A/N: Once again – I am not the author of the first chapter of this story. If anyone has any knowledge as to the identity of that author, please let me know so that I may give credit where credit is due.


Part 2:

It had been three days since the disappearance of the four Generation X students. Three days of solid searching, and nothing.

Emma Frost was at the end of her rope. Something had to give.

No one remembered how the note arrived, it was just suddenly sitting there upon Emma's desk. The envelope was a pale cream with no return address marring its surface.

Emma ran a finger gently across the seal, an uneasy feeling settling deep within her. Annoyed with herself, she tore the envelope open and removed the single sheet within.

Four pawns removed from this board.

Gone for good? Or just transposed?

White Queen to Black King.

There was no signature, but Emma Frost, once known as the White Queen, didn't need one.

'Playing both sides of the board, Gamesmaster? Just like you.' Her eyes narrowed further, 'If Shaw doesn't get you, be sure that I will.'

She took a deep breath, centered herself, then let her senses reach out towards the Hellfire Club's Black King. 'All right, Mr. Shaw, let's see what you had to do with my students' disappearance.' She had no qualms about taking the information she needed, unlike Professor Xavier, not when her students could be in danger.

Even at this distance, Emma had no trouble rummaging through Shinobi Shaw's mind.

She picked through the thoughts and memories, careful to leave no trace of her trespass. 'Wouldn't do to tip my hand this early in the game.' She was only vaguely aware of slipping back into the role she had once worn as the White Queen, viewing the workings of the world as entertainment. 'Nothing matters except getting back those kids.'

A seemingly random thought chain caught her attention and she soon found the information she seeked. Coming out of her trance, she strode across the room, intent on finding Krager's workspace.

Emma Frost and Sean Cassidy crossed the lab to Dr. Henry McCoy's workspace. The doctor had spent the past week turning Krager's lab upside down looking for anything that would help them find Angelo, Jubilee, Paige, and Jonothon, and had finally found something.

"What is it?" Emma looked up from the spread blueprints.

Dr. McCoy endeavored to explain. "Schematics for a transdimentional transporter. An absolutely brilliant design. You enter the coordinates and the device translates you to the precise location - but in a separate dimension. A parallel world if you will."

"And this is what happened to our students? They were sent to a parallel universe?"

The Beast nodded. "According to some notes, the device was to be used to eliminate any opposing mutants by sending them where they would not be able to interfere in any way." He paused his face growing somber.

Sean nodded towards the two devices upon the table. "How long will it take to get one of those contraptions ready?"

"Finding the components will take some time. Luckily, Krager's notes give me a descent point from which to start from."

"Why can't we use one of these?"

Dr. McCoy sighed. "Krager was a lunatic, but a genius. He added a nasty surprise to his device. If a mutant is caught up in this, their abilities are neutralized."

Sean and Emma exchanged glances.P

"Is it permanent?" Emma could feel herself begin to panic. To be in a foreign, possibly hostile place without your abilities to fall back upon...She shook her head, pushing the fear aside.

"I cannot tell. The preliminary experiments didn't go further than acknowledgement of the inhibitors affect. Though, I believe that the inhibitor begins to lose its effectiveness within three or four weeks. Krager patterned the device along the same lines as the inhibitor collars, but the design is flawed, allowing for the fading of the effects after an undetermined time period."

He gestured towards the schematics. "Unfortunately, I have not been able to isolate the precise

mechanisms that induce the inhibitors. Take one section apart and the entire thing is useless. I'm going to have to build a device, without the inhibitor, from scratch. But finding the corresponding components will take some time."

"How long?" Emma's tone was clipped.

"Three and a half weeks."

Both teachers shook their heads in unison. "Any way of speeding that up?"

"Not unless you know of a dimensional teleporter with previous experience in hopping parallel universes."

For the first time since the students' disappearance, Sean Cassidy gave a slow smile.

Emma picked up on his thoughts and a genuine smile graced her own features. "I'm sure he won't mind helping."

Nightcrawler rubbed his head wearily then glanced at the equally weary Emma Frost.

"Once more, Liebchen?"

Emma shot the German teleporter a look. "Sure you're up for it?"

"I'll admit, it isn't the most pleasant of experiences, but if it allows us to locate the children..." Nightcrawler shrugged and prepared himself once more for Emma's psychic intrusion.

Wolverine sat on the other side of the room with Dr. McCoy and Sean. "What exactly is the Ice Witch doin' to the elf?"

The Beast responded. "Since Nightcrawler is the only one with cross dimensional experiences, Emma is linking her mind to his in order to get a "scent", if you will, for the dimension or parallel universe that the children were sent to. Krager left enough notes that the position should be easy to recognise once found."

"They've been at it for two weeks now."

"There are a lot of dimensions," came the sober response.

Wolverine nodded towards the now complete device. "And that? How does that fit into the equation?"

"This will allow Nightcrawler to teleportmultiple beings across dimensions without the usual stress to his own system."

Wolverine studied the device with some misgivings. "Yer sure this'll work? The elf can handle it?"

"We've already tested it, mien freund. It works perfectly," the blue furred mutant reassured.

Sean broke in. "Anything?"P

Both telepath and teleporter showed relieved smiles. "We found it."P

Wolverine leapt to his feet. "What are we waiting for? Let's get going."

Beast raised a hand in caution. "I know you're anxious to retrieve Jubilee, but we can't go off halfcocked."P

"I promised Jubes I'd always be there for her. Now, she needs my help. We know where they are. I ain't waiting any longer. I say we go now!"

"What you need is a plan. Nightcrawler will need an image inducer so as not to stand out to that world's inhabitants. Once you arrive there, you'll need to locate the children. So Emma will need to do a psychic reconnaissance, while you..."

Sean broke in gently. "Whatever the plan is, we won't be leaving until tomorra."

Wolverine tuned on the Irish mutant. "And why would that be?"

Sean jerked his head towards their companions. "Because they're asleep."

The Beast helped strap the transport device to Nightcrawler's back. "I apologize for the weight, Nightcrawler. When you return I'll work on making a more manageable one for you."

"I thank you, mien freund."

