Chapter I: Funny People
It was another Classics night on Westchester FM, and they were playing a modified version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". Again.
"Could someone please turn that crap down?" Robert Drake clasped his hands over his ears, an expressing of pure agony on his face.
Jubilation Lee, who had somehow gained mastery of the driver's seat, giggled as she reached for the volume button. "It's amazing what they'll play at four in the morning when they think nobody's listening."
"Speaking of which… I hope nobody's awake at the mansion." Katherine Pryde, once she raised her head from her boyfriend's shoulder, looked mildly nervous. Out of them all, she'd be the most affected by a stain on her academic record.
Samuel Guthrie laughed, squeezing her shoulder lightly. "Don't worry about it, hon. They probably won't be too heartless, even if they do end up catching us."
"That's easy ta say now," Rogue pointed out, shaking back her newly-cut mahogany brown hair with its vivid white streaks. "But ya never know."
Bobby lifted his gaze from her face long enough to nod in agreement. "If Logan's around, we're done for."
"Yeah… Wolvie's really been on the edge lately, hasn't he?" Jubilee frowned slightly into the rearview mirror.
"It's probably just the whole Jean-Scott thing," Sam said, disinterestedly. Scott Summers had recently asked Jean Grey to marry him, and they were now engaged. "It'll blow over." Sam's Southern accent, milder than Marie's, had almost disappeared completely from his speech – and Kitty was sorely going to miss it.
"Sure hope so. Because otherwise…" Jubilee let the sentence hang as she carefully pulled the car in through the main gates. It was one of the vehicles that actually belonged to the school, instead of Scott, so they hadn't encountered a lot of difficulties in 'borrowing' it. And, with a little help from Bobby and Sam, Jubilee managed to get it safely parked inside the mansion's large garage.
The main doors and wide front porch were kept brightly lit, so the young mutants avoided it and instead attempted to climb in through a first-level window that they had taken care to leave inconspicuously open before they left.
Kitty, of course, didn't need the window to get in; so she went first, to check if there was anyone around. The others watched her move smoothly through the solid brick wall, and then waited impatiently for her return.
When her head slid back out of the wall, it announced that there was no one around, and slid back in again. The rest managed to climb in safely, and they found themselves standing in a darkened room that was usually used as a 'resting room', or a living-room, by the students of the Xavier Institute For Higher Learning.
"Should we switch on a light?" Jubilee suggested.
"No!" Rogue replied quickly. "Do ya want ta get caught?"
"I'm just saying, chica – it's pitch dark in here, and if someone ends up tripping over something fragile –"
Bobby shuddered at the thought. "All right, go on; but only one switch, Jubilee."
Jubilee complied, and they found themselves in the dim light of a single standing lamp. That dim light, however, was enough for them to distinguish one object from another – and to outline the scene that met their eyes.
Kitty drew back with a gasp from the shards of glass that she had just been about to step onto. "Oh my god," she whispered, shocked. The others weren't far behind in their reactions.
The room was a mess. Broken glass and porcelain lay everywhere; cushions had been flung onto the floor heedlessly; all the books in the bookshelves were tilted forward at a dangerous angle; papers law strewn across the room; and the furniture had been battered viciously.
"What the hell?" Sam held up a shattered photo frame containing a picture of one of the older students. This seemed to remind Bobby of something, because he suddenly moved to the edge of the staircase leading to the upper levels, where he stood listening for some time before shaking his head. "I can't hear anything."
"Zat is because zer is nothing to hear." Emerging from a the blue smoke residue of his teleportation, Kurt Wagner's vivid yellow irises looked over them sadly. "Ze studentz have been moved to a safer location."
Sam moved as though to say something, but Nightcrawler elegantly held up an long, two-fingered hand in a silencing gesture. "Explanations will be given to you later. Now, you must come with me."
But none of them moved. "Where is the Professor?" Sam asked obstinately. "Is he with the other students?"
As they had almost expected him to, Kurt shook his head. "No," he admitted. "Ze studentz are in the care of myself, Beast, Polaris and Havok." They all knew Havok, or Alexander Summers, as Scott's brother – but that didn't explain why Scott wasn't around to look after things himself.
"Zer was an attack on ze school," Kurt continued. "We do not know who – it was all in complete darkness – but all the X-Men who were in the building appear to be missing."
Bobby counted them off on his fingers fiercely. "So Scott, Jean, Ororo, Logan and Remy are all missing - and you don't know what happened to them, or how, or who was responsible?"
Rogue gently put a hand on his arm. "Calm down, sugah. They know how to take care of themselves."
"I'm not saying they don't, but –" Bobby broke off and ran a hand through his hair distractedly. "Nobody's ever actually made it this far into the mansion without being noticed, or at least identified. We had already seen Stryker's little army gang by the time they got in, hadn't we?"
"Yes," Sam agreed, "but they weren't trying very hard to hide from us."
There was a silent pause, broken only by a faint sound from somewhere above them.
Jubilee glanced upwards. "Did anyone hear that?"
Rogue nodded slowly. "Ah did." They glanced upwards, and then at each other. The next minute they were gone, moving swiftly up the staircase.
The others weren't far behind, and soon all five of them stood gathered on the darkened landing. "What - " Sam started - but he was quickly hushed, and a long silence ensued.
After a while, Jubilee sighed in silent relief. "It was nothing," she whispered. "Probably the wind or something. We should get downstairs, before…"
She trailed off suddenly – and this time, they could all hear it. It was coming from one of the rooms directly connected to the hallway, and the sound carried clearly: it seemed to consist mainly of irregular thumping, strange wailings and the sound of ripping paper.
Bobby moved silently to the door and put his hand lightly over the handle. "On three," he mouthed silently. They were all tense and alert now, ready for whatever lay on the other side of that door.
"One… two… three!"
"Look! Funnee peeople!"
The little boy peered up at them with radiant brown eyes and giggled again, holding a soft, slightly chubby hand to his mouth. "Funneee!"
Somebody else sidled slowly towards Kitty and tugged gently at her trouser leg. "I'm hungwy," she lisped quietly. "There'th nothing to eat here."
Two other boys seemed to be busy with some sort of mock-fight. They would run straight towards each other, simultaneously get knocked over, and giggle uncontrollably before beginning all over again. One of them had brown hair, but darker and messier than that of the "funny people"-boy, and vivid crimson irises; the other had a thick crown of black hair and blue eyes that would have been fierce, if he had been capable of the emotion.
The last figure – a little girl with cocoa skin and silky white hair – stood staring at an ornamental vase that had been placed in a corner to be out of harm's way. "Pre-tty," she intoned, in an awed voice. She stared hard at Sam before running up and grabbing his hand, pointing at the vase. "Come and look! Pre-tty!"
Sam was too shocked to move, but the other children had soon flocked around the vase, poking it and chattering to each other in incoherent lisps and mumbles, broken by the occasional giggle.
Kitty looked as though she was about to faint. "What… who…?"
"Oh, we know who," Bobby said, caught between shock and laughter. He pointed to each one in turn. "Jean… Scott… Remy… Ororo… Logan. They didn't disappear after all."
Sam swore in an attempt to clear away his shock, and suddenly tiny Remy looked up. He turned and whispered something clumsily to Logan junior, and soon both of them were running around the room, laughing hysterically.
"Daaaamn!" they sang joyfully, hurtling across the room. "Da-amn!"
To Be Continued.
Author's Note: Reviews, replies and opinions are all very welcome.