From There to Here and Back Again
By: Maven Alysse
A/N: I do not own 'Generation X' – they belong to Stan Lee and Marvel Comics. I'm not even sure I own Tesseract (she kinda came to me on her own and demanded she be put in a story – how could I say no?).
Summary: Captured and experimented upon, Jonothan Starsmore has to rely on an unknown mutant to escape – the very one that brought him there to begin with.
From There to Here and Back Again
"My dear, do you understand what is required?"
"Yes," came the surly response.
"Tell me." The voice was pleasant, but held a menacing edge to it.
"I'm to transport ... the subject ... from ... 'position A' ... to the containment field at precisely 4:18 am."
There was a pause, the voice tinged with surprise. "Why what, my dear?"
"Everything. Why this subject? Why the containment field? Why 4:18 am?"
A low chuckle filled the room. "Inquisitive, aren't we, my dear? Don't worry, everything will be explained in due time. As to the time, it is when the subject will be alone at the specific coordinates for the transport." The voice hardened again. "Do not fail me." A click signaled the termination of the intercom conversation.
The girl wrapped thin arms around herself, a murmured, heartfelt prayer falling from her lips. "Forgive me."
At a quarter to four, the girl uncurled herself from the bed clothes, straightened her somewhat wrinkled clothing and disheveled hair, and knocked on the door to her room. It slid open and she was escorted down the hall and into a decent-sized laboratory. A bank of computers lined the wall on her right. A large cylindrical "container" for lack of a better word, dominated the left side of the room, a myriad of equipment hooked up and operational. Several people stood near various machines, not bothering to look up at the girl's entrance. Given a chair opposite the cylinder, the containment field already in place, the girl began preparing herself for the physical and mental strain she was about to undergo.
At twenty-five, the girl had spent ten years exploring and strengthening her mutant ability to psychically locate an entity at a specific location and warp time and space for a brief instant in order to transport the entity from "there" to "here." Effectively teleport someone else without teleporting herself, as long as she had valid coordinates with a life form in it and a clear area a few feet in front of her. She hadn't quite gotten the knack of teleporting non-organic materials, but she was better at it then her captor's believed. 'One day, I'll bring in something they aren't expecting. Like an armed nuclear warhead. See how they like that!" She stifled the feral grin that threatened to spread across her face and concentrated on her current job. She'd been in this "institution" for two years. She'd never met any of the other "patients," if there were any. All she'd ever spoken to were scientists, doctors, and "him." Nor had she been able to find a way to escape, but she had a feeling her luck was about to change.
"Begin," the same cold voice commanded.
The girl nodded, resigned. Her body stilled and her face blanked of any expression as her mind searched for the coordinates, established a link, located a life form, and "pulled." She winced at the surge of energy required for such a long distance, vaguely recognizing the sensation of blood dripping from her nose, splattering and staining the white smock she wore. As the containment field flared, signaling the arrival of something, she prayed she had he right life form. Her back, buttocks, and upper thighs still ached from her last mistake.
One minutes he was sitting in front of the telly, trying to figure out how to get out of making a science presentation the next day, and the next minutes he was here. 'Where ever here is.' A shimmering haze stood between him and the rest of the room. 'Don't like the looks of this.' An array of computers faced him, several machines of unknown purpose surrounded his prison. Reaching a tentative hand out, he snatched it back and grimaced in pain as an electric jolt raced through him. 'Wot the bloody hell?' Reflexively, he shot out a blast of psionic energy from his chest cavity, stunned when there appeared to be no effect. 'Not good. Not good at all. Okay. Think. Figure out wot's goin' on and get the 'ell outta here.'
Several people in the white uniforms of scientists were engaged in recording data off the machines. 'Shite. Wish I hadn't 'a done that.'
Two were examining him through the field, and that's when he discovered he was completely nude, but he was too ticked to care much. He glared back and continued gathering information. He focused on a figure sitting in a chair opposite him. She was tiny, the chair practically engulfing her. Pale, almost translucent skin stretched tautly over the fine bone structure in the girl's face. He noticed the bloody nose, briefly wondered at it, then filed the info away in the back of his mind. Black hair was chin length and ragged, as if someone had hacked at it with a straight knife. She looked about fourteen or fifteen, and in a lot of pain if her facial expression was any indication. None of the scientists paid her any attention.
The girl raised a shaking hand and wiped at the blood, not doing much to clean it off. She struggled out of her chair, her eyes closed until her feet touched the ground. As she looked up, he gave a start. Her orbs were milk white and stared around the room, sightlessly. 'She's blind!' came the thought. Then she locked gazes with him and a faint feeling of connection could be felt.
