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FIC: Jus Ad Bellum Part I: 2/6: MA: Rogue, all

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  • Jenn
    2/6 Slowly, I sank down into the hot asphalt of the lot and tried to think, ignoring the soft pounding in my knee and the sharper pounding of my head.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 28, 2001
      2/6

      Slowly, I sank down into the hot asphalt of the lot and tried to think,
      ignoring the soft pounding in my knee and the sharper pounding of my head.
      Obviously, someone with a sick sense of humor made this. Funny money, how
      cute. How very fucking cute. Though--though it smelled real. I lifted it
      to my nose, taking a breath. It smelled VERY real. Like...like money,
      like sweat and musty-detergent from my jeans, slightly metallic from the
      register or the coins it had been pressed against in my hand. Frantically,
      I flipped up the next two--Robert Kelley smiled back at me with disturbing
      amounts of good humor. The five was fine--there we go, back in the real
      world, Lincoln old buddy, we're good.

      I had to be hallucinating.

      But no--spreading out the three dollars and the five with trembling
      fingers, I looked between them. No difference. There was Lincoln, and
      there was Kelley, and they both smiled back at me as if totally unaware
      that they were doing their damndest to give me a heart attack. Bastards.

      Breathe, Rogue. You're stronger than this. Obviously, this is some sort
      of weird, super-elaborate practical joke. Obviously. Obviously, that nice
      boy and the cashier and someone else has set you up, even got a man to
      dress up for you too. This little stunt has Bobby and Jubes written all
      over it. Oh yes, my dearest friends, this was their idea of a good joke.

      And then they took my car. Took my car so I couldn't get home and then set
      this up, told that guy--John? John Andrews?--to trip me up, and then that
      guy with the gun. All of it. And I--and I should march right back in that
      store and demand that I get real money back. Or--or find that cute guy who
      obviously was trying to distract me with his fear scent, all kinds of odd
      there. I was going to choke Jubes with her own tongue. This wasn't funny.
      By no stretch of the imagination could this be considered funny. It was
      sick and twisted, and my car was gone--

      --and there wasn't even a little puddle of oil where it had been, and my
      car always leaked oil. It leaked at stop signs, for goodness sake. Logan
      and I had been planning to get that fixed finally this weekend. But here,
      now, there was no oil, as if my car hadn't even been in this space.
      Crawling the four inches that separated me from the lines of paint that
      made up the edging, I stared at the asphalt for an endless moment, trying
      to register the fact that this parking lot was not only devoid of my oil
      stains, but it was *clean*. The lines were freshly drawn snowy-white,
      there was--I stopped, sitting back on my heels to think.

      If thinking could be applied to the nasty hamsteresque circles my mind was
      running.

      Scrambling in a circle (maybe I parked over *there*), I looked at all the
      empty spaces. Oil cleaned up, yeah--but there wasn't even a stain. There
      was nothing. My car, the car I drove and that leaked a merry trail of oil,
      had never touched its year-old Michelin wheels in this lot. It was that
      simple.

      Calm, Rogue. There's an explanation for all of this.

      "Ma'am?"

      Black boots, grey pants, weaponry, deep voice. My eyes traveled upward in
      the vain hope that I'd just imagined that voice.

      Paramilitary guy was back, looking worried. Paramilitary guy was wearing
      an M-16 and there was Glock at his hip. I blinked--I knew my weaponry; I
      could identify on sight any weapon made in any country from the year 1900
      on, and a shitload of stuff before that. A few other things were attached
      to the wide utility belt that I *didn't* recognize, but those two certainly
      had my full and undivided attention.

      And while an M-16 wouldn't necessarily hurt me much, it could slow me down.

      "My--My car is gone." My mouth was dry, and were my hands shaking?
      Clasping them behind me, I looked up at him, hoping to God my face wasn't
      betraying me as much as my body was. He wasn't a joke--you don't get stuff
      like that gun for a practical joke.

      "Your car?" He scowled, wide jaw tightening, and I forced myself not to
      wince. "Little norm bastard." He extended a gloved hand to me. "Ma'am--"

      Norm bastard?

