The mission had gone terribly wrong. It should have been a simple research mission, almost a training exercise. Shaw and his team were an unexpected roadblock; they should've been hiding halfway around the world but instead they were causing disruption and delays.

In the warren of corridors and rooms below the covert scientific facility Sean was at a considerable disadvantage facing off against Angel. Neither one could effectively utilize their flight ability underground, but she could still spit acid with deadly accuracy. Charles ordered Hank to abandon the files he was supposed to be gathering from the lab to fight along Sean and keep Angel at bay.

With a resounding crash, a bank of steel file cabinets crashed down on the unfortunate, yet dapperly dressed, Riptide. Charles quirked an eyebrow in Erik's direction, "That's becoming something of a habit, my friend." Erik didn't respond beyond looking smugly satisfied.

With Angel occupied and Riptide out of commission, Charles turned his mental attention to the others. Azazel was infuriatingly difficult to pin down because of his incessant transporting, and Shaw never removed that damned helmet. Unable to connect to the members of the opposite team, Charles focused on Alex who had been on the far side of the lab guarding the west entrance before everything fell apart.

Alex was on the receiving end of a sound beating at the hands of Azazel. Alex's power still worked best focused on a stationary target that was some distance away. Azazel didn't stay in one place long enough to Alex to level a blast at him, and when he appeared it was in close quarters; he effectively used his fists and his tail to land blow after blow, keeping Alex off balance and igniting his volatile temper.

Charles was in motion an instant after he made contact. Erik fell in immediately beside him. "Alex is in trouble. The teleporter…"

A wave of horror and panic from Alex stopped Charles in his tracks. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. Erik steadied him with a hand to his shoulder. "Charles! What is it?"

Charles didn't have time to explain. He couldn't stop to spell out that Azazel had finally managed to do what he had set out to do – goad Alex into releasing a blast of energy; a blast of energy that was absorbed by Shaw, supercharging the quasi-immortal mutant. There was no time to detail that he knew that this was Azazel's plan because the red mutant had stopped teleporting, trapping the weakened, disoriented Alex in his grasp. He couldn't clarify that Alex's emotions were at a heightened pitch because the last time Shaw had absorbed a discharge like that, he used it to kill one of Alex's own teammates and the young man was terrified that he would be a witness and unwilling weapon in a murder like that once again.

Charles snapped his head up and met Erik's gaze with frightening intensity. "It's Shaw."

The mention of the older mutant never failed to elicit a response from Erik, but Charles was glad to note that Erik's concern for Alex overrode his more irrational impulses. Together they rushed forward and took the door.

The western door of the lab opened onto a much smaller antechamber. The room was in shambles, the result of the intense, if one-sided fight, which had just recently taken place. Azazel was situated directly across from the door; Alex was pinned tightly against the taller mutant's chest with a wicked blade pressed against his throat.

Erik immediately whipped the blade out of Azazel's hand, but just as quickly the tip of Azazel's knife-sharp tail took its place pushing into the tender flesh beneath Alex's jaw and drawing blood. Alex winced and turned his head to the left, trying to release the pressure. The sinister looking mutant chuckled and whispered something in Russian causing Alex to strain to get even further away.

Charles reached out with his mind and tried to freeze Azazel, but nothing happened.

"What's the matter there, Professor? Having a little trouble getting your powers to work?" Shaw sauntered toward Azazel and Alex, shimmering slightly with the power he had absorbed but not yet released. "Didn't you know I got the whole gang back together?"

Shaw gestured grandly to his right and a figure clad in a white jumpsuit stepped from the shadows.

"Emma," Erik spat disgustedly.

She tipped her head coolly toward him. "Erik."

"It looks like we're at something of an impasse." Shaw gestured broadly bringing attention back to himself. "You and Emma cancel each other out, Charles. Pity." He made a face of false sympathy.

Shaw walked slowly in front of Azazel. "You, Erik, cannot strike with any of the weapons at hand before Azazel cuts the throat of your young friend here."

Shaw eyed Alex with an uncomfortably predatory gaze and turned to graze the teen's cheek with his knuckles. "He' hübscher Junge S.-A. sehr, ja?"

Charles could hear the translation in Erik's head - He's a very pretty boy, yes? - as Erik's blood ran cold hearing the tongue of his childhood from the mouth of his chief tormentor.

"While I…" Shaw turned to face Charles and Erik once again, "I am resonating with the power that this young man has supplied to me." His face stretched into a parody of a grin as he barked a laugh. "It appears we're not at an impasse after all. You see, I have the upper hand."

Charles could hear in his mind Hank and Sean heading their way. Emma was busy blocking Charles from taking action against her team; she didn't bother to prevent him from communicating with his own. Charles urged the young mutants to their location praying that the advantage of increased numbers and surprise would work in their favor.

"Ich genieße, herauszufinden, wie man seine Energie freisetzt." Gently Shaw traced the outline of Alex's breastplate, using the young mutant's power to melt the metal and separate it from the uniform and sensors beneath it. Alex leaned backward into his captor, but could not escape the smoldering metal that bit into his flesh.

~I will enjoy finding out how to unlock his power.~ The translation in Erik's mind was accompanied by disabling torrent of emotions. It wasn't that Erik was imagining what Shaw might do to Alex, it was that his prior experience provided him first-hand knowledge of what would happen if Shaw got Alex in his clutches.

Alex's plate fell to the floor with a clang interrupting Shaw's monologue. Though he did not have the benefit of getting a translation from Erik's mind, Alex had no trouble picking up on the unhealthy interest Shaw was directing at him.

Shaw laid his hand flat against Alex's exposed chest in a gesture that was far too intimate for Charles' liking. Charles could feel Alex desperately trying to control his reaction to Shaw's touch, but being restrained by Azazel had triggered a panic reaction that was quickly spiraling out of control.

Shaw cocked his head to the side as if listening. He nodded to himself and said, "I hear your reinforcements coming. It's time to go." Shaw nodded toward Emma who moved to place her hand on Azazel's shoulder. "I'll be in touch."

Shaw released the pent-up energy he'd absorbed from Alex just as Beast burst through the doorway. Alex screamed in warning and denial; Charles mentally *pushed* Beast out of the line of fire; Erik threw up a barrier built of every metal scrap in the room between Shaw and Charles. Between one blink and the next, Azazel had transported all of them, including Alex, God knows where.

The afterimages of the light in such an enclosed space played behind Charles' closed eyelids. But they could not erase the last image he had of Alex pleading with his eyes to be saved.

He would save him. No matter what the cost.