Text in bold is used for emphasis. Text in italics indicates telepathic communication. Underlined text indicates any form of electronic communication.
Phoenix: Death Wish
I was tired when I got home. After an X-rated course in the Danger Room, it was to be expected. But the fatigue had its usefulness. When the time arrived to shower, I was too tired to have any sort of sexual thoughts at all. So boner prevention was a lot easier than normal. The rescue exercise was a success. Whilst dad's team succeeded in freeing the hostages, under Storm's leadership, we managed to clear out all remaining pockets of enemy resistance. Thankfully, we didn't have to kill anymore simulated mutant terrorists after our first, as we were able to stun or knock them unconscious.
As for my abilities, I had learnt how to focus on three distinct objects instead of just one - and that was a big step, according to Professor Xavier. He was very curious to test the limits as to how much weight I could lift and manipulate, as well as how much force I could telekinetically resist. But since I was very much beat after the Danger Room exercise, he said that it could wait until I was again at my peak. I did have to lie down in some sort of scanner for more than a little while though. Hank and the Professor wanted to scan my brain for possible morphological changes, analyze my neurological system, as well as study my brainwave activity. They had scanned my brain when I was rendered unconscious after Emma's mental probe. And they hoped that with the new scan results, they could make a graphical plot of the changes over time and estimate the rate at which my abilities were growing.
Scott: "So, how did it feel?"
It was exhilarating. To say the least. What can I say? I think I was something of an adrenaline junkie.
"Great. Much more intense than the basic training."
Scott: "Yeah, it is."
He looked at me strangely for a couple of seconds, then shifted his glance.
Scott: "I need to talk to you about something."
I was always paranoid whenever that statement was made. I had a secret to keep, and whenever someone said that they needed to talk to me about anything, the first thought that crossed my mind was that I had said or done something stereotypically gay and they had picked up on it. My eyes were kept strictly to myself in the showers. I quickly recalled my memory of the Danger Room mission. Did I let my eyes linger a little too long on Colossus' muscles? Had someone seen? Had Emma seen?! Had Emma seen, drawn a conclusion and told him?! Even more scenarios started to play out in my mind. I began to wonder if maybe Emma had actually seen some of my personal thoughts when she had her foray into my mind. For sure, dad seemed a bit bothered by something. I realized that I was being suspiciously silent and so I replied as calmly as I possibly could to his statement.
He motioned towards the living room, and we both took a seat.
Scott: "It's about you and how to deal with this new phase of your development."
I breathed a silent sigh of relief.
Scott: "The Professor has never seen something like this before -"
I of course knew about my mother. So I knew the Professor wasn't being totally truthful when he told me that. But I understood that he wasn't going to break the rules about revealing sensitive mission details to a non X-man.
Scott: "He thinks that you should devote most of your time to mastering your abilties. Even if it means sacrificing your academic growth for the time being. How do you feel about that?"
I smiled slightly - but was inwardly laughing my ass off. It wasn't that I hated school life - much. It was just that I greatly preferred to live a life of excitement and action. Which teenaged guy would rather sit quietly for a math lesson, when he could be having the adventure of his life in the Danger Room?
Scott: "Your powers are growing rapidly and it's important that your experience and control grow at a comparable rate."
I agreed with the Professor's statements one hundred percent.
Scott: "Which is why...we think it might be a good idea to have you join Generation X."
My eyebrows shot up; mouth opened and refused to close and I started to breathe erratically. Yeah, the idea turned me on that much. Generation X was the "trainee" version of the X-men. Let me explain how the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters worked. Regular schooling continued up to high school graduation. Whilst a student studied academically and/or technical oriented courses, he or she received training in the use of his or her mutant gifts. When graduation was completed, a student had the option of either going to a college (safe in the knowledge that they could control their mutant abilties) or doing as they saw fit. Many would return home, some would join the job market...you know the deal.
But every now and then, the school finds individuals who have what it takes to possibly land them a place with the X-men. Graduate students who could handle the responsibility. Those ex-students form the group known as Generation X. The student body knew of their existence. But they rarely hung out much with the students aside from fulfilling their duties. Each of the four mentors were aided by two assistants at a time, of differing ages depending on the age of the students the mentor had to train. These assistants were members of Generation X. The Program was relatively new - but held much promise. I knew some of the faces and idolized them.
Scott: "So...I take it you want to join?"
I vigorously nodded my head in approval. Dad explained that there were three squadrons, Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Alpha members were in the 18-19 year age group. Beta members were in the 20-21 year range. And Gamma members were 22 years up. (There was no upper age limit for Gammas. They remained Gammas until they proved themselves worthy of X-men membership.)
Scott: "It was the Professor's idea that you join the Alpha squadron. It should be challenging enough, but manageable so you aren't overwhelmed. And the age difference between you and the other members won't be as great of an obstacle. Added to that, the Alpha team doesn't have a telekinetic, so your role won't be redundant."
"This is so cool!"
Scott: "I'm glad that you're enthused - but remember, you're supposed to be there for serious training."
Dad said that I needed to keep my usual Danger Room behavior under control. It wouldn't do to go into Generation X's Alpha team with too much of a fun loving, adventure seeking attitude. The members of Generation X took their duty very seriously. And getting them to accept me would probably take a little effort on my part. Dad was very frank with me. I didn't want to be the annoying, younger, bratty member - did I?
"I'm not a brat."
Scott: "That's how they might think of you if you don't watch out. I wouldn't put it past some people to assume that you're being fast forwarded into Gen X just because you're my son."
They'd have to be pretty dim to think that. I never got any special priveleges just because my father was a field leader of the X-men. If anything, I was pushed harder and punished more strictly for misdemeanors.
"Well, just let the Professor explain exactly why I'm joining."
Scott: "It may or may not help. Some of them are rather opinionated."
"Okay, I'll try to bear alla that in mind."
Scott: "Good. Here, take a read of this."
He reached into one of his binders and gave me several printed sheets of paper.
Scott: "A list of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma members of Generation X. Their powers and ages are also listed, together with a photograph."
"Great. I'll have a look at these."
Scott: "How about tonight? The Professor wants to introduce you formally to the team tomorrow."
Tomorrow? That was pretty soon. I excitedly nodded, took the printouts and ran upstairs to get aquainted with the information...
I got settled into bed and began leafing through the rather long document dad had given to me...
Team Leader: Risk
~Reymundo Ortiz~ - Risk (Alters probability through the use of Chaos Magick. Can cause the near impossible to become possible and vice versa. Causes unlikely events to occur. Also can bless, or curse others with random effects. Can calculate the odds of an event occuring.)
Theresa Cassidy - Siryn (Flight, Sonic Scream, Echolocation)
Sooraya Qadir - Dust (Metamorphosis of self on a molecular level - transforms to a mist or dustlike state)
Donovon Hunte - Achilles (Invulnerable body, energy resistance, superhuman strength)
Jeremy McGinnis - Flare (Flight. Generation and manipulation of light energy, including laser energy and holographic illusions with a "solid" feel.)
Tabitha Smith - Meltdown (Plasma bomb generation and detonation)
Samuel Guthrie - Canonball (Projects a kinetic field from his lower body. Can absorb physical blows, as well as energy into the field as a defensive measure, bolstering his strength to a degree. Can also fly by explosively expanding the field.)
Tyrel Holder - Trinity (Possesses the triple psionic gifts of telepathy, empathy and psychometry)
Team Leader: Tarot
~Marie Ange Colbert~ - Tarot (Can forsee the future to a limited extent. Can psionically manifest the archetypes and/or attributes of any of the Tarot cards she carries on herself or others. May also manifest them as standalone constructs)
Katherine "Kitty" Pryde - Shadowcat (Can alter her body so that it becomes intangible, allowing her to phase through matter.)
Noriko Ashida - Surge (Electrical absorption and discharge, enhanced speed in the superhuman category.)
Rahne Sinclair - Wolfsbane (A wolf / werewolf shapeshifter. Enhanced strength, reflexes and senses while transformed.)
Jim Delaney - Venom (Immune to all known metabolic poisons. Generates a variety of bio-toxins and anti-toxins that have various effects, either positive or negative. Activates power through skin contact, launching 'needles' out of his fingertips or by secreting pheromones into the air)
Ryan Fuentez - Hotshot (Generation and control of all forms of heat, flight, immunity to fire and heat damage)
Justin Kent - Whiz (Exceptionally advanced intelligence. Can instantly determine the design, function and weaknesses of any piece of technology. Can perform extremely complicated calculations mentally in mere seconds. Ability to build any object he has seen, limited only by the materials he has to work with.)
Ashton Greer - Ares (Inborn fighter's instinct. Possesses innate knowledge of a unique fighting style that allows him to capitalize on the weaknesses of other fighting styles and fighters. Can instantly determine how best any weapon can be used. Heightened senses and reflexes, healing factor in blood)
~Brian Delaney~ - Rune (Mutation attunes him to ancient, mystical energies. Rune can manifest the higher and lower aspects of various fundamental forces. He carries about bracelets on his wrists that are studded with sockets that hold runic characters. He uses these runes as a focus to channel the mystical energies he is linked to. Can also predict the future through the use of his runes.)
Alison Blaire - Dazzler (Possesses the ability to convert sound into laser and light energy.)
Cecilly Kincaid - Mercury (Can transform into either a solid or liquid metal form.)
Julian Keller - Hellion (Telekinetic)
Julio Esteban Richter - Rictor (Generates seismic waves from his hands, can cause localized seismic phenomena.)
David Owens - Morph (Ability to shapeshift into any animate or inanimate object he has seen or can think of.)
Sally Blevins - Skids (Generation and manipulation of force fields.)
Everett Thomas - Synch (Can temporarily copy the powers of other mutants in his vicinity. Copied powers are not of the same strength though, but he can copy more than one power at a time. Does not require physical contact to do so.)
I had met four of the Generation X members before. Sally, Ashton, Everett and Julian had all served as assistants to Logan in the past. And since he was my mentor for basic training, I came into contact with his assistants. Of the four of them, I idolized Julian the most. Julian was a telekinetic - but unlike me, he had what I would call 'real power'. Many would say that he was kind of a harsh, problematic pain in the ass. (He grilled us hard in the Danger Room and critically ostracized the incompetent.) But I didn't care. Logan did the same thing, but no one complained in Logan's case because he was...Logan.
But most of all, I worshipped Julian because when I was being looked down upon (due to my relatively insignificant telekinetic and telepathic powers) by the rest of my group, he'd shut them up and put them in their places. I never was the best in my group, but I could fend for myself. Julian was a telekinetic himself and always told me never to listen to the crap everyone spewed out about my telekinesis. He secretly told me that he himself was a rather slow developer and got his fair share of teasing. But he took heart from my mother, and under her training, came into his own. Pity he wasn't in the Alpha Squadron.
Feeling sleepy, I tossed the papers aside, set my alarm and turned in early. The guys were going to flip when I told them what I was soon to be doing...
Scott Summers, ever the perfectionist, stayed up trying to restore some semblance of order to the kitchen. The Professor seemed pretty confident that there was little chance of a repeat telekinetic performance for the time being. The initial manifestation was unconscious, and whilst he probed John's mind the morning after, Professor Xavier had succeeded in forming a dampening block on his subconscious to reduce the risk of such episodes. Even if Scott was told that it would be wrecked again, he'd still be there clearing up.
