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Volume 2 -- Issue 26 -- The Ties That Terrorize

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Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men struggle for understanding in a world that hates and fears them. Recently, much of that struggle has revolved around the island nation of Genosha where their nemesis Magneto staged a daring uprising against humanity. The full scale invasion was meant to topple an anti-mutant dictator and turn Genosha from an island of tyranny to a new front in the war against humanity. The X-men managed to thwart him. Now Magneto is in jail and mutant affairs are in a tenuous state as the remnants of the uprising, including Magneto’s children Wanda and Pietro, struggle to rebuild and move forward.

But Genosha isn’t the only issue. The mutant hunting sentinels have provided another challenge. After the first sentinel army was destroyed on Genosha, parts and plans were seized by military officials and placed under the care of Worthington Industries. But such powerful weapons have attracted some unsavory figures. Black Tom Cassidy was just one of them and in an elaborate plot using former mercenary turned X-man, Kurt Wagner, he managed to steal the plans.

So far nobody, including the X-men, has been able to track where the plans have gone. It has already become a source of tension between the X-men and Genosha. With much at stake for humans and mutants alike, Professor Xavier has made tracking the plans a high priority. Their search has just begun and for the moment there are few leads. One, however, has already taken them to the cold steps of Russia.

St. Petersburg, Russia – Port

The waters were choppy around the bustling port for St. Petersburg. Cold winds blew off the waters amidst cloudy skies and icy temperatures. It was early in the morning. The sun wasn’t due to rise for another half hour, but there was already plenty of activity. Large hoards of dock workers were already rushing back and forth, trying to coordinate amidst an important new task. A large cargo ship from North America just pulled in and was unloading its cargo. It all seemed innocuous enough, but there was reason to believe there were more sinister activates going on.

Standing watch atop a stack of crates a good 500 feet away, Scott and Logan watched through binoculars as the first round of cargo was unloaded. Flying above them was Warren, who was making passes over the ship using the cloudy skies as cover. Their mission was strictly covert. They were following up on a tip uncovered by Hank in his latest efforts to track the sentinel plans stolen by Black Tom. There was reason to believe that certain factions of the Russian Mob were interested in the technology. It was up to them to make sure it was only a passing interest.

“Explain to me again why we’re scopin’ out the red mob for sentinel tech?” groaned Logan as he watched the uneventful drudgery on the docks.

“I wish I knew the full story myself, Logan, but Beast says he discovered a potential deal involving high tech robotics at this very port. He didn’t give many details. He just says he has a strong suspicion that’s good enough for me.”

“Call me skeptical, but ain’t he been discovering these deals like that for a freakin’ month already?”

“More like three weeks,” Scott corrected.

“Whatever! But every time we investigate, we don’t find jack squat!” said the feral mutant in frustration.

“Just because we don’t find it doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Scott argued.

“Or maybe it ain’t there to begin with. Seriously Cyke, you ever stop and think that Hank is losing his touch?”

Scott scoffed and shook his head. It was a ridiculous notion. Hank was the smartest man he knew. He helped teach him, Jean, Bobby, and Warren when they first got to the mansion and his brilliance never led them astray. He was always so astute, picking up on every conceivable detail and leaving nothing to chance. He had no reason to doubt him before and wasn’t about to start just because Logan was getting frustrated.

“I don’t want to argue about this, Logan. Hank says something’s going down here and we’re going to look into it. End of story.”

“Fine, because we just got all kinds time to waste,” said Logan dryly.

“It isn’t a waste when it comes to the sentinels! You know as well as I do how dangerous those things are. If Hodge thought he could beat out every major military in the world with them, we can’t afford to let Black Tom give someone else a shot!”

“You’re still assuming we’re on the right track. Are you really gonna tell me that Hank or the Prof ain’t ever been wrong?”

“Of course they’ve been wrong before, but I could count every one of those incidents on one hand. Beast is too careful to completely slip up.”

“Now you’re assuming he’s in the right state of mind to begin with,” scoffed Logan, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you got a racket going on upstairs you ain’t gonna be on the ball.”

“What are you talking about?” said Scott, trying to stay focused on the activity below.
“Don’t tell me you ain’t been keeping up. Ol’ Hank has really been off his game lately. He botched some upgrades on the Danger Room and he’s been showing up late to meetings. He’s not saying way, but I’m guessing it has something to do with how flakey he’s been with Ororo lately.”

Scott put down his binoculars and turned towards Logan. Now he was more intrigued. As astute as Mr. McCoy often was, he was not immune to the effects of relationships.

“What do you mean? I thought they were fine. Hank says it wasn’t a big issue.”

“Hank’s a smart guy, but he ain’t above lying,” scoffed Logan, “They’re on the rocks for a reason and I don’t think he’s doin’ enough to work it out.”

“How would you know?” he said curiously.

“I don’t. What makes you think I would?”

“You wouldn’t be so sure if you didn’t have a clue.”

Logan put his binoculars down and cast a scorn on the X-leader. Even though he wasn’t with Jean anymore, they still didn’t get along. Even when Scott was genuinely curious, he was still a huge prick.

“Don’t bother pushing this, Cyke. I ain’t gonna tell you because it ain’t for me to say.”

“You found out and he made you promise not to say anything, didn’t he?” Scott quickly surmised.

“If you’re looking for more hints you’re wasting your time,” snarled Logan.

“So he did make you promise,” the X-leader affirmed.

“Just drop it already! I don’t need your bullshit at this hour!” Logan barked, “Let’s just get this pathetic excuse for a stakeout over with so I can get some vodka and…”

But before Logan could finish, the two X-men received a message from Warren through their communicators as he flew overhead.

“Guys! I think I see something! Someone just unloaded an unusual looking crate near the stern!”

Scott adjusted his earpiece a bit so he could reply to Warren’s message.

“Copy that, Warren. What makes you so sure he’s not a dock worker?”

“Trust me, I’m sure. You’ll know it when you see him.”

Scott and Logan exchanged glances. Logan rolled his eyes, still not convinced it was anything major. But he could tell Scott was going to follow up on this. It was his duty as an X-leader and as an overall uptight person. Setting aside his binoculars, he got up from the crate and looked up through the clouds to see Warren signaling them.

“We’ll check it out,” he told his winged friend, “Keep an eye on the area. We’ll call you if we need backup.”

“Affirmative. Good luck, guys!”

The X-leader moved fast, ready to head in and investigate. Logan followed suit, but his earlier sentiment about this so called mission hadn’t changed.

“This doesn’t prove me wrong, one-eye,” he pointed out.

“Did I say it did?” Scott retorted.