Before he could latch on completely, explore this strange phenomenon and see if it could help him out of this predicament, a searing pain coursed through his body as the containment field was briefly contracted to envelope him. He screamed silently and collapsed into oblivion.
The girl fought back the nausea that always accompanied the use of her abilities, ignoring everything around her. She knew she'd have to find her own way back to her room, not such a difficult task as it would have been five years ago, but she really felt no need to let her captors know that. So, she'd stumble in the general direction, getting in people's way, until one of them gave in and escorted her back to her quarters. She'd been blind since birth, but always had an uncanny spacial awareness which allowed her to navigate reasonably well. Her mutant ability helped her hone that sense and a chance encounter in New York five years earlier had proven to be a God-send.
She opened her eyes as her feet touched the ground. The scientists glowed dully with their life-force – all non-mutants. She could tell they had their attention focused on whoever she had transported in. Her eyes locked onto the cylinder and it was as if her entire world came to a halt. The "subject" glowed brighter than any she had ever seen. And not the localized glow around head and heart like she was used to seeing. No, this person shot off a palatable aura extending several feet around. She was caught, transfixed by the dangerous beauty that swirled and pulsated behind the containment field. And it was dangerous, she knew. If harnessed and focused, it could be a powerful weapon.
Following the patterns with her sightless eyes, she could tell exactly what needed to be done to control that power, and she shuddered, suddenly fearful. The connection that opened between them startled her, though she should have expected it. Any time she transported someone, a psychic link was established. It usually wore off in seconds. The girl was completely unprepared when she felt an answering response to the link. Then, a backlash of pain sent her reeling backwards to land heavily in the chair as one of the scientists tried to elicit another response from the subject. The girl closed her eyes tightly as a scream echoed in her head, then was cut off as the subject slumped to the bottom of the cylinder. Before she could regain her balance, a scientist noticed her, and she was hustled out of the laboratory as the others converged around the cylinder.
A day had passed and the young woman had formed a tentative plan. She had been ecstatic to discover that her link had not dissipated like the others. The boy's own ability for telepathy, though dampened by the containment field, had allowed the connection to remain. Cautious, the boy had given her only a nickname, the code name he used with his team: Chamber. In response, she'd given the name she was known by: Tesseract, or Tess, for short.
~The facility is five stories, four of which are underground. We're on the bottom level.~
~Figures,~ came the wry response. ~What do you think our chances are?~
~Honestly? Not good. I'd have to transport you out of the containment field and they'd notice that immediately. Then I'd be basically useless until I recovered. That's not including getting through four levels of security.~
~Yer right. Doesn't look good.~ The connection was severed suddenly. There was a long pause before Chamber returned. ~Sorry.~ He sounded breathless, if you could get breathless when you don't need to breathe. ~This is getting old.~
Tess tried to lighten the mood, ~What? You don't appreciate the Institute's hospitality?~
There was a snort, but Chamber didn't bother to answer. ~Any ideas?~
~One. But I hesitate to say it. There's no guarantee it'll work.~
~Anything's better than nuthin', Sunshine. What's yer idea?~
~I write a letter and transport it back to your school.~
~Will that ... ~ another pause, this one long enough to make Tess worry. ~God ...~ the connection was faint.
~Let's just say, that they better not be anywhere nearby when I get free,~ Another pause, though the connection stayed open this time. ~Will it work?~
It took a moment for Tess to remember what they'd been talking about. ~Should. I mean, it'll disappear from here. But I've no idea if it'll arrive where I want it to. I haven't experimented when the receiving end can let me know of any results. But it should.~
The connection slammed shut again. Chamber took care to close the link when the scientist did their little "tests" after he discovered that the backlash was reverberating through the link and causing Tess nose bleeds. Nearly fifteen minutes passed this time as Tess paced frantically back and forth.
Chamber's voice was faint and pain-filled; the message short. ~Do it. Hurry.~
Tess sat at her desk and hastily penned a note, hoping to God that it was legible and that Chamber's friends would find it and take it seriously.
To Generation X
Your friend, Chamber, is at the following coordinates:
38 degrees 27 minutes 14 seconds N, 42 degrees, 18 minutes, 4 seconds E
Experimentation in progress. Please hurry.
Concentrating with all her might, she reversed the flow of her mutation briefly, allowing something from "here" to go "there." A muffled pop was heard as air rushed into the space the letter had occupied. Tess hurriedly wiped her nose, hiding any evidence of the use of her powers. 'Now, I guess we wait.'
