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My First Fanfic (Updated 30th Jan 2014)


Nola

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Okay, so my story isn't completely finished, but I wanted to post it while I had the guts...it is kind of long (60 Microsoft word pages), so I'm not sure what the best way to post it would be. I'm hardly computer-friendly, so I'm going to see what works...maybe I'll have to do installments...

Again, I apologize for the length and that it is not solely fetish based, but I hope someone will enjoy it.

It is loosely based on Marvel comics, most specifically the X-Men.

I much appreciate feedback, even if it is constructive criticisms.

Well, here it goes...There is not title, not yet, anyways.

When a child is of school age, four or five, on the occasion that he or she might say something inappropriate about another person, the parent of said child usually tells them that all people are different. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors and that is okay.

When a person enters The Xavier Institute, or The Avengers’ Academy, they are told basically the same thing, except with mutated humans instead of baseline humans. Mutants come in many shapes, sizes and colors and that is okay. The only difference is the colors, shapes and sizes vary much more than with baselines. And not everyone is okay with that, yet. Someday, though, everyone will be, hopes those who are employed by Xavier, or S.H.I.E.L.D.

It was unseasonably cold for mid-November, and that alone made for an inevitable bad day as far as Remy LeBeau was concerned. The weatherman predicted ice today and possibly snow. What was even worse, though, was that he was also pretty certain he was working on a cold. His throat was scratchy and he had a headache. And of course, because lady luck was taking a vacation – maybe she was getting sick, too – he was going to spend the entire damn day in the cold, damp sewers. He sighed heavily as he sat down in the briefing room for the usual nine o’clock meeting. He checked his sporting watch and noted that he technically was not late; because it read 8:59. He knew well enough by now to leave his valuable watches at home when visiting the sewers.

Clay Quartermain, his S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent counterpart, was seated next to him, as per usual, and he said, “Cutting it close, aren’t you, Louisiana?” He didn’t use the nickname often, really only to irritate his Louisiana-born teammate and only because Remy had started it by calling him ‘Texas’ and ‘Tex’.

“What’s Scott gonna do? Fire me?” Remy said sarcastically. Remy knew all too well Scott Summers would never fire him because Remy had the, perhaps unfortunate, position of leading the MCRT, standing for the Mutant Community Research Team, which nobody else in their right mind would want to do. Yes, the employees of S.H.I.E.L.D. hoped prejudice would cease to exist, but not everyone wanted to do the dirty work it required.

Clay smiled at Remy’s sense of job security and his arrogance. Though Clay would admit he was probably the same way when he was in his twenties, he saw it from a completely different light than he did twenty years ago. His oldest boy, Travis, had turned twenty one in March and now thought he knew everything. And though Remy was older and leagues more mature in many ways than Travis, the parallels between them made working under the arrogant New Orleans Saints fan quite an interesting experience.

“Only if he went crazy,” Clay reassured him needlessly.

Scott entered then and used the PowerPoint presentation he used every day, making changes to the events but leaving the background the exact same boring charcoal. At least he did a good job keeping things quick, and Remy and Clay were able to make good time on their way to mutant district number one in the city, where they would find their quarry.

“Well, your call, boss,” Clay said, strapping an unnecessary amount of ammunition and artillery to his belt. It amused him to call Remy ‘boss’. “You think we’re gonna need the tranqs?”

“You know, I liked you better when you called me ‘sir’,” Remy replied, shaking his head at the amount of guns Clay thought he might need. When they were first introduced, Remy had found the ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ routine odd, if only because Clay was older than he was. “Why the hell bother with tranqs, when you’re bringing enough guns to supply a cartel?”

“It’s my sworn duty to protect you,” Clay said, and then added, “Sir.” He did end up taking the tranquilizers; in fact, he would never leave without them, but just wanted to goad Remy.

“I have no intention of doing anything more but question the Green Clan. If it comes to guns then I haven’t done my job.” The Green Clan, more of a genetic family, really, was suspected of trading their mostly worthless DNA as a crude form of MGH for a much higher grade of MGH that came from, supposedly, a mutant with fire-type abilities.

“What makes you think they’ll just up and tell you they’ve done it? Without the use of scare tactics.”

“Because I can be very convincing,” Remy said, walking down the stairway to the subway on 116th street. To be honest, and Clay knew it, Remy couldn’t stand the thought of guns. He found them unnecessary vessels of violence. Nevertheless, he was a good shot, but had never fired at anything more than paper targets, and that was only because he had to during his Academy days.

Remy knew that the reason for the drug trade was partly, if not mostly, because the Green Clan undoubtedly suspected the MGH they received would better prepare them for the winter months ahead. And it was about to get a helluva lot colder in New York City. It was time to stock up for the winter; except these squirrels didn’t store nuts. Remy didn’t like to know it was their reality, but he had been doing this job for too long now to think it was anything different. What made matters worse was, at the last census, the Green Clan had twenty three children under the age of sixteen.

They continued walking towards the furthest ticket counter, nearest the restrooms, ignoring the looks from the lunch crowd, before turning into a small door that had once been used as an entrance to an aqueduct maintenance shed. Now, it was one of the entrances to the Morlock world, the one closest to where the Green clan lived.

“Why do they call themselves ‘The Green Clan’ anyways?” Clay asked, his eyes moving about, not missing anything, including the small, but owlish eyes peering at him in the near darkness.

“Green is their surname,” Remy replied, feeling as if the dampness of the old aqueduct line had already penetrated his many layers. He cleared his throat, irritated because of the rampant mold and probably the cold he was getting. His nose was beginning to feel stuffed up, too, but that could be mold-related as well. He would never understand how these people could live like this, which was part of the reason he kept coming back here – to try to change their minds. He continued to Clay, “They don’t refer to themselves as a family, though, for some reason, and chose ‘clan’ instead.”

“Oh, that makes sense, “Clay said, sarcastically.

“I think it’s their way of forming a hierarchy amongst themselves. That way, the leadership positions don’t automatically go to the fathers or the elders, but whoever has the best interests of the ‘clan’ in mind.”

Today, that person was Remy. He and Clay found the three chipping slashes of green paint indicating they were in ‘green clan’ territory now. An elder member, whose name escaped Remy at the time, stared with open hatred as they walked towards the half-wood and half-cloth lean to that served as one of the homes. Clay muttered under his breath, “Easy now, old man. Don’t make me aerate your face.”

Remy didn’t do more than glance at him before politely knocking on the wood part of the ‘door’, Remy introduced himself and asked if he could speak with ‘Red’. Yes, the head of the Green Clan’s name was Red.

Red came out, and Remy was always baffled how he fit his large frame into the small lean to. He crossed his arms –all four of them – and looked Remy up and down, as if he were sizing him up for a meal. And Remy wasn’t short, and though Red might have been just two inches taller, he somehow seemed much, much larger. As his namesake might suggest, his skin was a mottled red color, fleshy pink in some areas and a blaring painful red in others. Also, he was covered in moles. As far as Remy knew, Red did not possess any mutant abilities, but it was his appearance that kept him hidden from society. And he was quite happy to continue doing so, no matter what Remy did or said.

Also, Red was not the least hospitable, Remy knew, and so he did not expect to be invited in or offered to sit on the half-rotted wooden benches that were strewn about. No matter, Remy, quite honestly, preferred to stand.

In a blunt tone, not bothering with any pleasantries, Red said, “Heard you wanted to talk to me from one of my kin. I don’t appreciate that.”

“That’s right,” Remy said, ignoring Red’s feelings and feeling Clay bristle behind him as he undoubtedly perceived Red to be a hostile target. Remy continued calmly, “He didn’t mean any harm by it, Red. He was merely concerned about the wellbeing of the clan.” The informant, whose name was Dirk, was one of several younger clan members who were interested in becoming more assimilated. Thus, dealing MGH wasn’t really the direction they hoped their clan would move. They, of course, were also more likely to call their ‘clan’ a family.

“Wellbeing?” Red said, scratching his mole-covered, dirty head. “I am the one who sees to that.” He clenched two of his hands into fists and he set his stance wide, like an animal, ready to attack.