He paused a moment in wonder. He never suspected that John would prove capable of anything the like of what he had seen. But then, he was his mother's son. He never would have guessed that Jean had all that potential in her. If only it had manifested in its entirety earlier, she might have survived. Perhaps it was just as well that John was experiencing a power level increase as early as he was. With the proper training, he'd be much safer. Of course, Scott always knew that his son had a thirst for adventure and excitement...perhaps a little too much. And whilst the X-men enjoyed some of that, their real purpose was the promotion of peaceful human-mutant co-existence. John always expressed a desire to join Generation X since its formation several years ago. And Scott never could articulate his secret fears about that, because then John might get the idea that he felt he wasn't capable enough.
Whilst Generation X members weren't sent up and against the toughest adversaries, they did have field missions as part of their training. Scott always worried that if John joined Gen X, he could end up getting seriously hurt or worse due to his...unique brand of telekinesis and telepathy. Sure, John could probably spar with him and hold his own for a bout or two. However, on the field, the enemies packed a much harder punch. But at least now, with this power boost, Scott could rest somewhat easier.
The doorbell. Scott dropped the scoop, headed to the front door and opened it.
Scott: "Hey, Queeny."
With a playful smile, Emma strolled into the Summers' house, arms occupied with a rather sizeable looking container. Taking the heavy item from Emma, Scott scrutinized it curiously.
Emma: "Lasagne. I figured that you and John could use something decent to eat."
Emma was sort of right. After the training exercise was completed, Scott and John had several more hours to spend in the subbasement due to Hank's scanning. John got a little bite to eat at the school's cafeteria. But Scott had went without as he didn't have the time. If he had taken the time to eat, he'd have arrived late for a class. Smiling at Emma's thoughtfulness, Scott thanked her. He missed having someone taking care of him in that way. On more than one occasion, Emma had remarked that his household could use a woman's touch. Scott and John had done their best at keeping house, but there still seemed to be something missing. Turned out that Emma had a cogent point.
Scott: "Thanks, Emma. You know the way to my heart."
They laughed, Scott closed the door and led Emma to the kitchen.
Emma: "Still a mess, huh? I figured as much."
Scott: "I'll have to replace the glassware, most of the tableware..."
Emma: "Where is John?"
Scott: "Oh, he's in his room reading up those Gen X member profiles I printed out."
Emma's somewhat odd expression and silence tipped Scott off that something about that statement was bothering her.
Scott: "What's wrong?"
Emma: "Scott, do you really want to have him join Generation X?"
Truthfully, Scott would have preferred that John signed up when he graduated. According to the rules. But circumstances had changed and thus required original plans to be reconsidered. Besides, Professor Xavier was adamant that John be adequately trained. And what better place to receive that training than Generation X?
Scott: "It's for the best, Emma."
Emma: "And he'll be expected to undertake field operations during his tenure with Gen X?"
Naturally. All that was absolutely required to join Generation X was certified, exceptional proficiency in the basic training courses that all students took. The only reason students younger than eighteen were never admitted to the program was due to their being minors. Whilst Scott was very traditional...he had to admit that if someone had the talent...then it was possible for them to be just as good as their older counterparts. John wasn't exactly the smartest kid around. And he could be a lot better academically if he tried harder. But he was good at the Danger Room exercises because he placed more emphasis on his X-training.
Scott: "Yes, and I think he'll be able to handle it. Besides, he's really worked up about joining Gen X."
Emma: "So he wants to? It's totally his decision?"
Her tone had altered and Scott realized it as the one she used when she was administering therapy.
Scott: "Of course. I wouldn't make him join Gen X if he didn't want to. Okay, what's going on?"
Emma: "It's just that I find it odd that he's so enthusiastic about joining the junior X program."
Scott: "Why? He's always been hooked on Danger Room simulations and training exercises."
Emma: "It's just that...some things came up in our therapy session. And looking back on it, I find it weird that John would be so hyped about Gen X."
Scott had resisted asking how the therapy session ended up the way it did. There was such a thing as confidentiality. But after hearing Emma's statement, the curiousity became too great to endure any longer.
Scott: "Emma, what happened in that session?"
Emma averted her gaze slightly and mumbled something about breaking her trust as an advisor.
Scott: "He doesn't have to know that you told me anything."
With a playful, childlike pout from Scott, Emma's resolve weakened but did not break...immediately.
Emma: "Gen X members usually have to undertake a psychiatric evaluation before acceptance into the program. It ensures that their mind is prepared, that they have no adverse mental issues that could affect their duties and such."
Scott: "I know all of that."
Emma: "John has issues, Scott. He tries to cover them up and hide them - maybe even from himself."
Scott: "Issues? What exactly do you mean?"
Emma tried to word it carefully.
Emma: "I'm not saying that he thinks you're a bad father but - "
Emma: " - he seems to think that you value your position as an X-man over and above your family. At least, that's what I gathered from things he said. So it's a bit strange to me that he'd want to devote himself to X-duties if he feels that you place it above your family life. The typical response would be to resent X-training."
Scott: "I know that I haven't exactly been a model father. But I've been trying. He just doesn't seem to want to give me the chance."
Emma: "There's so much more to it than that. I tried to...scan the surface emotions of his mind, to get a better read on him. I accidentally ended up much deeper in his psyche than I had intended, and he did his utmost to try and force me out. But I did learn a few scattered bits of information."
Scott: "Would you like to share them?"
Emma: "One of his thoughts...he was totally afraid that you'd reject him. Reject him for what - I don't know. But it was the prime motivating force for his mental struggle against me. There was something he didn't want me to see, and he was prepared to go all out to stop me."
Scott: "I could never reject my own kid."
Emma: "We both know that. But he doesn't seem to believe it. I didn't sense the mental imprint of any family or friends. He's going through something, Scott. And I believe that he feels he is truly alone in dealing with it. Like I said, he has issues."
Scott: "Maybe it's something to do with his mother? I mean, he did have a fight with that boy he found messing around on her memorial site."
Emma: "I don't think so, Scott. We talked about Jean before I attempted to scan him more closely. I felt nothing compared to the acute sense of shame, guilt and fear I detected in him when I probed."
Scott: "Shame, guilt and fear? What do I do?"
Emma: "Since we don't know what we're dealing with, try not to be too judgemental with him. And, subtly, let him know that he can come talk to you about anything that might be troubling him."
Scott: "I'll try. And thanks again, Emma. I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for you."
Emma smiled warmly and told Scott that he shouldn't say such things. She was, after all, only doing her moral duty...
All four of my friends looked at me with unbelieving, amused expressions. The day before, I'd told them that I was undergoing some form of mutant development and that I had an X-level course to take in the Danger Room. Judging by their expressions, I realized that they didn't truly believe me and still had their reservations. Finally free to use my powers after my exercise the day before, I decided to prove it to them. We were walking towards the front entrance of the Mansion. I slowed my walking speed until they outpaced me and had to look back to see where I went to. When they saw that I was levitating twelve feet above the ground, they all gawked. That was a very simple feat for most of the school's telekinetics. But for me to be doing it - formerly the weakest telekinetic they knew - they looked at me like I was somehow pulling a trick on them with hidden wires or something.
Jubilee: "Oh my God!"
"That isn't all, Jubes."
I could focus on three objects simultaneously by then. But earlier that morning, I decided to carefully try lifting something heavy. Something of a weigth that I previously couldn't levitate at all. One of the stone benches on the Mansion's greens. To my surprise, I was able to not only lift it, but lift it easily. With some focussing, I discovered that I could lift myself, and two of the benches before I reached my weight limit.
Bobby: "Whaddya mean?"
To answer his question, I concentrated and got hold of the two potted plants along the walkway. They promptly rose into the ether, hovering alongside me.
"I can affect three distinct objects now. And my weight limit has increased."
Amara: "Okay, now I'm a believer."
"Glad to hear that my words are being given some credence...cuz I have something to tell you guys."
I carefully lowered myself and the plants back onto the ground.
Ray: "So just spit it out."
"Professor Xavier thinks that it might be a good idea for me to join Generation X's Alpha Squadron."
They were all silent. I continued.
"And the best part of it all is - in order to devote my time to training, I'm being allowed to put my school classes on hold."
I would have thought that they'd be showing a little bit more excitement...
"So...what do you guys think?"
Jubilee: "You don't think that maybe you're a little young?"
"I know I'm two years younger than the norm. But I think I can handle it."
It wasn't like I'd have much to catch up on with Alpha training. Trainees progressed from Alpha to Beta to Gamma. The Generation X program was relatively new. The Alpha Squadron I'd be joining was the second generation Alpha Squadron. And they had only begun training about three weeks before. I would be able to catch up with a little work.
Bobby: "I know you really planned on signing up later on, but is it actually necessary to do it right now?"
"Dad said that Professor Xavier wanted me to give it serious thought."
Amara: "I don't understand why. I mean, your telekinesis seems pretty much average now. Surely you don't need a training regimen like that."
"Apparently, my powers are growing at a reasonably fast rate. Professor Xavier said that it takes several hours for a telekinetic to learn to increase the number of objects he or she can focus on simultaneously. I increased by two objects in under an hour."
Jubilee: "And you're dropping off school?"
For the time being. But they all knew that I wasn't exactly the academic type. And about college...well, I wasn't exactly the smartest around. I had enough on my plate passing my courses. I didn't see myself doing any white collar job or anything. I never really excelled in anything other than the Danger Room exercises. Why waste my effort with something I'm not good at, when I was being given the opportunity to follow up in an area where my true talent lay?
Amara: "So, you're really gonna do it? And leave us behind in your dust?"
"Aww, guys. I'm not leaving you behind. We can still hang out - when I have free time. Not sure what the schedule is like yet."
Ray: "True. But if you ever become a mentor's assistant - don't even THINK you can boss ME around? Got it?"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
Ray's fury was well known - and best avoided. Secretly, the idea did turn my wheels though. In order to work as a mentor's assistant, you had to have at least one year of Alpha training. If I lasted that long, and performed satisfactorily, I could volunteer. I'd be seventeen. And I just might have to supervise Danger Room courses for my former peers. I made a mental note that if I did succeed - I'd grill my troublesome peers extra hard. A little vengeance was never a bad thing.
Jubilee: "So when do you start?"
"Technically, it hasn't been decided yet. But I'm meeting with the Generation X members a little later. And if things go well, by tomorrow."
Bobby: "So, you're still technically a student?"
Ray: "Then get a move on! We're all running late for English as it is!"
I smiled. Soon, I wouldn't have to take English with Emma anymore. Good riddance...
Nervous. That was the way I was feeling when subjected to the scrutiny of all the member of Generation X's three squadrons. Some of their members seemed to be willing to give Professor Xavier's idea a shot. But the looks I caught a few of them throwing me just said - is he for real? Most of the Generation X members seemed to be passive and indifferent though. But thanfully, my hero, Julian was openly supportive of the idea in the discussions. He did seem shocked as hell when he saw just who the sixteen year old student being recommended was. And who could blame him?
Hotshot: "But seriously, you don't think that he'll slow down the Alpha Squadron?"
