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Chapters
Prolog
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Epilog
 
 
 

Paradox Law - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 8

Rachel was still staring when Cody mumbled an awed "Wow," and walked forward into the room. His eyes continued to trace the intricate paths of metal that filled the space before them. Rachel could feel his shock giving way to acceptance and overwhelming curiosity, and in that moment, she envied him. All her life she had been taught to accept people for who they were, not what they were, and yet, every fiber of her being wanted to run away from the awful thing Betsy had become.

Is it really so bad? Betsyís voice was tinged with curiosity, but underneath that, Rachel could sense the echoes of sorrow. She felt her cheeks begin to burn.

Iím sorry, was all she could think of to say.

Betsy gave her the equivalent of a shrug. It is the price of Guardianship. I have grown used to it.

Rachel studied the metallic face, but she could not identify any expression on it. What-- what happened to you?

Technovirus, Cody answered immediately. Then he glanced up at Betsy. Right?

Right. Rachel could sense her approval.

But... how?

It isnít hard to infect someone with a virus, was the somewhat curt reply. But the serum came from Cableís blood.

While Rachel mulled that, Cody reached up to touch one of the cables that crossed the space just above his head. He paused, and looked toward Betsy.

"Do you mind...?" he asked aloud. His voice echoed oddly, giving Rachel a chill. And yet, she was grateful for the human sound, even if it was somehow off a bit.

Not at all, Betsy answered, and Cody began to examine the machinery with single-minded fascination. Rachel almost smiled. Cody hated school and everything that had to do with school, but give him something mechanical and he became the worldís best student. Forge was forever dragging him off to his lab to look at this or that.

Rachel turned her attention back to Psylocke. She reached out to re-establish contact and was nearly overwhelmed by what she touched. It was like making contact with a computer, if such a thing were possible. Betsy was in contact with hundreds of people at the same time, as well as processing tons of information. Rachel discovered that she couldnít simply step out into the middle of that flood, even if sheíd wanted to risk being swept away by it. So she sort of hung a flag out and retreated, in the hopes that Betsy would know that Rachel was looking for her. Contact came within seconds.

Thatís amazing! Her disgust was quickly fading, though it helped not to look at Betsyís physical form. She found herself watching Cody instead.

That is the benefit of the technovirus. When it is allowed to run its full course, it even converts the brain to a mechanical entity. That is why I can do so much at once. A human brain simply canít handle it.

But why do you have to do so much?

Betsy was silent for several moments, and Rachel had the distinct feeling that she was trying to gather her thoughts. It was the most human thing she had done, and Rachel found some of her tension easing.

The Shadow Kingís first strike-- on a planetwide basis, at leastówas to blanket the globe with an EM pulse to disable most of the human military defenses. With those down, the--

Wait! Rachel was thoroughly confused. EMP? How did he do that? Heís a telepath.

Cody looked up from his study, apparently wondering the same thing. Rachel was surprised. She didnít think he was still listening to the conversation.

Betsy considered them. I see Iím going to have to go further back than that. About a year after Muir Island, Magneto declared his space station Avalon to be a sovereign nation and a safe haven for mutants. He armed himself with nuclear ballistic missiles from a sunken submarine. Some of the governments of Earth didnít take very kindly to that, and Magneto retaliated by setting off a high energy EMP that caused serious damage worldwide.

Rachel was nodding. That happened in our timeline, too. The X-Men went to Avalon and Professor X ended up wiping Magnetoís mind.

Indeed. Leaving a conveniently empty shell for the Shadow King to occupy.

Events clicked into place with horrifying vividness. The Shadow King has Magnetoís body? His powers?

Yes.

But... he was my physics teacher last year. The enormity of the changes in the world suddenly crashed down on Rachel, and she found herself sitting on the floor, head cradled in her hands. Nothing made any sense anymore. The people she thought she knew were all different. She didnít know where she belonged.

She looked up at the touch of a hand on her shoulder. Cody was kneeling beside her, concern on his face. "You o.k.?"

"Weíre never going home." That was the realization that had rocked her so badly. Until now, she had been able to see everything as an adventure-- a challenge. Something to be endured with X-Man courage, and to tell stories about after she got home. But now, there was no home to go back to. This was reality. Remi couldnít jump them all back into the future they belonged to. They would end up in the future of this timeline.

Cody looked away. "I know." Then he surprised her by settling on the floor beside her and drawing her into a tight hug. Rachel leaned her head against his shoulder and let the fabric of his jacket soak up her tears.

Bishop watched the men and women who trickled into the cramped conference room with a growing sense of unease. The sudden appearance of these children had sent a jolt through the entire command structure. The debate was already heated, and opinions, not to mention tempers, were only going to get hotter.

Jean was reassuringly calm beside him. Though she did not look at him, he could feel the brush of her mind against his, and knew that they were united in this.

Hank McCoy was the last to arrive. He closed the door quietly behind him and found a seat against the wall. All eyes in the room followed him and Bishop felt a stab of sympathy. Hank had now had the opportunity to examine each of the kids. His assessment of their abilities would carry significant weight in the coming discussion. And Bishop knew that Hank would not lie about his conclusions, even to protect them.