A day later, Tess found she couldn't wait any longer. She had been brought back to the lab to continue her own testing. Her heart sank in her chest as she took a quick "reading" of Chamber's condition. His aura, his glow, was diminishing. He was dying. The experiments had drained him to the point beyond what his mutation could recover from. She had to get him out of there and soon. 'But how?'
The scene was blinked into focus with reluctance. When they noticed he was awake, Chamber was certain that the scientists would resume their tests. He glanced about disinterestedly, the view hadn't changed much in the time he had been here. No one tried to talk to him other than Tess. He wasn't sure why they were experimenting on him. What did they hope to accomplish? If not for Tess, Chamber knew he would have gone mad by now. Her presence had kept him anchored when the testing would have sent his mind looping back on itself.
'Speaking of ...' Tess sat at a table on the other side of the lab listening intently to one of the nameless scientists. As he watched, the young woman transported several small and medium sized creatures into various cages. Each use of her power was accompanied by a gush of blood from her nose. Her complexion took on a wavy cast and she swayed in her seat, obviously fighting unconsciousness. The scientist seemed unaware, or more likely, uncaring of her plight and he pushed her to use her powers until at last Tess clutched her head and passed out. The man glanced at her, marked something on his clipboard, then walked away. Chamber seethed. This girl was trying so hard to help him, but this place was killing her. He had to get her out of this place. 'But how?'
Tess felt the scientist move away and she maintained the illusion of unconsciousness that had, thankfully, fooled the man testing her. In actuality, Tess knew she could have transported several smaller creatures, or one large entity, before exhausting herself, but she had an idea. 'The containment field is controlled by the second computer from the door, which is only a dozen feet or so to my left. I wonder if I can transport something 'inside' the console?' She knew it would be easier to try transporting one of the animals nearby – her ability over something with a life force greater than over things without one - but she'd never willingly hurt an innocent creature, no matter what the cause. Slowly, cautiously, she let her hands roam across the top of the table, her fingers coming into contact with a clipboard. She pushed it to the opposite side of the table and focused her attention upon it, hoping it was far enough away to count as "there." Stilling herself, she focused her concentration, her face looking like a death mask as blood trickled over her lips and off her chin. The clipboard seemed to quiver in her mind's eye, then vanish. Tess struggled to remain conscious, her mind begging for the release of oblivion. Then, all hell broke loose.
On the floor of his prison, so far unnoticed by the scientists, Chamber minutely examined the construction of the cylinder, looking for a weakness. A fine, hair like fracture caught his eye. It appeared to be a seam that ran the radius of his prison, extending beyond the containment field and, he imagined, all the way down the side of the platform. 'Wonder if some bioplasma can widen the gap any, maybe disrupt the field?' Slowly, trying to avoid attracting attention, he dragged his weary body over until his chest and abdomen covered the crack.
The 'experiments' had an unexpected side effect. Instead of ending at his sternum, the gaping hole now extended down to his abdomen and ate at his sides, the bioplasm creating a dull sensation of heat and pain that he knew would only grow the longer he was subjected to these "tests." He could also feel it encroaching upwards, eating at the roof of his mouth and filling his sinuses. Soon, he wouldn't even have half a face to call his own. He briefly wondered what would happen when all that energy hit his brain, then dismissed the thought as counter-productive. 'Not much I can do about that. So let's see about that crack.'
Focusing as much as he could, Chamber let the bioplasma seep into the crack, increasing the intensity when there appeared to be no initial effect. Eyes widened as he thought he detected a glow from the other side of the field, emanating from where he gauged the seam ran. Fearful of being caught, and becoming impatient, the boy forced a blast into and through the seam. At the same time, one of the computers across from him began fuming, smoke and sparks shooting out as the console went dead. In an instant, the containment field collapsed as his blast broke the platform apart, tumbling the boy to the floor. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, for the instant the field fell, twin laser beams cut through the space he had just occupied. Chamber scrambled to his feet, firing off a blast in the direction of the computers, hoping to cause more confusion in which to grab Tess and slip away.
Tess came groggily to, only half way aware that she was being carried. Her mind cried to return to the dark safe place she had just left, but her stubbornness wouldn't let her succumb. Opening her eyes, she groaned, shielding her eyes from the bright glow only inches away. ~Tess, you okay?~ The voice calmed her as she realized she was being carried by Chamber.