Remy knew better than to show any kind of reaction – fear, overconfidence, anything. So, he didn’t. Instead, he matched moods; blunt deserved blunt. “Then I would hope you would consider another means of doing so, other than lying about the potential of your DNA and selling it. Seeing as that is against the law.” He also did not talk to any of them as if they were stupid.

At the mention of his crimes, Red scratched his head hard enough to break the skin. Perhaps a nervous habit, or more likely a negative reaction to taking the unknown fire-type mutant’s MGH. Remy had seen it countless times; mutants taking MGH to gain better abilities or lessen their own, only to find the MGH they chose was not complimentary to their own systems. The reactions varied from an itching rash to death, so this clan, or Red at least, was very lucky.

Remy cleared his throat, and handed Red a handkerchief. His in-the-trenches trench coat had deep pockets, and he got used to carrying lots of little things that he might need or that he might give away. Then, because he knew he had Red right where he wanted him, he said, “Do you have a watch, Red?”

Red dabbed the blood on his head with one arm and scratched at his neck with another, perhaps trying to break open the skin there as well. “Um, no. But Wallace does.” Wallace was another upper member of the clan.

“Great. Tell him to set it. You have forty eight hours. I’ll be back and then it’s decision time. I would take that time to make sure there isn’t anything I would not want to see when I come back.”

Red looked at Remy’s face, trying to judge the sincerity. In his heart he knew Remy was giving him a saving grace by not turning him in right then and there, and siccing that straight-faced idiot with guns on him and his clan. But in his head, Remy was threatening him and his way of life. Puffing up his chest, he said, “And what if I just don’t?”

When on duty, Clay heard and saw everything. He put one hand on his preferred gun in his hip holster and the other hand on the very visible gun in his shoulder holster. And once he knew Red saw his intent, he continued to let Remy lead.

Remy said, “If you don’t, Red, there won’t be anyone to carry on your legacy, or at least not in these parts. The younger members will be put into foster care and those of you who I think are of age will be put into prison. Your choice, as always.”

The likelihood of Remy finding suitable homes for at least twenty three physically disfigured children, some with mutant abilities was slim to none and that was something Red understood. And whether or not Remy was bluffing, it was enough for the bravado to start to deflate. “Forty eight hours you said? Wanna make it seventy two?” he tried.

“No, I don’t,” Remy said, and turned away, indicating he was quite finished with the conversation. “See you in two days, Red.”

Clay followed Remy through the convoluted tunnels for another three and a half hours, while he visited with various other Morlock groups, families and clans. He knew enough by now which Morlocks were a threat to Remy and his wellbeing, which ones were smitten and which did not care whether they came at all.

Remy took notes, Clay suspected, of everything he saw and everything he heard in a weather-proof notebook. His penmanship, even when walking was small and neat, and always in the cursive he had to write when he was in Catholic school.

Other than the usual hateful remarks and horror stories, only one slight tragedy occurred, which was averted quickly, and by the time they surfaced, Clay’s empathetic partner was in a stormy, thoughtful mood. He was always that way after leaving the tunnels of the Morlocks or the various other dilapidated dwellings the underprivileged mutants called home. But Clay figured stormy and thoughtful was better than other choice moods he had seen Remy go through.

Clay got into the driver’s seat, and set out for the two and half hour drive back to Westchester. He put the heat on a gradual setting after the car was warm enough and said nothing, for the moment, regarding the wicked bite mark on Remy’s thumb. He agreed with Remy on the gun issue only when children were involved and he didn’t think scaring a seven year old with a gun was necessary. Thus, he used only his hands to remove the kid’s jaws from Remy’s wrist and hand, the wounded thumb the result. But now, as he really looked at it, and pictured the scar it would leave, he thought maybe he should have used the tranquilizer at least. Then again, that could have caused even more damage.

He marveled at the ability kids these days had to multitask as Remy put his laptop on his lap and started compiling his hand-written notes onto the appropriate file forms, using mostly his right hand. At the same time, he also made some phone calls; one to his superior, another one to one of his affiliates located at Westchester and also one to an affiliate located at another S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in Florida. Travel time was an excellent time to get some paperwork done, but Clay had always thought it was better spent shaking off whatever it was you just left. Obviously, Remy thought differently.

Finally, when Remy appeared to be down to one task, Clay said, “Maybe you’d better put some iodine on that. Or better yet, get a tetanus shot.”

Remy looked at his bloody thumb, and the slight teeth imprints on his wrist and the knuckles on his palm, knowing that the injury could have been much, much worse. Remy’s hands were his livelihood, in direct regard to his mutant abilities, and thus, he was usually very careful. But, to be honest, his head and his throat were hurting and he wasn’t paying attention to the little mutant child with an affinity for biting people that came too close to her. “Yeah, I’ll have Jean look at it,” he said absently, adding, “Do you think what Edith said was true?” The reason for his storminess revealed.

Clay was looking at the road in front of him, forever cautious, especially now because of the weather and for an instance he was reminded of every private conversation he’d ever had in the car with his three sons. Remy was seven years older than his Travis, but that really made no difference. The tone didn’t change with age; the need for reassurance never retired. “That old bat doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” he replied, surprisingly sternly, as if he was angry about something. When honestly, very little made him angry. Just cautious or worried. “She’s been swimming around in the sewers her whole life, what the heck would she know?”

Remy, because he was nearly an expert at reading people, knew that Clay felt very protective of him. And though, when he was first assigned to him, Remy had been annoyed, he now didn’t mind. “I didn’t mean she knew from personal experience. But, maybe she guessed right. What will happen when we’ve done our job to completion?”

Clay asked for clarification. “You mean, once all the Morlocks are brought to the surface?”

“Once we’ve brought all the mutant communities to some sort of civilization. Then perhaps, they will be subjected to persecution because their differences will be all the more visible.”

“Maybe so,” Clay replied thoughtfully. “But, maybe persecution won’t be as bad compared to what they’ve gotta deal with now. Rampant poverty, turf wars, not having their basic needs met. By bringing them to the surface, you’re giving them a fresh start at least.”

Outside, as if the day weren’t dreary enough, the icy rain started coming down, blowing around because of the windy conditions. Remy sniffed, mulling over what Clay had just said. Clay switched on the windshield wipers, and their swishing plus the cadence of the steady little pellets drumming on the windows was like a song to go along with the companionable silence that followed.

Back in Westchester, and after dinner, Clay had a tactical training assignment and Remy had taken a voluntary position at the campus as a pole vault instructor. It was never too early for the eager to start training for a spring sport. Remy had been much like that when he was in high school and college. Still was, in many ways. So, dressed in athletic gear from head to toe, including a hat and gripping gloves, because it was so cold, he spent the hour and a half practice time going over the proper stance and posture he had perfected years ago. He had always been very strict on how he managed his physical activity, even when he was too young to realize what he was doing. He was fastidious in keeping his body forever in top performance. Not to mention, it was actually something he enjoyed. And so, despite the cold, and the griping sounds of eighteen year olds whining when he told them to do something over again, he allowed himself to forget about the sewers and poor people and the tremendous responsibilities he had, for the most part, given to himself.

But after a quick, hot shower, he returned to his desk and reality. The people who frequented the bull pen after dinner hours were mostly quiet, the ringing of phones usually the most disruptive. It was also rare to see an Academy student, and thus, it was easier to catch up on work without them bothering anyone. Except that he couldn’t concentrate on account of his still thumping head and his raw throat. And now his nose was runny, too. He blamed the icy rain, though logically, he knew weather did not cause such things.

Caught up in his own misery, he did not notice Clay’s return. The desk directly across from his was Clay’s, but it had yet to take on the all-consuming, lived-in appearance that most people’s desks did. Including his own, most days. Clay’s desk was very militaristic and neat as a pin. His voice startled Remy from his somewhat self-centered thoughts. “Hey, thought you would have gone home by now.”

Remy looked up, and replied, “I might have said the same thing.” Clay’s commute home was nearly two hours away, as far away from the city and Suburbia as he could get.

“I had that tactical training assignment,” Clay said as he sat down and moved the mouse to awaken his computer.

“Oh, that’s right. I remember you saying so.” He turned away from his own computer and Clay then to sneeze into cupped hands. “Excuse me,” he muttered, sniffling.

