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FIC: Miles to Go (Summers in a Sea of Glory, 3/10)

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  • Mo
    Logan and I were in Charles’s office within minutes. We weren’t the first ones there. Ethan had arrived before us, or perhaps had never left after the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2006
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      Logan and I were in Charles’s office within minutes.
      We weren’t the first ones there. Ethan had arrived
      before us, or perhaps had never left after the meeting
      we’d had to discuss Cassandra’s future. Cassandra had
      joined Charles and Ethan since we’d left.

      My first thought on seeing her was that we had been
      just short of insane to even consider taking Cassandra
      on as an X-Man. She looked like an inmate in some
      horror movie about an insane asylum. Her clothes were
      torn and dirty, her hair all over the place.
      Scratches on her face and forearms were fresh and
      bleeding. I might have thought she’d been attacked
      except that she continued to rip her clothing and rake
      her nails across her flesh as she sat there, thrashing
      about and wailing uncontrollably. Ethan was speaking
      to her in a quiet, soothing voice, trying to get her
      to stop the self-mutilation, it seemed. It was
      apparently a futile gesture. It looked as if
      Cassandra didn’t even know he was there. She
      continued ripping her skin and clothes, and crying and
      ranting loudly. Her arms were moving about in
      strange, almost mechanical, gestures or tics. I could
      make out a few words – “the kids” and “save them” was
      said a few times – but her voice was oddly inflected
      and the phrases were difficult to understand. And
      most of the sounds coming out of her mouth weren’t
      speech and didn’t even sound all that human.

      “Cassandra had a vision,” Charles said in my head.

      “Is this what she’s always like during one?” I sent
      that thought back to him, but he didn’t answer, his
      attention turned now to Cassandra and Ethan.

      “Let me,” Charles said to Ethan. “This has to stop,”
      he added. Cassandra’s wailing ceased even as he said
      it, stopping abruptly along with the compulsive
      scratching and twitching and tearing of clothes.
      Cassandra smoothed her rumpled skirt, and sat on the
      couch calmly and sedately, her head turned towards
      Charles. Aside from the rips in her blouse and the
      blood on her face and arms she looked perfectly
      normal, a complete contrast to the wild woman she’d
      appeared to be just a minute ago. If I hadn’t seen
      other people under mind control I might not have
      noticed the characteristic vacant expression in her
      eyes.

      “Are you okay, Cassandra?” Ethan asked, his voice calm
      and concerned, taking both of her hands in his,
      looking deep into her eyes.

      “She can’t hear you,” I interjected. “Charles has her
      brain.” He took a closer look at her, then turned to
      Charles, questions on his face. Charles nodded.
      “What’s the vision?” I asked.

      Ethan answered me. “We don’t know. She couldn’t calm
      down enough to tell us. All I’ve managed to get out
      of her is that it’s going to happen soon and there are
      children in peril.”

      “Also, that she thinks the X-Men can help,” Charles
      added.

      “Are her visions of... possibilities, then, not what’s
      definitely going to happen?” I asked.

      “No, that’s not my impression,” Ethan replied. “I
      think she does see what’s going to happen. That’s a
      lot of what makes this gift such a difficult one for
      her – the feeling of powerlessness, the inability to
      stop disaster she knows is coming. But this time it
      seems it’s a little different. Whatever she’s
      envisioning is a scene of people in danger, not dead.
      She kept saying ‘They’ll die if you don’t do
      something’ but we couldn’t get her to tell us more.”
      He turned to Charles. “Can you control her enough to
      keep her calm but let her thoughts through, so she can
      tell us?”

      He shook his head. “I’m trying, but she’s too
      panicked. If I let up even a bit, I can feel her
      start to spiral out of control.”

      “Can you read her mind while she’s under mind control?
      Get at the vision that way?” Ethan asked.

      Charles shook his head. “No. Usually I can do that,
      but not with her. I can’t seem to read her thoughts
      well enough to see the vision myself. Her mind is
      unusual, unique perhaps. Certainly not like any I’ve
      ever encountered. I find her hard to read even when
      her power is inactive. When she’s in the middle of a
      vision her brain is totally incomprehensible to me.”
      He turned towards me, to answer the question I’d asked
      when I came in. “No, Scott, she’s not usually like
      this. I’ve been with Cassandra before when her power
      is active. Her affect is always kind of strange
      during a vision and she does cry while she talks about
      it, but she’s been able to tell me what she sees other
      times, although I’ve always been unable to access the
      vision directly with telepathy. I think her panic is
      coming from the feeling that this is a situation we
      can and must respond to. Other visions she’s had
      there were no such options. She was upset, but
      somewhat resigned to the calamity she foretold. She
      wasn’t so completely out of control.”

      “So what do we do now? If there is something the
      X-Men can do to avert disaster,” I added, “we should
      find out what it is. But how can we find out if she
      can’t tell us when she’s not under your control and
      you can’t find out for us?”

      “Let her go.” Logan spoke for the first time. “I’ll
      handle her.”