"Are we ready?" Wolverine's voice was little more than a raspy growl, his impatience easy to read.P

Nightcrawler flipped his image inducer on and the features of a dark-haired, brown eyed gypsy effectively hid the blue fur, forked tail, and yellow eyes that were his natural features. "Ready."

He gripped the shoulders of Emma and Sean, nodding for Wolverine to do the same. "Hang on tight, it's quite a ride."

"One thing before you go," the Beast interrupted. "Take this. It indicates mutant activity. Our wayward students might be displaying sporadic powers. This will help you pinpoint their location."

Emma took the hand held computer with a nod.

"Wish us luck." The teleporter closed his eyes and the quartet disappeared in a cloud of brimstone smoke.

Beast stared at the spot for a long moment before whispering, "Luck."

Paige stared out the glass towards the group of nurses, orderlies, and hospital guards that were racing down the hallway in their direction. A smile curled on her lips as the young girl turned to look at her companions. "They're coming," came the sing-song whisper.

She never even flinched as the window shattered, a bullet whizzing past her ear.

Jonothon tackled Jubilee and the two fell to the ground as the projectile went through the space they had just been occupying.

Angelo dropped and reached out for Paige in an instinctive move. There was no way he

could reach her, the distance between them being a good five feet or more.

In a flash of pain that seemed to encompass his entire body, Angelo's fingers elongated and

Wrapped themselves around her ankles of their own volition.

Not stopping to question the unexpected turn of events, Skin yanked hard pulling Paige down and closer to the rest of the group. Another shot ricocheted through the room, pinning them down.

Glancing at his hand, Angelo noticed that his skin had returned to its "normal" gray color.

The four stared at one another in stunned incredulity. With shaking hands, Paige reached up with hooked fingers and began frantically scrabbling at her skin. The others looked on anxiously, occasionally checking on the "progress" of the hospital's security.

With a determined look, Husk grasped a flap of skin and *Skrippp!*

Jubilee's laughter echoed down the corridor, causing several nurses to pause inforeboding. "Fuck, yeah! Like ta see them stop us now!"

Husk flashed a stainless steel grin. "Shall we plow through them?"

Jonothon risked another peek out the door. He shook his head, his lips twisted in a sardonic smile. "Think you can put a hole through a few walls, sunshine?"

Paige's smile widened. She rose to a runner's crouch, and in one swift movement raced towards and through the nearest wall. In quick secession, Angelo, Jonothon, and Jubilee chased after her, but not before Jubilee gave a one-fingered salute to the stunned looking guards. "Later fer you, mutherfuckers!"

They came out into the hospital's cafeteria. "Which way?" Paige cried.

Angelo pointed towards the kitchens. "There's a back door. Leads to loading docks, chica. Head for that."

Jubilee gave a yelp as guards began entering the cafeteria, waving their guns around.

Jonothon shouted, "Go! Go! Go! Go!" He picked up a chair and flung it with deadly accuracy at a group of three orderlies, his panic and hatred giving him a much needed adrenaline boost. The crunch of bones was audible. Jonothon smiled, his eyes dancing madly.

Jubilee crowed in triumph, her own chair also hitting its mark. Paige smashed through the gate securing the back door, running over two security guards in the process.

One guard raised his gun to fire at Angelo. Jubilee flung a hand out at the man, a stream of fireworks slamming into his face. Shrieking, the man jerked about, one hand clutching his face. His trigger finger jerked spasmodically. The gun went off and Jubilee watched in horror as the projectile struck Jonothon in the chest. The young man tumbled to the ground with a cry.

Paige, being already outside, didn't see Jonothon fall. Angelo paused in the doorway, his face contorted, torn between going to his friend, and getting out of this hellhole. Jubilee raced for the fallen young man. "Jonothon!"P

He was curled up on himself. "Get outta here, ya stupid git."

She grabbed his arm, trying to get him to his feet. "Let's go! Get up!"

He pushed her way with one hand, rolling over onto his knees. His voice harshly in her mind. ::Get out of here. Now!::

He moved his hand and Jubilee's eyes widened at the red and orange flames that poured out of the wound. Jonothon locked gazes with her. Pain, anger, and a fierce satisfaction could be seen in his eyes. Behind them all, a tinge of madness stared back at her.

Jubilee rose to her feet, his agonized voice lending speed to her flight. ::Hurry!::

Jubilee hit the door, shoving Angelo out onto the concrete. "Run!"

Paige took a step towards the door, "Jono?"

"Is about to go up like a rocket! Run, girl!"

Angelo took one last look through the door, grabbed one of Paige's arms and took off.

Jubilee had her other arm and the three raced for the street.

Jonothon rose from his knees, his hands hiding the fact that no blood was seeping from his chest wound. He glared at the approaching guards and orderlies, his face twisted in a snarl.

Ignoring the pitiful mewing of the injured guard, Jonothon slid over and kicked him viciously in the head, knocking him out. Perhaps a mercy, considering what would happen next.

Another shot rang through the air, catching him in the leg and Jonothon's tentative control broke. With a searing mental scream of agony, Chamber literally exploded in a rolling ball of fire.

Nightcrawler, Emma, Sean, and Wolverine flickered into existence in a flash of brimstone smoke on the outskirts of a town.

Taking the hand held detector from Emma, Sean turned it on, scanning for any indication of mutant activity. Emma watched him for a moment, then closed her eyes, beginning her own type of search.

Wolverine gave a snort, then put his own particular talents to use. His enhanced sense of smell and hearing might be able to pick up something that the others missed. "Come on, Jubes. Send me a sign that you're about, darlin'."

Nightcrawler saw a glow spark off in the distance moments before the quartet were nearly knocked off their feet by a powerful shock wave. "I think you've just got your sign, mien freund."

Emma and Sean both agreed. "The indicator's goin' off the charts. Whatever's happenin' over there, it's definitely big."

Angelo, Paige, and Jubilee were thrown several feet as an explosion ripped through the walls of the building, spilling out into the parking lot. Each sat up awkwardly as they watched the building that had once housed the hospital's cafeteria and kitchens burn.

Their eyes cold, their faces blank, they waited.

