Fanfic Time: X-Wars, part 9

Continued from yesterday:

  ‘Something catch your interest?’

  Had she not been a telepath, Jean would have jumped in fright at the sudden voice behind her, as it was she sensed him before she heard him.   She turned to see a handsome man with golden hair and piercing blue eyes. Next to him was a woman, quite beautiful, with short, black hair and a dress of similar description.

  She recognised them both, they had been at the party the previous night.

  'I could ask you the same question,’ she replied smoothly.

  'I… I know about you, you’re from the X-men.’

  'Yes. So?’

  The man suddenly looked uncomforable, as did the woman.

  'I want to know more about you,’ he said suddenly, 'about what you do, what you stand for.’

  'And why’s that?’ Suspicions were starting to form in Jean’s mind.

  'Because he wants to know how large the words 'sell out’ are printed on your pretty little butt.’ said the woman, speaking vehemently and for the first time. Jean didn’t have to be a telepath to sense the hostility there.

  'Some do accuse us of that,’ she 'but there’s much more to it, you  see–’

  She got no further, for at that momment another man, sandy headed and slightly short, came jogging up to them.

  'Hey, Warr- uh, hi.’ he stuttered, suddenly notcing Jean, 'uh, sorry, do I know you?' 

  'Jean Grey,’ she said, presenting a hand, 'and you are?’

  'Greg Hallson,’ he replied, taking and shaking the proffered hand, 'Find out anything?’ snapped the blond headed man Jean now guessed to be Warren.

  'Yeah,’ gasped Greg, turning his attention to his friend, 'I managed to talk Jake into letting me have a look, he’s an old pal of dad. Any way, it was those same freaks from last night! The blue demon creature and the bone woman and the Shiva lady! They just came in and the demon basically beat the *crap* outta the guy, er… Harry Greenwood I think he was called. Anyway, the bone woman cut the hair off the lady and the six armed one stole practically *everything!* Then to complete the picture the demon stole the little girl’s fucking *name*, replaced it with a load of numbers or something, major trauma, the guys said. And they left a message too!’

  At this Greg had to pause for breath.

  'What was the message?’ prompted Jean.

  'Uh… let’s see… I memorised this… ah, it was Nie Wieder, yeah, that’s right. I checked the spelling, I think it’s German or something.’

  'Nie Wieder,’ repeated Warren, something about that phrase was… familiar[23].

  Jean’s mind was also working overtime. The 'demon’ and six armed lady was obviously the same that had attacked the previous night, but where as that attack seemed to have a motivation, protecting other mutants, this did not. Why so brutally attack a helpless suburban family? There was obviously more to this than there seemed.


  {…zzzzhhheeewwwwiiiieeeeee…} “…Greenwood is currently in surgery at Sisters of Mercy hospital. Police still have no leads as to *why* the attacking mutants did what they did, as no messages have yet been received by the purpetrators of this heinous crime…”

  “You left that sum'bitch *ALIVE*?” demanded Flich. One of his left arms was twitching in agitation. “After what he did to that poor little kid?”

  “Of course,” said Nightcrawler. “He has to be alive to suffer.”

  Filch thought about it. “Jesus H., you must really *hate* the guy.”

  “*Don’t*.” In a split second, there was a sword under Filch’s nose. "Blaspheme.“

  Filch looked down his long nose at the blade. "Gotcha, boss. Never again.”

  The blade went away. “Damn straight.”

  “Um. Sir? Um. *Sir*…”

  Nightcrawler sighed. “*Yes*, Elouise?”

  “Um,” said the little red mutant. “Maybe, um, we should like, uh… send out some kinda– sorta like a message, sir? I mean, the media's totally fumbling and stuff… Maybe some kinda letter or stuff like that 'cause I got a buncha old newspapers an’ stuff like that an’ I could… um…” She looked down. “I could probably shut up an’ go hide, right now…”

  “Was? Write a letter with newsprint, liebe?”

  “Sorta.” She cringed in place. “Octy can make ink do whatever she likes, so all we really need is an’ ol’ photo of a Hitler camp or some of the experiment stuff… andum… maybe tell 'em? Like, who we are an' stuff?”

  Nightcrawler had gone inscrutable. “I’ll consider it.”


  Father Leopold lit another candle, and smiled. Their flickering gold light made the wooden roof-beams of the Church seem softer, warmer.

  It was approaching sunset, an the rays of that bright orb were now shining though one of the stained glass windows. The multi-faceted light fell upon the simple white altar, and silhouetted the crucifix that stood there.

  The priest smiled, rarely had his church looked so beautiful. Then there a familiar sound came to his ears. He sighed, so much for that moment of peace.