“No, but you were thinking it. Hell, you’re probably hoping it. I am too. But I wouldn’t get ahead of yourself.”

“I’m not. But this is what we have to work with, Logan. I’d rather use it when it’s wrong than not use it when it’s right.”

Scott and Logan proceeded to climb down from the crates and head towards the stern. Warren remained in the clouds, helping guide them to the area by flying over top of it and acting as a waypoint. The two X-men moved cautiously, hiding behind the crates to avoid scrutiny from the workers. They had no way of knowing if they were legitimate or operatives of the Russian Mob. Some of them were heavily armed so it was reasonable to assume that there were some unsavory elements to look out for.

The area Warren led them to had a curious lack of activity. There were no cranes, forklifts, or heavy machinery operating at this area. There weren’t even any workers. On a ship this loaded that didn’t seem right and that was never a good sign. As they got closer they noticed a lone figure standing near a freshly unloaded crate. How it got unloaded without a crane was somewhat suspicious. But when they got a closer look at the figure, they figured out why.

Warren was right. He was no ordinary dock worker. He was a tall, imposing, muscular man who stood over six and a half feet tall. But his build wasn’t his most defining feature. Through the thick Russian coat and hat, Scott and Logan saw that the man had metal skin. It wasn’t like armor and it clearly wasn’t a mask. It was real metal skin and if the gleam was any indication, it was very tough. Then in a show of raw strength, the two X-men watched as he literally ripped the lock off the crate as if it were made of tin foil. It was impressive and it further heightened their suspicions.

“That must be the muscle,” commented Logan.

“Looks like it,” affirmed Scott, “Still think Hank is losing his touch?”

“Only one way to find out,” growled the feral mutant.

“Logan wait!”

But as usual, Logan ignored Scott’s orders and slipped away. Using his stealth and agility, he snuck behind the crate and prepared to approach the imposing figure.

While the X-men were making their move, the imposing figure opened the heavy doors to the crate and took a look inside. His gaze was focused and critical, making sure that everything was in place. This was an important shipment. His bosses in the Russian mob would be very upset of anything was damaged. These products were worth a lot of money and they couldn’t afford any losses. That’s why they send him to protect them. He was the only one they would entrust such cargo to because they knew nobody could stop him. That’s why they called him the Colossus.

“It’s all here,” he said in his thick Russian accent, “Time to move out.”

He closed the crate and was about to lock it up when he heard a distinct feral growl.

“You got three seconds to open this tin can, Ruskie!” said Logan intently.

Colossus looked up to see a menacing figure standing on top of the crate looming over him. He had an intimidating presence to go along with his menacing snarl, but the young Russian was not daunted. His gaze narrowed as he clenched his fists in a powerful gesture.

“And who might you be?” he said stoically.

“Nobody you wanna know, bub!” Logan responded, “Just curious about what your people are bringin’ in. Now you gonna step aside or what?”

“Sorry to have to disappoint you, comrade. But I have my orders,” he said firmly, “If you wish to see inside this crate, you will have to go through me.”

It was just the kind of response Logan was hoping for. Grinning with intent, he drew his claws in a threatening gesture.

“Sounds fair to me!” he growled, “Hrrrrrahhhhhhhh!”

With primal ferocity, Logan attacked the imposing Russian. But rather than avoid his deadly claws, the man they called Colossus just put his arms up and guarded his head as the adamantium appendages sliced through his heavy coat and into his metal skin. But to Logan’s surprise, it did not penetrate him. It only scratched him, causing a flash of bright sparks. It showed that whatever metal this guy’s skin was made of, it was right up there with adamantium in terms of toughness. But this didn’t deter Logan. As soon as he landed, he nimbly swung around and went in for another slash. Only this time, Colossus was ready for him. He grabbed his wrist before he made contact and with minimal effort, he swung the Canadian mutant around and threw him against a stack of metal scrap.

X-men Supreme Issue 26: The Ties That Terrorize Panel 1

Logan was only momentarily stunned. His metal bones absorbed most of the shock, but not without some internal injuries. He could feel some of his organs bruise from the impact. This kid was a lot stronger than he thought. He was every bit as tough as that metal skin of his hinted at. But he remained undaunted. Still growling with intent, Logan pushed through the pain and prepared another assault.

“Hrrrr! That the way you wanna play it, tin man?”

“I must warn you I know how to defend myself. I was trained by some of the best fighters Spetnaz has to offer.”

“I don’t mind a challenge!” snarled Logan.

Colossus remained undaunted and prepared for another attack. But just as Logan began charging the young Russian, a bright red optic blast shot out between them and stopped the assault.

“That’s enough, Logan! Stand down!” said Scott firmly, keeping his hand on his visor.

“Back off, Cyke! This guy’s hiding something!” growled Logan, “He’s a thug from the mob! I know it!”

“Not to question you’re astute judgment, but you mind backing it up before you start a fight?” shot the X-leader, “We’re on a dock full of thugs in case you’ve forgotten. The last thing we want is a mob war.”

Logan shot Scott a nasty look, but Scott ignored him as he approached the imposing Russian peacefully. As he did Warren came flying in and landed next to Logan. He ended up having to hold the feral mutant back from attempting another assault.

“Jeez Logan, I know it’s early! But let’s make sure we’re picking the right battles before we fight,” said the winged mutant.

“In my experience, that’s never an issue when it comes to the Russian mob,” growled Logan, “There’s always someone that deserves mauling!”

“Well before you tear into them, let’s at least double check,” coaxed Warren.

Logan growled in discontent. Scott and Warren were good X-men, but they had no idea what the Russian mob was like. There was no such thing as diplomacy to these people. He knew from personal experience. It was one of his few clear memories that stuck out. But that was a different story.

While Warren held Logan back, Scott addressed the Russian Colossus with a peaceful gesture. He was suspicious just like Logan, but he didn’t get the sense that this guy was just some thug. He carried himself in a very different way. With the strength he just showed, he could  have easily pummeled Logan with his bear hands. But he didn’t. He used only defensive tactics. That alone spoke volumes. He was also mutant just like him. If he knew something, they had to be sure it was what they were looking for.

“Please forgive Logan’s brash attitude. He’s not one for friendly introductions,” said Scott, earning him a look from Logan, “We’re just looking for information. We…”

“I know who you are,” said Colossus in his thick accent, “You’re the X-men. I would recognize that visor and those wings anywhere.”

“Good. Then you know we’re not looking to start trouble,” reasoned the X-leader, “First off, can you tell us your name?”