Jonah Jamison cleared his throat, and the attention of the room shifted to him. "I wonít bother telling you all what you already know." He nodded to Hank. "So we might as well get down to business. Hank, if you would tell us what youíve learned?"

Any idea which way heíll swing? Bishop asked Jean privately. Jonah was as brutally efficient at running an army as he had been at running his newspaper. Bishop had developed an abiding respect for the man, in part because he was the only human Bishop had ever met who was completely unintimidated by mutants.

None. She glanced sidelong at him, and then turned her attention to Hank.

Hank shuffled his papers as he gathered his thoughts. When he looked up, his expression behind the quaint spectacles was solemn.

"I have run enough tests at this point that I am confident that these children are, indeed, who they claim to be." His gaze swept the room, apparently cataloguing their expressions. Bishop tried to keep his own face a mask. Too many people were watching him covertly since he was one of the few who had talked to the children in person.

"I think I should begin with a quick overview of each of them, and then we can go from there." Hank flipped his papers a little more authoritatively, and Bishop could see him settling into his lecturing mode.

"Iíll begin with Remi, since I think he is the mutant we will be most interested in. His name is-- letís see-- Remíaillon Neramani. I think Iíve pronounced that right. He claims to be, and I am fairly confident is, the son of Charles Xavier and Lilandra Neramani. Lilandra, for those of you who donít know, is not human. She is a member of a race called the Shiíar, whose empire the X-Men had some contact with a number of years ago." A buzz of conversation rose in the wake of that statement, and Hank waited for it to die down.

"He is also, without doubt, an Omega class mutant. He has four separate powers--" There were murmurs of surprise. "Two of which are Omega class and two of which are Alpha." The murmurs intensified. Bishop watched the various expressions closely. This was the hard part. Remi was, quite probably, the single most powerful mutant on the planet in terms of raw power. Whether that power could be translated into a means for defeating the Shadow King was still unknown.

"Now, we know that the Shadow King is effectively an Omega class mutant with two Omega powers, since he also can lay claim to Magnetoís powers."

"Do you mean to say that this kidís got more power than the Shadow King?" Val Cooper demanded.

"Possibly." Hankís agreement was cautious. "Like Charles, he is approximately the Shadow Kingís equal as a telepath. However, the Shadow King can call on the support of all of his relays, which outnumber our telepaths, including the Guardians. So the odds of our success have never been acceptably high enough to risk everything in one shot, so to speak."

"What about this black disk Iíve been hearing about?" Jonahís gaze was split between Hank and Bishop.

Hank blinked several times in rapid succession. Then he answered, "The disk is a... a slice of another reality that bears little resemblance to our own. Even the physical laws do not agree, so as they clash, they destroy everything caught in-between. The net effect is a sort of giant sawblade, if you will. It can cut through anything."

"Define íanythingí."

Hank turned toward the speaker, a grizzled old soldier who had been a colonel back when the United States still existed.

"The planet, if he let it get that big." Hankís lips quirked in a humorless smile as the reaction ran around the room. Bishop himself was stunned. The entire planet? Heíd seen that kid slice up a Sentinel like it was putty, but to be able to do that to something as seemingly immutable as the Earth... He reined in his thoughts. That was why it was an entirely different classification of mutant.

Hank let the debate rage for several minutes, then cleared his throat. "Shall we continue?" The conversations died off slowly, but when the room had grown quiet enough for Hank to continue, he nodded to himself and pulled out another page of notes.

"Second on my list of interest is Cody LeBeau. Iím not even going to try to explain the how of it, but genetically, at least, he is the son of Remi Neramani and Rogue." A snort of utter disbelief followed Hankís statement, and Bishop turned to look at Jonah, who was staring at Hank with his arms crossed over his chest.

"That is preposterous!"

Hank rewarded him with a merry smile. "Itís also unimportant. I only told you that to illustrate where he inherited his powers."

"He also is an Omega mutant. His power is general control of gravity. The gateway that some of you have traveled through is actually a small wormhole." He nodded toward Bishop and Jean, giving them a chance to comment.

Jean only shrugged.

"How much can he transport at a time?" That was Colonel Oaks again. Several others nodded around the room. It was an important question. If they could transport troops and equipment across the planet instantaneously, they would have a great advantage over the past.

Hank frowned. "Probably not enough to be useful to you, Iím afraid," he said. "To create a gate big enough and powerful enough for what you have in mind would disrupt the gravitation of the planet rather severely, causing earthquakes, alterations in the weather and possibly tidal changes that could easily flood coastal areas." Hank didnít need to explain how bad that could be for them. Most of the free strongholds were on the coasts, where they had the best access to the ocean. The bulk of their military might was at sea, where the Shadow King had less chance of finding them.

Jonah was watching Hank thoughtfully. He chewed on his mustache for several moments, then asked, "Could he take on the Queen?"

