Takes place after Wolverine 90 and X-Men: Prime, when X-Force is still in residence at the mansion and Wolverine is still skulking around outside, and before Siryn pulls her disappearing act. As I started this before Wolverine #91 and X-Force #44, et al, and didn't feel like doing massive rewrites (ahem, additional massive rewrites), I hereby declare the formation of yet another Marvel Parallel Universe. Deal with it.


"Through this world I wandered so many times betrayed
Trying to find an honest word to find the truth enslaved."

   -- Sarah McLachlan, 'Possession'

Chapter 1

Theresa Rourke Cassidy couldn't sleep.

"All the mutant powers runnin' around here, and we still canna find anyone t' cure insomnia," she grumbled quietly as she gave up and got out of bed, pulling on the shorts and cut-off T-shirt she had taken off three hours before.

She didn't miss the irony of the emblem on her shirt -- the seal of the Xavier School for Gifted Children. Once, she and her teammates had turned their backs on the school, choosing to follow another teacher. Now they were living on that school's grounds, and her own dad was headmaster of the current incarnation.

But although she didn't miss the irony, she didn't dwell on it either; she had long ago accepted that the universe had an sense of humor and usually let it go at that.

She quietly opened the door to her room, slipping down the hall without waking any of the small army that was currently sharing the mansion, stopping for a moment in the open door of the infirmary. Four bodies shared it, all more-or-less unconscious, two of them old enemies of the X-Men. Sabretooth, even catatonic, was under heavy restraints; she was grateful for that after the stories she'd heard of the last time he'd gotten loose.

On the bed next to him was a more familiar form. Cain Marko, the Juggernaut, the best friend of the man who'd raised her. She turned away from him, unable to deal with the conflicting emotions he and Tom always brought. She knew well enough what both of them were -- yet she loved her uncle.

Storm slept at the side of the third patient, slumped in her chair with her head laid against his still arm. Gambit was still in a coma; Storm rarely left his side anymore, as if she was afraid he'd slip away if she wasn't there. Terry didn't understand their relationship, but she respected it. And envied it.

She left the doorway as quietly as she'd come, bare feet moving soundlessly down the front staircase and into the rec room. She closed the door behind her and flipped on one of the lamps; its dim light cast a blend of light and shadow, making strange again the room that was fast becoming familiar.

It seemed odd to be the only one in the rec room, usually one of the noisiest places in the mansion. A few hours ago, she and her teammates had been in the middle of one of their rowdier games of pool, having more fun making and collecting on outrageous bets than actually playing the game. The noisy arguments had pulled even habitually withdrawn Cable into the game as a referee. The sight of him face-to-face with Boomer as the girl loudly contested one of his decisions had left most of the room in tears of laughter.

It had been one of the first times they'd been able to forget that this wasn't their home, that they didn't have a home anymore. She and Jimmy had gloated loudly when they'd emerged from the mini- tournament triumphant, rewarded with all the popcorn they could eat for the rest of the night.

Jimmy. She sighed heavily as he came to mind. He was becoming a complication, more than she could deal with. She needed him as a friend, valued him as a teammate, but he asked for too much that she couldn't give him. Hurting him was the last thing she wanted to do, but soon she wasn't going to have a choice.

She sighed again, walking over to the mini-bar in the corner and pulling open the refrigerator. Her hand paused as she reached in, hovering over the carton of beer someone had shoved in. It was tempting to grab one, to feel the cool bottle in her hand and use it to bring on sweet oblivion.

But she had already learned that did no good. She forced her hand to move past it, taking out a can of soda instead. She popped the tab and took a sip, shoving the door closed with her hip and wandering across the room to the windows.

She rested her forehead against the cool glass, staring out into the darkness. She had never liked the desert, or Murderworld, but she found herself missing both now. For all their starkness and bad associations, they had been home for a while.

Lost in her own thoughts, she almost missed the slight movement in the trees at the edge of the grounds. It startled her for a moment, but didn't scare her -- there were precious few things in the world that posed any threat to the mansion, especially with its current occupants. Besides, she had a good idea who was lurking out there.

"Talk about y'r outsiders," she said to herself, barely aware she spoke aloud. "He's been out there for two weeks, Storm said, and showin' no signs o' comin' in." She stared out the window, trying to spot him again, and came to a sudden decision. "Well, if he won't come in here, we'll bloody well have t' be goin' out t' him."

She started to walk out the side doors, then stopped and went back to the fridge, pulling out one of the beers she had refused herself. "Never met a man who didn't talk more over a friendly drink."

She opened the side door and slipped out into the night, walking across the lawn towards the trees. The grounds were silent, peaceful in the darkness.

"Pretty late for a walk, ain't it?"

She was expecting it, but Theresa jumped anyway, almost dropping the drinks she was carrying. "Dammit, Wolverine, ye scared the hell out o' me!"

"Sorry." He didn't sound very apologetic. His craggy face was strange in the half-light from the rec room door, barely human.

She pressed her hand to her chest, trying to slow her heart to something like a normal pace. "Dinna do that again, Logan. Especially not t' someone who's bringin' gifts." He raised an eyebrow at her, suddenly becoming all too human. She tossed the bottle of beer at him and he caught it easily. "I would have brought a bottle opener, but I thought y'could supply y'r own."

"Thanks." A single claw snicked out from the back of his hand. With one quick flick he flipped the top off, retracting the claw and downing half the bottle in one gulp.

Theresa took a more leasurely sip from her own can before answering his earlier question. "I couldn't sleep; thought misery might love company."

He surprised her with a quick bark of laughter. "Misery, eh? Cheers, then." He toasted her before gulping most of the rest.

"Slainte." She took a pull on her own drink. "It's quiet out here. A different quiet than in the desert."

"It's late; most people are asleep. Like you oughta be."

She raised an amused eyebrow at him, mirroring his earlier gesture. "Are ye m'dad, now?" He almost smiled, nursing the last few inches of beer. "Ye know, ye could go in an' get another one," she informed him, not expecting it to do any good.

The reluctant smile faded fast. "Rather stay out here, Irish."

She huffed into her soda. "Typical pigheaded male."

He laughed again, a low, rough sound that was a little rusty from disuse. She hid her smile behind the can, quietly pleased with herself.

The laugh cut off abruptly as he lifted his head. All traces of humor were gone -- he was suddenly a little less human again. She shivered. "What is it?"

He shushed her with a brusque gesture. "Somethin's out there."

If Cable's training had accomplished anything, it had taught Siryn when to keep still and let the experts work. As Wolverine started moving towards whatever it was he had seen? smelled? sensed? she shadowed him, half-empty can clutched forgotten in her hand.

He stopped a few feet from the treeline, holding up a hand to stop Siryn. "Six o' them," he whispered. "Dead ahead, tryin' not t'be noticed. Stay here . . . you hear me give the signal, fire up those pipes o' yours, an' back me up. Might wanna let the others hear ya while you're at it."

She nodded in agreement. He turned away and vanished into the trees before she thought to ask him what the signal was. *He's not known for subtlety any more than X-Force is,* she told herself. *I dinna think ye'll miss the signal.*

Less than a minute later, all hell broke loose. "Damn, I hate it when I'm right!" Her voice broke the night in a shrill pitch that was octaves past high C. She let it carry her into the air and into the fight.

Wolverine had four of them occupied trying to avoid his claws and each other. She drove down on a fifth as he brought a gun up to bear on Wolverine. He ate dirt under her weight but shook her off, bouncing back to his feet before she made it back to hers. She had only a second to remember Domino's lectures on overenthusiasm in battle situations before her large adversary returned the attack.

He was good -- very good, for all that she had no clue who the devil he was. She avoided his first swing and barely ducked the second, pitching her voice to slam him back. It worked, sending him flying into a tree. But he bounced off it as he had bounced off the ground and came back at her. This time she didn't get out of the way fast enough.

The kick caught her in the head, the shock doing more damage than the blow. The trees swam around her and she felt herself hit the ground. From far away, she heard Wolverine bellow and someone scream. Then the lights went out.

Chapter 2

Even at Salem Center, brawls at 2 a.m. were not a usual occurance. This one was noisy enough to wake up everyone.

Cyclops and Jean came running out of the boathouse, still pulling on clothes. "What the hell is going on?" Cyclops' bellow silenced the crowd that had gathered. The better part of three teams, in various stages of undress, clustered around what looked like the set for the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Bishop and Domino were both armed to the teeth and looking edgy.

Cable went beyond edgy all the way to enraged. "What is going on is that someone broke into your secure compound and made off with Siryn!" His bellow matched Cyclops' for volume.

"Wolverine is also missing," Storm added much more quietly. She appeared to be by far the most calm of the group, which wasn't saying much.

"Who'd notice?" Boomer muttered. At least five people glared at her and she shut up.

"Did anyone see anything?" Cyclops tried again.

"All we heard was Siryn waking up dogs for five miles in every direction -- by the time we got out here, all that was left of your 'quiet, peaceful suburban school' was a Vegamatic commercial." As usual, Domino was annoying but correct. The small clearing in the woods was littered with slashed trees and branches, blood and the sonic-blasted hunks of vegetation that were Siryn's trademark.

"Who could pull this off under our noses?" Rictor stuck his two cents worth in, skulking around the edges of the clearing.

"I have no idea." Professor Xavier had arrived more slowly than the others, but had already decided on a course of action. "We will find out, and locate Siryn and Wolverine." He turned his hoverchair around. "Jean, Psylocke, come with me. I will need your assistance."

"And what are the rest of us supposed to do?" James Proudstar demanded.

"We'll look for them our way," Cable answered grimly.

Darkness. A hard, cold surface against her back. The feeling of motion through her skin. A plane? Must be.

Voices close by.

"This wasn't part of the deal!" A familiar voice, raised in anger.

"The deal has changed, thanks to your friends." A cold voice, calm.

"Hello, genius, they're not my friends! I hold certain standards for my friends and competance is one of 'em! These jokers couldn't reconnoiter a rock concert!"

"What the hell is that supposed t' mean?" A third voice.

"Great, it's stupid too." Scuffled footsteps, then the sound of a heavy body thumping into something solid. "Uh-uh-uh, no messin' with the merchandise!"

Suddenly, a face filling up her vision, so close she couldn't focus on it. A woman's voice. "Nighty-night, songbird."

Darkness again.

The next time Siryn woke up, it was to pain, lots of it. She heard a far-off groan and realized it was her own. "Oh, m'achin' head! I had t' ask f'r a cure f'r insomnia."

"Oughta be more careful what ya wish for."

She pulled herself carefully into a sitting position, managing to open her eyes to a squint. Since she couldn't quite focus, it didn't do much good. "Cute, Wolverine. What did they do, hit us with hammers? And where th' devil are we?"

"Your guess is as good as mine, Irish."