Screams and shouts could be heard from the building as figures raced about. The three

teens watched silently, unable, or, more likely, unwilling to move to help those who were obviously injured. A man, an orderly by the looks of what remained of his uniform, ran at them, screaming for help, his hair ablaze.

With a disgusted look on his face, Angelo threw a loop of skin at the man, twirling him about and shoving him away, uncaring as to the man's future.

Dimly, howls of terror and joy could be heard from all over the hospital as the patients expressed themselves over the destruction of their prison.

More and more people streamed out of the destroyed building, some carrying the severely injured. Though none looked capable of trying to establish any kind of retribution against the mutants, Jubilee held her hands up, ready to blast the next person to get near them.

A horrible cracking noise heralded the collapse of the roof. "Jonothon," Paige whispered.

None of the three mutants noticed as the stainless steel skin that Paige had husked into began to crack and flake off, or that Angelo's skin had reverted back to the tones of a normal Latino boy. It wasn't until Jubilee tried to fire off a firecracker at a woman who had wondered too close for comfort that they realised that their powers had deserted them once more.

The wailing of a siren galvanised the students into action. Unfortunately, as the fire truck came racing down the drive way at them, they all chose to flee in different directions.

Jubilee crouched by the roots of a tree near the edge of the hospital grounds. She wanted to find the others, but the glow from the fires were the only illumination, and their flickering light made it difficult to differentiate friend from foe. Using a tree branch, a rock, and her own bare hands, the young girl had already warded off the unwanted attentions of some nosy security guards and firemen.

"Think they're gonna get me back in that place, they got another think coming. Ya here me, mutherfuckers? I ain't playing your game no more!"

She went very still suddenly as a whiff of smell came to her. 'Brimstone. Where have I smelled that before?' She dismissed the question before it could take root, her main concern tying to find the others while remaining uncaptured.

Angelo stared at the burning building. The firemen had arrived in record time, but not

before the fires had jumped to the main building.

The young man thought about going in to rescue the patients that were trapped within, but something held him back. Perhaps it was that he didn't want to place himself in any more danger, or that the firemen seemed to have everything under control, or perhaps it was the fact that there appeared to be a steady stream of patients wandering about the hospital grounds, as if someone else had already unlocked all the doors to their prison.

Angelo shrugged philosophically. "Ain't my concern, no more. I'm free, and I ain't going back into that loco house, not for anything."

He raised his head as something flashed across the sky, a slight vibration from some high-pitched sound shook him, reminding him of something. But he pushed the thought away as an orderly moved in his direction. 'Ain't catching me that easily, hombre.'

He slipped into the shadows, hoping to come across the others soon.

Once Nightcrawler had teleported them closer to the area, Wolverine ranged out by himself. His nose wrinkled at the scent of burning flesh, and his enhanced hearing could hear the moans and screams of pain of those who had been caught in the blast.

One side of the building had been completely blown outward, sending shrapnel and flames several hundred yards up and out into the air. The Canadian shook his head at the destruction.

"Somethin' happened here. How much of this was your doing, Jubes?"

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man in a white uniform dragging a young girl by the wrist. She had dug her heels in, not making it easy on him, but the uniformed man was determined to have her follow him.

The wind shifted and Wolverine caught Paige's scent. 'Now what the hell is he doing with her?'

Paige kicked out at the man, catching him in the ass. She tossed some comment at him, and the guard turned and slapped her hard across the face, dropping her to her knees. As he raised a billy club over the cowering girl, Wolverine's eyes narrowed and a haze of red covered his vision as he charged the man.

With a guttural snarl, he knocked the guard off and away from Paige. Feeling his claws slide into position, he gave the white-faced man a moment to reconsider his prior action before slashing at the air in front of his face. With a bleat, the man dropped the club and turned tail.

Wolverine turned to Paige, a satisfied smirk on his face. He failed to miss the slender figure that had emerged from the burning building and was making its way towards them.

Paige lay half stunned, a large welt rising on her face, a corner of her mouth bleeding. She looked up at him, her blue eyes wide in an emaciated face, which looked even thinner due to the brutally short hair.

Wolverine felt his heart go out to the girl, she looked so scared. 'What the hell had happened to her?' In his gentlest voice, he tried to calm. "Come on, darlin'. I ain't gonna hurt you."

At his words, her face drained completely of color. She drew in a deep breath and screamed, scooting backwards, away from him.

Wolverine was completely taken aback. He took a step closer, trying to give her a hand up. Paige shied away from his touch, still screaming. Her hands scrabbled at the ground until they came into contact with a branch. Wielding it wildly, Paige rose to a crouch, still backing away.

Not understanding the situation completely, Wolverine felt his annoyance creep in. "Put down the stick, Paige. What's wrong with you?"

Before he could take another step, he felt a weight descend upon his back, making him catch his balance. A biting pain racked his back, his healing factor dealing with the wound almost as quickly as it was made.

Falling back on instinct, Wolverine reached up and flipped his assailant over his shoulder to land heavily on the ground.

The figure landed on its back. A glint off the metal clutched in its hand warned Wolverine in time to avoid being hamstrung. Quick as lightning, Wolverine struck out, sending the large butcher knife flying in one direction, and his assailant in another.

Before he could stop her, Paige rushed over to the fallen figure with a low guttural cry.

"Paige, get away from him!"

She ignored him, instead helping the figure to its feet. As it rose erect, Wolverine could see that it was a nothing more than a boy. Tall, almost completely skin and bones, and wearing fragments of charred clothing, but still, just a boy. The mouth was twisted in pain, the lips, white, thin lines in an angular face. The boy's scent was obscured by the scent of burning flesh that hung on him.

Wolverine made as if to move forward.

Another knife appeared in the boy's hands and he flashed Wolverine a look that stopped older man cold. It was the same look that stared back at him from the mirror most mornings. A murderous rage that simmered below the surface, just begging for an excuse to be released. Madness danced there as well, held in check by a fierce intelligence.

Seeing Wolverine rooted to the spot in surprise, the boy took hold of Paige's hand and pulled her gently behind him, pushing her towards the edge of the compound and the woods that lined the area.

"I - I thought you were..." Wolverine caught her whispered query.

