to you only being a half hour late.”

“It ain’t your business,” she said bitterly as she started to walk faster.

“Give me just one guess,” said Kitty as she caught up, “Does it have to do with Scott?”

Rogue’s demeanor shifted and she gave Kitty a menacing look, hinting she struck a nerve. She stopped walking for a moment and faced the younger mutant. Kitty stopped with her, making it clear that she wasn’t making light of this. She really was concerned and she wanted to help. Rather than storm off or belabor the point, Rogue found herself sighing in exasperation.

“Dang, please tell meh it ain’t that obvious,” she lamented.

“It’s not like you’re advertising it, but yeah. You can sort of see the signs,” shrugged Kitty, “I may still be new here, but I know how hung up you and Scott are on each other.”

“That ain’t the problem. It’s complicated.”

“How so?” asked Kitty, “I may not understand, but I can at least listen.”

Rogue chuckled a bit. For someone as tough as Kitty, she was a pretty friendly girl. She wasn’t intimidated by people with issues. It was probably why she fit in so well with the X-men. She didn’t have the same baggage as some of the others and she wasn’t afraid to reach out to people. Sensing she wasn’t going to let this slide, Rogue started making her way towards the kitchen while talking it out along the way.

“It ain’t like we’re on the rocks or anything,” she began, “We ain’t fightin’ over petty things and we’re still having fun with each other. We hang out, go on dates, and have great sex. That all hasn’t changed. And Scott, bless his heart, is doing everything he can to make meh happy.”

“So what’s the problem?” asked Kitty as they arrived in the kitchen.

While Kitty grabbed a snack Rogue gazed out the window where she could see Scott and Bobby swimming laps in the pool. They were making small talk here and there and Bobby casually splashed him, earning him a disgruntled look from the X-leader. Then Scott saw her through the window and waved at her with a smile. She managed to return his gesture, but it only made her dwell more on this issue.

“It’s Jean. She’s the problem. Or more accurately, it’s Jean breaking up with Logan. Ah’m sure you remember how that went down.”

“Don’t we all,” said Kitty as she grabbed a bottle of water, “They were a little messed up around each other for a while, but they seemed to have worked it out.”

“Maybe they have, but it affected more than just Jean. Since day one, Scott spent a lot of extra time helpin’ her get through it. And Ah can’t say Ah blame him. He is her best friend after all, but Ah don’t think that’s all he’s doing.”

“You’re not saying Scott’s planning to cheat on you with Jean, are you?” said Kitty with a bewildered look.

“Hell no! Scott would never do that. He’s too much a gent,” Rogue sighed, “But Ah get the feeling that Jean breakin’ up with Logan brought them closer in a ways. They ain’t overt about it, but Ah can tell it’s there.”

“Are you sure you’re not just being paranoid?” suggested Kitty, “I’ve seen him around Jean too. I know they’re close and all, but it seems no more than usual.”

“Maybe to you, it doesn’t. But when you date a guy for a while, you start pickin’ up on things. Ah know there’s something else going on. Ah just don’t know what to make of it. Heck, Ah’m not sure he even realizes it.”

“What do you mean?”

Rogue’s gazed remained locked on Scott, watching him as he got out of the pool and dried himself off. Her thoughts drifted to everything she had experienced with him since they started dating. In all that time there seemed to be two main stages. One was how they were together before Jean’s breakup. The other was how they were afterwards. It was the second part that had her worried.

“It’s just that…Ah get the sense that Scott’s dividing his time between meh and Jean, trying to keep our relationship together while trying not to get caught up with her. It’s almost as if he’s tryin’ to reassure me that he’s not gonna jump ship on us. And Scott being the man he is goes to great lengths. Problem is Ah’m not sure if it’s because he really loves meh or he just doesn’t want to hurt meh.”

Kitty watched Rogue’s expression fall as she described her predicament. She wasn’t usually that emotional, but talking about Scott brought out so many feelings for her. Kitty wasn’t sure what to make of it. She had limited relationship experience and this was every bit as complicated as Rogue made it out to be. There didn’t seem to be any real answers she could give her.

“Have you tried…you know, talking to Scott about this?” she asked.

“At least three times,” she muttered, “But every time one of us ends up changing the subject. It ain’t the most pleasant thing to talk about, wondering if your boyfriend is gettin’ too close to another woman.”

“I’ll bet,” mused Kitty in a sympathetic tone.

“Plus, Ah don’t know if Ah wanna push this. Ah like what we have. Scott’s the first guy Ah’ve been this intimate with. Ah’m not sure how far it can go if this is how it’s gonna be between us.”

“So now you’re worried about limits instead of love,” Kitty summarized, “I’m no expert, but it sounds like you’re starting to have doubts.”

Rogue shot her another disgruntled look. Complications were one thing, but doubt was another. It was a pretty powerful term to throw around when referring to her relationship with Scott. But as much as she didn’t like it, that didn’t mean there wasn’t some truth to it. Such a notion only further dampened her mood.

“Oh what do you know?” muttered Rogue, “Ah thought you were gonna listen and not judge.”