The question hung silently, and Bishop thought back to the image of Cody hanging mid-air while lightning bolts pounded him. He hadnít been a match for her then, but Bishop was certain that he hadnít been using his powers against her either.

There is one thing you are all forgetting. Psylockeís mental voice echoed in all of their heads.

"Which is?"

That these are only children. There was a warmth to her tone that Bishop hadnít heard in a long time. The world they come from isnít like ours. Bishop had a sudden, fleeting image of a summer picnic with the X-Men. A memory from one of the kids, no doubt. It evoked a pang of regret in him, memories of what heíd lost, and guilt for the horror heíd been unable to prevent.

You may not be able to convince him to kill her. A new image filled Bishopís mental eye, and he gasped at a serene, gently smiling Ororo who held a butterfly perched in the palm of her hand. The creature opened and closed its wings in a steady rhythm, and then suddenly fluttered away. Ororo watched it, her expression full of simple delight.

"I donít care if she dies." Jonah stared at the ceiling. "I just want her neutralized." He looked back down at Hank. "Could he take her?"

Slowly Hank nodded. "I think so."

The room remained silent for several long moments. Bishop stared at the faces of the men and women that he served with, who he knew had long ago devoted everything they had to the cause of defending the remains of humanity from the Shadow King. And for the first time in years, he saw hope in their eyes. He felt it struggling to grow inside himself as well. They had been given one more chanceóand it all rested on the shoulders of a couple of kids who would probably die for the sake of a world they didnít belong to.

When the silence became unbearable, Hank shuffled his papers again. "Third on my list is Rachel Summers." Jean stiffened at the name, and Bishop felt a twinge. After all these years, she still loved Scott more than she would ever love anyone else. It was a shadow he was willing to live under, but that didnít ease the hurt.

"Obviously, she is the daughter of Jean," Hank nodded in her direction, "and Scott Summers. Her powers are nearly identical in scope and magnitude to Jeanís."

"Then, we have Renee LeBeau. She and Cody are twins, though they donít have any recombinative powers."

"What powers?"

"Recombinative." Hank adjusted his glasses and stared at Val. "They donít have a power that operates only when theyíre together. Weíve seen that a number of times in mutant twins. However, Reneeís power, while not terribly useful against the Shadow King, has some far-reaching possibilities."

"Iíve already heard what sheís been doing with our wounded." Jonahís fingers tapped against his knee. Bishop had only heard the news as rumor, but he believed much of what heíd heard. The girl had spent a fair portion of the last day using her powers to heal, both in their one hospital, and out in the street. Sheíd become something of an overnight celebrity.

Hank nodded. "Beyond being able to heal, she can cause growth in plant life as well. Itís actually very exciting."

Jonahís eyebrows rose doubtfully.

"Consider how many people we could feed, Jonah. If she only grew one field a day, even. The same with livestock. If we somehow managed to destroy the Shadow King, weíre going to have every single one of the cities heís subjugated dropped in our laps. How are we going to take care of all of those people?"

Jonah chewed on his mustache. Then he nodded. "If we can defeat the Shadow King." His gaze swept the room. "Letís work on that one for now. Betsy, how long until the Dresden surfaces?"

Twelve days.

"Then weíre going to have to decide what to do with these kids until then. I donít think they should stay here. Itís the obvious place to take them. The Shadow King is bound to come looking for them here."

"Where are they now?" Colonel Oaks turned to Bishop.

Bishop shrugged. "Weíve left them free to wander. Itís not like we could keep them locked up if we wanted to," he put in quickly before Oaks could protest. "And Logan and Archangel are keeping an eye on them, not to mention Betsy."

Oaks nodded grudgingly. "Good enough, I suppose."

"So where should we send them?" Val looked between Jonah and Bishop.

"I have an idea." Jean steepled her fingers and pressed them against her lips. "We can send them to Dallas. Weíve been building up there because of the new relay, so it wonít be suspicious."

"Texas is becoming a powderkeg, Jean. Iím not sure thatís a good idea." Val cocked her head, her expression skeptical.

"If you want these kids to be able to take on the Shadow King, theyíre going to need a little more blooding than they got in that scrape with the Sentinels." Jeanís expression was flat and unyielding. Bishop forcibly hid his smile. She was entirely convincing.

After a moment, Val nodded. "All right. What do you think, Jonah?"

He nodded once, abruptly. "Do it. When we can contact the Dresden, weíll turn this over to Xavier and the Council. All we have to do is keep these kids safe until then."

They broke up then, and as Bishop and Jean headed back toward their quarters, Bishop reached over and gave her hand a quick squeeze. Do you think they bought it?

Jean glanced at him. Yes, I do. They wanted to believe it. Honestly, so do I, but Iím not going to let these kids be bulled into a war that isnít theirs. The sooner we get them out of here, the less time people will have to realize that these kids could all just gate away to another planet any time they choose, and try to slap inhibiters on them and chain them in a cellar somewhere until we need their powers.

You know Everett will take good care of them.

In answer, Jean only smiled.

 

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