The Sum of Zero: Part 4

by Dex



All recognizable characters and settings belong to Marvel; I am using them without permission but mean no harm and am making no profit. The plot and original characters, however belong to me. Any and all feedback is appreciated at Redistribution of this tale for profit is illegal. Please do not archive this story without contacting me first to obtain my permission.

This story contains potentially disturbing imagery and concepts, and thus, reader discretion is advised. Many thanks to Mitai and Tapestry for betaing.

"Five bodies. All of them linked by time of death with acts of FoH terrorism. In fact, all but one body is tied directly in with a bombing of some type." Caulder picked up a few files and moved them out of the way of his food. McEasly's was one of a thousand little diners scattered around New York. It had the advantage of being close to the precinct and willing to put up with the round the clock habits of New York's Finest. Emma had muttered reservations under her breath about the establishment, and was glowering behind a cup of coffee and a stack of written reports while the other two men dug into their meals.

"What was the only unlinked one?" Scott asked around his reuben sandwich.

"Arson job." John took a big bite of his hamburger. "They torched a halfway house in the Bronx because it was taking in mutants from the shelters."

"Charming." Emma said quietly, shifting sheets of paper. "So, obviously this killer is working under two guidelines: mutant victims in conjunction with FoH bombings and acts of terrorism."


"Excuse me?"

"Fire is one of the common threads." Scott said, picking up a file and passing it over to her. "These are recorded acts of violence and terrorism in New York by the FoH in the last seven months. The only ones that he has struck on have been those which involve incendiary style bombs or attacks."

"True. So what we have is a killer who, if not brilliant, is at the very least highly skilled, precise, has access to the Friends of Humanity's terrorism schedule and has an affinity for things that burn. Sound about right?" Caulder summed up.

"Agreed. There is more to it though." Frost made a few notes, a distracted look on her face. "There is a lot more here. I'll need some time to work on this. Mister Caulder, I'm assuming that space can be made for us at the precinct?"

"I don't see why not. Lemme give the chief a call and see if they can't arrange an office or something for you."

"Excellent." Emma dropped a thick sheaf of files into her briefcase and stood from the table. "As much as I'd like to stay... actually, I would much rather do anything besides staying in this Public Health Incident waiting to happen. I will see you in the morning with my observations. Detective Caulder, a pleasure. Scott, my door will be locked tonight. Don't try being a naughty boy again." Emma trailed her fingers over his shoulders as she left.

John grinned at the taller man, who was caught halfway between an embarrassed blush and an angry flush. Emma Frost stepped out of the tiny diner and hailed a cab, giving them a final gay wave as she departed.

"Some kind of woman, huh?" Caulder said admiringly.

"That's one way to put it." Scott said, turning back to his sandwich. "So, tell me why we can't just arrest a whole whack of FoH members and start grilling them until we find out who's involved."

"It's not that simple. See, the same FoH group claims responsibility for all the acts of terrorism done by them in the country. However, the other groups disavow any knowledge of such ‘illegal' activities. So, until the government decides to declare the whole body of the Friends of Humanity a criminal organization, we can't just arrest them. So, it's down to standard police work. We need to find evidence to link these attacks and bombings with specific people, and hopefully use them to incriminate their higher ups." John ran a hand through his dark hair and settled wearily back into the booth. "It's frustrating, I know. To know that someone is a criminal, and not to be able to take them down because you need the proof and you have to make it hold up in a court of law."

"Never considered working on a higher mandate? Like the Avengers or some such?"

"Vigilante tactics give rise to the contempt of law, and that leads to the breakdown of society. Look, it's like this. Without the law, all the police are is the biggest and best equipped gang on the street. When that happens, what's to stop us from becoming the worst?" John mused.

"True." Cyclops said, considering the detective's words against his own actions. The X-Men had functioned outside the law and often in direct opposition to it since their very beginning. True, they did so with the best of intentions, and against people and situations wholly outside the sphere of the law. But still, something about the detective's words struck the mutant. They worked with self-appointed jurisdiction, accountable to no one. Occasionally that led to things like Dark Phoenix and Death.