She tried to speak, but her throat was too dry, so she relied on the link. ~Think so. What happened?~
~Lucky shot. I got the platform just as the field disappeared. Was that you?~
~Figured. Thanks, gel.~
Tess managed a snort. ~Thank me when we're out of here. Where are we?~
~Heading down the corridor. Took a right when we left the lab. Three doors down, now. No immediate pursuit.~
Tess nodded in satisfaction. ~At least we're headed in the right direction.~
~Gonna need some clothes, gel. Won't get very far buck naked. And we'll have to clean you up, too. Yer a sight.~
Tess' eyes widened at the image and nodded, stifling hysterical giggles. ~Second door down. Supply closet. Maybe we'll get lucky.~
Chamber locked the door behind them, allowing his bioplasma to dimly illuminate the room rather than risk turning on a light. Digging around the shelves, he found some clean rags which Tess took up to clean the blood off her. A thorough search located an abandoned set of coveralls, which Chamber slipped into with relief even if they were two sizes too big. He couldn't find anything for Tess to wear, so in the end she turned her shirt inside out, grateful the blood hadn't seeped all the way through.
~We can't just stroll down the corridor, they'll catch us fer sure. How about the air ducts?~
~Maybe,~ Tess cocked her head in thought. ~You'd have to lead me, and I don't know where they'll end up. Still, sounds like our best plan.~
Chamber had Tess stand to one side of the door to listen for any sign of their pursuers, while he climbed to the top of the shelving unit. He found a ceiling tile he could lift and shifted it out of the way. Levering himself upwards, he discovered that the small crawl space just might accommodate the two of them. 'Good think she's so tiny.' ~I'm going to scout a bit, see if I can find a way up stairs.~
Chamber crawled for about ten minutes before he found what he was looking for. ~Looks like an old unused air conditioning unit,~ he sent.
~How can you tell it's unused?~
~It's full of dust.~
~Oh, lovely. Hope my allergies retrain themselves,~ was her dry response.
~So do I. I'm heading back now.~
Tess heard footsteps clatter down the corridor and she held her breath when the doorknob to the supply closet rattled. "It's locked," came a muffled voice.
"Is it usually?" was the authoritative response. Tess froze. It was "him," the man who ran the institution, the one who had taken such an interest in her and Chamber, being instrumental in bringing them both to this hell hole.
"No sir, but it isn't all that unusual, either."
There was a pause and Tess held her breath, mentally repeating over and over, 'Go away. Go away. Go away.'
"All right. Carry on." The two sets of footsteps continued down the corridor and Tess slumped in sudden relief. She'd never met "him" face to face and she found she never wanted to. "He scares me.' She huddled in the corner, rocking slightly back and forth in fear.
~Tess?~ Chamber eased himself down from the ceiling, landing lightly on the balls of his feet.
~Here,~ she answered shakily. She felt a flash of concern through their link and calmed significantly when he wrapped his arms around her, one hand on her back rubbing small circles to ease the sudden trembling. To his unasked question she said, ~Close call. Can we leave now?~
~Yeah. Come on, I'll help you up.~
Once they began moving, Chamber was relieved that Tess seemed to regain her mental equilibrium. 'We've got a ways to go. Can't have her freezing up.' He wasn't being cruel, merely practical. Neither would be leaving alive if the other couldn't pull their own weight. They reached the a/c unit. Chamber explained the situation. ~Yer gonna have ta brace yerself and crawl up the duct. Yer back will be flat against one side, ye'll have one foot underneath ya up against the wall ta push ya from beneath, yer other foot will be braced against the opposite side to hold ya in place.~
Chamber blinked in surprise. ~Have you been?~
~Once or twice. It's not one of my favorite ways to climb, but it is the most secure.~
~Okay. Ye'll go ahead of me. If you fall, I've got a better chance of catching you than the other way around.~ He could tell she didn't like it, but there really weren't any other options. He boosted her into the duct, steadying her until she was in position and climbing. Once a few feet up, Chamber crawled in himself and the two concentrated on their footing and making as little noise as possible.
They climbed for what seemed like hours, clearing three, possibly four floors. ~How will we know we're on the right floor?~
Tessl had been waiting for that question, and she flashed a grin. ~Look for windows,~ was her simple response.
The two were taking a break in a T-junction. ~How are you feeling?~ Both burst into quiet laughter as they asked the question in unison, grateful for the lessening in tension.
