Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I making any money from, the X-Men characters.

Author's note: X2 SPOILERS in later chapters. This is my first X-Men fic, I hope you enjoy it, please r&r...

Scene One

It was dark. Black and sullen, the sky masked with clouds, the streetlights murky with fog and grime. In the distance the freeway hummed with its constant traffic, alive. But here, in the back streets and alleyways of the industrial quarter of the city, she could almost believe she was alone.

She walked quickly, a young woman in an unfamiliar setting, dressed in strappy shoes, trousers and matching jacket, her steps clicking on the hard asphalt with every step. Uncertain, she took a wrong turn and faced an eight-foot wire mesh fence; this place was like maze... Panic began to well in her gut, churning her stomach, making her warm and uncomfortable. Forcefully she turned her mind back to the task in hand, she could not panic now.

It was then she heard the first signs of her pursuit. With unexpected agility she turned back down the blocked alley at a run, and launched herself at the mesh. She had it! Her fingers grasped the taunt wire tight, her feet kicked for a purchase, and then she was over. Dropping down the other side almost silently, she landed in a catlike crouch. Looking each way, she decided on the left, and made her break.

It was the wrong way. The back street the alley with the fence came off simply snaked round the dominating warehouse, meeting the left hand road further up. She hadn't realised! She was so stupid! Mentally she swore at herself, fear cornering her like a rabbit even before her pursuers spotted her.

The shout went up, one pursuer to the other. There was nothing for it; she bolted. She would not be drawn into a confrontation if she could help it. In the darkness, in this maze, she may yet lose them. Running through puddles she ruined the expensive shoes for good. She could hear them behind her, running like she was. Fast as she was, the men were faster, faster even than her heart beating like a rumble of thunder in her ribcage. Time to hide, to lie low, but which way?

Right this time and for a moment it worked out, the footsteps receded a little behind her. Right again, round the back of an abandoned garage, she might be able to hide inside... Shit!

Dead end. Brick wall. At least ten feet, no way to climb it, even for her. Garage to one side with no roof to climb onto, yet another warehouse to the other... This is it, she thought, no more running.

For a second, she had almost kidded herself that she was calm. But she had never liked confrontation, and as she heard the two men approaching it was as though her own panicked breathing, her thundering heart were drawing them to her. Nowhere to hide, they would find her, they would...

Her thoughts were cut short. They had found her. The first man was tall, wiry, armed with a knife. He was silhouetted by the vague, misty streetlights in the distance, but she didn't need to see his face to know he was smirking. So this is what she had come to, a plaything for a thug with a knife.

But no. The second man did not have the patience for his companion's games. They were here for only one reason. Carefully, he took the safety off his handgun.

CRACK! She heard the bullet release before she knew he had a gun; fell back with a scream as it hit her hard in the shoulder. Pain destroyed her barriers. Everything went red, hot like dragon's breath, and the men screamed with her. Did they even know what they had done? Then she blacked out...

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Professor Charles Xavier removed the Cerebro helmet carefully, worry creasing his brow. Slowly he shook his head, trying to calm the irrational terror the strange mutant girl had left almost imprinted on him. It had not, he realised, been a terror of her pursuers. She had been justifiably terrified of what they might make her do to them...