The boy shook his head. "Couldn't leave you, sunshine."

The clipped British accent, as well as the overprotectiveness the boy displayed, finally placed his name in Wolverine's memory, though the Canadian had never seen what the boy had looked like before his mutation activated.


Jonothon looked startled, some of the rage dying in his hazel eyes.

Wolverine took that for a good sign and continued. "I ain't here to hurt you, or Paige. I came to bring you home."

Jonothon and Paige exchanged a glance, one almost of relief, but also tinged with disbelief.

"Home?" Jonothon lowered the knife.

It was then that a group of orderlies and guards arrived on the scene. "There's a couple." One pointed to the two teens. Another gestured towards Wolverine while a third limbered

up a rifle. "Mister, better stand clear. We've got to bring these patients back to the hospital."

Before Wolverine could reply, a tranquilliser dart found its mark in Paige's arm.

She gave a wordless shriek, the drug running quickly through her system. Before collapsing to the ground, she threw her branch at the orderlies, snarling as the weak toss landed short.

Wolverine bared his claws, about to wade into the orderlies himself, but Jonothon was even quicker. With a flick of his wrist, he sent his knife flying through the air. It grazed the shooter's arm, the tranquilliser gun clattering to the ground.

Emma Frost was nearly knocked unconscious by the unexpected wave of emotions that washed over her as she neared the building.

"Dear God," she whispered. Hurriedly, she closed her mind to the madness that screamed at her, her own memories of being held in such a place trying to push themselves to the forefront of her mind.

Waving off Nightcrawler's concerned glance, Emma quickly regained her equilibrium. "Banshee, Nightcrawler, check the area. See if you can find anyone who can tell us what's going on, or if you can find any of the students. I'm assuming Wolverine is doing the same."

The two men nodded and headed off in different directions.

Taking a deep breath, Emma cautiously lowered her shields, hoping she would be able to keep from being overwhelmed.

*Pain, fear, joy, madness, satisfaction, anger, despair, confusion...*

It was hard to focus on any one individual. The patients - 'Prisoners,' she reminded herself - were broadcasting their emotions erratically, the jumble of voices hard to differentiate.

Many were beyond the point of madness, hopelessly lost. Others still held on to some concept of self, recognising that something had occurred. A few poor souls had no business being there at all, previously sane individuals who were slowly being driven insane due to conditions they have no control over. 'Is this what is happening to my students?'

Emma cursed. She couldn't pinpoint the minds of her students. 'Why? Why can't I? They are my students. I know them. This should not be difficult. Not difficult at all.'

Several people in faded denim institutional clothing wandered past her, heading for the woods, oblivious of her presence or not sensing a threat from her. Emma's eyes narrowed as she noticed an increasing stream of patients racing out of the hospital - 'Prison.'

Briefly looking into a slightly saner mind, she found that the patient had experienced a bright flash of light. When the light had vanished, he discovered his restraints unlocked and the door hanging ajar and took the opportunity to escape.

She would have dismissed it as an hallucination on the part of the patient, had she not found the same memory in several minds. All showing a bright light freeing them. Unable to deduce what they had experienced, Emma let them go, concentrating on finding someone in charge.

Turning a corner, Emma was nearly run over by a large, portly man wearing a crumpled dark gray business suit. Eyes wide, and remarkably lucid, the man tried to dodge out of her way. She grabbed his arm, freezing him in his tracks as a particularly vivid thought chain jumped out at her. *Oh, God, they were telling the truth. This can't be happening. How can this possibly be happening? Oh, God, they were telling the truth.*

The litany chased itself around and around in his mind, accompanied by a flash of Paige bashing a hole in a wall, and Jubilee shooting off a spark in someone's face.

Desperate for information, and feeling overwhelmed by all the mad tinged voices screaming in her skull, Emma Frost latched onto the panicked man, forcing herself into his mind.

What she found there sealed his fate.

Martin Briggs had been the Director at the Institute for the Psychologically Damaged for almost twenty years. It was an easy job, especially since the security system involving surveillance cameras in every room had been installed. Briggs didn't have much to do with the day to day, personal dealings with the patients, he felt safer viewing them and their various demonstrations of dementia from the comfort of his office, allowing the nurses, orderlies, and hired security guards free-reign. He communicated what he felt needed to be known through walkie-talkies that each member of the staff carried.

Physical, mental, and emotional abuse was something that occurred on a daily basis here at the Institute. Briggs knew what his staff was doing to the patients, but he didn't care. As long as it didn't officially inconvenience him, he allowed the staff to do what they wanted. After all, it wasn't as if anyone cared about these people. Otherwise, why were they here?

Over the years, he had even come to enjoy some of the more interesting spectacles, and he would watch the video feeds avidly.

Briggs had watched the new group of inmates with fascination when they first arrived. He designated them as Patients 552, 553, 554, and 555. They were obviously insane, and the insane no longer had even the most basic of human rights; there was no one to stand up for them anyway.

Referring to them as numbers, instead of names, allowed Briggs to depersonalise them even further, leaving behind no guilt as he indulged his own pleasures.

It was unusual for such widely diverse people to share in the same type of delusion. How had a Jap, a Spick, a Southern Hick, and a Brit gotten together anyway? Imagine, believing you were from another universe, one in which you had special powers and abilities? Preposterous. But for weeks, the four youths had stuck to their stories, never deviating from their initial beliefs.

It was generally the case, that after a few weeks of "therapy" the patient would abandon their flights of fancy and begin cooperating in accepting the correct reality. But even after the intense beatings, the rapes, and the stint with anti-hallucinogen drugs, the four continued to cling to their delusions.

It had come to a head a few hours ago. Briggs had recommended another round of drugs for Patients 552, 553, 554, and 555. The four were in the med. room, a group of orderlies standing guard, when all hell broke loose. In a matter of seconds, the nurse and orderlies were down, possibly dead, while three of the four inmates collectively kicked and hit at their keepers.

Frantically punching in the alarm code, Briggs felt his breath come fast as he directed a few security guards, orderlies, and nurses to the med. room.

