Professor Xavier sighed. Yes there it was again. It was a mutant. It had to be. But the readings were wrong…All he could tell about this mutant was that it was young, male, and very frightened. He opened his mind, searching for Jean.
Jean. There is a new mutant in need of our help. I am placing the coordinates in the x-jet now. Please get Kurt and Logan and retrieve him.
"Yes sir." Jean said aloud in the kitchen. "Ororo, the Professor is sending me out to pick up a boy. Can you get that out of the oven when it's done?" She asked, gesturing at the stove.
Ororo glanced up from the book she had been reading. "Hmm?"
Jean laughed. "I said, could you please get those out of the oven when they're done? The Professor's calling me to go do a pick-up!"
"Of course, Jean." Ororo agreed.
Jean walked over and tilted the book up slightly to see the cover. "Poetry?"
Ororo nodded. "Hank recommended this author, Helen Lowerie Marshall. She is quite good. I like her work so far. Very insighteful. Do you have any idea when you will be back?"
Jean shook her head. " 'fraid not. The professor didn't say." She undid the strings of her apron and hung it on a peg by the door. "I gotta go get the guys. See you later 'roro!"
Ororo waved and went back to her book. Jean made her way upstairs and down a set of hallways. She stopped in front of the bedroom door and knocked.
"Come in!" a voice called from inside.
Jean turned the knob and leaned around the door. "Kurt? The professor needs us to do a pick up. The coordinates are set and the jets prepped and ready. We just need to grab Logan and go."
The blue furred mutant nodded. "What do we know about this mutant?"
Jean shook her head. "Very little. Cerebro's having a hard time getting a reading. All he can tell us is that the mutant is young, male, and scared out of his wits."
Kurt scampered upside down across the jungle gym attached to his ceiling and turned off the lights, lava lamp, and radio. "I will be down in a moment Jean! But you might have trouble getting Logan. He said earlier that he would be going hunting. Could we take Peter instead?"
"Nice try elf." Logan said from behind Jean. "You don't lose the Wolverine that easy. The prof. called me in. Let me get my costume and I'll meet you down in the hangar." As the cantankerous Logan stalked away, Jean heard him mutter.
"Thank god almighty Scott aint comin'. He can't pilot food to his mouth let alone a jet across th' flamin' sky!"
She shook her head. The rivalry between Logan and Scott annoyed her more than either really knew. She knew they fought over her. As if she were a prize that could be stolen by a show of strength.
"Men." She muttered.
"What mien friend?" Kurt asked, coming out of the room.
Jean shook her head and started walking down the hall beside him. "Nothing Kurt. Just thinking aloud."
Kurt nodded. He quietly jumped up on the banister and walked along it on his hands with a practiced ease that an Olympic gymnast would have envied. "Jean?" He stopped and offered her a hand, balancing on his left. "Can I give you a lift Jean? If there is nothing you must get from the mansion, I can 'port us down to the hangar bay."
Jean nodded and gave him her hand. He flipped his feet down so that he was now crouching on the banister and gave her a smile. A popping noise, a puff of blue smoke and the smell of brimstone filled the air around them. One moment she was standing on the landing of the mansion stairs, the next, she was standing in the concrete hanger below the mansion.
"Thanks Kurt. Can you get the engine going?"
Kurt nodded and Jean ducked into the locker room off the side of the hanger that had been set aside for the ladies. Jean quickly shimmied into her costume, while a brush she was moving with her mind ran itself through her hair. Being able to move stuff with your mind definitely had its perks sometimes, she thought.
Kurt teleported inside the jet and began flicking the appropriate switches to get the engines going. Though neither knew it, Kurt was in silent agreement with Logan. He preferred anyone to fly the plane over Scott. It wasn't that he disliked Scott, though they were not what you could call best friends, he mused. Scott could be such a pain sometimes. And the fact that, second only to Xavier, Scott was the leader of the X-men very often went to his head. But he was a good man, and loyal. Kurt was grateful to count Scott among his friends.
He glanced out the window of the cockpit and saw Wolverine coming into the hanger. Jean stepped out of the girls locker room, striking as always in her form fitting costume. Kurt took his seat in the co-pilots chair and waited for them to board. While he would never be comfortable piloting the jet, he could do it if he had to, and he was a fair co-pilot. And anything is better than asking Logan to. He thought.
