24 January

Dust. -n.1. earth or other matter in fine, dry particles 2. a cloud of finely powdered earth or other matter in the air3. any finely powdered substance, as sawdust 4. the ground; the earth's surface 5. the substance to which something, as the dead human body, is ultimately reduced by disintegration or decay; earthly remains 6. a. ashes, refuse, etc b. junk 7. a low or humble condition 8. anything worthless 9. disturbance; turmoil 10. gold dust 11. the mortal body of a human being 12. a single particle or grain 13. money; cash -v.14. to wipe the dust from 15. to sprinkle with a powder or dust 16. to stew or sprinkle 17. to soil with dust; make dusty 18. to wipe dust from furniture, woodwork, etc 19. to become dusty 20. to apply dust or powder to a plant, one's body, etc.

"No powers," Kurt said firmly. "This is a skills drill only, so we're working on personal technique."

"Personal? Isn't this a team exercise?" Alison asked. Her brows pulled together out of confusion, but her arms stayed crossed under her breasts.

Kurt nodded. "Kind of. Don't hurt any of your own and working together as a team or pair won't be frowned upon. The main goal, though, isn't communication today."

Ororo picked up where Kurt left off. "We're focusing more on teamwork without a critical sense to aide our decisions, if that helps any. You want to stay alive - or in this case, on your feet - and that is the more important goal. You are versing the other team."

"Like lazer tag. That's a team game, but you play more individually than as a team. Except in this exercise, taking down a team member is akin to friendly fire. You can take out your own teammate, but that's not the point of this exercise," Kurt finished.

Sean narrowed his eyes in thought. "If we're not communicatin', what's the point of doin' this as a team?"

"Because in confusing circumstances, you need to learn when to work individually and how to translate that into working as a team. Communication just isn't the goal today," Ororo explained.

"Maybe it's best if we start the simulation now and answer questions after the first round. You want to be the winning team. Fight against the other team, but please don't inflict lasting damage. We're all on the same side in the end. If you're off-balanced and take a fall, the opposing person can 'finish you off,' but that should be more of a mimicry. Once you're out, you're out. Sit there and wait the simulation out." Kurt looked everyone over. "Okay?"

"Yeah," Bobby said with a quick nod of his head. "'Cuz I don't get it."

"What's new, homme, hmm?" Remy smirked.

Taking in an exaggerated breath, Kurt turned around to give a thumbs-up at the control booth. "We're ready," he called.

Almost instantly, the cold metal walls of the Danger Room disappeared in a cloud of thick dust. Rogue took a couple unwilling steps backwards, blinking in surprise. Her sudden intake of air didn't help her out. Instead, she inhaled that same dust into her lungs. She immediately began coughing and her eyes began to water.

She didn't have control over her respiratory system yet when a dark form materialized in front of her. She quickly scrambled away from the attacking form, still coughing to get enough air. She couldn't hear anyone or anything else around her over her own sounds, making her position widely known.

"I got yuir back, love," Rogue heard Banshee's voice from beside her. She startled, preparing to wheel away again, until her rational mind told her that he was on her side. If he said he had her back, then she better believe him.

"Thanks," she wheezed. Sheer will fought the coughs back until her breathing was only ragged, but so that she wasn't giving away her and Banshee's positions so easily.

Rogue turned around just enough so that she was back-to-back with Sean, her eyes scanning the thick cloud for any movement. She couldn't see anything, but that didn't mean that no one was there. "Watch it!" Sean suddenly barked. Rogue turned around again just in time to block an attack from Iceman. He took a step back to regain his balance, but as soon as he had it, he lashed out with another punch. Once again, Rogue lifted up an arm to guide the fist elsewhere so as to preserve her torso. That was what Nightcrawler had been teaching her. Let her hands and forearms take the brunt of the attack, but don't let anyone get to her chest, throat, or face if she could help it. Use their momentum against themselves.

"I'm down!" Banshee cried a moment later. Rogue didn't hear or see what had happened to him. She turned to see where he went, but as soon as she did so, Iceman finally did get a hit in. He clipped her jaw, knocking her off-balance. She whipped out an arm to regain it. Instead of finding her center of balance again, Iceman ducked low and knocked her feet out from underneath her. She hit the ground. Hard. In one more movement, he tapped her with his toe. "Out."

As his back was turned, Dazzler came up behind him. Before he was even aware of her presence, she round house kicked him to the ground and pointed her fingers at his chest as if she was holding a fake gun. "Watch your back," she said with a wink. With that, she flounced off.

Before long, the Danger Room cleared up in an instant. Rogue looked around her to see Nightcrawler and Psylocke still on their feet, but everyone else on the ground. Gambit caught Rogue's eyes with his own - he was laying on the ground not too far off - but Rogue quickly looked away.

"Uh, not bad," Kurt said, though his tone suggested a different story. "This time, you're dead if an enemy tags you out." He looked over at Banshee. "You can't speak when you're dead." Instead of looking sheepish, Sean smiled. "Everyone up and let's try again?"

"Wait, I have a question," Bobby said. He wiped off invisible dust from his uniform as he scrambled to his feet.

"Ja?"

"I don't see how this relates to a real fight."

"That's ... not a question," Betsy pointed out.

"Very easy," Kurt explained, as if his statement really was a question. "Some people fight better in the dark. The dark deprives you all of sight, just as this exercise did. Plus, in this, you have to learn to control your breathing." This time his gaze fell on Rogue, though a soft smile graced his blue face.