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Through a Mirror Clear
Old faces glimmered through the doors,
She ran blindly through an alleyway, trying to escape something she feared above all else, yet couldn't name.
A thick fog had surrounded her, and she could see neither where she had been nor where she was going. All she had was the faint notion of where she was, and the faint glow of street lamps as they shone through the dense haze that enveloped her.
Her sense of dread increased exponentially with every step, and still she could not name the feared adversary that pursued her.
All she knew was that it was closing in fast. It was only a matter of time -- an undeniable, inescapable truth.
She ran and ran for what seemed likehours. She stopped running, finally overcome by her weariness.
She knew her time was running out.
But she didn't care anymore.
Anything to end her never-ending battle against the demons that haunted her.
She stopped fighting, and the darkness found her.
Storm and Logan looked incredulously at the two doctors in front of them.
"The fetus is just over a week old, per the instruments that Forge has so kindly presented to us to reconstruct our former medical facility," Hank said. "At this point, it would be premature to try to postulate any additional details about Rogue's pregnancy."
He paused for a moment, focusing on cleaning a speck off of his glasses. "While we have not yet conducted a paternity test, it is probable that -- "
"Remy is likely the father. I know," Ororo said, almost sadly. A change seemed to come over her, a certain weariness, as if a burden on her shoulders had just gotten heavier. She glanced down at the ground, then looked back at Hank. "Is there anything else?"
"Not yet," Cecelia answered. "We can't really figure out much more unless we can get her to come out of her shell. Her problem appears to be more psychological than physical. I don't think the pregnancy physically caused her to withdraw like this."
"Do you think she knew already about the pregnancy and the shock over that caused this?" Ororo asked.
"Doubtful," Hank responded. "Most symptoms of pregnancy do not manifest themselves until after the first month."
"To get to the point, basically what yer sayin' here is that Rogue can't get any help until she wakes up, right?" Logan interrupted.
"Correct, my Canadian comrade," Hank said. "The most efficient means of ascertaining the cause of Rogue's withdrawal would be to consult one of our friendly neighborhood telepaths; however, all of them are presently incommunicado." The furry blue Beast furrowed his brow. "With Jean in Alaska, Elisabeth is our closest available telepath."
"Betsy and Rogue have known each other for a long time, but they have never been particularly close," Ororo said. "I hope that she will not have too much trouble getting past Rogue's mental barriers."
"We can hope," Hank conceded. "Short of simply waiting for Rogue to come out of this on her own, our telepathic-ninja-by-way-of-Merrie-Olde-England may be the best option open to us."
"I shall call her immediately," Ororo said, sweeping out of the room.
"Well, what do you think?"
"I'm not sure, Dr. Reyes," said Psylocke, rubbing her temples. "I am encountering a considerable amount of resistance within her mind, and I do not want to push too hard and possibly cause lasting damage."
"I was under the impression that Rogue's resistance to telepathy came from the presence of Carol Danvers' personality in her mind," Beast said, his eyes dark with concentration. "But once she was separated from Ms. Marvel, we postulated that she would no longer be so 'immune,' as it were."
"But no one ever tested that?" Ororo asked.
Hank appeared slightly embarrassed. "Considering the sequence of events and adversaries that we have been forced to combat since the X-Men divided into teams Blue and Gold, I do not believe that anyone ever thought to examine the changes in our Mississippi Marauder since her passage through the Siege Perilous."
"But if Carol ain't there, why's Betts havin' so much trouble gettin' into her head?" Logan had moved to a corner of the room, leaning against the wall and chewing on the end of a cigar.
Cecelia Reyes s face darkened at the sight of the cigar. "Don't you dare light that thing, mister! I'm not going to be-"
"Relax, Doc." Logan said, unperturbed. "Beast here's got a no-smoking rule 'round here. But it don't mean I can't keep 'em around." He turned back to Beast and Psylocke.
"So what's the verdict?"
"I am not certain," Betsy said. "This could mean any number of things. She could have another personality in her head, which might cause the same kind of interference."
"But she hasn't absorbed anyone permanently since Carol, right?" Logan asked.
"I do not believe so," Ororo answered. "Since beginning her involvement with Gambit, she has been reluctant to use her absorption powers on anyone."
Psylocke continued. "My difficulties could also indicate that someone else is controlling her telepathically, although what I saw of her mind did not seem to indicate that. It could just be that she has exceptional psi-defenses, whether through some kind of latent psionic power or as a by-product of her absorption powers."