      Charles complied immediately. I could tell as soon as
      he released her mind, because the noise and the
      movement started as if it had never stopped. Started,
      but not for long.

      “Cassandra!” Logan said, in the commanding tone he
      uses with the kids when he’s directing them in drills
      and exercises. “Stand up!” She obeyed immediately
      and stood at attention facing him. She was still
      sobbing, but the wailing and thrashing had ceased.
      And the sobbing receded, too, as Logan began doing
      breathing and warm up exercises with her. Cassandra
      seemed very familiar with them – he must have taught
      her these when he was training with her. In less than
      a minute she appeared back to normal, almost.

      Charles and I looked at each other. “Whatever your
      problem is with him,” his brain said to mine, “get
      over it. We need him.” I nodded my agreement.

      Logan stood in front of Cassandra, eyes locked on
      hers, and said, “What’s going to happen?”

      “An accident. A cable car. It’s dangling, going to
      fall. And there’s a fire, too. Somewhere nearby –
      maybe in the car. Children – they’ll die if you don’t
      get them out. There’s not much time.”

      The wailing began again, but Logan took her by the
      shoulders, ordered her to go through the same sequence
      of breathing exercises, and she got herself under
      control again. “Can I try to find out more?” I asked
      Logan. He gestured his assent, eyes remaining fixed
      on Cassandra’s.

      “Cable car? You mean like in San Francisco?”

      “No!” she almost yelled it and her head shook
      uncontrollably for a minute, but Logan got her back on
      track quickly. “Not that kind,” she said. “Hanging
      from something – high up. Like in Switzerland, for
      traveling in the mountains.”

      Charles had wheeled over to his desk and was doing
      something on his computer workstation while we were
      talking. He turned on the recessed projector now, and
      the picture he’d called up on his screen appeared on
      the wall opposite the couch. It was an aerial tramway
      – also called a cable car, as Cassandra had said –
      traveling up an incline, with alpine scenery in the
      background. “Is this what you mean?” he asked. She
      nodded. “How long until the accident?”

      “I don’t know. Soon. Two hours, maybe.”

      “Where is it?”

      “I don’t know.” She was beginning to wail again, but
      this time all it took was a slight touch of her
      shoulder and she started breathing in time with Logan
      again, getting herself under control. “But it’s near
      here. It’s not *in* Switzerland – it’s just that kind
      of cable car. The vision is only this vivid if it’s
      close. I don’t think it’s more than twenty miles
      away.”

      Charles shook his head. “There aren’t any cable cars
      like that in New York. Well, maybe up in the
      Catskills, but not around here.”

      I stood up. “Yes, there are. Definitely less than 20
      miles. The Skyfari ride at the Bronx Zoo.”

      ************************************************

      We got there before it happened. We landed the
      Blackbird in a clearing among trees on the zoo
      grounds. I was glad that its vertical landing
      capabilities made that an option, allowing us to enter
      the zoo less conspicuously than landing our secret
      vehicle in the parking lot. Still, we didn’t stay
      inconspicuous. Running through the zoo grounds in
      uniform, we attracted a certain amount of attention,
      not all of it positive. I didn’t care. Although I’d
      been told that Cassandra’s visions always come true,
      part of me thought we could prevent the accident.
      And, if not, we still were going to try to prevent or
      minimize loss of life. To have a chance of that, we
      needed to be on the spot. So my concern was for speed
      and efficiency, not blending in.

      We wouldn’t have blended in very well in uniform,
      anyway, but even less so considering the team I’d
      brought with me. In addition to Logan, I’d taken
      Storm, Nightcrawler, Beast and Iceman. So, two who
      were obviously mutants at first glance and all of us
      in uniform. We stood out. We ignored the looks we
      got and rushed through the zoo to the Skyfari East
      station.

      Storm and I had been to the Bronx Zoo just a couple of
      weeks before, on a school field trip. The class we
      took was Hank’s, a biology one, but on that occasion
      we had been trying to be inconspicuous, so we’d
      traveled there by school minivan, and it had been just
      her and me. The kids were studying adaptations of
      nocturnal animals and we’d taken them primarily for
      the World of Darkness exhibit. I’d quoted Blake to
      them: “Nature in darkness groans” and Jubilee had
      complained that they shouldn’t have to hear poetry on
      a biology field trip.

      We’d used the aerial tramway – called the Skyfari – to
      get from one side of the zoo to the other. It was, as
      Cassandra had alluded, a cable car – a miniature
      version of the ones that were used in Switzerland to
      travel up and down the Alps. Four people per car, it
      rose above the zoo and took passengers from quite near
      the World of Darkness exhibit across to the Dancing
      Crane Café, where we’d given the kids lunch.

      When we arrived at the Skyfari station, everything
      looked normal except for us. There was a long line
      waiting for the tramway and we could see a couple of
      the cable cars high in the air. No sign of a fire, an
      accident in the sky, or anyone in distress. We ran up
      to the station, ignoring the objections of people
      patiently waiting in line to board. Well, we all
      ignored them except for Logan, who extended his middle
      claw as we ran past, when he heard someone loudly
      complaining about “line cutters.” He didn’t break his
      stride to do it, though.

