Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. I promised you guys a sequel and now I'm delivering it. R/R.
The sights and sounds of gambling casinos have become part of the fabric of Las Vegas. People come for the colorful lights, the diverse atmosphere, and the ability to participate in things that are illegal in the rest of the country. Las Vegas is a world unto itself, almost a country within a country.
Julian Keller knew how to survive in a city like Las Vegas. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, perhaps the only city in the United States that encouraged a lifestyle as fast as that found in Vegas. Hellion knew how to play the game, how to take calculated risks in order to beat the odds. These skills were ones he'd picked up from his father and his brother, businessmen both of them even though their wealth came from dubious sources. Business was all about risks, all about staying one step ahead of the competition. These days, when Julian felt like some unseen force was breathing down his neck it wasn't paranoia.
"Red twenty-one," stated Hellion as he placed his chip on the corresponding compartment of the roulette wheel."
"All bets down," announced the dealer as he spun the wheel and then dropped the ball onto it. Hellion's eyes never left the ball even as it bounced across the wheel, skipping from one number to the next with a capriciousness that knew no favorites or masters. The wheel slowly began to stop spinning but Hellion's eyes remained on the ball. It was almost where he wanted it. All it took was a small push to move it one slot over. If anyone had paid attention to Hellion's eyes, they would've seen a brief flash of green before the ball sank into his spot.
"Red twenty-one it is," stated the dealer as he gestured to the pile of chips before taking Hellion's chip and flicking it in the boy's direction, "Care to double your bet, sir?"
"Not tonight," assured Hellion as he began shoveling the chips into a bucket, "I have some other rounds to make." Hellion took his bucket of chips and moved away from the roulette table towards the slot machines. Picking Noriko Ashida out of a crowd wasn't very difficult. Hellion strolled over to Surge as she pulled the lever on one of the machines, her hand resting against the device. The machine showed one seven, two sevens, and then three sevens as Surge sent a tiny jolt of electricity into the device in order to help it produce a more favorable result.
"We need to pack it in for the night," explained Hellion.
"One more pull?" asked Surge as she stuffed her winnings in a bucket exactly like Hellion's, "Promise it'll be quick."
"One more and then you're done," ordered Hellion, "We can't make this look obvious so go for a lower payout this time. Don't spend so much money on booze tonight."
"We're in Vegas," reminded Surge, "You're really going to tell me we can't at least live it up a little?"
"We're not kids on spring break," retorted Hellion as he moved away from her, "We're fugitives on the run. One more pull. I'll be watching you."
"Fine," replied Surge as she turned back to the machine, "I assume we'll be packing up in the morning."
"Safe bet," replied Hellion as he crossed his arms over his chest and watched her.
"You think they're cheating again?" Pixie's wings twitched involuntarily as she asked the question, staring out of the window at the colorful world of Las Vegas from their rather opulent room. It wasn't the penthouse suite but it was enough to make her feel out of place.
"I am afraid so," admitted Dust with a sigh, "I do not condone it but our situation cannot afford stability at this point."
"Lesser of two evils," said Anole, "We'll probably pack up tomorrow so we should enjoy this place while it lasts. Something tells me the next place we stay in won't be nearly as nice."
"This situation sucks," stated Pixie as she turned and looked at her teammates, "What the hell happened to us?"
"We had to make it on our own," replied Mercury, "I don't think any of us imagined it would turn out like this."
"Where are the adults?" asked Pixie, "They were supposed to take care of us. I mean good Lord we're barely even legal adults. Why haven't they come back and found us again?"
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes," quoted Anole.
"What the hell does that mean?" asked Rockslide.
"It's Latin," replied Anole, "Who watches the watchmen? I got it from a comic book."
"Alright, seriously, you suck at this," stated Rockslide as he moved over to Pixie and roughly put his arms around your shoulder, "Look, Meg, this is probably our last night here and you definitely need a pick-me-up. I say we get a lot of booze and then we get some 'entertainment'. Might as well make a real going-away party out of it."
