Body and Soul I: The Body Snatcher

Chapter 3: With Friends Like These...

Part C

As it was, he was one of the first there-- only Cyclops, Jean and Bishop had already arrived. Cyclops, who probably had been the first one there, nodded at him. "Magneto. What's your opinion on recruiting Polaris to help find the body snatcher?"

"My opinion? Quicksilver is on Polaris' team, is he not? Is there a way to bring her in without notifying him of the situation?"

"Is there a good reason not to tell him?"

"How pleased would you be at the thought of telling Corsair you have been turned into a woman, Cyclops?"

"Corsair's my father. Quicksilver's your son. It's not the same thing."

"That makes it infinitely worse, trust me. I have no reasons for wanting to keep Polaris out aside from my entirely personal desire not to involve Quicksilver; she certainly has the abilities needed to find the body snatcher and probably could defeat her in single combat. The body snatcher's more powerful but has far less training than Polaris... although she's willing to kill, and as one of Xavier's trainees, I imagine Polaris is not. She would need backup. Not Havok, his ionic discharges are useless against me."

"She'd have the X-Men. I wouldn't involve the rest of X-Factor if I can help it-- Lorna's an old friend and for all intents and purposes my sister-in-law, so I can probably bring her in to this privately without having her tell Val Cooper what's going on. Or Quicksilver, though I personally am much more concerned with keeping the government from finding out than keeping your son out of it."

"Why are we so concerned with keeping the government out of this?" Bishop asked. "The X-Men have an outlaw status, but since we're discussing liaising with X-Factor, not an entity such as SHIELD, is that really a concern?"

"The concern is, I don't want to let government agencies know there's a powerful mutant serial killer out there. Even if they kept it secret-- which they probably wouldn't-- it doesn't help our cause if the government thinks of mutants as primarily criminals and deviants. And every time a new mutant supercriminal turns up, it reinforces their beliefs and that of the general public. Well, learning about a mutant serial killer who likes to rape and murder powerful men is likely to bring out a severe overreaction against mutants in general-- a lot of the guys in power are in the body snatcher's target group, and spooking them is not a good idea for mutantkind in general."

Charles entered the room, arguing with Henry McCoy about his health again, accompanied by Storm, Rogue and Gambit. "...perfectly fine today," he was saying. "In fact, as soon as we finish here, I intend to try to repair Cerebro enough to locate the body snatcher."

"Given what happened last time, I would have to call that a singularly bad idea, Charles," Hank said. "We certainly don't need her zipping about in your body again."

"Since she couldn't acquire my telepathic powers, I strongly doubt she'd wish to. Besides, I don't intend to attack her, just locate her."

Storm walked over to Erik. "Magnus, I have made an appointment for 12 o'clock today. If our work against the body snatcher demands it, we will postpone, but from what Charles has said it seems likely that she may be disabled for a while."

"How does he know?"

"He has a lengthy report to make; I've heard some of the highlights, but I will rely on him to tell the full story."

"How're you feelin' this mornin', sugar?" Rogue asked.

"As well as can be expected. Why is there no coffee in this briefing room?"

"Dere's a coffee maker right there," Gambit said. "What, de Master of Magnetism can't operate a coffeemaker by himself wit'out help from his powers?"

Erik scowled. "I hadn't actually seen the coffee maker until you so graciously pointed it out," he snapped. "Besides, I am hardly the X-Men's amanuensis, to be making coffee for the lot of you."

"Amanuensises no longer do that sort of thing," the Beast said. "Instead, as a general rule, they type up cheery little notes reminding everyone that they are not our mothers and will not make our coffee for us, and tape them to the coffee maker."

"Pardon mah stupidity, but what the heck is an amanuensis?"

"A secretary," Charles said. "Good morning, Wolverine, Colossus."

The big Russian hadn't yet seen Erik's new form. Erik saw his eyes go wide with shock, and felt irrationally angry. Of course Peter was going to be shocked. It was a natural reason. No good reason to want to fling him into orbit.

"Ah-- Magneto," Peter said, not hiding his shock well at all. "Ah, how are you feeling this morning?"

