Fanfic Time: X-Wars, part 18

Continued from yesterday:

  Cyclops and Gambit continued in with Jason. Jason seemed to be coming out of his shock, or at leased he’d stopped muttering, “no names,” and was looking around.

  Cyclops asked him, “Won’t the kids be scared of you?”

  Jason thought for a moment, then shucked off the hospital wear that he wore over his street clothes. “Now they won’t be. The guards drug them before we ever get a chance to see them in the labs. In the cells there’s one-way mirrors so we can see them but they can’t see us. Without the clothes they’ll never recognize me or any of the others.”

  There was silence for a few moments, interrupted by Cyclops’ communicator.

  <Cyclops, this is Storm. We have the children escorted to safety. Where should we go now?>

  “Storm, we have a worker here who’s helping us bring down the facility. He’ll give you instructions on how to get to the nearest facility.”

  “Where are you now?” Jason asked.

  Storm told him that, and which blocks they’d already liberated.

  “Ok, you took blocks two and seven. You’re closest to block five, but three will need more help. There aren’t even words to describe the scientists who work in there. You’ve got to get in there now. They’ll start killing the kids the moment they realize that the guards can’t fight you off, or the moment they see you coming. Here’s how to get in unseen…”


  Storm and Colossus walked into the cell block. All the guards were arrayed facing them in robotic exoskeletons. It was the work of a single lighning bolt to take care of that. They’d seen the specs on them from Warren, and Storm knew that the lighning would freeze the suits controls but not harm the men inside. With the suits rigid, the guards would be able to do nothing more. Storm flew over them. Colossus waded through them, running into many more than strictly necessary. The look on his face dared Storm to say anything about it. She stayed silent.

  Storm flew ahead, catching the scientists rigging what looked like something nasty. She turned the corrider into a wind tunnel, blowing them away from the machine. It was armed, and set to let deadly gas into all the children’s rooms in ten seconds.


  Colossus walked up and saw the problem. He had a solution. He pulled the metal pipes leading from the tank into the children’s rooms and knotted them. Then he took the whole contraption and put it in a nearby janitor’s closet. Luckily it was unlocked, so he could shut the door behind it. Then he called, “Storm! use your lightning to melt the metal around the door enough to seal the seams.”

  Storm complied. She walked down to check on the condition of the scientists. One of them moaned and started coming to. She kicked him into unconsciousness, harder than strictly necessary. Anyone who would do that to children…


  She continued on in and looked through the glass at the children. She gasped as she saw what had been done to them. All were scarred. Many were missing fingers, a few were missing limbs, and one boy was missing an eye. Every head was scarred, though some of them would have the scars covered once their hair grew back in. Many bore what looked like whip marks and taser burns. All were naked. At least the children in the other wing had the dignity of hospital gowns.

  She started opening the doors to the cells while Colossus tied up the scientists. “Come, children, we are here to get you out of here.” All cowered in the backs of the cells. Around the tenth cell, there was a little girl brave enough to tell her why.

  “The men in white told us about you. You’re just a street girl who wants to sell us. You dress funny and have fancy gadgets to make us think you’re one of us, but you’re not.”

  Clossus walked to within the children’s view, and knelt down. “She is, and so am I. We’re here to get you out.”

  The children swarmed him. After a few minutes of assurances, he walked over to the wall.

  “What are you doing?” Storm asked.

  “We’re about half a mile from the outside if we go back the way we came in. One of the scientists had a map on him.”

  He broke down that wall and two on the other side. After the third wall, sunlight came streaming in. As one about half the children rushed out, alternately dancing for joy at the sunlight or staring at the distant greenery.

  The other half clung to Storm. One little boy told her, “Sometimes the men in white would put us under funny lights that hurt a lot. Is that gonna hurt?”

  “No, child. It won’t. See how much fun the others are having?”

  Slowly, the rest of the children crept out. once out, a little girl asked Storm, “What is that? I’ve never seen anything that color before, on the lower bit. It’s so beautiful.”

  It was a dandelion. 


  Two emotions were currently warring in Warrens chest for supremecy. The first was pride, that he was doing this, that he was accomplishing something, by himself, without the help of anyone, least of all his fater.