She heard chains rattle and looked up, managing at last to focus. The first thing she saw were the bars about two inches from her nose. She looked past them and saw Wolverine in an identical cell a few feet away. "Ye must be jokin'. A dungeon?"

"Ya know what they say, stone walls and iron bars ..."

"Do not a prison make," she finished for him. "But they're a damned good start. Y'r bein' pretty cheerful about this."

He shrugged, shifting the chains again. They rattled dully around his wrists, echoing in the chill of the cold cells. "No point wastin' energy 'til I know who I'm after. Then I stop bein' cheerful." The last was said in an ice-cold growl. She swallowed hard and decided to be far out of the line of fire.

She sat up the rest of the way, feeling bruises protest on almost every part of her body. But nothing seemed to be seriously hurt. She looked Wolverine over, but aside from blood on his clothes, he looked all right.

More importantly, she felt a familiar weight around her neck, and saw another one around Wolverine's. Inhibitor collars, made to block their powers. Her hands came up in an automatic reaction to rip the thing off of her throat.

"Don't try it, darlin'," Wolverine warned her, "they've been known t' rig these things to explode."

She hadn't been chained; apparently they, whoever 'they' were, thought Wolverine was the only dangerous one without his powers. She looked forward to proving them wrong. The only exit seemed to be the stairs leading to the steel door on the far wall. If there were guards, they were outside.

"All snug and tight," she muttered. "Any ideas for how we're gettin' out o' here?"

"Workin' on it, Irish. And we got other problems."

"Such as?"

"Such as, what the hell were these jokers doin' sneakin' around the mansion in the first place? Got the feelin' we disturbed some o' their plans and I don't think they're gonna be real happy with us."

"Always the master of understatement, Wolverine. At least, that's what I've been given to understand." The voice came out of nowhere and seemed to surround them, booming in their ears, almost shaking the stone walls.

Neither of them was impressed.

"Is that the best ye can be doin', playin' games with speakers?" Siryn threw out defiantly. "Take off this damned collar, I'll show ye some sound effects!"

When the voice spoke again, she recognized it from earlier, the cold, calm woman's voice. "I think not, Siryn, and this is merely the most I choose to do at this moment. Anything else, I leave for . . . them."

'Them' became clear when the door swung open and two people strolled in. One was a short, almost tiny, woman, dressed in a black and blue uniform that looked armored. Her short dark brown hair was pulled back in a stubby ponytail; she didn't look scary until you noticed that her face was completely expressionless, almost dead, and that she wore a gun big enough to belong to Cable holstered on her right hip. Her eyes were chips of gray ice.

The second one Siryn already knew was dangerous -- she didn't need the red and black, armed-to-the-teeth-even-if-they-were-hidden uniform to confirm it. "Wade?"

Chapter 3

"Hey, Red, long time no see!" Deadpool greeted Siryn cheerfully. "Still got that great fashion sense, huh?"

She'd forgotten about how much skin she was showing -- her t-shirt had acquired a few more rips along the way. It wasn't her top priority at the moment. "Wade, what the devil is goin' on here?"

"Sorry, Red, exposition ain't my department; you'll have to ask the boss for info. I'm just playing messenger and resident thug for right now. But I'm movin' up in the world. Man, if they could see me now . . . ."

"You start singin', I'll take out yer lungs," Wolverine growled.

"He starts singin', I'll do it for you," the small woman said, her face still expressionless.

"Now that's love for ya, huh, Red? One second, she's sweet and kind, the next second she's threatening vital body parts. Pretty typical, dontcha think, with my luck with women?" Deadpool was on a roll, his mouth moving faster than Jessie Owens, as obnoxious as ever. No one had ever managed to shut him up.

Except Theresa Cassidy.

She'd thought, when they'd fought Black Tom together, that she'd learned something about him. Learned who he was. It looked like she'd been wrong.

"Wade? What're ye doin'?" It was a whisper, almost a plea.

If it had any effect, it was hidden behind the mask he always wore. "I'm doin' my job, Red, same as always. And my current job (drumroll please) is to find out what you have to tell us about the defenses at your current digs."

"Ye'll have t' look somewhere else, mercboy," Siryn spit out, hurt confusion drowing in a rush of anger. "Y'r not goin' t' get anythin' here!"

"Told ya she had spirit, Del -- you two'll get along fine."

"Put a sock in it, Wade." The woman turned to Wolverine. "You got any words o' bravery you want to get out?" Her accent was Texan; a soft, heavy drawl that didn't seem to match the eyes and face.

Wolverine's answer was equally soft, but no less lethal for it. "Still taggin' after him, huh, Jordie? When ya gonna figure out he ain't worth it?"

"'Bout the same time Xavier gives up on you, berserker boy. That all you have to say?"

"Except to tell ya how many pieces yer gonna be in when I get done with the two o' ya. Shoulda finished that job a long time ago."

Amazingly, she smiled, a crooked quirk of the lips with absolutely no humor in it. "Yeah, but you didn't. Mistake number one."

"And why don't you tell him what mistake number two is, Delphi?" Deadpool pronounced in his best game-show host impersonation. "Maybe he'll win our grand prize -- another grenade in the kisser! Didya have fun healing from that, Wolveroonie?"(1)

She ignored him. "Don't make this too hard, Logan. I hate the sight o' blood."

"Well, yer gonna see a lot of it."

"Enough of this." The voice over the speakers had lost patience. "The two of you leave. We have more important business right now. Let them do a little thinking -- maybe they'll be more inclined to talk. "

"That's assuming the little hairy one can think, which I gotta tell ya is a real stretch," Deadpool cracked, before turning back to Siryn. "Please, no drawn-out farewells, I got a plane to catch, or something like that."

Bars or no bars, she almost went for his throat. "The only farewell I'll be givin' ye is when I'm dancin' at y'r wake, Wilson!"

He turned away. "Jeez, some women. Save their lives once, they get all huffy when you don't send flowers."

"Shut up and get moving, Wade." The woman headed out. Deadpool followed her, mouth moving all the way. The door closed behind them with a hollow thud.

Chapter 4

She could stay mad as long as there was a chance they were coming back. When she knew they were gone, Siryn dropped back to the bunk and buried her face in the thin excuse for a mattress. It was a long time since anyone had made her cry; she was damned if she was going to start again over some damn mercenary. But it was close.

"Hey, Irish, you okay over there?" It was Wolverine, who had apparently gotten a handle on his own temper.

"I'm fine!" She almost spit it out, lifting her head from the mattress. "And I'll better once I kill Wade Wilson, damn his black heart t' hell!"

"Stand in line, Irish, there's a lot o' people ahead o' ya."

She wasn't listening, being more interested in yelling. "Dad told me not t' get attached t' him, and I didn't listen, so it's m'own damn fault for trusting the merc! But I'll be damned if I'll do it again! I'll slice and dice him inta so many pieces not even his healin' factor'll be able t' put him together! I'll --"

"Save it, Siryn!" The flat command cut through the air, effectively halting her rampage. "Save it for when you've got yer hands on him."

"It can't come soon enough," she hissed, angrier than she'd ever been, although she couldn't say if it was aimed more at Deadpool or herself.

"Tell me about it." He leaned back against his wall, the picture of relaxation -- if you were stupid or blind. Otherwise, he looked like a caged tiger. "Knew Deadpool had a history with X-Force, but that sounded personal."

"M'dad and I teamed up with him about six months ago, t' stop m'uncle and Juggernaut. I trusted him. I thought we were friends."(2)

"After what he pulled on Domino and Cable? You got strange taste in friends, Irish." (3)

"Put a sock in it, Wolverine!" she flared up.

"Great, Delphi's still spreadin' that damn phrase around."

Curiosity beat out anger, at least for the moment. She rolled onto her stomach, propping her head up on her hands to look at him. "Ye know the woman?"

"The Texas Tornado? Yeah, unfortunately. She's Wilson's kid sister."

"His sister?" Her voice went up almost an octave with that surprise.

"Yeah. Been hangin' with him for years, gets inta more trouble'n he does. Been on the side o' the angels for the last few years; I thought she'd come t' her senses. Guess not."

"Guess not," Siryn echoed with derision. "Must be in the genes."

Wolverine didn't answer and Siryn didn't care. The anger left as quickly as it had come, leaving her drained. She let her head fall back to the pillow, strongly tempted to just bury her face in her hands and pretend she was back in the mansion asleep.

Logan must have read her mind. "Get some sleep, kid. There's nothin' we can do right now, and it'll keep ya from thinkin'."

She couldn't think of anything better to do, and whatever had knocked them out hadn't been exactly restful. "Wolverine," she thought to ask, "Why are ye takin' this so calm?"

"'Cause if I don't, I'm gonna get us both killed. Don't care too much about me, but I ain't about t' tell Cable and Banshee how I took you with me." She rolled over just enough to look at him, scared by something in his voice. He looked back at her steadily; she could see something wild burning behind his eyes. "If I lose it, kid, get as far away from me as ya can. I ain't gonna be real good at tellin' friends from enemies. You could get hurt."

She nodded, hearing what he was saying, as well as what he wasn't. "I hear ye, Wolverine. But we leave here together, or not at all."

She didn't give him a chance to answer, just rolled back over and closed her eyes.

But her mind refused to let her slip away into blissful unconciousness, instead keeping her awake with images -- her father; Deadpool the first time she had met him, when he had saved her life then fainted -- no, blacked out -- at her feet; Deadpool staring at her with nothing in his eyes but indifference.

She tossed and turned for what seemed like hours before giving up and opening her eyes. She stared at the stone ceiling for a while before speaking. "Wolverine?"


"How d'ye know Delphi?"

"We used t' move in the same circles. Still do, I guess. Ran inta her about seven years ago, in Madripoor. The kid's been a pain in the neck since the second I laid eyes on her. "

She waited patiently; finally, he sighed and kept talking.

"The son of a couple of old friends a mine had gotten himself inta trouble with some o' the powers that be in that part o' the world. He was supposed t' meet with them t' keep things from gettin' nasty. Jack probably deserved whatever trouble he was in, but I owed his parents, so I went along. . . "

Madripoor, Seven Years Earlier

"The Princess Bar. Nowhere is there a more wretched hive of scum and villany. . ."

"Button it, Jack, I've seen the movie." His 'Patch' persona firmly in place, Logan shoved past his loud-mouthed companion, walking into the Princess and heading straight for the bar. He kept his eyes open - the Princess was as far from the yuppie bars in Manhattan as it was possible to get without leaving the planet. The usual crowd was rough, even by his standards. Tonight, though, things seemed pretty calm, which probably had something to do with the piano someone was playing in the back, accompanying a bluesy soprano -- a damn good one too, he noticed, wondering for a moment what a voice like that was doing in a pit like this. But he had other things to think about.

"Try having a sense of humor, Logan -- it comes in handy sometimes." Jack strolled into the bar slowly, looking around as if he was thinking about buying the place. A young hooker, dressed in less material than found in your average string bikini, caught his eye. He winked and she giggled in response, giving him a 'come-hither' look. He started to take her up on it, then caught Logan's sideways glance and joined him at the bar.