He believed that everything would soon be under control and the four patients would be given a severe "lesson." His breath caught in his throat as Patient 554 dashed across the med. room and crashed "through" the opposite wall.

'Where did she get the metal from?' The girl seemed clad in a suit of armor. The others quickly followed her, but not without a heartfelt one-fingered salute from Patient 552.

For a moment, both he and the guards were frozen in shock. Then Briggs barked into the receiver. "They've made it to the cafeteria. Follow them through. Sector 2, cut them off from the other side." He flipped switches until his screen showed what was occurring in the cafeteria.

Patient 555, the same who had thrown the syringe with such deadly accuracy, was again demonstrating his aim. A metal and plastic chair knocked down a cluster of two orderlies and a guard. Patient 552 had also knocked down an orderly with her own flung chair. Patient 554 was already across the room and braced to punch another hole, this one through the door to the outside. Briggs watched as the girl crashed through the door, knocking aside two guards who waited on the other side.

A guard had Patient 553 in his sights. 'Finally, we'll have at least one out of the way.'

Before he could squeeze off a shot, Patient 552 flung her hands out, a stream of light flying from her hands and smashing into the guard's face. 'What the hell?'

The shriek echoed tinnily in the office. Briggs watched in surprise as the man fell, the gun

going off. The bullet struck Patient 555, and the boy fell to the ground.

After a brief conversation which the microphones were unable to pick up half of, Patient 552 ran off, shoving the Hispanic boy out of the building.

Patient 555 stood, his hands clutching his chest, face a mask of pain. At a noise from the injured guard, the patient kicked the man in the head, knocking him unconscious, possibly killing him. Briggs couldn't be sure which. He yelled into the receiver.

"Take him out. Now!"

Another guard squeezed off a shot, but it was poorly aimed and only caught the patient in the leg. At that moment, the patient threw his head back, eyes closed, mouth wide open in a silent scream.

Briggs felt his brain flame, a headache blossoming as he imagined in vividdetail what that scream would have sounded like directly in his brain. A flash of light encompassed the boy and the video equipment fell dark.

Standing so quickly that he knocked over his chair, Briggs stared at the useless console. A rumble shook the building's foundations and he flung out his arms to steady himself. 'Earthquake? Some kind of explosion? Dear, God, what's going on?'

He could hear screaming and the sounds of a fire. Scrambling for the door, he opened it, only to throw himself onto the floor as a ball of lightning flew down the corridor. It blinked rapidly near each door, the only indication of any movement other than forward.

In horror, Briggs saw that doors were opening in the ball of energy's wake. Patients stumbled out of their cells, blinking unsteadily in the bright glare. Each glanced at the light with what amounted to gratitude for most of them, before quickly racing for an exit.

Stunned, Briggs could only gape as what he was seeing. Then the first set of inmates were upon him. In their eagerness to escape, they paid the cowering man no heed.

Briggs felt himself being pushed this way and that, as the patients crowded past him, herding him out of the hospital along with themselves. Fearful of their reactions if they discovered who he was, Briggs allowed himself to be carried by the wave of maddened humanity.

Once outside, he slipped away, glad for what he felt to be a reprieve. Then, he saw the wild-eyed woman wearing the white lingerie.

Disgusted and horrified, Emma Frost ripped herself from Martin Briggs' mind. In herhaste, and who knows, perhaps as a bit of subconscious retribution, Emma turned the man's mind inside out. Like a puppet with its strings cut, the man who was once the Director of the Institute for the Psychologically Damaged would now have to become one of its own inmates.P

She stared unfeelingly down at the man. 'Justice.'

Turning on her heel, she stalked away.

Smiling grimly, Orderly Samuel Reese quietly approached the young dark haired patient. A twig beneath his feet snapped, causing the patient to startle and him to abandon his caution. He leapt at the girl, pinning her to the ground as she shrieked and snarled obscenities.

Placing a knee in the base of her spine, he used his bulk to keep her from finding any leverage as she tried to toss him off. "No use, girlie. You might as well give it up. You ain't getting away so easy this time."

A voice answered him, a Germanic accent coloring the words. "I don't think you have much say in this matter, mien freund."

Reese looked up to see a man of Romany descent leap agilely down from a tree branch.

"This isn't your concern, 'friend,' so why don't you run along." Reese pulled a pair of handcuffs from his belt and began applying them to the girl's wrists, wrenching her arms backwards with perhaps more force than was really necessary.

As the second *click* sounded, the patient subsided, apparently subdued. Reese rose, grasping the girl's cuffs, yanking her to her feet. He ignored her gasp of pain. "Let's go."

He turned and found himself within inches of the man's angry face. "Unhand the young woman. I won't tell you twice."

"Fuck off." Reese placed his hand on the man's chest and shoved him violently backwards.

To his surprise, the man rolled with the force in a backwards somersault, pushing himself up into a handstand and then landing in a crouch.

Face hidden in shadow, a gleaming smile flashed at him. "I did warn you." The stranger sprung at the orderly, knocking Reese away from the patient.

Reese landed hard on his back a good five feet away. A jingling noise made him grasp for his belt. Sitting up, struggling for breath, Reese saw that the man had stolen his keys and was now approaching the patient. Reese was struck by the soft voice and calming gestures the man used.

"It's all right, Jubilee. I'm not going to hurt you, Liebchen. Let me unlock those cuffs."

She stared at him, disbelief and hope warring across her face. Then she nodded and turned her back to him, presenting her cuffs.

Reese reached for the gun hidden in the small of his back. Granted, he was only a lowly orderly, he wasn't supposed to have access to the weapons, but he was damned if he was going to chase after the loonies without some kind of protection. 'Good thing I've got it, too.'

He brought the weapon to bear, sighting the stranger as the most obvious threat. He only had time to cock the trigger.

*Bamf!* The man disappeared in a dark cloud.

Before he could blink, Reese heard another *bamf,* and found himself engulfed. Coughing and sputtering, Samuel Reese desperately tried to make sense of what was going on, but the searing scent of brimstone and sulfur made concentration difficult.

The collar of his uniform was grasped in a strong hand and he felt himself lifted off his feet. Grabbing hold a 'furry?' wrist, Reese pedaled the air frantically, trying to find solid purchase.