The Russian hesitated to respond. He knew the X-men and he respected them. Since the Genosha incident their exploits were well-known in Russia as they were to the rest of the world. To him and many mutants like him, they were heroes. He couldn’t see his superiors in the mob being too thrilled with getting them involved. But if the X-men were here that could mean something much more serious was at hand. If he could help, he would give them the benefit of the doubt.

“Piotr Rasputin,” he said, “But my comrades call me, Colossus.”

“I can see why,” said Scott with a half-grin, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Hopefully, you can help us.”

“You should know my superiors might not appreciate that,” warned Piotr, “Part of what your ill-mannered friend said was right. I am here on behalf of the Omega family, a very dangerous group of criminals if ever there was one.”

When Logan heard this he tensed, forcing Warren to hold him back once again.

‘The Omega family?! He better not mean Omega as in…no, it can’t be! That asshole is dead! It has to be a coincidence! It damn well better be!’

Despite Logan’s burning suspicion he stayed silent and let Scott continue. There was no use going down that road again. They had enough problems to worry about.

“I understand completely. And I assure you we’re not out to get caught up with them…yet. But we recently received a tip that elements of the Red mob were involved with sentinel tech. I’m sure you remember the sentinels.”

Piotr’s stoic gaze narrowed. Like many mutants, he saw images of those menacing monstrosities attacking mutants on news feeds. They were a serious issue for people like him and not just because he was a mutant.

“Yes, I know of the sentinels. But I assure you, I am aware of no plot in the Red Mob to acquire such technology.”

“You mean there’s no plot with the people you work for or no plot in general?” Scott probed.

“If there was, I would know. The people I work with would most certainly catch wind of it. And I would most likely not be standing here if there were such a plot. My loyalties are strong, but as a mutant I have my limits.”

Scott studied this man for a moment. It was hard to read his metal face. He could tell that this was someone who had been hardened in more ways than one. He surmised he must have gotten solid training. At the same time, he saw someone who was honest and forthcoming. For anybody in the mafia, that was rare and that added to his credibility in Scott’s eyes. Between this and his gut instincts, Scott was convinced of his words.

“I believe you,” said the X-leader, “But as someone already involved with them, could you tell us if it’s a possibility? Might certain, particularly nasty people be interested in acquiring this technology?”

“I wouldn’t at all be surprised,” said Piotr, “But I can tell you with certainty that at this time there is no such interests.”

“Yeah, I’m sure they pay guys like you to tell the truth,” said Logan dryly.

“I thought I told you to back off, Logan!” said Scott firmly.

“If he’s so sure why don’t you have him open the damn crate? If he’s got nothing to hide why the hell not?”

It seemed like a reasonable judgment, something that was rare coming from Logan. Scott looked at him and then back at Piotr. As certain as he was that this man was telling the truth, it couldn’t hurt to be completely certain.

“Piotr, if you wouldn’t mind?” said Scott.

“What assurances do I have that you won’t intrude?” said Piotr cautiously.

“None,” said the X-leader, “But you have my word as an X-man that we won’t cause you any trouble. The last thing we want to do start an unnecessary conflict.”

Piotr studied the X-leader. He was poised, sincere, and assertive. It was the kind of character that would not go back on a promise. Piotr dealt with enough unscrupulous individuals to know when someone was leading him on. And he saw nothing from this man or his winged friend that they were deceiving him. Logan, he wasn’t sure about. But if it would help the X-men, he would do what was necessary.

“Very well,” he said, “I will show you.”

Scott, Warren, and Logan gathered near the front of the crate. They watched as Piotr unlocked it and opened the heavy doors again. The imposing Russian stepped aside so they could get a close look at this valuable cargo. When they saw it, the three X-men were both surprised and humored.

“Well I’ll be,” said Scott with a half-grin.

“Flat screen TVs?!” exclaimed Logan.

“Whoa…not just any flat screens!” said Warren as he walked up to one of the units, “These are super high def, advanced projection, ultra-thin, stereo enhanced X-LEDs! They’re not even supposed to hit the shelves until next year!”

“Since when did you become an expert on high end TVs?” asked Scott.

“You think those walls of DVDs in my room are just for show?” said the winged mutant as he continued look intently over the black market merchandise.

“Your sentiment is shared by many,” said Piotr, “You would be surprised how much people are willing to pay for new electronics. That’s why the mob send people like me to protect the shipments.”

Logan groaned in frustration while Scott shook his head in exasperation. There was clearly no sentinel gear here. They nearly sparked a messy confrontation over something as menial as stolen TVs. This tip was officially a bust. The sentinel gear was out there. Black Tom was not going to just sit on this extremely valuable information. Someone was going to get their hands on it. If certain mob elements were involved in sentinel tech, it wasn’t here.

“Guess it’s official now,” muttered Logan, “This was a fine waste of time.”

“Fine, I’ll say it. I’m beginning to think you’re right about Hank. He might really be losing his touch,” sighed Scott.

“Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to say I told you so, but I’m too pissed off to gloat.”

With nothing else to investigate, Scott was ready to call this mission complete. He turned back towards Piotr and addressed him.

“Sorry for the intrusion. Thanks for your help, Piotr,” said the X-leader, “The X-men appreciate your assistance.”

“Happy to help, comrade,” said Piotr with a smile, “My little sister will be quite thrilled to know that I met you. She’s a mutant too, you know.”

“Well if you or her need anything else in the future or if you come across any more information about the sentinels, please let us know,” said Scott.

The X-leader reached into his coat and pulled out a small business card. Whenever they went on missions, he always made sure to have some on hand. As the Professor once told him, it never hurt to look out for new allies. They needed as many as they could get in their struggle.

“You can reach us at this number,” said Scott as he pointed it out on the card, “If you want we can even schedule you to meet with the team.”

“Thank you, but I’m not sure I would be a good fit,” said Piotr as he took the card, “I can’t imagine an errand boy for the mob being an appropriate addition.”

“The Xavier Institute is open to all mutants,” assured Scott, “Professor Xavier doesn’t judge people on their past. It’s character that mattes.”

“And it doesn’t look like you need to worry too much about that,” commented Warren, “Hell, look at Logan. He fits in just fine with us.”

That earned him an angry look from Logan and another grin from Piotr. With Warren and Scott’s encouragement, he put the card in his pocket. Perhaps it would come in handy in the future. There wasn’t much good he could do in a place like the mob. Unfortunately, circumstances tied him to them. Hopefully it wouldn’t always be that way.

“I’ll be keeping that in mind,” said Piotr, “I am somewhat stuck as you say it in my current situation. But I may take you up on such an offer one day.”

“I hope you do,” said Scott with a friendly nod.

The X-leader then gestured towards Logan and Warren. Their work here was done.

“Come on, guys. We better get back to the institute,” he said.