"I really don't think I like where this is going," squeaked Pixie as she tried to get a little space between her and Santo before he accidentally crushed her.
"Work with me," ordered Rockslide, "We booze it up, get some lovely ladies in here for me and Julian as well as some handsome gentlemen in here for you and the girls . . . and Vic. C'mon, I totally bet we can find a stripper who would dress up like Cyclops for you if you paid him enough."
"You are an idiot," stated Mercury, "First of all, I think only about half of us are actually physically capable of drinking anything."
"That's cool, Nori will drink the extra," assured Rockslide, "You should've seen her in here last night. She drinks like a freakin' fish."
"It was epic," confirmed Anole, "I don't care about watching you kids get drunk but I'm pretty sure normal strippers aren't going to go for at least half of us."
"More chicks for me then," said Rockslide.
"Pretty sure you were in that half," reminded Mercury.
"No strippers," stated Pixie, "We don't need to give people more reasons to pay attention to us."
"Bet'cha Nori will go for strippers," predicted Rockslide, "Bet'cha she won't mind if they're chicks either. I bet she kinda . . ." A lightning bolt crackled across the room and struck Santo. The bolt didn't hurt Rockslide in the slightest but it stopped him from finishing his sentence.
"No strippers," stated Surge as she and Hellion came into the room, "Trust me, you really shouldn't finish that sentence either."
"Packing in the morning?" asked Anole as he looked at Hellion. Hellion simply nodded his head in response. All seven mutants were silent for a moment as they once again let their fugitive status sink into their minds.
"Do you know how to get in touch with Miss Frost?" asked Pixie quietly.
"No, I don't," replied Hellion sadly as he shook his head, "She and the others wrote us off months ago, Meg. I know it sucks and I know that you want things to go back to the way they were but they can't."
"Things would've been fine if you hadn't started this again," stated Pixie as she headed for the door, "If anybody needs me, I'm going to try to sleep but I'll probably be thinking about all the things I used to have that I miss."
"I hear they made a cure for that," called out Rockslide, "Strippers, Meg. Strippers."
"You really have no manners," stated Anole as Surge headed out the door after Pixie.
"She's right, you know," said Mercury as she looked at Hellion, "Do you ever think we made a mistake by doing this?"
"Every day since we left Seattle," replied Hellion, "I really screwed us, guys. I wouldn't blame you if you felt the same way."
"You did what you believed was best for us just as you have always done," assured Dust, "The world is becoming a difficult place it seems."
"It doesn't mean we have to cheat to get ahead," replied Mercury as she looked at Hellion.
"We'll have this argument after I get some sleep," assured Hellion as he rubbed his eyes, "We can't afford to be moral at this point, Cess. It's just not in the cards."
"I can zap Santo again if you want me to," said Surge as she leaned against the doorframe and watched Pixie bury her face into her pillow, "Trust me, it's more cathartic than you think."
"I don't want to talk right now," said Pixie as she glared at Surge, "I just . . ."
"I know," interrupted Surge with a nod, "None of us blame you, Megan. You're way too young for this. Hell, all of us are too young for this but we chose this and now we're stuck with it."
"We could choose again," reminded Pixie as she wiped a stray tear from her eye, "We could find Miss Frost or Mr. Summers and get them to help us."
"They don't give a damn about us," stated Surge as she took a seat next to Pixie on the bed, "If they did then they would've come for us by now."
"You sound like Julian," said Pixie bitterly, "You know the reason why two sides keep fighting each other forever? It's because neither of them want to admit they were wrong and try to make peace."
"We couldn't find them if we tried," reminded Surge, "They're big-time X-Men and we're just . . ."
"We're just kids," finished Pixie glumly, "I never wanted this to happen, Nori."