“Bless you,” Clay said, distractedly.

“Thank you. You’re going home now?” Remy asked.

“I’ve got a couple of emails I gotta send out. Won’t do it at home,” Clay said. “Or I should say ‘can’t’ do it at home.” Clay was typing away as he talked, causing him to seem a tad detached.

“Why not?” Remy asked, either not noticing or not caring that he didn’t have Clay’s full attention.

“That’s right,” Clay said with a small smile, barely glancing up, “you’ve never had the experience of trying to write like a grown up with an eleven year old telling you about their day non-stop.” He paused and added, “That and Bridget doesn’t like it.” Bridget was his wife. A beautiful, sensible woman who knew how to make damn good barbeque and always spoke her mind, but always, of course, in the good ol’ bless-your-heart Texas style.

Remy smiled back, and might have made that cracking whip sound that so many unmarried men thought was funny, but ended up sneezing instead.

“Bless you,” Clay said as Remy responded with another sneeze.

“You got a cold?” Clay asked him, figuring he probably did. He didn’t have to be partnered with Remy for long to realize the poor kid caught everything that went around. And he had noticed the throat clearings and sniffles.

Remy cleared his throat and shrugged. “Don’t know yet. Probably.”

“My youngest has a cold,” Clay replied, just now remembering and felt a bit bad that he had forgotten. “Might be I brought it in with me.”

“Well, thanks for that,” Remy said sarcastically, with a sniff.

Clay laughed and shut down his computer, finished already with his emails. Perhaps, he was a bit better at multitasking than he let on. But then again, he wrote emails opposite of how he talked – short and to the point. “You’re welcome. I’ll let you get back to work then, finish that up so you can get on home.”

“Night, Quartermain,” Remy said.

“G’night.”

The call came in at oh-six hundred hours the next day, technically three hours before either one was on duty. But then, it was an MCRT issue and well, no one else handled these things. Clay, with part of his breakfast still in his mouth, nodded a ‘hello’ to the agent in charge of today’s surprise flight to West Virginia. Swallowing, he boarded, and asked the pilot the flight’s ETA.

“Well, with the ice-snow mix, it’ll take a bit longer, but it should be about an hour, hour and a half flight.”

The pilot was a guy named Weiderman; Clay wasn’t positive what his first name was. He was of average height with thinning light brown hair and a strong nose that appeared to have been broken at least once. The pilot continued, saying, “Wouldn’t want to be you, though. I heard on the news that West Virginia’s mutant groups are nasty.”

Clay nodded. “Yeah, the media wants y’all to think that all mutant groups are bad, Weiderman. But, here at S.H.I.E.L.D. we’re a bit smarter than that, aren’t we?” Maybe six was a tad too early to deal with people who were ignorant. Well, that, and his sixteen-year-old was a pain in the ass sometimes and they had exchanged harsh words last night and he was still acting sullen this morning. Weiderman seemed to take the hint and he went about with checking the plane. Clay got situated in one of the seats and went through his carry-on bag. The great thing about this plane was he could bring whatever he wanted, and what he had wanted to bring was his .44 Magnum and his P225 Sig Sauer with Siglite night sights and K-Kote finish.

Weiderman called back from the pilot’s seat, “Hey, it’s just you and Agent LeBeau, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Clay said back. “He should be here any minute.”

Clay was not wrong; Remy entered the plane less than five minutes later. He was blowing his nose and looked altogether miserable as he slumped down in the seat across the aisle from Clay’s seat. Clay told Weiderman they were all set and as the plane took off, Clay said to Remy, “I take it the cold’s been confirmed,” the dad in him coming out slightly. “You look like a train wreck, LeBeau. Like you haven’t slept.”

“Hardly did,” Remy replied. It was true, sometime after midnight, his cold had made itself overtly apparent and he spent the rest of the night sneezing and coughing. Ororo Munroe, his girlfriend, had decided to sleep at her place that night, so at least he hadn’t kept anyone else awake.

Clay shook his head, not exactly surprised. “What the hell are you doin’ here then?” he asked him, jokingly. Today, neither really had a choice, but Remy didn’t take many days off anyways, no matter his condition. He didn’t think he could, either because he thought the place couldn’t function without him or he was some kind of martyr. Probably both.

Trying to be a good sport, Remy smiled and said, “You know, trying to give it to everyone else. Looking for attention, whatever.”

“So you’ve already been through and licked all the coffee mugs then, huh?”

Remy laughed and then coughed. “You bet.” Switching gears into work mode, he said, “Some D.C. guys are meeting us there. I don’t know who.”

“Is it gonna be bad?” Clay asked. He had only been given the order to head out to West Virginia on an MCRT case. It was the morning news that informed him that earlier this morning several shots were heard and an undisclosed informant said that they were coming from the unknown mutant community.

Remy gave a small shrug and said, “When isn’t it?” Then, after another cough, he clarified, “I’m not sure who started it or how many people died, but there were casualties on both sides. But, you know how it is with this community. Take no prisoner type.”

It was true; the mutant communities in West Virginia were mostly serpentine mutants, ranging from the physically deformed to the downright poisonous. They had a prevailing gang-like mentality, where the biggest and the loudest became the leader, and everyone did exactly what he said. The last time Clay and Remy had been there, they had rescued a girl from the ranks – a young woman named Ashley who actually currently works at The Rotunda as an administrative assistant for the rookie agents. They would not be doing the same kind of rescuing today.

By the time the plane landed in Benedum Airport, West Virginia and they had taken a car out to the proverbial ‘boondocks’, near the mountains, the sun had risen and was now shyly hiding behind milky gray clouds. It would probably rain or snow again, Remy figured, as he noticed several people standing around in the dark blue tactical combat suits S.H.I.E.L.D. agents often wore and windbreakers with the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on the right breast and on the back. They were waiting for him, and as he did sometimes, he thought how far he had come in such a short time. Realizing, of course, it was because he had taken an unpopular position. He said ‘good morning’ to each of the four stiff-backed agents as he shook their hands and they introduced themselves.

Clay did not offer his hand, but instead they saluted him and he them, for he had been in the military and apparently, so were they. Remy cleared his throat, his attention shifting to the all-terrain vehicles and the hiking equipment. The number of serpentine mutants that lived here numbered in the upper hundreds, but they were all spread out along the base of the mountains.

Each community lived in a similar style, in small groups of houses, caves or huts, depending on the civility of the leader of each group. Oftentimes, though, the disturbances took place within the groups that were the most visible, and thus, the most civilized, imagine that. Remy suspected if there was gunfire, it would be one of the largest groups that were involved. They were given the simple codename of WV Zone 2, because that was where within West Virginia they lived.

The four agents, plus Clay and Remy, began the hike to Zone 2, which was only a fifteen minute walk down a steep hill. One of the agents, who had introduced himself as Agent Tanbura gave the sit rep. “It appears that the assailants came down just as we are and took the community by surprise. The locals, an old baseline couple within hearing distance, reported they heard the shots around twelve thirty. Several of them, lasted maybe ten, fifteen minutes. They called the cops, after it was all over, but of course, by the time anyone responded, nothing much could be done. The locals usually deal with complaints in their own way here, anyways, and according to the log books, no one responded until two hours later. By that time, everyone who had survived was gone.”

That was usually the downside to dealing with mutant tragedies; they wouldn’t necessarily have to be tragic if people would respond in a reasonable time. The job went from assistance to clean up due to negligence and an unaware public. In the clearing below, now visible, there were four houses, a larger one in the middle, triangulated by three small ones. Smoke billowed out of the chimneys – each house had at least three. Because of their cold-blooded physiology, they required the use of extra fireplaces.

Remy had processed what Agent Tanbura had said, and he replied with, “Are you referring to the victims or the assailants when you say ‘survived’?” He felt as if he were preparing himself for an answer he did not want.

“Both, sir,” Agent Tanbura replied. “Unless of course, the assailants got all of them.”

Remy tried to remember just how many people lived in WV Zone 2. Thirty, forty; he wasn’t sure. Agent Tanbura continued with, “We’re gonna be shipping out bodies for most of the day. Can only do it by helicopter.”