"A sense of humor isn't the only thing you need to work on," he said, motioning the bartender over. "Double of Laphroaig single malt, neat with water on the side for my wet-blanket friend here; I'll take whatever you've got on tap."

"You like livin' dangerously," Logan observed. "Where are ya supposed t' meet this crew yer in trouble with?"

Jack didn't look directly at him. "They said they'd . . . um, find us."

"Great. You gonna tell me what ya did this time? And is it any worse than what ya did last time?"

"Well," Jack almost stuttered, "yeah, I . . . ." Something across the room caught his eye; he turned pale, then blurted, "I have to go take care of something. I'll be right back." He lunged away from the bar and lost himself in the sea of what could loosely be called humanity.

"Jack!" Logan started to yell, then decided against it as his drink arrived. If the kid wanted to run around looking for more trouble instead of getting out of what he was already in, that was his problem. He polished off the whiskey in one swallow. Just as long as none of that trouble came knocking on his door. He had more than enough already.

Absently, he noticed that the piano that had been playing in the background had stopped, and with it the singer. The music had been replaced by the sounds of a scuffle, which sounded like it could turn into a brawl. He kept a wary eye on it in the mirror over the bar.

While he watched, the crowd parted to let someone the size of a 18- wheeler hit the floor, to a chorus of jeers and catcalls. Standing over him was a tiny brunette dressed in a flame-red dress that covered marginally more than the hooker's outfit had. She had to be the singer, he figured. And judging by the martial arts stance she was in, singing wasn't all she was good at.

She looked up from the unconscious figure of her opponent, casting a challenging glare at everyone else in the room. Several indecent propositions and a few profanities came her way, but no one took her up on the challenge. The crowd broke up as fast as it had formed, the drinkers returning to their drinks as the woman walked over to the bar, stepping on her opponent as she went, her high heels hitting with brutal accuracy.

The bartender handed her a bottle as she sat a few stools down from Logan, the short skirt showing off a ridiculous amount of leg for such a short woman; Logan figured that without the heels she was about an inch shorter than him.

She felt his eyes and looked up, glaring back. "Problem?"

"Nope. Just admirin' the scenery."

She snorted, shoving short, dark hair off of her neck and going back to her beer. She looked relaxed, staring into her bottle and seeming oblivious to the world around her. But he had the distinct impression she wasn't missing a thing.

She finished the beer and motioned for another bottle. "Did you know you've got company?" Her voice was quiet, but pitched to carry above the crowd.

"Yup. The two guys in back; came in right after me and the kid."

"That would be them. Ignore the big one. He's slow. The little one's the one you've got watch. He plays nasty, and he wants your boy."

"Thanks for the tip," he answered warily, trying to figure out her angle.

She caught his sideways look and almost smiled, still not looking at anything in particular. "Relax," she advised him. "You're the only guy in this place who hasn't tried to grab me; I figure that entitles you to a freebee." Behind them, Jack emerged from the crowd. The two thugs got up from their table, moving to flank him.

"Nothin' comes free. What do they want with the kid?" Logan was pretty far from relaxed; the woman wasn't either. Both of them were watching the drama going on behind them.

"Ain't that the truth," she agreed with another almost-smile, "And I'm clairvoyant, not omniscient; I have no clue. But they want him bad." Jack suddenly seemed to become aware of his danger, turning to Logan with panicked eyes. The thugs had a quick conversation, then the bigger one peeled off, following Jack's look and heading directly for the pair at the bar. "As a matter of fact," she continued nonchalently, "they want him almost as bad as they want me."

With that, she slipped off the barstool, picked it up and met the big thug's fist with it.

Chapter 5

The big thug howled in pain when his swing connected with the barstool instead of with the woman's face. At the same time, his partner lunged at Jack. Big Thug took another swing at the woman, but she was already sliding across the bar to drop behind it and he missed as everyone in the place took their cue to restart the earlier brawl.

Big Thug saw Logan stand up and started to turn on him. The 'snikt' of popping claws was audible even above the fight; faced with them and Logan's lethal smile, Big Thug turned pale and chose the better part of valor, running for the door so fast he almost left skid marks.

Logan shook his head and let the claws snick back in, pulling out a cigar. "So much for that partnership."

A match flared in front of him. He looked up to see the woman leaning over the bar, holding a pack. "You know what they say about good help. Y'know, you might want to check on the kid."

"I'm gettin' there." He lit the cigar and took a drag.

"So's Christmas."

He tossed her a dirty look and turned back the fight just as Thug Jr. grabbed Jack's arm -- and pulled it back with a howl of pain, his skin giving off smoke. The kid's jacket had a matching burn mark on it. It looked like whoever had briefed the two forgot to mention their target was a mutant.

"'Sides," he finished his earlier sentence, taking another puff, "the kid can handle it."

She acknowledged the point with a sardonic grin, which turned smug as she directed him back to the dance floor/boxing ring. "But can he handle that?"

Logan turned in time to see Thug Jr. pull a knife out of nowhere and take a swing at Jack. "Dammit." He threw the cigar to one side and waded into the brawl. Two swings and a 'snikt' later Thug Jr. was down for the count and Logan waded back out, hauling Jack with him by the back of his jacket.

The woman applauded, still perched on top of the bar. "Nice catch. A little undersized, though; you might want to throw him back."

Still high on adrenaline and fear Jack started to go for her throat. Logan kept his hold on the kid's jacket, pulling him back. "Settle down," Logan told him, before looking up at the brunette. "You know you ain't exactly helpin'."

She shrugged. "Hey, I didn't start it. He's the one who stiffed. . . ." She stopped suddenly, swinging her head towards the door, the teasing grin draining from her face. Logan followed her eyes, but didn't see anything. Before he could ask, her voice rang out above the crowd. "Wade, get out here -- we got company!"

In answer, a body clad in red and black came plummeting over the second floor railing, destroying a table and two chairs when he hit. In an impressive feet of athletic prowess, he still managed to land in a roll a few yards from the bar. Two shuriken thunked into the floor next to him; a third skimmed overhead, barely missing Jack. Two more thumped into the bar where the woman had been, but she must have seen then coming, because she moved an instant before they reached her. Logan cursed and flipped a table over, pulling the kid under cover before turning to slam into an idiot with a bar stool. The idiot dropped.

The flying newcomer flipped over a table of his own. "Thanks for the warning, sis. Next time, how about 24-hours notice? Better yet, two weeks, keep the union happy."

"Hey, you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles," she shot back, sliding off the bar and staying low. Her voice was as emotionless as her face, her eyes moving constantly. A gun had appeared in her hands, even though there was no way she had been wearing it under that dress, and she used the table for for cover, taking two shots at the two men with the throwing stars. Both dropped, but three more took their place. "Can't do it the easy way, can you, Wade?"

"Come on, where's the fun in that?" He finally noticed the other two. "Ah, jeez, Jordie, I leave you alone for five minutes and look what you're picking up! I mean, come on, your taste in men really stinks."

Logan growled low in his throat. "Deadpool. I shoulda known you were in on this."

Deadpool did his damndest to look innocent -- no easy trick considering his face was entirely hidden behind a mask and he was wearing enough ammunition to supply the U.N. for a year. "Hey, I didn't start it! And who invited you anyway? I thought this was a private brawl."

"I invited myself when the kid got involved," Logan growled.

"Hey!" Jack objected. "All I did was mention. . ."

"Save it." Wolverine looked back at Deadpool. "You got a way outta here?"

"How about the front door?"

Jordie looked out into space, then shook her head. "No, they have people waitin' for us to make a run for it. Try again."

"How the hell do you know that?" Logan demanded. The brawl swung in close behind him, sending someone stumbling back into Jack, who brained the man with a bottle he had appropriated from the bar. The fighter hit the deck, not even causing a ripple in the chaos.

"Told you, I'm clairvoyant." She popped up long enough to snap off two more shots. "Follow me if you want to live." It was all the warning she gave before she jumped to her feet, almost getting lost in the crowd before the men caught up. She jumped over the bar again and crashed through the storage room in back. There was no back door, so she jumped up and shimmied through the open window. Deadpool followed hot on her heels.

Logan watched them go with disgust, knowing there was no way he was fitting thorough that window. "Thanks a lot, Jordie."

A head popped back through the window. "You're welcome, my name is Jordan and the front door will be unguarded in less than a minute. I suggest you move it." Then she was gone.

Clairvoyant. Right. Logan grabbed Jack and headed back out.

"She wasn't lyin'; there was nothin' waitin' at the door that night but bodies, most of 'em belongin' to the Hand. Me and Jack just walked away before the cops showed up."

"What happened to Jack?" Siryn asked curiously.

Logan snorted. "Kid still can't show his face in Madripoor or Japan; still claims he didn't started it, that the game he managed t' run up a hundred grand in IOU's at had been rigged." He leaned his head back against the wall. "Probably was; doesn't make much difference now."

"And Delphi?"

"Found out later her real name's Jordan Raines. Still don't know what she and Deadpool were doin' that night, but I heard she started gettin' pickier 'bout her jobs afterwards. Looks like the Tornado's still pickin' up after her brother, though. Thought she knew better than that."

The last words were quiet, almost inaudible.There didn't seem to be anything to say, so Siryn didn't say anything, just stared up at the ceiling, and wondered.

Chapter 6

"Have you found anything, Jean?"

Jean took the Cerebro helmet off, shaking out her hair and trying to shake away the splitting headache. "Nothing, Professor. There's too much ground to cover, and the longer they're gone, the more ground there is to search."

"I know, Jean," he said. "But we have no other choice than to keep looking. Eventually we will find them."

"I just hope it's not too late," Jean murmured as she traded places with Xavier. He could sense her fear, even though she was trying to hide it. She and Logan had always been close, if not as much as Logan would have liked, and his disappearance was hurting her deeply. Guilt was as strong an emotion as fear, and more dangerous to them.

"Jean." His voice was gentle as he spoke to her, one of his most beloved students. "We're doing all we can to find him."

"Maybe it's too little, too late." Jean's frustration boiled over, finally finding a convenient target. "Maybe if we had worked harder, gotten him to come inside, this wouldn't have happened. We should have tried harder!"

Xavier bowed his head, feeling his own guilt hit yet again. She wasn't saying anything he hadn't told himself a hundred times in the last fifteen hours. "We did what we could, Jean."

She wouldn't look at him, her head also bowed, her face hidden by the fall of red hair. "It wasn't enough."

"Take it easy, Jean. If he hadn't been out there, they might have come in." Cable strode in, flanked by most of X-Force. "And I get the feeling we wouldn't have enjoyed that."

"You've found something?" Jean sat straight up.

