Disclaimer: The X-Men and all related characters are property of Marvel Comics, and are used here for non-profit entertainment. Miasma, Tripper, Patrick Jeune, Visage, and Carrie Perrine are mine. Comments can be sent to BelaLeBeau@aol.com.

A Cure's Ransom
By BelaLeBeau
Part 2

"Of all the places in the world to go to, you drag us here?" Carrie huffed, dropping her suitcase to the dusty ground.

"It looked like fun in the travel guide!" Patrick said. "All water slides and big malls."

"Well, whoever wrote it was seeing mirages."

Fontana de Josemaria- just south of nowhere, and made all the more charming by the tumbleweeds and dust which spiraled up from the half-paved parking lot of a shabby hotel. There was no one in sight- the natives all knew to stay inside during most of the daylight hours. Patrick frowned. "Are we absolutely sure this is it?"

Carrie wordlessly pointed to a big sign above a nearby store: "FONTANA DE JOSEMARIA HARDWARE."

"We're only staying here one night," Erin spoke up. "I think we'll survive."

The other two sighed, and grabbed up their things. "Last time I let you plan anything for a road trip," Carrie whispered toward him.

"Shut up!" he yelled after her, but she'd already thrown open the rickety hotel doors and gone in.

"Muir Island," Vought announced, as the Acolytes shimmered into being on a sandy cove. The others stood for a moment, dazed. Teleportation was disorienting, at best.

"Where's the doctors?" Cargil asked.

"At the Research Center, due south of here."

"Why didn't you just take us there?"

"Because," Vought sighed, "I'd rather not trip an alarm inside the building. There's all sorts of mutant activity outside the Center, but inside, it would be more conspicuous."

"Maybe we'll get lucky, and meet up with some flatscans," Unuscione grinned.

Way to look at the bright side, Amelia thought. "Come on, let's get going."

Forge hadn't had a good workout in the Danger Room for what seemed like years. The light of the lasers, the feel of the tremors beneath his feet as he leapt from one moving platform to the next, the sound of screaming bullets launched in his direction: it was good to be back in action. Even if this was only a simulation.

His opponent flew high above him, on feathered wings so snow-white, Forge could have shot him down in the dark without the telescopic scanners mounted into his gun. Fortunately for Warren, he wasn't planning to do so. He shot instead a chain holding up a long steel tube above Angel, who missed being hit by inches.

He watched the winged mutant spiral upward, and then vanish behind another moving platform, but didn't have the chance to move before Marrow lunged at him from the shadows.

"Rusty ol' mutant!" she said, "Morlock'll beat you any d..."

"Any day but today," Lorna said from behind them, as Marrow crumpled into a heap on the floor, swatted aside from Forge's back by a long scrap of metal Polaris had grabbed from the floor far below. "I'm surprised such a great warrior like you didn't see that coming a mile away."

Marrow mumbled something incoherent and stalked off, as Angel flew down and landed by them. "End of session," he announced, and the chunk of metal they had been standing on slowly lowered down to the ground. "Not bad, for the first round."

"Not good, either," Forge said, swinging his gun over his back. "I'd hate to see what would happen if the mansion got attacked."

Angel nodded soberly. "True. What say we go another round?"

"Good idea."

A sequence of codes were given to the Danger Room's computer systems, and another lifelike hologram shimmered into existence. Lorna took off for the "sky," shaking her head.

Forge sighed, and ran into the closest shadows.

"So much for your alarm theory," Unuscione cackled, as Milan stepped away from the small console just outside one of the Research Center's many side doors. The red "armed" light snapped off, as the green lit up.

Milan, whose telepathic mind could manipulate both real and artificial intelligence, watched the opening steel doors before them with some awe. "This," he said, "Is truly a beautiful machine."

No one else paid much attention to him, as the group surged forward. They met no one in the first hall, but when they came to a large room toward the end of it, they were greeted with flatscan's screams. "Here's what I like!" Javitz grinned, as he grabbed a secretary from behind her desk. He pulled her up, and slammed her into the wall. "I thought this was supposed to be a mutant research facility?"

There was a great rush of feet to every and any exit which existed there. The floors, a strange combination of shining metal and polished mahogany, were scuffed and tracked upon.

