The chain-link fence loomed up in front of him. Barbwire glinted in the streetlights, three wires, leaning outward, discouraging casual trespassers. Of course it was a more effective barrier if you were on the outside. The boy never hesitated, sprinting flat out, his trench coat flying behind him he leapt and caught the top of the chain-link, planted his feet against the fence, then vaulted into a back flip over the barbwire. He stumbled as he landed, his red-on-black eyes narrowing with pain but kept running.
Behind him the fence was torn asunder by an explosion. Three menacing forms appeared through the smoke.
"Which way did he go?" the woman demanded, green and white hair whipping around her as she scanned the night. "I lost sight of him in the explosion."
"What did you want me to do about the fence?" the short, squat, black haired man demanded irritably.
"I expect you to think, Harpooner!" the larger man growled. "The kid's on good terms with the shadows, we need our night vision to follow him."
"At least he didn't get a car this time Scalphunter," the woman said. "I'm sick of hunting him from city to city. When are we going to get permission to just kill the little brat?"
"Not yet, Vertigo. The boss wants him alive… all those test he couldn't run on the kid while he was on the pay-roll… but the kid's slippery," Scalphunter replied.
"We got him cornered this time," Harpooner said confidently.
"Like in Chicago?" Vertigo asked. "Gambit might talk like an ignorant hick, but he isn't dumb. He found our weak link and exploited Scrambler for all he was worth."
Several dozen meters away the object of their chase forced himself to keep up a rough jog, despite the pain in his ankle.
"De airport's a bien place t' find a car, but she's too far out, never make it back t' de city proper for dey catch me," he muttered as he ran. "Dere be people at de terminal. Too much security for m' taste an' I won' blend in, but mebbe dey won' want de attention a big to-do dere would get."
He slowed as he approached the better-lit areas near the runways, straining his senses for any sign of his pursuers, searching for a discreet way across the all but endless open tarmac.
Then like the answer to a prayer, he noticed a man using a pair of lit signaling rods to direct a plane.
"Dieu, hope I don' cause a crash-up wid dis stunt," Gambit whispered, taking several cards from his pocket and quickly folding them into a rough approximation of the traffic director's batons. Then he tied the ends of his coat around his waist, trying to mimic the silhouette of the jackets the airport workers wore. Using his powers to light up his cards he walked boldly out into the open, hoping he looked like he belonged there.
Feeling like he had a target on the center of his chest, Gambit kept walking toward the buildings, waiting for an attack. Closer to the terminal he let the cards dissolve into ash, to better blend in with the ground crews, but still keeping far enough away that they wouldn't see through his disguise and raise the alarm. If that happened he'd be done for long before the airport security arrived. If he were lucky he'd be dead by then rather than captured.
A luggage train whirled by and Gambit jumped on board, crouching down, loosing himself in among the suitcases. Once inside the buildings he darted into the shadows, unnoticed.
Finding an inactive conveyor system, Gambit climbed through it, into the terminal. As he'd guessed, almost everyone's attention was focused on the active systems, their eyes focused on the myriad of bags, trying to pick out their own, worrying about what the airlines might have done to them.
The exception was an eight-year-old boy who stared straight at Gambit with a mixture of awe and jealousy. "Mommy, I wanna do that!" The boy began.
"Not now Jeffy," his mother said distractedly.
Hopping off the conveyor belt, Gambit smiled brilliantly at the boy. He set a finger to his lips, silently entreating the child to keep his secret.
The boy grinned back and gestured zipping his lips.
Gambit faded into the crowd, straightening his trench coat, trying to look like a student who was into grunge rather than like he'd been living on the streets for better than a year now.
As he worked his way toward the exit several wallets found their way into his hands. He hoped they'd have enough cash in them to pay for a taxi. That should let him slip free of the noose slowly closing around his neck.
Several yards short of the doors he picked out a voice raised in angry discourse. Gambit turned and headed back into the airport. "Merci Arclight," he thought to himself. "Yo' nevah could keep yo' mouth shut."
**** ****** *****
"He got past you here, just like he got past you last time!" Arclight yelled. "Scalphunter says he's in the terminal, you were supposed to keep him in the open!"