      "Marie." The ma'am's were scaring me. Seriously scaring me.

      "Lieutenant Bartlesby, ma'am." The hand was still out and I slowly tucked
      my money in my pocket, tentatively taking the hand and letting the thick
      fingers close over mine. "Do you need a ride back to the School?"

      I froze for a second. The Professor would know what was going on. He'd
      understand. He'd kick Bobby's and Jubilee's asses for doing this. Oh
      yes--I'd sic Logan on them too. I had a headache and a serious case of the
      willies, and I sure as *fuck* didn't need this sort of crap on top of it.

      "Yes, please." Without ceremony, Bartlesby bent to pick up my bag and
      turned toward the road--and how odd, there were no cars. This was Saturday
      morning; there were *always* cars out. Always. Packed. In jams, even.
      But not one to be seen and the hairs on my body seemed to lift even
      further. Dear God, what the hell was going on? "Thank you, sir."

      --Did you just agree to let a government military officer take you home?--

      --Shut up, Logan. Give me a better idea here.--

      He--Bartelsby--smiled a little.

      "No problem, ma'am. I'm sorry this happened--we haven't had an incident
      like this in a long time. I'm sure we'll find your car soon."

      In my experience, a stolen car was as good as vanished--probably on its way
      to Mexico for a new paint job, but why on earth would anyone *want* it? It
      wasn't that great, though it ran well, and that oil leak--surreptitiously,
      I glanced around the parking lot toward the exit. No line of oil. Damn.
      What sort of car thief fixed your oil before they stole your car?

      "I can--can give you a description." Eclipse, dark green. All mine. I
      loved it. I wanted it back. Kill Jubes and Bobby for this. You ever met
      them, sir? Even if you do carry guns? Very big guns?

      "I'm sure it's on file already, ma'am. We won't have any trouble getting
      it back."

      I--*what*?

      "You--you do?"

      He nodded, still smiling--that smile was beginning to grate too. It had
      things in it--knowledge I didn't have and I hated to be left out.
      Especially out of this joke--and it had to be a joke.

      "Of course. We have all of the School's vehicles registered." He paused
      for a moment as we came to the sidewalk lining the street, and I took the
      opportunity to look around. Nothing weird, nothing at all. Fewer cars.
      Granted. Perhaps we could say even *no* cars. Everything nice--pretty
      June day, blue sky, bright sun, not a cloud to be seen. Hallmark day,
      right outta a television special. This was...some mistake. Weird, weird
      mistake.

      Weird mistake on Salem's biggest shopping day that the entirety of the town
      was disturbingly silent. No cars, no--people. Nothing. In the distance,
      there was a vague grey blob, tall and oddly familiar, though--and I
      blinked, trying to clear my gaze to see. Without thinking, I let my
      lessons take over and lifted off the ground--oh SHIT. Bad idea.
      Exercising mutant powers in public--not bright. Not bright at all.

      The man paused and I alighted quickly, flushing.

      "Sorry," I said quickly. What the hell was wrong with me? "I didn't--"

      "Ma'am?" His gaze was blank. Maybe he hadn't been paying attention.
      Though he didn't look like the sort that missed much.

      "For--doing that," I clarified. Still blank. "Flying."

      "Why should you--" he stopped, frowning a little, but his hands never left
      my bag and looked entirely uninterested in going for the weaponry. "I'm
      happy to be of service, ma'am."

      What the FUCK was that?

      "Huh?"

      He stopped, turning to face me.

      "You wanted a ride back to the school--I'm glad to be of service."

      It was obvious--I'd hit my head and I was currently hallucinating this
      entire thing. Setting my feet in pause mode, I drew in a breath.

      "Sir, I--"

      --Stop.--

      Logan was completely awake in my head. I froze in place--it'd been a long
      time since I'd felt him like that. The pounding in my head increased
      suddenly and I stumbled, blinking through the sudden intensity of having so
      much of his personality pressing inside my skull, reawakening the fading
      headache.