“I’m not judging!” said Kitty defensively, “I’m just making a comment.”

“Well next time, keep them to yourself!” she said as she turned away from the window, “Ah think Ah’ve droned on about this enough. Thanks for listening to meh, but Ah’ve gotta work this out on mah own.”

She started walking away, leaving Kitty feeling like the jerk. Talking it out didn’t seem to help Rogue with her predicament. When it came to her relationship with Scott, she was sensitive to doubt and criticism. She sure didn’t help reassure her by making comments. It sounded even more complicated than Rogue described and she wasn’t helping. But before she left, Kitty didn’t want to leave this on a sour note.

“Rogue…” she said in a pleading tone.

Rogue rolled her eyes and turned around to face the younger girl.

“Good luck,” she said, “I’m sorry if I didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear, but sometimes you have to work with what reality gives you.”

It was serious advice. It may have been valid, but it wasn’t for Rogue. She just scoffed at her words and turned away.

“Thanks Kit…Ah think.” she said bitterly, “Now here’s mah advice…stop giving advice and stick to bein’ an X-man. You’re better at it.”

Leaving behind a beleaguered Kitty, Rogue stormed off into the halls in need of some alone time. Next time someone offered to ‘talk about it’ as they so eloquently put it, she would save herself the trouble and just run away. She didn’t need anybody else’s help. When it came to fixing her relationship with Scott, she would handle it on her own. Maybe this weekend she and Scott could go out, get a hotel room or something, and work this mess out. It would be a lot easier than having everybody give her advice.

‘Dang, what is it that makes every human being want to dish out so-called advice to anybody having relationship issues? Is that genetically engrained or something? Maybe Ah should cover mah ears from now on whenever someone offers to talk.’

Sighing bitterly to herself, Rogue couldn’t help but feel the frustration getting to her. She was making a bigger deal of this than she should have. It wasn’t like Scott was becoming distant or anything with her. He was still doing everything he could to be a good boyfriend. Every time she thought about him and Jean she couldn’t help but feel uneasy. Maybe that feeling would go away with time, but she just wasn’t sure.

Rogue was ready to crawl into her room and lock the door for a few hours so she could unwind. Some nice alone time should do her well before she got back to her duties. But before she could get to her room, her cell phone started ringing. Groaning to herself, she grabbed it from her pocket and answered it. Hopefully it wasn’t Logan calling her in for a surprise Danger Room session.

“Yeah, what is it?” she groaned.

“Hello Rogue. It’s good to hear your voice again.”

Rogue froze in mid-stride. She would recognize that voice anywhere.

“Mama?!” she exclaimed, “Where the hell…how did you get mah number?!”

“You’re my daughter. It’s my job to know. I’m sure you’re probably still bitter about the last time we talked, but I’m going to ask you to set that aside for now. Something’s come up and I need to speak with you in person…alone.”

“Yeah right!” scoffed Rogue, “Give meh one good reason I should trust anything you say!”

“Because it’s about your brother. He’s in trouble.”

Rogue’s demeanor immediately shifted. Feelings of anger were replaced with feelings of concern. As much as she resented her mother for deceiving her, she knew there were some lines she wouldn’t cross. Her brother was one of them.

“Mah brother…why? What’s going on?”

“Meet me at hanger seven at Westchester private airport in an hour and I’ll tell you. Come alone. I don’t want the X-men involved in this.”

Before Rogue could ask another question, the line went dead. She tried to see if she could redial, but the number was listed as unknown on her phone. She should have known her mother would be too smart for that.

For a moment Rogue stood conflicted. A part of her wanted to run straight to Xavier and tell him about this. But it wasn’t that simple. This was a complicated family affair that was sure to get more complicated. Every reasonable part of her brain was telling her not to pull a Wolverine and go it alone. However, her gut told her Mystique was being sincere. It may be a feeling that came back to haunt her, but she was going to go through with it. She was just going to have to be extra cautious.

“Damn it all the hell! As if Ah don’t have enough problems,” she groaned, “Guess relationship issues will have to wait.”

Xavier Institute – Sub-levels

Warren exited the Danger Room after another combat session with Wolverine. He was sore, as everyone tended to be after working with the former living weapon, but accomplished. Ever since the Weapon X affair, he took combat training a lot more seriously. He felt he had to since he didn’t have the firepower or strength that other members of the team had. And Logan, despite his gruff personality, was a good teacher.

“Not bad, bird boy. You actually made it through level seven without getting yourself killed,” he commented.

“Is that the nicest thing you can say to a guy who just beat his high score and saved you twice from sneak attacks?” said Warren as he rubbed his sore shoulder.

“Seeing as how I had to save your sorry ass three times, you’re still on the wrong side of the action,” quipped Logan, “You gotta work on your nerves. That way you stop hesitating to throw yourself into the mix and you don’t pull back as soon as the going gets tough. Just because you got wings like a chicken doesn’t mean ya have to act like one.”

“Thanks for the advice. You’re always so constructive with your assessments,” said Warren dryly.

