Disclaimer: The New Mutants and related characters are the property of Marvel Comics and are used without permission. This is a non-profit making work of fan-fiction. The New Mutants were created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod.

Save a Prayer

By Duncan Johnson

'I should have been faster,' Sam said.

* * *

Nurse Veronica James watched the couple standing near the vending machine. They were not much younger than she was, probably a couple of college kids. They had come in with the survivors of the bus bomb down near Penn station. She remembered one of the doctors having to prise a little girl from the boy's arms.

Maybe that was why he looked so gaunt, his skin pale and his eyes dark hollows. He kept pacing back and forth, shoulders hunched, pausing only to say a few words to his companion before resuming his march. She was an Indian, sorry, Native American. Her narrow face was framed by long black hair. Ronnie would have killed for hair like that. Like her companion, the girl was wearing a black and yellow costume - presumably their school's sports colours - but while he hid his beneath a grey trenchcoat, she had put a sweatshirt on over hears. A black logo was picked out across her chest: Xavier's School.

* * *

'Coffee?' Amara asked.

'What?'

Doug tore himself away from the screen and tried to focus on where he was. Of course, the ops room deep below Xavier's School. His school.

Amara was placing a steaming mug of coffee on the desk in front of him.

'Black, three sugars, right?' she prompted.

'Great. Thanks, Amy.'

Doug yawned and stretched before running his hands through his blond hair.

'Boy, am I tired,' he commented.

'Are you sure you should not be resting, Douglas?' Amara asked. 'You've been working for hours.'

'And we'll keep working until we find who did this,' Doug replied. 'However long that takes. Isn't that right, 'Lock?'

'Affirmative, self-friend Doug.'

The monitor next to Doug's began to grow a metallic shoot, the end of which swelled like a bud. Then the bud burst, revealing the face of the techno-organic alien known as Warlock.

'Self will not rest until the perpetrator has been captured and punished.'

'That's the spirit, pard'ner.'

Doug tried to smile at his best friend, but his heart was not in it. Warlock, too, seemed to be lacking his usual sparkle.

Amara pulled up a spare swivel chair and sat down.

'I still cannot believe this has happened. Who would plant a bomb on a school bus?'

'I wish I knew,' Doug answered. 'All I can tell you is that he's one sick individual. Bobby salvaged what was left of the bomb, but there are no clues there. It's nothing someone with a little knowledge of Chemistry and access to their local library couldn't have made. Heck, any of us could have made it. There's nothing here you couldn't buy at the mall. 'Lock and I are running the names of all those connected with the school or the bus company, but it could take forever.

'I guess you don't need a code-name and a fancy costume to be a monster.'

* * *

'Sam, it's not your fault.'

Sam Guthrie was still pacing up and down the hospital corridor, shoulders hunched, hands deep in the pockets of his coat. A nurse had tried to show them to the waiting room, but neither of them felt much like sitting down.

'There's nothing more you could have done,' Dani continued.

'Six kids are already dead because we couldn't save them,' Sam retaliated.

'We never had a chance,' Dani responded. 'If Warlock hadn't been channel surfing, we might never have seen what was happening. We got there as soon as we could.'

'Well it wasn't soon enough, was it?'

Sam turned on her.

'You're a Valkyrie, Dani. You see death hanging over people. Why the hell didn't you see this coming?'

'You know my power doesn't work like that, Sam,' Dani said quietly.

Sam hung his head.

'I know, chief. I'm sorry. It's just, I feel so impotent. It's like, I've got all this power and it's no good for anything anymore.'

'And what about that girl in there?' Dani asked, pointing in the direction of the operating theatre.

'Kamel,' Sam said. 'The doctors said her name was Kamel.'

'Kamel,' Dani repeated. 'The only reason she's still alive now is because of you. If you hadn't flown her here when you did she would have bled to death in her seat.'

Sam raised his head, his blue eyes cold and empty.

'She might still die and if she does it'll be because I wasn't fast enough.'

'At least now she has a chance,' Dani replied.

* * *

Amara was dozing. If Doug was going to stay up then she had determined that she would as well. With nothing to do, however, she had fallen victim to the rigours of the day. Using her powers took a lot out of her and her body demanded its rest.