Cyclops quelled the momentary questioning. Until the law was prepared to recognize such situations and actions without prejudice and fear, then they couldn't operate in good faith within it. He sighed deeply and returned to his meal. They ate in companionable silence for a while, each mulling over the horrific details of the case in front of them and trying to find the tools with which to prevent the murderer from claiming another victim.



"Say the head of the local FoH was brought in. You'd be allowed to hold for, what, twenty-four hours before you charge him?"

"In theory. However, with the public image of the NYPD right now, he'll make a ranting claim for his lawyers and I'll have the superintendent breathing down my neck." John grimaced.

"What about if you caught him for something not related to the actual crime? Drug possession or something?"

"I could hold him for a good long time then. He'll be canny enough to demand a lawyer within that first twenty-four hours, though. So strong-arming him isn't going to be much of an option." Caulder looked over at the taller man, his eyes hidden behind the curious red sunglasses. "Just what are you thinking, Agent Summers?"

"The FBI has a few connections. If you can ensure a police presence at the Friends of Humanity building in the wee hours of the morning, I think I can arrange for at least one law-breaker."


"Absolutely not. Just helping them showcase their own illegal activities. Interested?" Scott smiled tightly. John leaned back for a minute and shrugged.

"Why not? Say around 2am or so?"

"Agreed. You'll excuse me while I arrange a few favours then?"

"Yup. Come to the station around 8. Your boy will be processed by then."

"I'm looking forward to it."


The headquarters of the New York chapter of the Friends of Humanity was a squat four story red brick building near the Hudson. Built more then a hundred years ago, it had been a dock accounts centre, a small fabric factory, the home of the Eastern New York Port Authority and then, finally, as a printing shop. The location of the headquarters was not difficult to find. The New York police had pinpointed it with SHIELD's help at the tail end of Operation: Zero Tolerance, and they quietly kept tabs on those moving in and out. The trouble was that the mobile operatives for terrorism never came near the building, and the police had no just cause to harass the dozens of workers and drivers who passed through it daily.

The X-Men had no such limitations.

Cyclops crouched down in the shadow of the alley, watching the guards at the basement entrances. The moved in a bored, sluggish manner, obviously men guarded a post that they never expected to see anyone appear at. Their pattern was simple to follow. Guards rotated on a two hour basis, likely to try to keep them fresh. They spent a few minutes at post, then ducked off for a seat next to the door for a smoke and a game of cards. Three or four hands later, they'd make another circuit. They weren't far enough away to lose sight of the door, but enough that if distracted, they'd easily miss a person slipping in. Fortunately for Cyclops, Psylocke could be very distracting.

"Dere is de soft point, Cyclops. Gambit count fifteen cameras on de roof and wall mounts. No easy access to de roof unless you fly, and den I bet dey got pressure switches and infra-red trips scattered all over. De camera down here isn't working, an' dese boys couldn't properly guard a cup of coffee, much less de door." Gambit whispered in his ear. The lanky Cajun had been doing sweeps of the security from the rooftops around the building, moving like a ghost over the darkened cityscape.

"Telepathic scans are clear as well, Cyclops. I've got sixteen or so scattered around the installation. Mostly guards, some higher-ups. They've got EM fields up around the more sensitive areas, so I'm not sure what they might have in those." Psylocke said equally softly in his other ear, her body emerging from the inky depths of the shadow itself.

"Alright. Psylocke, link us." Cyclops whispered. The female telepath touched his and Gambit's foreheads lightly, and a brief nimbus of energy flashed around her.