      --Logan--

      --Don't do anything. Don't say anything else. Agree with whatever he
      says. That's military, darlin'. You don't wanna give him any ammo against
      you. Stop, listen, nod. That's it.--

      "...just a lieutenant, ma'am." I'd missed something. Logan in my head
      stretched idly and made himself comfortable for the show--how long ago was
      the most recent touch again?

      "All right." I nodded carefully, and his blank expression cleared. Looking
      at him, really looking at him now, he was young. Very young. Maybe
      twenty-four or five, barely older than I was. Handsome, in a vaguely
      standard-military-issue sort of way, dark hair cropped close. Scared me to
      death, because there was no good reason for him to be nice to me. None at
      all.

      "If you'll come this way, ma'am." What the hell was with those ma'am's? I
      nodded, feeling for my keys in my pockets, wondering where we were going.
      Okay, so no car, weird change, weird guy, this is a pattern, chica. Just
      sit back and think about it. Sit back and follow the nice man on this
      turn--

      To the left of the wooden fence that separated the lot of the store from
      the next lot, we made a left onto a sidewalk I didn't remember being there.
      I looked down, studying it; it didn't look particularly new. There were
      water stains and ingrained dirt from what could have been years of use, but
      this was supposed to be a weedy lot; I was sure of it. I'd seen the
      for-sale sign when I drove up. Following to the edges of the sidewalk, I
      noted the thick dark green turf, well tended, neatly mowed--then what
      looked like....

      My eyes slowly traveled up in utter disbelief.

      --What the *fuck* is that?--

      I came stock still and it took several seconds for Paramili--I mean,
      Bartlesby--to catch on to the fact I was no longer following. I
      half-wished he'd just walked on and the rest of me didn't care whether he
      stopped or went.

      --I'm not seeing that, Logan.--

      No answer. Inner Logan got a glance and was pretty much the definition of
      speechless.

      Chain link, many feet tall, outer fence. A glimpse of barbed wire within.
      I slowly followed it's height upward until I could see the top, and the
      shininess that tangled over it. Shiny, fine something that glinted in the
      sunlight. I *recognized* it, flashing into a memory that wasn't mine.

      --Razor wire.-- Logan's voice was grim. --That's razor wire. Eighteen
      feet chain-link, two feet razorwire. Check the length.--

      I was just beyond the post that made up one corner of the fence--turning
      slightly, I watched it stretch into the distance to my right so I couldn't
      even get an estimate--to my left, same thing, ending in another vague
      greyish shape that my memory was trying to retrieve for study. Some bored
      person had erected an endless chain-link fence in the middle of downtown
      Salem while I was shopping, which rated among the weirdest things I'd run
      across yet. The competition was blown away.

      That *hadn't* been there when I'd gone into that store. No question.

      "Ma'am?"

      Mr. Paramilitary/Bartlesby guy was beside me, hand on my elbow.

      --Logan, is that was it.... But it can't be.--

      Erik's memories were faded, distant with time, but they blended now into
      the images Logan gave me. Abruptly, I was standing in the middle of a
      burned-out field in Germany, the smells of unwashed bodies and death as
      thick as the humidity that surrounded me, a rush of sick horror and utter
      despair, a rush that left me breathless. Double vision, from Erik, who
      stood behind them as a child--and from Logan, who stood before them as a
      soldier.

      I *recognized* this.

      --Dear God.--

      "Are you all right?"

      --Don't tell him anything. Take it, baby. Just take it and walk and
      watch.-- Logan was deadly serious, more serious than I'd ever heard him
      before. Realizing I wasn't moving--I wasn't sure I'd be able to move,
      truth be told--he pushed forward and took over, moving my feet along.

      "Fine," I heard myself whisper and ripped back control, stumbling a little
      from the inner shift. Automatically, my hand went out to catch myself on
      the fence and just as automatically, Bartlesby somehow got on my other
      side, between me and the fence, catching my covered wrist in a firm grip.

      "Ma'am!" His hand was over mine, gently leading it away from the fence,
      supporting me until I got my balance back. "You don't want to do that--"
      he paused. "It's powered with electrical current. I don't know if
      you--are you okay with that?"

      Am I okay with a chain link fence in the middle of Salem that's powered
      with electricity? Sure I am.

