Thank you See1like, cassy27, talon81, AnonymouslyAnonymous, ThCriativReader, WhatTheF-ckHaveYouDoneLately, nekoshuichi69, Kittendragon, perla, Lilithisdead, and rileybear 14 for reviewing! I know, it's been forever. My only excuses are other writing projects I needed to finish and this chapter gave me a lot of trouble. Thanks to usakeh for helping me with it! :)
Erik hastily discarded his Magneto garb in the car. Now that he was done making sure the injured man was all right and intended to flee, he wished to track down Wolverine. With his powers, it was a rather easy task to pick out his moving metallic skeleton. Erik debated, then stuffed the helmet back in the suitcase, trading it for his binoculars. Logan most likely had things well in hand. He just wanted to see what was going on.
He wove his way through the streets, the rushing of the Hudson River growing louder and louder as he approached. Logan was creeping alongside it. The trio had thus had enough sense not to turn back – to Logan's disappointment, no doubt.
Erik caught up with him, tugging at his arm briefly with his power to get his attention. Logan turned. "Bastards jumped into a blow up raft," he explained. "Been trying to follow them, but I'm no swimmer."
Erik nodded in understanding. It would be nearly impossible with all that adamantium. He picked up his binoculars and focused down river, where he could see the three men disappearing from sight around the bend. "This supports the submarine theory," mused Erik.
"Or they could just be making themselves more difficult to follow," Logan said, clearly miffed about his one weakness.
Erik sat a moment, removing his binoculars. If they were headed for a sub, it would be difficult to track them once inside. Even with his ability, he was bound to lose them sooner or later.
Even if they weren't what they seemed, would pursing even be worth it? His main goal was to find Raven before they did, and they clearly had less of an idea of where she was than he did. While confirming the truth about them might be helpful, it wasn't necessary to his mission.
"We'll let them go for now," Erik decided. "Our priority right now is to warn the Greys." Then he could find out how Charles was doing. "Let's head back to the hotel and give Amy a call after their plane is scheduled to land."
Logan nodded and followed him back to the car.
In their hotel room, Erik did his best to occupy himself by experimenting with his newfound abilities. He practiced with his gun, clicking the safety on and off with just his power, and levitating it, getting used to aiming it without looking. He wished he could practice shooting, but that was obviously a bad idea right now.
Bored, he told Logan he'd go shopping and, while he was out, would pick up another pack of beer. Logan grinned and turned on the TV.
Erik got the beer first so he wouldn't forget it. He certainly didn't want to deal with a pissy Logan. Next, he stopped at a hardware store, followed by a crafts and clothing store, picking up metal with which to practice and items he could use to improve his costume. On his return, Logan slapped him on the back happily and accepted his beer.
He turned serious, though, as he settled back down on the couch. "They're going to start the executions tomorrow, bub."
"Of the mutants in government facilities?" Erik asked, alarmed.
"Raven could be one of them," Erik said agitatedly. From Logan's expression, it was clear that he was thinking the same thing. "We've got to move as soon as possible."
With renewed purpose, Erik opened his purchases and began improving his red Magneto suit. He also attached metal pieces to his helmet so he could keep it on with his power if necessary. He took out several metal things he'd bought and set them on the floor, using them to find more creative ways to weaponize his power. His concentration wasn't that great. Anxiety about Charles ate away at him; the urgency of Raven's situation, however, still spurred him on.
Logan watched his fumbling in bemusement as he downed another pack of beer. Erik did not indulge, despite his desire to numb his mind. "Think you can call now," Logan said.
Erik gave him a look. Despite the empathy between them, Erik did not like having his sentimental side pegged by someone as macho as Logan.
Logan snorted. "Bub, it's all you've been thinking about."
Resigned, Erik sat down and made the call.
"Wallis residence." It was Amy.
"This is Erik. Have they arrived yet?"
"Yes, they did, and Jean has already been with Charles. Hank's been monitoring him and he's gotten steadily better since then. He thinks he'll wake up in the next few days."
"Good." Relieved, Erik grinned. "Tell Jean that she should be proud of herself."
"I will! She's talked quite a bit about you; I think that you have a fan." Amy paused. "What should I tell Charles? He will ask about you, you know."
"Stay safe," Erik replied immediately. "Speaking of that, there is something you should know." He told them all about his encounter with the three men trying to find the Greys, and the possibility of them using a submarine, maybe even Shaw's.