Not according to Professor Xavier. The Alpha team had only been receiving training for a little over two and a half weeks before. The three leaders of the squadrons were busily conferring with one another. Their codenames were Risk (Alpha), Tarot (Beta) and Rune (Gamma). I knew that they all could read the future to some extent. Risk could calculate the odds of something happening, Tarot could forsee the future mentally and with even greater accuracy if she read her cards right, and Rune could channel his mystical powers, allowing him to read events unforseen through the use of his runestones. They all seemed to be actively using their powers, talking to each other in hushed whispers and merely listened as the debate that went back and forth.
Siryn: "He is a bit young."
That was an argument that was fairly common. Why do we live in a world where the young were automatically looked down upon as inexperienced, incapable and lacking adequate potential due to age?
Julian/Hellion: "But if what the Professor says is true - that his powers are growing at such a rate - this may be the best course of action."
He smiled supportively and I returned the gesture. They had all been discussing it for well over an hour. I had to remain quiet all along, as did my father. In order to prevent anyone thinking that I was being allowed membership due to nepotism, Professor Xavier was allowing the Generation X members to make the decision. He was all for speaking with them and instating me automatically. They'd come around with time, he'd said. But I was firm. I wasn't going to have anyone believe that I was moving into Gen X because of family connections. Hence, a democracy was established. The Professor didn't think it would be hard to convince them - they were reasonably logical people. But I could tell that his patience was being tried. The sound of an unfamiliar voice snapped me out of my mental musings.
Rune: "It is the decision of myself, Tarot and Risk that we speak with John Summers privately."
Professor Xavier: "Oh?"
The Professor's expression led me to believe that he hadn't seen that coming at all.
Tarot: "We'd like to hear what he thinks about all of this."
Risk: "Not just what you and Cyclops think. And then we'll come to a decision."
Dad and the Professor looked at me - I guess it was up to me to decide. What else could be done? I had to do it.
"Okay. That's reasonable."
The other Generation X members rose and left the room. Dad and the Professor gave me encouraging looks, and did the same. The round table of the War Room was by then vacant except for myself, Risk, Tarot and Rune. A couple minutes passed by, and they hadn't said a word to me. Perhaps they expected me to take the initiative?
"...So is there anything in particular that you'd like to know?"
Risk: "We're a little bit torn with this decision. So we're going to cast your future."
"You're going to see if I'm meant to be a Gen X member?"
They looked at each other and smiled, before explaining to me that it didn't work that way. What they intended on doing, was reading what my future might turn out like if I wasn't made a member. The primary claim of the Professor was that it was being done for my own good. That I would need to receive specialized training so that my control kept up with the growth of my powers. The future reading would hopefully determine if I would be any worse off if I was denied entrance.
"What do I do? How does it work?"
Risk: "I will use my ability to manipulate Chaos Magick so that probability is altered. It will ensure that you draw the right Tarot cards and Rune draws the correct runestones to an acceptable degree of error."
So saying, he closed his eyes and his face bore a look of deep concentration. An orb of shimmering, violet energy had by then materialized in front of him. Strange characters could be seen dancing around within the sphere. He could calculate the odds of an event occuring. That was what his bio said. The characters in the glowing sphere looked almost like a mathematical equation of some sort. The raven haired girl, Tarot, then motioned me forward. I complied.
"So...all you'll be seeing is stuff relating to my powers in the future...or will you see other stuff about me?"
Tarot: "Only the future as it relates to your growing powers. We won't be seeing visions. We'll have to interpret the cards and runes."
I was then given the deck of Tarot cards, that were her namesake, to shuffle. She took them back and requested that I draw cards from the deck. She took the cards I drew and arranged them in a cross-like pattern on the table. Her expression, friendly just minutes before, became grave. I could sense a few short mental bursts of worry emanating from her. It alarmed me.
"What? Is it bad?"
Tarot: "Let's wait to see if the rune reading mirrors this. If the reading produces results that are similar, we'll accept them. If not, we try until we get two sets of readings that match up."
I wasn't allowed to look at the cards as I drew them. And when I tried to glance at them on the table, they all looked black to me. Apparently, only Tarot and others she allowed could read them.
Tarot: "What are the odds that it was an accurate reading, Risk?"
Risk: "Ninety eight percent probability that reading was accurate. Two percent margin of error."
Rune: "Okay, now it's my turn."
Rune, the leader of the Gamma squadron raised his hands, revealing his jewelled bracelets that bore the sacred runestones he carried as a magickal focus for his powers. He wore two bracelets on each wrist. Each bracelet held eight runes. Therefore, the grand total was thirty two runestones. Seemingly of their own accord, the runestones detached themselves from the bracelets. To my slight discomfort, they all levitated over to my position, caging me in a revolving circle of hovering, symbolically marked stones.
Rune: "Don't be alarmed. Just close your eyes if you're getting dizzy."
I complied, but was aware of the circle coming closer.
Rune: "You can open them now."
I saw that only eleven runes remained encircling me. They promptly returned to their master. But not back into his bracelets like the others. Instead they settled on the table in front of him. The pattern they formed was as follows.
# # # #
# # #
# # # #
When I glanced at Rune's face, I saw the he was wearing the same grim expression that Tarot still had on her face.
Risk: "Ninety seven percent probability that reading was accurate. Three percent margin of error."
Risk opened his eyes at last and glanced at the cards and runes before him. Finally, he too looked a little more than disturbed. I couldn't take it anymore. I felt like a character in one of the cheesy soap operas I watched. He was dieing of a mysterious disease and his doctor couldn't bring herself to tell him.
All three looked at each other, nodded, then looked at me.
Risk: "As team leader of the Alpha Squadron - I'd like to formally welcome you to our division."
I drew in a breath.
"You mean...I'm accepted?"
Tarot: "Yes. Most definitely."
Rune: "Professor Xavier is right. It's - it's for the best."
They all went on explaining the purpose of Generation X. What the training and schedule was like, what hours I would be expected to show up for etc etc etc. But I wasn't bothered with all that right then and there. Not after I saw their expressions after each of the readings.
"Okay, not to be rude. But you just cast my future. I have a right to know. What did you see that made you decide so fast?"
Risk: "Sometimes, not knowing is - "
Tarot: "The future isn't set in stone, and can be altered. That's the whole point in divination."
Rune then made a statement that seemed to contradict what Tarot had said. It was as if they were trying to throw me off the trail and didn't care what they said to do it.
Rune: "After all, if there was nothing that we could do - why bother finding out about it to worry our heads?"
"But what did you see? Please?"
They all sighed. At a glance from Tarot, her cards lost their black coloration and pictures could be seen on them. One card drew my gaze especicially - the card in the dead center of the cross. The card was marked with the Roman notation for thirteen (XIII). It's image was that of a knight wearing black armor, riding upon a white horse. There were people lying around on the ground before the knight. Underneath the picture was the single word that made me tremble - Death.
"Death?! What the hell does it mean? Do I die? Or maybe someone I care about?"
I glanced around again. There was another card. It was called The Tower, and was numbered sixteen (XVI). It portrayed a tower that was being destroyed, struck by lightning, flames everywhere and people falling to their doom. I looked once again. Card number fifteen (XV), portrayed a massive demonic creature that held two people shackled and bound. It was aptly named, The Devil. I didn't know squat about Tarot. But I knew that they couldn't possibly be good signs.
Tarot: "It isn't as bad as all that."
She pointed to another card. It depicted a man with the symbol for infinity over his head, controlling a great beast. The card was named Strength.
Tarot: "I believe that card refers to your powers. They're definitely growing and will develop far beyond their current level in the course of time. There's also the Fool card. Which means if you aren't careful with your powers and don't learn to control them - they could possibly end up destroying things and people in your life."
Forget the things. What people, I asked. She didn't respond to that question.
Tarot: "The Devil represents the darker side of your mind, and the potential to be ruled by it. But if you look at the card, you'll see that the collars around the necks of his victims are wider than their heads. Those enslaved by darkness can, if they choose, take steps to remove themselves from bondage."
Tarot: "Darkness has many meanings. All to do with the unseen. Things we hide from others and even from ourselves. Things that haunt us, make us afraid, things we can't or won't deal with that end up coloring our actions negatively."
"But this card, Death?"
Tarot: "The Death card need not be physical death. It could be the end of a phase. Look, this represents what your future COULD be like IF you don't join Gen X and receive training to help you control your abilities. As far as we're concerned you're now Alpha material and under training. The future that these readings predict is now about to be altered one day at a time."
I glanced around at the remaining cards.
"What about these? The Hierophant and The High Priestess?"
Tarot: "They often represent the parents or a father and mother figure respectively."
"They lie on the left and right of the Death card. Wait...mom's gone...will dad die too? Will I do something that causes his -?"
I started to mentally churn out possibilities. When I had my telekinetic episode whilst sleeping, I had wrecked the kitchen. What if I ended up doing something like that again in my sleep later on...but worse? What if a larger area of the house were affected - like dad's bedroom? It was possible without control, right? I did launch a lamp against Emma's head that morning without intending to...
"You, what do your runes say?"
Rune: "The central rune is, Cweorth, the consuming Flame of the altar that recreates. The concept is that of Rebirth. Offerings laid on the Altar are changed from physical to spiritual. Its true meaning is the rapid transformation from a lower state to a higher state. It must be referring to your powers..."
Rune: "There are also some negatives. Hagalaz, the rune of destruction and chaos. A reversed Eolhx - which means the same as The Fool card. Danger through ignorance and lack of skill. And I also have possible references to your parents. Inguz is the father and Beorc is the mother. These readings were supposed to be about your power's development. But since your...mother comes up and she's gone to the beyond - I think maybe it's a reference to the fact that your abilities are the same as her's."
"And my father?"
Rune: "There's Perthro. It deals with hidden aspects of a reading. Like the Devil Card. And Inguz - the father - is next to it. Something hidden about your father perhaps? Maybe you have some quality of your father's that is now hidden and hasn't come forth yet? Or maybe there's something that you're hiding from your father? I can't be sure."
I nervously tensed at those words. Rune was certain that something was hidden in the relationship with my father. He looked at me oddly and it was all I could do to maintain eye contact. Damn, he was good.
"Probably the first suggestion. I don't keep anything of consquence secret from dad."
Rune: "There's the Yr rune. It's a combination of Uruz, raw power and Is, focus. I believe that the runes are saying that if you lack focus and lack knowledge about yourself and your abilities, you'll end up suffering for it. And curiously enough, whatever is hidden, symbolized by the Devil card and Perthro rune, must find its way out into the open."
I inwardly shuddered. I wasn't planning on anything hidden about me coming out into the open anytime soon.
Rune: "But don't despair. The Dagaz rune - dawning of a new day - means that all is not hopeless or anything crappy like that."
Risk: "There is always hope. We live in a universe where nothing is impossible. An event may be depressingly improbable - but never impossible. Take it from a guy who beats the odds on a daily basis."
"You think so?"
Tarot: "I've read far worse futures for other people. Just have a pure intent and trust the universe."
Rune: "Like I said - if it couldn't be altered, why would the universe want to torment us with the knowledge of it? Why would we even want to know? Isn't ignorance bliss?"
"You know what? You're all right. It's my life and my future is in my hands. I'll just have to make the best choices I can and hope for the best."
Risk: "Exactly. Welcome to Team Alpha."
Tarot: "Before we forget - you'll need to think of an appropriate codename."
Ah, I knew that there was something I forgot in the midst of panicking.
"I will. And thanks again."
"If Only He Were More Like Scott"
Hank: "Exponential growth. That's the best that I can make of it, Charles."