Remy shut his eyes for an instance and whispered, “Jesus Christ,” and he was unsure whether he meant it as a swear word or a prayer. His thoughts drifted to Ashley for a moment. He remembered very clearly her dirt and tear streaked face and a shivering dog next to her, both begging in their own way for salvation. She used to live here, in the house on the left, some of her family still did. Or did before today that is. He pushed that away quickly. Clearing his throat, he said, “Do we know who’s responsible?”

This time Agent Waynesboro answered. She sounded like she was forcing her strength, “It appears a sect of The Purifiers are responsible, sir.” She pointed to one of the houses, not the main one, and said, “On a cursory glance we found what appeared to be a dead man wearing a robe similar to what The Purifiers wear. However, we didn’t move him and he was on his stomach, so no insignia could be found.”

As protocol mandated, no one touched the scene before the medical examiner and forensic photographers, and Remy and Clay met the gray haired ME at the door to the main house. Dr. Carl Bridges looked grim and professional, as he motioned that both Remy and Clay should come in. “Careful where you step,” he said.

Clay and Remy took one step inside onto a plastic tarp, and put on shoe covers over their muddy boots, before venturing further into the small house. A smoky metallic smell was sharp and overpowering, but not nearly as much as the carnage that was before them. Clay stepped as close to the wall as he could; the scene before him was terrible, but he had been training for half his life to hide it. Bodies, both big and small, lay strewn about, many of them riddled with gunshot holes, and others with their faces cruelly bashed in. It looked like exactly what it had been – a representation of hate.

He eyed his under the weather partner who was not as accustomed to tragedy, nor would he ever be able to handle it as a military man would. Remy did have some practice keeping himself in check, and though he was doing a pretty good job hiding it, Clay could see right through it.

The main house had one family room, serving as a kitchen and a living room and it had six off shoots, all narrow hallways that led to bedrooms and bathrooms. Because it was the main house, it was the biggest and the most ornate. However, the other houses were built in a similar style, one large room, and small offshoots, maybe three or four, all equipped with fireplaces, which was why there was such an overpowering smoky smell.

During the warmest times of the year, the serpentine community members would spend most of their days in the big family room, dubbed the ‘summer’ room. But as the weather turned, it was more common for them to spend most of their days, especially the younger ones, in their bedrooms, conserving their heat.

Remy thought of the layout of the house because it was easier than seeing what was before him. A lot of the former occupants were dressed in pajamas, the younger ones in footed pajamas. Surprised from their sleep by a force that wanted nothing more than to eradicate them because they were different.

Dr. Bridges said, “More than likely, the assailants dropped some chemical substance in through the fireplaces, without an analysis, I can assume it reacted with the fire and sent the group to the main room, almost as if they were to evacuate. But they were surprised here. Same with the other houses. A lot of the older victims have gunshot wounds, large caliber, hunting rifles. Many were finished off with blunt force trauma, the butt of the gun, most likely. As for the younger, some died probably of smoke inhalation, some blunt force trauma.”

Remy said, “How many do you think there were?” He meant Purifiers. He avoided looking real close at the blunt force trauma inflicted on the small faces littered around him.

Dr. Bridges replied, “Well, from body count alone over twenty assailants. But, whatever they used to get here, most likely the large vehicles that left the tire tracks, are gone. So, who knows how many survived?”

There were maybe three different tire marks, one more possibly in front of another, marked off by tape at the clearing where they had parked. How many people could fit into a truck? At least twenty people died, and at least one person per each vehicle left. It was probably a two-to-one fight; two mutants versus one Purifier. Remy sincerely doubted any of the Purifiers were women or children, though.

Dr. Bridges continued, basically reiterating what Remy had thought out. “So at least three people were able to get away.” Changing the subject, he said, “Take notice of the rate of decay here and here, and also the damage to the walls.” He pointed to two different Purifiers, whose skin was bloated and showing large areas of raw exposed skin. He also pointed to a wall where the paint was removed and in its place was a yellowish residue. “Venom. They fought back.”

Since the Purifiers were here, in the homes, no one thought that the serpentine community of West Virginia had started it, or had drawn first blood. But, twenty dead baseline humans was not a good thing for baseline-mutant relations. Remy didn’t have anything to contribute, so Dr. Bridges continued with, “I have finished the on-site examination, but I would prefer you did not move them for identification purposes at this time.”

“Of course, Dr. Bridges,” Remy responded automatically, and almost too politely. “If you would call me when you’re ready for autopsy, I’ll identify them then.” Turning to Clay, he said, “We’ll need the photographer’s discs, too.”

Clay nodded, but didn’t turn to leave the room. To Dr. Bridges, he asked, “Is it possible that we could have a total body count of the residents? Just in case some of them survived?” He too, was trying to remember how many lived in WV Zone 2. He thought maybe closer to fifty.

“Yes, I can see to that,” Dr. Bridges replied.

Clay and Remy walked out of the big house and looked around at the other houses, the fires steadily dwindling. Remy said quietly, “How could they all have died from twenty some people?” He had his hands shoved in the pockets of his coat and the red flush on his cheeks and nose stood out against his face which was paler than usual.

“It was a blitz attack. They had them scared, and caught by surprise.” Clay knew what Remy was thinking, and said it for him. “They have come a long way from when we got Ashley, more civilized, more trusting. But, this isn’t our fault, Remy.”

“That’s bullshit,” he said, almost in a hiss, which was somewhat ironic since they were in a serpentine community. He coughed and continued, “We’re the ones who made them more civilized.”

Clay would have none of it. He shook his head and replied, “Civilization didn’t kill them. The Purifiers did. And they are the only ones responsible here.”

Remy said nothing. Just coughed.

“Our priority right now is determining whether anyone survived,” Clay said quietly.

“They wouldn’t be here, then,” Remy replied, and he sounded harsh. “But I think I might know where they are.” Remy thought of Ashley again, and her dog, Trust. Ashley was legally blind, by baseline standards anyways, and the thought of having a seeing-eye dog had thrilled her. It was the happiest Remy had ever seen her when she chose Trust out of a litter of golden Labrador pups. “Let’s go for a drive.”

Mr. George Wrigley lived in a small farm house twenty minutes from the crime scene. The barn, much bigger than the house, came into view before the house, and Remy pulled into the long and winding driveway, passing pastures full of cows, horses and goats. He pulled up next to the house and spotted an old golden Labrador lying in the shade of an oak tree. A dog that looked exactly like Trust – her mother, Sally, of course.

The sharp bang of the screen door sounded and the thump and thud of an old man with a cane was heard before he was seen. His weathered face broke into a smile, the dentures looking unnaturally white against his black face. “Was hoping I’d see you two boys soon. You come on in.”

Both Remy and Clay knew better than to just get down to business with Mr. Wrigley before accepting his hospitality and they sat at his small, scarred kitchen table, with the same white tablecloth with tiny little apples. It was the one his late wife had put on the table and it would never be changed.

“I would pour you a whisky, but I know you boys are on the job.” His large, somewhat shaky hands held onto the sour mash and he sloshed some into a glass. He poured two tall glasses of lemonade and put it on a wooden tray he had made with his own two hands. Slowly making his way to the table, he sat down, passed out the drinks, and said, “My Callie,” he was referring to his youngest daughter, “says I shouldn’t drink so much. I always say who else is eighty seven sitting at this table? You boys drink this stuff once a day,” he raised a thick finger up, “And you will live to be my age, too.”

Clay raised an eyebrow, and said, “I won’t argue with you, Mr. Wrigley.” He wouldn’t argue, but Mr. Wrigley was not correct. If he drank everyday Bridget would kill him long before he reached the age of fifty, much less eighty seven.

He shook his finger at Clay now, and said, “You tell my Callie that.” He set the drink down, and seemingly pleased with the small talk, he said, “But I suppose neither my whisky nor my wisdom is bringing you boys here today.” Looking up at the walls, cheerily wallpapered in daisies, he said, “Young people don’t have the time for fun anymore. Always business.”

“Unfortunately, you’re right,” Clay replied. “And it’s only gonna get worse for the next generation, I’m afraid.”

“You tell your boys different,” Mr. Wrigley said. “And maybe they will be different.” Taking another sip of whisky, he got down to business. “I’ve got myself seven more farm hands.”