"Something. Not a lot, but it could narrow down the search," he said. "Whoever grabbed Siryn and Wolverine had been there for a little while, and there were quite a few of them. We found signs all over the place -- some cigarette butts, some wear and tear on the shrubbery. I get the feeling they were planning to stay for a lot longer, until Wolverine and Siryn caught them. Stands to reason they must be working out of a base, probably nearby."

"If that is correct," Xavier said slowly, "then why have we been unable to locate them? The closer they are, the easier it should be to find Wolverine, at the very least."

"Maybe you're not looking in the right place," Domino said, tossing a torn, bloody piece of fabric to Xavier. Jean intercepted it, almost dropping it when she recognized the familiar insignia on the shoulder. A blood-red circle, with a stylized winged figure embroidered on it in black.

"Look familiar, Red?" Cable asked, not needing an answer.

Jean nodded anyway. "Whoever took them was Genoshan."

"Great," Boomer commented, "now we're looking for a Genoshan needle in a haystack. Big help. What do we do now, call Immigration and ask how many Genoshans have snuck into the country lately?"

"Not quite," Cable answered. "We call Genoshan Immigration. Chief Magistrate Anderson owes us big -- it's about time she paid off."

"Wakey-wakey, sleepy heads."

The call was unnecessary; neither of them had slept, but had passed the hours sitting in the cells doing nothing. Siryn raised her head from her knees just enough to give the new arrival the dirtiest look in her repetoire. Unfortunately, it rolled off the woman like water.

She recognized the black-haired woman as the one that had put her to sleep on the plane that had brought them here. The rather ordinary-looking man behind her looked to be Siryn's opponent from the original snatch-and-grab. Both wore brown and green fatigues and were armed, the woman with a gun similar to Delphi's at her hip, the man with a knife that seemed almost big enough to qualify as a sword.

"Do y' always come boy-girl, boy-girl?" Siryn asked sarcastically. Logan just sat back, watching.

The woman laughed with forced hilarity. "How nice. Rebound, did you hear? The songbird's a real comedian." Rebound looked something less than amused. The woman turned back to Siryn with a falsely soothing look. "But don't worry, songbird, I'm sure he'd think you're funny any other time. It's just Deadpool burning out everyone's funny bones."

"I can think o' better things t' burn out," Siryn answered, her voice dripping with disgust. "More painful things, too."

"Careful, Nyct, sounds like Deadpool ain't her favorite person right about now," Rebound commented in a thick Southern drawl.

"No, I don't think he is," Nyct agreed thoughtfully. "However, it won't matter much; she'll likely be dead before he gets a chance to see her again. I'm sure it'll break his heart."

The mention of death caught Siryn's immediate and full attention. "What're y' talkin' about?"

Nyct smiled, showing a large amount of teeth. "What part of 'dead' didn't you understand?" She pulled a key out of her pocket and unlocked the door to Siryn's cell. "Now, why don't you do this the easy way, songbird, and come along nicely? Otherwise, the boys there -- " she gestured over her shoulder to five soldiers who had appeared behind Rebound. They wore similar uniforms, uniforms which should have looked familiar; she couldn't quite place them. " -- they'll have to carry you and they're not wild about the idea or hauling around 'mutant scum' like yourself." Nyct laughed again. "Such a cute turn of phrase, that."

Something in the words rang an alarm bell in Siryn's head, but she had more immediate problems and no intention of doing things the easy way. As soon as Nyct was close enough, Theresa swung on her with her left fist, and brought her right elbow down into the woman's face. Nyct managed to avoid the blow and swung back, a looping roundhouse that Terry blocked, ducking under it to throw another elbow, then grabbed Nyct by the hair and pulled the other woman's face hard into her knee.

At the same time Wolverine lunged across his cell, ripping his chains from the wall effortlessly. He reached through his bars and grabbed Rebound, pulling him back and ringing his head against the metal. His claws snicked out at the same time, going for the throat -- and sliding off as Rebound's head bounced off the bars with no apparent effect.

His neck still trapped in Wolverine's arm, Rebound pulled at it with one hand, trying to keep himself from being choked. But he dropped the other to the knife on his hip. Wolverine saw the move and got there as Rebound pulled the knife loose, grabbing Rebound with his free hand and twisting his arm up and out, away from his body. But popping his claws with no healing factor to counter the damage had left his hand slippery with blood -- Rebound pulled his hand loose and slammed the blade down and back into Wolverine, managing to pull away when Wolverine's grip loosened reflexively.

"Logan!" Siryn yelled, dropping Nyct and jumping at Rebound. He twisted the knife and pulled it from Wolverine's stomach, swinging it out to meet her. Instinctively, she started to scream and followed up the useless sound with a side kick that should have sent him to the ground. Instead it bounced her away to slam into the wall.

"Don't learn too fast, do you, girl?" The ordinary face had become ugly, twisted with hatred and the pleasure of drawing blood. "That's why they call me Rebound -- things just bounce right off me."

She wiped blood off of her head and got her feet under her, ready to make another try at it. Behind Rebound, she saw Wolverine staggering back to the bars, blood flowing from the wounds in his stomach and the backs of his hands. With horror, she realized the effect the neutralizing collars were having on his healing factor.

Horror turned into resolve and she launched another attack, coming in low this time to knock Rebound off balance. The results were predictable; once again, she skidded into a wall. Rebound never moved. Neither did the soldiers, but she could hear their sniggers from where she lay, dazed and bleeding from head and lip. They hadn't moved during the entire fight.

Nyct did, dragging herself up before Siryn could. "And here's my talent, you little bitch," she spat through a bloody mouth. "Lights out."

Siryn had just enough time to decide she was tired of sleeping before the choice was taken out of her hands.

Chapter 7

When she woke, it was to pain again. A big surprise. She was strapped to a chair in a large, cold room. The rough metal walls were unfinished, showing pipes and wiring behind the machines and computers which lined the sides. If she looked towards the steel door, she could see a trail of blood on the floor. She didn't want to think about that.

Instead, she managed to lift her head and look to the side. Wolverine was strapped to a table beside her, with heavier restraints. His uniform was soaked to the waist with blood and he was sweating, obviously in considerable pain.

"All comfy?" Nyct was bending over him, equally obviously enjoying the situation. "Hope you're not in too much pain -- well, no, actually, I hope you're in screaming agony, after what you did to me."

"Doesn't look like the damage was permanent," Wolverine growled.

Nyct rubbed her upper arm, hissing in remembered pain. "You took off half my arm, you bastard. Not to mention what your little songbird here did. Luckily we have. . . expert medical attention here."

"I bet," Wolverine answered through his teeth. Siryn must have made a sound, because he lifted his head enough to look towards her. "Why the hell do these lunatics always want to remake 'Frankenstein,' props an' all?" he grimaced.

"Personally, I've always preferred the Mel Brooks version." Both of them tried to turn their heads, but the voice came to them this time. A tall, muscular woman, face hidden in shadows. But light gleamed off a short cap of white-blond hair.

As usual, Siryn had no flamin' idea who she was.

Wolverine, however, seemed to recognize her. "Psylocke shoulda killed you when she had the chance."

"She certainly should have," the woman agreed. It was the same one who had been playing with the speakers earlier; the boss. She wore the same uniform the soldiers did. "It would have been much easier on me if she had. I wouldn't have had to watch you mutants destroy my home, my country, turn my lover against me." The calmness in her voice was buried now, replaced with deadly venom. "Yes, your psychic friend should have killed me on Genosha. But she didn't. What is it Delphi says . . . 'first mistake'?"

"Who the devil is this psychopath?" Siryn fought her restraints, looking at Wolverine for an answer.

The blonde woman watched her in evident amusement. "Ah, a typical young hero, outraged and ready to fight to the death. Give it up. You won't be getting away from me until I'm done with you."

"Go t'hell!"

"No, I believe Wolverine will be going first. But I can't have you dying in ignorance, either; that wouldn't be any fun. Wolverine, why don't you inform your playmate who I am -- and what you did to me?"

Wolverine plastered a grin on his face with what must have been sheer stubborness, apparently determined to give the woman as little satisfaction as possible. "Theresa, ya get t' meet Magistrate Tam, one o' the ever-lovin' protectors of Genosha, not t' mention Havok's girlfriend when he was still outta his mind. Me an' Psylocke took her out when everyone got together and busted Hodge, Moreau and El Presidente of the Republic of Genosha a while back."(4) He looked Tam over assessingly. "Psylocke musta scrambled your brains good t' make you think you could pull off a stunt this stupid."

"Not stupid, Wolverine." Tam shook her head. "No, I've thought this all out quite carefully - I know exactly what I'm doing. I'm taking my revenge. . . as slowly and painfully as possible."

She made a tsking noise, looking down at Logan. "Such a nasty wound; I have told Rebound to play more nicely with his toys, but he never does listen. Between him and Deadpool, it's a wonder anyone ever lives through a day here."

"Can the jabberin'. . . 'less yer gonna say somethin' useful," Wolverine said through gritted teeth. He running out of energy to be irritating, Siryn guessed; that scared her more than anything

Tam nodded her head thoughtfully. "Ah, yes, this is where I'm supposed to reveal my dastardly plans, isn't it, and fall prey to the classic villain mistake of talking too much? Sorry to disappoint you, but you'll be the only one talking today." She leaned so close to Wolverine that Siryn had trouble hearing her. "All I want to know is the weaknesses of the Xavier Institute and X-Factor's headquarters."

"What're ya gonna do if we don't tell you? Kill me? Ya seem t' be a little late for that." Wolverine looked as if he took some satisfaction from throwing that in Tam's face.

But Tam didn't seem horribly moved. "Oh, don't worry, I believe we can keep you alive a while longer. The young 'lady', however," she motioned at Rebound, who pulled his knife, and laid it across Theresa's throat, "she's one of Cable's brats, and deserves special treatment. After the trouble her teammates caused me, I don't care if she lives or dies . . . do you?"

Siryn felt the cold steel against her neck just above the inhibitor collar, but she was far beyond the point of fear. Instead, she was ready to tear Rebound to pieces. "These aren't 'mutates', are they, Magistrate?" she spit out. "Must be killin' ye t'have t'hire the things you hate so much, these 'inferiors', to let you get yer revenge, since ye can't do it by yerself!"

Tam shrugged. "They would not be my first choice, but I have little say in the matter. They were given to me to carry out this particular job, and I was in no position to refuse."

"So someone else is yankin' yer chains, Tam, just like before," Wolverine snarled. "Is this one any better than Hodge? What're ya gonna get this time?"

"You have no idea," Tam told him, her eyes narrowing. "Let's just say revenge is only one of my priorities. And I'm getting tired of the witty banter. I don't really expect you to give in, but I would like to get on with this." Her eyes were almost slits now, her voice barely above a hiss. "I do so want to hear you tell me to kill the girl; I'd enjoy that."