Logan started following him, but Warren stayed behind briefly. There was one important loose end he needed to resolve.

“Hold up guys!” said Warren as he approached Piotr, “Um…I don’t know how much pull you have here, but if I write you a check could you maybe front me one of these?”

“Now Warren!” barked Logan in a tone with no room for argument.

“Oh come on! You have any idea how long I’ll have to wait for one of these?!”

“You’re an X-man. You’ll manage,” said Scott, “Now say goodbye and hurry up!”

“Okay! I’m coming!” groaned the winged mutant.

But as Warren ran to catch up with his fellow X-men, he turned back towards Piotr and mouthed “call me.” Piotr tried not to laugh. As heroic as the X-men were, they were definitely still human. There was something comforting about that. Maybe one day he would share in such heroism. But for now, he was stuck doing the mob’s dirty work. He didn’t like it, but he didn’t have a choice. His family was depending on him. But now he had something else to look out for. If someone in Russia was trying to acquire sentinel technology, he was going to look out for it. He wasn’t about to let those monstrosities be unleashed on his homeland.

Xavier Institute – Hank’s Room

Hank McCoy was in the midst of another restless night. He had just gotten a call from Scott. That tip he uncovered in Russia turned out to be another dead end. This marked the third time in a row he failed to track the stolen sentinel plans. It was a given that these sorts of investigations were hit or miss, but he was so certain he found something this time. After he retraced his steps he realized the mistake he made. So much talk of high-tech accessories he uncovered could just as easily mean new flat screen TVs as well as sentinel components. He would have figured it out if he had checked his facts, but his mind just wasn’t in the right place.

That seemed to be his Achilles heel lately. Usually he was so focused, able to decipher any intellectual challenge with the necessary vigor and fortitude. But his focus had taken a serious hit recently. It had nothing to do with his mental aptitude or his intelligence. He could still do the New York Times crossword puzzle in under an hour. It had everything to do with his increasingly complicated personal life.

Gazing over a picture of them he kept near his desk, he stretched his gorilla-like limbs and sighed.

‘What’s wrong with me? Why am I doing this to myself? And a second time no less! I thought my animal instincts were hard to deal with. But this…I would rather deal with the instincts of a million ravenous wolves than the constant turmoil of relationships.’

He solemnly turned away from the picture. Officially, he and Ororo were still dating. But lately, they were drifting apart. It all centered around a woman he met online and had been conversing with for months now. The woman who called herself Tessa drew his attention and kept it despite his efforts to stay focused on Ororo. It got to the point where he started to feel a kinship with Tessa that was almost as deep as the one he felt with his girlfriend. And that’s where the conflict stemmed from.

Tessa was a different kind of woman. She wasn’t as affectionate or passionate as Ororo, but she was friendly and understanding. She also had a brilliant intellect that routinely tested his wits in new ways. He could talk to her about things he could never talk to Ororo about. She could relate to him in a way Ororo never could. It was difficult to contemplate, but Hank was seriously thinking whether he and Ororo could continue like this. If he couldn’t keep his attention away from Tessa, then it wouldn’t be fair to Ororo.

He wasn’t sure what the logical path entailed. He had been in his room for what felt like days now, carrying out his sleuthing for the sentinel plans while talking to Tessa on this and other issues. Her latest message was quite telling.

“I don’t mean to be a strain on your personal life, Hank. But you need to be honest here. Do you feel something for me? If you do, can you reconcile that with Ororo?”

Hank wasn’t sure how to respond. He was hanging from the ceiling, holding his laptop upside-down. It was an awkward position for anyone without ape-like reflexes, but it helped him think. Honesty was not easy for him. It wasn’t easy for Ororo either. They had been together for a while now and there were a number of issues they hadn’t touched on yet. They were small, but important. At this point it wasn’t certain if they would help their relationship at this point. But he had to do something.

Before he could respond to Tessa’s message, there was a knock on his bedroom door. He already had a pretty good idea of who it was so he sighed and answered.

“It’s open, Ororo,” he called out.

The door opened and Ororo stepped in, carrying a tray of food with her.

“Still at it, I see,” she said in a flat tone.

“Indeed,” sighed Hank, “Apparently the tip from Russia I uncovered was dubiously flawed. I’m trying to make up for it with further inquiries.”

“Well I brought you a snack,” she said, setting the tray down near his bed, “Even a brilliant mind like yours needs nourishment.”

“Thank you, my dear. You’re kindness never ceases to amaze me,” he said with an affectionate smile.

Ororo smiled back. Just because things had been distant between them didn’t mean there wasn’t any love between them. Those feelings were still there. They were just competing with a myriad of other complications, many of which they hadn’t confronted.

“I hope you’ll consider taking a break,” she said, “It feels like it’s been a while since we had some quality time together.”

“I know it has,” said Hank as he leapt down from his perch, “But I promise I’ll make it up to you. I do apologize for being so distracted lately, but a number of important matters have come up. And needless to say, I’ve been struggling to deal with them.”

“Since when do you struggle with an intellectual challenge?” questioned Ororo.

“It’s not that kind of challenge,” he said distantly as he caressed her face in an affectionate manner.

Ororo savored his warm touch. But she could tell there was a subtext to his tone and she knew what it entailed.

“I see,” she said, turning away briefly, “Look, I’m sorry if I’ve been pushy lately. If there’s something going on that you’re not ready to talk about…”

“Don’t apologize, my dear. That’s the last thing you should be doing,” said Hank, “This burden is on my shoulders and it’s time we discuss it. You know as well as I do there are certain conversations we’ve been putting off.”

“Yes, and I don’t see either of us trying very hard to have them,” said Ororo, shifting uncomfortably.

“I believe that may be part of the problem. It’s high time we get them out of the way. We’ve learned so much about each other. You know the name of the street I grew up and I know the name of your mother. It’s only reasonable we be able to go a little further, is it not?”

It was hard to disagree. Hank McCoy was nothing if not a reasonable man. There were a number of things Ororo wanted to get off her chest. She remembered on their first date how they balked at discussing certain personal issues. They were long overdue to get these matters out in the open. But there was a touch of fear on her part. Whatever they revealed may have grave implications for their relationship.

Concerns aside, Hank was determined. They had to do this. But just as he was about to go further, he heard a beeping sound on his laptop. Tessa had just sent him another message. It reminded him that Ororo wasn’t the only one to consider in his affairs. Unfortunately, Ororo heard it too and knew what it entailed.

“Let me guess, we’ll discuss them later?” surmised the African woman.

“Not later…soon,” said Hank, maintaining his composure, “Just let me finish a few more things.”