{{Good. Now, here's the plan. We need three things from this place: what files they have on the X-Men, what their connection is with the killer, and to get one of the chiefs out into the street preforming an illegal action. Gambit, you're in charge of the files. I'll back you up. Psylocke, you'll be our hare. Lead them on a chase and get them into the street when we need to. Clear.}} Both nodded and Cyclops pointed at the door. {{Fifteen seconds from now, I want through that door. Black-5 moves.}}

The three slipped into the street. They'd traded their normal uniforms for simple black fatigues. It had been Gambit's suggestion, to go along with their supposed cover as FBI. If they did have to interact with the police, the all black clothes gave them a somewhat military air. Cyclops had traded his normal gold visor for the covert one of brushed metal. Psylocke stepped into the shadow of a parked car, and disappeared, slipping into the dark limbo realm between shadows that she traveled. Cyclops and Gambit sped soundlessly across the street, to pause at the side of the building. The darkness hid them from the guards, and the extreme angle keep them under the sweeps of the cameras.

"You hear something, Bill?" The first guard turned, picking up his flashlight.

"I think so.." They stood together, and moved towards the noise, their backs to the X-Men. Cyclops and Gambit moved forward, and the door was silently opened from the inside. Psylocke held the door as the two men slipped in, and closed it with a barely audible click.

The guards had been surprisingly well taught to build psychic shields by someone, perhaps former members of Bastion's team. Psylocke would have needed time to control both of them. Fortunately, everyone still thought of telepathy as a hammer, rather then a scalpel. They taught every tactic against mind control they could find, without bothering to consider influence. Psylocke had just brushed the tops of their sensory inputs, implanting the sounds of movement to their left, while fogging auditory information from the right. Her own entry via the shadow of the vending machine she'd glimpsed through a window was less spectacular.

{{We're clear, Cyclops. No spikes in urgency or alarm. Looks like a clean intrusion.}}

{{Good. Gambit, follow your nose. We'll meet up on the street. Call in if you run into trouble, Psylocke.}} She nodded and disappeared down the darkened hallway. Gambit took a few moments to listen to the pulse of the building, and then pointed down a hallway.

"Dat way." He said quietly.

"Go." They were down the hall to a small stairwell in seconds. The camera set in it was over the door, and Gambit took it offline with a few plucked wires. They dashed up the concrete steps and out the door at the top, passing closed doors and darkened windows in series. Gambit paused again, and then flattened himself against the wall, motioning for Cyclops to do the same. A roving guard walked across the end of the hall, missing the black shapes in his cursory sweep.

The pair stayed motionless as his footfalls slowly died away, and then moved wraith-like down the hall. Gambit paused outside a door and nodded. He pulled a set of picks from his jacket and quickly neutralized the door lock. They slipped inside and eased the door shut behind them. The corner office window let in enough light from the street to eliminate the need for a light, and they quickly tossed the office for information.

The third dented metal filing cabinets revealed little of interest; mostly administration sheets, ordering forms for supplies and a series of brief files on known mutants, mutant sympathetic politicians and public figures, and sightings of mutant activity. Most were cursory, stuffed with news clippings and opinion reports. There was nothing particularly secret in the files, and certainly nothing damaging to the X-Men. Gambit slipped out a list of personnel and associates from the far right cabinet, and snapped a quick photo of it.

"Never know, rein?" He smirked. Cyclops nodded and quietly eased the drawers shut. They went over to the computer, and booted it up via a patch to their small laptop. Gambit made a hissing noise as the screens came up.

"Boss, dis is not what de normal supremacist uses for his security. Gambit has overlapping null fields, cascading protections and a whole lot of data burns if we go in wrong. Dis is black level protection." Gambit shook his head. "Make you wonder why dey have it, non?"

"And where they got it. Can you just pull the whole data package out, protections in place?"


"Do it. We'll get it cracked later." Cyclops did a quick rummage through the desk, carefully sifting through the piles of paper debris. "No notes to staff. No memos for these attacks. Likely doing all their transmissions over the computer, hidden behind that protection. Dammit."

"Cyclops, have a look at this." Gambit said, and Cyclops squatted down next to him. Gambit lifted up the bundle of power cords and pointed to a thinwire which was piggybacked on to the larger cord with an adhesive. The wire trailed into the computer, and back out and down a small hole in the floor by the desk leg. Gambit carefully unscrewed the back of the computer and lifted off the shell. They located the wire inside the terminal, and its rigged connection to the CPU.