Siryn opened her mouth to tell Tam what would be really entertaining, but before she could get anything out, alarms started going off all over the room. "What the . . . Nyct, go see what's happening!" Tam shouted

Nyct was already speaking rapidly into an intercom by the door. She turned back to Tam after only a minute's conversation. "There's been an explosion in the main hanger -- we lost the planes. And the squad we sent out earlier hasn't checked in. Neither have Deadpool and Delphi."

Tam looked like she'd just swallowed a raw egg. "Dammit, what could have gone wrong this time? Rebound, tend to our guests. If they cooperate, kill them quickly. If not, indulge yourself." She and Nyct disappeared through the door.

"Hard to get good help these days, isn't it?" Siryn jibed.

"Hard to find working bodies these days, eh?" Rebound answered. "Now, have you decided whether you want the easy way or the hard way? I hope you choose the hard way." He ran the knife slowly along her neck. She refused to let herself shiver and stared defiantly up at him instead. Deep inside, she sent up a silent prayer.

Chapter 8

As if in answer to her prayer, there was a huge *boom* from somewhere close by and the light fixtures started throwing sparks. One exploded, sending everyone in the room ducking for cover, leaving Wolverine and Siryn exposed. Siryn felt a shard of glass knife deeply into her thigh and would have screamed if she was able. But the cold blade of Rebound's knife forced her to choke it back.

The light show stopped, and so did the lights. "What the hell was that?" Rebound yelled into the darkness.

"Something happened to the lights," a nameless Genoshan guard answered.

"No kidding, hotshot, go find out what!" There was the sound of keys jangling, then the door opened. For a moment the guard was silhouetted against the shadowed hall. Then another shadow joined his. The fight lasted less than a second.

An incredibly easy-to-identify voice rang out. "We're he-ere!"

"Deadpool?" Rebound snarled. "I shoulda known." He started to lunge for the merc, but Deadpool was gone before he could get there. Another figure, this one slight and short, met the charge with a brilliant flash of blinding light. There was a sizzle, then a heavy 'thunk' and the clatter of a knife dropping to the floor.

"Rebound from 50,000 volts, redneck," Delphi drawled, dropping something metallic, heavy and obviously highly conductive.

There were various other thunks and a scream, hastily cut off, before Deadpool reappeared. "Boy, can we make an entrance or what?"

"Shut up and get her collar, Wade." Delphi moved behind Wolverine, hands working at the metal around his neck. His claws snicked out and Delphi flinched, but he ignored her, twisting his wrist and trying to slash at the restraints.

Siryn reacted with a bit more emotion, twisting against her bonds. Deadpool muffled her yells with one hand over her mouth. She tried to bite him. "Criminy, Red, can't you tell a rescue when you see one? If you keep fighting me, I'm gonna throw you over my shoulder and haul you out that way! Actually, that could be fun anyway. . . ."

If looks could kill, he'd have been on the floor with a lily in his hands. "Come on, babe, there're about ten zillion idiots with more muscles than brains in this place. You wanted me to take all of 'em on?" He started on the collar, still talking. "Not that I couldn't have, but it would have left serious marks on my favorite skin, not to mention my favorite sis."

"Dios! Will you button it and move?" Delphi hissed. Siryn turned to look at her; she was still working on the collar but her eyes looked curiously unfocused. "They've found my other little present in the generator and the main lights are gonna be on in a few minutes!" She finished fumbling, and the collar came loose from Wolverine's neck. She started on the restraints next, obviously trying to avoid flying claws. "I'm only takin' these off if you promise not to kill me until after we get outta here," she warned. He groaned and cursed. "I'll take that as an agreement. Wade, hustle it!"

"I'm going, I'm going. Damn, you're turning into one helluva nag." The collar came off, finally, and Siryn sighed with relief. He didn't bother with the buckles on the restraints, using a knife to simply cut them loose.

The second she had a hand free Siryn hauled off and punched him as hard as she could, sending him stumbling back. It hurt her hand, but did wonders for her temper and her pride. "Ye low-down, miserable . . . "

Delphi's hand clamped over her mouth. "Look, hard as it is to believe, we're the good guys here, and your only way out. Now shut up and move, or we'll be happy to leave you here. Got it?" Theresa nodded once, short and sharp. "Good." Delphi let her go and gestured over her shoulder at Wolverine. "Wade, he's hurt bad, you're gonna have to help him."

"Me? He weighs half a ton! Why the hell should I carry him around, he keeps trying to kill me!"

Delphi aimed a killing glare at him. "If he didn't want to kill you, he wouldn't be worth savin'. But you got him into this, and you're damned well gonna get him out." He started to answer, but she cut him off curtly. "Wade, we have no time. Just get him."

He met her eyes in a silent staredown, well over a foot taller than her. But the tiny woman refused to back down and she won; Deadpool went over to Logan, who was already sitting up. His face was set in lines of agony, but he glared at Deadpool anyway. "I don't need yer help, Wilson. I can make it myself."

"Yeah, right, and fall flat on your face in three seconds," Delphi snapped. "Stop being stupidly macho." Logan grumbled, but let Deadpool haul him off the table.

Delphi turned back to Theresa, who was stunned to see a faint glimmer of relief briefly replace the ice in the other woman's eyes. "Can you walk? We're goin' t' have serious company any second now," Delphi asked, as Deadpool hoisted a still-protesting Wolverine's arm over his shoulder. Fortunately, Logan was in no condition to effectively enforce his wishes.

"I think so," Siryn answered, swinging her feet to the floor. She stood -- and almost collapsed as her leg gave way. She risked a look down and wished she hadn't; her leg was covered with blood, a large shard of glass sticking out. She reached for it, but Delphi swatted her hand away.

"Leave it - you'll do more damage and let it bleed more. So much for that," Delphi muttered, her eyes swinging to the door and back. "We'll have to do it the hard way." She pulled Theresa up, taking most of the taller woman's weight on her shoulders and making good-and- damn-sure her gun hand was free.

"Delphi, I can . . . "

Delphi cut Theresa's protests off brusquely. "The hell you can and we can't waste time arguin'. I'm a lot stronger than I look."

Deadpool was already at the door, looking cautiously left and right down the hall, then back at them."Man, what a picture. Gotta get an 8x10 of that, maybe put it in the den. 'Deadpool's Ladies' -- I wonder who'd buy it?"

"Shut up, Wade!" the two women snarled in unison.

"Why don't you just put that on tape and save your voices?" he grumbled, but he also went through the door, gun ready and not even staggering under Wolverine's weight. "Wolveroonski, ya gotta cut down on the desserts, man."

Delphi and Siryn exchanged disgusted looks, for the first time in perfect agreement, then followed him.

Chapter 9

After the first step, Siryn was in too much pain to care about anything. Vaguely, she was aware that they were running through long corridors, as unfinished as the last room had been, but reality dissolved into a vague, disjointed jumble of images -- Delphi's body armor digging into her shoulder and side, the sound of weapons going off at close range, the smell of the explosions, Delphi and Deadpool's voices, and Wolverine's occasional growl. . . .

Delphi, cursing as she ran, dodging a bundle of loose pipes the explosions had knocked free. They crashed to the floor behind her. "We're gonna need backup!"

"Who ya gonna call, the Orkin Man?"

"Actually, I was thinking maybe the X-Men, you idiot!"

"Oh, great, let's find a phone. 'Hey, Cable, it's yer old pal, Deadpool. I helped grab one of your kids and the Wolvester and now I need help hauling them out because they're bleeding all over my new clothes. And why don't you bring Domino; we'll have a reunion?' Great idea, Del!"

"It's not my fault half the world wants you killed slowly and painfully! If you weren't such a cold-blooded sonuva. . . ."

"Hey, watch it!"

Delphi suddenly pulled both herself and Siryn to the ground, rolling onto her stomach to fire down the corridor. Return fire ricocheted over their heads, echoing the pounding of Deadpool's gun. Siryn's ears, immune to most noise out of deference to her powers, made out the sound of snicking claws. She raised her head and saw Wolverine standing over several bodies, bent almost in half.

Delphi picked Siryn up and resumed the arguement without a break. "Is there anyone at that Institute who doesn't want you dead, Wade?"

"No," Wolverine answered as Deadpool held him up, hoisting him back over a shoulder. The siblings ignored him.

"Didn't your pal LeBeau join that crew? Call him!"

"Great. One small problem, Einstein, he's catatonic at the moment. I could leave him a message!"

"What happened to him?"

"He stole a kiss from the wrong lady; learn from his example. Siryn, behind us!"

Theresa lifted her head and focused just enough to see the several big guns being lowered at their backs. She didn't stop to wonder how Delphi had known, but cut loose with a sonic scream. The soldiers went down.

"Not in my ear next time," Delphi complained a little too loudly. She had never stopped moving. "What about the sound machine's dad?"

The answer was almost drowned out in gunfire. "Got the number for the Massachusetts Academy on you?"

Del closed her eyes for a second, with an expression on her face that suggested she was reading the insides of her eyelids. Without opening them, she took a shot at something overhead. A body thunked to the ground where they had been a moment before. "No, do I look like 411?"

"Then shut up and move!"

Hours? Minutes? later, something hard slammed into Siryn's leg and she cried out, stumbling.

"Be careful, dammit, Delphi!" Deadpool sounded angry as hell. More shots whistled overhead.

"I'm tryin'!"

"Can't you do something?"

"No time, it's not life-threatenin', and it's goin' t' take all I've got t' help Wolverine if we get out o' this."

"The runt can take care of himself."

"Watch who yer callin' runt, Wilson. And could the two o' ya stop fightin' each other long enough t' do somethin' about them?"

"Man, I hate back-seat drivers."

Aside from Deadpool's automatic wisecrack they ignored Wolverine again, although Delphi did twist around enough to send a volley of shots down the hall behind them. "The hell he can!" she shot back at Deadpool, ducking to avoid sparking wires dangling from the ceiling. "He's dyin', that damn collar had his healin' factor turned off for too long. Go in here!"

A small room and movement. An elevator. They hunkered against the back wall, their breath coming in heavy pants. Sweat soaked the side of Delphi's uniform, along with something warmer.

"Ouch! Shit!" Delphi shifted her weight then almost fell, nearly dropping Siryn, who managed to wake up enough to keep her balance. Her leg had stopped hurting; she was pretty sure that was a bad sign.

Deadpool looked over at them. "What'd you run into?" His voice was beginning to show the strain of carrying around 250 pounds of deadweight on his shoulders. Wolverine slumped on the floor next to him, looking no better.

"A bullet." Siryn's eyes shot to Delphi, who was clutching her calf, blood running from under her fingers. "We're gonna have to find someplace to hide out for a while."

"Where the. . . hell are we?" Wolverine asked without lifting his head. His face was pale, sweat matting his hair.

"About a mile from the main entrance," Delphi answered, running a bloody hand through her hair, popping the rubber band. She realized what she'd done and grimaced at the mess. "Damn her Magistrateness and her boss for deciding to make like a prairie dog! And why didn't you tell me that bitch was Genoshan?"

