X2: Survivors

Prologue

Tuesday, March 4th 3:08 PM

Green eyes sparkled with pride and affection as Jean Grey watched her pupil close her sky blue eyes and concentrate. The breeze ruffled the green grass of the nearly empty park around them and fluffy clouds dotted the sky.

Jean waited while Evangeline sat absolutely still, trying to reach into her mentor's mind and extract the information that Jean was holding, a secret number. The wind tossed the thirteen-year-old's cherry wood hair around her face as her eyebrows scrunched and her prim little lips pulled into a pout. Jean felt a gentle prodding in her head and she felt a small presence make itself known. She could feel the girl's psychic impression nosing around until she felt the tug and knew that she had found the number. Evangeline opened her eyes again and smiled brilliantly.

"The number is seventeen. I got it!"

"Yes, you did. You're getting a lot better controlling what information you're taking. You did great, but I think it's time to go. Your aunt might get suspicious."

Evangeline's face fell. "I don't want to go back to her." Her voice was rebellious and full of loathing. "Can't I come and stay at the institute; you said I'd be welcomed."

Jean sighed, truly feeling for her student. "You would be, and the professor would be thrilled to have you, but your parents assigned your aunt as your guardian for now and we have no legal right to take you from her. It would be considered a federal crime." Evangeline hung her head and muttered unhappily.

Jean looked up. "Your friends are waiting for you. I'll see you Friday." Evangeline stood, thanked her teacher and sprinted off to join a small group of young teens waiting for her nearby.

After waiting until they were out of sight, Jean rose to her feet and strode down the dirt pathway to the exit. She really wished she could do more for the girl, but things with the X-men were busy enough besides the fact that she had no right to intervene, at least not yet.

As she reached the parking lot a familiar psychic impression reached her and she smiled as the familiar and beloved figure approached. Scott reached her and held her gently, kissing her forehead in greeting.

"How'd it go?" He inquired lovingly as they both made their way back towards his red convertible.

Jean smiled. "Pretty well. Evangeline is coming along nicely. I just wish we could do something about her aunt. I've tried talking to the woman, but she won't budge, and I know that she doesn't care for Evangeline as well as she should. I wouldn't be surprised if Evangeline just runs away one of these days."

By now they were in the car and pulling out. "Scott…" He turned and glanced with concern at her solemn voice. "These past few months with all the anti-mutant feeling and with the team on edge…I mean, Bobby's been thinking about leaving." Scott looked shocked.

"What? Why would Bobby leave? He loves being part of the team."

"He hasn't said anything yet but I can hear what he's thinking, and he's been thinking about it loudly and a lot. He feels that even though we're trying our hardest nothing is ever going to change. He's tired of fighting what he thinks is a hopeless battle. All the other stuff to: Amara in the infirmary from that last fight with Magneto, the professor at all those violent rallies and Logan…" Jean stopped when Scott's visor gleamed brighter.

She didn't know how it had happened. One day she was a teenager and Logan was one of her dearest friends, then she was a young woman of twenty four and Logan had changed his view of her. He loved her.

She looked down, dreading coming home and seeing that combined longing and self-loathing and jealousy that would enter the blue-gray irises whenever she walked past him. Today it would be even worse with the newest addition to her fashion ensemble. She stared blankly at the beautiful ruby and silver ring that now adorned the elegant fourth finger of her left hand. Scott had proposed early that morning. She had woken up unexpectedly in his arms and greeted with a soft 'good morning'. There had only been four words given before she found the sparkling ring on the pillow beside her head. "I love you Jean."

The morning had been spent together in the sunshine before she had to meet with Evangeline. A part of her was over the moon that she would soon become Mrs. Summers, but the other half dreaded breaking her dear friend and mentor's heart. In a way, she did love the feral man, just not enough to leave Scott.

"Scott, do you wonder if Bobby's right? That we are fighting a battle we can't win? I don't mean we should give up, but sometimes I feel like I won't live to see the day where mutants and humans live in peace, if that day ever comes."