"So what yer sayin' is that ya ain't got a clue." Logan straightened, crossing his arms across his chest.
"What I'm saying is that I can't know for sure unless I probe further into her mind, and I'm not sure that I want to do that without causing further harm to her psyche. If only we still had Cerebro..."
"We work with what we've got," Logan responded. "What did you see in her mind?"
"The astral plane is difficult to describe," Betsy said, shaking her head. "I suppose I could describe what I saw in Rogue's mind as a large wall surrounding a city of sorts, with a number of 'ghosts' guarding it. I encountered sizeable resistance any time I approached the wall."
"Could it be a matter of trust?" Beast interjected. "Perhaps if someone she trusted a great deal was to come inside?"
"Ororo, Logan-would you like me to psi-link you to Rogue's mind so you can see what you can do?" Psylocke asked. "I'll follow at a distance, but perhaps you, being closest to Rogue, might have a better chance at getting past her defenses."
"You must ask?" Storm answered.
"Count me in," Logan said.
The shadows swirled around her and began to take form. All around her, she began to make out the faces of friends and foes alike, all staring at her with hatred and revenge in their eyes.
For all of them -- it had all started with just a touch.
*But Ah didn't mean to! It just happened, and ah didn't know how ta stop it!*
Her fear showed plainly on her face, her eyes wide with panic.
She had trapped them here and left them to rot.
She wasn't the innocent victim this time.
She had violated them and forced them into submission, imprisoning them in the darkest recesses of her mind.
Now it was their turn.
She looked out at the myriad of faces surrounding her, circling her, waiting for their moment to strike. Friends, foes; humans, mutants; the guilty and the innocent.
None of them deserved to be here. Even in cases where duty, battle and the welfare of friends and a world that hated her had demanded it, it was not her right to invade their minds. Not her right to imprison them here, passing judgement on them.
*But Ah can't control it! Ah don't know how to stop it! Ah didn t know Ah d be trappin you in here with me -- not permanently.*
*But now that you re here, Ah don't know how to free you, either...*
The shadows began to close in around her.
*...Ah'm so sorry...*
She looked into the faces of the figures as they came in to exact their revenge, cold hatred glowing in their eyes.
Where was _he_?
She saw his form in the darkness at the end of the alley. Red eyes glowing dangerously, he watched silently from the shadows, smoking a cigarette, as the ghosts began their assault.
There was nothing more to say.
The tears flowed silently as she felt the cruel assault of fists that pummeled against her body.
He stomped out his cigarette and walked away.
<<Remember,>> Psylocke warned. <<stepping into the astral plane is a bit disorienting at first for non-psis. It will quickly pass, but it is disconcerting at first.>>
"We know the drill. Not like we learned anything from Chuck these past few years, eh?" Logan quipped.
<<Enough. Here we go...>>
Storm and Wolverine felt a gentle pull at their brains, bringing them through a wormhole of sorts.
<<Welcome to the astral plane, X-Men. Hope you survive the experience.>>
>Enough with the jokes, Betts,< Logan said. >Now what?<
<Now we find Rogue,> Storm answered, walking toward the fortress with Logan behind her. Psylocke followed at a distance.
Storm and Wolverine walked toward the wall cautiously. So far, they had encountered no resistance in their approach.
Reaching out, they examined the wall itself, tracing the cracks and testing its integrity. As they applied pressure to the wall with their hands, more cracks appeared.
<This wall appears to be crumbling beneath our touch,> Ororo told Psylocke, who watched their progress from afar. <Should we continue trying to break through it, or would that be dangerous?>
<<The fact that she's let you two this far means she's trusting you two to be in her mind. If the wall is crumbling, it is because Rogue has allowed it to do so. I don't believe that pushing down the wall-gradually-will hurt her.>>
Ororo and Logan began to apply more pressure to the wall, and the wall exhibited a curious reaction to their efforts. Wolverine's strong punches against the wall would close up the existing cracks, while Storm's more gentle knocking on the walls created new ones.
>Funny how this works,< Logan commented, pausing after a particularly hard blow to the wall had essentially erased all their previous efforts.
<The child has been through much,> Ororo said. <A gentle touch may mean more to her than the hardest of blows.>
>Let's try it, then.<
Logan followed Storm's example of knocking gently on the wall. Between the two of them, they quickly managed to create a hole large enough to crawl through, and they went through into the fortress itself.