"Hey, you didn't ask! Is it bad?" Siryn could hear actual concern in Deadpool's voice.

She felt Delphi shake her head; her vision was blurring again, slipping in and out, next to useless. "No," Delphi gritted. "Just bloody, I've gotta get it stopped."

"And we've gotta figure out where the hell we're going. We keep running around chasing our tails, Tam's gonna have enough time to trap them. And I'm not too hot on playing catch with Rebound if he wakes up."

The elevator stopped and Delphi dragged both herself and Siryn to their feet

"Take a left." Delphi and Siryn staggered around the corner, Deadpool following behind, staggering himself under Wolverine. They wove their way through a short maze before Delphi pulled open a door and managed to manuver both her and Siryn inside the small room. They staggered past the doorway and slid down the wall to collapse on the floor. A minute later, Deadpool let Wolverine drop from his shoulders to the floor and fell over himself.

Chapter 10

"How can someone so runty weigh so much?" Deadpool groaned, rolling Wolverine onto his back at Delphi's order. He slumped back against the wall, closing his eyes.

"How can someone so dumb talk so much?" Wolverine answered before his voice strangled on a gasp of pain.

Delphi didn't look like she was paying attention to either of them, already checking Siryn's leg. "Damn, you're bleeding all over the place."

"Sorry," Theresa answered foggily.

"Don't apologize, that's our job," Delphi said, bitterness coating every word. She laid her hands on Siryn's leg and closed her eyes.

Warmth spread from the wound through her body, and the pain dimmed, then faded to a dull ache. The fog faded with it. Siryn sat up, hardly able to believe it. "What did ye do?"

"Stopped the bleeding and convinced your nerves it doesn't hurt anymore." Delphi finished ripping off one sleeve from her shirt and tossed it at Siryn before starting on the other one.

Siryn caught the fabric and started tying it around her leg in an improvised bandage. "How'd ye do that?" It was only one of many questions that had started coming to mind.

"It's one of the things I can do," Delphi answered impatiently, finishing with the other sleeve. She stretched out her own legs, and started wrapping up a nasty hole in her left calf. "Unfortunately, I can't do it to myself, so you get to carry me the rest of the way." She tied off the tourniquet and started to get up. Halfway to her feet, she stopped and sank back to her knees, face white with pain.

"Stay down, willya!" Deadpool said without lifting the back of his head from the wall or opening his eyes. "Jeez, we've got a few minutes before they manage to track us down; actually, we've probably got a few hours, considering the clowns Tam hired. Not that she had much choice -- it's bad business to hire anyone smarter'n yourself, as The Amazing Wilson and Raines just proved."

"Maybe Raines and Wilson have time, but Logan doesn't." Delphi pulled herself to her knees with obvious effort and crawled the few feet to Wolverine's side. She used one hand to prop herself up and laid the other on his chest, closing her eyes in concentration again.

Siryn watched her for a moment, worried about Wolverine, but those questions nagged at her. She turned her attention to Deadpool. "What the devil is goin' on, Wade? I thought ye were working for that bitch."

"I was," he shrugged, still not opening his eyes. "What can I say, the benefits are lousy and the retirement plan sucks, but the pay is great."

"Why the change o' heart then?" she asked in disgust. "Won't helpin' us have a detrimental effect on your paycheck?"

"Hey, it'll have a detrimental effect on my life -- they know how to execute people on Genosha, once they catch up with them. Which she won't 'cause, hey, who's better than me?"

Theresa was something less than impressed. "How'd ye get yerself inta somethin' as stupid as assaultin' the mansion, anyway?"

He shrugged again. "It wasn't supposed to be an assault, just checking the place out, see if maybe we could buy it, do some remodeling, set up a summer house. . . ."

"Dammit, Wade, I am not amused! I'm tired o' listenin' t' ye make this into a joke! Ye attacked me and m' home; kidnapped me an' m'friend! This is not funny!"

"You weren't even supposed to be there, Terry!" Deadpool yelled as his eyes flew open, losing all semblance of cool. "Tam wanted to get into the computer files Xavier keeps, his records on all of the mutants. And she wants to get the crazy crew that took on Genosha in the process! I wasn't in on the recon, I didn't know X-Force had decided to hang around there -- last I heard, Cable would rather die painfully than have anything to do with the X-Men!"

"Things change," Theresa answered at equal volume. "And good luck gettin' the files -- m' dad destroyed them when the Phalanx took over the school a few months ago!(5) And would you have cared that Cable and the others are my friends, if I hadn't been here t' remind ye? Or would ye have just sat back and watched that madwoman and her goon squad try to kill them?"

Deadpool's answer was controlled and quiet. "It was a job, gorgeous. That's all. Just a job." He looked away. "I wouldn't have let them hurt you or Banshee."

Theresa's voice was even lower. "That's not enough, Wade. Not nearly enough."

Chapter 11

Deadpool didn't answer her this time. Theresa couldn't even look at him, just swallowed hard, moving to kneel next to Wolverine. Delphi was sitting next to him, pale and sweating. "How is he?" Siryn asked.

Delphi didn't answer; Theresa looked up to see the other woman staring at her with confused, almost disbelieving eyes. Her gaze flickered to Deadpool and back to Siryn, then a slight smile touched her lips before she looked back down at Wolverine. The smile faded quickly. "He's not good. I've got him stabilized, but there's only so much I can do right now." Her lips tightened. "Dammit, I shouldn't've wasted energy healin' that pain in the butt Nyct after Wolverine almost took her arm off. Shoulda just let her bleed to death."

She looked back up to meet Siryn's eyes. "I won't kid you, Terry. If we don't get him out of here, he's goin' to die."

Deadpool muttered something that could have been, "Let him."

Siryn ignored him. "By now, everyone in this place is after our blood. How're we goin' t' get past them?"

Delphi cocked her head, eyes focusing on nothing in particular. "There are somethin' like five back doors -- we'll use one of them," she said absently.

"If we can get to them," Deadpool put in, apparently getting over his sulk. "Which ain't exactly gonna be a Sunday in the park with George."

"Are ye sayin' the great Deadpool can't get out o' here with his hide intact?" Theresa asked archly.

"Hey, Deadpool can get out of anything, Red, but I can't speak for the deadweight." He motioned at Wolverine, who managed to open one eye.

"Who ya callin' deadweight?"

"Logan?" Siryn leaned over him. "How are ye feelin'?"

"Like I got stabbed in the gut with a knife," he groaned, his voice frighteningly weak. "Where the hell are we, anyway?"

"In deep trouble," Delphi answered.

"With you two involved, I ain't suprised."

Delphi's jaw tightened, but she didn't answer. "Shut up and relax, you can't spare the energy to talk. Besides, we've got company coming."

"Company?" Deadpool was on his feet instantly. "But the place is a mess and I haven't got a thing to wear. . . they'll just have to come back later. How many?"

"'Bout ten," Delphi answered, hauling herself up. Siryn supported her until she was standing, feeling new pain flare through her leg. "Comin' in the same way we did, standard two-by-two cover."

"How unimaginative. These guys really have to develop a sense of style, some creativity even. You two go out on point; I'll get the hairball. Fill up those lungs of yours, gorgeous."

"Already have, Deadpool," Siryn snapped. "Ye just worry about Wolverine."

"Wolverine can worry about himself," Logan said, trying to get up. "Soon as the old healin' factor kicks in. . ."

Deadpool snorted, then groaned as he hefted Wolverine's bulk again, over Logan's protests. "Pipe down, Wolvemeister, or I'll leave ya here, Delphi or not."

"Fine by me, merc." Wolverine bit back a curse as Deadpool's shoulder landed in a particularly bad area. "Don't let the door. . . . hit you on the way out."

"Oh, will the two o' ya knock off the macho posturin'?" Delphi hissed over her shoulder. Her gun was ready in her right hand, her left shoulder supported by Siryn. "On three. Un. Deux. Trois!"

They slammed the door opened and jumped into the corridor. Siryn cut loose at the same time Delphi started firing; they managed to catch the patrol completely flat-footed. The latter only managed to get off a few shots before the combination of ammunition and high- intensity sound knocked them back and out.

"And you didn't even trip over each other; that's really impressive." Deadpool stepped back under the force of their combined glares. "I know, I know, 'Shut up, Wade.' You two gotta get some new material."

"Not t' mention some new relatives," Delphi muttered, trying to take a step and almost falling on her face. Siryn caught her before she fell too far. "Thanks. Come on, the. . . um. . . safest back route is this way."

She gestured to their left, into the darkness. The lights hadn't been restored to most of this area -- it was apparently a low-priority. So there would be fewer guards. Right. The logic should have comforted Siryn; instead, it made her uneasy.

Wolverine apparently had a similar reaction. He levered himself away from Deadpool enough to look her in the eyes. "Delphi, what aren't ya tellin' us?"

Delphi raised an eyebrow at him. "All kinds o' things, Wolvie, most of which are none o' your business. If you want to get out o' here, you're just gonna have to go on faith."

Theresa studied her, trying to weigh the massive contradictions that were Deadpool and Delphi. "Two questions," she asked slowly.

"I don't guarantee answers," Delphi shrugged.

"Why didn't Tam just ask ye for the information she needed, if y'r clairvoyant as Wolverine said?"

Delphi grinned crookedly. "'Cause she would've had to tell me why she wanted it before I'd even Look for it. And unlike some people in this room --" her eyes went pointedly to Deadpool "-- I don't fight other mutants unless they start it. 'Specially for someone else's genocidal agenda."

"Then why were ye here?"

Delphi took a deep breath, shifting her weight. She started to speak, but Deadpool caught her eye, shaking his head. She sighed instead, and answered, "Because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Can we get moving now?"

Siryn caught the exchange between brother and sister and opened her own mouth to pursue it, but Delphi started walking, and the wound in her leg abruptly made itself known again. At least the bleeding didn't start again.

They made their way through the darkness, hearing footsteps thunder almost constantly, their direction obscured by echoes. The combination was enough to make them all jumpy. Fortunately, the conditions didn't last very long.

"Oh hell."

Delphi's quiet curse was all the warning the other three had before the force of yet another explosion knocked them off their feet and to the ground.

"What the hell was that one?" Deadpool hollered, struggling to get out from under Wolverine, who was just as eager to get off of him but less able to do much about it. "When did we plant a bomb out this way?"

"We didn't," Delphi answered calmly. "Come on, we go this way." She pointed in the direction the explosion had come from.

The others traded glances, their expressions ranging from a polite 'Excuse me?' to 'Are you out of your mind?' "I hate to break this to you, Jordie, but we want to go away from where things are going boom!" Deadpool grated sarcastically.

"Unless you got somethin' you haven't shared." Wolverine added, then realized he'd just agreed with Deadpool and growled.