Scott held her hand as they weaved through the streets of Bayville. His brows were tight with concern. Even during Apocalypse five years ago he had never heard his beloved talk this way. He rubbed his thumb over her ringed finger.

"That day will come Jean. Even if we can't see it, we have to believe it will." Jean's eyes glowed with love. For a moment she felt something akin to a flame light inside of her, so full of love and passion for this man and for the life she lived almost literally burning her. Scott blinked. For a moment, he could have sworn Jean's eyes had flashed from mint green to flaming gold and red. He shook his head. Must be the stupid glasses.

Saturday, April 21st 6:52 PM

"Logan, please don't go. You are a valued teacher here and our friend."

"Sorry 'Ro, but I just need some time off."

All the X-men stared in confusion and dismay as the gruff man pulled the bag over his shoulder and began to stride from the mansion. Kitty and Kurt had their mouths open in shock, the professor and Mr. McCoy stood at the top of the stairs, regret plain on their faces. The new mutants, now full X-men, didn't know what to do. Logan had been there longer than they had and his leaving was like tearing down a piece of the mansion. It should be there, but now it was on the verge of disappearing. Only Bobby seemed unaffected, his eyes trained on his teacher with an unreadable expression on his countenance as he leaned against the doorframe. Warren Worthington III and Alex Summers, while fairly new to the Institute, could sense the feeling of doom that came with this departure.

Logan paused as he passed a silent and distraught Jean who stood with tears in her eyes. He felt the tugging at his heartstrings. He truly loved her, but she didn't feel the same way. It was best if he didn't stay here. After all, he had always been a loner; maybe this was the universe's way of telling him it was time to move on.

He lowered his eyes, trying not to cringe away from the ring on her hand. "Good luck Red." He then pushed the door open without another glance back.

His sturdy Harley was waiting for him in the driveway. He swung the bag over and mounted, about to start the engine.

"Logan! Stop!" He winced. He had hoped to not have to say this particular goodbye. Rogue, his unofficial surrogate daughter, stood on the gravel drive. She was wearing a black long sleeve with a green t-shirt over it and jeans. Her hair was longer than it had been when she was a teenager and she had lost the Goth look. Her green eyes had both sadness and anger in them.

He turned away, not wanting to let on about the pain he felt in seeing the tough girl like this. "I gotta go Stripes. It's for the best."

"No, y'all are just takin' off cause ya can't stand to look Jean in the face anymore." Her fiery southern temper added an extra sting as her words hit the nail right on the head.

"Look, if I stay then Jean will be tortured about the whole thing. She won't choose an old man like me over Shades but she doesn't like to see me hurt. Scott hates this, how I feel about her, and if the leader can't keep it together then the rest of the team can't. It's strained enough as it is. You're all strong, you don't need me anymore."

"Ah do!" Rogue snarled at him. Logan shook his head.

"No you don't. You're the strongest of them all, and besides, you got your Cajun boyfriend to watch out for ya now."

Rogue hung her head. "Ah do love Remy, he means the world ta me, but he's only a piece. He may be the man Ah love, but he isn't a father ta me." Her jade eyes brimmed over and the tears fell.

Logan turned and began to start the engine again. He wanted to reach over and wrap her in a bear hug, but that would only make the farewell harder. "Maybe I'll come back to visit you Stripes, and Kitty too." He added on about his second 'girl'. "It's up to Gumbo and the Tin Can to watch over you girls now."

"We don't need watchin' over," she said, but not with nearly as much vigor as on any other day. "When? When will ya come back?"

The engine roared to life and he placed the helmet over his head. "Soon Stripes." With that he gunned the bike and shot from the grounds. He left Bayville behind in the twilight.

Thursday, May 2nd 5:12 PM

A lot of hushed whispering was going on behind closed doors, and it couldn't be chalked up to the lightheartedness of average teenage gossip.

"Come on guys, you'd have to be blind and deaf to not be able to see how bad things have gotten," hissed the voice of Bobby Drake. "We're all exhausted from hardly ever getting a break between dealing with crazy mutants and then these mutant-human relations. Logan skipped out on us, Magneto keeps coming back and we get injured almost every fight, and Scott looks about ready to crack. Not to mention the fact that even if we save entire cities, humans still hate us."