Rather less like killing all of you than I did yesterday. "Reasonably well. I would like to get on with this briefing, and I would like some coffee. Is anyone going to bother making some, or do all your mutant powers make you immune to caffeine?"

"Ah'll do it," Rogue said. "Ah ain't right in the morning without at least two cups mahself. Cyke, next time you call an early morning briefin', can't you remember to make some coffee?"

"We did. Then we drank it all," Jean said. "You need to get up earlier to get to the first batch."

"Fortunately," Psylocke said from the door, "we've already had ours." She walked in with Archangel, who was studiously not looking at Erik, and Iceman, who was carrying a bowl of cold cereal and eating it as he walked.

"Good, everyone's here," Charles said. "Let's begin."

Cyclops nodded. "Firstly, Magneto. Can you tell us about your escape yesterday? You mentioned that you thought she'd be disabled. We need to know what time you escaped and when, in your opinion, she was most likely to have started reacting to that escape."

"I was in the kitchen, and I found a newspaper article talking about her activities as the Electrokiller," Erik said. "She had effectively prevented me from escaping by raping and murdering a young man in front of me, and threatening that she would do it again if I attempted escape again."

"Why was she so concerned with your escape? Is there something she fears you can do?" Cyclops asked.

He was not going to tell the X-Men what use he'd been to Lisa Davies-- Xavier, Storm and Jean already knew, and that couldn't be helped, but he'd be damned if he let the others know. "Because she needs to keep her physical body under her control. According to what she told me, she can switch with anyone she touches with this body," pointing at himself. "Once she's in a target body, however, she can only switch back to this one. So if I'm under her control I'm her backup in the case that someone successfully injures my body severely or fatally; she can switch back to this one and leave my body to die. If I'm free of her, she has no control-- if she needs to switch back to this body, she'd be in the midst of enemies with little way out."

"Do you have the ability to use her body-switching power?"

He gave Cyclops a disgusted look. "If I did, would I be here before you?"

"Good point. All right, she'd told you she was going to kill people if you ran away. And you read about the Electrokiller in the newspaper, so I assume you realized at that point she was killing people anyway. How could you be sure it was her?"

"The modus operandi. Lisa Davies hates men. She believes us to be beings of power who need to be humbled somehow. When I realized someone was raping and then electrocuting men, I knew it had to be her. She'd been going out in the evenings a great deal and would return with newspapers from all up and down the Northeast Coast of the United States. The likelihood of anyone else traveling up and down the coast and murdering men that way was vanishingly small. So I decided I would escape. I struck her in the head with a glass bottle and then beat her senseless with a cutting board, and when she was fully unconscious I gashed her ankles so she would lose a great deal of blood when she attempted to walk. Then I ran into the woods, where eventually I made my way to the highway and called Charles."

"Whoa." Iceman stared at him. "You beat her up with a glass bottle and a cutting board? That's unreal."

"I told you. My lack of powers does not mean a complete lack of resources. I know the vulnerabilities of her powers better than anyone, and she was more interested in trying to humiliate me by making me a menial kitchen servant than she was in keeping me away from weapons made of wood and glass. If she hadn't threatened to kill mutants, or if I'd been willing to kill my own body to escape, she could never have held me so long."

"In your opinion, does she have any true combat experience whatsoever?" Bishop asked.

"In my opinion, no. She has experience holding helpless people captive; she does not expect anyone to resist, certainly not to do it successfully. I think she was extremely frightened by my escape, recognizing that I'd call on superhuman allies-- she left me a threatening letter in which she as much as admitted that she fled the house with all her possessions because she was afraid of my allies and their powers."

"Where is this letter?" Bishop asked.

"I threw it out," Erik said.

Bishop's expression darkened. "It was evidence. You should not have been so short-sighted."

"I've already told you everything relevant it said. The rest was worthless threats and posturing."

"He's right," Wolverine said. "Bitch was scared. You could smell it in the house. She ain't gonna be much to take down, if she spooks so fast moment she thinks we might be showin' up."

"She must have packed very quickly," Erik said, "because she spent at least an hour, perhaps longer, looking for me. She went right past me in the forest-- fortunately, she had raised enough power that I felt her coming long before she could have spotted me, and I hid well-- probably an hour or two after my escape. I think it might have been another two or three after that when I called Charles."