"About that," Amy interrupted, "I told Jean to find out what she could about his time in Shaw's mind. She wasn't able to pick up a whole lot, and it didn't make much sense. It was something about Logan and Raven being connected somehow." Amy paused again. "That said, she was able to confirm that you actually shot Shaw. But what is really stunning is that she believes that he was a mutant himself!"
"What?" Erik said, startled. "He turned on his own kind?"
"I know, I can hardly believe it! So he either has an ability like Logan's, or he really is dead. Regardless, I'm going to take Sean out regularly now to watch for the return of the sub. Its reappearance is bad news either way. Somehow he was able to track Logan, which means that we're compromised somewhere. You need to be careful, too."
"We'll be fine," Erik responded.
"No unnecessary heroics," Amy insisted.
"Want to say anything to Logan?" Erik asked.
"Only to keep out of trouble, not that it would do any good," she mused wryly.
Erik huffed a laugh, silently agreeing before adding, "Thank you for what you've done for Charles."
"No problem. It's what I do. I'll be hearing from you, right?"
"If I find Raven." Erik hung up the phone.
"Glad he's going to make it," grunted Logan.
Erik looked at him askance.
"You're not pacing, and you had that million watt grin," Logan said.
Erik nodded and sat down across from him. He refocused his thoughts on their efforts to find Raven, feeling newly energized and hopeful. "So, you know more than I do about that facility. How should we proceed?"
Charles slowly came to in a dimly lit room, feeling very disoriented. He blinked. Something wasn't right; there was something he urgently needed to do. Limbs shaky and head woozy, he forced himself to sit up.
To his delight, he still had his power. He reached out tentatively, subsequently feeling the presences of six other people in the house: Amy's, Sean's, and Hank's, and that of Jean, who he vaguely remembered entering his mind earlier. The two other people he'd never encountered before; most likely, they were Jean's parents.
But where were Erik and Logan? The last thing he'd remembered was being on a boat with Erik, and Logan hiding underneath a dock as backup. Shaw had pointed his gun at Erik, and–
What? Charles frantically tried to remember. Had Erik died? No. He'd frozen Shaw. Erik had fired the shot, not realizing that Charles was not practiced enough to shield himself from it, and Charles couldn't let Shaw go even for a second, lest Shaw incinerate Erik instantly.
He did have vague impressions of what had happened in between then and now. Erik's voice. His strange, alarming absence. Jean appearing in a dream, telling him to wake up, informing him of everything she knew about Erik, including the fact that he and Logan were in America trying to find Raven. According to what he'd seen in Shaw's mind, however, she wasn't in America. Rather, she was in a shielded room on Shaw's sub, forced to perpetually be in Logan's form. Erik's newly revealed abilities would be indispensable in her rescue.
He had to leave, now. He had to get to Erik, but not just for Raven's sake. He needed Erik. He needed to be with him, and Erik needed reminding of this.
Charles slid off the table, taking in his surroundings for the first time, a sort of makeshift hospital room. It was oddly surreal to him, so reminiscent of when he'd first been chipped. Now he'd come full circle, awakening to freedom rather than slavery.
How would he get to Erik successfully with his chip in place? His heart hammered with fear. Then, his eyes widened as he remembered Shaw's plan.
The horrific, twisted machinations of Shaw's mind had made him lose his dinner. Shaw had first considered making the humans turn against each other, bombing each other out of existence. But the damage from that would wipe out the food supply. So he started investigating another plan, that of uniting the mutants against the humans. In the end, too many mutants were stubbornly protective of humans for that to work.
So, he'd shifted to the third option: namely, the manipulation of the worst humans in power, creating conditions that even the most pro-human mutants wouldn't be able to stomach. Once the ratio of mutants against humans was even enough, he would set the world takeover in motion, wiping out the human population within days.
Shaw himself had designed the chip specifically for that end. When exposed to a certain frequency – a frequency Charles now knew – all of the chips would be permanently deactivated. To prevent chaos, Shaw designed a device he'd named Cerebro. When the time came, he would find a telepath to hook into it, and he would communicate with the mutants, organizing them.
There was a separate frequency for singular permanent deactivation, which Charles planned on using now. He'd learned about it when Shaw thought about Logan, which was a story in itself. Shaw needed to find a way to explain his immortality, and bribe the governments into cooperation; he'd found solutions to both in Logan by faking the replication of an immortality serum with his DNA.