The voice of Jubilee joined in. "It's been hard, we know that Bobby, but we had to know there were going to be rough periods. The professor told us so after Apocalypse. We can't just walk out on everything. They need us."

Ray shook his head, his eyes thoughtful. "But what about Amara? She almost died last time; how much longer can we risk this kind of thing? And like Bobby said, when Logan decides to cut and run things are getting pretty bad. Maybe we should consider that we should bow out?" The voices began to rise as the argument grew more heated.

There was a grunt of disgust from the normally cheerful Sam Guthrie. "Do what y'all want, but the X-men are like my family. No matter what happens, I'm sticking with them." He leapt off his perch on Ray's desk before stalking from the room. Despite his loyal words, uncertainty was still thick in the room.

Saturday, May 9th 11:02 PM

"I'm worried Rogue. In the last two months alone we just seem to be falling apart at the seams." Two girls sat cross-legged on their respective beds, facing each other through the nighttime darkness.

Rogue nodded, the same barely shadowed fear showing on her face. "I know Kitty. Ever since Logan left things have just gotten worse."

Kitty's whispers began to tremble. "What do you think is going to happen?"

Rogue was very silent. She didn't know what would happen. She had the ability to absorb the minds of anyone she touched, but she felt that even if she were to absorb every mind on the planet, she still wouldn't know what the future held for them.

"I don't know Kitty. I just don't know."

Monday, May 17th 9:15 PM

"Professor?"

The dignified man looked up as Jean entered. It had been several weeks since Logan had left, and though she had held herself well, he knew that it had been a harsh blow to her.

"Yes Jean, what can I do for you?"

There was worry in her gaze. "About the speech tomorrow…"

"I know what you're going to say Jean. I know that you're concerned, but I have to go. It is highly important that I be there for this. We are very close to making serious progress in mutant rights."

Jean nodded in submission. She knew that she wouldn't change her professor's mind. She felt a twinge inside of her and it hurt. She staggered a bit.

"Jean? Are you alright?"

"Yes professor. I am fine." Jean replied, but her voice sounded odd. It was older and had a strange double tone, deeper than normal for a woman and powerful. Then Jean looked up, smiled, and wished him goodnight. She left him and he felt as though he had missed something. Something important.

Tuesday, June 30th 11:51 PM

Dark night lay over Bayville. It had changed dramatically in such a short time. The doors were barred over and the windows were blacked out. There was a flash of lights as army squadron cars rumbled along the deserted streets like prowling beasts.

There was a flicker of movement as several shadows darted through an alleyway. The figures swept like ghosts through the back ways, clearing the city without as much as a noise. They drifted over the outskirts of the city heading for the sophisticated neighborhood that housed Greymalkin Lane where the Xavier mansion lay.

Outside of the walls they paused. The girl at the rear clutched her head and silently moaned in pain. Her eyes opened. They had once been blue but now they were the colors of a raging flame. She could feel the new force inside of her slamming at the edges of her restraint, a trapped animal longing to be released, to take over.

"The security is off. Come on." A boy at the front of their group whispered. They all began to climb the strong vines of ivy and leapt over the wall. If the security system had been on they would have been shot off the wall before they could have blinked. The house was silent and only one light was on.

They crossed the deserted lawn under the stars and entered the house.

"Hello?" The boy called. No answer. The group spread out through the house, searching for the residents. The girl climbed the stairs and turned down the left hand corridor. She heard a stifled noise coming from a room near the end of the hallway.

She entered to find Scott Summers lying on his bed. His face was grey and every vein stood out. He was curled in the fetal position and twitched feebly. His face was wet with tears.