Remy had expected something like this, he told himself, but seven survivors out of maybe fifty hit him hard. “You’ll keep them on hand?” he asked. He drank the lemonade to be polite even though it tasted much sourer than it should have and wasn’t settling properly.

“Well, I can only do so much. And my Johnny don’t mind the help, either.” He gave Remy a small smile, because he knew Remy knew he was keeping the survivors on hand for the simple reason that they needed help, not necessarily because he needed it.

He continued, “You know, one of them’s got more arms than an octopus. Very helpful he’ll be. How’s Ashley? She taking good care of that dog of hers?”

“She works for us, now,” Remy replied, “And yeah, Trust comes in with her every day.”

“Well, good. They were good for each other.” Mr. Wrigley looked long and hard at Remy then, as if he might want to say something. But, he didn’t.

“Dad?” a voice called out, and a tall, strong man in his fifties came into the kitchen. He eyed his father’s guests and then said, to his father, “Just wanted to know who was visiting.” It was apparently Johnny, one of Mr. Wrigley’s seven children. Just as quickly as he came in he went back out.

Not wanting the small talk to end, but knowing it should, Clay stood and said, “We should be going. Hopefully, next time I come this way, it won’t be for business.”

“You bring those boys by, and I’ll put them to work.” Mr. Wrigley stood too, as did Remy and he walked them out onto the porch. “All my grandbabies do. Keeps ‘em humble.”

Clay thought of the fight he had with his son earlier and thought it sounded like a good idea. He told Mr. Wrigley so. Then he said, “You mind if we take a trip to the barn and check ‘em out?” He meant the surviving serpentine mutants and Mr. Wrigley knew it.

He just waved them towards the barn with a “Sure, sure. You take care now, boys.”

The remaining serpentine mutants of West Virginia’s Zone 2 were, as expected, shell shocked, and rocked by what had recently happened. Clay took a glance around the barn for novelty reasons first, and then gave Remy his full attention as Remy conducted interviews with each and every one of them – four ‘adults’, ranging from sixteen to forty nine and three children, aged five, seven and fourteen.

The questions and his expressions changed as he went from oldest to youngest; he wasn’t necessarily looking for too many answers today, more just a conversation to let them know that if they needed anything to keep in touch and to tell them he would find those responsible. Obviously, the three youngest kids were the most difficult, and Clay stared at the wall behind them as Remy tried to allay their fears as best he could.

Clay drove them back to the site, just as the helicopter was removing a load of three body bags. The helicopter was taking them out of the valley and out to the airport where they would be transferred en masse to Washington D.C., the Chesapeake Bay actually, where The Triskelion was located, where Dr. Bridges would conduct the autopsies. He informed them that the total death toll was fifty two mutants and twenty four Purifiers.

Clay debriefed the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as quickly as he could, and made a plan to meet with them within the next few days. They would head up the investigation into the sect of Purifiers responsible and would try to track them down. Clay and Remy would be responsible for identifying the victims at a later date, sometime within the week. Perhaps, the sect would be found. Perhaps, a conviction would vindicate the seven survivors. But, as past cases would attest to, the Purifiers would take care of their own and the deaths of fifty two mutants would most likely be just that. A sad ending. The agents knew it, and Clay and Remy knew it. But, no one said so, because doing so would be admitting that one’s job was practically useless, and nobody wanted to say that.

It would be nearly five by the time they landed. Weiderman gave the ETA and further communication between pilot and passengers was unnecessary. Clay watched the indicator lights for the seat belt switch from on to off, and he stayed put in his seat, hands clasped in his lap. He thought of the drive from the sewers yesterday, and needing that time to shake off what one had just came from. Very apropos to the current situation.

He remembered when he had first been assigned to Remy, over three years ago now, that neither one really understood why. Sure, it was a good idea to allow baseline agents a chance to work in a very mutant-centered team. But why Remy and Clay? Well, Clay at least learned why pretty quickly. As an empath, Remy did not handle trauma, death, rampant poverty, brutalized children and the lost and forsaken well at all. And yet, he had a job that put those things in front of him at least once a week. And every once in a while, when he was tired and sick or when the woes were too great, like now for instance, it caught up to him. And so, Clay just sat there, wanting to do something more, but knew it wouldn’t be received kindly, as Remy threw up in the plane’s small restroom.

On Clay’s watch, he had only witnessed this particular reaction a handful of times, but it had yet to get easier for him to deal with. This is what they didn’t tell him eight years ago when he switched from the cushy military consultant job in his beloved Texas to S.H.I.E.L.D. And what they didn’t tell him when he was first assigned to work hand-in-hand with a mutant Avenger on very real mutant issues.

Remy exited the restroom wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He had splashed cold water on his face after rinsing out his mouth. He looked pale and exhausted as he gripped the seats on the way back to his own. He said nothing as he sat down; the first time it had happened, he pretended it had something to do with what he had eaten, but Clay knew better by now.

Clay gave him a minute or two before he couldn’t resist the desire to tell him what to do. “I know you’re not gonna listen to me, but I’m going to suggest it anyways. Don’t go back into work tonight.”

Remy raised an eyebrow at him, maybe a warning, maybe not, and replied, “Makes you feel better to suggest it.” It wasn’t really a question, just an acknowledgement.

“It does, yes.” Clay would not be returning to Westchester tonight, instead heading to The Triskelion to follow up on the tactical training assignment he had had yesterday. He had to take a quick test to see if he qualified as an instructor. It was a formality since it was kind of his job before he was transferred to New York, but he took it because he had to. For paperwork reasons, not because he was actually thinking about changing his position. His phone buzzed again, the third time now since the pilot told them they could turn their phones back on. He ignored it again, with a sigh.

“Family thing?” Remy asked him, his sentences blunt and truncated; the usual after he had dealt with something traumatic. Clay had spoken to Dr. Emma Frost several times to try to understand how best to deal with Remy, or any empath, under these circumstances. Emma told him it was best to let Remy say what he would when he was ready. Clay found it was helpful to talk about other things – more normal things.

“My middle son’s game. I can’t go to it though, obviously. He’ll understand.” Like Clay had, all of his boys played football, at various levels. Travis was a quarterback, second string, with a pretty good arm. His eleven year old, Ryder, was still learning the ropes. But his middle son, Hunter, was spirited, passionate and always fun to watch. Also a quarterback, he showed a lot more promise than Travis had at his age.

Remy had also played football, was a decent wide receiver, because he was fast and agile. He had also been an accomplished basketball player and a pretty good high and triple jumper, and still held the record at his high school for the pole vault. He knew very well what it was like to have someone cheer him on in the stands and also what it was like to see an empty seat. And, thinking of all the football games, basketball games and track meets his father had missed because of work, or whatever else, he said, “I never did.”

“I guess I could reschedule that training thing,” Clay said, mostly to himself, no longer surprised by Remy’s intuition. It had at first bothered him that a kid without any parenting experience could know any answers to anything, but especially when it came to children. Now, he accepted it, with a wisdom he sometimes wished he could go back in time with.

Weiderman had orders to take Clay to The Triskelion, so he went into the cockpit to change his plans. He would fly to Westchester, too, and from there, head to his son’s football game.

Remy had returned to his desk only to drop off the work mail he had no intention of going through at the moment. He figured he might as well take Clay’s advice, since he felt shitty anyways and wouldn’t be useful at work. After returning from West Virginia, he had taken a shower because he was cold and smelled of smoke, also throwing up always made him sweaty, and he had brushed his teeth to remove the acidic lemonade and vomit taste. Then he met Ororo for dinner at one of the eateries on the compound, though he ate nothing.

But now, back at his desk, he dropped the mail right in the center of it and then pulled on his gloves. And then the infernal phone started to ring. Goddamnit. He cursed mentally. Just pretend you’re not here, he told himself as it rang again. But, guilt made him grit his teeth and he caught the phone just before it switched to voice mail. He cleared his throat, to try to sound normal, since sometime after the plane ride he had noticed he sounded pretty far from normal. “LeBeau,” he answered.