"Someone snuck a patch into this thing." Cyclops said quietly. "Which means we're not the only ones looking for information."

"Who den? SHIELD, Black Air, and de other agencies have dere own equipment for dis kind of patch. Dis is a homemade job."

"I don't know. Maybe..." Scott trailed off. "Let's see where this thing leads."

"You de bossman." Gambit quietly replaced the cover and stowed his computer away. The two X-Men eliminated the last signs of their clandestine visit to the office, and slipped out into the darkened halls again. Without event, they snuck back down a floor and located the room over which the tap was set.

It fed into a concrete loading dock, at the rear of the building. Gambit snuck a quick peek inside, and motioned Cyclops that two guards were in place in the landing. Cyclops shook his head and nodded towards the side exit. Direct conflict was not what they wanted. Ideally the Friends of Humanity would never know about the additional visitors during the night.

Both men took up a position by the side door and waited. After a few minutes, Psylocke's telepathic voice echoed inside Cyclops' head, her upper class British accent even more resonant in the mental communications.

{{I am preparing to make myself known, Cyclops. I've dropped a number of suspicious hints for the security detail, so they should easily deduce that I'm a rogue mutant looking to sabotage the heating equipment.}}

{{Excellent. We'll move on your call.}}

{{Of course. Ta for now.}} The telepathic buzz winked out, and a minute later, lights and alarms started to wail. They could hear the yells of the guards, and shouted commands and curses. Cyclops finger counted to five at Gambit, and then hit the door in front of him with his shoulder. It flung open with tremendous force, knocking the guard in front of it sprawling. The other guard was only starting to turn when Gambit rabbit-punched him in the temple, sending him into unconsciousness as well. Both men ran crouched for the alley across from the building, slowing only when they had made the safety of the shadows.

{{Cyclops, I think I have your pigeon. Sidney Lyttle. He's giving all the orders, and a quick scan says that he's in charge of FoH operations here.}} Psylocke said in Cyclops' mind, popping in suddenly.

{{Sounds good. Do we have criminal acts?}}

{{Lots of weapons. I can't be sure, but I don't think the rounds they're using are conventional. Sounds like small explosives or something.}}

{{Good. Do you need back up?}}

{{No. I'll be on the street in two minutes. Just be there to get me out.}} The buzz cut off again, and Cyclops nodded to Gambit.

"Let's move. We've got two before Psylocke is on the street." Cyclops shed his visor for his glasses, and pulled on one of the trenchcoats they had stashed in the alley prior to the mission. Gambit donned the other one on the run, the military black of their outfits making them look like any number of New Yorkers out for the night.

As they rounded the corner, the staccato sounds of gunfire reached them. They caught a glance of Psylocke as she disappeared behind a row of parked cars. The man in front, beefy and sporting a short blond buzz cut, was barking orders to the rest of his men to get back in the building when the first cherry red siren flashed, and a dozen uniformed police flooded into the street. The Friends of Humanity thugs were quick to drop their guns, looking around bewildered at the sudden appearance of the law. The blond man simply crossed his arms over his chest and began berating the officer in charge.

Cyclops and Gambit faded back from the street to another shadowed doorway, and Psylocke stepped out of it. She had also pulled a coat on over her fatigues, and joined them on the street.

"A successful operation, Scott?" She asked, her lilting accent incongruous in the Eastside surroundings. Scott nodded, pointing to Gambit.

"Gumbo got the computer files. Can you send it to Kitty Pryde on Muir Island first thing tomorrow? I need to know what he's hiding."

"Oui. Dis is beyond Gambit's level."

"Excellent. Excellent work, people."

"You're forgetting something, Scott."

"What's that, Betsy?"

"As the team commander, the first round's on you." Betsy smiled and Remy nodded sagely beside her. Scott chuckled a bit and shrugged.

"Sure, why not. But Remy?"


"I get to choose the bar."