Shaw changed his plans for Logan when he stumbled across records of Raven's abilities at the New York facility. He'd wanted a way to track the movements of the resistance, and what better long-term way to do it than by planting a tracking device in an immortal mutant?
So he planted it in Logan's ribcage, then coated his skeleton in adamantium, making it virtually undetectable. He staged Logan's escape and Kayla's death. He permanently deactivated Logan's chip (which hadn't been very effective anyway) and had Kayla give him legitimate papers so he wouldn't get caught. With the real Logan gone, he forced Raven take on his appearance in order to continue manipulating powerful people by dangling the immortality carrot.
With Shaw now gone, Raven's position grew potentially dangerous. Filled with even more urgency, Charles set to work with a transmitter in Hank's lab, unable to stop his hands from shaking as he thought about what he needed to do to get to Erik. He'd never been out on his own before, and he wasn't sure his control was enough. But it would have to be. He couldn't afford to wait for the others. They would just slow him down.
Chip now deactivated permanently, he packed a small bag and scribbled a quick note for the others regarding his whereabouts, along with a summary of what he'd learned from Shaw. His unpracticed writing was quite sloppy, but he did his best to make it legible.
He hid behind some trees in the darkness after exiting the house, heart beating fast as he scanned the passing driver's minds until he found one that would require minimal manipulation. He stepped out and sent a suggestion that the man should pull over.
The young driver leaned out his car window, smiling. "Hey, need a ride?"
"Yes," answered Charles without thinking, the word feeling very peculiar in his mouth and throat. Then shock set in. He'd spoken!
"Well, hop on in." The man's grin widened. "Name's Riley. Where are you going?"
"Airport," Charles eventually croaked, feeling surreal.
"Great, that's just where I'm headed! What a coincidence!" Riley said cheerfully. "We'll be there in no time."
Charles climbed in back, his bag clutched tightly in his shaking hands. He swallowed nervously as he shut the door. He was alone, venturing out on his own for the first time in his life. No turning back now. He attempted a few calming, deep breaths as Riley hit the gas.
"Thanks," Charles whispered.
"No problem, I like having the company," Riley assured him.
As the initial shock of speaking again wore off, Charles unconsciously reached up and touched his throat. Whatever had been preventing him from speaking before had apparently been fixed when Jean had made contact with him, drawing him out.
It seemed like, bit-by-bit, he was getting his life back.
Annoyed by the incessant pounding on the door that had been going on and off for what seemed to be several days now, Raven flipped through her books, curled up on her cot. She was overdue for some new ones. Shaw had promised her he'd get more soon, but she hadn't seen him for well over a week now. Not that she particularly cared what happened to him, but she did wonder what was holding him up. Up until now he visited her quite often. Her food and water still arrived regularly through the slat in the wall, at least.
The sound of a drill replaced the banging. She looked at the metal door, eyebrow raised. Shaw never seemed to have any problems opening the door, but she'd made out the voices of three different men arguing about how to get in. Something strange was going on. She glanced around at the mirrored walls, her reflection looking back at her a hundred different ways, and set her book down, replacing it with her sketch pad.
Drawing was one of her favorite activities because of the way it made time fly by. Being locked up in here had been quite difficult to get used to, especially after leaving the Greys. Now she was more or less resigned to it. She doubted she'd ever be able to escape, and hardly anybody cared about her enough to come looking. Those who did simply could not. She didn't want Jean to share her fate, and Charles was long gone. They hadn't known each other long. Maybe he'd even forgotten her.
She didn't think her life was too bad, all in all. Other than being strictly confined and forced to accept yearly telepathic intrusion from a sympathetic Emma, reinforcing her compulsion to stay in that feral man's form, things were tolerable. She didn't know why Shaw forced Emma to do that, or about any of his other plans for that matter. Shaw refused to talk much about his doings beside a few vague hints now and then, and she rarely got a chance to speak to anybody else.
However, Shaw was fairly kind to her and did his best to keep her entertained and even educated. In a twisted way, he was like a father figure to her, now that John could not be around. It was what it was and while she'd been sullen and angry with him at first, she'd gradually learned to accept her situation. She still mouthed off at Shaw on occasion, however, which did little more than amuse him.