"J-Jean…I'm, s-sorry…" he choked in a voice of someone dying, inside and out. A pang twisted the girl's heart. She could smell that cursed metallic scent in the air; Toxin X. She knew though that the toxin wasn't what was causing him the worst pain. She knew because she felt it herself, but for him it was a thousand times worse. She tried to block out the horrific images. The awful crack and the professor falling from his chair, lifeless. She went over to stand beside the bed. The screams and yells as more shots were heard and the X-men flung themselves into the fray as she ducked for cover. The girl looked upon the face of despair. The crashes and yells as she shoved through the crowd, searching for her friend.She felt one tear trickle down her cheek. The heat was so sudden, and the pressure in the room grew almost unbearable. All she could hear was the panicked screams in her head from Jean's psyche. She watched in terror as flames exploded outward from the redhead and the godlike image of fire rose, tearing the roof from the building.

"I'll miss her too." She muttered. The last cry of Jean Grey resonated through the air. The firebird rose higher and grew brighter, setting the very air around them tingling with its raw, cosmic power. It was going to destroy them all. Yet the girl could feel a connection with it and knew what to do instinctively, for all their sakes. "Come back!" She screamed telepathically to the force. "Take me! I can keep you alive!" The monstrous flaming eyes found the girl in the crowd, and it twisted and dived. She resisted the urge to run as the fiery leviathan plunged toward her. The force smashed into her and she could feel the heat melding with her body. The fire surrounded her, blinded her, until with a rush it vanished and she collapsed.

Her eyes blinked open and the sound of her name. She turned to see one of her companions, a year younger than her, looking in. Her oval brown-hazel eyes were mournful.

"We found the rest. I'll help you bring him." She joined her and they both lifted the young man as best he could. They managed to make it down the stairs, where the rest waited. The X-men lay on the floor.

Kitty Pryde unconsciously clutched the hand of the once mighty Colossus; both were now shrunken it seemed by the toxin slowly killing them. Kurt Wagner's blue fur was turning gray as was Hank McCoy's. Storm lay like an African queen, regal and beautiful even so close to death. The new mutants all lay close together, Bobby holding Jubilee's hand and Sam holding Amara's. Alex Summers panted weakly, while Warren painted a sad picture of a fallen angel. Jamie was huddled at the feet of Ray and Tabitha and Rahne was hunched in her hybrid form close to Roberto. Rogue was curled tightly against Remy whose arm was wrapped around her waist. All of their faces were gray and veined, lips purple and sunken eyes closed.

The young mutants all looked down on the legendary X-men, fading and defeated.

A girl with orange and silver hair and green eyes, one clouded, looked at the others. "How come them and not us? Why are they affected and we aren't?"

A boy with less descript golden eyes spoke up from across their circle. "I think it's a generational enhancement. Those of the current generation under eighteen with an X gene seem to have immunity to the toxin. I guess they didn't take further mutation into their plans when they made it."

"What matters now is what to do. We came here for help but the X-men are all but gone, just like so many others. Just like most of our parents." There was absolute silence. Some of their parents still lived, but it was doubtful if they would be seeing them any time soon.

The fire-eyed girl looked down on them. Things were changing. Her precognitive sense was telling her so. For a moment she could see a hazy picture of a land deserted, with one small figure crouched underneath a decrepit shack of a house. She could feel hunger, loneliness, and despair.

"It is up to us now. We owe that much to the world, and to those who will come after us." It wasn't her voice but the deep tone of the force inside. They all looked up at her, but their gazes were of agreement and resolution. Silently, they spread out across the silent mansion and set to work.

As the sun rose the next day, tanks crunched through the gates of the institute and rumbled across the grass. Squadrons of soldiers poured out of the many vehicles and ran in files up to the doors. They kicked them open and fanned out, with their orders in their heads. Apprehend the bodies and bring any still alive into custody.

Yet, after searching the entire estate they found nothing. No bodies, no evidence. Downstairs they found what appeared to be an aircraft hangar, but it was empty. They found a great spherical room, but the bridge outward had been blown out and nothing remained. There was also an empty steel dome-like room. The control room there was also in shambles. Even as they searched the bedrooms all they discovered were bare beds and bare walls, empty closets and drawers.

The wanted X-men had vanished without a trace.

Next chapter: Not many changes here, but there will be more in the following chapters.