"You contacted me at 2 pm. I immediately used Cerebro to try to locate her-- I'd already picked up a reading I thought was might be her, a reading that seemed very similar to you except for some odd quasi-telepathic elements. I had no difficulty reaching her, and so I decided to attempt a telepathic attack to hold her in place.

"I need to try to reconstruct what she did after the fact, because it all happened so fast I had no awareness at the time of exactly what she was doing. I touched her mind, read her surface thoughts and began to go deeper-- and suddenly I found myself yanked psychically and anchored into a different body. No sooner had I realized that I had been pulled off the astral plane and into a different body than I began to feel extremely ill- violent nausea, severe migraine, and intense vertigo, severe enough that I could barely lift my head."

"At that you were luckier than I was," Erik said. "I was unconscious for several hours and suffered from nausea and headaches for hours after that."

"I'm much more accustomed to being in different bodies than you are-- and we should also note that I was in your body, which is probably much less different from my own than Davies' body is from yours. I'm not at all sure how long this lasted, but I was able to observe my surroundings-- I was in a truck, pulled over to what looked like the back of a shopping mall or perhaps business complex, and I was in your body, Magnus. Attempting to use your magnetic powers made me considerably more ill; I had to meditate and try to retreat away from the influence of the physical in order to regain access to my own powers. Once I'd successfully regained control, I reached out across the Astral Plane to try to find my own body again. I could plainly see a connection between myself and Lee Davies, and I followed that connection to return to my body, where I found Davies hitting the Shi'ar power core with a fire extinguisher. She'd cracked the crystal, and I could see that the energies within were about to explode outward, so I attacked her; she switched us again, and this time I could see what she was doing.

"While there is such a thing as a disembodied mind on the Astral Plane, such as the Shadow King after I killed him, most minds on the Astral Plane are linked to their bodies through a virtually unbreakable cord. What Lee Davies does is to rip the cord free from her target, detaching her own, and then re-attaching them both to the opposite bodies. It seems that the process of her detaching from her own body and attaching to the new one is primary; the fact that she pushes her victim out of their own body is a side effect. In effect, she kills her victims for an instant, leaving them forcibly disembodied before pushing them into the body she's moving from. This might cause the severe physical side effects both Magnus and I have noticed. This is a very specific psionic ability, not something any telepath could imitate, and as one might expect when she's detaching astral forms from their original bodies, it seems that telepathic powers stay with the minds. Thus, Magnus doesn't and can't have her power despite having the genes for it, now. It also seems quite apparent to me that, while ordinarily she needs to make physical contact with her victim, from within her own body, that isn't necessary if a telepath touches her mind. She needs her body to forge the psionic link that allows her to displace a mind, and if a telepath creates that link by attacking her or even touching her mind, she doesn't need to be in her body to swap... although it doesn't seem to be much to her advantage to switch with a pure telepath like myself, because my telepathy goes with my mind, it does mean she can at least incapacitate and severely inconvenience any telepath that attacks her."

"It's far worse than that, Charles," Erik interrupted. "Davies has extensive experience with suiciding and then jumping back to her origin body. Apparently she did that the first time her power manifested. If a telepath attacks her there is nothing to stop her from killing that telepath; she might even have killed you if she could have figured out how to do it with a fire extinguisher, but I imagine that, being trapped in a wheelchair, she lacked the mobility to go get a weapon to kill you with."

"I see." Charles nodded slowly. "My recommendation was going to be that we avoid touching her telepathically if we can help it, but to use it in an emergency. Your information makes it seem that we need quite a severe emergency to take the risk. I will be attempting to restore Cerebro anyway-- the current version is dependent on the Shi'ar power core, and I don't have the ability to contact Lilandra and ask for a new core until I've got a Cerebro, but I will be rebuilding an earlier version that runs off household current. But I don't think we should use Cerebro to try to locate Davies, except in its purely passive, telepath-less mode. And I may not even be able to build that mode in without access to the Shi'ar computers."

"How do you recommend we locate her?" Storm asked.