Sidney Lyttle sat in the holding cell, fuming. He'd been shoved unceremoniously through the booking process, and his single phone call had yielded only his lawyer's answering machine. The grim bars around him did little to raise his angry mood. Who ever that mutant bitch was that drew them out into the ambush was going to pay. A uniformed officer opened the cell and collected Lyttle, leading him handcuffed to a small room. It was filled by a long table, a few chairs and a battered ashtray in the centre. One wall was completely taken up by a mirror, and Lyttle snarled at it to the observers he assumed sat on the other side.

"Ooh, he's a tough guy." Cortez smirked at the glare and turned to Caulder. "How do you want to do this?"

"Good/Bad mix. The usual. I'll start him off and you bracket him. I want him pissing himself by the time I get back."

"Any specifics?"

"Nope. Get creative." John grinned wolfishly.

"Fuckin' A."

The two left the observation booth and entered the interrogation room. Cortez dropped into a chair at the end and snarled at Lyttle. John shot him a warning look and took a seat beside the handcuffed man. He dropped a file on the table and leaned back in his chair, staring. Lyttle glared back, and they held the position for a long moment. Finally, John leaned forward and shook his head wearily.

"Micro-explosive tipped 45 caliber rounds in the weapon we grabbed off you, Sidney. That's ordinance that falls pretty far into the military use only. Care to comment?"

"Fuck you."

"Alright. We also have you with discharging a firearm in a public street, putting large holes in a couple of cars. Care to comment on that as well?"

"I'm not saying a goddamn thing without my lawyer here."

"You know, it'd make this a lot easier if you just told us a few things, Sidney."

"Fuck you."

"Fine. Christ!" John threw up his hands in disgust. "So we'll all sit in this goddamn room for the next eight hours. I'm going to get some coffee. Cortez, you want some?"

"Yeah. Hey, do me a favour and see if Cliffy's got the new shift rotations up?"

"That's all the way downstairs."

"Come on, John."

"Yeah, sure. Fine. Look, keep an eye on our mime friend here, eh?"

"Sure thing." Caulder left the room and closed the door. Cortez smiled like a shark and moved over to the chair next to Sidney. "He'll be gone for at least twenty minutes, you know."


"So, that means I've got twenty minutes alone with you."

"So? You some fuckin' faggot?"

"I have a niece. She's eight. She's also missing an eye because a bunch of fuckwit losers like you kicked in the side of her head after finding out she was a mutant."

"They should have kicked harder." Sidney sneered. His hiss was cut short by Cortez's fist exploding on his mouth. The man wheeled back in his chair, dribbling teeth and blood.

"I already filled out the incident report about the attack in the holding cell. I can kick your balls into your neck and no one will say anything about it."


"And then I'm going to send you into a low occupancy holding cell, with ol' Saul in it. Things happen to people in that cell. Big, long, black unlubricated things. See, you little fucking worm, I've got your nuts in a goddamn vise and I'm going to squeeze them until you talk. And I don't really want you to talk so I can make sure you leave us a cripple." Cortez grabbed Lyttle roughly and pulled him into a chair.

"Yuh fucking crazy..." Lyttle said through his ruined mouth. Cortez wrenched his head cruelly back.

"Yup." He pulled a pen from his pocket and held it under Lyttle's right eye. "And you're about to see justice. What's the saying, an eye for an eye? Well, if my niece had to lose one, then so should you."

"Cortez!" Caulder yelled from the doorway, and Cortez let go of Lyttle's head.


"I figured you were pulling some shit when... aw, look at this guy." Caulder grabbed Cortez and pulled him roughly from the room. "You fill that report right fucking now!"

"Yeah, yeah... sorry, John."

"Whatever. Just get the paperwork done." John slammed the door shut and loomed over Lyttle. "And let me guess, you prick. Couldn't keep your mouth shut, huh? Had to goad him on?"

"He's fuckin'–"

"Shut the fuck up. I'm tempted to break my foot off in your ass too, so don't think I'm your friend. So, we're going to do this the easy way. You actually tell me what I want to know, and I don't drop you into general holding naked." Caulder leaned close to Lyttle.