The smoke began to clear and Reese screamed in horror. "Dear, God, no!"

The very devil himself had come up from the abyss to make him pay for his sins. Enraged yellow eyes pierced his very soul, and found him wanting. Indigo fur covered the face before him, pointed ears and white gleaming fangs nearly unmade him.

"Noooo!" he wailed.

He was dimly aware of a liquid warmth as he lost control of himself and he sobbed at thedisgusted look upon the demon's face. "If I catch you even looking sideways at her again, I'll rip your throat out. Understood, ungeziefer? You, vermin."

Reese nodded his head frantically, too frightened to speak. The demon tossed him as easily as a rag doll. The orderly quickly scrambled to his feet and crashed through the underbrush in a desperate need to get away.

Nightcrawler watched the man run, trembling with anger. Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm himself. 'No need to frighten the girl any further.' He turned. "Jubilee?"

She stood a few feet away, sizing him up, her posture and the expression in her eyes almost as feral as Wolverine's own. "Liebchen? May I take those handcuffs off?" He crouched down to pick up the dropped keys, careful to keep his eyes on her. Her previous behaviour had been so unlike her, that Nightcrawler did not want to take any chances that the girl would run off before he could get her to Emma.

She grinned suddenly, a half-mad cackle escaping her lips and making him wince. "Fuck, yeah." She raised her arms behind her and, with a popping noise, rotated her arms over her head till they were in front of With a wrenching motion, she popped the shoulder back in its socket, without even a grimace to indicate she felt any pain. She held her arms out to him, her eyes burning in intensity as they studied his every move.

He moved closer, careful to keep from making any sudden moves, trying not to show how unnerved her behaviour was making him. She was like a spring wound too tight, snd he

was afraid of setting her off. "Do you remember me?"

She blinked, a frown forming between her eyes for an instant before clearing. "Yeah.

You're that German dude. Nightcrawler, right?" Her voice had a rasping quality he'd never heard before.

"Ja." He undid her restraints and took a step back, allowing her the next move.

She rubbed her wrists, shifting nervously on the balls of her feet. "Anyone else witchya?"

"Banshee and Emma," he started.

"Good ole Frosty. Knew she wouldn't be able to keep her nose outta this." Jubilee started edging for the shelter of the trees.

Nightcrawler played his last card. "Wolverine has been looking for you, as well, Liebchen."

The young girl froze. "Wolvie?" she asked, her voice going soft.

"Ja." He again waited for her to make the next move, aware that if she took off, he would be obligated to go after her, and that could cause her more damage than she had already been through.

She trembled, her body tense. In a swift movement, she pressed herself up against the blue mutant's body, her hand a hair's breath away from tearing out his throat. He remained motionless, regarding her calmly. "If yer lying, I'll kill ya."

'Emma,' he called with his mind.

{{Yes?}} came the cold, tightly controlled response.

'I've found Jubilee. Give me Wolverine's position.

Emma caught what was going on and immediately relayed the information.

Nightcrawler wrapped his arm lightly around Jubilee's waist. "Hang on."

With a *bamf,* the clearing was empty.

Banshee looped over the compound. The firemen were finally gaining control of the fire in the northern section of the Institute. People milled about aimlessly, staring vacantly, or joyfully, at the destroyed buildings. Banshee noted that several patients had taken to the woods and a large group of uniformed individuals were searching after them, their flashlights cutting through the quickly falling night.

From his bird's eye view, Banshee noticed a dark haired young man in the hollow of two tree branches. A nurse and guard were standing below the boy's perch, trying to talk him down.

"Everything's going to be fine. Just come with us. We'll see you're taken care of."

A rapid string of Spanish was the response, the familiar voice startling the Irish mutant.


For added measure, in case the language had been a barrier, a stiff one-fingered salute was shot off. "I've seen how you 'take care of' people, and this boy don' want none of it." He boosted imself higher into the tree, the branches and leaves providing ample concealment.

"Shit," muttered the guard as he pulled his weapon and aimed it up into the branches. "Come on down, son. Don't think I won't shoot you if I have to." The nurse looked on silently.

In a laugh just this side of hysterical, the Hispanic teen called down, "First, I ain't your son, hombre. Mi padre has been gone muy long. Second, in case you've forgotten, I'm a mental escapee. Do you seriously expect I'm going to care you've got a gun?" There was a pause, then a sharp *click* was heard. Angelo's voice hardened. "On the other hand, what are the odds that I'm crazy enough to actually shoot you where you stand?"

Unable to gauge everyone's precise position through the trees and the gathering gloom, Banshee could only hover helplessly.

The guard tensed, his eyes scanning the foliage for any sign of movement from the young patient. The nurse had gone absolutely still, her face pale and her eyes wide and staring.

"I've got a good bead on you, Senor. And I know you ain't seeing me, or you'd have shot me by now. So, I'll tell you what. You go chase some other crazy running around here, and I'll leave the two of you alone. No one needs to get hurt, verdad?"P

The guard swept the branches with his gaze, slowly shifting his weight as he tried to determine the direction the boy's voice was coming from. The nurse began to whimper softly, her hand tugging on the guard's sleeve. He brushed her off impatiently.

"I'm not askin', I'm tellin'. Five seconds, and then..." he let the threat trail off, his intent obvious. "Uno. Dos. Tres..."

With a muffled curse, the guard roughly grabbed the nurse's arm and quickly propelled her, and himself, away from the tree and out of the area, choosing safety over duty.

"Good choice," the boy murmured.

Banshee heard the telltale *click* of the safety being engaged and flew lower. The Hispanic youth looked up, wary, but his tensed body relaxed as he recognised the flying figure.


"Senor Cassidy," came the cool reply. "It's good to see you." Seeing the older man's eyes on the gun, Angelo flashed a rictus grin. "DudeI took it from wasn't gonna need it no more, so I figured he wouldn't mind." He tucked the weapon into his waistband with the air of long familiarity and the two studied each other a moment.