"No, we don't and yes, I have. Trust me." She started limping down the hall towards the sounds of a large, noisy fight.

Siryn stayed long enough to make sure Wolverine was all right, then charged after Delphi, getting back under her shoulder. "I hope ye know what y'r doin'," she said.

"So do I." Delphi looked back over her shoulder, worry clear on her face. "If I'm wrong. . . "

Siryn followed her gaze. Deadpool was completely carrying Wolverine now, and Logan was barely protesting. Blood was staining the back of Wade's uniform; there was a lot of blood. Siryn bit her lip and started moving faster.

"How much further?" she asked quietly.

"Not much."

Chapter 12

They froze at the voice that came out of the darkness ahead of them. A flare of light accompanied it, revealing Nyct standing in front of them, flanked by four soldiers.

Nyct tsked loudly, shaking her head, a smug smile dancing across her face. "To think, little old me sneaking up on the great Deadpool and his seven-sensed baby sister. Another screw-up for your record."

"Screw-up?" Delphi hadn't even blinked when Nyct appeared, and seemed totally relaxed now. "I wasn't part of the B team that fouled this whole thing up in the first place. I think your record is a bit patchier then ours."

"Who're you callin' B team?" One of Nyct's companions took offense at Delphi's description.

"She's callin' you B team, ya loser, or are you still having problems understanding English, pal? I'll give you a hint -- there were, like, two teams and we weren't the ones who fouled up. That help?" Deadpool's contribution from the back didn't help the situation. Siryn had to bite back the urge to laugh, and couldn't contain a smothered smile.

Nyct's jaw tightened, but her own smile stayed in place. "I don't know, I think managing to sneak up on you ranks as a major accomplishment. What happened to those infamous eyes in the back of your head, Jordie? You should have Seen me coming a mile away."

"I'm clairvoyant, not omniscient, my name is Jordan, and you're a dead woman!" Delphi snarled, dropping the relaxed attitude.

"I don't think so. Lights out, dearies." Nyct narrowed her eyes in concentration. Siryn felt herself begin to black out, saw Deadpool drop to his knees. She let go of Delphi and felt the other woman stagger into the wall beside them. She fell to her hands and knees beside Deadpool, trying to stay awake.

From a few miles away, Siryn heard Nyct speaking into a radio. "We have them, Magistrate," she said smugly.

Tam's answer crackled over the radio. "Good. He won't be happy about this mess, maybe having these four to give him will keep us both alive."

Siryn tried hard to think, tried to figure out who 'he' was, but it was too much effort. Vaguely, she realized Delphi still had not fallen, and managed to squint over towards her.

Nyct realized it too. "What the hell?" She concentrated harder, but Delphi braced herself against the wall, showing absolutely no sign of passing out. Again, it was too much effort to wonder why. Siryn let herself slump to the floor, but managed to keep her eyes open.

Nyct was still having no luck. "You should be dropping! I should have put you to sleep!"

Delphi cocked her head. "You mean you didn't know about my other little talent?" Even through the fog, Siryn could still make out Delphi's easy grin. "I've got this little. . . well, I guess you'd call it a psi-shield. Did Deadpool forget to tell you about that?" She shook her head in mock embarrassment, shrugging with her entire torso, her hands in the air. "Well, what can you expect from him, honestly? Anyway, it makes me completely invulnerable to psychic attacks. Like yours."

Her hands dropped too quickly to see, flashing to her hip. In one motion, she drew her gun and fired a single shot.

Nyct dropped and didn't get up. Immediately, Siryn began to wake up.

Delphi looked at her, then past her at the soldiers. She smiled again; her eyes narrowed. "Go play somewhere else, boys."

They were smart. They took her advice and ran.

"Not bad." Wolverine managed to lift his head before Theresa or Wade recovered. "Didn't know about that little trick."

Delphi shrugged. "You never were around when I demonstrated it." She knelt beside him, completely ignoring Nyct's body, and put her hand on his chest. "How you doin'?"

"Pretty damn lousy," he answered.

"Yeah." Delphi stood back up. "Everyone else at least semi- functional?"

Siryn pulled herself to her feet, shaking away the now-familiar fuzziness. "More or less. Well done."

"Thanks." Delphi looked past her down the corridor. "Wade, get Logan and let's get the hell gone."

"I'm fine, sis, thanks for asking." His peeved grumbling was lost in the sounds of a fight coming from up ahead. "What's going on up there, Jordie?" he asked, looking up from manuevering Wolverine.

"Sounds like the Street Fighter II world championships, live action," Wolverine commented, trying to stand without Deadpool's help.

"You're not far off," Delphi answered him. Her eyes were unfocused, her face a curious blend of relief and fear. "We've got company coming."

"Who?" Deadpool and Siryn demanded simultaneously. Before Delphi could answer it became unnecessary; a voice suddenly rang out clearly over the noise.

"Everyone spread out! I want this place turned upside down until we find Siryn!"

Another voice chimed in. "Try and leave some of it standing, if that wouldn't be too much trouble."

"It might be!"

"I know that bickering," Siryn said; a grin of relief spread across her face before she yelled, "Cable, quit y'r bellowin', I'm over here!"

Chapter 13

"Theresa!" They were sure of the direction this time; Siryn would have been running if she hadn't been hauling Delphi again. As it was, they made it to the corner in time to see Cable barrelling along the corridor, followed by what looked like most of X-Force and at least half of the X-Men. Everyone was armed to the teeth.

"How the hell does he haul that thing into airports?" Siryn heard Delphi mutter just before her teammates caught up with her. The Texan got out of the way before she was caught in the mass of humanity.

Siryn accepted welcome backs ranging from Jimmy's bear hug to variations on 'where the hell have you been you idiot?', before Cable rather loudly reminded everyone they were still in the middle of a fire zone.

"How'd ye manage to track us down?" Siryn asked when the noise quieted a little.

Cannonball started to explain. "We talked to the nice folks in Genosha, who gave us the run-around for a while until we got hold of the former chief magistrate --"

"Former Chief Magistrate?" Siryn interrupted.

Cannonball nodded grimly. "Yeah, seems there's some things goin' on in Genosha we don't know about. She wouldn't tell us much, but she did tell us she'd heard about some kinda installation goin' in here -- we're underneath the Appalachians, by the way. Believe it or not, this is supposed t' be a software plant."

"I'm going to have a conversation with Genosha about information that should be shared," Cable said equally grimly. "What's the situation, Siryn?"

"Well, it's a magistrate in charge -- her name's Tam. She grabbed me and Wolverine more or less by mistake. She's got some kind o' army here, ready t' go after the X-Men and X-Factor."

"Everyone who helped bring Genosha down," Cable finished. "Great."

"Where's Wolverine?" Cyclops interrupted, coming up from behind Cable.

Siryn gestured over her shoulder. "He's. . ."

The sound of several guns cocking, clicking, humming and otherwise coming into action stopped her in mid-breath; it didn't take a genius to realize who had just appeared. Domino's voice was ice-cold. "Put him down, Deadpool."

"No problem, he weighs a ton." For all his flippant words, Deadpool started to move very slowly and carefully, trying not to get shot before he could lower Wolverine from his shoulder. His free hand hovered suspiciously close to his belt. "How ya doin', Domino?"

"I'll be better in a minute. Wolverine, move it so I can kill him."

"Don't shoot him, we're gonna need them to get us out of here," Wolverine rasped.

"He helped break us out, Domino," Siryn added, leaving Delphi against the wall and stepping in front of the mercenary.

"Listen to the lady, I'm one of the heroes of this piece," was Deadpool's contribution.

"I wouldn't go that far," Delphi murmured, ignoring Deadpool's murderous look. "But you can trust us until we get out of here, that's for sure."

"I wouldn't trust the two of you to. . . "

Cyclops cut off whatever Cable was about to say. "Cable, we don't have time for the ritual insults. Wolverine's in bad shape. What happened to him?" he demanded.

"He ran into the wrong end of a knife," Delphi answered. "They had an inhibitor collar that shut off his healing factor."

Cyclops looked over to where she was still holding up the wall, then did a shocked double-take. Between the lines of pain on her face, the bloody, sweat-soaked hair and the torn, blood-soaked uniform, Delphi looked like a walking casualty, Siryn realized. Deadpool had a similar reaction and ignored Domino long enough to reach his sister, leaving Wolverine to Cyclops. Logan tried to stand by himself, but failed.

Cyclops cursed, drawing raised eyebrows from almost everyone in the room, as Wolverine's weight fell against him. Wolverine echoed the curses in what sounded suspiciously like Japanese before almost gasping, "Come on, Cyke, let's get out o' here."

"What about these two?" Cannonball gestured at Deadpool and Delphi.

Domino opened her mouth to make a suggestion; Cable overruled her, although not without regret, judging from his voice. ""We need all the firepower we can get. But keep an eye on them."

"Your trust overwhelms me," Deadpool muttered.

Domino almost shot him. Siryn almost let her. Fortunately for Deadpool, a squad of soldiers took that moment to locate them, and announced their arrival loudly and violently. Survival suddenly became a higher priority than revenge.

Chapter 14

Cannonball blasted into the new arrivals, their fire bouncing off his invulnerable form. Shatterstar and Psylocke followed closely, swords flying, while the others blasted everything that moved.

In a brief moment of peace, Cyclops shouted, "Let's get out of here; Gold Team should be about ready to level this place!"

"They are," Delphi confirmed. Cyclops gave her an odd look, then started back the way they had come. Siryn turned to Deadpool and Delphi. The mercenary had lifted his sister and was carrying her somewhat more gracefully than he had hauled Wolverine. Delphi looked like hell, but her gun was in her hand and ready.

Siryn shook her head with a mix of amazement and resignation and followed Cyclops, who seemed to know where he was going. They half-ran, half-staggered through what seemed like another few miles of corridor. They were apparently cutting it close; both Cable and Cyclops were yelling by the time they reached the way out through a huge room that resembled a garage by the number of vehicles in it. But many were gone, judging from Deadpool and Delphi's barely coherent yells.

"How many?" Cable asked at a dead run.

"Too damn many," Deadpool almost spit. "Half this place musta bugged out after the first explosion. Jeez, buncha chickens working here."

"No time to worry about it now," Cyclops said. "We'll deal with the rest another day. Let's just blow this place."

"Amazing, he made a joke," Domino said quietly.

Then they were outside; Siryn breathed the cold, fresh air as if she hadn't breathed in a year. She didn't have time to appreciate it, though; Delphi and Cyclops were yelling at everyone to get down. Someone's weight hit her, forcing her to the ground. A few seconds later the entire installation went up in a ball of flames.

From underneath her protector's arm, Siryn saw Cable concentrating, saw dirt, rocks and shrapnel come flying at them and bounce away as if hitting an invisible shield. Next to him, Cyclops was sitting up just enough to blast larger pieces before they could do any harm.