The smallish, nondescript man glared up at his irritable, purple haired companion. "He's still trapped. Hell, this is better. Watch this."
With that the man known as Scrambler walked over to the nearest security officer. "Excuse me," he said.
The officer glanced at him with a helpful expression.
"This kid stole my wallet," Scramble explained. "About fifteen, five foot, eight, trench coat, stringy red-brown hair and eyes like a demon. I think he's one of those muties."
"We'll find him," the officer promised flipping on his radio. "Just come to the security office with me, you can wait there."
Scrambler smiled smugly at Arclight as the guard led him off, relaying Gambit's description to the rest of the airport's security personnel.
****** ******* ******
The police-types were looking for someone. Paranoia being Remy's chief survival tactic, he assumed it was him.
Remy wandered up and down the promenade, sticking to the crowds, keeping his head down, letting his longish hair fall into his face obscuring his distinctive eyes.
The airport had been designed with security in mind. There were few points of egress open to the public. Between the airport's security and the Marauders the whole place was bottled up. Trying to get out the way he'd gotten in would probably get him caught with the alert on and even if it didn't he'd still be trapped too far from any decent sort of cover.
"Nine weeks of runnin' and dis is what it comes down to," Remy muttered under his breath. "Trapped like a rat in a maze, plenty of places to run, but no way out."
Unconsciously his hand found it's way into a pocket, absently his fingers brushed across a battered business card. Remy pulled it out and stared at the number, wondering how he'd failed to loose the little card in the six months since it had been given to him.
"When you can't run anymore, come to me," a voice echoed in his mind. "We can help you."
Remy shook his head, trying to clear the voice away. That hadn't been what the odd pair had said to him that night, but it didn't make the voice any less real.
Seeing a security guard headed his way, Remy slid into a phone stall, still fingering the card. Dialing the number seemed the most natural thing in the world to do.
"Xavier School for Higher Learning, Scott speaking." The voice was crisp, professional, but still young.
"Gave me a cahd, said I could come, if I needed help…" Remy said uncertainly.
"Of course, where are you?" Scott asked.
"Portland, de airport," Remy answered and the spell that had convinced him they could save him shattered. "And yo' in N'York, on de other side of de country. Can't do nothin' to help. Why I even call?"
"No, just wait…" Scott tried to interrupt.
"Not goin' back wid dem, not evah…. I'm Remy Lebeau from N'Leans, I… I… jus' someone 'member I was alive."
"Remy!" Scott said sharply. "We're coming, we've got jet, we'll get there, just hang on for a little bit longer. We'll get there, I swear."
"Little bit longer, 'kay. Do my best. Don' really want to die," Remy said nodding slightly as he hung up the phone.
Remy rejoined the dwindling crowds.
***** ****** ******
"We've got a mission folks," Scott said tapping his comm. badge. "Meet me in the hanger post haste. I'll explain on the way."
"Scott, Peter and I are in town visiting Bobby," Jean replied in his mind. "It's going to take us awhile to get back."
"We'll do without you," Scott said. "We're on the clock with this one."
"Hank and I are on our way," Ororo reported.
"What's keeping you Scotty?" Wolverine asked sarcastically.
"I've detected a number of mutant signatures in the designated area," Professor Xavier projected. "They are hunting our caller, use extreme caution confronting them."
"Did you pick-up anything on Remy?" Scott asked as the elevator descended to the hanger level.
"No, the boy is a telepathic ghost."
"But you picked him up before," Scott argued. "When you gave him your card."
"Yes, if it's the boy I think it is, he was very angry then. Looking to be found, now he's all but invisible. A will-o-wisp seen out of the corner of the eye, when I try to get a fix on his thoughts he vanishes."
Scott stepped into the hanger to see Wolverine leaning nonchalantly against the blackbird. A few moments later he heard Storm and Beast coming from the direction of the danger room.
"Everyone strap in," Cyclops ordered taking the controls. "We're going to Oregon, a rescue and retrieval mission. The opposition is someone new. Mutant, but neither the Brotherhood or the Acolytes kill people who turn down the recruitment speech."