Professor Xavier and Hank sat motionless, eyes glued to the projection screen before them. A graphical plot glowed brightly on the display. Specifically, an exponential curve that gave no sign of reaching an upper limit. A plot of John Summers' psionic energy generation, carried forward through time, with the normal mutant limiting factors taken into account.
Professor Xavier: "Impossible. There must be an upper limit to his potential."
Hank: "Maybe. Perhaps the upper limit is just exceedingly high and we haven't yet determined it. Or perhaps what we're seeing is an indication of limitless potential."
Xavier didn't know what to make of that last statement.
Professor Xavier: "Until we can come up with a completely satisfying explanation, we'll go with your first suggestion, Hank."
Hank: "Yes, well I suppose if there are multiple explanations for an event we should choose the simplest."
As Xavier scrutinzed the graphical representation before him, grave thoughts began to invade his thinking processes. So much human development takes place during one's teenaged years. Not just physical - but mental, emotional, social and ethical growth as well. John's ethical development left some to be desired. Forever getting into trouble at the institute... What a dangerous situation it could turn out to be if his ethics didn't improve. He had recently been involved in a rather violent fight with another boy. John had shown that he was capable of misusing his physical strength and basic training. Would he ever find it in himself to misuse his powers if he felt he was in the right? Charles knew all too well how power could corrupt. He had seen it happen to his once closest friend, Erik Lensherr. A man who abused his mutant gifts in the worst ways imaginable - and felt that he was morally in the right in doing so.
Hank: "I know what you're thinking, Charles."
Professor Xavier: "Oh? Reading my mind are you?"
Hank chuckled and replied that he didn't need to. After all, great minds think alike. He knew Charles well enough to make an educated guess.
Hank: "You're worried that it's too much power for one individual to wield?"
Professor Xavier: "There's so much about him that we need to change, Hank. He's too carefree. Sometimes he makes totally uncalled for decisions. When I first spoke to him about what was happening, I sensed a sort of...arrogant excitement in him. He's young, and life is still a game to him. And I've never had to deal with a situation like this before - I don't know what to expect."
As a matter of fact, Charles had sensed John using his powers earlier that day at the school's entrance, on the walkway. When he looked out and investigated, he witnessed John, for want of a better phrase, "showing off" for his friends...by levitating two potted plants and himself into the air.
Hank: "He's only now in the process of growing
up, Charles. He has the human right to enjoy his remaining childhood years. He's only just turned sixteen and is in a transitional phase from childhood to adulthood."
Ordinarily, Charles would agree with that statement. But this situation was far from ordinary. Yes, it was unfair to expect John to change his ways abruptly. To become more mature on the fly. But that fact of the matter was - life is unfair and sometimes you just have to play the cards you're dealt.
Professor Xavier: "He needs to become more disciplined, more responsible. If only he were more like Scott..."
Hank: "He'll be fine. He comes from good blood. And we have time."
Professor Xavier: "Yes, I suppose so. I hope that Generation X can teach him a thing or two about discipline and responsibility."
"The Perfect Codename"
Bobby: "You mean to tell me that you've been accepted into Gen X...and you can't even come up with a decent codename?"
I know. How lame was that? I had opted for the easy way out. You know, try to come up with one that reflected my powers. Suffice it to say, it was harder than I thought it would be. I couldn't think of any telekinesis or telepathy related ones. Telekinesis and telepathy were both psychic in nature. Maybe Psyche...or Psycho...? My friends would not have it.
Ray: "You wanna look like you at least tried, Jo."
"You're all acting like it's so easy to come up with a cool codename. I bet if you were in my shoes, you wouldn't be talking so big."
Bobby, Ray and Amara all scoffed and said that they'd have made one up on the spot.
Jubilee: "John has a point. I mean, take me for instance. What would I call myself? Sparkles?"
We all sniggered at that. Taking the fact that Jubilee's powers were light based and colorful...it was a bit funny as it matched her abilities.
Bobby: "I'd pick -"
He shook his head. Before he could finish his sentence, I added cruelly,
"What kind of a codename is that? It doesn't have anything to do with your powers."
Ray: "So what? It describes what happens when I get mad...and it might instil some fear on the field of battle...and I like it."
Amara: "Magma! That's all I gotta say. Beat that!"
Talk about an unfair fight. They all had decent powers ever since they hit puberty. They were always more confident and proud of their abilities than I was. There wasn't a time when they weren't comfortable with their power level. They knew their capabilities and were secure with them - so Amara and Bobby could base codenames on them with ease. I was only now learning what I could do. So it was a bit harder for me. Fortunately, Jubilee was being more constructive in her criticisms.
Jubilee: "Look, if you can't come up with a codename based on your powers...then come up with one that reflects how you got the boost and your current status."
"I got mentally assaulted by a brain-bitch, went into some weird state of unconsciousness, and then when I woke up I was somehow different."
That was the rough gist of it.
Jubilee: "Can't you see a general theme manifesting from your experiences?"
I replied that I didn't see what she was getting at.
Jubilee: "Hmm, it's a pity that you don't take English Literature. You'd have an appreciation for themes."
Jubilee was a big fan of Literature. Both English and otherwise. She was always reading some book or the other. She wasn't a fan of the English Literature teacher though - Emma. Why would I want to subject myself to more agonizing contact with Emma Frost? So of course I didn't take English Literature. The fact that English Language with Emma was compulsory, was bad enough.
Jubilee: "The theme is like...rebirth. You went under really deep. But you rose again - reborn into a new form of power!"
If she ever decided to go to college, Jubilee would be so into Artistic and Drama courses. I could tell that the dramatic fleer ran strong in her.
Bobby: "Uh huh?"
Jubilee: "And for all the Professor knows, you're the first person this sort of thing has happened to, right? Certainly the first person he's come across."
That was what he had said...
Ray: "Where are you going with this, Jubes?"
Jubilee: "And for all they know - you're the only one this IS happening to? One of a kind so far...right?"
Jubilee: "Then I have just the codename for you, Johnny!"
Whilst Jubilee rummaged through her bag for some book or the other - she said to help explain - we waited dubiously. Finally, she pulled out one of her Literature texts. I hoped to God that she hadn't been wasting my time, or leading me on with false hope in the name of a joke. Taking the rather thick and heavy book, I read its title.
"Ancient Myths and Legends: A Student's Anthology"
Amara: "Girl, how nobody calls you a nerd - I'll never know!"
Jubilee: "I was in the library and chanced to see it. I thought it was worth the read - and turns out I was right."
Whilst we all grinned, Jubilee huffed and took the book from me, leafing through its pages. Finally she was satisfied and handed it back for me to have a look at. The first thing that caught my attention was a colorful picture. That of a majestic; red, orange and gold, eagle-like bird; its wings unfurled, wreathed in flame. Above the bird, there was some sort of symbolic representation of the sun.
"The Phoenix? Do I look like I have anything in common with a roasting chicken to you? Poor critter must be suffering like hell."
With a pitying glance at my backwardness, Jubile motioned impatiently.
Jubilee: "Read the introduction. You can skip the myths - I wouldn't want to overwhelm anyone's limited intelligence."
I read aloud for the benefit of Amara, Ray and Bobby - their curiousity was by then aroused.
"The Phoenix - an ancient bird of Arabian and Egyptian legend, similar to the Thunderbird of the Native American Indians, and the Garuda of India. Symbol of rebirth... When approaching death, it burns itself in flame, recreates itself anew and rises from the ashes, enfeebled no longer. The only one of its kind, the Phoenix represents the sun...the only heavenly object of its kind visible to the ancients."
The symbolism of fire, rising from the ashes and rebirth snapped me right back to my meeting with the three Generation X leaders. The Gamma leader, Rune, had cast a rune reading of my future. And he said that the central concept in the reading dealt with Rebirth. I couldn't remember the strange name he called the particular runestone. But he said it was the 'consuming Flame of the altar that recreates'. That the rune was talking about rebirth...transformation from a lower state to a higher state. Just like the Phoenix did by burning itself in flame. And what was more, like the Phoenix of legend, I was technically (for all we knew) the only one of my kind so far. Could it be fate? Or if fate didn't exist - just a very meaningful coincidence?
Bobby: "You're spacin' out, dude."
Jubilee: "Yeah, I know. Ancient myths are deep and profound. His brain must be coming to terms with it."
"Jubilee, you've done it. It's the perfect codename. Pity you guys could come up with something constructive instead of challenging me to come up with one better, eh, Amara?"
Jubilee smiled in superiority whilst Amara asked me to clarify. I explained the facts about the rune reading with the Gamma Squadron leader.
Amara: "Freaky if you ask me."
"Well, at least now I have a codename that shows some creativity and originality. Why couldn't I think of something like that?"
Jubilee: "Because you're not well read, and have never been exposed to anything in the creativity department beyond comic books and cartoons."
Smirking, I thanked her once more. Maybe reading the kind of books she read wasn't a total waste of time after all...
"It's A Family Affair!"
I didn't really understand what my uncle thought we should be celebrating. It wasn't as if I'd been accepted into the Generation X program because of talent. It was because of necessity. But nevertheless, when dad and I got home that evening, Alex and Lorna were already there. Alex's car was parked outside and they both insisted that we were going out to celebrate. I know I wasn't worthy of a spot on the Alpha Squadron like the other members were - but something in me liked the doting attention. It felt nice to be proud of something. Even though it was due to genetics and not through any personal achievement or hard work on my part. Naturally, with it being a Thursday evening, dad's first excuse was that we would have our duties to cater to the next day.
Lorna: "Oh come on, Scott. We'll all be back home early."
"Look, since this is about ME - I think I should have some say. I do not feel in the mood to dress up fancy and sit in some restaurant with -"
Alex: "Actually, I was planning on distracting Lorna with a shiny object, so the rest of us could sneak off to The Stripping Post."
Lorna: "If the shiny object were a decent piece of jewellery - I wouldn't try to stop you at all."
All three adults laughed. I always felt so awkward whenever Alex made jokes that were in anyway even remotely sexual. And he tended to make those type of jokes a lot. Thankfully, no one paid any attention to me as Alex had made another and Lorna's slap across his face was entertainment enough to serve as a distraction. Under Alex and Lorna's begging barrage, dad finally crumbled.
Scott: "Oh alright. But just for two hours max."
"But where will we go?"
Lorna: "I know a nice little diner where we can have dinner."
Alex: "It's got a mini-themepark right next door."
How dull and drab was that? I was used to the thrills of the Danger Room. What would some rides do for me? Still, I didn't want to hurt their feelings, so I said that it was cool with me. Alex and Lorna were already prepared to leave. And all dad and I needed was a shower and a change of clothing, which didn't take long. However, just as we were all about to head on over to Alex's car, who else did we see walking up to us - dressed to impress as usual? None other than Emma Frost herself. Naturally, she didn't take the visual hint that we were going out as a family and that she should come back later. She waltzed right up to us.
Emma: "Hey. Where are you all heading off to this evening?"
Lorna wasn't pleased at seeing Emma and made little attempt to hide it.
Lorna: "We're all going out for a casual...family dinner, Emma."
Emma ignored the hint once again.
Emma: "Really. I think that's a great idea. So many people undervalue the family unit these days."
I didn't miss the semi-hidden glance she threw me. When last dad wanted to carry me out somewhere, I'd denied because Emma was going along too. It was in vain to hope that dad wouldn't invite Emma along. Hardly five seconds passed after she made her statement before dad eagerly said,
Scott: "Why don't you join us, Emma?"