She was woken by a flash of light striking her retinas. She opened her eyes to see Illyana's stepping-disc fade into nothingness. The blonde Russian was accompanied by the headmaster – the man known as Magneto – and fellow student Rahne Sinclair, the latter still in werewolf form.

'How'd it go?' asked Doug, looking up from his monitor.

'Present for you, Dougie-boy,' Illyana replied, handing over a couple of video cassettes. 'The CCTV footage from the bus depot. Thought it might be useful, always assuming Mister Magnetism hasn't wiped them by accident.'

Illyana delighted in baiting Magneto, but the headmaster rarely rose to it. This time he did not even have the grace to look annoyed.

'We had hoped to trace the criminal by his scent,' Magneto explained, ignoring Illyana, 'but Rahne could not match it once we reached the bus depot.'

'Tis not my fault,' the Scot's girl complained. 'There must have been hundreds of trails in that place. Ye cannae expect me to single out just one.'

'Yes,' Magneto agreed. 'It isregrettable that you are not more skilled in the use of your abilities.'

Rahne looked visibly hurt as she shifted back to her human form.

'I'll be in me room should ye want me,' she muttered.

Amara watched her leave. Magneto was notoriously hard on his students, but Amara hoped that in this case his feelings about the bombing were clouding his better judgement. Minerva knew, it had got to all of them.

'Well, Douglas?' Magneto prompted.

Doug had inserted the cassettes and was running them both on fast forward. His hands raced over his keyboard.

'I've instructed the computer to isolate the faces of the people in the depot, giving priority to those on or near our particular bus,' he explained, without looking up. 'It'll then run that list against the names 'Lock and I isolated earlier. Hopefully, we'll get a match.'

'How long?' Magneto asked.

Doug shrugged.

'Could be hours, could be days. It's a very long list.'

The computer beeped at him.

'On the other hand, it could take no time at all.'

One of the printers whirred into life and started to spool off a hardcopy of the data the computer was compiling. Doug tore it free.

'Jacob Mulrooney. Former bus driver. Fired three weeks ago after assaulting one of his passengers. Guess he wanted to get back at his employers.'

'By killing school children?' Amara asked.

'Everyone should have a hobby,' Illyana commented, before adding, 'Sorry, that was tasteless. Even for me. I just don't know how to deal with this.'

'None of us do,' Amara agreed.

'I do,' Magneto corrected. 'Just get me his address.'

* * *

Dani hung up the phone.

'That was Doug,' she said to Sam. 'They know who did it. Some driver who got fired. Doug reckons he was trying to get back at his bosses.'

'Makes sense?' Sam muttered.

'What? What precisely about this makes sense?'

'I don't know, Dani, all right,' Sam snapped. 'Is that what you want to hear? Maybe you're okay with this just happening, but I need to make sense of it. Things don't just happen, not like this. There must be a reason. At least he had some kind of motive.'

'For going after his employers, maybe,' Dani agreed. 'But he's killed six school-kids, not to mention however many he's put in hospital.'

'I know, I know,' Sam protested, 'but maybe he doesn't see it the way we do. Maybe the guys unbalanced. He needs help.'

'Help?' Dani was incredulous. 'Don't you dare try and rationalise this, Sam Guthrie. This isn't some guy who attacked someone spontaneously in a fit of rage. He planned this, Sam. He thought about this, worked out what he was going to do and took the time to build a bomb. He even chose the bus he was going to put it on. This guy's not the victim here, those children are, the children he deliberately targeted. He's evil, plain and simple. And if I ever get my hands on him, he'll need all the help he can get.

* * *

Jacob Mulrooney snapped shut the clasps of his suitcase. He cast a last look round his one room apartment. He would not miss this place. He quickly counted how much cash he had on him. He could afford to take a taxi to the airport rather than the bus.

With a grunt, he hefted the case off of the bed.

'Going somewhere?'

Jacob whirled. There was a disc of light forming between him and the door. Three figures were stepping out of the disc, two teenage girls in tight black and gold outfits and a white-haired man in a dark suit.

'What do you want?' Jacob demanded.

'You,' the white-haired man replied.