“You rather I be blunt about it?”

“Heavens no,” laughed Warren, “That would require less praise and more cursing.”

The winged mutant may be sore, but at least his spirits weren’t drained. Logan always figured there was a limit to how some rich pretty-boy with wings could be toughened up. To Warren’s credit, he tested those limits and sometimes exceeded them. He hadn’t had a decent combat instructor in quite a while. The last guy Warren told him about was good, but limited in what he could teach. That was too bad because there was still a lot this team had to learn if they were going to handle themselves in the fights to come.

Warren was well-aware of this. The new post-Genosha status quo was volatile and he had to be ready if a new fight emerged. Cameron Hodge showed how far their enemies were willing to go to take them down. They were ramping up the size, strength, and firepower of their arsenal. Being able to fly only went so far in such a fight. With Logan’s guidance, he was confident he would be able to hold his own if and when the need arose.

“Well, I better rest up,” said the winged mutant, “I’ll need to get my strength back if I’m to make it through the afternoon session with the team.”

“You’ll need more than that for the stuff Hank and I have planned,” said Logan with mischievous grin, “That all depends on Hank stepping away from his laptop for more than two minutes.”

“He’s still caught up in those side-projects of his?” laughed Warren, “How does he have time for Ororo?”

“Beats me,” shrugged Wolverine, “I know from my experience with Jeannie what happens when someone gets distracted. Hank better have a damn good reason for these projects because Ororo ain’t gonna take it lying down. Women never do.”

“Too true,” sighed Warren.

The two men started making their way towards the changing room. But before they got to the end of the hall, Hank emerged with a distressed look on his face.

“Warren, do you have a moment? There’s something you should see,” he said.

“What is it, Hank? I’m sore and in no condition for bad news,” groaned Warren.

“You’ll have to make an exception, my friend. This is important.”

Groaning to himself, Warren followed Hank down the hall to his lab where he spent much of his morning. As expected his laptop was up and running, but so was a video monitor next to his desk with a paused newscast on it.

“Tell me, Warren, when was the last time you spoke with your father?” asked Hank.

“My father? We haven’t been on speaking terms for the better part of two years,” scoffed Warren, the mention of his father promptly shifting his mood.

“But if I recall, you do converse from time-to-time. You haven’t completely shut him out of your life, have you?”

“No, but I’m working on it,” he said bitterly.

“Well that may not be wise considering his latest actions.”

“Why? What’s he done now?” said Warren, getting somewhat anxious at what Hank may be hinting at.

“See for yourself,” said Hank as he unpaused the newscast.

Warren watched intently as he saw an image of his father in one of his best suits on the monitor. He was standing next to the Vice President and number of military officials. They were shaking hands and smiling for the cameras, hinting his father just accomplished something significant. Just seeing an image of him was enough to spark resentment. He hadn’t forgotten what he did to him a few years ago. He was a long ways away from forgiving him and as the broadcast unfolded he would have even more reason to resent him.

“In other news, Worthington Industries CEO Warren Worthington Jr. announced that his company will head the government sponsored task force to take control of the Sentinel. This comes as a surprise to many policymakers, who deem the sentinels too dangerous to be in the hands of a private entity. But Worthington Industries is claiming partial ownership since some of the components used in their construction were manufactured in Worthington factories. In addition, the industry giant has many ties to government agencies, including the military. Worthington and the joint chiefs issued a statement that every aspect of sentinel technology will be analyzed and closely monitored. But some remain skeptical of Worthington’s intentions, citing past scandals in developing advanced weapons for private military forces. The president had this to say…”

Warren had heard enough.

“Turn it off, Hank!” groaned Warren, now brimming with anger.

“I’m sorry, Warren. But this is a serious development,” said Hank, trying to console the young man, “I don’t mean to disrespect your father, but with the sentinels in private hands they may become a threat again.”

“Don’t apologize, Hank. Disrespect him all you want!” he shouted as he pounded his fists on the table, “My father has already sunk billions into research for anti-mutant causes! I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but taking control of the sentinels?! He’s crossed a line!”

“Take it easy, bird brain! I’m supposed to be the one with the temper, not you!” shouted Logan, “Why can’t you just call your old man up and get the full story?”

“It’s not that simple, Logan! Things between me and my father have been strained for a long time.”

“Why? What did he do that was so bad? Cut you out of his will?”

“Worse…he tried to make me cut off my wings.”

Logan was silent for a moment. He never bothered to ask Warren about his family even though they were clearly a factor in his life. He figured it was a sore subject. Now he knew why.

“Okay, I take it back. You’re old man’s a dick.”

“But I thought he cut all major mutant research a two years ago,” said Hank, “That was his parting gift to you when you left to join the X-men full time. I remember clearly the promise he made you.”

“So do I,” said Warren bitterly, “He was never all that big on keeping promises, especially the one he made to me.”

“That doesn’t mean he isn’t still serious about it,” said Hank as he placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, “Warren, I know things are still strained between you two, but I’m showing you this because I know you’ll want to be involved. And it’s worth warning that pushing your father away even more may exacerbate the situation.”