"I've had an idea," Cyclops said. "I'm going to contact Lorna after this meeting and ask for her help. I want to keep it private-- Alex and Lorna can know what's going on if they have to, but I don't want X-Factor coming and involving themselves in a case of a mutant serial killer. Mutants need to try to keep this one secret from the government and the media if we can. But Lorna's magnetic powers ought to be able to quickly pinpoint the body snatcher-- she doesn't travel farther than the Northeast Coast, apparently."

"Clearfield wasn't exactly on the coast, Scott," Iceman said. "Lorna's good and all, but she isn't exactly a Magneto-locator; if she could do that we'd've asked her to do it a lot more often, wouldn't we have?"

"Magneto had a bad habit of hiding out in the Southern Hemisphere. Lorna's not that good. But if Lee Davies is in DC, I'm sure she'll know about it if she's paying attention. I'm actually a little surprised she hasn't gotten involved already, but maybe she was busy when the body snatcher was in DC."

"There's another possibility, should Lorna prove to be a less than efficacious alternative," Hank said. "But as I am not certain I will be capable of actually invoking this alternative, I'd prefer to discuss it with you privately, Scott and Charles."

"What kind of alternative?" Erik asked.

"The kind that involves technologies useful for the purpose of locating you, and therefore, our positions being what they are, I shall say no more about it to you. Rest assured I shall preserve the privacy of your current circumstances, but it would be sheerest folly for me to reveal anything more."

"You're talking about Richards' magnetic array, I take it?"

Hank blinked. "You... know about that?"

"Please, Beast. Richards is a legitimate scientist, who publishes in all the best journals, and I read everything pertaining to magnetism even when I haven't got time to keep up with the rest of physics. He would not be able to do the kind of research he describes doing without an extremely sensitive magnetic array. As well, do you seriously think I wouldn't have noticed the effects of an array designed to read electromagnetic fields? Unfortunately for him-- and, in our current circumstances, all of us-- I've bollixed his device."

"How? You haven't been in contact with the Fantastic Four-- I'm sure they would have mentioned it to us."

"I control-- or controlled-- the Earth's magnetic field, Beast. I've simply arranged for there to be numerous powerful sources of magnetic flux in the Northeast area of the United States, and several other places it would be rather inconvenient to get to now. Richards' device can't detect the sort of localized power fields I put out because it's being affected by power fields that are much closer to it."

"Can you reverse these effects?" Cyclops asked. "I had gotten the impression finding this woman was important to you."

"It's vitally important, but without my powers, no, I can't. I couldn't even reliably tell you where they are; I fly by the Earth's magnetic field, not by landmarks, so I'm not sure I could find them without being able to sense the fields."

"You get hoist on your own petard a lot, don't you, Maggie?" Wolverine asked. Erik ignored him.

"There is a telepathic possibility, but it's a strange one," Jean said. "If Rogue took the powers of a telepath, and used Cerebro... it seems that Rogue's power is similar to Davies'. If Davies' power works by trying to move her into a new host body, and only secondarily displaces the host, Rogue's power could handle that without Rogue being displaced. We'd have her trapped."

"Uh, no." Rogue shook her head violently. "Ah am not havin' that bitch in mah head. First off, Ah'm too powerful. She gets into mah body and gets control-- and the people in mah head, they can get control, Carol always used to-- and we're fucked. Second off, Ah ain't takin' the risk that with both her power and mine workin' together to put her in mah head, the transfer might be permanent. And third off, we don't know that mah power works faster than hers, or that mah power works for sure on a telepath at all-- usually Ah just have static in mah head, it ain't like Ah make a habit of absorbin' telepaths who try to read me. So her ability might work, and then Ah'd be Magneto and she'd be me, and how the hell would that help us?"

"I doubt she'd want to remain any length of time in a woman's body," Xavier said. "Part of Davies' illness is an overpowering desire to be male. She's not a transsexual-- it's not that she believes she is male deep down inside, so much as that she believes that women are weak and that the only way to have power is to be male. So she won't stay in a female body, however powerful, longer than she has to. That being said, Rogue's concern about the ways the plan could go wrong are very valid, and so I can't recommend that course of action."

"We are wasting time," Erik said. "She could be out killing people right now. Let us contact Polaris immediately."