  He turned to see the familar figure crouched by the altar, whispering soft prayers with a passion few could match. He wore a long, hooded cloak which hid his form somewhat, but not entirely. There was no mistaking this worshiper.

  'Hello, my son,’ greeted Leopold, and Nightcrawler turned and nodded respectfully. 'How may I serve you?’

  'I would like confession, Father.’

  The priest sighed. Great, confession with this particular parishioner was always interesting. And not in a good way.

  But he nodded and lead the blue demon to the confession box.

  Leopold and Nightcrawler had met a few years ago, during the heady time when Mutants had first been uncovered to the world. That had been a bad time to be anything but perfectly normal, as vigilante groups of fear-crazed people, and just plain thugs, had run amok, lynching anything remotely mutant or different.

  Leopold was not a mutant in the conventional sense, which is to say he could not fire laser beams from his eyes, or read peoples minds, but he was different. He was a dwarf.

  This excuse did nothing for him on the day a small mob of people came bashing on the church door, demanding that he come out and give himself over to them. Renounce himself from god like the freak he was. They called for him to come out, or be burned out.

  Perhaps one of these things would have happened had not Nightcrawer been in the area at the time. He had pounced upon the mob, promising pain and death and damnation should anyone so much as touch Leopold or his church.

  Since that time, barring the odd piece of graffitti, Leopold and his home had remained safe and untouched.

  In return he and the blue mutant had become strange friends, looking out for each other, providing an ear to listen, even a shoulder to cry on.

  It was a good friendship, a rewarding one, but also a trying one.

  'Forgive me father, for I have sinned,’ murmered Nightcrawler from the confession box.

  'Yes my son?’

  'Have you heard of the attack on the Greenwoods?’

  'Yes,’ replied the Priest, he had caught a news report on it whilst he was having his late lunch.

  'That was me.’

  ’… I thought so.’

  'Well… am I forgiven?’

  'Kurt…’ began Leopold, using the name few knew and even fewer used, 'you can’t continue like this. It’s killing you, if not your body, then your soul.’

  He sensed the blue demon shaking his head, 'I have to,’ he replied, 'for the sake of my people. Am I forgiven?’

  'Yes… yes God forgives you, I forgive you, but… but will humanity? Kurt, you can’t continue like this forever.’

  'Watch me.’ murmered Nightcrawler, 'now I must go, father, I have a letter to compose.’

  With the familiar sound of 'bamf’ and the stench of brimstone, he was gone.

  Leopold sighed and put his head in his hands. It was going to be a long night. 


  Stacy eyed Jean with distaste. Talk about a spanner in the works. If she was going to get anywhere with recruitment of Warren, the last thing she needed was a member of the opposition barrelling in and filling his head with fluff and nonsense. Especially if the opposition was toned, tanned and pretty to boot.

  Stacy fairly growled at the competition, both as a mutant and as a woman.

  Jean Grey, telekinetic and low-level telepath. Her picture was all over magazines, so her identity was no secret. Which probably accounted for why she was skulking about in the shadows instead of joining the rather large crowd outside the Greenwood’s place. How could she profess love and peace between mutants and humans at the scene like that?

  Not that Stacy could do much better. Nightcrawler was going to have some serious explaining to do when she got home. Where did he get off beating up a bunch of flatscans while she was trying so hard to recruit Warren to their side. Not exactly the way to encourage a man who spent most nights protecting the idiot humans like some sort of angelic avenger.

  _Or avenging angel,[24]_ she thought wryly, before shaking it away and making sure the shields Morag[25], the Morlocks’ resident telepath had insisted she learn from day one of living in the tunnels.

  “It’s from the holocaust,” she said suddenly, breaking the reverie the other three seemed to have fallen into. “The concentration camps.”

  Jean blinked and looked up, snapped from her train of thought. Her gold hoop earrings glittered in the afternoon sun, and her hair seemed a smidgen redder than her pictures showed. “Excuse me?”

  “Nie Wieder.”

  Her mouth formed a little 'o’ of comprehension, then another of worry. The whirring of cogs was practically audible, both in her brain and in Warren’s. Stacy’s mouth, however, remained a hard line, while Greg  just looked confused.

  “But why would anybody write it out of context?”

  “I don’t think it was,” Jean replied. “You say the attackers were mutants, right? And the press has been full of radicalists talking about mutant 'camps’ and registration programmes lately. That’s why the X-Men are so high profile, actually. We’re supposed to demonstrate to the public that Mutantkind isn’t a threat, that it can be useful, even.”