~Seriously,~ Chamber brushed a lock of dark hair out of Tess' face. ~Are you doing okay?~
~I'm tired,~ Tess admitted. ~But my headache's gone, so I'm doing better.~ She wasn't exactly lying, though she wasn't exactly telling the truth either. Twinges raced up and down her back and legs at the unexpected exercise and she was famished. ~You?~
~Honestly?~ At her nod he continued. ~I feel like I'm going to fly apart in a million pieces. Like if I don't concentrate hard, I'll scatter.~
Tess took a good look at Chamber, a young man she'd grown to like and admire in the short time she'd known him. He looked okay, until she started studying the patterns in his aura. Sure enough, they were fluxuating wildly, spinning outwards to their very limits, then snapping back into place as if yanked back on invisible strings over and over again. She bit her lip, she didn't think he'd last much longer like this. ~You're about to fly off the handle.~ A heartbeat pause as she made a decision. 'Playing with fire, girl. But I don't want him to die, and he will if I don't help him.' ~I can help you stabilize yourself, but it could be dangerous.~
~How?~ His limbs were visibly shaking, though his voice was calm.
~Do you trust me?~
~Yes.~ The answer was firm and unhesitant.
She didn't have time to explain herself – a section of metal above them suddenly collapsed inward and Tess was hit with a taser that set her teeth on edge, clenching every muscle in a tight fist as electricity coursed through her body. She had no idea what was going on with Chamber as darkness reached out to claim her.
A hateful, familiar voice accompanied Chamber's return to consciousness. "Ah, how good of you to join us. I must say, you led us on quite the merry chase."
~Emplate,~ Chamber growled out.
"You remember. I'm touched."
Chamber was strapped to a gurney, back in the lab where this whole nightmare had begun. Tess was similarly strapped nearby. Emplate stood between them, his image inducer turned off since none of his employees were there to witness their boss' hideous appearance. "You almost made it. A few more yards, less than the length of a football field, and you would have been free and able to disappear in the surrounding area quite easily. Except for one thing." The creature that used to be Marius St Croix moved over to Tess and pulled the neck of her shirt slightly to one side, exposing an angry red scar. "Tracking device. She never even knew it had been implanted. Helped us know exactly where you were the entire time." Emplate turned to look at the boy. "Ingenious, actually. Your escape. And I admire your determination. The route you took wasn't easy." He sighed and turned back to Tess, one clawed hand gently stroking her short black hair. "I had such hopes for you, Tesseract. To think, someone capable of bringing me suitable genetic material to feast upon without the necessity of hunting for it myself. The ultimate in home delivery." He chuckled. "But you are soft. Just had to side with the meals, didn't you, my dear?" He racked his fingers through her hair, taking a firm grip on her scalp. "I'll just have to return to my old hunting ways, I suppose," he sighed in mock sadness.
As he began feasting upon Tess, Chamber helpless to stop it, two things occurred: Tess' eyes snapped open, searching for and locking onto his own. At the moment of contact, a stream of information hit him through their link showing him how to stabilize his power, even to focus and control it. At the tail end of that came a rush of emotion that left him shaken – Tess was saying goodbye. Fully expecting to die, she was going to take Emplate with her. ~STOP!~
Emplate ignore him, obviously thinking the boy was protesting the death of his friend. "Don't be too sad, Chamber. You'll soon be following her."
Chamber watched, stunned, as Tess locked gazes with Emplate and became still. Emplate suspected nothing, not even when her nose began to bleed, thinking it part of her death throes. Suddenly, his face twisted and he backed away from the gurney. "What are you doing?" He tried to run, but was frozen on the spot, her white gaze holding him more effectively than any other kind of paralysis. With a final, soul searing shriek, Emplate disappeared. Tess gave a convulsive shudder, the strain of reversing her powers, by sending such a large entity from "here" to "there," caused a severe backlash that tried to turn her mind inside-out. Her eyes fluttered, a red haze floating across her milky orbs. Another shudder, and she lay silent.
~Nooo!~ Chamber shrieked. In his panic and fear, his mind tried to contact Tess' through their link, but was blocked by the the information she had thrust upon him. Frantic, he used skills his teammates would have been hard-pressed to believe to categorize and assimilate the information at an astonishing pace. Within moments, Chamber re-established his link with Tess, plunging into her mind.
~Tess?~ Unlike the mind of a sighted person, Tess' mind was arrayed and accessed to by other senses; sound, smell, taste, and touch. Closing his metaphysical eyes, Chamber tried to locate his friend. ~Tess? Please answer me.~
~What was the question?~ the response came from all around him, making it difficult to pinpoint location.
~Where are you?~
~Here,~ the voice sounded on the left. ~Here,~ it giggled on the right. ~Here.~ A shout below him. ~Here,~ whispered from behind.