It turned out to be one of his least favorite persons. Ms. Lisa Pare. “Evening, Ms. Pare,” he said, struggling to keep his voice neutrally polite. “What can I do for you? Is Sammy alright?”

“Well, you see,” it was clear she was crying, or at least trying to sound as if she was, “I don’t think so. He was really angry when he came to visit me, he always visits me Tuesday nights, and he just wouldn’t tell me why. I think he’s missing.”

Remy sniffled, for an entirely different reason than Lisa, and said, “Do you know if Sammy has been under any recent pressures lately? An upcoming test, perhaps, or maybe a fight with a friend?”

Remy knew exactly what Lisa was going to say. “No, I guess he’s been real distant lately,” she replied.

Him or you? Remy thought, but didn’t say, and settled on, “How long is lately, Ms. Pare?” He tried to keep the phone conversations as polite as possible, and always did his best to make his mood match appropriately to whatever situation. Usually, in person, he didn’t manage as well, and dropped the ‘ma’am and miss’ charade and just called her Lisa. It was a lot nicer than what he might have called the notoriously absent and irresponsible mother.

“I don’t know,” Lisa replied, and it sounded as if her face was now dry and she might not have even cried one bit. “How are these questions helping to find my son?” She sounded annoyed, perhaps upset that he didn’t take her at her word.

Remy sniffled again, and swallowed painfully. He was both physically and emotionally sick and tired and did not have the desire to talk to this woman, nor did he have the desire to look for her son. “I’m trying to get a feel for how Sammy is feeling lately. It will help me find him.”

“Can we meet somewhere? I can give you his stuff.”

What the hell do you think I’m gonna do with his stuff? Get a fucking scent? “I don’t see why that would be necessary, Lisa,” he responded. He muffled a cough into his arm.

“I’m trying to help you, Agent LeBeau, and you’re being an asshole,” she said stiffly, and like an award winning actress dissolved into more tears.

Suddenly his head was pounding harder than it had all day. “I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intent,” he apologized as sincerely as he was able. “Why do you think Sammy’s stuff will help me find him?”

“I think he’s in a gang. I want you to look in his room and through his stuff.”

Remy muffled another cough, this one accompanied by slightly louder friends, and he replied, “Okay. I’ll send a couple of agents out to your house to take a look at Sammy’s room.” He had every intention of being asleep by the time the agents would return from the East Salem Apartments where Ms. Pare had recently moved to.

“I don’t want anyone else to look through Sammy’s stuff. He trusts you.”

If only everyone could get what they wanted, Remy thought, as the vision of his comfortable bed diminished. He could imagine the scene perfectly if he refused her. She would not cooperate with whomever he sent, and as past events could attest to, she might even get physical. He did not want to send two clueless rookies to her house only to have one of them assaulted. “Give me an hour, Lisa.”

Rookies ended up with shit details more often than not, and the two rookies that were currently under his tutelage were Anna Marie Caldecott and Kurt Wagner. He was hoping against all hopes that Kurt was being his usual self and taking a half-day, because he didn’t have the patience to deal with Kurt tonight, and was glad to see just Anna Marie in their sanctioned off area. Sometimes, she wasn’t pleasant to deal with either, but at least she didn’t talk to him like she thought he was stupid, like Kurt did. “Hey, you want to get some valuable experience?” he asked her, and attempted his usual rakish smile.

Anna Marie paused the presentation on Captain America’s third visit to Iraq and looked at her superior agent. Though she still had a lot to learn about the job, she had worked with Remy for long enough to notice a few things about him personally. “Sugar, you look just awful.”

“I feel about that way, too,” he admitted, too damn tired to care about saving face.

She slipped on her conservative brown pumps, watching clips of the aforementioned Avenger did not require shoes, only a feeling of respect, and she stood up, pulling on her coat as she did so. “I’m always up to some learning,” she replied, with a shy smile of her own.

“Great. Do you know where the East Salem Apartments are?” They left the Rotunda through the main entrance and started towards the parking lot.

Anna Marie made a face. “Yeah. I take it this isn’t going to be a rose garden type of trip.”

“Sorry, Ms. Anderson, I never promised you a rose garden,” Remy replied, smiling. Though he didn’t listen to country music much, he knew she did.

“We’d be lucky to find green grass, I suppose,” she muttered, somewhat bitterly. It wasn’t exactly true, because Salem was a pretty nice place to be, but in Anna Marie’s experience, the people that lived in the aforementioned apartment complex were not. They were, as a whole, lazy and content to live out their lives bitching about things but doing nothing about it. Okay, so she knew one person from there – and he was like that.

Remy turned to sneeze into cupped hands. “Excuse me,” he said apologetically.

“Bless you,” Anna Marie said.

“Thank you,” Remy answered and with the automatic button, unlocked the car door.

“Who exactly are we visiting?” Anna Marie asked as she slid into the passenger seat.

“Do you get car sick?” He had once not asked the question and was sorry when Dr. Emma Frost nearly ruined the interior. And pulling over to the side of a road while driving on a four lane road was difficult when one was in the express lane in heavy traffic.

“No, why?”

“I’ll let you read the file on the way then.” He handed her a flash drive that would fit into her tablet, one that the big cheese, Mr. Tony Stark recommended they use. “It’ll fill you in on Ms. Lisa Pare and her son, Sammy. Save me my voice, anyways.” Which was a good thing, considering his voice was already pretty well worn.

It was extensive, and through the forty minute drive, Anna Marie had been only able to glance through the most recent half. But she learned enough.

“According to Lisa,” Remy filled in as he found them a parking spot as close as possible to the cheery white and sea green building that for some reason made Anna Marie upset, “Sammy might be in a gang, has been distant lately and she has no idea where he might have gone after he visited with her earlier in the afternoon.” He paused to clear his sore throat and continued, “According to Sammy’s RA, he did not make the mandatory check-in time after lunch.”

“So he’s been missing for about six or seven hours then,” Anna Marie supplied. “It seems that this isn’t unusual for the boy.”

“I agree. But, policy requires we check out every complaint for a student enrolled in high school classes or below. Though Lisa makes enough of them to require her own personal agent, if you ask me.”

“You don’t like her very much, I’m assuming?” Anna Marie asked, getting out the car.

Remy shut his side and said, “Not particularly. Let’s just say she thought she would take our first meeting to a very different place than I had in mind.”

Anna Marie laughed. “She came onto you?” It was funny to think that Remy would be made uncomfortable by a brazen woman, or that he might be unaccustomed to being hit on, because she knew for certain he was hit on by every type, age and gender. But, she hadn’t yet met Lisa Pare.

“And when I refused, she assumed I was gay and told me she was quite all right having sex with someone of my persuasion. At the time, Sammy was a very frightened ten year old who had just fully transformed into a fish-like mutant.”

Anna Marie assessed that Lisa was a very inappropriate woman. Remy sneezed again, twice. He excused himself, and sounded irritated.

“Oh my, bless you. So, what would you like me to do?” She meant either talk to Lisa or look through Sammy’s room.

“Just follow my lead. We’ll most likely have to listen to Lisa’s long, sad and pointless story first before we’ll have access to Sammy’s room. I’m not sure if I think he’s actually in a gang, but looking in his room is at least a good start.”

“And what about finding Sammy?”

“I already have a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers searching the school grounds. I can’t be sure at this point Sammy is even missing.” Sammy had been quote, unquote ‘missing’ at least seven times in the two years since Remy had worked with him and his mother. He was always found within the first few hours in some place he was supposed to be.

They walked up the path to the apartment complex, and were lucky enough to go in as a couple was exiting. Anna Marie unexpectedly dodged the couple’s eyes and held open the door for Remy, instead of the other way around. And she was never one to be offended by his southern boy chivalry. He made note of a short woman and a tallish man with a shaved head. He would ask her about it later. Lisa’s apartment was on the third floor and together, Anna Marie and Remy took the stairs. Apartment 3F looked identical to the other apartments, at least by blueprint design and the outer door.

Remy raised his hand to knock, when Anna Marie whispered, “The lights are out.”