  The second was stress, stress and fear. How the hell was he going to do this?

  He sighed, cross each bridge as he came to it, that was what was important.

  He sat back now, watching his team at work. Kaze was busy directing the teams of builders currently finishing up their work on the building, making the final adjustments. Alison Blair, the newest member of the team, and also a mutant, watched from the shadowes. She had done bits and pieces, of course, but as yet was still finding her place here, still working out her job. Kaze had suggested that she might be more useful when the children actually moved in, using her voice to sing to them and her abilities to make illusions which would enchant them and keep them occupied.

  More to the point, thought Warren, Alison was a great PR boost, if he needed any. Her famous singing career could bring nothing but good press to his endevours, and her lover’s connections wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

  The only problem was the lack of men. Not that he minded being surrounded by women, of course, but more male company would be welcome, espeically with the little boys.

  Not that it would be likely to come soon, nowadays men in care jobs were getting rarer, societies increasing distrust of men, fueled by a few unfortnunate cases making the jobs male carers increasingly difficult.

  Still, what they had was a start, not much of one, but a start.


  “That’s a dandelion. It’s a flower,” said Storm.

  Newly liberated, the child had no clothing but the tag about her neck and some vague attempt at dressings on one of the more major wounds. She crouched by the flower and gingerly poked it. Her hand retreated quickly, as if she expected a shock or pain.

  “This colour is ‘yellow’,” said Storm, pointing to the flower itself. “This colour is 'green’.”

  “Green,” repeated the girl. “Green.” She touched the grass, carefully at first and then, laughing, with more pressure. “It bends!”

  Other children had gone quiet, too. They’d stopped frolicking in the gardens to just *stare* at things. Some stretched out on the grass while others tentatively poked or prodded at things. Half of them were naked.

  “I find clothings,” said Piotr. “Some may be little big, but is better than nothing, da? One at a time…” Even though she knew of his gentler nature, it was a shock to see a big man like him gently coaxing such tiny kids into clothes with infinite care. Fists that could shatter granite gently guided tiny arms and legs through unfamilliar steps. Sometimes, he even re-dressed a wound or inspected a scar. He even let the bolder kids climb him.

  Ororo helped, fumbling where he was practiced. The kids - almost didn’t react. Kindness was foreign to them.

  And more of them were pouring out of Piotr’s improvised exit by the minute. Some even huddled inside, afraid to go out. 


  “I’m back!” Sandra popped into the hall where Warren was still setting up cots.

  His eyes were drawn instantly to her shirt, which had stripes in every color of the rainbow, plus some other hues just for good measure.

  “We have *got* to get some paint on these walls,” she said. “Looks like a prison.”

  Warren pulled out a small spiral notebook and added “paint” to his rapidly-lengthening to-do list. “What’s in the box?”

  “This?” Sandra hefted the cardboard crate, reversing its slow slide down her hip. “Administrative junk. I’m gonna go set up office, okay?”

  “Sure, do that.”

  As she left, Warren turned back to the long, empty room and sighed.


  “What are we going to *do* with all these children?” Storm asked, as if the thought had only just occurred to her.

  “I… don’t know,” Piotr replied, as children milled around his legs. “We can’t possibly keep all of them at the Institute.”

  “Goddess forbid Dann get his hands on them.”

  “I was thinking about space problem.”

  “The Institute is very large,” Storm said. “It has many rooms that -”

  “This is only half of prisoners.”

  “Well,” the weather witch surveyed the short crowd again. “Yes, I see how that could be a problem.”


  “…can now count well over *forty* children gathered in one of the gardens. We’re keeping a safe distance…”

  “Safe distance,” scoffed Kaze. “They won’t attack. They’ve probably never *seen* a helicopter before in their lives.”

  “It’s human nature to destroy what you can’t understand,” said Warren, opening yet another cot. “Those kids are still human, regardless of the fact that they’re also mutants. Who’s to say one of them won’t panic and lash out?”

  Kaze sighed. “Possibly. We don’t know how badly they may have been treated in there.”

