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Val Cooper strained her neck upwards, searching for a reason for the sudden shadow that had descended on the debate hall, blocking the sunlight that had been streaming through the glass skylight.

Great... and we've got bad weather to top it all off... She was still feeling irritated. Charles did not seem to have found anyone.

She scanned the crowd. Cliff, where are you... you idiot...

That was when she saw the bolted exit door.

Wait a second... I didn't give any orders to lock the doors. What's happening here? Her answer, was a hand shooting up within her field of vision. Grasping a handheld weapon, it aimed and fired, causing the world around her to erupt...


... in glass.

Glass shards rained down from the shattered skylight, injuring those who had failed to take cover quickly enough. People were screaming, and running for the exits. But the exits were bolted.

Cooper - backstage and safe from the glass, - seeing that the crowd was panicking, grabbed for her walkie-talkie desperately, hoping that her guards would answer this time.

" Cliff! Cliff...! Walt! Come in! I want crowd control... now!... Walt!... Cliff!"

Static.

Damn! She flung the device on the floor. Xavier!

She looked up. Charles, in his wheelchair, had not been able to move quickly enough, when the skylight had shattered. Unable to shield himself, he was cut and bleeding.

* Minor injuries, Val. I assure you.* His telepathic 'voice' still sounded rather unperturbed. But he had a look of worry and pain on his face.

* What's going on here? What the hell is happening?* She was furious, even if he was not.

* I do not know...*

Something else had caught his attention. He was looking up at the skylight. And he looked very worried.

Now what? Everyone else too, had started looking up. She joined in.

She could hardly believe what she saw.

A black shadow was falling across the debate hall, as an enormous aircraft descended from the upper atmosphere directly above the gaping hole in the roof, - vacated by the shattered glass - blocking out the sun. It moved till it was directly over the hall. Then, it stopped moving.

It continued to just hover there.

Squinting to see, Val thought she saw... movement.

Ropes were thrown down. With one end attached to the craft. It was not difficult to guess what their purpose was.

Things are getting very, very bad... She hated it when she sounded wry at a moment like this. This was serious. She could not afford to make light of a dangerous situation.

Men were rapidly sliding down the ropes, and immediately upon touching ground, brandished weapons at the crowd gathered in the hall. Orders were shouted, threats were made.

These were not the ' good guys'. People with good intentions, did not go about pointing weapons at you and threatening you.

Which was exactly what these people did.


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