“Exactly how much does a few more entail?”

“As few as possible, I assure you. We’ll get together in the morning and spend the day resolving this. I promise.”

Ororo was skeptical. But Hank had that determined look in his eye. It was the look he only got when he was absolutely certain about something. She remembered it the day he first asked her out on a date. She hadn’t seen it much since, but she was glad to see it again now.

“Say it again,” she said, now looking him in the eye with her alluring gaze.

“I promise, Ororo,” said Hank strongly, “You have my word.”

“Okay, but you know I’ll hold you to it,” she said, managing a slight smile.

“I would expect nothing less.”

He pulled her into a deep kiss to reinforce his point. Ororo graciously accepted his gesture. Distance aside, affection was one issue they didn’t have to deal with. His touch still felt as good as it did since they got together. She hoped to keep this feeling. With any luck, they would have their chance.

Once they parted, Ororo hugged him one more time before making her leave. Hank smiled at the feeling and watched until she was gone. Looking back at his laptop, he saw a new message from Tessa. He laid back on his bed and prepared for what was sure to be a long and challenging night. First he had to make sure he was doing the right thing with Tessa. Then he had to make sure he did the right thing for him and Ororo.

Westchester Apartment Complex – Lorna’s Room

It was late at night and Bobby Drake found himself tossing in bed. He was half-asleep, but alert enough to realize something was amiss. He seemed to remember falling asleep with a beautiful naked woman in his arms. Unlike so many other nights in his teenage years, he knew it wasn’t a dream. After working tirelessly to finish up his class work back at the institute, he called up his girlfriend and proposed a nice quiet night together. It didn’t take much to convince her. Within an hour he arrived at the new apartment she was staying at with her mom. From there they spent some quality time together, helping each other deal with the stress they had both endured lately.

That time eventually led them into the bedroom where things got really heated. It all seemed like a blur now, but Bobby fondly remembered every detail. They threw their arms around each other, stumble out of their clothes, and made love on her bed. It was one of the reasons why he was so tired. He thought his lover was equally spent, but when he felt an empty bed he got concerned.

“Hnn…Lorna?” said Bobby through his drowsiness.

Rising up from the bed, the young X-man rubbed his eyes and looked around the darkened room. He found Lorna casually sitting on her windowsill looking out into the night sky with a blanked tightly draped over her naked body.

“Lorna? Is everything okay?” he asked in a concerned tone.

“I’m fine,” she said, not diverting her gaze from the window, “Did I wake you?”

“No, but it’s a lot easier to sleep with a beautiful woman in your arms,” he said, yawning tiredly.

Lorna blushed at his words. After stretching his limbs a bit, he grabbed another blanket she had folded over her chair and wrapped it around his waist. If she was going to be modest about her nudity he might as well return the favor. Sensing a touch of restlessness in her, he walked up and slipped his arms around her. The young woman affectionately purred at his gesture and leaned back into his warmth.

“You have that look in your eyes again. Something bothering you?” asked Bobby.

“No…just thinking,” she said distantly.

“About what? Or is it another touchy issue?”

“Actually, for once it’s something a lot less tragic,” she said with a reassuring smile, “It’s about Wanda and Pietro.”

“Oh…no wonder you’re wide awake,” joked Bobby.

Lorna laughed and sank deeper into his embrace. He still had a look of concern. The Maximoff twins may be tenuous allies at the moment, but they had a history with the X-men that was hardly pleasant.

“You’re not worried they’ll come for you again, are you?” asked Bobby.

“Of course not. I’m pretty sure they learned their lesson last time,” she replied, “Plus, I know you and the X-men won’t let that happen. I’m sure they know it too.”

“They better,” said Bobby, doing his best Wolverine impression.

“But abduction issues aside, I’ve been keeping up with the whole Genosha affair. I’ve seen how Wanda and Pietro are working with the Professor and the rest of the world for that matter. And I can’t help but wonder if they’ve changed.”

“Changed? Those two?” said Bobby skeptically, “I don’t know, Lorna. I’ve fought them for years. I can’t see them renouncing their ways and singing peace songs on youtube.”

“I’m not saying it’s that drastic. But I definitely sense a difference. The one moment I keep thinking back to is when Pietro got hurt on Genosha. Up until then Wanda seemed so focused and steadfast. She never thought too much about what we were doing, but when she saw Pietro go down it was like someone slapped her back to reality. I think it was then when she realized just how wrong it was.”

Bobby was tempted to make another sarcastic comment. He had plenty when it came to the Maximoff twins. But sensing this was a serious issue for Lorna, he kept silent.

“I keep wondering if maybe Wanda knew in her heart that Magneto’s plan was wrong, but just didn’t say it. Or maybe she believed in him wholeheartedly and changed only when she saw what happened to Pietro. Either way, I think there may be some good in her. I think it’s in Pietro as well. He’s just more stubborn in realizing it.”

“That’s putting it lightly,” quipped Bobby.

“And maybe I’m biased because they’re family, but I honestly believe it’s there. They just need the right influences to bring it out.”

“And you think you can be that influence?”

“I don’t know yet. But is it so wrong for me to hope?”

Bobby hesitated to answer. The idea of Magneto or the Maximoff twins changing their human-hating ways seemed alien to him. But even he admitted they made strides lately. He wasn’t sure how much of it was because Magneto was in jail or whether it was just due to the Professor’s influence, but it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

Lorna thought harder about it as she gazed out into the night sky. After meeting her estranged family face-to-face, she had a lot of conflicting emotions. But after making it through the Genosha uprising, she saw sides of them that made her wonder. Wanda seemed the most understanding even if she willingly ignored things she knew were wrong. Pietro was stubborn and rebellious, but not nearly as devious as his father. Even Magneto himself showed some level of compassion. He was willing to help her and her human mother because she was his daughter. That was enough to make her believe.

“What do you think? Am I being totally naïve?” asked Lorna.

“It’s never naïve to be hopeful,” said Bobby as he hugged her closer, “Without hope the world would have gone crazy a long time ago.”

“But you don’t believe, do you? You don’t think people like Magneto can change,” she stated, able to surmise his position from his expression alone.

“Maybe I’m a little bias as well since Magneto’s tried to kill the X-men any number of times. But Wanda and Pietro…I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

“Based on what I’ve seen in them, I think they just need someone to show them there’s a better way,” said Lorna, “The X-men are helping, but I feel as though I should be helping as well. They are still family.”

“Since your mother’s doing better, you may have a chance,” said Bobby with a hopeful grin, “Maybe you can even tag along with us on our next trip.”

“We’ll see. I really do want to talk to them again sibling to sibling.”