Dark bruises underscored the boy's eyes, and a haunted look had taken up residence in the back of them, making the brown orbs seem older than the teen's years. His skin was stretched unnaturally tight along his frame, and was mottled with ugly purple bruises on his face, arms and neck.P

"Need a hand, lad?" Cassidy indicated the tree and the way the right leg was being favored.

Angelo made no move towards his teacher. "Could have used one a few weeks ago, hombre."

A biting wave of guilt washed over Cassidy as he nodded somberly. "Aye, I ken. We got here as soon as we could."

Angelo searched his face, then nodded. He raised his arms, allowing Cassidy to get a firm hold. As he ferried the boy to the ground, the Irish mutant was alarmed as the weight loss his student had suffered. The baggy clothing had hid it, but Cassidy could feel every bone in the teen's chest and spine and he again winced in guilt at not being able to arrive sooner to help.

Once out of the tree, Angelo wasted no time checking the area for guards, only limping slightly. Cassidy followed behind, allowing the teen his space. "So," Angelo started. "Who's 'we'?"P

"Emma and meself. Wolverine and Nightcrawler."

"Comprendo, Wolverine. Nothin' could keep him from Jubes. Why Nightcrawler?"

Cassidy ducked beneath an overhanging branch, noticing another blue-clad individual dart

by. "He's the one who got us here. We had to hop dimensions."

"Figures. So, how are they enjoying their stay in hell?" Angelo's smile held a bitter edge to it.

"We split up to try to locate everyone." Angelo pressed himself up against a tree, Cassidy quickly following suit as a pair of guards strode past. Once gone, he resumed the conversation. "I'm not sure how the others are doing."

He tried to assess visually how Angelo was. The teen caught him staring and smiled sardonically. "I ain't bad off."

Raising an eyebrow, Cassidy retorted, "Ya sure about that, lad?"

"I'm tired. And fed up. And muy pissed." He bounced on his toes, clearly annoyed with the conversation. "Nothin' a week's worth of sleep won't cure." He turned to move on.

Cassidy put a hand on the boy's shoulder to stop him, and very nearly drew back a bloody stump as Angelo jerked away from the man, a knife in hand. "Angelo?"

Angelo forced himself to calm down, though he never lowered the weapon. "Don't touch me, hombre." His hand shook, but his voice was flat, devoid of emotion. "Place like this messes with your mind. Till you don't know what's real and what's not. Shit that went on there..." he indicated the area they were headed for. "Barrio's a cakewalk compared. Comprende? If it weren't for the others, you wouldn't be able to get me within a mile of the place."

Cassidy kept his hands where Angelo could see them, waiting for the boy to calm down. He kept his mouth closed, aware that Angelo knew his voice could be used as a weapon. He tried to calm his own thoughts. What could have possibly have occurred in there to garner such an instant reaction?

Satisfied Cassidy understood where he stood, Angelo slipped the knife back into its hiding place.

Cassidy waited until they had moved on another hundred yards before asking his next question. "The others?"

At first, he didn't think the teen was going to answer. Then, Angelo heaved a sigh. He began speaking softly, almost to himself. "The chicas lost it. Gone. Jubes went manic. Bouncing off the fucking walls, cursin' at everyone and everything, laughin' like a loon, like it was some kind of game." He smiled grimly. "Took every trick she knew, but she got them to leave her alone." The smile faded. "Paige wasn't so lucky."

A million questions ran through Cassidy's mind, but he didn't utter a one, fearful that the young man in front of him would stop and leave him in the dark.

Angelo continued to murmur to himself, and Cassidy had to strain to hear. "Paige is la sombra, a shadow. Though, it was her idea for the breakout. She showed some spirit for the first time in weeks. Well," he corrected himself, "Actually, the breakout was Jubes'idea. Take as many of the fuckers with us when we tried to escape, but Paige was the one who started the talk about killing herself." He shook his head, unaware of the horrified look on his teacher's face. "Thought she was a goner when she went for the doors, but getting our powers back might have just been what she needed to keep going." Angelo went silent, his face pensive.

The two glided through the brush like ghosts, evading both patients and "rescuers" alike. It took everything Cassidy had to refrain from letting loose with a banshee wail at the passing men and women who worked at the sanitarium. br 'Fer God's sake! They were supposed ta be helpin' these people, not tormentin' them!'

Cassidy could wait no longer. "And Jonothon?"

Angelo shot an unreadable look at the older mutant, then resumed his march towards the Institute. "Jono's always been on the edge." He waited till he got a nod from Cassidy before continuing. "So, suddenly, he regained his face. But couldn't do anything to protect us when things got bad. And he felt he had to. Especially with Paige." Angelo paused, shaking his head as he remembered his friend's descent into madness. "Never seen a dude so ... hate-filled."

Angelo paused a moment, then smiled at some secret joke. "If he ain't dead, I think he'd work well with Wolverine."

"Dead?" Cassidy halted in shock.

The two were just on the edge of the clearing that housed the Institute. The building fire was still running its course, the firemen now devoting their energies to containment, allowing the fire to burn itself out. Angelo jerked a thumb at the conflagration. "Too bad he didn't take out more of the place, huh?"

"Heaven preserve us."

Walking across the clearing towards the last place he had seen the others, Angelo shot over his shoulder, "Heaven ain't been interested in this place for a long time, hombre."

The moment Nightcrawler teleported into the area, Jubilee took one look at the fight in progress, gave a gleeful howl, and threw herself into the fray. "Jubilee! Nein!"

The girl took no notice as she leapt at the nearest nurse. The woman shrieked as theenraged girl clawed at her face and eyes.

Wolverine was busy with two other uniformed individuals, a feral grin on his face.

Nightcrawler saw Banshee and a young Hispanic boy who could only be Angelo approaching at a run. Banshee's mouth was already open in a silent scream that dropped an older man wielding a gun. Angelo dived to the ground, tripping up another guard.

Emma Frost soon arrived on the scene, her eyes blazing. Nightcrawler cringed as Frost stared at a nurse. The unfortunate woman's eyes bugged out, and she clutched at her temples, crumpling to the ground.

A young boy hovered over Paige, one hand on her arm. He stared at her intently, and with a start, she opened her eyes to stare back up at him. With a nod and a determined look upon her thin face, she rose to her feet, one hand clutching a branch, the other scrabbling at her scalp.