  “Which reminds me, I’d better put out a few–”

  Sandra Mayberry re-entered then. “I talked to the employment office and put out an APB for psychologists with open minds, caregivers, security, and a doorman. I figure I can cut down on the overhead for a while and handle the files, myself.”

  “–want ads,” said Warren. “You weren’t kidding when you said you had good organisational skills.”

  Sandra grinned. “Three kids and a flurry of CEO’s has got me used to everything. Do you want me to shop for furniture? Decorators? Where are the kids staying?”

  “Oh, there’s an adjoining building that Securico is measuring.”

  “*Securico*? They’ll just slap bars over everything. Naw. I know a few businesses that’ll fortify the building and *not* make it look like a prison.” She whipped a palmtop out of her bag. “I’ll get onto it after I’ve had a chat with the plumbers.”

  Sandra journeyed upstairs, and almost a minute later, work-related noises began to happen. She reappeared with a serene smile.

  “What did you *do* to them?” wondered Kaze.

  “I merely explained that their pay scale was based on results and, if we didn’t see any soon, I would not only fire their asses, but sue them so hard that their seventh generation of descendants would still owe us millions.” She calmly placed her bag by the foyer and took out a framed diploma. “I also have a legal degree. I took my bar exam during my last employment.”

  “Tell me,” said Warren. “Was your last CEO certifiably *insane*?”

  “No, but I’d often wondered.”

  “He was *nuts* to let you go.”

  “Oh,” she scooped a thin manilla folder out of her apparently bottomless bag. “I got some intake forms printed up too.”

  “Intake forms?” Warren said blankly.

  “If you expect to have *this* many hard-luck cases,” Sandra gestured to the number of standing cots, and the space still waiting to be filled, “you’re going to need records to keep track of them all.”

  “Oh. Of course.” He accepted the offered page, and scanned the blank fields. “Name, age, sex, powers? Why powers?” He frowned. “That sounds dangerously like a basis for discrimination.”

  “Not at all,” the secretary said smoothly. “It’s client-directed services. Keep reading.”

  “Special requirements,” the form continued. “Entry height, entry weight, distinguishing features, exit height, exit weight.”

  “For tracking physical progress,” Sandra said as soon as Warren’s questioning gaze lifted from the paper. “Rescued experiments are bound to be malnourished.”

  “Very good,” he handed back the card.

  “It’s a start,” she shrugged. “I’ll need adoption papers, psychological profile forms, lots of note paper…”

  “Adoption papers?”

  “For kids with no family, or families who don’t want them. Unless you meant this to be a permanent home for everyone?”

  “No, no,” Warren said, thinking of the nightmare that could become. “Adoption is good. Humane Foundation,” he spread his hands in the air, outlining a banner, “a waystation on the road of life.”

  “Keep working on the slogans,” Sandra grinned. “I’ll break out the phonebook and see if I can’t drum up some volunteers." 


  Outside of the foundation Warren heard a man on a motorcycle roar up. He pulled off his helmet, revealing a grizzled, weather worn face. His body looked young but his eyes looked like those of a man who had seen far too many things in his lifetime. He walked up to Warren.

  "Hey, Angel-boy, you lookin’ for help?”

  Warren was tempted to say no and call the police.

  “Yes,” Kaze called from behind him. “Are you offerring?”

  “Yup. Heard about what was going on and figured you’d need some help to keep everything together.”

  “Mutant or norm?”

  In response to that question, the man popped three claws from his knuckles.

  “Name’s Logan.”

  “Welcome aboard.”

  Warren tried not to look worried and resolved to watch the man and make sure he didn’t shishkabob any kids. 


  It was interesting to listen to Logan and Sandra talk.

  “We’re gonna need security–”

  “Cameras outside the buildings, looking up and down the street, into the alleyways *and* all access-points under the building.”

  Logan glared at her. “Sure you ain’t a teep?”

  “Just well-experienced with a side of cynical.” Sandra held up one hand in a scout-esque salute. “Promise.”

  Logan raised an eyebrow. “Some of the kids might wanna go outside–”

  “I’ll place doormen to gently guide them away. They wouldn’t know about traffic.”