As far as anyone knew, Logan didn't know how to fly, and he didn't care to learn. Kurt was convinced that Logan was afraid of flying. If he is he masters it quite well, he thought. The one time Scott had tried to force Logan to learn, Logan had calmly popped his claws and said, "Listen Summers. You wanna try forcin' me ta learn to fly, I'll turn ya inta shish kabob. Got it?" Scott had never brought it up again.
Jean and Wolverine climbed up into the ship and took their places.
"All set?" Jean asked. Kurt nodded.
"Then let's get goin'! I been itchin' for some action!" growled Wolverine from the back seats.
The jet slowly rose from its resting place and moved along the hanger towards the door. They shot through the opening and leapt up into the clear blue sky. Behind him, Kurt's keen ears picked up a groan from Wolverine.
"Cripes, I should'a tracked the mountain lion an told the prof. to shove it."
Kurt chuckled. Wolverine heard it and glared at him, but the effect was wasted on the back of Kurt's head. He took a deep breath and dug his fingers into the armrests of his chair. Get a grip Logan. He growled to himself.
It took them a little over two hours to reach their destination, a small town in Illinois called Garsdale, population 251.
It was dark by the time they got there. The address the professor had given them was a neat little white house on the outskirts of town. It even had a white picket fence out front. The plan had been to land the jet outside town in a field and walk back in. Kurt would use his image inducer and Jean would wear a trench coat. Wolverine absolutely refused to hide his colors and had opted for slinking in shadows and jumping roofs while the other two went to the house and got a bead on the mutant they had come to find.
They needn't have bothered. When they arrived at the house there was a huge mob of people gathered outside. And they were angry. Very angry.
"We'll find out what's going on Wolverine. Sit tight up there." Jean said into her com-link.
She and Kurt slipped into the crowd. "What's going on?" Jean called to a man in the crowd.
"Some 'mutie' freak put Police Chief Thompson's lil' girl in a coma. We're gonna hunt that freak down an see that, he gets what's comin' to him!"
"Vaht does this mutant look like?" Kurt inquired. "We will aid in the search."
The man grinned nastily and led them through the crowd. "Where you folks from?" He hollered over the noise of the crowd.
"New York!" Kurt hollered back. "We are here to pick up a friend."
The man nodded and pointed to a large man in jeans and a flannel shirt, pouring over a map with several other men. They had gridded the map and were dividing the mob into smaller search parties. The big man patted the shotgun in the crook of his arm. "And remember, if you find him, let us know. We don't want anyone to miss out on the fun." He said, his voice colored by an Irish accent.
"Patrick! Got a pair of out-o-towner's offering to help search, but they need ta know what he looks like." The man they had spoken to called.
Patrick glanced up and fished his wallet out of his pocket. He took a picture out of it, handed it over and went back to his map. The man handed the photo to Jean. Kurt leaned in close to see.
It was a family picture. Patrick was there, along with a woman and three children. Two boys and a girl. The man planted a finger on one of the boys.
"That's him there. The dirty little scumbag."
He had singled out the oldest. The boy appeared to be fourteen or fifteen. His sun-streaked curly red hair, his tan skin, and muscular frame all testified that he was an active boy. Probably the outdoors type. A brilliant smile lit his face, but there was a sadness in his brilliant green eyes that could be seen, even in the photograph.
"He's Patricks son?" Kurt asked, shocked.
Patrick had finished and now turned his attention to them. "No. He is not my son. I only have one son, and that'd be Jeremy." He tapped on the younger boy in the picture. "This…." He tapped the picture of the older boy. "…animal.. 'tis not my kid. My eldest is dead, and so help me I'm gonna kill the beast that did it!"
Jean starred at him speechless. How could he say that? How could he turn on this boy he had raised from infancy?Kurt put a hand on Jeans arm, giving a warning squeeze. He knew what humans were capable of. He had seen it first hand in Germany, the few times he had ventured outside the circus.
They were assigned a search party and began looking. "Wolverine." Jean said over the com. "That was the house where the boy lived. Get inside, get his scent, find him before this mob does!"
"Count on it." Wolverine growled. "And you better hope that prick of a father doesn't run across my path."