And Alex just had to make it worse.
Alex: "Yeah, kinda like a double date."
Double date?! Alex was a lot more trusting of Emma than Lorna was...but still, could he not see how much I hated having her around? Double date? It wasn't supposed to be about THEM. It was supposed to be about ME. Just like Emma to take all the attention away from others.
Emma: "But it will be something of a squeeze."
Yes. Alex and Lorna would have to sit up front, and Emma, dad and I would have to take the back. Maybe it would discourage her? I knew she liked to travel in comfort...
Scott: "No problem. We can take my car. That way we have two vehicles on the odd chance one is hit by a break down. What d'you say, Emma?"
Always the planner, eh dad?
Emma: "Well, I'm being treated to dinner by a handsome and dashing man - how can I refuse?"
Scott: "I'd be hurt if you did."
They both chuckled and stared at each other a bit too long for my comfort. Lorna rolled her eyes. As did I.
Alex: "Eh hem!"
Scott: "Oh...uh...Lemme go get my keys. John, you're riding with us or -"
"I'll go with Ale... I mean, uncle Alex and aunt Lorna."
Emma: "Are you sure, dear?"
Yes I was sure. Whether I was there or not would make no difference to the affectionate displays they'd share. I'd probably not be able to escape it at dinner as it was. Best to spare my eyes as far as possible. No doubt Emma was glad to be alone with him.
"Yes, Miss Frost. I wouldn't want to intrude."
Emma: "Oh, John. How many times have I told you that you can call me 'Emma' outside of school? Besides, you won't be intruding."
I merely restated that I'd be riding with Alex and Lorna, and that was that. Everyone could tell that something in the conversation had shifted, that my reaction to Emma going along wasn't a positive one. But since she had already been invited and had accepted...there was nothing to be done but take her along. Oh joy. What a way to celebrate.
"Just Look At Her"
I couldn't help but smile upon looking in Emma's direction. And no, it wasn't because my opinion of her had altered. She was still a conniving slut in my book. But I'm sure that my father and uncle must have taken my smiles as a good sign that I was going to give her a chance, and behave myself for the evening. Inwardly, I was cackling at her prissy ways. And I could see the grins on the other people's faces in the place too. We had decided to go to a pizzeria. Upon passing by and catching a whiff of the scent, I'd started to lust for the crust. Since it was my night out, I had the authority to make that decision. We all decided that pizza was fine. But when time came to eat, that's where things got interesting. Apparently, the concept of "finger food" was non-existant to Emma. Who the hell ever ate pizza with a knife and fork?! Hence my glee - Emma didn't seem to notice the way other people in the pizzeria were eyeing her.
Lorna: "Oh, look at this! They have pizza facts written on the back of their menu."
Lorna looked at me with a devilish glimmer in her eye, then cleared her throat, and casually read out loud.
Lorna: "Pizza originated as a dish for poor people in Naples, Italy. Apparently, they used to make it from bread. And the toppings were nothing more than odds and ends they scraped up."
Like any old bit of vegetable scraps and stuff. All smothered and hidden over with a healthy/unhealthy coating of melted cheese...and herbs to disguise any possibly offending taste.
Scott: "You don't say?"
Emma's eyes instantly widened and her fork's descent slowed before finally stopping altogether. Yeah, Emma was something of an uppity bitch. I heard rumors that she was once rich or something, but had somehow lost a lot of her money. Seeing the effect of that piece of news on Emma, I followed up when I felt Lorna nudge me with her foot. There was some more writing on the back of the menu.
"Yes, that's true. And apparently it's finger food because in the old pizza pioneering days, the poor couldn't afford fancy metalware cutlery."
Emma's fork had dropped by then, and her face bore a mildly self-disgusted expression.
Emma: "Well, I'm full."
Lorna: "I always feel so guilty when I eat pizza."
Lorna: "After eating a cheese smothered chunk of dough...I can't help but think I've put on weight."
I secretly giggled. Lorna was always worrying that she was on the verge of fatness. Which so wasn't true at all. She wasn't one of those wafer thin girls - who looked downright anorexic to me anyway - but she had a nice sexy figure, judging by the way I'd seen men look at her. She really didn't have anything to worry about. When Alex talked to me about taste in women, he made it clear that he liked women with a little meat on their bones. When he wondered about my taste in girls, I just told him that I was believer of his philosophy.
Alex: "Lorna, you're not fat. Eating a slice of pizza isn't going to make you chunky."
I nodded and added that as long as she didn't make a habit of abusing fast or high calorie foods on a regular basis, she wasn't at much risk for putting on extra weight.
Emma: "Well...she could stand to lose a few pounds. Maybe around the hips?"
Lorna froze. She most definitely didn't want Emma's advice on weight, even though she was the only other woman at our table. I knew how Lorna worked. She mentioned her non-existant weight problem, so that we'd tell her that she had a good weight, and then she'd feel good about herself. That way, she always had a motivational boost and wouldn't carry on any bad eating habits, to which she was prone. The look on Lorna's face was now one of carefully concealed rage.
Lorna: "So you think I could stand to lose a few pounds?"
Emma: "Well, I only stated my opinion."
So could you, Emma. Check around your bustline, and see how much extra baggage you're carrying around before you start up with other people. Waay too much over the heart to be healthy...or natural for that matter...(^_^)
You know how people tell you to think before you speak? To try and prevent yourself from saying things that just could end up causing you trouble? What would you recommend that someone do before they think thoughts that could cause drama? The way Emma was openly glaring at me made me realize that she must have sensed my wicked thoughts about her bizarre boobs. I didn't exactly hide my dislike of Emma at our therapy session...but still, I didn't actually want her to KNOW the particulars of what I was thinking of her. I hurriedly glanced at my family. They were still pigging out and hadn't noticed Emma's abrupt shift of expression. I thanked my lucky stars that other - more damaging - thoughts hadn't been picked up by her. Like the fact that I thought our waiter was so cute, he warranted a generous tip when we left. Just for the way he bowed upon presenting a pizza alone.
Emma: You're starting to try my patience. I always knew you were a bad seed! But I never would have thought that -
Look, I'm sorry, okay? But it's not as if I told you that to your face. I'm entitled to my private thoughts.
Emma: Those thoughts of yours were anything but private! You projected them with the specific intent to insult me!
But I didn't! Emma then went off on a mental rant to me. That I didn't know shit about who I should respect and whatnot. That just because I was joining Generation X, I was trying to mature before my time. That I thought that because I was no longer a student of hers, I could speak to her on an equal basis. That I should remember that she would be one of my superior officers...
I said that I didn't project them! You're such a prying...person, you're probably still trying to snoop around in my head like you did in our therapy session! If you heard something you didn't want to - it's YOUR tough luck!
Emma: Don't change the subject. We both know that I wasn't prying. I was trying to help you...you ungrateful brat!
I don't have anything to be grateful to you for.
Well...maybe not technically...
Emma: Face it. Without me doing what I did, you'd still be straining to lift a desk.
The power was always there. You just tried to invade my mind and triggered it. Someone else might have done it at some point in time, I figure.
Emma: If I had tried to invade your mind - I'd know each and every one of those deep dark secrets you're keeping from everyone else.
My eyes narrowed and I could feel the scowl forming on my face. My deep, dark secrets!
I don't have any idea what you're talking about.
Emma: What a totally cliché response. Judging by the way you're treating me - I'm inclined to believe that maybe you're holding back something serious. Perhaps it's not something personal after all. Maybe it's something that concerns others. You obviously see me as some sort of threat.
Emma: You can lie with words and thoughts. But emotions never deceive. When you saw me in your bedroom that morning, I sensed a surge of anger. And the next thing I knew - I had to watch out for a flying lamp! I'm keeping my eyes on you.
Yeah. Whatever, MISS Frost.
Alex: "Okay, now I'm officially stuffed."
Before anyone could chance to notice the look on her face, Emma put on her usual, hypocritically cherubic mask.
"Good. Can we go home now?"
Scott: "But, what about that mov -"
Yeah, I'd gotten him to bend the rules and allow a movie. Since Emma was coming along, the night had degenerated to something of a double date. And a movie wasn't such a bad idea taking that into account. There would have been something to distract me.
"Well, I'm tired. And tomorrow, I have to get up early. I just might need some sleep."
That was a reasonable excuse. At least no one seemed to mind.
Emma: "Yes. Tomorrow is an important day for you...isn't it?"
I merely nodded. Dad called for the bill and we got ready to leave. I mumbled a little underbreath,
"Don't forget the tip."
No point in the nice waiter guy missing out...
I awoke to the sound of loud banging on my door. When I glanced at the clock, I saw that I was running late - on my first day! Springing out of bed, I made a mad dash for the bathroom. I almost knocked over dad, who was still standing at my door, with his arm halfway through to another bang. I usually have a little problem with punctuality when it came to academic classes - but never for mutant training! And I only reached late for classes because I never really tried to arrive on time. Just my luck that my first mutant training tardy HAD to happen on my first day at Alpha. Just as I rushed through the kitchen and was about to make my way out, I was stopped by dad.
Scott: "Breakfast. You have to eat something."
I grabbed a banana from the fruit dish.
Scott: "That isn't much of a -"
"Got it. Later, dad!"
I grabbed another and ran out trying to force down two bananas and nearly ended up choking on it. Glancing around to make sure that none of the groundsmen were about, I flung the skins at the base of a hedge, and entered the Mansion. Of course I didn't wait around to peel the bananas at home. And there wasn't a bin in sight. Besides, banana skins are biodegradeable and would help fertilize the soil. I doubt anyone saw me breaking the littering rules.
Computer: "Incorrect access code. Please try again."
Computer: "Incorrect access code. Please try again."
I tried every possible combination I could think off, but no go. I knew I should have secretly written it down somewhere. But dad had said that it was a password. And only an idiot would run the security risk of writing down a password for someone to find it. Damn, I was an idiot to suggest it.
When I heard a female voice over the intercom two seconds later, I was blushing several shades of crimson. Great. So someone down there probably heard me lose what passed for my cool and utter an expletive. What a first impression - can't even make my way to the place.
Female Voice: "Summers? Is that you?"
I pressed the button and replied.
"Yes...uh, look - I can't remember the keycode, could you open the elevator door from down there?"
I heard laughter break out in the background and sighed, mildly pissed. Whoever it was on the other side of the conversation, giggled, but nicely said that she would do so. The door slid open and I walked inside. In a matter of fifteen seconds, I exited the elevator, finally at the X-mansion's subbasement. I was supposed to meet the rest of my new Alpha team-mates in the War Room for formal introductions. And I was a little over thirty minutes late by then. Yet I felt the stupid need to pause in front of the door, close my eyes, and give myself a mental pep-talk. I jumped when I heard the voice over the intercom again.
Female Voice: "Uh, could you just come in? We've been waiting for a while."
They knew I was outside?! Maybe that telepathic boy on the squadron? Trinity, or something, sensed me. That thought was quickly squashed when I saw the camera blinking just above the door. Frowning, I placed my hand on the biometric scanner next to the door. It flashed, scanned my DNA imprint, validated my identity and granted me access. The door opened and I walked in to a room full of Alphas. They all had scandalous grins on their faces. I chose to ignore that for the time being.