Elisabeth Braddock watched her teammates' progress with satisfaction and a bit of frustration. Once Storm and Wolverine had passed through the wall, she approached the structure.
A cold, icy wind struck her from the direction of the fortress, growing stronger as she inched closer. She was almost able to reach out to touch the wall when she felt the brunt of an explosion that knocked her backward, into...a pile of snow?
Disoriented, she looked up to see Gambit standing above her, except this Gambit was fuzzy and indistinct - she could see right through him. But that didn't mean the impact of his blast had hurt any less.
**You leave her alone,** the ghost-Gambit said. **She don' be needin' your kind of help.**
Behind him, Psylocke could see the hole in the wall closing up and the cracks fusing themselves until all that remained was a smooth, seamless barrier.
<<She's withdrawn into herself,>> she told him. <<If you care about her, let me through so I can help her.>>
**Sorry. I can't. It ain't my call.**
He scooped up a handful of the snow and charged it.
Storm and Wolverine wandered carefully through the dark shadows of the city.
Actually, it was less a city and more a ghost town. The buildings had long since been abandoned, and a thick, smoggy haze mixed with the humidity to make the hot air almost unbearable. There was no light save that from a bright moon overhead and what random street lamps hadn't been shattered.
>It's kinda like the Big Easy, Salem, New York, San Francisco, Genosha an' Madripoor, all in one -- with a couple more mixed in.< Logan commented.
As they walked through the shadowy streets, Logan noticed the Princess Bar, with fragments of its main window littering the sidewalk in front of it; the letters that had once been painted on the glass now lay haphazardly on the cement, spelling out -- with a few letters missing -- something that Logan couldn t name, but which still nagged at the back of his brain to remember.
Just down the street from the notorious bar stood what appeared to be an approximation of the Golden Gate Bridge, except this bridge was swinging precariously over the crashing water of the bay beneath it.
<This whole city -- it's so dark and sad. Abandoned. Is that how Rogue feels?>
>I dunno, 'Ro. I dunno...<
They heard a scream from a distant alleyway.
<By the bright lady! That sounds like Rogue's voice!>
The two raced to the source of the sound. They were greeted by the sight of their teammate, surrounded by innumerable ghosts who were taking their turns beating her and shouting, trying to tear into even her most private pain and cherished memories.
She was lying, motionless on the dirty cement of the alleyway. Her form was slowly becoming as fuzzy and indistinct as those of her assailants.
Without a word, Storm and Wolverine leaped into the fray, trying to separate the ghosts from their fallen comrade. The ghosts offered little resistance, instead disappearing into the shadows.
Logan lifted Rogue's form into his arms. >C'mon, darlin', wake up.<
Storm's gloved hand patted Rogue's cheek. <Wake up, child. It is safe now."
Rogue stirred slightly, and a soft moan escaped her lips. "...safe?...ain' nevah gonna be safe..."
<What do you mean, child? Your attackers are gone.>
"...be back...put 'em here perm'nently..."
>What do you mean, Rogue?<
"...don' wanna *coff* talk about it...lemme sleep..."
The remaining streetlights around the trio began to dim.
The ghost-Gambit had battled Psylocke until she returned to her original vantage point. As a 'parting gift', he had thrown a barrage of snowballs at her, mercifully choosing not to charge them, until she was practically buried in them.
As she tried to brush the snow off of her, she mentally reached out to Storm and Wolverine.
<<Have you had any luck finding Rogue yet?>>
>Yeah, we've got her right here. But she's been beaten up pretty bad.<
<I fear we should not move her from this spot.> Ororo paused. <She says she wants to sleep. Even though this is only her astral form, we should keep her awake, correct?>
<<Yes. If she falls unconscious here, her body could go into some kind of shock, and it may cause us some trouble as well, being here in her mind.>>
>So what should we do?<
<<Try to wake her up further until she is fully conscious. Then we might safely return with her to the MedLab. By all means, do not let her fall asleep.>>
The four X-Men returned to their bodies with a rush, momentarily disoriented from their time in the astral plane. Beast and Cecelia rushed to Rogue's bed to see if anything had changed.
Rogue had opened her eyes and was sitting up in the bed. A weariness seemed to have come over her, making her look far older than her young age. She looked up at the two doctors.
"Ah've gotten myself into quite the pinch this time, haven't Ah?" she said, feebly attempting a joke. "Can't a gal have a bad dream without the whole house startin' a ruckus?"
"You've been in a coma for at least the past three hours," Cecelia said.
"So what'd Ah miss?"