“What are you suggesting? That I look the other way while my father falls into his old habits?”

“No. I’m suggesting you use this as an opportunity to reason with him. Regardless of his past indiscretions, he is still your father. With his company possessing sentinel technology, it opens the door to greater conflict. You know as well as I do how dangerous the sentinels can be if the fall into the wrong hands.”

Warren abruptly pulled away from Hank’s gesture and stormed out of the lab.

“Guess what, Hank…they’re already in the wrong hands.”

Hank started going after him, but Logan stuck his arm out and stopped him.

“Let him go, Hank.”

“But someone has to talk to him,” he said urgently, “Warren’s a bit sensitive about issues concerning his family and I don’t want to see him make any brash decisions.”

“He’s tougher than you think,” said Logan, “I just got out of the Danger Room with him. He’ll be fine. It’s his old man we should worry about.”

“Why? Do you think he’ll pose a threat?”

“He’s got the sentinels for crying out lout! Of course he’ll pose a threat,” growled the feral mutant, “But that all depends.”

“On what?” asked Hank.

“On two things,” he specified, “The first part is his agenda. All men like him have one. The second part that could really mess it all up has to do with Warren. Like it or not, he’s gonna affect it. Based on his attitude, it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

Hank found no flaws in Logan’s reasoning. Thinking back to Warren, his expression fell. He hoped by showing this to him he could talk it out with him. He should have known Warren wouldn’t be rational about it. The gap between him and his father was just too large. It was a shame too because he had met with Warren’s father before. He knew how much he loved his son. He was just misguided. Hopefully that be too great a factor now that the sentinels were involved.

While Hank went back to work on his laptop, Logan turned towards the television screen and studied Warren Worthington Jr. He didn’t know much about Warren’s father and their history together, but just looking at his picture made him suspicious. A lifetime of dealing with bad people gave him a talent for sniffing out devious characters. And his instincts told him Warren Jr. might be one of them.

Unknown Location


Kurt Wagner let out a round of groans as he awoke from his unconscious state. His head was throbbing and his whole body was aching. He wasn’t sure what just happened. One moment he was holding Amanda in his arms and the next some strange sensation hit him and everything went dark. Dazed and disoriented, he opened his eyes and tried to move his body. But like before, he was completely paralyzed. He couldn’t even teleport. He immediately began to worry. He may have spent the last three years distancing himself from violence, but he still recognized the tell-tale signs of an abduction.

He definitely wasn’t on the Sefton family farm anymore. He was in an entirely new setting. His vision was still blurry, but he could already tell it wasn’t friendly. It was dark, confined, and poorly lit. He also quickly noticed it was vibrating and there was a constant noise coming from all directions. It felt like being on a train or plane. He hoped that wasn’t the case because that would only make escape that much harder.

As his vision cleared, his thoughts immediately drifted to Amanda. He remembered her passing out just before he did. He prayed she was alright. He would never forgive himself if something happened to her. That would be breaking the promise he made her and her family.

“Amanda? Vhere…vhere are you?”

But instead of Amanda, he heard a cold, sinister voice.

“Sorry Kurt. Amanda isn’t here,” it said, “You’re stuck with me.”

Kurt gritted his teeth in determination, trying to fight through the paralysis. He was still unable to move his limbs, but his vision eventually cleared and the source of the cold voice became clearer. It belonged to a tall, imposing man dressed in a fancy black suit with a red tie. He had a very well-groomed stature which included jet-black hair, a perfectly shaved mustache and beard, and a fancy looking wooden cane with a brilliant red jewel on the end of it. And he wasn’t alone either.

Standing next to him was a beautiful young woman looking to be a few years older than him. She had long auburn hair, a very shapely and well-toned physique, and the same sinister-looking eyes of the man next to her. She was wearing a full length black body suit similar to that of a soldier. Only hers had a cape attached. As he looked at her he felt his body go even more ridged, hinting that she was the one behind this paralysis. He continued to fight it, but it was no use.

“Don’t bother resisting, my boy. You’ll stay docile until I am certain of your cooperation. My dear daughter’s little spell is quite potent and she can make it much more unpleasant. Isn’t that right, Siryn?”

“Very much so, father,” replied the young woman.

Kurt continued to struggle, but Siryn’s gaze narrowed. The high pitched sound in his head that seemed to be causing this intensified, causing a great deal of discomfort. Kurt could only groan in agony, but he remained strong. He had to for Amanda.

“Who are you?!” he demanded, “Vhat have you done vith Amanda?”

“Oh don’t worry. You’re girlfriend and her mother is perfectly fine…for now,” he assured, “But that can change quickly if as I’m sure you’ve figured out.”

“I swear if you hurt her…”

“Relax, my boy. I have no desire to harm her. You’re the one I’m most interested in.”

The mysterious man than rose up and approached the paralyzed mutant. Kurt shot him a bitter scorn as he leered over him, grinning intently as he took in his demonic form.

“You’re quite the specimen, Kurt,” he said in his accented tone, “I hope your reputation is every bit as deserving. First off, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tom Cassidy.”