"I'm really sorry about the wait. I - just got up late and barely had time for breakfast even."
Girl: "Oh, we know - and we understand."
Everyone laughed and their gazes lingered onto the series of monitors on the wall. I gasped. The footage was on replay. It couldn't possibly be live, because I was right in there with them, watching them laughing at it. It showed me running across the Mansion (I couldn't fly as fast as I could run then), trying to gag down bananas like an animal. Then I saw myself looking around guiltily, before flinging the skins away and walking into the Mansion. I let my anger show on my face.
Girl: "Hey, we were wondering what was taking you so long."
Boy: "So we checked the Mansion-wide security network to see where you were."
Well...at least they could provide a reasonable excuse. The monitors flickered and then shut down, sparing me from any further embarassment.
"So...what do we do now? I mean, intros yeah - but"
They took turns stating their codenames, and I refamiliarized myself by matching the names to the faces from the printouts dad had given me. I knew the leader, Risk well enough. But not the others - I needed the reminder.
I didn't like her tone much.
Meltdown: "We're waiting for you to introduce yourself...obviously the only logical remaining thing to do."
My jaw tightened. She appeared to have a gift for making people feel stupid. If she were my age and not superior to me, then I'd tell her a thing or two. Instead, I relaxed my jaw and replied.
Theresa/Siryn: "What kind of a codename is Phoenix?"
Tyrel/Trinity: "You like the place or somethin'?"
I didn't want to go through the trouble of explaining anything.
"Actually, yes. I LOVE Phoenix."
I said it in as sarcastic a tone as I dared to. I'm pretty sure that Trinity picked up on it, but he didn't say anything.
Reymundo/Risk: "Well, now that that's settled, I'd like to officially induct you into Alpha Squadron. You've missed a couple weeks of training - but we mostly reviewed our basic exercises in those. Now, the real deal is about to start up..."
Good. At least I would look like a total idiot...hopefully.
Risk: "...and if you ever need help with anything, I'm sure I speak for all present when I say that you can feel free to ask for it."
Most everyone nodded...some more enthusiastically than others.
"Thanks. So what's on our schedule for today?"
Risk: "An obstacle course setup in the Danger Room. It will be supervised by Wolverine and Storm."
Obstacle course...sounded fun.
Risk: "It...may be a little more strenuous than you're used to. And you won't just feel pain - you can get injured in this exercise."
I nodded slowly. I never was placed in a Danger Room exercise with the danger level set to that level of realism before. Honestly, I was more than a little nervous at the idea. But I had to suck it up and be a man.
Risk: "But in case of something serious, two Gamma members will be present to protect and heal anyone so needing it."
I politely asked if I could be granted information as to who exactly.
Risk: "Rune can magickally heal. And Hellion can shield telekinetically."
Hellion...Julian Keller. My absolute role model. I'd make it my business to finish that obstacle course with style and show him what I could do with my newly acquired telekinetic abilities. If I had my way, I'd craft myself into the Hellion of the Alpha squad.
Risk: "Anymore questions?"
I didn't have any, and neither did anyone else.
Risk: "Well, let's suit up and wait for Logan."
Suiting up...oh boy...
Once again, I was in a black, spandex uniform. As everyone else was. By a supreme effort on my part, I was able to avoid popping a boner while in the changing room. Spandex doesn't hide erections very well. And I was sporting one immediately after leaving the changing room - oh the sights my eyes had seen. But the fortunate thing was that it was mandatory for all the guys to wear what was akin to a very reinforced jockstrap. I guess the courses we were going to attempt were really that dangerous to warrant such a precaution. My nervousness returned, stronger than before, and I started to fidget a little. This attracted attention naturally. Several people sighed. I was probably being considered as the annoying, younger member.
Sam/Canonball: "Would ya stop the fiddlin' about? You look more restless than a jackrabbit in open hunting season."
I realized that he was right. With a few deep breaths I stood still. Oxygenation really helped to calm me down. That and the fact that Canonball spoke with a southern accent, that for once didn't make someone sound like a hick to me. And the sexy drawl was very relaxing.
"I've just never been in a Danger Room session where I could end up physically hurt before. Never had to wear a jockstrap as...protective as this one ever."
He laughed. Though thankfully, not in a mean way.
Canonball: "Just stay alert in there. Besides, we're all a team. And we all have each other's backs."
"Nice to know. Hopefully I won't be in a position to find out firsthand how shockproof this jock is."
Canonball: "Hopefully. It ain't a nice experience."
My eyebrows raised. Ouch!
"So you've -"
He burst out laughing and I followed suite. Well, at least I seemed to be getting along with someone on the team in a near friendly manner.
Meltdown: "When you both are finished laughing your asses off, feel free to follow the rest of us to the Danger Room. Wolverine just passed down the corridor and signalled for us to follow him."
There was something about that auburn haired girl that I didn't like. She eyed me in this totally bitchy way and didn't even bother hiding it. What the heck was her problem? I silently stared at her form as she walked away.
Canonball: "Don't sweat it."
Canonball: "Tabitha gets like that sometimes. She's unpredictable - just like them energy bombs she generates."
I shrugged and we started walking.
Canonball: "So I hear that before this...surge, you were a - "
"A gene joke?"
Canonball: "Such a strong term. How's 'bout telekinetically challenged?'
"Yeah. Sooo much kinder."
Canonball: "So how did this all happen to you? Exactly?"
I remained silent for a little while. I would have liked nothing more than to tarnish Emma Frost's seemingly angelic reputation. But considering that a lot of people liked her, and that she was going to be a superior officer - I didn't think it was a wise idea. What if my team-mates were big Emma Frost fans? It would mean alienating myself as an Emma hater. I decided to kindly reword the version (the true version) that I had been telling my friends and family. The new version made Emma seem like she was trying to help me and what had happened in the process was an accident. In other words, I told him the lie that Emma was telling everyone else.
Canonball: "Yeah, that sounds like Emma. She's always tryin' to help us out. She helped me out a lot too in the therapy department."
I looked at him curiously. The therapy department? Lord, Emma just loved to pry in everybody's business, doesn't she? I looked up at Sam (Cannonball). He seemed so cheerful and carefree. Why would he be needing therapy? Anyhow, Emma convinced my father that I needed therapy when I didn't. She must have convinced Sam and the Professor that he needed it when he probably didn't too. I realized that I hadn't quit staring at Sam during my musing. He took it upon himself to explain his last statement a little more thoroughly.
Canonball: "Well...let's just say that I was goin' through a hard time in my life. And Emma was there for me."
Canonball: "Emma's real nice and all."
"Why Sam, it sounds like you have a crush on her..."
Up front, Tabitha aka Meltdown, heard us talking and laughed scandalously. Sam blushed deeply and replied,
Canonball: "I wouldn't dare. Your father would kill me!"
Yeah, everyone from the Professor right down to the cleaners knew about them and their romantic affair. At Sam's statement, Tabitha laughed again, even more scandalously than before. What is her deal, I wondered.
"He wouldn't. I don't...really think Emma's his type."
Sam: "Oh. Looks to me like they really love each other."
Emma? Capable of anything higher than an unholy lust? I think not! Granted, most times I thought that my father had a little too strong of an affection for her. But it wasn't what I'd call love. Love was such a strong word. What they had wasn't strong enough - I hoped...
"They don't. He's just...a little lonely. And Emma helped him out with - sigh - therapy. Besides, my mother was the only woman he ever really loved. Dad still wears his wedding ring."
A fact that I'm sure Emma wasn't too happy about. After all, she wanted him to move on with his life.
Tabitha: "Well, if Emma has her way - you can expect that to change."
Both Sam and I looked up ahead at Tabitha. She obviously felt very welcome in a conversation in which she was not.
Sam: "Tabs, don't start up - "
Tabitha: "Samuel - you're a dumbass. A total gentleman - but still a dumbass. You rate that whore up like she's the fuckin' virgin Mary!"
I didn't know that Tabitha could talk that way - say such nasty things. Oh but I did know that I liked where it was all going.
"What do you mean?"
Tabitha: "Do you want to know what us women in the ranks call her?"
Sam: "Jeez, Tabitha!"
She laughed once more before saying it out loud. Emma Frost was also known as Emma Whorefrost. A nice wordplay on the words Hoarfrost and Whorefrost by the way. I'm sure that my Literature loving friend, Jubilee, would have appreciated it almost as much as I did. Needless to say, I burst out laughing.
Sam: "Don't listen to her, John. Tabby says the craziest things."
Tabitha: "Crazy but true. Fact is stranger than fiction. Not that I'd expect you to know, Sam."
Sam: "Why? Because I'm a dumbass?"
Tabitha: "So you admit it then? No, Sam. Because you're more than just a dumbass. You're a male dumbass. You can't see when Emma is stringing you or others along."
Scratch everything I've said about Tabitha so far. Tabitha was totally cool in my book!
Tabitha: "You haven't noticed anything slutty about her, John?"
"And under secrecy? You better not run your mouth and get me into trouble. Either of you."
She agreed. Sam said that she was something else, but that her word could be trusted. Since Tabitha had called him a total gentleman, I figured that his word could be trusted too. I decided to spill it like a can of beans. I looked at them square in the eyes and let out everything I had come to know about Emma. Including the reason that I had been sent to therapy in the first place.
Tabitha: "Conniving slut?! You had the balls to say that about her to your father?! Oh, FINALLY a guy who can look past her fake breasts and see what her game is."
"She always acts like she cares sooo much. What's beating in her chest is about as real as her false boobs."
Tabitha cackled like a genuine bitch. Sam looked at us in total disbelief, but he laughed nonetheless. I smiled outwardly, glad to know that I could be open with my true Emma feelings to someone on the squad. Tabitha's return smile was warm. She wasn't a bad person after all. We walked on to the Danger Room, me smiling all the way. Yeah, at least I was getting along with my new squadmates...
Logan: "A'right. We've been reviewing basic training for the past few weeks. Now we're gonna start the real deal."
We all nodded at that statement. Logan looked at me in particular - he probably expected me to wear my usual excited expression that I wore on Danger Room occasions. I felt that way inside, I just didn't let it show. No doubt he'd have said something about it, to my embarassment. I didn't mind a little embarassment with my regular group. But this was my new Squad. I had to make a good first impression. That said, I wore the most stern look I could manage. I had a good mental image of what it should have looked like. I just bore the image of dad wearing his classic hardass expression and copied it.
Logan: "So...the maze. Your aim to to escape its confines. You ALL must escape or you ALL fail. There will be a variety of challenges that are geared to stop you. No one person will be able to take on the likes of all of them - teamwork is a must."
I quickly ran that through my head. The maze must have been designed to play on the weaknesses of the people inside. Since no two people have the exact same weaknesses...team-members should be able to cover for each other.
Logan: "This course will be different in that you can be physically harmed."
A hand quickly went up. I turned to my right and saw that it was Tyrel (Trinity).
Trinity: "Yeah. I attack with telepathy. But the enemies will be holograms and -"
Logan: "Telepathic energy is still energy. The computer will determine whether your attacks would be powerful enough to stop a REAL opponent. If so - the holograms will disappear. Something about monitoring the psionic energy level...don't ask me to explain. Anymore than that and you'll need Beast."
Flare: "Where's Storm?"
Logan: "Something came up and she couldn't make it. What, you don't trust me to supervise the exercise?"