"A small part of me wishes he would." Kurt said. "But the rest of me prays that Wolverine never gets his chance. For if he does, we can only pray that God has mercy on Patrick's soul!" Jean nodded, and they went back to the search.
On a rooftop nearby, Wolverine was watching the house. After a few moments careful scrutiny, he climbed down and made his way across the road. The trellis on the left side of the house, and an open window on the second floor offered the best option. Once inside, he paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust. The pink and white paint and the multitude of little stuffed animals on the bed identified this as the little girls room.
He silently crossed the floor and stepped out into the dark hallway. He could hear a woman and two children, a boy and a girl, downstairs. And he knew that the father was out helping the search parties. That meant for now he had the upstairs to himself. He hoped the kids didn't have an early bedtime.
He made his way silently down the hall, opening doors, glancing inside to see if it was a bedroom, and moving on when it wasn't. Near the end of the hall, he found what he was looking for. Toy cars on the floor, band posters on the walls, and a set of bunk beds said this was the room he was looking for. The top bunk had a stuffed dinosaur at the foot of it and a bedspread covered in pictures of loony cartoon characters. That was probably the younger boys bed. The bottom bunk was larger. A camouflage blanket sat in a heap on the end and the sheets were plain blue. Wolverine picked up the pillow and held it against his nose, drawing in the scent. Kid wore cologne. That made his job all the easier.
He slipped back out of the house, casting around for the scent. There. He silently climbed down and followed the scent into the night.
Back inside the house, Jeremy furtively slipped another roll into his messenger bag. His little sister Ericka was getting their coats, hats, and boots. They had only been told that Rhett was missing, not that he was a mutant. And the two had decided that they were going to help look for him. Jeremy furtively slipped out onto the back porch.
Little Ericka was already there, all bundled up and clutching a flashlight in one hand and her stuffed rabbit Mr. Bun in the other. Jeremy quickly pulled on his coat, hat, and shoes and picked his own flashlight and bag up again. The two quietly snuck around the side of the house and rode their bicycles up the street. We're coming Rhett. We're coming!
It was in the late hours of the night that two calls came. The first was from Wolverine.
"Jean, Kurt, I got 'im." Logan's rough voice said bluntly over the com-link. "Kid was smart. Doubled back on his tracks an left a bunch of false trails. He's hidin' out in the basement of his house!"
"On our way." Jean answered. "Any idea what his power is?"
"Well he aint a teleporter like the fuzzy elf over there. Other'n that I aint got a clue."
Jean nodded, relieved. The last thing they needed was another Kurt, fuzzy or no. "Ok Wolverine, sit tight, we'll be there as soon as we can."
The second call was from Patrick's wife, Mrs. Donahue. He paused in his search as his phone went off. As the rest of the search party respectfully came to a halt to wait for their leader, Jean and Kurt began stealthily edging back and away.
Patrick Donahue flipped the phone open when he saw the caller ID said it was the home phone. "Hello?...Slow down now Mary…..Ok, I'll be home as soon as we can!" He flipped the phone shut and grabbed the radio off his belt.
"Listen up lads! Mary just found the creature hidin' in our basement! She's locked it in an is waitin' for us men folk t' get back and take care of the beast! Move out!"
Jean and Kurt looked at each other in horror. Of all the rotten luck! The same man from earlier in the evening clapped Kurt on the back. "Now you city folks can see how the country folk deal with the muties! We do it right!"
They were swept away with what was quickly becoming a mob. They allowed it. After all, they were all going to the same place.
Mrs. Donahue was waiting at the door when they arrived. The minute she saw Patrick she rushed out to him with a frightened cry. "Patrick!"
Patrick pushed her aside, intent on getting into the house and dealing with what he found there. "It's alright now Mary, I'll deal wit' the monster. He's in the basement ye said?"
Mary nodded as they all entered the house. "Yes but…."
Patrick wasn't paying any attention. He stormed through the living room, into the kitchen and flung open the basement door, leveling his shotgun at the empty darkness.
"COME OUT!" He screamed into the dark stairwell, his Irish accent becoming more pronounced in his agitation. There was a worlds worth of pain, betrayal, and rage in his voice. "COME UP OUT O THE DARK YE FELL CREATURE!"
"Patrick, stop!" Mrs. Donahue cried, flinging herself on his arm, and pulling the gun away from the doorway. "HE HAS ERICKA AND JEREMY!"