Chamber tried to steady himself, but the echoing reverberations had him unbalanced. He felt himself losing himself, drowning in sound waves. ~Please,~ he whispered.
Immediately the noises stopped. ~Since you asked. You asked since. Asked since you. Asked you since.~ A pause. ~So nicely.~
A tuneless humming floated gently in the background. Chamber tried to regain her attention. ~Wot did you do, Sunshine?~
The humming stopped and the kaleidoscope of sensations that had been background "noise" stopped as well. ~Sunshine. I like that.~ The voice was gentle, dreamy. ~I've never seen it before. But I've felt it on my skin. Warm to hot. Lovely. I've only been called it once before.~ She stopped, then asked sharply. ~Why do you call me that?~
Chamber spoke from the heart. ~Because when I was in trouble, you were always there, like a ray of sunlight showing me the way.~
The frantic looping he only vaguely sensed began to slowly decelerate as Tess' mind began realigning itself. ~Why were you in trouble?~ The voice was polite, but Chamber detected a fragile edge to it.
~Because I was being held by a man who wanted me dead.~
The voice whispered sadly. ~How could I have been there for you? I was the one who put you in that position.~
'She's remembering.' He felt her begin to withdraw and he tried desperately to keep her from slipping farther away. ~Not because you wanted to. You had no choice in that matter. But you did everything you could to help me. You kept me sane, freed me, destroyed my enemy, trusted me, and became my friend.~
Tess had stayed to listen. ~Your friend?~
~Yes,~ the tone firm and unhesitating. ~I trust you.~ He hoped the gentle reminder would help bring her back. ~Do you trust me?~ He held out his hands.
He felt two small hands slide into his. ~Yes,~ came the sobbed whisper. Chamber drew her home.
Chamber opened his eyes, feeling strangely refreshed and rejuvenated. With a thought, he unlocked his restraints, barely aware of his actions as he rushed to Tess' side. Gently, he wiped the blood from her nose, unlocked her restraints, and waited anxiously for her to open her eyes. A moment later he was rewarded when she blinked groggily awake, wincing slightly whenever she tried to look at him. ~Tess? You okay?~
She nodded. ~You're bright. Much, much brighter than before. It'll take me awhile to adjust.~
She didn't mention what had just happened. Chamber accepted her silent thanks, then suddenly chuckled humorlessly as he realized exactly what kind of gift he'd been given. ~Me, too.~
Tess' face fell. ~I'm so sorry,~ she whispered.
~No.~ He smiled wanly, even though he knew she couldn't see it. ~Don't be sorry. It'll be okay. A bit mind blowing for a while, but okay, none-the-less.~ He helped her sit up and the two looked around the room with matching looks of disgust.
A sudden impish grin crossed her features, intriguing Chamber. ~Wanna work off some anger?~
A matching grin crossed his own face and he lifted her off the gurney. ~They've collected a lot of information on us,~ Chamber warned. ~Possibly others. Should we save any of it?~
~I think the two of us were the only "subjects" and I know all I need to know about my powers. How about you?~
Chamber shook his head. ~The data's obsolete. I say trash it.~
~Very good, my dear sir.~ Tess felt around near the door and picked up a fire extinguisher mounted on the wall, nodded solemnly to her companion, and drove the object through the nearest computer screen. Chamber could have let loose with a bioblast, and probably would later on, but right now needed the satisfaction of physically destroying something. He nodded back, grabbed hold of a mechanical arm from one of the machines, and with a vicious jerk, snapped it off. He then smashed the arm repeatedly into the machine until it was nothing but a pile of parts. While he destroyed the equipment, he noted with some pleasure that Tess had discovered the hard copies the scientist were working off of. A little judicious searching in the desks produced a stash of cigarettes and a zippo lighter. He listened to her laugh with glee as she carefully piled the papers into the trash bins and lit each stack on fire. Chamber disarmed the fire alarm and sprinklers so they would not be disturbed prematurely. Though it looked like random chaos, the two systematically destroyed everything in the lab from equipment and data to furniture and office supples. Tess placed all the animals in a certain spot. ~I'll transport them out when we get out.~ Chamber didn't try to dissuade her.
The entire time, no scientists had bothered to see what all the noise was about, a fact that the two only became marginally aware of as they finished. ~Wot now?~ Chamber asked breathlessly, then froze. 'Breathlessly?' His new condition had definitely wrought some changes he would have to explore more fully later. But now, they needed to move on.