Risk: "Well...you did leave our first training program running with us locked inside the Danger Room."
I looked at Logan cuttingly. He did that to my class too - and MORE than ONCE!
Logan: "I thought we were all past that..."
Liar liar, pants on fire! Basic training wasn't so much offensively oriented as defensive. Logan made it clear that in our new training sessions - the emphasis (unless stated otherwise) was on offense.
Logan: "Now, in case anyone gets hurt - one of my assistants will heal you. The other will protect you from mortal danger. They'll both be behind the scenes. But remember - the more behind the scenes help you need - the more points I'll deduct. It's a harsh world, deal with it."
Behind the scenes. Probably watching from the obervation platforms above or something, I figured. After some more briefing on the exercise, Logan exited the room and gave the computer the order to begin. The familiar voice of the computer droned out that the course was commencing. The blue flickering of the holographic projectors began transforming the room into that of a metallic maze, similar in appearance to the hallways of the subbasement. Everyone else assumed defensive stances. Taking my cue from them, I did the same.
Risk: "We can't split up cuz then each group will be weaker. We ALL have to exit this maze at the same time, and there's only one exit."
Right. We couldn't split up into smaller groups to explore because then the opposition might be able to overwhelm smaller, weaker groups. Unity was a must.
Risk: "Trinity, you'll have to be our eyes. Your psychometry can give us environmental information to help guide us. Siryn, you can echolocate - more guidance and a second opinion."
Risk seemed to have the leader thing all down. There was one thing I thought of though...
"Uh, this is a maze. We'll need to leave a trail so that we know where we've been and where we haven't."
They all looked at me a little funny. Not in a bad way...just funny.
"I mean...it's logical."
Risk: "Yes. Good point. It IS. Now how do we..."
Meltdown: "I'll just scorch the walls with my plasma bombs."
Problem solved. At a signal from Risk (and an impatient prompt from Logan on high) we all started moving. At the bend at the end of a long corridor, our first challenge lay. A sizeable gang of military looking individuals. They didn't have guns. But they carried electrified batons. I'd seen those things used on televisions before. When the law enforcers were dealing with violent crowds and such. Judging by the screams I'd heard televised, they must have been painful...
Risk: "Here they come!"
So saying, our leader, Risk, formed a sphere of probability altering energy from his fists and launched it at the nearest two soldiers. It hit one of them directly. The odds were altered unfavorably and he tripped and fell, his baton clattering out of reach. The one behind him fell over his sprawled body. When the second one fell, the electrified baton of the second soldier shocked them both and together they went unconscious. Tyrel quickly decided to make use of the baton and grabbed it from the ground. As soon as he did so, one of the remaining men threw one of their batons at him.
Canonball: "Hey watch out -"
Under my influence, the incoming baton's speed greatly slowed before stopping altogether. Tyrel quickly backed off and threw me a glance of thanks.
Logan: "Okay, enough defensive. I wanna see you actually attack them!"
We spread out some more and split the group of men up into a more manageable size.
Logan: "Okay, let's make this interesting. I'm upping the AI's aggressiveness."
Two seconds later, the computer controlled holograms ceased their defensive circling and rushed onwards in full battle mode. One made it through to my position, brandishing another of the electrified clubs. Remembering the defensive grapple Logan had taught my group, I sidestepped him, got hold of his forearm and threw him in the direction he was lunging in. I managed to use his own momentum against him and he fell to the ground. A swift salvo of kicks to his chest and head and he was out of it. I sensed motion behind me and swung a back kick to another opponent's chest just in time. He flew back into the maze's wall, weapon fallen out of his grasp. He got up again fairly quickly. But I focussed a telekinetic lock on him and hurled him right down the hallway. He fell for the second time and didn't get up at that. At that point, I heard a whistle.
Meltdown: "Hot damn, Phoenix! You're merciless, dude!"
She laughed as she formed three multicolored, glowing spheres of energy. They each hovered to a soldier and exploded, sending them flying. I blushed a little at that compliment. Precisely the impression I wanted to give. Several flashes of laser drew my attention to Flare. Two soldiers lay burned at his feet. The remaining members, Dust and Achilles had decided to cooperate. Dust lured the remaining soldiers to her, evading their attacks by transforming to her mist-like, intangible form. When they were all in one place, the super strong, invulnerable Achilles dashed straight into them, knocking them over like bowling pins. The two boys - Flare and Achilles - whooped. Dust was more composed.
Risk: "Alright, let's keep moving!"
Logan: "Let's see you handle this."
We listened in mild dread at that but didn't stop moving.
Siryn: "Left. I think there's an opening to the left."
We all glanced to Trinity, our second opinion source.
Trinity: "Actually, I sense that it's right."
Risk: "You're both equally good at navigating...there's a fifty percent chance at guessing the right path."
Logan: "You'd better do something quick. Or else..."
Achilles: "What is that supposed to mean?"
Dust: "Is it just me - or are the walls...moving?"
Lending our attention to dust for a moment made us see that she was indeed right. The walls WERE moving, and the speed seemed to increase by the second. We needed to get out of the hallway or risk getting crushed.
Risk: "We go right!"
We ran to the right path and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that there was an opening in the maze. Our relief did not last long as the walls began closing in there as well and the opening closed.
Flare: "Shit! The entire maze is reconfiguring. Look at the ceiling!"
The ceiling? Where was it...exactly? We could no longer see the observation platforms. The maze walls seemed to have grown higher and stretched across, encasing us in a box. The floor had by then started to rumble distinctly as the maze's walls all out began to slide. The markers that Meltdown had left on the walls were useless by then because the walls were no longer near where they were originally - the entire maze was different and was constantly altering. How could you escape a maze that refused to stay the same?
Risk: "There's always a way. We just have to - "
Our leader's voice was cut off by a series of inhuman bellows that refused to stop. It was more than merely loud and seemed to be getting closer.
Siryn: "Sounds like some kind of animal."
Logan's chuckle could be heard over the intercom. He quickly mumbled a "sorry" and urged us to figure out something before we got crushed...or worse.
Unknown Voice: "Who would dare entire the recesses of my labyrinth?"
Trinity: "What the hell?!"
Logan: "It was Hank's idea. He thought it would be funny."
Unknown Voice: "Your lives are now forfeit!"
At that statement, there was a literal earthshattering vibration that crumbled one of the maze's walls to dust. When the dust cleared, we all stared at the being before us, aghast. It had to be more than twelve feet tall. The lower body seemed to be some sort of...bull. But a powefully built, male upper body extended from the beast, all clad in armor and wielding a two handed axe. The head sported great, curving horns that looked as though they could cause some serious damage. A metallic, serpent-like tail whipped left and right from the creature's posterior end.
"Oh my damn! It's Motaro! Beast is a Mortal Kombat fan?"
Trinity: "Whatever it is - I think I'd better stay back. My powers aren't as actively offensive as yours."
Risk: "It ain't Motaro, dude. I think it's a Minotaur. Like from the Greek myth of the Cretan Minotaur."
Where was Jubilee when you needed her?
Risk: "I'll explain later. Right now, spread out!"
We all complied, and not a moment too soon. The beast charged us, flailing that axe in all directions. Flare took to the air and began pelting it with laser blasts, searing the back. An animal is most dangerous when it's angry or wounded. And the Minotaur was no exception. It threw its axe at the flying Flare. Instinctively, I made to halt it. But the force with which it was thrown was too much and I couldn't manage to stop it. I only slowed it down some. Flare's eyes widened - as did everyone else's. But at the last moment, a glowing orb of telekinetic energy formed around him and deflected the incoming blade. It must have been the close watching Julian.
Logan: "That's a few points deducted right there."
Achilles: "Let's see how tough he really is. Motaro never scared me!"
Risk: "It isn't Motaro!"
Shrugging him off, Achilles ran up to the Minotaur's dropped axe and took it up. With a howl reminiscent of a beserk Viking, he charged as we all watched expectantly. He didn't even get to strike as the Minotaur easily grabbed him, retook its axe and prepared to slice and dice Achilles. It didn't work thanks to his invulnerable skin, though.
Risk: "Have a taste of this hex!"
A bolt of energy flew forth from Risk and hit the Minotaur full on (it was pretty large target). Its eyes promptly shot open and it dropped Achilles, who quickly made his way back to us. We all watched as the Minotaur seemed to go crazy, apparently hitting itself all over and prancing in circles. Curious, we all looked at Risk for an answer.
Risk: "I gave that big bull a nasty itch. Must feel like a million ticks. And there ain't no egrets around to help him out with his problem."
Logan: "Now you've REALLY made him mad!"
It lunged once more and split us all up. Canonball primed up his kinetic field and explosively expanded it from his lower body. It propelled him onto the beasts back. He gave a wild whoop and began to ride it like a bucking bronco in an effort to control the beast. Country boy - must have been into rodeos? Or maybe a fan of them?
Dust: "I'll distract it. Flare, see if you can use your lasers to blind it."
Dust once more transformed into her mist form and began drawing the attention of the Minotaur away from the rest of us. Flare followed her advice and flew above, waiting for a clear shot to the eyes to open up.
Meltdown: "On your knees!"
Three plasma bombs did just that. At least to the back legs, and the Minotaur was brought closer to the ground. It wasn't helpless though. It must have had really good ears, because in all the din, it lashed out with its tail at the stealthily creeping Achilles and sent him flying. Siryn did manage to realize just how sensitive its hearing was and she had a bright idea that saved us much more trouble.
Siryn: "Everyone, cover your ears."
We all did so immediately and she began to scream. Her sonic wave shook the maze as it reverberated - but more importantly, the Minotaur looked to be in serious pain. It also started bellowing and fell down clutching its ears. It figured. With our normal hearing, the scream was very uncomfortable. With its acute hearing - it must have been damned near unbearable!
Risk: "Trinity! Try to knock it out!"
Trinity nodded, focussed and formed a sword of pure psionic energy. It pulsed and glowed a violent shade of red.
Trinity: "It's still too tall. Phoenix, lift me to the head."
I carefully caught hold of him and guided him up towards the head region. It was dangerously close to those horns. Without a moment's hesitation, Trinity stabbed the brute with the psychic weapon. It let out an ear piercing death / faint grown, fell to the floor and was still. Canonball slid off the back and made his way over to the rest of us. Everyone's face bore a look of pride. Well...almost everyone's. I didn't ever see Dust's face as it was hidden by a veil of some sort.
Dust: "Before we all celebrate, I think we should fulfill our pimary objective - getting out of here."
Trinity: "I'm not sensing any way out at present. The maze is totally different now. I don't think there's an exit."
Just great. After winning our big boss fight with Motaro - we'd still end up failing.
Achilles: "Well, there just MIGHT be a way out."
We looked in the direction Achilles was pointing in. Specifically, the shattered wall from which the Minotaur had emerged. Funny, before that I was under the impression that the walls were programmed to be unbreakably solid. Guess I was wrong...
Achilles: "We can bust our way outta here!"
Most everyone looked at him a little condescendingly. It did seem to be an overly simple soltion...
Risk: "No, wait. He has a good point. The walls are destructible!"
Logan: "I was wonderin' how long it'd take you to figure it out. Such a shame too - there are a few more surprises hidden around here and there."
"So you mean that instead of going around the walls and wasting time and energy...we could have gone through them?!"