  “Absolutely *certain*–”

  “If I was a teep, I’d need more painkillers. Speaking of which, I’ve applied for a pharmocology licence. Seems we’d need serious bulk amounts of different medicines, so I figured we’d better keep it safe. I’ve located a doctor who doesn’t mind working with mutants. Hank McCoy. Research shows that his bedside manner is excellent, but he’s a walking thesaurus.”

  Long, cold stare. “You don’t really need tellin’ do ya?”

  “I’ve already ordered the teams in. Decorators are coming by this afternoon. If it makes you feel happier, you can loom over them.”

  Logan grinned and fished in a pocket.

  “Please smoke outside,” said Sandra. “The kids have enough problems without second-hand nicotine.”

  “I’ll stand guard at the door,” Logan sighed.


  There were a full two dozen protesters against the foundation standing outside. They were off of the foundation property and not attacking, so there was no legal reason to force them to leave. Sandra was trying to convince them to leave without result. Logan saw the problem from a distance. He stalked up and literally growled at the protesters. Suddenly he and Sandra were alone on the street.


  Inside Kaze was talking to Warren. “I’ve been looking at the specs, and the building on the northeastern corner of the property was obviously built by someone with a very strange mind. The whole top story is enclosed in plexiglass, even the roof. According to the files a Mr. Edgarton raised rare plants up there and didn’t want anyone to break in and steal them. The top story is the size of a football field. I was thinking that we could cart in dirt and plants and turn it into a minature park for the children, since they won’t be safe outside.”

  Warren stared at her. Slowly, a brilliant smile broke out on his face. “That’s brilliant. The kids have been locked away for so long that they’re sure to love some greenery. And there’s another building in the middle that used to be a sports center. The pool and gyms are fine as is, and we put playground equipment where the exercise equipment used to be. Of course, the kids would probably be too scared to use it at first, and definitely too scared to leave the dormitory building to go there.”

  “I’ve got an idea about that. I’ve seen some malls that connect buildings on different blocks via skyways above the streets. If we could scrape up the cash we could build those so the children could go between buildings.”

  “I am the successor to an international company. I have the money. Let’s find Sandra and see if we could turn this into reality.”

  “I could handle the park on my own. My dad was involved in landscaping and taught everything he knew to me, including how to get the best deals on plants and what will be the most likely to survive harsh conditions, like mutant children playing with them.”

  “Alright, then we talk to Sandra about the indoor equipment and the skyways.”

  “Sounds good to me.”


  The X-men went in and got the rest of the children out. None were in as bad condition as those liberated from block three, fortunately. Those were the only children that were mutilated to the casual observer. One by one they went through all the blocks until onlu block eight, the one that was protected by the scientists on the inside, was left. Colossus pulled down one of the fire barriers, not knowing what to expect. What he saw was the last thing he could have imagined.

  ten adults who must have been scientists that had shucked their lab clothes stood inside with about forty children. The children seemed more shy than terrified. All were clothed and looked to be in somewhat decent condition. They looked more like they were recovering from a bad flu than like they had been test subjects. One of the scientists had obviously been passing around candies and several of the children tried to hide them as the X-men entered. Several of the children were on the lap of the same man.

  Cyclops was the first to respond. “They still trust you after everything that has happened to them?”

  The woman with the children on her said, “They trust me. I could be a friend to them because I could get in to comfort them. I’m a mutant, too. I can effect what the cameras and guards see and hear. They trust me when I tell them the others are here to help. I could only get to the children in this block, though. Kids, these men are here to get you out of here.”

  Gambit asked, “And your name be..?”

  “Eryn. Plese, I just want to help them.”

  One of the little boys asked, “Will we get to see the sun again? I remember outside, sometimes. Will I get to see the sky?”

  Jean bent down and said, “Yes, you will.”


  As they walked out with the last of the children most of them stayed as close to Eryn as they could. Perhaps these ones would recover faster than the others.



  _Yes, Jean?_ came the swift reply.