Then it was over and the earth stopped shaking. Siryn realized she was having problems breathing and shoved at the weight still lying on top of her. It rolled off; she saw Delphi sprawled next to her and realized the body that had been protecting them both was Deadpool's.

"Are ye all right?" she asked, hearing the shake in her voice and hating it.

"Hunky-dory," he answered. "Nothing like a good explosion to clear the ol' sinuses out. Subtlety. I love it!"

She laughed, finally allowing herself to relax. It was over.

"Logan!" Jean Grey's voice reminded them both that there were a few things left to deal with -- and one of them was lying on the ground with a large crowd of people surrounding him -- the rest of the X- Men had arrived. Hank McCoy was in the middle, working on Wolverine.

"Beast? How is he?"

Hank didn't even look up at Rogue's question. "Not good." His lack of words said more than a dictionary.

"Oh Lord," Siryn breathed.

Beside her, Delphi stirred. "Wade?" she said groggily, pushing herself to a sitting position. "What. . .?" Her eyes shot open as she took in the scene a few feet away. "Jesu Cristo!"

With that, she was up and running, limping badly and ignoring it. "Let me through," she said desperately, trying to work her way through the barricade of bodies.

Cable got in front of her. "You've done enough, Delphi," he told her grimly. "More than enough."

"Not yet," Delphi answered, looking him in the eye even from over a foot closer to the ground. "I can help him, Cable. I'm going to help him, if I have to go through you to do it!" She shoved past him and two others, falling to her knees next to Logan. She laid her hands on him, one on his chest, the other on his forehead, and closed her eyes in a familiar, trance-like expression.

"Jordan, don't!" Deadpool lunged forward; Siryn grabbed him before he could get very far.

"Wade, she could save him! She might be his only chance!"

"And her only chance to die!" he said between his teeth. "Jordie has limits, and she could kill herself trying to fix him!"

"Oh Lord," Siryn repeated, seeing the strain on Delphi's face that proved Deadpool right.

They waited silently; even the continuing explosions seemed muffled by the tension. Delphi's face twisted with pain; Wolverine's body convulsed. Jean and Psylocke both cried out in reflected pain. And they waited.

It was almost an anti-climax when Jordan's body finally relaxed, sinking forward over Wolverine. He opened his eyes; she met them with a faint smile before she passed out.

Chapter 15

It was two days before Jordan Raines finally opened her eyes again.

It had been a long two days; everyone was trying to get all the stories straight, from the kidnapping and Wolverine's injury to the rescue operation and the rather amazing assault on and destruction of Tam's headquarters, which had involved Boomer's time bombs, a well-timed earthquake compliments of Rictor, and some equally well-placed grenades courtesy of Bishop. Even after hearing three different versions, Siryn still didn't have it straight, and was pretty sure she never would.

But Jordan and Wolverine had been the only real casualties; even Siryn's leg was healing quickly. She had been trading off shifts at Delphi's side with Jean and Logan, running a small bet with herself on what Delphi's first question would be when she woke; not surprisingly, she won.

"Where's Wade?" Delphi asked groggily.

Siryn smiled at her from her bedside chair. "He decided discretion was the better part o' valor, and deserted the premises after bein' assured that both of us would be survivin' our experiences."

Delphi returned the smile, closing her eyes. "Good. It's a stone bitch to heal gunshot wounds, especially if they come from Cable. He uses big guns."

"He does indeed. O' course, they do have their uses as well. "

"Yeah, I seem to remember that. Do I even have to ask where I am?"

"The Institute infirmary."

"That's what I thought," Delphi groaned as she sat up. "Tops my list of places I don't want to be." She swung her legs out of the bed and swayed slightly, the blood draining out of her face.

"Don't do that!" Siryn said, jumping up. "Hank said y'r supposed to stay in bed for another few days. Ye almost died, Jordan."

"So what else is new?" Delphi shrugged. "I've been stupid before." She stood up and almost fell over. "Oh, I don't deserve this hangover," she groaned, running her hands through her hair. "Where are my clothes? What time is it?"

"It's almost 2 a.m.," Siryn sighed, giving up and starting to look for clothes.

A pair of Jubilee's leggings, a black T-shirt and a phone call to the cab company later, the two women headed down the stairs. Delphi made it about halfway before she had to stop to rest.

Siryn refrained from saying 'I told you so' and sat next to her, commenting, "Sneakin' out in the middle of the night. It seems t' y'r style."

"Ah, hell, I'm gettin' predictable." Delphi didn't sound too disturbed. They sat in companionable silence for several minutes, before Delphi spoke.

"You know, he cares about you more than just about anything -- up to and including me."

Theresa wasn't particularly surprised by Delphi's statement, but they were still painful words to hear. She leaned back against the stair behind her. "Does he? I suppose that's why he helped set up m'teammates and m'friends."

"You don't know everything that was goin' on, Terry."

"What aren't you tellin' me, Delphi?" Theresa repeated Wolverine's question from several days before. Just like the last time, Delphi took a breath and started to speak, then stopped. Theresa frowned. "Delphi, please. I have t' know."

Delphi bit her lip, the indecision in her face clear even in the dim light. Looking at her, Siryn realized for the first time that Jordan Raines was only a few years older then herself. And for a brief moment, she could almost see the shadows Dephi was fighting; had been fighting for God-only-knew how long.

The moment passed as Delphi came to a decision. This time, she answered Theresa's question. "He didn't know what the target was, going in." As though a dam had burst, the words came spilling out. "He was hired to train the Genoshans and the various mercs Tam hired."

"Who hired her?" Siryn asked.

Delphi shook her head. "I don't know. I tried to Look a few times, but things on Genosha are. . . strange. They keep changin', confusin' me. There's something seriously weird goin' on down there."

She closed her eyes, her head rolling back against the wall in a posture eerily similar to Wade's. "Anyway, Nyct and Rebound were in charge of recon; he was training. He didn't find out what they were after until he'd been in too long -- they could have kept going without him, he'd become expendable. He couldn't stop it, so he did the next best thing. He called me."

"What did ye intend to do? And why did he need ye t' do it?"

"You think those explosives got there by themselves? I had to bring 'em in with me, and show him how to set 'em. Damn martial arts types don't learn other ways to play, and his idea of subtle is a grenade," she complained, shaking her head in disgust. "It took us over a week t' duck around enough t' get those damn things planted -- we were goin' t' blow the joint and run. Then Nyct and and Rebound got careless on the first recon and, well. . . ." Her eyes opened and she lifted her head just enough to look at Theresa, a grin flickering across her face. "You know, I thought Wade was goin' t' have kittens when he found out they'd grabbed you. He almost blew the whole game right then."

"He was. . . upset?"

"He almost went for that pendejo Rebound's throat. Literally."

Siryn bit her lip, staring out into the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, weighing the truth in Delphi's words. She wanted to believe them, to believe Wade actually cared. But still. . . "How can I trust him?" she wondered sadly.

"You can't," Delphi answered, the words no less harsh for the gentleness in her voice. "Care about him all you want, Terry -- Lord knows I've never found a way not to. But don't trust him. Not ever."

"How can ye do one, and not the other? Care without trustin'?"

"Easiest thing in the world, Terry." Jordan Raines' smile was bittersweet, an old woman's expression on a young woman's face. "Easiest thing in the world."

With that, she stood, and started back down the stairs. Theresa trailed silently behind her, following her out the door and down the long driveway. "Can ye wait here alone?" she asked at the gate.

"Yeah," Delphi shrugged. "No problem."

"Take care o' y'rself."

"Always. You do the same." She looked up at Siryn. "Tam got away. She's still out there."

"You're sure?" The question was more for form than anything; Siryn didn't really doubt her.

"I'm sure."

Siryn nodded, then turned to go. Before she was very far past the gate, she heard Wolverine's voice. "Where ya headin'?"

She turned around, and saw him standing a few feet from Delphi, his back to Siryn. She wasn't particularly surprised to see him, but she froze anyway. Both of them knew she was there; she was far enough away they could both pretend she didn't exist. And she had no intention of missing this.

Delphi didn't look surprised by his appearance either. "Nowhere, really. Away from here."

He started to say something -- who knew what? The cab's arrival stopped him before he could.

Delphi opened the door to the cab, then turned back to him. "Why don't you go inside, Logan?" she asked out of the blue. "You're lucky, you've got friends there waitin'."

"I got my reasons."

She kept looking at him with a steady gaze, as if she could See right through him. Then she shook her head, the shadow of a smile flickering over her lips. "They're not very good ones."

To Siryn's shock, Delphi leaned over, brushing a kiss across his cheek, then turned and slipped into the cab, swinging the door closed behind her.

Almost as an afterthought, she rolled down the window and stuck her head through. "Thanks for not killin' my brother. I wouldn't have liked killin' you to get even. Too messy."

Logan half-laughed as the cab rolled away, the sound a curious mix of amusement and frustration. "Next time, Jordie," he said quietly. "Next time."

He watched the cab until it turned the corner and went out of sight. Then, without looking at Siryn, he disappeared back into the darkness. She watched him go, more confused now then she had been before Delphi woke up. She sighed, then turned and headed back up the drive into the mansion. Wolverine was right; there would be a next time.

She couldn't wait.



Footnotes (Oh, come on, what's a comic book without footnotes?!?)
(1) Wolverine and Deadpool last ran into each other - literally - in Wolverine #88 -- Parenthesizin' Perri

(2) Check out the second Deadpool Limited Series for this story and

(3) X-Force #15 for this one -- Pawin'-through-back-issues Perri

(4) All of this stuff took place in X-Tinction Agenda. - Paraphrasin' Perri

(5)Banshee totaled the place in Phalanx Covenant: Generation Next -- Property Damage Perri

I want it stated for the record that the biggest crime in Alter-X was what they did to Wade a.k.a. Deadpool. Too gross and completely unfunny. This is my way of making it up to my favorite motor-mouthed merc, who bears no resemblence to Dead-Man Wade, except in his ability to commit bloody mayhem. I usually claim that Delphi herself is far too annoying to be an actual Mary Sue, but most days I can't even fool myself with that one.

Anyway, the Delphi stories, of which this was the first, started out completely randomly. I guess it was more or less inevitable that I'd be playing around on my word processor one night, and a character I'd never met before started telling me about herself. Her name was Jordan Raines, a.k.a. Delphi, and she was a mercenary. If I'd known at the time that she was Deadpool's sister, I'd've hit delete and gotten the hell out of there.... Instead, I wrote seventeen pages before realizing that those seventeen pages were going to require at least two entirely different stories to set them up. Here was story number one, there is one more, plus a prequel, and I swear to god, I'm working on the third and last. Really! Well, okay, no, but I intended to!

Dedicated with love to David, who started it; Brett, who supplied it; Chris, who understood it; Diane, who cheerfully aided and abetted it; and Teleri, who made me choose a POV and stick with it. Thanks guys; I'm sure I'll find an appropriate way to pay you back.