In fact, the only thing that really annoyed her anymore was Shaw's tendency to only supply her with outdated music. It was nothing in which most young women would have any interest. Truth be told, though, it was hard for her to think of herself as a young woman when she'd had the form of an older, muscular man for so long.
"Fuck!" The drill abruptly went silent. "Fuck! Fuck!"
"I told you not to drill there," another man said.
"Well you didn't have any ideas, did you, Mr. Mechanical Engineer? You can't even open a damn door!"
"It's welded shut! We'll have to melt it," objected the engineer.
"We can't risk damaging the structural integrity. How are we going to shut it again if we do that?" Raven decided to name this third man Tres. "We have to keep at it with the wedge and sledgehammer."
After a tense silence, the banging resumed.
Charles let out a breath as he settled in his plane seat. He'd made it this far with the use of mind tricks. The worst of it was over; he now just had to get through customs. Then he'd be back in New York, familiar territory. Still, he could not afford to fall asleep. Someone would realize he was out of place and he might not be able to correct it in time.
He found a few American and English newspapers. He hadn't read much in years, but he still remembered how to do so with perfect clarity. He was not expecting to see a picture of his stepbrother on the front page of the American paper, however.
With mixed feelings, he read:
The mutant known as Juggernaut was the first to be executed as the new law took effect yesterday. William Stryker is relieved that such a threat has been eliminated. "Everything is under control," he assured us. "Rumors of a band of pro mutant extremists attacking government facilities and freeing mutants are greatly exaggerated."
A man from across the aisle spoke, interrupting his thoughts. "What do you think of it all?"
Charles turned to him, skimming the surface of his thoughts. He was a government agent named Levine. His job was just a job to him, no passion in it at all. In fact, lately, he'd doubted the rightness of it, which prompted the question.
Charles chose his words carefully. "I think things are not as they seem, and that everyone reaches their breaking point."
Levine held his gaze seriously and said, "They are dangerous." He believed what he was saying, but he lacked conviction all the same.
"Everyone is dangerous, my friend," responded Charles wanly.
"What is a government to do? They've got to do something," Levine insisted, feeling lost.
Charles searched his thoughts before saying, "They can negotiate." Levine knew of a few loopholes in the law and his orders. He just hadn't thought of them yet as a solution.
Levine's expression cleared. "They can at that," he agreed. As Levine turned back to the window, Charles caught him thinking of his quarry: a man rumored to have one of Sebastian Shaw's helmets, dressed in red, able to manipulate metal, accompanied by a rather crazed, feral man who knew no fear nor injury.
Erik, thought Charles anxiously, what have you gotten yourself into?
Emma lay on a cot in a tiny room, posture perfect, seemingly at ease. Abruptly, the door opened. She smoothly switched to a sitting position to greet her visitor, a relatively short man with red hair, wearing one of Shaw's helmets.
"Justin. Have you finally decided to trust me?" Emma asked, faking a smile. Justin and what was left of Shaw's crew knew about her regularly scheduled interaction with 'Logan', and, in their determination to find out everything they could about Shaw and 'Logan' they'd found her and brought her aboard to question her.
She'd told him part of the truth: namely, that Shaw made her use her telepathy to get 'him' to cooperate. Fortunately, when questioned separately, Raven had confirmed this without elaborating. This suited Emma, who was beginning to hatch a plan of her own. She believed in making the best of any situation, and this had real potential.
"Follow me," Justin ordered her.
Emma smiled and exited the room with him. They walked a short distance to a metallic door that appeared to have seen better days.
Justin opened it, beckoned her through, then shut it firmly, their reflections on the strange mirrored walls looking back at them a hundred different ways. "Come here," he said. She cooperated, and he waived the pencil like device to deactivate her chip. "Now, do your thing," Justin commanded.
"Oh believe me, I can't wait to get this over with," said Emma with a coy, suggestive smile, "And move on to more… enjoyable things."
Justin returned the grin cockily, totally buying it. Pathetic, Emma thought distainfully. Men were just too easy to distract.
She turned to the room's other occupant, a female shapeshifter forced to wear a man's form. Steeling herself, Emma dove into Raven's mind, not forcing her to cooperate like she'd told Justin, but sharing her conceived plan of attack. She tried to be quick and minimally invasive as she always did, not reading her at all, only communicating. Justin, unlike Shaw, wasn't a mutant and didn't know about her diamond form. He also didn't know that Raven was a shapeshifter.
With luck, things would turn out just the way she wanted.