      As soon as we got there, though, it was clear
      something was amiss. Passengers board the Skyfari
      tram in a small enclosure, with the assistance of
      attendants who manage the doors and the line. As we
      approached the enclosure we suddenly saw fire. There
      were large flames surrounding the cable car on the
      landing and boarding platform. We couldn’t see where
      the fire was coming from, or even what was on fire.
      It must have just begun, or just gotten large enough
      to cause panic, because the calm line of a minute ago
      was transformed. People were screaming. Some were
      running away; some seemed frozen in place.

      I could barely see the people inside the cable car.
      They must have been about to get out. One of the
      attendants had been holding the door for them to exit.
      She had had the presence of mind to slam the door
      before the flames reached the passengers inside. The
      cable, which moved continuously, had stopped,
      presumably due to some safety feature. We could see
      other cars high above the zoo, stopped in mid-air.

      The attendants – all of whom looked to be in their
      late teens – were doing their best, but seemed
      bordering on panic themselves. They were trying to
      get away from the fire as they yelled at the
      passengers in line to back off, as well. One of the
      kids working there pulled a red emergency phone off
      the wall as she backed away from the fire, calling for
      assistance.

      Well, we were already there and I didn’t know how long
      it would take the security people to arrive. “Stand
      back!” I told the attendants, who seemed grateful to
      see someone take charge of the situation. I motioned
      to Bobby to come forward. “Iceman – take care of
      this.”

      He gestured towards the flames around the cable car
      and it was instantly encased in ice, the flames
      disappearing as quickly as they came. “Storm! Melt
      it,” I called. Her pupils disappeared as her eyes
      turned white, causing gasps from the crowd. We could
      all feel a warm wind, just enough to melt the ice and
      open the door to let the passengers out. I figured
      once we did that, we could deal with the cars that
      were still in the air.

      Only it didn’t work the way I planned. Storm couldn’t
      open the door. The ice was gone, but it wouldn’t
      open. “It’s stuck,” she said. “Like it’s fused
      together or something.”

      “Magneto!” Hank and I said it at the same time. We
      looked around, but wherever he was, he wasn’t visible.
      Anyway, we needed to deal with the current crisis
      before we looked for him. Logan stepped forward to
      try to force the door open, but I waved him back.
      Opening my visor very slightly, I blasted a fine line
      along the edge of the door and then pulled it open.
      The passengers tumbled out and I sent Storm as their
      escort, to get them out of the enclosure.

      “Beast and Iceman – go look for Magneto. Nightcrawler
      and Wolverine – I need you to deal with the people
      still up there,” pointing at the two cable cars
      stopped high about the zoo. I was very aware of
      Cassandra’s vision of a cable car dangling and perhaps
      falling, but it wasn’t what I was seeing. The two
      cars were stationary, but they were suspended on the
      cable, right where they belonged. Logan and Kurt
      followed me out of the enclosure, looking up at the
      trams above us.

      And then it happened. There was a sudden sound like a
      loud snap and then the tram nearer to us was dangling
      from the broken cable, swinging in the air, just like
      Cassandra’s vision. The two cars were on a continuous
      cable, but some safety feature must have kicked in,
      causing the rest of the cable to stay in place and the
      farther one to stay upright. I didn’t know how long
      it would stay that way, though. We needed to get the
      people out of both of them.

      “Nightcrawler!” I called and he didn’t need any
      additional orders. Kurt waited a few seconds, his
      head swaying a bit as he tracked the dangling tram,
      making sure he could predict the movements of the
      swinging car. Then he teleported into it, coming back
      with two small boys, dressed identically in Bronx Zoo
      t-shirts and cargo shorts. One more teleportation
      trip brought their mother, and they ran into her arms.


      Kurt was about to return for the last passenger when
      the suspended car was suddenly engulfed in flames,
      just as the one on the boarding/landing platform had
      been. He hesitated for a minute, but went back once
      more into the now burning car, returning with the
      children’s father. Both the passenger and Kurt seemed
      unsinged. Logan looked at something in the distance,
      and then ran off before I could say anything. I sent
      Kurt to rescue the people still high above the zoo, in
      the cable car that hadn’t fallen, then looked to see
      where Logan had gone.

      He was back in a minute, but he wasn’t alone. Kicking
      and fighting him all the way was one of our former
      students, Johnny Allerdyce, also known as Pyro. The
      unexplained fire was no longer inexplicable. “Shut up
      or I’ll shut you up!” Logan growled, extending his
      claws. Pyro shut up. Logan handed me Pyro’s lighter.
      Johnny’s power is very specific – he can manipulate
      fire but not create it. Logan had effectively
      disarmed him.

      “Where’s Magneto?” I yelled at Pyro and he smirked
      back at me.

      “Doing what we came here for,” he answered. He shook
      his head. “This was just the diversion.”



      Mo
      Mofic Website: http://mo.fandomnation.com/fic/
      www.livejournal.com/users/mofic

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