"Nobody did," assured Surge as she put her arm around Pixie's shoulders, "You can't keep thinking about that though, Meg. I've been in this situation so many times and I've learned that you can't keep waiting for things to go back to normal when you know in your heart they never will."
"I think we should get some sleep," said Pixie with a sigh, "Shame we have to leave this place. I was starting to like it."
"Yeah, me too," admitted Surge with a sad smile, "Trust him, Meg. Julian may be an ass but he's done his best to take care of everyone."
"He has a funny way of doing it," replied Pixie.
"Hey, if you can't trust him then trust me," said Surge, "I'm not gonna let anything happen to any of us, Meg, not after it took me forever to fix things between me and everyone else. We'll get through this just like we always do."
"I got yer note." Danielle Moonstar hadn't seen Sam Guthrie in a long time. Once she lost her mutant powers, Dani found herself on the outside looking in where all matters of the X were concerned. At this point with the X-Men scattered to the four corners of the globe, Dani didn't know if her excommunication was a blessing or a curse.
"Took me forever to find you," said Dani as she hugged her former classmate, "You could just get an email address like everyone else."
"Ya got tha wrong Guthrie fer that," assured Cannonball, "Paige is tha one who's good with computers. What're we doin' here, Dani?" Sam Guthrie looked past his friend to the steps of the cathedral they were currently standing in front of. He doubted that Dani had suddenly become a Christian, much less a Catholic at that.
"I tried to find the others," replied Dani as she escorted Sam around to the back of the building, "It didn't go very well."
"'Ello, Sam," said a familiar voice as Wolfsbane stood at the bottom of the steps that led to the church's basement in her half-wolf form, "It's been a while."
"Shoulda guessed," said Cannonball with a smile, "How've you been, Rahne? I saw ya awhile back but yer right, it's been too long."
"I get by," replied Wolfsbane as she slunk up the stairs, "Dani came ta me and said she had a problem that involved tha kids." Sam and Dani both noticed the way Rahne moved, skittish and nervous but still preferring to remain inhuman. Neither of them said anything, both waiting for the Scottish girl to bring up the subject. Her short time with the new incarnation of X-Force had left Rahne emotionally scarred and she had made her home in the cathedral's basement in order to cleanse her soul. Her subconscious decision to stay in half-wolf form as much as possible served as a constant reminder of her penance.
"Rahney, can you . . .?" asked Dani.
"Sorry," apologized Rahne as she reverted back to her human form with more effort than it normally took, "What do ye need, Dani?"
"I need your help to find the kids," stated Dani as she looked at her two friends, "They've gone off the grid."
"Yer worried someone might hurt 'em?" asked Cannonball, "From what I saw, those kids can handle themselves just fine."
"Josh and Alani are at Camp Hammond and Gyrich won't let them go until I deliver those kids to him," explained Dani.
"Ye can't expect us ta help ye hunt them down," said Rahne.
"I don't," assured Dani, "If we can find them and tell them what's going on then maybe they'll help me. Gyrich is holding Josh hostage and it's going to take more muscle than just me to get him and Alani out."
"Ya don't hafta tell us 'bout protectin' yer family," assured Sam with a nod, "I'm with ya, Dani."
"Always," agreed Rahne, "Ye sure ye want to come along on this, Dani. Ye don't have yuir powers anymore."
"I can still work a bow," stated Dani, "I don't need mutant powers for that."
"I'm sorry about last night," apologized Pixie as she looked at Hellion, "It's not like you twisted our arms to get back into this and you couldn't have known how it would turn out."
"It's okay," assured Hellion as he mussed the younger girl's hair, "You know me; I've got enough pride to withstand a dose of the truth every now and then." Pixie swatted his hand away and grinned as she brushed her bangs out of her eyes.
"I admire you," admitted Pixie as she looked at Hellion, "You're always able to keep this team from coming apart no matter what happens. I wish I was that strong."
"You are," assured Hellion as he slung his bag over his shoulder, "You okay for this jump, Meg? We can try it the old-fashioned way if it's too much for you."