"Do you really think she'd be up and about this soon?" Charles asked. "She struck us with an EMP from her location near Clearfield no more than twenty minutes after she'd switched back to your body, and I can only imagine what a strain such a long-distance, localized pulse could have put on her."

Charles, of course, knew his weaknesses far better than the X-Men did. He sighed. "I don't know. Yes, it would have been a terrible strain. Yes, if I'd done it at most points in my life, it probably would have left me out of commission for several days. But the power amplification Cortez inflicted on me never went away. My body is much more powerful now than it used to be. Who knows how long Davies will be out of commission? I know she'd have been struck down for at least a day, but it's been almost that-- she could be out killing people tonight."

"But she's scared," Jean said. "She pulled up everything from her home and ran rather than face us. She attacked the mansion, destroyed the power core and then EMP'd the conventional equipment, but she has no way of knowing how much damage that would have done us-- she can't read minds, right? So I don't think she's going to go using her powers tonight. I think she'll lay low. It'll take her a few days to get her nerve back."

"And you know this because? Have you intimate familiarity with serial killers that the rest of us lack?" Erik asked sarcastically.

"I'm a telepath, and I've read a lot of minds, and studied psychology. You pick things up, defending the world from scumbags. Professor, what do you think?"

"I think we are likely to have at least a day's respite before she strikes again, but obviously let's get her located as soon as possible."

"Right." Cyclops stood up. "I'm going to go call Lorna. X-Men, consider yourselves on standby; if she's able to find the body snatcher for us, we'll be going out as soon as she's got a fix."

Erik followed him out of the briefing room and into the communications center. Storm did as well. The rest of the X-Men trooped off to get breakfast, or whatever other morning tasks awaited them.

Alex Summers' face appeared on the viewscreen. "Scott! Hey there. What can I do for you?"

"Is Lorna around?"

"Afraid not. She's down with the flu-- it's been going around here. Is there something I can help you with?"

"Damn," Cyclops said. "We really could have used her help. We're tracking a mutant with powers similar to Magneto's, who just took out Cerebro and has the ability to attack telepaths who probe her mind. I was hoping to call in Lorna to help track the mutant down."

Alex shook his head. "Right now Lorna's doing well if she can open the mini-fridge I put in the bedroom and levitate a stainless steel water pitcher out of it from next to her bed. I could call in help from Val, though-- I'm pretty sure the Feds are working on a project to track Magneto down, and if--"

"Sorry to interrupt, but don't tell me anything else about it. This--" he pointed at Erik-- "is a pal of Magneto's. She's helping us with the investigation, but don't tell me what the Feds are doing about Magneto in front of her."

"You know, you could have warned me before I spilled something. You're working with one of Magneto's allies?" Havok studied Erik intently. "What's going on, bro?"

"It need be none of your concern, Havok," Erik said. "We no more wish to share information about the Acolytes' troubles with agents of the US government than you would wish to tell us of the measures you are taking against Magneto. Suffice it to say that people are dying, innocent people, and Magneto may be blamed for their deaths unless we take quick action. But if Polaris is unavailable, there is no help X-Factor can give."

"I thought Magneto was dead." Havok narrowed his eyes. "Pietro's going to be interested in hearing about that. What'd you say your name was, lady?"

"I didn't. You may call me Erika Masters, if you must call me something. And you may indeed tell Pietro that Magnus is not dead, if it would matter to him."

"It seems we'll have to look elsewhere for assistance," Storm said. "Alex, please give our best wishes to Lorna and any other teammates afflicted with the flu. My prayers will be with her."

"I'll tell her you said so. Thanks, Ororo." He looked over at Cyclops. "Scott, how bad is this thing? I understand Ms. Masters over there doesn't want to give her boss's secrets out to the Feds, but we can be discreet if you need the help."

Cyclops shook his head. "It's something I really don't want the government brought in on, Alex. Thanks anyway, but this is definitely a job for outlaw renegade mutants." He smiled slightly when he said the last, as if it were a private joke. "Lorna could've been helpful enough that we could take the risk, but if she's flat on her back, then let's just leave it at that. If we still need her help in a week or so when she's likely recovered, we'll call. Who else is sick?"