“Tom Cassidy?” exclaimed Kurt, “You mean the one zhey call Black Tom?! The man who’s outsourced more war zhan all zhe nations in Europe put together?”

“Ah, so you’ve heard of me. I can’t say I’m surprised. I would expect nothing less from the one they call Nightcrawler, protégé to the sacred order of Azazel. One of the most powerful mercenary syndicates in the world, if I recall. Yet here you are, living in seclusion on a farm with a couple of mystics. I’d say it was pathetic, but I’d rather not insult you. I know what you’re capable of.”

Kurt’s expression tensed. Every time someone mentioned the life he left behind, he felt a wave of anger and bitterness. The name of that syndicate, Azazel, was forever tied to his past. It played a major role in what he could have been if Amanda and her family hadn’t stepped in. Three years wasn’t long enough to escape what he had been a part of.

For Tom Cassidy, it was almost humbling being in the presence of someone from Azazel. He had worked with them before. He knew the mystery behind their power. He had dealt with those involved in it. They were a force to be reckoned with. Even this unassuming teenage boy had a presence to him that exuded the mystique of the famed organization. Whether or not he still had his skills remained to be seen.

“Now then, let’s get down to business, shall we?” he said in a cold, business-like tone, “You see I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I have this dangerous job I need done if I’m to expand my operations. I’ve already consulted several mercenary groups, but none of them seem willing to cooperate. So I’m turning to you, Kurt Wagner. I want to enlist your services.”

“I’m flattered. But in case you didn’t hear, I retired. I don’t do jobs anymore,” said Kurt.

“Retired? That’s a good one,” laughed Tom, “Didn’t your father tell you from day one that once you’re in this business, there’s no getting out?”

“My father told me a lot of zhings. One vas how to identify unscrupulous clients. And vithout mincing vords, you and your daughter fit the mold perfectly.”

That earned him a little burst from Siryn.

“What’s your tongue, demon boy! You have no idea who you’re dealing with!” she spat.

“Easy Siryn,” coaxed Tom, “Mr. Wagner is our guest. It’s not his fault his father didn’t teach him any manners.”

“Let me go and I’ll show you a few other skills he taught me!” demanded Kurt.

“Now you know we can’t have that,” grinned the unsavory man, “Perhaps I should be clearer. When I said I wanted to enlist your services, it wasn’t a request. You are going to do this for me, Kurt. Think of me what you will, but I am a man of business. I always make sure I have the proper leverage.”

Tom then turned back to Siryn and nodded. The attractive woman grinned and gestured towards a door to her right. The door then opened and a new presence entered. When Kurt saw the two figures inside, his expression shifted from anger to sorrow.

“Amanda…” he lamented.

“Yes, you’re pretty little girlfriend. We picked up her mother for good measure,” said Siryn coyly, “They’ve been far more cooperative than you as you can see.”

Kurt watched anxiously as Amanda and her mother stumbled into the room, their faces contorted with distress with every movement. They clearly didn’t have control over their body. Siryn was controlling them with whatever strange power she possessed. Under her command, she ordered Amanda and Margali to walk up and bow to her. Then with a firm gesture, she made her kneel down in a show of submission to her and her father.

“You’re a smart young man, Kurt. I’m sure you know what I’m implying,” grinned Tom, “Siryn’s power is quite remarkable, is it not? She can create a wide range of special acoustic waves with her voice. Once they get into someone’s head they can be paralyzed or made prone to suggestion. A little fine tuning and she can actually control people’s movements.”

“Just think of me as a puppet master with your girlfriend as my puppet,” said Siryn in a deep, sadistic voice, “With just the right tone I can get her to do anything I want. I can even get her to choke herself to death.”

It was a menacing threat. But it wasn’t enough for Siryn to just boast about it. She had to show him she could do it. So with just a few subtle suggestions, she made Amanda choke herself. She ordered her to grab herself by the neck with both hands and start squeezing. Her face contorted with pain, showing she was trying to resist. But it was no use. Soon she was gasping for air, struggling and trembling in a show of agony.

“N-N-No! Amanda!” said Margali, who could only watch helplessly.

“Ack! K-K-Kurt!” she managed to get out.

Such a morbid sight was too much for Kurt to bear.

“No! Stop it! Don’t hurt her!”

“Oh I’m not the one that’s hurting her,” purred Siryn, “I’m just giving her a little nudge. If you want me to stop, you know what you have to do.”

Kurt shot her a bitter look. But as he heard more pained gasps from Amanda, he realized he couldn’t avoid this. They were going to kill her. Black Tom had no regard for human life whatsoever. It was part of his business tactics. The only way to save Amanda and her mother was to break his promise to her and be a mercenary again. With a heavy heart, Kurt lowered his head in defeat and told Black Tom what he wanted to hear.

“Okay! I’ll do it! Just don’t hurt her!” he said.

Black Tom grinned and then turned to Siryn.

“See? I told you he could be reasonable,” he said proudly, “All anybody ever needs it the right motivation.”