  _Question. Where do you keep 300 mutant children?_

  There was a pause. _Sorry? Is this one of those refrigerator jokes?_

  _I wish._

  _Well, what about Worthington’s new foundation?_

  Jean barely restrained the impulse to physically slap herself. _How did I forget that so fast? What’s the address again?_

  _I can’t think of the street… but the complex is downtown, you can’t miss it._

  _Can we get some busses down here?_

  _I’ll send them right away. Oh - and you might want to call ahead._


  {ring ring ring}

  “Humane Foundation,” Sanda answered smartly.

  “Hi, this is Jean Grey of the X-Men. We need lodging for 300 or so mutant children, in various stages of trauma, right away.”

  “No problem.”

  A gusty sigh grated across the line. “Great. Watch for the convoy of busses - that’ll be us.”

  Sandra hung up the phone. “Warren? How many beds’ve you got ready?”


  “Is there any food in this place?”


  “Well, *somebody* had better haul ass to the store and bring back enough for 400 dinner bags.”


  “X-Men are on their way with 300-some kids. I thought they’d like to be fed.”

  Warren staggered into the office. “*Three* hundred?”

  Sandra grinned. “You’re a success already!”

  “But -”

  “Anyone who wants a cot can set it up themselves. You want to be useful? Check the toilet paper supply.”


  “Yes. Four hundred child-size cots. Can you deliver today?” Sandra paused on the 'phone. “No, we don’t mind if they’re assorted colours. And you can throw in the sheets, pillows, blankets and wetcovers for free? *Excellent*. We will heartily endorse your product on a prime time television spot and give you three kay to line the nest. Thank you very much.” She gave the address, scribed a memo and filled in some paperwork in record time.

  “Um. I’m not sure I want to know, but–”

  “Wetcovers are plastic fitted sheets,” said Sandra. “Protect the matresses against bedwetters.”

  {Ring ring!}

  Warren picked up with Sandra, but only listened.

  “Humane Foundation.”

  “Success! I found half a billion sticker-decals and wall decorations for the dorms. Every theme you could want,” reported Alison. “I got a taskforce of about forty work-for-food street people who’ll be testing the bathrooms for free, if ya know what I mean… they’ll be helping get the place brightened up, *AND* I struck a deal with KFC to handle the lunches.”

  “My little girl’s growing up *so* fast,” cheered Sandra. “How’s the play situation?”

  “I found a bulk warehouse and guess what? They threw in a bunch of pillows and beanbags and colouring books and stuff in exchange for spruiking on the next talk show and I got half off on *all* the toys. I swear, we got something for *anyone*. No batteries necessary.”

  “Excellent *work*,” said Warren. “We’re going to need some office stuff next. Files, folios, desks, PCs, the whole deal.”

  “And swing by the Candy Emporium on Fifth, they should be able to cut a deal on bulk supplies.”

  “Roger roger,” said Alison.

  {Ring Ring!}

  “Humane Foundation.” Pause. “Yes, we *are* accepting donations. In fact, we’re registered as a charity, so you can declare your gift to a better future.” Pause. “That would be *wonderful*. *Thank* you.” Sandra beamed. “We’re getting a metric ton of kid’s clothes, newborn to middle-high size.”

  “And I thought getting five crates of Charmin was a deal,” said Warren. “I can’t believe it. This might actually–”

  {Beep beep!}

  “First lot of kids are here,” said Logan.

  “Paging Hank McCoy,” Sandra carolled over the PA. “Incoming.”


  Warren and Kaze managed to set up an intake office in the foyer in record time. Armed with a pile of pens and a stack of forms each, they bravely faced the oncoming crowd of kids. Logan assigned himself as Straight Line Police, keeping order amidst the chaos.


  “Name?” Warren asked brightly.




  “I think a lot of them are like that,” Storm murmured in his ear.

  Warren punched the button on his intercom. “Sandra?”


  “Tell Alison to bring back a baby-name book.”

  “Will do.”

  “Everyone who has a name they like to go by, come to the front,” Kaze called out. 


  Eryn came to the front. Warren looked up.

  “Who are you?”

  “One of the scientists from the compound.”

  Logan looked as if he was ready to perform some unspeakable punishment on her right there, right then. Storm, who saw her in the back, was probably the only one to realise that the only reason the woman was still standing was because there were children in the room, a few of which were still clinging to Eryn.