“And under a non world-threatening setting, I assume.”

“Yeah, that too,” laughed Lorna.

She shifted her body slightly so she was now gazing directly into the eyes of her lover. Bobby smiled back at her as he affectionately cupped her chin. He was still obviously tired, but not enough to keep him from showing his affection for her.

“Have I said how much I loved you tonight?” she said softly.

“I seem to recall you moaning it repeatedly a few hours ago,” said Bobby coyly.

“Well I think it’s worth repeating,” she grinned, “I really do love you. You must love me too to listen to me go on about this in the middle of the night.”

“What can I say? You humble me. Girls brave enough to have hope in people like Magneto will do that to a guy.”

“Good to know,” she said warmly, “Let’s hope that’s enough. You can pick your battles, but you can’t pick your family.”

“Sad but true. Wanda and Pietro don’t know how lucky they are to have you as a sister. If anybody can help them reject their inner Magneto, it’s you.”

Bobby’s clever yet kind words earned him a deep kiss from Lorna. He may not be the most articulate man in the world, but he knew how to win a girl’s heart. In the soft moonlight they kissed, sharing a powerful moment together. Lorna dealt with a lot of issues for someone her age. She was a teenage girl struggling with mutant powers, a sick mother, and a family of mutant supremacists. But for her to still have hope in them, even after nearly tearing it apart, it spoke volumes for her strength.

But even as he kissed her passionately and held her in his arms, Bobby couldn’t help but worry. If she got more involved with her family she may very well be able to bring them to the good side. On the other hand, the opposite could be possible as well. She could end up being swayed to their side. It was all the more reason for him to be careful as the relationship between her and her new family unfolded.

Xavier Institute Backyard – The Next Morning

It was a beautiful, cloudless morning over Westchester and a number of students were taking full advantage of it. Instead of eating breakfast and catching up on their assignments inside, a few chose to relax outside near the pool. Among them were Kitty and Rogue, who were lounging on a couple of chairs soaking up the sun. Kitty was going over a couple of reading assignments and Rogue was supposed to be doing the same, but she found herself lazing about and musing over her lingering relationship issues.

It had been weeks since she and Scott broke up and she was still feeling the effects. At first she questioned whether or not she did the right thing. It still wasn’t easy. They hadn’t gotten to the point where they could stand alone in the same room together without it being awkward, but it was steadily getting better. Being friends with someone after having dated them was a challenge, but she still had a special place for Scott. He was the one who reached out to her when her powers manifested and he helped her grow with the X-men. Moving on wasn’t easy, but it was best for the both of them.

Kitty sure had plenty to say about it. Even though Rogue snapped at her a number of times when she and Scott were struggling, she didn’t hold it against her. In fact, she was a nice person to talk to about these sorts of issues. Now that her relationship was over, she could put it into perspective. Kitty helped with that in her own unique way.

“So lesson number one for future relationships: take it slow,” proclaimed Kitty as she casually flipped through the pages of her workbook, “It seems to me you got as burned out as Scott at one point.”

“Ah just explained to you all the reasons why Ah think Scott and Ah didn’t work out and that’s what you come up with?” said Rogue.

“What? It’s simple, logical, and poignant,” shrugged Kitty, “You don’t need to go into all the details about how you and Scott were so caught up in each other you lost control of everything. That’s almost as hard to follow as one of Beast’s physics lectures.”

“Ah would argue relationships are just as complicated,” said Rogue.

“I’m not denying that. But relatively speaking, complex situations can have simple solutions. You and Scott went too fast. Everything else seemed to stem from that. Why not just leave it at that?”

Rogue groaned and rolled her eyes. Why did she insist on talking about this with Kitty Pyrde? Then she remembered she was the only other girl besides Jean who was close to her age. And she wasn’t ready to confront Jean yet. She was still bitter at the role she played in causing tension between her and Scott. Miss Munroe had her own relationship issues and probably wasn’t the best to consult with something like this. And for her quirks, Kitty did make some good points.

She was right in a sense. A lot of problems between her and Scott stemmed from her moving too fast with him. It wasn’t intentional. She couldn’t help herself because she wasn’t sure whether or not she would be able to touch much longer. Beast repeatedly warned her that the inhibitor collar may lose its effectiveness. That gave making the best of her ability to touch all the more important. It wasn’t the sole reason why things between them unfolded as they did, but it played a significant part.

“I’m still gonna miss it,” sighed Rogue, “Even though things didn’t work out between us, Scott was a dang good boyfriend.”

“I’m sure he was,” said Kitty, “He comes off as a bit of a stiff, but he’s got his share of nice qualities. And he is an attractive specimen. Can’t forget about that!”

“That he is,” said Rogue, smiling to herself, “Then there’s the sex. That’s something Ah’m definitely gonna miss.”

“Yeah, you’ve made no secret of that,” said Kitty, blushing a bit, “Maybe you could still be friends with benefits?”

“You know Ah actually brought that up once, but Scott bein’ the gent he is ain’t into that,” sighed Rogue, “He’s a good lover, but he saves it for the girls that are special to him.”

“That alone may set him above ninety percent of the men on this planet!”

“Ah wouldn’t put it past him. But as great a guy as Scott is, he just ain’t the one for me.”

“Yeah, not much you can do about that,” sighed Kitty, “Ever wonder what kind of guy would be the one for you?”

“Not really,” shrugged Rogue as she lay back in her chair and rested her eyes a bit, “Ah never was a believer in the whole one true love concept.”

“Is that supposed to surprise me?” quipped Kitty, “But seriously, who would be your ideal guy? Just because one relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop searching.”

It was a valid point. Rogue hadn’t given it much thought since she broke up with Scott. She didn’t give it much thought before she joined the X-men. Growing up isolated in Mississippi, it seemed useless to even contemplate. But after having experienced a real relationship, she proved she could be intimate with someone. Even if she didn’t believe in the one like Kitty, that didn’t mean future relationships were out of the question.

“Ah honestly don’t know. Ah’ve never given it much thought. Guess Ah’ll have to think about it now that Ah’ve gone through the motions of being close to someone,” mused Rogue, “What about you? Are there any particular guys out there that would make you weak in the knees?”

“If there are, none of them went to my old school. That’s for sure,” said Kitty, “To be perfectly honest I think I turned a lot of guys off. My uncle taught me to be tough and not a lot of guys are willing to get close to a girl who can kick their ass.”

“Sounds like the guys at your school were a bunch of pussies,” commented Rogue.

“That may be true because none of them really caught my interest. I always figured I would fall for a guy who was as big and strong as I always tried to be…someone who when people saw would know right off the bat that he’s a man you don’t want to mess with.”