“Indeed,” said Siryn.

With a swift gesture, she released her grip on Amanda so she stopped choking herself. The younger mutant collapsed to the floor, gasping for air. She still couldn’t move. Siryn kept her and her mother paralyzing hold on her, but they had enough strength to look up at Kurt with desperate eyes.

“Kurt…” said Margali.

“Don’t do it,” Amanda urged him.

“Oh no you don’t!” said Siryn.

The powerful young woman let out a sharp screech that effectively knocked Amanda and her mother out cold. When Kurt saw this he felt a wave of anger and fought hard to break Siryn’s hold. But she wasn’t taking any chances with him. She kept him immobile while Black Tom picked up the two limp bodies.

“Thank you, Siryn. We’ll be sure she’s secure and well cared for,” assured Black Tom, “But don’t even think about trying to rescue her. You’re currently 50,000 feet over the Atlantic in a private jet. We’re already on our way to the target location.”

“And vhere is zhat?” said Kurt bitterly, “Vhat sort of madness vill you make me do?”

“Oh it’s nothing too extreme,” he said casually, “You’ll be breaking into a highly secure facility in Indiana just south of Indianapolis. The facility is a manufacturing hub for Worthington Industries, namely their advanced weapons division. Your objective is to steal the plans and data drives of the sentinels.”

“Zhe sentinels?! You’re insane! Zhose monstrosities almost started a var!”

“War just happens to be my business. I like to stay ahead of the game and I have major plans for these giant marvels. But that is not your concern. You’re only doing this to save your girlfriend. Once you’re successful, I’ll send you back home to Germany on first class. I’ll even pay extra if you can do this quickly and quietly.”

“Spare me your blood money, Black Tom!” spat Kurt, “Let’s just get zhis over vith! But I varn you…if you go back on your vord and Amanda gets hurt, I’ll see to it zhat no amount of money vill protect you!”

“I would expect nothing less, Nightcrawler,” grinned Black Tom.

Kurt resented being called that, but Black Tom showed little concern. With Amanda and Margali in his arms, he made his leave. Only Siryn remained, making sure Kurt was completely docile for the rest of the trip.

“Keep him in line, Siryn,” he told his daughter, “And be a dear and go over the layout of the facility for him. If our new friend is going to succeed, he’s going to need to know what he’s up against.”

“Of course, father,” said Siryn, “It will be a privilege assisting someone of his legacy.”

Kurt’s gaze narrowed on Siryn as she leered over him. But she was not intimidated. Black Tom was now gone, off to throw Amanda in whatever sadistic confines he had to in order to keep her restrained. He cringed at the thought of her being under that madman’s control, but he couldn’t afford to think about that now. If they were going to get through this, he was going to have to go along with Black Tom’s agenda.

It was ironic in a ways. Kurt had long feared that one day his past would come back to haunt him. He and Amanda lamented over it constantly. That day had finally come, but he was going to be damned if he would let this man control him like this. He was going to find a way to turn the tide. He owed it to Amanda and the promise he made her. He just had to maintain his faith that he could get through this.

Westchester Private Airport

Rogue arrived at the airport late in the afternoon, just as her mother instructed. She took one of the institute motorcycles, blowing off a Danger Room session and an extra class with Kitty and Warren to make it. Despite her intuition saying otherwise, she listened to her mother and didn’t tell anybody what she was doing. Her only backup was a call she made to Scott’s cell phone. If something went wrong, she trusted him to take charge. Knowing her mother, she may need it.

When she pulled up to the airport, she rode up to the gate located furthest from the main terminal. It was a part of the airport where a number of rich locals kept their private jets, so security was tight. There were several checkpoints and she couldn’t just break into it. Looking through the gate she could definitely see some activity. There were a couple of mechanics around an unmarked plane and some security personnel going back and forth between gates. She scanned the area for any signs of her mother, but given she was a shape shifter that was unlikely at best. Rogue figured if her mother had been telling the truth, she would find her. Luckily she didn’t have to wait long.

As she parked her bike outside one of the security checkpoints, a familiar figure emerged from a parked car behind her.

“You actually came. I’m impressed,” said Mystique.

Rogue instinctively took a defensive stance. She still remembered vividly what her last encounter with her mother was like. She wasn’t going to take any chances.

“Hello mama,” she said bitterly, “It’s been a while.”

“Indeed it has,” said the shape shifter stoically, “I would have checked in sooner. But some issues came up that…”

“Spare meh the excuses! Ah’ve heard them all before,” groaned Rogue, “Let’s get on with it already. What’s goin’ on with Kurt?”

Mystique scolded her daughter’s disrespect. The three months since their last encounter had done little to change that attitude of hers. But she would have to work on that later.

“Good to see you haven’t totally forgotten your family,” said the shape shifter with a touch of motherly scorn, “Kurt was one of those issues I had to deal with after Genosha. I’ve been checking in on him in Germany these past few months. Some of the locals who knew about him got a little worked up after the uprising and I had to coax a few officials to mitigate the situation.”

“Do Ah even wanna know what that implies?” asked Rogue.