"Guido and Multiple Man. Rahne and I had it, but we got better, and Pietro claims he had it for a few hours, but the rest of us were asleep at the time, so who knows. And Val's had it for a week and a half, so at least we know it isn't singling the mutants out. Just the usual equal opportunity flu."

"That's good to hear. Tell Lorna I said get better soon, and I'll see you later."

"Yup. Later."

The viewscreen went dead. Cyclops turned on Magneto. "Acolytes? They lived too?"

Bodies frozen forever in metal. Chrome, bloody, broken, unrecognizable. "They are dead. Not that it's any of your business, Cyclops. But since you told your brother I am Magneto's ally, I thought it best to use the name of my most recent allies."

"I'm... sorry to hear they're dead. Not that I expected anything else, but... they didn't deserve to die."

Cyclops had been one of the ones he'd brainwashed to his cause briefly, one of the ones who'd befriended his Acolytes. "I have sworn to avenge them on Fabian Cortez, eventually. Right now, though... do you have any other plans, since Polaris will be unavailable?"

"Yeah, but... it's a plan I really, really hate. Let's get everyone back together. I'm hoping someone will have a better notion."

Once the X-Men had gathered back together after breakfast, Cyclops outlined what had happened in his conversation with Alex. "Without the ability to track her directly by a magnetic array, like Dr. Richards' device, or Cerebro, and with Lorna out of commission... I'm afraid we're going to have to do this one the hard way. And I only know of one way to do that, but I'm hoping someone else has another suggestion, because it's a very, very dangerous idea."

"Hey, dangerous ideas are our specialty," Iceman said.

Cyclops turned his flat, expressionless visor in Iceman's direction. "Not like this one, Bobby," he said. "Magneto. You told us that this woman prefers to prey on powerful men. That she likes mutants. The most effective way I can think of to hunt her down is to lure her in. She picks up her prey in gay bars... what if she knew there was a mutant who was going there? What would she do?"

"No, Cyclops." Erik saw Cyclops' plan-- it was audacious, and might even work, but he would not allow it. The risk was far, far too great. Even if the body snatcher didn't have the chance to kill her chosen victim, these sheltered X-Men would not likely have any experience of sexual molestation. "I won't permit it."

"It's not really your decision, Magneto."

"Scott, are you actually suggesting that we have X-Men stake out gay bars and hope she tries to rape one of them?" Jean's tone was as horrified as Erik felt.

"No, no. We'd set things up so that we could come to the rescue the moment she took the bait. Remember, we know what Magneto looks like; she doesn't know what we look like." He looked around at the assembled X-Men. "Given her powers, and what we know about how she chooses her targets, I think there's only a small handful of us who could actually do this. Wolverine, Colossus and Archangel are all out because of the dependence on metal. Hank's image inducer is also made of metal, and he's far too easily recognizable as an X-Man without one. The women can't do it. So the only possible candidates are myself, Bobby, Bishop, and Gambit."

"Euw," Bobby said. "I mean, if this is gonna stop a serial killer, I'll put on lipstick and swish my way into a gay bar, but-- euw. Can I go on record as saying euw?"

"Worse dan you t'ink, Cyclops," Gambit said. "Your glasses make you vulnerable-- you can't take your visor wit' you wit'out warnin' her-- and Bobby, I just don't t'ink he's got de actin' skills. I don' know about Bishop-- if I really trained you in de future, Bishop, you know how to do dis kinda t'ing-- and me, I can do it, no problem. Wit' my eyes, I can even advertise de mutant t'ing wit'out givin' away my powers. But dat reduces it to two."

"This is absolute foolishness!" Erik said. "The danger is far too great!"

"The danger to myself would be minimal," Bishop said. "Her powers will not work on me if she doesn't know what I can do. And I have no doubt that Remy LeBeau can successfully infiltrate any community he chooses. My concern is that this seems a long-range strategy, and we have little time."

"Why not conduct an actual investigation?" Psylocke asked. "We can visit gay bars with photos of Magneto out of costume, and ask around to see who's seen him. The gay community is likely to respond very well to an investigation of the Electrokiller, given how many of them have been killed by the body snatcher. They should give us plenty of aid. We may not need mutant stalking goats."