  “Not like that!” she said when she saw the looks aimed her way. “I was forced into it. If I didn’t do what they wanted they would kill my children.”

  Logan lessened his look from unspeakable to locking her up for all eternity.

  “Several of the others were in the same boat. If we didn’t do what they wanted, they’d kill our families. Six-fifty-two’s real name is Arianna Jackson. If we comforted them, they’d torture us both. All we could do was be their memories. Some of them were there too long before us or were too quiet when they came, though. We know most of their names, even if they’ve had to forget it in order to survive.”

  One by one the children came foward, with the scientist knowing the name for about four out of five of the children, even though in most cases it was only the first name. Alison found names in the baby book for the rest. She started off with names for what she wished the children to become. The first few girls were Hope, Joy, and Faith. She skimmed quickly for appropriate boy’s names. The first unnamed boy became Abhay, which meant fearless.

  Warren was watching the scientist and how they interacted with the children. _Perhaps there is redemption for what they’ve done after all._

  Storm was watching Logan from the back. The other X-men hadn’t walked in yet. She tried to figure out what she would say to him.

  The girls had everything handled for getting the children inside. He’d been quietly but forcefully told to leave. He didn’t argue as much as he would’ve if he hadn’t had a previous engagement. It was the tuesday before Jean’s birthday. He checked his wallet to make sure that the card for medical supplies was in there next to his credit cards. Then he went off to go shopping for Jean’s birthday present. He hoped Nightcrawler wouldn’t hurt him too badly in the mugging.


  Hank had a clipboard with a pen on a leash attached. He had forty checkups and a growing pile in his inbox and all the spicy fried chicken he could eat.

  His current patient nibbled on a chicken leg as - Hank checked, yes - *she* stood on the scales.

  Entry weight - fifty kilos. Entry height - four foot five.

  Distinguishing marks - tattoo on the underside of the left arm. Bar code and the digit… Hank dutifully scribed the numeral down and mused about what it must have been like for the poor joes sweeping up after the Holocaust. Surely at least some of those poor survivors must have had trouble remembering who they were.

  *These* survivors had no clue. Most of them had been stolen from their homes when they were still babies.

  This small survivor had some neat surgical scars indicating organ removal. Yet another thing to check. Later.

  “Now,” he said, “Let’s have a listen to your chest, hm? Nothing to harm you here. Just a stethescope. It’s even warm.”

  Heartrate a little accelerated. Breathing clear. Good. No sign of infection. Excellent.

  “What a *brave* little girl,” he cooed, and let her have her pick of the candy jar.

  She, like most of her contemporaries, snatched a piece, crammed it in her mouth, and ran for the opposite door.

  Hank lined up the next form “Mister Summers?” he blinked. “I didn’t know *you* wanted to be adopted…”

  “Not me. This little girl.” There was a bundle in his arms.

  She was still an *infant*.

  “Oh *dear*,” said Hank. He took the swaddled baby from Alex’s nervous arms and performed the necessary weights and measurements. He didn’t have a set of infant scales, so he improvised with the set he had.

  “I’ll do a mercy dash to the nearest baby store,” said Alex. “We found twenty of them - alive.”

  Thus implying that some had died. Hank dispaired for the human condition at times like this, he really did.

  Just as Alex was about to leave, Sandra made it in with diapers and formula. All she said to the hero of the hour was, “See if you can pick up some of those bottles with the baggies inside 'em. About a gross should do.”

  “How does she *do* that?” Alex wondered as he left.

  Hank’s newest unnamed patient was very glad to have a bottle and clean clothes, because she almost instantly fell asleep. Poor little mite.

  “I’ve found some pediatric nurses between jobs. They’re improvising a baby ward right now. If we’re lucky, we might even find their real families.”

  “I *hope* we’re lucky,” said Hank, brushing the tiny head. “I sincerely hope that we’re *very* lucky.”

  Sandra took the baby away, and ushered in his next silent, staring guest. Like most of them, he had obtained a piece of fried chicken and was nibbling experimentally on it.

  One down - two hundred and fifty-seven to go.