“I’ll spare you the details. But I did work it out and was going to check in on him today before flying out. That’s when it happened.”

“What was it?”

Mystique’s expression contorted with anger. She was usually pretty good at hiding her emotions, but not when it came to her kids.

“He was abducted,” she said in a grim tone.

“Abducted?! Who would be dumb enough to abduct, Kurt?” exclaimed Rogue, “Ah thought ya told me he knew how to protect himself!”

“He does. Whoever took him knew that. They must be very sophisticated and very foolish,” she mused, “Which is why I called you. We need to save him!”

“Ah’m all for saving him, but forgive meh if Ah’m a little skeptical of you being so sentimental,” said Rogue dryly, “Ah wanna help Kurt and Ah one way or another, Ah’m gonna do it. But give meh one reason why Ah shouldn’t just call the X-men and find him myself.”

Mystique figured Rogue would be suspicious. The last thing she wanted was the X-men getting caught up on her family affairs again. They had already made a big enough mess of things. If she was to keep this in the family she was going to have to humble herself.

Taking a deep breath, Mystique walked up to her daughter and looked her in the eye with a rare touch of honesty.

“Rogue, do you want to know why I did what I did to keep you from the X-men? Did you ever think I might actually have a reason other than being the controlling mother you think I am?”

“The thought had crossed mah mind,” she said skeptically.

“Well the truth is I did have a reason! A damn good reason!” she said strongly, “For so long I’ve been fighting to create a safe place for you and Kurt…a place where you wouldn’t have to hide who you are. I wanted us to be a family. I really did. Magneto’s plan for Genosha would have given us that chance!”

“How is destroying the world given us a chance?!” exclaimed Rogue.

“That’s not the point!” argued Mystique, “Magneto promised that if I helped him, he would grant us a special place in the new order he would set up. We could have started a new life together wherever we wanted. I could have finally gotten Kurt out of Germany and you out of Mississippi. It meant me having to run off constantly and leave you under the care of others, but that was a price I was willing to pay.”

Rogue’s expression remained bitter. But despite her mother’s harsh tone, she believed her. A part of her didn’t blame her, even if it didn’t make up for the feelings of abandonment and loss. She still wasn’t sure if she could trust her. Then Mystique moved in closer and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“I know I’ve made mistakes. But all I’ve ever wanted for you and Kurt is what’s best for you. Think of me what you will, but I ask you set it aside for now. Your brother needs our help. Are you with me or not?”

Rogue still cast her mother a suspicious glare. She still wasn’t totally convinced of her sincerity. Mystique sensed this and added one more thing.

“At the very least, think of this as me making good on another promise I made you,” she said, “You once asked me if you could ever meet your brother in person and I promised you would when the time is right. Well now is that time. I wish the circumstances were better, but this is what we have to work with.”

The shape shifter then cupped Rogue’s chin and turned her face so she looked her right in the eye.

“Please Rogue,” she said in a sincere tone, “Let’s do this as a family.”

It was probably the most honest look she had seen in her mother since in years. Rogue almost forgot that she was still capable of it. She had been betrayed by that look before. She had been disappointed by her mother before as well. But looking at her and thinking about Kurt, she couldn’t afford to back away. They were still family. That didn’t mean she was going to give Mystique a free pass, but for Kurt’s sake she would give her a chance.

Swallowing her bitterness and doubt, Rogue sighed and put her hand over top of her mother’s.

“Okay mama. Ah’ll do this,” she said, “But if Ah suspect for one second you’re up to your old tricks, Ah’m callin’ the X-men.”

“I understand,” said Mystique with a grin of approval.

“But don’t think this means Ah’m gonna walk away from them even if you make good on your word,” Rogue reminded her, “Ah’m still an X-man. That ain’t gonna change.”

“I know,” said the shape shifter bitterly, “But let’s not dwell on that issue any longer. We have more important matters at hand.”

The shape shifter then slipped her arm around her daughter’s shoulder and directed her to the security gate. She shifted into a new form, appearing as a middle-aged business woman in a fancy black dress with glasses and dark hair. When they approached the gate, the guard immediately recognized her and let her through.

“I’ve chartered a plane for us,” she explained, “We’re taking off in ten minutes. If we’re going to catch Kurt’s captors, we’re going to have to move fast.”

“Where exactly are we going?” asked Rogue, “And do you know anything about the people who abducted him?”

“I’ll explain everything on the plane,” she told her, “It’s somewhat complicated, but it’ll all make sense soon. I promise.”

Rogue was still dubious of any promise from Mystique, but she trusted her for now and followed her onto the plane. She long wondered if she would ever get a chance to meet her brother. Now she had a chance. But that all depended on how well this panned out. With Mystique, it was always a gamble. It was a good thing she put a backup plan into place. Hopefully Scott got that message she left on his phone.