      "It's--it's okay," I said slowly. I raised a hand to my head. This
      couldn't be real. "Headache."

      He nodded as if he understood and shifted his grip to my covered elbow,
      leading me down the narrow corridor made up by the old wooden store fence
      and the--THE fence. "Just a little further, ma'am. I need to get my truck
      and speak to my superiors."

      Superiors. There were more of them. More men in uniform, more M-16s, more
      of this terribly strange politeness that seemed to translate to a cross
      between respect and fear.

      --Go with it. Nod and do whatever he says. Just go with it until you know
      more.--

      --Logan, this isn't Salem. This was *not* here when I walked in. You know
      what that means?--

      --Um...--

      --I'm in a coma somewhere because I really did hit my head harder than I
      thought. This is all a remarkable hallucination.-- Leaving off the fact I
      didn't remember hitting my head.

      Logan was quiet for a moment.

      --Marie, it isn't a hallucination. I'd know.--

      --You're just one of my personalities. How the fuck would you know?--

      --I know when you're dreaming, don't I?--

      I almost froze at that, but inner-Logan was stronger than he'd ever been
      and got my feet to keep going. He'd woken me from my nightmares and
      protected me in my dreams. Yes, he'd know.

      --Is Carol still in there?--

      A low growl was my answer. Okay. Logan didn't care much for Carol
      Danvers. In life, he'd had no issues with her, but in death, there'd been
      a merry hell of fighting for control of my body. I'd won, but Logan had
      never forgotten and this attitude showed in how he hung out in my mind.
      Inside, he and Carol were not quite equal powers--she had the most of
      herself in there, but Logan was fresher. It was weird and gave me
      headaches if I thought about it too much.

      Of course, I already had a headache.

      --Get out there and watch, darlin'. See what the hell is going on.--

      I re-emerged into the real world and blinked, glancing at Bartlesby to see
      if he'd noticed my inattention. He'd come to an abrupt stop beside me, his
      hand on my arm bringing me up short as well, and I hovered slightly before
      catching my balance. Frowning, I gave the area a once over, wondering why
      he'd paused--and my curious visual search stopped cold as it met the
      reality of the strange grey blob I'd seen from a distance.

      Silvery-metal, shining in the sunlight, as if a thousand hands had wandered
      over it with polish to bring that glowing perfection. Instantly, I was in
      Germany and staring up at an abandoned tower, the smells of ash and burning
      assaulting every sense. Squinting high above, I looked at the soldiers
      stationed at the top, weapons out, ready for anything.

      --Logan, I'm going to start screaming.--

      --Thirty feet high. Fuck.-- I grasped for control, somehow finding my
      balance, schooling myself into normality. Don't give anything away.
      Logan's paranoia turned out to be useful for once.

      --Sixteen individual scents--hold it, sugar.-- I sniffed as a light breeze
      carried different scents toward me --They aren't all human.--

      Logan couldn't smell mutations per se--but some things came across in scent
      that related to mutation. Sabretooth, for one, had a strong feline
      presence in his scent, marking him as mutant. Magneto had the faintest
      bite of metal. There were at least three people whose mutations were of
      the animal variety in this area.

      A green-skinned young woman came forward, frowning, and I didn't need scent
      to identify her. Slightly iridescent scales marched across her throat in
      even rows, and I could see what could be something vaguely gill-like just
      behind her ears before short black hair swung forward to cut across her
      cheeks in a razor-fine line. Never had I ever seen a physically mutated
      person wander around in public. Never. Not unless they could hide it or
      they had a death wish.

      Her uniform was similar to Bartlesby's--plain military grey, utterly
      forgettable except for all that serious weaponry that a domestic arena
      should never need, and a set of metal pendants or rank insignia on her
      collar. I squinted to see if I could identify her rank and military
      branch--this was most definitely *not* American army.

      "Lieutenant?" Her voice was sharp, reptilian yellowish eyes roaming over
      me, trying to decide what I was. I tried not to gape--after all, I'd seen
      more unusual, didn't I live with Hank McCoy? Bartelsby snapped into full
      salute mode and my inner Logan groaned.