“Sounds like you would be into those crazy professional wrestlers or those wannabe thugs who act like they’re all cool and stuff,” commented Rogue.

“Trust me, the last thing I want is a bad boy,” Kitty replied as she continued to image her ideal man, “He would be strong and tough, but I would also want him to be kind and gentle. Kind of like a big guy with a big heart who when he holds you in his arms, it’s like being surrounded a shroud of manly protection.”

Rogue looked at her fellow X-woman strangely. She was talking in a dreamy tone that almost sounded delusional. She even had this mysterious smile on her face as if she was picturing him right now. It was almost funny, but to her it was serious.

“Sounds like you’d have better luck lookin’ for a unicorn,” commented Rogue.

“Oh you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be into a guy like that!” said Kitty.

“Ah can’t say I wouldn’t mind, but realistically speakin’ Ah’d be happy with someone who I don’t get tired of bein’ around.”

“And you criticize me for being overly simplistic,” she chided, “But just because my dream guy doesn’t sound realistic, it doesn’t mean he isn’t out there.”

“Well feel free to keep an eye out for him. For now, Ah’m content to just be single for a while and avoid the hassle of a relationship.”

“Famous last words for those who become touched by true love,” said Kitty in an overly dramatic tone.

“Ah spare me the clichés,” scoffed Rogue with a half grin, “It ain’t like some guy’s just gonna up and come along in our line of work. Being in the X-men doesn’t leave much room for a social life.”

“Hey, you never know, Rogue,” shrugged Kitty with a touch of optimism, “Stranger things have happened…especially in a school full of mutants.”

The two girls shared a round of laughter. Rogue was definitely coming around. It was nice to see her laughing and making witty comments again. Kitty was glad to see she was getting over the breakup. She may not be one for classic romance, but she got the sense she was open to the idea. Maybe one day her ideal man would come along. He may not be anything like the guy she pictured, but if any future lover was going to handle Rogue he was going to have to be quite a character.

Xavier Institute – Classroom

Ororo Munroe yawned tiredly as she prepared her materials for her lecture today. She tried to get as much sleep as she could last night, but after her conversation with Hank she was restless. Later today they were supposed to get together and have a long overdue talk about the rift that had grown between them. She spent much of the night tossing and turning, musing over what they would discuss. On one hand she was eager to get these matters out in the open. On the other she was worried about what it might mean for them.

She couldn’t be certain, but she had her suspicions that something was distracting him. Logan once remarked how there were only so many reasons a man would be glued to his laptop for so long. It was meant to be a dirty joke, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t some merit to it. She long suspected it was because she couldn’t provide the intellectual challenge that his research could. Hank was a man driven by a desire for knowledge and once he learned enough about her that drive led him to another challenge.

Then there was the disturbing possibility that he met someone else. She noticed that the way Hank was behaving on his computer was not unlike the way Bobby behaved when began his online relationship with Lorna. She like everyone else saw how serious that and if that was the case then she and Hank were in serious trouble. But she tried not to consider that possibility. Hank was too sweet a man to cheat on her. But despite his ape-like appearance, he was still a man with human weaknesses. And he wasn’t the only one.

Even though she shared many parts of her life with Hank, there were a few matters she hadn’t touched on. He knew she was a thief in Africa, had spent time in jail, and lost her parents in an earthquake. But there were other areas she never touched on, namely in the personal arena. Neither one of them talked about their past relationships. She sensed it was a sore subject for Hank and it was for her as well, but they couldn’t avoid it forever. She saw what that did to Jean and Logan, who had a similar problem that contributed to their breakup. She didn’t want that to happen to her and Hank.

As she organized her notes for her lecture, her eyes fell upon a picture of her and Hank that she kept on her desk. It was an image of them walking down the beaches of Genosha together after Magneto’s uprising. They looked so happy. She remembered how later that night she spent a passionate night in his room. It was a good memory and she wanted to have many more with him.

‘Oh Hank, I hope we can get through this. It shouldn’t be this difficult. You love me and I love you. Why must there be so many complications?’

Her expression grew solemn as she diverted her gaze from the picture and focused her attention on her notes. Kitty, Rogue, Kurt, and Jean were due for class in a half hour. Scott and Warren were going to join in later once they were debriefed by the Professor. It was sure to be a long day, but the sooner she got through it the sooner she and Hank could move on together.

As she sifted through her notes, her cell phone started ringing. Without diverting too much attention from her duties, she reached into her bag and answered it.


“Bonjour, cherè. It’s been a while.”

Ororo expression froze with shock. She would recognize that voice anywhere. It was the very last voice she expected to hear.

“Remy?! Is…is it really you?”

“De one and only. I wish Remy could give you time to get over dis sudden call, but I need your help. Remy’s got no one else to turn to.”

This was the last thing Ororo needed. A part of her past that she had not divulged to Hank or anyone for that matter had come back to haunt her. But she could tell that the voice on the other end was desperate. It also was coming from someone important to her in many ways. These were pleas she could not ignore.

“What’s going on, Remy? Tell me everything.”

Xavier Institute – Cerebro Chamber

Professor Charles Xavier had an uncanny talent for staying calm. Even when situations appeared hopeless, he would stand strong. It was part of the identity of the X-men. It extended to the very core of his personal philosophy. But even he wasn’t immune to frustration at times, especially when it involved matters as serious as the sentinels.

Since Scott, Logan, and Warren returned from Russia he had been following up on other leads in hopes of locating the stolen sentinel plans. He was deeply concerned that somewhere down the line, Black Tom would sell them to someone like Cameron Hodge with an agenda of destruction. There were a growing number of radical anti-mutant groups out there who would love to get their hands on this kind of technology. There were even certain mutant groups out there that would love to have an edge over the rest of humanity. It was his job to make sure neither side got a hold of them.

Black Tom proved a difficult man to track. Not long after the incident at Worthington Industries, he went completely silent. Since then he and Hank had been working tirelessly to track his whereabouts and find out if he sold the plans to anybody. Kurt tried to help as well, providing insight into the shady mercenary underworld he grew up in. Scott and Jean were present as well, watching anxiously as the Professor scanned countless minds.

“Any luck, Herr Professor?” asked Kurt as he hovered over the controls.

“None so far,” replied the Professor, “These mercenaries you speak of, the Hand, they clearly possess the resources to utilize the sentinels. They even have good reason to seek them. But I can find no indication that they have them.”

“Are you certain? I remember clearly zhat Black Tom had ties to zhe Hand. Zhey vould be zhe first ones he vould contact. I’m sure of it.”