"I much prefer that plan," Xavier said. "Gambit, Bishop, if the two of you wish to try your hand at being bait, I'll outfit you both with small devices to amplify your psionic output so you can call for help immediately, if required. But rather than wait for such a strategy to draw her to us, let's look for her at the same time. I have a contact in New York City I can ask to keep an eye on things, and we can send paired teams to the other cities to impersonate the FBI and directly investigate the Electrokiller murders. We have an advantage in that we know what she looks like, and the actual FBI does not. This would let us make use of all of our resources, instead of the only two men we have with no metal on their person who have training at this type of infiltration." He shook his head. "I also won't allow either of you two, Gambit and Bishop, to do this unless you're both comfortable with your ability to blend in, able to handle yourself should any situations of a sexual nature arise, and absolutely willing to volunteer. Sexual infiltration operations are not work the X-Men generally do, for a good reason, and I didn't train any of you in such work because, frankly, we're not the Hellfire Club and I have no wish to be."

"I am not comfortable with such a task," Bishop said. "I come from a different time; I don't have experience with the sexual mores of your time period. I would be better suited to assisting in a traditional investigation."

"Well, den it's down to me," Gambit said. "I don' have a problem wit' work like dis, and I'm pretty good at it. So I'll take it on. Ain't like anyone's goin' believe I'm FBI, anyway." He grinned. "I get into trouble, you goin' come rescue me, Roguey?"

"You are trouble, swamp rat." She was grinning too. "Ah'll shadow Gambit. Ah got infiltration trainin', too, and in mah experience, plenty of women go to gay bars to enjoy the company without havin' to deal with the lechery. Ah'll go with him as his gal pal, and make sure he's got plenty of backup if the body snatcher takes the bait."

"Well, I feel a little better about the plan if Gambit's experienced with this kind of work, and you're backing him up, Rogue," Cyclops said. "But I'm glad we have an alternative in place as well."

Erik still couldn't stand the plan. "And if the body snatcher overpowers Gambit and kills Rogue? Are you prepared for the logical consequences, Gambit?"

Red on black eyes met his evenly. "It ain't goin' to come to that. I'm very experienced at getting myself out of trouble, and I doubt the body snatcher could take Rogue and me on, not unless she's got a lot more trainin' than you said. Rogue's trained by Mystique and de Professor, and both of dem have taken you down. We got not'in' to worry about long as we're careful."

"And as long as you don't blow your cover by flirting with each other."

"Mon dieu, you don't know anyt'in' about gay men, do you?" Gambit's smile was mocking. "I go to a gay bar wit' Rogue, and flirt wit' her and everyone else, everyone goin' t'ink eit'er I'm bi or I'm flamin'. It won't be a problem, trust me. If you really want your body back, I'd t'ink you'd want someone as strong as Rogue on de front line, non?"

"It seems we are settled on a plan, then," Storm said. "I will make arrangements to create false identities for all of us who will be participating in the investigation. Remy, what city will you be targeting?"

"Well, we got NYC covered wit' de Prof's contact, and flu or no, Lorna's probably goin' notice Magneto's body runnin' amuck in DC. Where you t'ink, Mags? Boston, Philly, Baltimore or somewhere else?"

"I'd recommend Philadelphia. It's where she captured me and where her post office box is-- it's likely to be her primary base of operations. Failing that, Baltimore is actually closer to where she was holding me captive than anywhere else."

"Let's do Philly," Rogue said. "It's got more of a nightlife."

"We will break into teams of 2," Storm said. "Professor Xavier, are you well enough to maintain telepathic contact with us?"

"I am indeed. I will also be working on rebuilding the version of Cerebro that isn't dependent on the Shi'ar technology, if for no better reason than to contact Lilandra and ask for replacement equipment."

"Very well. Magnus, you and I have an appointment in the city we will need to leave for shortly. After Magnus and I return, X-Men, we will divide up into teams and go to the different target cities." Storm stood up. "Come, Magnus. We've an hour and a half, and I had planned to take the car today. It would be best to leave soon."

"All right." He followed her out of the room, grateful she hadn't announced to the assemblage what his appointment was for, although probably some of them could guess.


Body Snatcher: Chapter Three Part D

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