      --What?--

      --He's doing it all wrong.--

      And this is something Logan would worry about. Go figure.

      "...and I offered to take her back to the School."

      The woman turned on me--apparently, I'd missed most of that conversation.
      I couldn't let that continue to happen; I was missing too much already. I
      forced my attention onto her as her thin lips parted, revealing a slightly
      pointed tongue in vague shades of seaweed.

      "Name?"

      "Marie Danvers," I heard my voice say, and my inner Logan growled again.
      Oh hell, hello Carol. Been awhile.

      --Shut up, Logan. She needs help.-- Carol's voice was faint, testy, and my
      headache, which had been fading, returned in all its former glory as she
      pressed inside my mind, taking up a comfortable residence to watch the
      show.

      "Classification?"

      It took a moment for the sense to penetrate on the question. I hadn't
      thought of myself like that before, though God knew, I'd seen my own files
      often enough.

      "Alpha class."

      Ah, that was interesting--the woman straightened. Respect. Awe, even.

      "You're new here?"

      Oh yeah, you'd better believe it, chickadee.

      "Just arrived. I was on my way to the School and--my car was stolen."
      Silently, I hoped John Andrews ran long and far. This wasn't looking good
      for him. Not at all. Car stealing. These people were seriously freaking
      me out.

      "Mr. Lensherr will want to see you, then." She smiled with such open
      friendliness I felt another rise of panic and had to force it down.
      "Welcome to the Salem Complex. I'm Captain Reherr." Dismissing Bartlesby
      with a nod, she took the bag from him and motioned for me to follow her.
      "You haven't been here before?" I blinked and slowly followed her to the
      tower, shaking my head mutely. I didn't think I could speak. "You'll need
      to pick up some ID while you're here--I can do that now for you. Is there
      anything else you need?"

      "All my--my stuff was in my car." First things first. Marie Danvers
      didn't have brown hair with a white streak. That was Rogue.

      --Nice of you to remember that, honey.--

      --Where's Logan?-- I didn't like her in my head. It felt wrong.

      --Here. He's letting me handle it. Be a good girl and follow the nice
      woman. Then choose someone you can absorb.--

      Whoa doggies. I almost stopped still

      --I sure as hell am *not*!--

      Inner Carol and Inner Logan suddenly banged together in my head and the
      headache slammed through me with a suddenness that was startling.

      --Kid, this isn't your Salem. You realize that, right?--

      --No shit, Sherlock.--

      I figured out that part. Wherever the hell I was, this wasn't home.

      --So, you wanna get up to date on where the hell you actually are before
      you meet up with Erik Lensherr? Or did you miss that part of the
      conversation?--

      No, I hadn't. I hadn't missed that at all. I was blocking it, and doing a
      pretty kick-ass job at that, too.

      The woman had paused to look at me curiously. Ah, missed speaking. Get
      back in the real world, Rogue. Get up to date. Don't freak out. Remain
      calm.

      "Sorry." I rubbed my head. "Headache."

      Her expression cleared and she nodded gently before gesturing me to follow
      her again. I took in her weaponry in a quick, sideways glance. M-16,
      Glock, standard issue apparently, as she opened the door to the watchtower
      with a quick swipe of a card she pulled from her pocket. As my eyes
      adjusted to the dimmer interior of the building, I realized I was
      surrounded by uber-respectful people in uniform who saluted en masse.
      Several were mutants. Wait...

      --My God. They're all mutants, aren't they?-- Inner Logan did an internal
      nod in agreement with my assessment. Most were visible mutations--two were
      scent-confirmation on feral tendencies. As Reherr closed the door behind
      me, I turned in a slow circle to take in the new location.

      The base of the tower was a single room in slate-grey metal, dull enough
      that the overhead yellow halogens didn't glare off of it uncomfortably, and
      smelling uncomfortably of metal. Computer stations lined the farthest
      wall, where more uniformed mutants were obviously working. Farther to the
      left was a metal staircase, obviously leading to the upper levels.
      Checking the height of the ceiling, I tried to estimate how many floors
      this had.