“Perhaps the Hand just isn’t all that interested in giant robot killing machines,” shrugged Jean, “You said they were a collection of ninjas. I thought ninjas were all about subtlety and stealth.”

“Zhat hasn’t stopped zhe Hand before,” mused Kurt.

“Or maybe Black Tom just found somebody with deeper pockets,” Scott surmised, “You said he’s a businessman above all else. If he knows someone with more to offer that’s where he’ll logically start.”

“But who could offer more zhan zhe Hand?” said Kurt skeptically.

Professor Xavier mused over this issue as he continued to scan the areas Kurt specified. He was trying to pick up on the stray thoughts of Hand operatives in their main facilities of operation. They were hard to come by since the Hand was very well-disciplined. They clearly taught their operatives to resist psychic intrusion. Even with heavy shielding, he could find no trace of any dealings with Black Tom. They could very well be keeping them secret, but his instinct told him they were not involved.

After completing one final sweep, Xavier stopped the search and removed the Cerebro helmet. He kept the systems on, but it was pointless to continue searching without any clues to follow up on. They were back at square one again. Whatever Black Tom was doing to cover his tracks, he was doing a very good job of it.

“It appears we’ll have to intensify our investigations. We cannot afford to sit on this issue,” said the Professor grimly, “I spoke extensively to the Joint Chiefs about this. They do not want sentinel technology falling into the wrong hands.”

“I can’t say I blame them, but why don’t we just let them take care of it?” suggested Jean, “I’m sure the military is far better equipped to handle this than we are.”

“You would expect as such, but much of the military is focused on maintaining order on Genosha. They are also wary of getting involved in matters pertaining to international crime figures. Black Tom operates mostly out of Europe and Africa, far away from America’s jurisdiction.”

“And I doubt zhey are foolish enough to take on people like zhe Hand,” added Kurt, “I know how zhey vork. Even governments von’t touch zhem.”

“So it’s all on us then,” said Scott, “They’re expecting us to find this guy, stop him from selling the plans, and return them to Worthington Industries. All so they can have a monopoly on the technology and use it for who knows what.”

“I understand your suspicions, Scott. But they are indeed relying on us and I’ve been assured that our assistance in this matter will go a ways towards gaining the trust of the government. And I think we can all agree that it would help to have allies in Washington.”

“Especially with guys like Senator Kelly running around,” added Jean, “That guy hasn’t stopped pestering us since Genosha.”

“All the more reason to maintain the right kind of influence,” said Xavier, “Dealing with these people may not be easy, but it is necessary if we’re to prevent an already voliatle situation from getting worse.”

It still sounded unsavory in a ways. Dealing with Magneto, Black Tom, and anti-mutant zealots was hard enough, but dealing with government bureaucrats was a challenge in its own right. There were so many agendas from all sides of the political spectrum. Like it or not, they had to be involved if they were ever going to gain a sense of legitimacy.

Turning back to Cerebro, the Professor brought up another round of information compiled back Hank. It was a list of reports concerning underworld activity throughout major crime hotbeds. They were all long shots at best, but the search had to continue. And Kurt was running out of ideas.

“I vish I could help you more, Professor, but I’m out of ideas on who it could be,” said the young mutant, “If you want I could try and get in touch vith some old contacts from zhe Azazel. Zhere aren’t many left, but zhey may know something.”

“That’s alright, Kurt,” assured the Professor, “I would never ask you to revisit your old life just to help our search. I understand it is a difficult issue for you.”

“But if it helps us find Black Tom, I’m willing to do it!” said Kurt in a determined tone, “Zhis isn’t just about finding zhe plans. It’s personal for me. Zhis man used me and Amanda for his own selfish gains. I vill not let zhat stand!”

“Calm down, Kurt. We’ll find him,” said Jean, who placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, “There’s no need to get worked up.”

“Nein. You don’t know Black Tom like I do. I’ve deal vith people like him before. I know how he operates. Zhere is no length he von’t go to. For all ve know he may have already sold zhe plans and someone much vorse now has zhem!”

“We don’t know that yet, which is why we need to keep searching,” said Scott, maintaining an assertive position on this matter, “Professor, back in Russia, Piotr Rasputin told us he was unaware of any criminal elements trying to get a hold of the sentinels. If that’s true then maybe we’re just not searching in the right areas. Maybe we need to think outside the box. Maybe there are others besides criminals and mercenaries interested in this technology.”

The X-leader made a valid point. They had been searching extensively in what appeared to them as the most likely areas where such information would be sold. But maybe Black Tom knew that as well and was purposefully avoiding making such a move. There must be other elements they were missing.

“You’re right, Scott. We need to consider this matter from Black Tom’s perspective,” said the Professor, “Who could he possibly sell these plans to who would not only have the resources to utilize them, but stand to benefit from their deployment? It can’t be criminals or organizations that value subtlety. And it can’t be rogue governments that would quickly garner attention from the international community.”

“That leaves few possibilities, Professor,” said Kurt pessimistically, “And zhat assumes every one of zhem is thinking logically.”

“Then we’ll have to consider the possibility that some may not be of sound mind or intent,” said the Professor, “And we have encountered some of those.”

“What about Weapon X?” suggested Jean, “They’re definitely crazy enough to take a stab at the sentinels.”

“Perhaps, but last I checked they were in disarray after our last encounter,” said Xavier, “It’s doubtful they would have the resources to carry out such an undertaking.”

“Zhen who?” said Kurt with growing frustration, “Who is crazy enough and capable enough to deal vith zhese monstrosities?”

It was difficult to consider. The X-men faced a number of eccentric enemies in the past, but none of them seemed to fit the bill. It really was frustrating, especially to Kurt. The Professor could tell how badly he wanted to stop this. If anybody got hurt because of who Black Tom sold these plans to, he would bear the responsibility. He was the one helped him seal them. He wanted to be the one that stopped him.

They were at a dead end. It didn’t seem like they were going to find any answers at this point. While they were pondering these vital questions, the doors to the chamber opened and a very distressed Ororo entered.

“Professor! I…I need to ask a favor of you,” she said urgently.

“This is an inopportune time, Ororo. Is everything alright?” asked the Professor, picking up on her state of mind.

“Not exactly,” she said solemnly, “I need to help me find someone very important. It’s urgent!”

“I’d be happy to help, but please settle down,” said the Professor calmly, “Just take a deep breath and explain to me what this is about.”

Ororo hesitated at first to answer, but everybody was going to find out sooner or later. She might as well come clean. He and the rest of the X-men deserved to know.

“I don’t know the specific, but it has to do with the stolen sentinel plans. I think I may know what happened to them.”

Next Issue: Cajun Chaos

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