* * *

Illyana opened her palm and her soul-sword materialised in it. Blue flame crackled along the blade as she pointed it at Jacob's throat.

'We're here to make you pay for what you've done,' she said.

Rahne shivered. Illyana was ruler of Limbo, was a genuine demon sorceress. She knew how to make good on her threats.

'Hey, you can't just come bursting in her like this,' Jacob blustered. 'I've got rights.'

'You forfeited all your rights when you decided to kill those children,' Magneto countered.

He waved a hand, grasping the metal frame of a chair with invisible force and hurling it across the room, using it to pin Jacob to the wall. The mirror above the sink smashed and the shards flew from the wall, hovering in the air above Magneto's shoulder.

'I promise you, this will be very slow.'

'Wait, wait,' Jacob screamed. 'Don't hurt me. Please, don't hurt me. I did it to get back at them, you see. It was the only way to-'

'I don't want to know,' Magneto roared. 'I don't want your excuses. I. Want. Justice.'

A mirror shard shot past Magneto's shoulder and opened up Jacob's left cheek.

'Stop!'

Everything stopped.

Slowly, very slowly, Magneto turned to see who had shouted. It was Rahne.

'Don't do this, sir,' the red-haired Scot pleaded. 'It's not right.'

'Not right? This man has blood on his hands. The blood of children. Those children deserve justice.'

'This isn't justice, sir,' Rahne said, shaking beneath her headmaster's glare. 'It's vengeance.'

'What do you know?' Magneto snarled. 'Have you ever lost a child? Do you know what it feels like to have part of your soul ripped out? Have you thought about what this will do to the families? They'll thank me for this.'

There were tears in Rahne's eyes, but she refused to back down.

'You're not doing this for them,' she said, her voice shaking. 'You're doing it for yourself.'

'Go Rahne,' Illyana whispered.

'You think I don't feel the pain, too?' Rahne continued, tears streaming down her face. 'You think I dinnae want it to go away? Of course I do. I wish I could take hold of today and make it so that it had never happened. But I can't. Nobody can. And killing him isn't going to change that. Those kids'll still be dead and the pain will still be there, too. Only it'll be worse for you, sir, because you'll have reached into a dark part of yourself that'll always be with you, tainting the memory of those poor children. Is that what you want?'

'Thatdeserves to pay for what he's done,' Magneto spat.

'Not like this. Please, sir, not like this.'

* * *

The doctor found the students still hovering by the vending machine, though neither of them had bothered to use it.

'Are you the people who brought the girl in? Kamel?' he asked.

'Yes, yes, we are,' Dani answered. 'Is there any news.'

'Yes, I've just come from theatre,' the doctor began.

'She's dead, isn't she?' Sam interrupted. 'We tried our best and it wasn't enough.' He slammed his fist into the wall. 'It's never enough.'

'No, you've got it all wrong,' the doctor corrected hurriedly. 'Kamel's very much alive. In fact, given time, she'll make a full recovery. It was touch and go for a while, though. If you hadn't got her here as fast as you did, well, I wouldn't have wanted to rate her chances. She owes you her life. I know one life may not seem a lot compared to all those who lost their lives today, but'

But Sam and Dani were no longer listening. Tears of joy streaming down their faces, they were embracing, pounding each other on the back and laughing with relief.

'Never give up hope,' the doctor muttered to himself.

* * *

The next morning, police found Jacob Mulrooney already in a cell. There was a package with him that contained enough evidence to convict him for the bombing of the school bus and the murder of six children.

* * *

There was a knock on the door of Magneto's office.

'Come in,' he called. 'Ah, Rahne. Close the door. Don't bother to sit, this won't take long. I just wanted to thank you for standing up to me last night. And to warn you never to do it again.'

'I won't, sir,' Rahne promised.

'Why do I doubt that.'

Was there a hint of a smile on the headmaster's lips? Rahne must have imagined it.

'I still say he deserved to die,' Magneto continued.

'For what it's worth, sir,' Rahne said, 'part of me agrees with you. But it's not our place to pass judgement on such things. I pray God will be able forgive him where I cannot.'

'A word of advice, Rahne,' Magneto said. 'Don't waste your prayers on people like Jacob Mulrooney. Save them for his victims.'