"Fuh you. I want my fuhing lawyer."

"Fine. I'll leave you here with Cortez then. See you in the morning."


"Later, asshole. Cortez will be along momentarily. I hope you're used to the idea of your testicles getting stomped until they pop."



"Wha-what do you want to know?"

"Everything. Shall we start at the beginning?"

"Alright." Sidney's eyes were wide open, terrified at the sudden loss of power and the possibility of being left with the lunatic cop. He was used to using the law, manipulating it for his own ends and safety. Now, he was facing it using him, violently if need be.

"Where did you get the ammunition?"

"Leftovers from Operation: Zero Tolerance. Lots of guys grabbed equipment and weapons just before SHIELD shut us down. Most of it got funneled back to us after."

"You were part of Operation: Zero Tolerance?"


"In what capacity?"

"I was a division security commander."

"So, where did you recruit your bombers?"

"What bombers?"

"Are you saying you have no connection to the FoH bombings in New York?"

"That's right."

"Did you order the bombings?"


"Do you know who ordered the bombings?"


"Are you associated with the bombers?"


"Have you ever made a bomb?"


"Set a bomb?"

"No. I wanna see my lawyer."

"Well, this is pointless. I'll send Cortez in."


"Look, you wanna jerk me around, fine. I know about the bombings. I know you ordered the bombings. You don't want to tell me, then I've got no use for you."

"Wait, we can make a deal!"


"I know things. FoH hierarchy, systems, personnel, and their plans. I can give you the biggest edge of your life." Lyttle said, eyes wide with fear. "You get me out of the charges, and I'll spill as a witness."

"Tough guy. So eager to sell out your buddies?"

"Look, that maniac wants to kill me, and I know cops. They'll hush it right up. Or, if he doesn't kill me, you're going to trump up something to get me into jail, and the FoH will have me dead in under a week. I don't want to die. You need information. Let's make a deal."

"Alright. Here's what I'll do. We'll drop the terrorism charges and send up for the weapons charge. Say, 8 years or so on a conviction, and then switch you to the federal lock-up in Arizona under a different name."

"Arizona? That's one of the--"

"SPB prisons, yes. You'll be protected by a new name, and under guard at one of the most heavily fortified prisons in the world."

"But, eight years?"

"You're getting off fucking light, Lyttle. I know you didn't plant the bomb, but I'm sure the DA could go a long way towards establishing the given order from you. That means life, no chance of parole. We've got seventeen deaths from your bombings. The DA might not go for it and let you die anyway, but if you come through as a witness, it might be worth it."


"Make a fucking decision, Lyttle. Right now."

"Alright, alright. I want it on paper with my lawyer before I spill."

"Agreed, for the most part. However, I want something now."


"Who set the bombs?"

"Teams of freelancers. Floating FoH support teams. Mostly ex-military types."

"Where did you get the explosives?"

"We speced them off-site. Guy named Eckert, a former technician in the Sentinel Prime project. He makes small specialized explosives, really reliable stuff."

"Who else knew the target dates and times?"

"Me. My assistant Chuck Gentry, and the teams themselves."

"No one else?"


"Did you use the same teams?"

"Nope. Always different guys, rotated out for security purposes."

"So, just you and Chuck?"


"Where's Chuck now?"

"Hospital. Our Sisters of Mercy in Brooklyn. He had a heart attack two weeks ago."



"Nothing. Alright, dogshit. You stay here, and I'll send someone for you. The DA and your slimeball lawyer should be here in the morning. Oh, and just in case you feel like trying to eel out, I'm having the duty officer take you by the holding cell with your friends later. He's going to give you a big thank you, and send you of with Paul Datars, the chief of the Mayor's task force on hate crimes. You know what they'll think." John smiled cruelly, and Lyttle's mouth went dry.


"Good night, Sid, you fuck. You better make yourself damn useful, or I'll be the first to take a piece off you."

Caulder slammed the door behind him, and left Sidney Lyttle to contemplate his very tenuous future in silence.

Part 5

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