~Up and out?~ Tess asked, catching her own breath.
Chamber grabbed her hand and linked arms with her. ~Up and out,~ he agreed.
As they moved down the corridor, Tess insisted they check each room. ~Make sure we destroyed everything and it wouldn't do to leave an enemy at our back.~ Chamber agreed. They found nothing. At her room, Tess stopped only long enough to retrieve a set of clothing, leaving everything else behind without a second thought. None of it meant anything to her except captivity. ~How about we go up the elevator this time? Ride in style.~
Chamber hesitated. ~No. Too easy to get trapped. Stairwell has better cover.~
Tess agreed, but secretly thought that Chamber may have developed a slight case of claustrophobia due to his own captivity. By silent agreement, they decided to check each floor for other "patients," neither wanted to leave anyone else here.
They had hit the second floor stairwell feeling nervous and uneasy. As they checked each floor, destroying any and all computer equipment, they found the underground floors had been completely empty of personnel. ~Where is everyone? Did Emplate have the place evacuated?~ Tess clutched tightly at his hand.
~I don't know. Unlikely. He's never been one to care for another person's well being. Stay close. I have a feeling we'll get our answers soon.~
The two lay flat on the floor and eased the door open. Stunned, they saw that a pitched battle had begun between the Institute employees and some unknown group. The employees had pulled out the big guns, proclaiming that many had military or mercenary training.
Chamber frowned. If something wasn't done, people would get hurt, maybe even killed. ~Wot can we do? If I lay into them I could kill someone. My blasts are more powerful than I'm used to. I need more practice before I go mucking about.~
~Glad to hear that. Shows you've got sense. I'm glad I showed you what to do,~ satisfaction and pride flowed through the link. ~But what if instead of a blast, you do this?~
Chamber grinned at her suggestion.
Sean Cassidy, Banshee, member of the X-Men, current headmaster of the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, and leader of the teenage mutant group Generation X, felt his jaw fall open as one by one the men and women who had been shooting at him and the kids suddenly began yawning and falling asleep. "Saints preserve us."
The kids exchanged their own confused glances. "What's the deal, Banshee?" Jubilee still had her hands up and ready to throw a few more fireworks.
"I dunno, lass. Keep on yer guard." Cautiously, the team of Generation X approached the building. Only two figures were up and about inside the building, sitting on a table in the middle of what could be called a lobby. The girl, a slip of a lass, had blood on her shirt, but didn't look injured. She had her eyes closed, head cocked as if she were listening intently to something. The boy was in an oversized pair or overalls, pale skinned, his mouth twisted in a wry smile. "Banshee," the voice cracked, sounding rusty, but Cassidy thought he detected an English accent. "Looks like you were successful, Tess," the voice smoothed out.
The girl nodded and smiled, "Good."
"Jono?" Cassidy breathed, his tone slightly disbelieving. His confusion grew when the girl's smile widened and she elbowed the boy in the ribs.
He merely shrugged ruefully. "We'd have waited for a proper rescue sir, but there wasn't time."
The girl frowned. "Don't be flip."
Jono nodded, contrite. "Sorry, Tess."
"Tess?" Paige asked. "As in Tesseract?"
She nodded, her eyes still closed. "That's me. Glad it worked. Took a lot out of me to send that message."
"How'd you get here, lad?" Sean interrupted. "When ye disappeared, we were frantic."
"Sorry," Tess rubbed her forehead with one weary hand. "That was me again."
"What do you mean, Senora?" Angelo cocked one eyebrow curiously.
"Part of my power. To transport someone from "there" to "here." Lifeforms are easier than non-lifeforms, "here" to "there" is murder, and the bigger the entity and the further the distance, the harder it is."
"How does it work?" Synch was curious and Sean could tel he wasn't the only one, though Paige was looking about to blow her top, getting visibly more and more angry each time she looked at Jono's and Tess' linked hands.
"I'll give you a demonstration."
"Tess," Jono's tone held concerned caution.
"Don't worry, 'Jono,' I just want to set the animals free."
"How many were there?"
"Fifteen. I've done more before. I'll be fine."
"Okay." But Jono didn't sound convinced.
Tess went completely still, her face taking on all the life of a stone manikin. Jono explained there were some animals used in her testings and that she'd gathered them up so she could transport them to freedom. With horror, Sean noticed blood begin flowing from her nose. He was about to step forward, stop the girl, when he got a hurried shake from Jono and an indication to look behind him. Sean turned as well as the other kids in time to see a group of animals suddenly appear out of nowhere. Time stood still as the animals and humans stared at one another, then the creatures scattered, going their own ways. Sean turned to see Jono tenderly wiping the blood from the lass' face. Paige's face turned an interesting purple, though no one seemed to notice.