      "Dear God." I bit my lip, but luckily, I'd spoken low enough that no one
      seemed to hear me. Reherr stopped at a computer terminal and the officer
      at it turned quickly, rising to salute. There was the slightest sheen of
      metal to his skin and the grey eyes owed more to metal than the actual
      color. I blinked a little--it wasn't unusual for me to see mutants. It
      was just damned unusual to see them like this, and openly at that.

      "I need an ID for the young woman." The Captain waited as he nodded
      quickly at me and turned back to his computer, quickly beginning. "Send a
      message to Mr. Lensherr and Logan for the passcodes."

      Logan.

      --Darlin', be careful.--

      Logan. I could go to Logan, get some answers. Obviously, he'd figure out
      what was--

      --Rogue, has it penetrated yet this isn't your world?--

      I froze, stock-still at Carol's acerbic tone of voice.

      --What?--

      --This isn't your world. Therefore, the man who is currently in your head
      probably doesn't bear much resemblance to the man they just referred to as
      Logan. Walk carefully.--

      --You know this is impossible, right?--

      Carol's voice was wry, and somewhere distant, Logan snorted, but not in
      protest.

      --Honey, when I was your age, I'd already seen a lot of things that were
      'impossible'. Grow up and open your mind here. Assume that no one is
      going to be who you think they are and act accordingly.--

      I took a breath, letting it out slowly.

      --That's why you didn't let me give my name?--

      --You got it, honey. Let's just hope I'm not anywhere close by. Or you,
      for that matter.--

      The weirdness was receding, ironically--I could honestly say it was
      probably Logan and Carol between them keeping back the panic that seriously
      wanted to do a number on me at that moment. They were the reason I leaned
      casually into the wall, acting--er, casual. Like this was normal.

      --Logan'll know my scent.--

      --Then don't get close enough for him to pick it up.-- That was
      ogan. --Range is fifteen feet or so on scent, depending on if the air is
      clear. Don't touch anything so you don't leave a trace.--

      I jerked up from the wall and got several sets of curious eyes for my
      trouble.

      --Sorta late now, darlin'.--

      Fuck you, Logan. The eyes still studied me, obviously wondering why on
      earth I was jumpy, and I shrugged it off, relaxing my body muscle by
      muscle.

      "This gonna take long?"

      The officer at the computer shrugged.

      "About an hour to clear you for entrance to the School."

      A quick glance around, then I gave them my best smile. I had an idea.

      "Looks like I need to go shopping. Can someone show me where to go?
      And--Ah, where would I look someone up? Someone I, uh, wanted to find. I,
      um, lost track of her in the camps."

      --Looking for yourself now?--

      --I don't wanna be unprepared here. If this is--well, anyway. Never hurts
      to see who I am.--

      "You lost someone in the camps?" Reherr asked sympathetically, the yellow
      eyes softening as I looked away. My stomach turned over and refused to
      right itself as I took in what that meant.

      Camps.

      "You can use the computer over there." She pointed and I crossed
      obediently to the station she indicated, to the far left of where she and
      the other officer were working. Hmmm. Normal enough. Good to go. I sat
      down and found a working database after familiarizing myself with the
      operating system. Not so strange.

      Rogue. Born--ah, here we--

      I blanked out as the information scrolling impersonally across the flat
      screen--though I suppose I should have expected it on some level, if for no
      other reason than that this day was already weird and it didn't seem to
      want to be looking up by much. Staring serenely back at me was my own face
      and a painfully short bio. Because nothing much was known about Rogue's
      life. I never had the chance here, apparently.

      But Rogue's death at the top of the Statue of Liberty was documented in
      excruciating detail, detail gleaned from the memories of those who had
      watched her die. For her martyrdom to mutantkind, seven years before, when
      she willingly gave her life to change the world and the catalyst for the
      human/mutant war that led to--to *this*.

      --Please tell me I'm hallucinating this.--

      I studied my own serene face as if it was a stranger's, the full lips and
      soft face of the child I hadn't been in so long I'd almost forgotten her.

      Rogue, Magneto's dream, this reality.

      It was an act of God that I didn't throw up.

      *****

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