  “You sell your powers for a bit of good publicity, you mean.” Stacy folded her arms.

  “Well, when you put it that way…” Jean started, but trailed off. She turned as if drawn by some invisible cord, and stared around the corner of the building to where a woman in her late thirties was being led away, trailing a small child and a baby. Jean’s eyes narrowed at the little girl, but she said nothing until they drove away in a squad car. Then she spun on her heel and marched into a nearby darkened alley.

  Warren moved aside for her to pass, and she gave him a sidelong look. He in turn seemed a little uncomfortable, but squared his already wider-than-average shoulders and kept her gaze.

  Stacy saw that look. She didn’t like that look, and tugged on Warren's arm to get his attention, dragging his ear down as Jean walked away and whispering into it. “Don’t let on you’re a… y'know. Those X-Men are bad news. You get involved with them, your picture’ll be splashed all across the news-stand before you can say 'uncle’. Interfering busybodies.”

  Warren raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like the voice of experience talking.”

  “I had a friend,” Stacy lied. “She tried admitting to being a mutant. The humans ran her out of town as a lynch mob. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to go the same way just to make a few influential friends.”

  Warren bit his lip, but said nothing. At that moment there was the roar of an engine, and a sleek blue Mustang revved out of the alley and pulled up alongside them. Jean leaned out of the driver’s side, and waved a small piece of paper at them.

  “Here,” she said, pressing it into Warren’s hand before he could protest. “This is the number of the Xavier Institute over in Westchester. If you ever want to know more about… anything, then give it a call.”

  “Thanks, but no thanks.” Stacy snatched the scrap and screwed it up, tossing it onto the sidewalk. “We’re not interested in playing happy-families with mutants or mutant-lovers. We were just curious about how much of a hypocrite you are, dearie.”

  Jean’s gaze hardened, but she shrugged. “Have it your way, then. But remember, the offer’s always open.” This last comment was directed at Warren and Greg, who stood a little behind Stacy. Warren looked sheepish for a fraction of a second, but Greg just scratched his head bemusedly.

  The Mustang drove off at warp speed, the driver obviously intent on getting somewhere fast. Stacy sneered after it, then turned to face her companions. “Well, that was a big fat bust. Find out what you wanted to know, Warren?”

  He nodded, drawing his coat tighter about himself. “I think she suspected something, though. I mean, it’s not every human who walks up to a known mutant and asks to know about their organisation. Not without some hidden agenda, at any rate.”

  Stacy waved a careless hand. “She’s a teep. They’re always paranoid. And even if she does suspect, what’s she gonna do? Bore you to death with offers to join Le Squad Hypocrite?”

  “I suppose.”

  Greg shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed. “Dunno why she kept looking at me, then. I’m no mutant.”

  “All are judged by the company they keep,” Stacy paraphrased. “What? Just 'cause I dress nice doesn’t mean I’m a complete bimbo, y'know. Stereotyping works on all levels.” She wagged a finger.

  Warren cast about. “We should get going,” he said after a moment.

  “Where to?”

  “Anywhere but here. This place… what those mutants did… I just don’t like the smell.”

  _Ooh, Nightcrawler, I am *so* gonna kick your butt for making this more difficult than it has to be!_


  Doctor Markus Phelps[26] was a self-confessed technogeek. His whole home was wired and hosted an artificial intelligence he called Barbera.

  He didn’t have a wife or a family. He hadn’t thought about getting one.

  In fact, he’d lived with his mother until she began to suffer senile dementia and he had had to put her in a home.

  He had his mother’s home, a nice little garden - tended by a man  named Paco - a white picket fence and a lot of inherited cats.

  Odd that a man so gentle about 'his’ cats would routinely experiment on a not-quite-human child.

  Nobody who knew him would even think about it.

  “Welcome home, Markus,” said Barbera as he opened the door.

  “Hello, Barbera,” he smiled. Barbera made the place less lonely. “How are our little darlings?”

  Already, the 'little darlings’ were swarming around his ankles, mewling for food.

  “Happy to see you, of course.” Barbera opened the dispenser, extruding measured doses of wet and dry cat food into recyclable cardboard containers.

  Mark took two of them and made kissy noises. “Here puss… Here kitty kitty kitty…”

  When he got up to get the next couple of trays, there was a demon in his kitchen.

  Three demons, actually. One was blue. One had bones growing out of her skin. The third had six arms.

  Part of his mind was classifying their physical mutations even as the blue one lashed out and hit him.

  “Intruder alert,” said Barbera. “Calling 911.”

  His head, his ribs, his innards - all exploded in a fury of pain.