Unuscione lashed out with the blinding green energy of her psionic exoskeleton, and knocked down a man in doctor's clothes. "Where's MacTaggart and McCoy?" she demanded.

"I... I... I..."

"Where?!" she repeated, shaking him roughly.

"Over... over... there..." he stuttered. One bony finger shook in another door's direction. Cargil bashed it inwards, and the others followed her into another long metal hallway.

Moira sat inside the room they entered, tapping at a computer. She looked up calmly, as if sudden interruptions were common to her, but her eyes widened as she recognized the faces before her. "Mactaggart," Vought greeted her, "step away from your desk."

She did so, and Javitz held her as Milan sat and quickly began typing. "Where's McCoy?" Vought demanded of the doctor.

Moira said nothing. Amelia shrugged. "Milan, can you find him somehow on their network?"

He nodded absently, and pulled up another program. A map of the Center flashed onto the screen. "This blue dot here should be the Beast," he said. "He is approaching this area."

"Deal with him," the redhead said to Cargil.

"I am accessing all files which mention the Legacy Virus," Milan informed them. He wouldn't need a disk to download- his brain would store the information just as well.

"Why are ye stealin' this?" the doctor asked. "The cure's f'r every mutant who needs it!"

Vought paid no attention. "Take us to whatever stores you have of it," she ordered.

Unuscione perked up. "Vought," she said, "let's take the cure and the doctors."


"If we have the doctors who found it and the cure... mutants would flock to Avalon to get it. Would flock to Lord Magnus' side."

"It's for everyone! No one group should have it!" Moira yelled. Javitz clapped a hand over her mouth.

"Lord Magnus would be pleased," he said. "More followers to his righteous cause."

"Imagine how he would reward us," Unuscione cooed. They both looked to Amelia, who frowned. If she didn't take this course of action, and Unuscione told Magneto- and she would- then Vought's name would be tarnished. But if she did, and Magneto was as appalled by it as she was, she'd have earned herself her Lord's anger.

"Fine," she said. "Help Cargil capture McCoy. Milan, destroy all the data in the Center's computers when you're done."

Javitz hit Moira in the back of the head, and she toppled to the floor. The two ran off, leaving the doctor there, while Milan's hands raced over the keyboard, and numbers spun down too fast for Vought to see them. She waited patiently for a few minutes, and then set her hands to her hips.

"How soon will you be finished with this?" Amelia asked.

"I am finished," he told her, as he retrieved once more the Center map. "The others have appropriated the Beast."

"Then we won't need to hang around any longer. Let's go."

Almost instantaneously, the monitor went black. "I've shut down the system and deleted all files, pertaining to the Virus or not."

"Good," she said, and stood over Moira's prone form. Her teammate joined her, and she teleported them out of the room.

"Logan!" the little girl shrieked, clambering up onto his lap. "You back!"

"I'm back," he affirmed, wrapping his arms around her awkwardly. "You've grown."

"Quite a bit, since you last saw her," Jean smiled. "You've been away so long. We missed you."

"I missed you too," he admitted. "I've got something for you, though," he said to the child, and pulled from his bag a tiny wooden boat- a junk. The girl planted a kiss on his broad nose.

"Thank you!"

"You're welcome."

"Guess what?" she said.


"I gotta new dolly. Auntie Rogue made it for me, an' this boat can be her toy! Wanna see it?"

"Sure," he said, but not until after she had jumped away and rushed out the door. He looked to Jean. "Cute kid. Looks like you."

She nodded. "We all missed you," she repeated. "Everyone's made big plans for you tonight- Remy and Rogue have been arguing over dinner in the kitchen since this morning."

"Almost a sure-fire way to tell if the food'll be good," he said. "The kids?"

"Still out on their road trip, but they send their love."

"It's good to be home."

Rachel ran in again, waving a cloth doll in the air. "See, Logan! My new dolly!"

He caught her up and swung her onto his back, which wasn't too far from the ground. "Wanna help me unpack 'fore dinner?" he asked.

"Only if Dolly can help, too."

"Okay," he said. "Dolly can help too."

Jean laughed, and watched the three climb up the stairs.