Why sit in the dark if one was expecting company? The only room in which the apartment could suit guests was the main room. He leveled a gaze at Anna Marie quickly and then took a bobbi pin from his coat pocket. It was only weird that he was carrying one if one didn’t know him. His dexterous fingers moved gracefully and swiftly over the lock and it popped easily. He eased the door open, pushing it towards the interior of the apartment, knowing it would be relatively easy for someone to be lying in wait behind the door. Though, with it being locked, he doubted it, but wouldn’t take any chances.

Anna Marie took off her thin camel colored gloves, and noticed Remy had at least three or four playing cards in his hands. He, of course would use them as projectiles if necessary. He went in first, checking behind the door first and Anna Marie followed him, checking in the other direction. She, too, was ready to strike, in a signature move taught to her by Logan and reinforced by her, at first mandatory and now voluntary sessions with Dr. Frost. After a tentative glance through the apartment, at the front door, as protocol mandated, they announced their presence. “Lisa? Are you here?”

No auditory reply, but Anna Marie covered her nose and mouth with her hand and said, muffled and quietly, “Don’t you smell that?”

Remy detected Anna Marie’s nerves and so he only shook his head ‘no’ and pointed to his nose, indicating he couldn’t smell really anything at the moment. Anna Marie lowered her voice even lower, and she looked practically petrified. “It’s awful.”

Remy wasn’t going to try to smell it, and so, he asked, “What does it smell like?”

Anna Marie thought of a good way to describe it. “It

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First off, let me just say wow! I thought this story was (is so far) amazing. The characters are interesting and all likeable in their own ways, you set the scene well, and and the writiting has depth. Also I was very taken by the plot, it is very interesting, and I would be more than happy to read it without the sneezing content, although that is an added bonus :).

My own selfishness dictates that I ask you if you wouldn't mind attempting to spell out the sneezes in the future, but I know that it can be a daunting task, and certainly is not as easy as the seasoned authors make it look (at least in my experience). If you don't want to, that is totally okay, just a suggestion/request.

Hope this comment wasn't too tedious :), I can't wait for more, and I want to thank you for contributing this!

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That was amazing, especially for your first fic! I can only hope you'll write more in the future! Bravo! :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

Okay, so here is the ending to this one...and if you would like to continue reading along the plot lines, I am on fanfiction, though the continuation is not on there as of yet.

The three of them drove out of the compound before anyone spoke. The only sound was Remy occasionally sniffling and clearing his throat. Finally, Kurt could take it no longer. He figured that Remy wasn’t solely angry at either he or Anna Marie and it probably had to do with the bigger picture. Even so, it made it even harder to get along with him. He said, “The main entrance to the Green Clan is on one-sixteenth street, right? And we’re taking that one because they already know we’re coming?”

“That’s right,” Remy replied and it almost sounded as if he were challenging Kurt to question him, as he had done earlier. “All we’ll need to do is go through their homes, looking for any evidence of any remaining MGH.” He paused to cough, “I don’t care about empty vials, paraphernalia, or anyone who is visibly high, so long as they’re not dangerous or in need of medical attention. But, if we see anything that has not been used, anything to indicate they’re storing it, it’s over.”

“How many houses are there?” Kurt asked, and hoped it wasn’t something he should have remembered. The devils in the details had never been his favorite expression; he didn’t often like to look for the devil.

“Nine,” Remy replied. “It’s common among mutant communities to place the strongest, most valuable members in the biggest and best houses. Same goes here, so we’ll start there. Also, we do have allies among them, in the lesser houses, led by a kid named Dirk.” Whether he was trying to soothe their nerves or was just telling them need-to-know information, it wasn’t obvious.

“Why wouldn’t they evenly distribute their strongest members among all of their dwellings?” Kurt asked and he often asked somewhat philosophical questions when he was uncomfortable.

Remy shrugged, “Maybe they don’t care if the weaker members die off, maybe it’s some kind of respect thing. They earned it by being genetically superior so they get the best provisions.” He coughed again, and said, “I only report what I see. I’m not a psychologist. And you won’t catch any of them down there getting their hands dirty.”

Apparently, he was angry with Emma, Kurt deduced, and he wasn’t sure what else he might say, for fear of getting his head bitten off. But, before he could stop his smart mouth, he said, “It’s the same with MacTaggert Hall. No one wants to spend time there, but everyone has an opinion about how those mutants should be treated.”

Remy had done his research on the two rookies and he had known Kurt spent some time in MacTaggert Hall, the dorm hall at the Institute designated for mutants who were way weird and needed extra accommodations. Most of these mutants were physically mutated, like Kurt, but they could not function well, or even normally, as Kurt could. Remy could understand what drove Kurt to give a damn about these mutants, and he treaded carefully as he responded, “I didn’t realize there were complaints about the way they were treated.”

“Not written ones,” Kurt replied and he couldn’t believe he had even started this topic. Certainly not with someone like Remy, who couldn’t possibly understand what it would be like to be signaled out because of the way he looked or the things he needed to function.

Remy heard and felt the bitterness in Kurt’s voice and passed his dark brown eyes over him quickly. He wasn’t sure what he might say, so he said nothing, letting Kurt assume what he would. Probably nothing good.

Kurt figured Remy wouldn’t know whether or not anyone complained in a dorm he had never been in. Remy may have been the head of a group that documented the woes of the less fortunate and assisted them in their assimilation, but that didn’t mean he could ever actually get it. He hadn’t grown up poor, he had never been ugly, he had never wanted for anything, and so really, how could he relate? All he had was empathy, which Kurt honestly thought was bullshit, and more of a selfish reaction to another’s emotion than it was useful. The only thing Remy probably, honestly, felt was pity. And perhaps disgust. However, Kurt supposed, taking a moment to calm himself, his bitterness would not be as helpful as his ability to be better than that. Better than Remy. He could actually relate with these Morlocks; he was ugly, had been homeless and had felt what want was. He would do this job well.

Remy drove much faster than Clay and they made good time on their way to the Green Clan’s dwellings. He pulled against the curb as close as he could get to the subway’s entrance, only a mere three blocks away. Because of the close quarters in the SUV, Remy turned towards the window and stifled two successive sneezes. “Jesus, excuse me,” he said, and he wondered then if Jean was right about that sinus infection because his head hurt from his forehead to his cheekbones. He couldn’t wait until the next couple of days were over with, then maybe he could get a decent night’s sleep.

Exiting the car, he, Anna Marie and Kurt walked down the stairs and to the old aqueduct shed as he had done a little over forty eight hours ago – though it seemed like a week ago, at least.

If Anna Marie was bothered by the smell of rotting fish, he wondered what her reaction might be to the general stink of the underprivileged. Before they entered, he said to her, “Do your best to keep a poker face. If they see your disgust they won’t take as kindly to you.”

She nodded almost solemnly. He continued with, “The most important thing to remember is that we’re in their territory now. They can see better than we can, keep your flashlight at the ready, but aim it at the ground.”

Kurt, whose eyes were able to see perfectly in the darkness, said, “You use it as a weapon, don’t you?”

Remy gauged Kurt’s tone before he answered. Once again, Kurt was not being condescending. “If I have to,” he said. He opened the door to the maintenance shed, and he went in before them.

New York City had been a culture shock to the small southern town raised Anna Marie – but this was indescribable and nothing like she had imagined it would be as they drove here. She had thought that it would be hard to fit through what she assumed were winding tunnels, but there was enough room for even Remy to stand upright. She had also assumed that it would contain mutants just sitting there like beggars on the street, but at first glance she saw no one.

Then, completely round yellow eyes popped out in front of her. She swallowed a scream, and managed only a little squeak. The orbs closed and then opened, and they scanned the three agents from head to toe.

And then Remy spoke to it. “Hey, Randi,” he said quietly to the small mutant with eyes that took up most of her face.

As Anna Marie’s eyes adjusted to the dark, the eyes became part of a form. ‘Randi’ was ugly, hardly humanoid, with large yellow eyes, and an odd-shaped head. Like a flat face attached to a lump that started behind the eyes and nose, leaving no forehead or crown of the head. Randi had a small beak of a nose and lips that were the same color as the rest of the face was and were very small. His or her teeth were tiny and widely spaced and there was no neck to speak of, just folds of skin that drifted into the torso. All of the existing extremities, and there were five of them, were the same size and not distinguishable as arms or legs.