  “Intruder alert,” intoned the AI. “Calling 911. Intruder alert. Calling 911.”

  The one with the bones drew knives out of her flesh and began shaving his head.

  “You stole a little girl’s family,” said the blue one. “And you gave her a living hell.” He tore Mark’s left sleeve and used a spare bone knife to etch numbers into his arm.

  When the police arrived, they found him clinging to life amidst his cats. Every valuable in the place had been taken. The wall had the words "Nie Wieder" written in Markus’ blood.

  'Barbera’ was now reciting a list of his crimes. And judgements. 

  “Abducting a child. Guilty. Torturing a minor. Guilty. Prolonged abuse of a minor. Guilty. Unlawful restraint of a minor. Guilty. Theft of a childhood. Guilty…”


  Col. Stephenson was, by nature, a neat man. He liked things to be neat, both at work and at home. Perhaps he was a bit obsessive about his neatness. That was part of the reason why his wife had divorced him three months ago, taking the kids with her.

  The other reason was his current professional occupation.

  Some would dub it 'inhuman’, others 'well-deserved’, others still 'too merciful’. Stephenson didn’t care either way. He had been given orders, and scrupulously followed them. Some would have called him 'unemotional’. He simply thought of it as professional detachment.

  However, the fact remained that he was the supervisor of a series of experiments done on mutants. Mutant children, that was.

  Not that it mattered. The things were as far removed from humanity as… as… as a deep sea fish was removed from birds! There simply was *no* possible basis for comparison.

  Apparently, the 'things’ now beating him up thought differently.


  “…and this constitutes the third uncontrolled Mutant attack today." the reporter droned on. "The message 'nie wieder’ was once again written onto the walls with the victim’s own blood. Authorities have as of yet not issued a formal statement on these apparently random attacks, but there is no doubt amongst citizens that mutants *are* a threat to humanity, and as such should be, at the very least, severely controlled. Caroline Cline, Live from New York, CNN news.”

  The TV was then switched off by remote.

  Charles Xavier steepled his hands under his chin.

  In the dark recesses of his study, a grandfather clock struck the hour, then was near-silent again, its ticking the only mark of the passage of time.

  What to do? What to *do*? Events were moving too fast, even for their much-vaunted PR to smooth over.

  These attacks were obviously related in some way.

  Not that he could yet fathom *how*. No. That would require quite a bit of snooping around, and the X-men could not afford to be caught in such activities or what little leverage they retroactively had on the government would be shot to hell.

  For lack of any other solution, he dialled a number Logan had thought to be the only one in the institute to know. 


  Carol Radcliffe[27] was a mutant, and she kept that very well hidden, thankyouverymuch. She occasionally worried about her kids, second-genners all, but only time could tell if they were flatscans like their father, or muties like their Mom.

  When she told James about her power, she said she “had legoresia”, as if it was a disease. Something that could be cured. Take two pills and call if abnormality persists.

  James had listened patiently to her explanation, and said that she could help *so* many people.

  All she had to do was bill herself as a criminal psychologist/psychic and she could help solve crimes.

  Her accuracy rate was stunning, and her need for privacy absolute. Which is why the press had been shooed away when she was called in to the Greenwood place.

  She held up a silencing hand for the attending officer. “Don’t tell me *anything*. Don’t tell me how long ago you were called, don’t tell me how many more places there are, don’t say a *word*, okay. You could wreck everything. I work best with zero information and a tape recorder.”

  “Gotcha,” said the officer.

  James walked in with their human-sized doll, Vinnie[28], so named for the gigantic V on his chest. It stood for 'victim’. “Could you place this where the victim was found - in the same position he was found? My wife will be in the kitchen while you do it.”


  Carol inspected the kitchen, looking at the words on the wall. “Nie Wieder,” she said into the tape. “Holocaust memories? Second-hand?” She touched the wall. “Oh yeah. Definitely second-hand. Phrase: those bastards put numbers on Opa’s wrist… This one’s written in colouring pen. Red. Red’s very important. So are the numbers. They mean something. Something *vile*.” She moved over to the corner near the stove and the fridge. Then she crouched there. “Lots of fear in the stove-side corner of the room. Mom was here. Knives… made of bone… close to her head. Cutting… They cut her hair off. That’s important, too.”

  James poked his head in. “Other room’s set up, hon.”

  “Heading for primary crime…” She moved to the living room. Vinnie sat in a pool of dried blood. “There’s a *lot* of anger here. Very, very angry. This was something inspired in the moment. Vengeance.” She touched the remote. “An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Biblical vengeance. Exact.”

  A flash. A little girl in hospital scrubs. Her hair close-cropped. She had numbers on her arm.