"Nah, I got it," replied Pixie as the two of them headed towards the cluster of New X-Men, "We need to figure out where to go though or at least in what direction."
"Any chance you could get us out of the country?" asked Surge as Hellion and Pixie joined the others, "I doubt the Initiative guys would cross a border to get to us. Plus, I bet I can find some people back home who would put up with us."
"I don't think I'm comfortable with that," explained Pixie nervously, "I don't really know how far I can jump us all. I don't wanna land us in the middle of an ocean."
"So we got Canada and Mexico as options," said Rockslide, "Some choice there."
"I hear those runaways out in L.A. are back on the scene," offered Anole.
"Home doesn't sound so bad," admitted Hellion, "Nori has a good point though. If we can get across a border then we can at least settle down somewhere long enough to get things back to normal. Any of you guys know Spanish?"
"I still have a few problems with English," reminded Dust.
"I took French for my foreign language," said Anole.
"I knew a little bit at one time," replied Mercury.
"I know the word 'tequila'," offered Rockslide.
"No surprise there," commented Surge, "Looks like we're going to Canada."
"Head as far northeast as you can go," ordered Hellion as he looked at Pixie, "Beam us up, Meg. Warp factor five."
"You don't look so good." Alani Ryan looked at her boyfriend, concern replacing her usual laid-back expression. Josh Foley gave her a perplexed look as if he didn't quite understand what she was talking about.
"They've been doing a lot of tests," replied Elixir dismissively, "Mr. Gyrich thinks I could be a big help to the Initiative."
"Josh, I'm not so sure about this place," confessed Alani as she touched his cheek, "I don't think coming here was the right idea."
"We had to do something," reminded Elixir as he placed his hand on hers, "We're safe here, Alani. I'll tell Gyrich to stop testing me so hard."
"It's not that," replied Alani, "I had to fight them, Josh. I had to fight my friends because the people in this place think they're criminals and I'm the one who turned them in. I almost got them killed and the people here don't care. They don't care about me or you, Josh. We're just soldiers to them."
"Things weren't any different at the mansion," reminded Elixir.
"Yes they were," corrected Alani, "The adults cared about us, Josh."
"Funny way of showing it," said Elixir bitterly as he turned away from his girlfriend and noticed two men in military uniforms cross the compound of Camp Hammond and head towards them.
"Mr. Foley, you're needed again," said one of the men. Elixir nodded and kissed Alani on the cheek before leaving her to follow the men. Alani waited a few seconds before she began to follow the men. She wasn't as proficient with her phasing powers as Kitty Pryde but Alani Ryan still knew some tricks. She followed Josh and his military escort through a winding maze of corridors, passing through the walls to reach places she shouldn't be able to reach.
Alani had never seen this part of Camp Hammond before and she had a bad feeling that few people ever had. She watched Josh pass through what she hoped was the final barrier and took another deep breath as she tried to phase through the door. She instantly felt her body explode with pain and quickly kicked herself backwards to get out of the door. Alani glared at the door before she tried to phase her hand through it. The pain forced her away. She knew it was silly to think that they wouldn't have a countermeasure for people with her specific ability. She was surprised they had let her get this far.
"What do they do to you in there?" asked Alani quietly as she pressed her solid hand against the door before forlornly turning away and attempting to figure out how she could get back to a safe area.
"Nothing nice," hissed a voice as it answered Alani's question. Alani knew that voice and it stopped her cold in her tracks. She turned her eyes to the door on her left, a solid slab of metal save for a small slit for the eyes.
"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?" asked Alani icily, "I'm glad I didn't kill you, Trent. This is probably a better punishment."
"Oh trust me," retorted Serotonin, "I'm not getting it half as bad as your boyfriend."
"You know what they do to him in there?" asked Alani skeptically.
"Come talk to me, Alani," suggested Serotonin, "I don't get many visitors down here."