“Randi with an ‘I’,” the mutant responded in a singsong voice – apparently, Randi was a she – as she flapped an arm or leg at Remy. Her voice was as ugly as she was, and sounded as if it was hardly in use with its squeaks and tears. It managed to sound both monotone and happy at the same time.

Remy smiled and continued along. During a census he had taken his first year in the MCRT, he had asked Randi how to spell her name, by asking, “Randi with an ‘i’ or a ‘y’?” He couldn’t have known at the time that she did not know anything beyond what she called herself and the ability to recognize faces. As far as he can figure now, there’s no reason she should be able to do even that, considering she doesn’t seem to have room in her head for a brain big enough to support speech or facial recognition. She relies mostly on instinct and belongs to no tribe or clan or family. She is alone and will probably always be alone. But, for whatever reason, when Remy asked her how to spell her name, she was able to mimic part of what he said and always repeats that same phrase whenever he sees her.

Kurt looked at Anna Marie and together they were wide-eyed. They passed through what appeared to be a makeshift door frame, maybe for structural reasons. The wet, moldy smell that they had smelled upon entering was diminished slightly as their visibility heightened. At their feet, lining the walls were evenly spaced bottles with candles wedged partially inside, reminding them of what Italian restaurants did sometimes.

Between most of the lights were little carts holding things from blankets to pieces of glass. Various mutants were either sitting by the carts, as if watching them or were sifting through them. One of the sitting mutants reached out towards them, and like a magician, produced an interesting-looking pale pink flower seemingly out of thin air. He extended his hand further, nearly touching Anna Marie’s ankle with it.

“Ignore him,” Remy replied, without turning around.

Anna Marie did as she was told and stepped around the man and his pretty creation. He made a sound that perhaps qualified as speech and pushed his flower towards her.

Before Anna Marie could bend down to touch it, Remy stepped on it and flashed his light into the mutants eyes, earning a hiss. To Anna Marie, he said, “He means well, but those flowers are poisonous.” He was glad now that he had told her to ‘go for demure’ earlier, because he wasn’t sure it would have stopped with the flower.

If this was a tour, he would have explained that these mutants, like Randi, belonged to no one; they were the castaways among a castaway society. He added, sensing her discomfort, “We’re almost there.”

The green paint that signaled their arrival wasn’t what Kurt had expected as a marker for a clan. He supposed he had expected some sort of gang symbol or some ancient insignia, as opposed to three not quite parallel slashes on another half-rotted door-frame. “This is it?” he asked.

Remy simply nodded and knocked on the wood part of Red’s house.

Two whole minutes passed, which to Kurt seemed like an eternity, but Remy didn’t seem fazed by it. Kurt had read the description of Red, but words on paper didn’t do the mutant justice. Six foot four or five, with a chest more than double the width of his own, Red was the biggest unfriendly mutant he had ever seen. Colossus, or Piotr Rasputin, Kurt’s friend, would dwarf Red, but Kurt didn’t find Piotr scary anymore.

Also, Colossus had only two arms and well, looked normal. Red was troll-like, with longish arms and squat, thick legs. He reminded Kurt of something from The Lord of The Rings trilogy; movies he had thoroughly enjoyed. Kurt felt a surge of excitement, belying the fear he had felt at first. He watched as Red crossed all four of his arms at his chest and looked at Remy. “What do you want?” he asked him, his voice gruff and a deep baritone.

Again, Remy didn’t seem scared or fazed. Mostly annoyed. “You know what I want Red. Your cooperation.” Remy expected Red to act manly and petulant, trying to show his clan that he wasn’t scared of the prospect of any of them going to prison. He just hoped it didn’t come to physical blows, because he was almost sure even his agility and expertise with his bo staff wouldn’t be enough today. However, he didn’t let anyone see it.

Unlike Remy, Red was a predator, a hunter. And he smiled slowly. Remy may have been able to hide his emotions, but not the quality of his voice. “You want that, you’ll have to go through me first.” He puffed up his chest, as if he was a gorilla.

“That isn’t exactly how it works,” Remy said.

“Maybe in your world, no, but in mine, I make the rules.”

“I hope that works out for you in prison, Red.” If he hadn’t been sick, Remy might have played Red’s game a bit better; he would have put on the charm and said something to boost Red’s confidence and sense of himself while at the same time gaining access to what he wanted. Today, however, his threats were weak and Red knew it. He turned away to cough, and was upset by the surprising acoustics present in the tunnels.

“Hope you brought enough handcuffs,” Red said. “And have fun dragging me to the surface. Cuz I won’t go quietly.”

It was an old game the two of them played many times, the back and forth wasn’t rehearsed so much as in actual words, but in the give and take between the men involved. A word game that sometimes resulted in something physical. This was the reason Remy didn’t treat them as if they were stupid, because Red was not. He had to do what he had to in order to keep his subjects loyal, and that meant playing hard to get with a force he ultimately could not defeat. But his people didn’t know that. And so the game continued. Both men were very much aware of it.

But Kurt was not. To him, it appeared Remy was losing his ground. So, he took his arrogance, and stepped right in between the two, and inserted himself into their give and take. “It’s Red, right?” he asked, not giving Red a chance to answer, he continued, “My name is Kurt, and I think I can level with you here.”

Remy shut his mouth, because it had fallen open, and he took a lesson from Red, crossing his arms over his chest as Kurt dug himself into a deep, deep hole.

Kurt continued as Red looked down at him with confusion. “The reason we don’t want you to have MGH is because of its danger to your and your communities’ health. Not to mention it’s a crime to use it and sell it. When I was younger, I was in a similar situation. But instead of selling drugs, I sought refuge in a church. We can offer you that same refuge, outside of a prison cell, if you come with us.”

Red got over his sense of confusion and continued to stare down his bulbous nose right into Kurt’s face and surprised him by laughing a huge, rattling belly laugh. Then, dismissing him as easy at that, he turned to Remy, and said, “You’ve run out of tricks, have you? Low of you to think bringing your lap dog would help your cause.” Still laughing, he stepped aside, and dramatically motioned them inside, “Look at whatever you please. Then get the hell out.”

The ride back to the complex was quieter than the ride from it. Kurt had taken the back seat, leaving Anna Marie the front. Remy could feel Kurt’s embarrassment like a thick, suffocating sweater. He felt guilty not saying anything, and he felt bad that Kurt had to learn the hard way, but he wasn’t going to reassure him of anything. For one thing, Kurt’s pride had enough and he would take it badly, and maybe more so, because Remy thought it was a lesson in humility that Kurt desperately had needed to learn.

Furthermore, he was angry that Kurt had made it quite obvious that he hadn’t read Remy’s reports, because in one of them was practically the entire description of Red’s clan mentality. And for someone who prided himself on his own intelligence, Remy thought Kurt would be smart enough to read a goddamn manual before jumping into the fray. And where the hell was his partner? Anna Marie should have done something to make him shut up. Didn’t they remember anything from The Academy? And now, he was beginning to second guess his own decision. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken either one of them. Because what if Red had something to hide? And what if Kurt had made him angry? Yeah, Kurt could teleport, but would it be fast enough? And, after seeing how he and Anna Marie did not yet have a feel for the other one, would he leave her there? And Red could surely snap her neck easily. Vampiric skin or not, surely her skin’s ability to take someone’s mutant powers or life force wouldn’t be fast enough. They were both under his tutelage, but he had assumed they knew more than this by now. Logan spoke highly of both of them, but Remy was having a hard time seeing it. And he didn’t want to be the one to have to say anything about it.

He stewed about it most of the drive back, not a fan of doling out lectures, and finally when the entrance to The Rotunda was in sight, he said, “Both of you will turn in separate reports detailing what happened today; I would like a copy and you will also give one to Scott. It would be wise to consider the possibility that your partner might throw you under the bus to make themselves look good. It would also be wise to think about what it means to have one. I will be in D.C. for the next day or so, and that will plenty of time to get it done.”

After giving them their instructions, he left them, deciding he should take his own advice. He would have to tell Clay about Dr. Bridges’ email and probably owed him an apology for not telling him where he was going and why he was going. But then again, he already knew that Clay would understand.

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