Out of the corner of his eye, Nightcrawler saw another group of seven uniformed individuals converging on them. With a *bamf,* he bowled over a knot of three.

Frost coolly turned her considerable power upon another victim. Plunging into their mind,she dredged up their fears, bringing them forward. The horrors would cause them to freeze in fear, reduced to an almost vegetative state.

So focused on what she was doing, she almost missed the telepathic probe that lightly touched upon her, minutely studying the technique. The brush of another's mind disappeared before she was able to get a lock onit, but the evidence that it had occurred became apparent to her when Emma locked on to a man's mind, only to find him already contemplating his own personal horror.

Scanning the area psychically revealed nothing, whoever had probed her mind had strongwalls. However, she turned to deal with another guard and came face to face with a set of enraged, maniac hazel eyes. Reflexively, she shoved outward with her mind, only to have her bolt of energy turn back upon her, landing her on her back. She stared in amazement, but the young man with madness in his eyes glided away from her to deal with a nurse who had a raised club, ready to bring it down upon Emma's unprotected head. The woman went down to a vicious backhand and the boy moved off without at backward glance.

'Jono?' she sent out the thought to the retreating young man.

A flick of the fingers on his right hand was the only indication she received that he had heard her before he balled it up into a fist and laid into a guard, swiftly disarming the man. Flipping the gun in his hands, he stared at the guard, a devilish smile upon his face. As the man stood in shock, gazing in hypnotic horror at the loaded weapon, Jono tossed the gun over his shoulder and took the guard out with a quick elbow to the temple.

"Too quick fer you, mate. Count yer blessings." Then he leapt to Angelo's defence and Emma lost track of him.

The following minutes felt like hours to the four X-Men, four Generation Xers and the dozen or so opponents. But, finally, the battle came to an end. Those orderlies, guards and nurses still conscious and cognisant took off for the woods, each swearing to be good if God would allow them to escape with their lives and sanity.

Those who were brain-fried would eventually recover, but would always remember their personal horrors and why they had been subjugated to them. A sort of gift left them by one irate female telepath.

There were no casualties, at least, as far as the X-Men were aware of.

A few yards in the wooded area lay a body nearly unrecognizable as a man. The shredded remains of clothing and splintered pieces of billy club proclaimed the wretched thing as having once been an orderly.

Burns pockmarked the face, arms and torso. The neck had been crushed, a whiplike mark ringing it. Dried, congealed blood left tearstains down the cheeks and a gray slimy matter dripped from the ears to puddle beneath the head.

Though contributing greatly, these were not the cause of death for this unfortunateindividual. No, that had been caused when a razor-studded metal hand had plunged deeply into the chest cavity near the vicinity of the heart, caught up the rapidly pulsating organ, and crushed it into a pulpy mess,

Four young people looked down at the corpse, a range of emotions from contempt to relief to a fierce satisfaction flashed briefly across their faces before they turned their backs on their former tormentor and rejoined the fighting.

Jubilee bounced on the balls of her feet, annoyed their opponents had all been taken care of. Her eyes flickered rapidly to her friends. Paige had reverted to her natural form, husking out of a wicked steel and razor-edged one. Jubilee grinned suddenly, remembering a certain gaping hole. 'She seems calmer.' But when Cassidy moved closer, the blonde flinched away, eyes wide and staring, face paling rapidly. She backpedaled until she bumped up against Jubilee.

The younger girl grimaced slightly as Paige's fingers dug into her flesh. Catching the panicked look, Jubilee pointed a finger at her teacher, ready to loose a stream of 'works. "Back off, man. Yer, like, scaring her."

Cassidy froze in his tracks, his eyes full of understanding and sadness.

Jubilee scowled at Angelo who merely shrugged back unrepentant. He joined the two girls, careful not to stand too close to Paige, or touch her in any way. His caution did not go unnoticed by the teachers. Cassidy closed his eyes in pain. If possible, Emma seemed to grow even colder than normal.

Jonothon glided up to the tiny group of teens, face impassive. Through the thin cloth of her institutional garments, Jubilee could feel heat pouring off him in waves.

Angelo, closer to the older mutant, frowned. "You okay, amigo?"

"Feel like I'm about to jump out o' me skin," came the soft reply. Then a grin spread across the Brit's face. "Not an altogether unpleasant experience, that."

Jubilee caught Jonothon's eye, and for an instant, saw a light in them that smoldered with a mixture of madness and something she couldn't quite identify. Unnerved, Jubilee took an involuntary step away.

Paige, who had been leaning against the younger girl, stumbled smack into Jonothon at the loss of support. Instinctively, he wrapped an arm about her shoulders. "Steady, Sunshine." Once she had her balance, he let go.

She accepted the brief embrace without flinching, much to everyone else's surprise. "Can we go home now?" Paige turned wide blue eyes towards the four adults.

Emma's icy shroud softened at the plea, and she moved forward slowly. "Yes, we can go home now." The older telepath raised her hand to the students, her eyes silently imploring them to join her.

Slowly, warily, the students moved towards the adults.

"Wot now?" Jonothon's voice was shaky and his trembled, though so slightly, that only those who knew him well could tell. The other ex-patients wondered if another loss of control was imminent.

"Yeah. How'r we gonna get the fuck back?" Jubilee demanded, her voice high and strained, like the voice of a crow.

It was Angelo who responded. "Nightcrawler can take us. Can't ya, hombre?"

The German teleporter had retrieved the dimensional transporter and had the device strapped upon his back once more. "Ja." He held his arms out, letting the kids make the first move. "Take ahold and we'll be home soon."

The adults held their collective breaths, hoping the students would come on their own. There was no way they were leaving the kids here, and prayed they would not have to chase them down.

Paige, Jubilee, and Angelo turned to Jonothon. The young mutant studied the adults before him intently. After a long, agonizing moment, he nodded minutely. Walking over to Nightcrawler, Jonothon grabbed hold of a three-fingered hand. Angelo did the same,

and the two girls grabbed the teleporter's wrists.

With a pungent *bamf,* the eight mutants left that hellish place behind them.