Xavier Institute – Scott’s Room

Scott stretched his tired limbs as he entered his room with a towel around his waist. He had just finished a nice relaxing shower after a rigorous Danger Room session. With all the chaos on Genosha, the nature of their training had changed. Much of the scenarios now focused on dispersing riots, re-establishing order, and containing dangerous mutants. It wasn’t as simple as older scenarios which usually involved destroying something, but that was the nature of their work. Like the Professor said, the X-men had to adapt to the changing times. As the leader of the team, it was up to him to set an example.

As he dried his hair and got dressed, Scott’s thoughts drifted towards Rogue. While putting on a shirt, his eyes fell upon a picture of them taken last month on a date. For the most part it had been good. Even as he spent more time with Jean after their breakup, he always made sure he and Rogue didn’t get too distant. He owed it to her and their relationship. But even if they weren’t distant, they still had their share of strain.

Rogue didn’t make it easy for him. Jean kept coming up more in conversations and no matter how many times he tried to reassure her, Rogue didn’t seem convinced. It also didn’t help that she didn’t seem to be following the example he was setting. He knew she was rebellious and all, but he was going to have to sit down and talk with her. Just because their relationship was a little rocky didn’t mean she had an excuse to negate her responsibilities. She had gotten better at it since she first arrived, but he got the feeling she was regressing. Maybe there was more they had to work on than he thought.

‘Why does this happen to every woman I get involved with? I try to be responsible in so many ways and yet they still feel negated. Maybe they’re picking up on something I’m not. Maybe I’m doing something wrong and don’t realize it.’

As Scott looked at the picture, he sighed. He really liked Rogue. They related well to one another with their powers and their difficult family history, but there were still certain aspects that were lacking. It was just hard to tell what they were.

‘God, why do women have to be so difficult? Why can’t they just up and say what I’m doing wrong so I can at least work on it? I know love is supposed to be difficult, but this is ridiculous.’

Setting the picture aside, Scott grabbed one of his books and sat down on his bed. Training and conditioning aside, he still had classes last he checked. He might as well keep up. But before he started reading he noticed the light on his cell phone blinking. It indicated someone had sent him a text message. He reached over to check it out. Then he heard a light knock on the door and turned to see Jean standing before him.

“Hey Slim. What are you up to?” she asked casually.

“Oh, hey Jean,” replied Scott, smiling at her presence, “Not much. I just finished a level seven run on the Danger Room.”

“Another one?” laughed Jean, “You know if I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re developing symptoms of serious work-a-holism.”

“Well you are the one studying medicine so I guess you would know,” quipped Scott, “But it’s nothing major. It’s not like I turn it up to level ten like Logan.”

“Logan can heal. You can’t,” she said in a more serious tone as she walked up to her friend, “Seriously Scott, I’m starting to worry. Between training, class, and Rogue you’re pushing yourself more than usual.”

“I have to Jean,” he replied honestly, “I’m the leader of the team, remember? I have to put my responsibilities first.”

“And where does your mental health come in? Somewhere behind cleaning the Blackbird and making sure Bobby and Warren don’t skimp out on dish duty?”

“Now you’re just exaggerating. It’s not like I’m becoming paranoid or something.”

“No, but at the rate your going that’s a real possibility.”

“I can manage, Jean.”

“Oh really? Name one instance in human history where taking on so many responsibilities and trying so hard to please everyone has turned out well.”

Scott shifted awkwardly. Winning an argument with Jean Grey was difficult at best and impossible at worst. The problem was more often than not she had a point. And this was no exception. He knew he was pushing himself, but he hadn’t been too concerned. It’s only when Jean starts noticing that it becomes a sign.

Vindicated by his silence, Jean grabbed his hand and pulled him up off his bed.

“Come on, you need to unwind,” she told him, “How about we go out to eat at Cafè-a-Go-Go. My treat!”

After a day like this, a nice dinner with Jean sounded appealing. He really should catch up on his reading, but maybe it would help to unwind jut a little.

“Cafè-a-Go-Go, huh?” he smiled, “We haven’t been there in a while.”

“Is that a yes?” said Jean coyly.

“Sure, why not?” sighed Scott, “I guess it would do me some good. Rogue’s going to be busy in the Danger Room anyways and Warren doesn’t seem to be in the mood for our study group tonight.”

“All the more reason to get away for a bit,” she surmised, “Come on, I’ll get my things. You’re going to take it easy for a few hours if it kills me, Scott Summers.”

“Coming from you, that’s all the assurance I need,” grinned Scott.

With a much more upbeat mood, Scott set aside his book and grabbed his things. Jean was usually right about these sorts of things. Over the years she always kept him in check, making sure he didn’t become too uptight or stressed. It was good for him, not just as an X-leader but overall. And so long as Rogue was busy in the Danger Room, he was sure she wouldn’t mind. He planned on catching up with her later anyways. It couldn’t hurt to be in a better mood.

Once he had his wallet and keys, Scott grabbed his coat and rushed out of his room to catch up with Jean. But in his rush he completely forgot his phone, leaving it plugged into the charger on his night stand. The message light was still blinking. But whatever it was it was going to have to wait. For now, Scott’s only concern was unwinding with a nice dinner with Jean Grey.

Next Issue: Family and Fiends Part 2

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