  “Trace the number on the kid’s arm. That number is *VITAL*. It’s the key.”


  “On it.” James disappeared outside to use his cell-phone.

  Carol walked a slow, wide circle around the room, not saying anything and just absorbing the atmosphere for a moment. Then she flicked the switch on her tape recorder again and spoke softly into the mike. "Notion of theft evident, though a little unclear at surface level.“ She knelt, gingerly touching the blood with the tip of her forefinger. "New phrase: anything you take from us we will take back, in one form or another. Validates vengeance theory - at least at a fundamental level. Mutant signature plain. The assailants were mutants, the victims all human.”

  She sighed, unconsciously wiping her finger as she got up. “Far be it for me to theorise before collecting all evidence, but so far things seem to be pointing towards a racially motivated attack. Other than that, the motive’s still hazy.”

  “So far.” James was back and at her shoulder. “Don’t bother repeating yourself, I heard what you said. Anything else we should know?" 

  Carol went to the stairs and climbed them, trailing a hand on the bannister. "I count three mutants, three humans. Wait - four with the baby upstairs.”

  James followed, keeping step as his wife entered and exited each bedroom, cupboard and bathroom in the spacious suburban house. “Swish," he said after a while, admiring the decor.

  "It was,” Carol replied, “Before somebody cleaned it out.”

  “One of our mutant attackers?”

  “Well it wasn’t the baby.” Carol crouched by the double bed in the main bedroom, opposite the cot, and touched the bedside cabinet, then the open jewellery box on it. “Whoever took the Greenwood’s stuff was thorough. Very much so. Acting under orders, but happy to be doing so, if my guess is right. Which it usually is.”

  James nodded, going to the wardrobe and waiting for her to open it. "Yup, all gone. Even down to the underwear,“ he said with a whistle. "Not that I was looking specifically for underwear…”

  Carol smiled the special half-smile she saved just for him, then felt the back of the wardrobe. “Energy. Definitely a mutant power. I think we’re looking at how they got so much stuff out of this place without the neighbours noticing a truck outside.”

  “Teleportation?” James was no fool, and had dealt with mutant criminals before. He wasn’t the best cop on the force, but he wasn't stupid either - no matter what his superiors said.

  “Maybe,” said Carol, frowning slightly. “Though I’m leaning more towards temporal rift. Some kind of portal. Hello.” She knelt and leaned in on her hands and knees. “Come to Mama little one.”

  “What?” James tried leaning in, but the cramped space prevented him from seeing anything.

  “Strand of hair,” Carol told him and the recorder triumphantly. "White, mutant signature. I can get a lot from this puppy. Female, late twenties. Aura of abandonment, gleefulness, and vindication. And anger.“

  "Can’t forget the anger.”

  “Hey, it accounts for over seventy percent of the New York crime rate.” Carol delicately picked up the hair between her thumb and forefinger. “Yowch. Image of underground, dark spaces. Low roof. Nothing specific, but I don’t think it’s any place you’d take your kids for a vacation. More anger. Child with cropped hair again. She’s popping up a lot. Priority on tracing those numbers just went up a notch.”

  “Got the lab already working on it,” said James straightening his jacket and looking out of the window down onto the lawn. Three patrol cars were still stationed outside, the officers talking amongst themselves as red and blue flashing lights lit up the dusk around them.

  Then Carol did something unexpected. She switched off her tape recorder and looked squarely at her husband. “James, something’s off about this place.”

  “Off?” He raised an eyebrow.

  “I can’t quite explain it. Seems mostly to be based in emotion. Something went down here this afternoon, and it smells worse than my cooking.”

  He whistled. “Must stink really bad then.”

  She stared at the strand of hair. “I get the distinct impression those doing the attacking didn’t throw the first punch.”

  “Excuse me? They broke in unannounced and trounced a family - including the kid. You gonna tell me she did something to rile them up to that point of aggression?”

  “No. But I’m thinking maybe her father did.” She sighed. “Look, I'm not saying I know exactly what happened. The evidence can only tell me so much, even with my abilities. All I can say for certain is that the mutants who came here, came for a reason. And I’ll tell you right now it sends shivers down my spine just thinking about what it could be.”

  James held out a hand to help her up. “Carol, I’ve been married to you for over thirteen years, and in that time I’ve learned to trust whatever your gut tells you. So if it says something’s fishy about this case, then I believe it. But I don’t mind admitting that, if it’s enough to give *you* the willies, even after all the cases you’ve worked before," he cast another glance at the police outside, "Then this is some deeply serious shit we’re messing with, and no mistake.”