"Tess has been here two years. She was told what coordinates were needed and she was told when to fetch, though not always what. Nothing she could have done about it. She was a prisoner here as much as I was."
"Mistakes or deliberate defiance was met with harsh punishment," her voice was soft but hit each student like a blow.
"Who was in charge here?" Sean could feel his blood boiling, how he wanted something to hit!
Jono supplied the answer, his voice harsh and bitter. "Emplate."
Each student rocked back a step. M, Monet St Croix, paling. "Where ... where is he?" the mocha skinned girl asked.
Jono shrugged and looked at his companion. The girl's brow wrinkled briefly and she hunched inwards as if expecting a blow, dropping Jono's hand. "The moon," she said in a small voice.
"What!?" Jono's shriek of outrage was louder than the others' murmurs of surprise. "How could you? Do you have any idea what you nearly did?"
"Jono, lad. Calm down. She rid us of a very serious problem." Sean cast an apologetic look at M. The young woman nodded, she had lost her brother long before now.
Jono acted like he hadn't heard him. He was still yelling at the girl. "You nearly died. You practically flipped yer mind inside out. I almost couldn't bring you back." He buried his face in his hands. "I almost lost you, for what? For nothing. He wasn't worth killing yourself over."
Tess was stricken, her face a mask of pain. Tentatively, she placed her hand on his shoulder, her body language one fearful of rejection. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she whispered, ignoring the others. "I couldn't think of anything else. I thought I was going to die. I didn't want him to kill you, too. I'm so sorry. Chamber? Jono? Please?" Her voice cracked on the last word and Jono turned and swept her into his arms, tears dampening her hair.
Sean turned away, embarrassed. He heard Paige viciously mutter, "Crocodile tears won't get you far for long." Sean was shocked speechless, as were the rest of Generation X.
Jono's head snapped up, his eyes filled with rage, but it was Tess who commanded everyone's attention. She looked up. Milk white orbs glared balefully at the blonde teen. "I haven't cried a tear in my entire life, Ms. Holier-than-thou," her voice was low and tight with anger. "I'm physically incapable of it. But don't you dare mock my pain! You don't know what I've gone through. What Jono's gone through. And I won't sit here and listen to your jealous bitching a single solitary instant more!" She disentangled herself from Jono's arms, hopped off the table and stalked out of the building, deftly weaving around bodies and furniture alike. The entire entire group was frozen in shock, Paige's expression on of horrified mortification.
Jono shot Paige his own glare and went after Tess. Sean stopped Jubilee from going after the couple. "Give them a few minutes. Jubilee nodded. Outside the door, the two ex-prisoners stood in silent communication.
~Tess? Wait! Please?~
At the 'please,' Tess stopped, one hand rubbing wearily at her temple. ~I'm sorry.~
~Don't be. She had it coming. I don't know what her problem is, but she had no right to act that way.~ There was a pause, then a hint of teasing. ~I'm just glad I didn't have to pull you off her. You controlled yerself very well.~
A wry sigh sounded. ~Believe me, wanted to slap her mouth. Well, actually, I wanted to rip off her arm and beat her over the head with it, but honestly I think this probably worked out better.~ Jono's laughter filled her head, warming her. If he could laugh, then he couldn't be too upset. ~Forgive me?~
~Always, Sunshine.~ He paused, aware that her anger had ebbed some.
She turned to him, locking gazes. ~What do we do now?~
Jono scrubbed at his eyes, fingers shaking slightly as the adrenaline wore off. ~I dunno, luv. To be honest, I'm too tired to think straight, let alone plan anything for the future. Do you have anyone you need to call? Family or friends to let them know you're okay?~
~ I have a grandmother in Flaggstaff. A couple of friends in various states, but no one real close. Haven't spoken to my parents in years.~ A sad laugh echoed down the link. ~My apartment would have been rented out long ago, no saying where my things are now by now. Job's history, too, most likely.~ She let out a breath and grinned ruefully at her outburst.
Jono held out a hand to her. ~Let me help? You can stay at the school while we settle things, find a new apartment when you're ready.~ He paused and said shyly, ~We can get to know each other better, if you like,~ Tess stared at him and he felt she could read his very soul. 'Who knows. Perhaps she can.'
With a slow, heart-stopping smile, she slid her hand into his, her grip firm. ~Thank you. I'd like that very much.~