That said, Achilles ran full speed into the nearest wall and bashed away until it crumbled. After several repetitions, he broke through completely and we could see an untransformed region of the danger room outside. We all rushed out, breathless and glad to be out of the confining maze. Logan shut off the program and the maze faded into nothingness.
Logan: "Not the best performance I've seen. But still - none too shabby. I'll give it a B-."
Achilles: "B minus?! We kicked ass!"
Logan: "Alright, alright. Let's make it a B. Don't push it any further."
After some more...pleasantries, Logan finally dismissed us. And so ended my first training mission with the Alpha Squad. To the showers! (^_^)
Friday and weekend afternoons. Students at the school who were at least fifteen years old were allowed out of the grounds without adult chaperones. By that age, the overly unstable effects of a mutation's manifestation were usually over. And so the Professor didn't have much problems with allowing students out. There was a rule about staying out much longer after dark without someone supervising if you weren't eighteen and over though.
Jubilee: "What's say we go catch a movie?"
Ray: "Not another one of those damned romance-comedies again!"
Amara: "Ray, if you don't start appreciating romance a little - you'll never get and keep a decent girl."
Ray mumbled a little angrily. He had been trying to persuade Vanessa Rodriguez to go out with him for months with no success whatsoever (and hated to be reminded of that fact).
Jubilee: "I am so sick and tired of watching movies where everything just blows up and there is no point of plot for it whatsoever. What is it with guys and explosions?"
Bobby: "I dunno. They're just pretty."
Ray: "I say we vote on it! Hands up anyone who wants a good old blow 'em up?"
Bobby: "Yeah, I want a blowjob!"
Ray and Bobby raised their hands - happy in the knowledge that I would raise my hand and therefore outvote Jubilee and Amara. The only problem was - I wasn't going out with them. When several seconds went by and my hand failed to show my support, it drew questions.
Ray: "Don't tell me you wanna see a romance-comedy?!"
Actually, if I were going...a change would have been most welcome!
"Uh, no. I just can't go out with you guys today."
Amara: "Don't TELL me that you're in trouble AGAIN!"
I smiled. That wasn't it at all. After the first real-deal Alpha training session, it was suggested that everyone go out somewhere to celebrate our first success. I was totally honored that they'd even think to ask me to come along. Even though I was a member of the team...I was still the youngest and probably seen as a little immature. Added to that was the fact that a couple of them didn't really seem all that friendly at the start - Achilles, Flare and Tyrel - but turned out to be pretty cool. Acceptance was a nice feeling to have.
Ray: "You're blowing us off to hang with them?"
"We can go out tomorrow I guess?"
Amara: "But last week you said -"
Yeah, I said that we'd all go out someplace fun - after my punishment was over. But times and circumstances change. I'm sure that they must have thought I was - albeit unknowingly - distancing myself from them, but it wasn't like that at all. Going out with the team to celebrate our first victory was mandatory to me. I could neglect the ones to come, but a first celebration - nuh uh.
"So, it's no big deal if we go out like...either tomorrow or Sunday?"
Bobby: "It's cool. I mean...you're a member of Gen X now. You might as well learn to get along with your teammates."
I looked to the others.
Ray: "As long as you help me and Bobby vote out the romance-comedy proposition."
I laughed in approval - which made the girls frown.
"You got it."
Well, I got a rain check. They were always pressuring me to go out with them - more so after mom died. They felt that I could use fun and companionship as often as possible. Frankly, I expected them to be a little more assertive. But the main thing was that I didn't insult them by blowing them off...
I soon found out that evening that one member of our team wasn't going out with us. Sooraya who I had known as Dust, was rather religious (devout Muslim). As such, she didn't wish to go to a place of entertainment where alcohol was flowing and where there was sure to be activity of questionable morality. It was useless to try and convince her to come with us to...the usual place (wherever that was). It was then suggested that we go somewhere more - softcore. But she didn't want to spoil anyone's fun on her account. She made it clear that she wasn't looking down on us or anything, but just declined the offer as a matter of personal belief and choice. So there would be eight of us. We would have prefferred to have been granted access to three cars. But my father was always a believer in granting what was adequate and no more. Hence, we got two cars.
And speaking of my father... He wanted full details from Rey (that's what everyone called our leader Reymundo) about where we'd be going. And what where the age restrictions, and whether alcohol would be involved. There were many places that were open to people eighteen and up - they just couldn't buy alcohol if they were under twenty one. Of course, I was sixteen. But I protested my maturity level. What harm could come if we just bribed a bouncer in my case? I would be surrounded by my team-mates. Whatever few (okay, maybe more than a 'few') misgivings dad had about my maturity level - he didn't seem to have any about Rey. As a matter of fact, he seemed to trust Rey completely. He watched us drive off and I marvelled at how easily he was convinced. Until I noticed Emma peeking out of his bedroom window. He must have wanted some alone time with her...
"The Hellfire Club"
Rey: "Well, this is the place."
The car pulled to a stop and Rey, Tabitha, Tyrel, Andrew and I got out. It was obvious from the expression on everyone's face that they knew the place well. So Rey's statement of the obvious (to them) must have been meant for me.
The building matched the name alright. There had to be projectors hidden around somewhere because the building looked to be on fire. Not on fire as in burning up exactly. But images of flames were on the walls - and they were moving. How did they get permission from the fire department to have such a thing going on? If I had seen it and didn't know any better - I'd have called the firefighters immediately! Flames could even be seen through the windows. Every now and then, in the midst of the conflagration you could make out the silhouette of a "tortured soul". Except that the person didn't seem to be writhing in agony...but dancing in ecstasy instead! I looked on at the others in shock.
"No wonder Sooraya didn't want to come!"
They laughed a little wickedly at that. Presently, the other car pulled into the parking lot and the rest of the guys stepped out. They all seemed very eager...well except Sam that is.
Theresa: "You could try to put a smile on your face you know. Try something new."
I took it that Sam had never been to Hell before...
Sam: "The preachers back home used ta talk 'bout places like this. If my mother only knew I was goin' in there..."
Sam was from the ultra-conservative south. He must have had a very religious upbringing. I didn't blame him for his misgivings (unlike most everyone else who did). After all, I was far from religious and I felt a little uncomfortable about the Hellfire Club just by looking at it.
Tabitha: "Who's gonna tell her? Come on. Tonight, I don't want you to be a gentleman!"
At that she grabbed Sam's arm and dragged him towards the line at the entrance, the rest of us amusedly following them. The line moved quickly along, and I got some stares from older folks. I knew that I looked a little young for my age, but I never really thought it to be very noticeable. Apparently it was enough to draw attention. After a couple minutes, we all reached up at the bouncer and I was promptly barred from entry.
"But I'm with them."
Theresa jokingly locked her arm with mine and replied that I was her date.
Bouncer: "You better be careful they don't arrest you, lady. Going around with an underaged kid to a place like this is bound to be illegal."
The other bouncer, as well as other people in the line laughed.
Theresa: "Lady?! Hey, I'm not an old bat! I'm nineteen!"
Well, she did look a little mature for her age. Like I looked a little young for mine.
"And I'm sixteen! I'm not a kid!"
Bouncer: "Sixteen? Yeah right. You even got any hair where it counts yet, kid?"
That really set the people around into laughter...including a couple of my own teammates! I suppose it was because they must have noticed in the showers that I was smooth and had very little body hair. I could feel a hot blush coming to my face.
"I got these. Do they count?"
I pulled out my wallet and flashed the bills.
Bouncer: "Unfortunately not. I dunno about them other places, but we don't take bribes from underaged kids here...well not since we almost got shut down when the police raided the club one night. Ain't takin' no chances."
It became clear then that I wasn't going to be getting into the place fairly or by bribery.
Tyrel, couldn't you just enter his mind and ease him along?
I received a somewhat cool glare. Of course there was that rule about entering another's mind. But I reasoned that it wasn't as if any thoughts were going to be read or that he was going to force the bouncer to do something that could damage his psyche in any way. Unfortunately, Tyrel wasn't going to break the rules that Professor Xavier had set for something so...trivial. Theresa suggested that we could go somewhere else. But I saw the looks on most everyone's faces. They never went anywhere else other than Club Hellfire because it was the only place that satisfied all of them.
"It's okay. I guess this age thing was bound to come up."
Risk: "Someone will have to carry you back home. We can't leave you in the car or let you wander. Your father would freak if anything were to happen."
They all then started looking at each other, trying to come to a decision as to who would make the drive back to the Mansion. Naturally, no one really wanted to drive all the way back if they could avoid it.
Rey: "Oh well. I could just randomly choose someone."
The problem with that was the suggestion Donovan made. That Rey would use his probability altering powers to cheat so he wouldn't have to make the drive.
Sam: "Oh, I'll do it. Goin' to Hell isn't my cup of tea anyway."
Jeremy: "So you're not comin' back?"
Sam: "I reckon I'll follow Sooraya's example. But have fun though - just make sure whoever's driving ain't drunk."
Tabitha: "Wait up. You'll have to drive to the mansion...then drive back to pick some of us up. We all can't squeeze into one car."
Donovan promptly replied that they could.
Donovan: "You girls could just sit on our laps..."
That earned Donovan a withering look from the said girls.
Theresa: "So that whoever's can swerve the car on purpose every now and then to get you free lapdances... I don't think so."
Sam: "I can drive back. Just gimme a call when you want me to come get ya."
Everyone agreed that it was a do-able plan. So they went in and Sam led the way back to one of the cars. I was a bit sour though. I'd never get to go into a club unless I was chaperoned by older people...like them for instance. I blew off my friends so that I could hang out with the guys and I got absolutely nothing for my trouble. What kind of bouncers didn't take bribes? They have ethics now? I thought an absence of morals was part of the job description.
"Well, this sucks ass."
Sam laughed and started the ignition.
Sam: "I can't believe that you actually tried to bribe your way in."
I grinned at that too. It was a spur of the moment thing. I never thought that I'd be in a position to have to decide something like that. But when placed in one...
"It came to me naturally."
Sam: "Damn, I didn't think you had it in you. I mean...you...with your kind of upbrining? You're nothing like your father."
"Well, I do try. Still, I told my friends no when they wanted to go out earlier today...and now I get to go home and do..."
I pondered. What would I do? Ordinarily, I'd have to do home-work. And usually, my father would check in on me to make sure it was done. He liked to make certain of those things, said parents should take interest. Usually, whenever he went to the lakeside, he'd leave on Saturday mornings. The last week was a rare exception.
Sam: "Do what?"
"Come to think of it - I don't know. I ain't got any homework to worry about anymore. What are you gonna do? How long do they usually hang out at that place?"
Sam: "Hours. I guess I could just...take a nap or something."
A nap. Take a nap on a Friday night when you could be out somewhere having fun?
"Okay. What do you do for fun?"
The question seemed to puzzle him.
Sam: "Well...um...I - "
"You play video games?"
Sam: "Never really cared for those."
What were the odds of a guy saying he didn't care for that? Or saying it and meaning it sincerely for that matter? He didn't answer, just looked away, blushing like hell.
"You read? Oh, like comic books and stuff? Or...naughty magazines maybe? Hahaha!"
Sam: "No. Mostly Science Fiction and philosophical treatises."
Sam: "I'm on a search for the meaning of life...and an understanding of the fundamental principles governing existence."
At first I thought that he was kidding me. But when he didn't burst out laughing or anything - I got that he was actually serious. I then realized how guilty of stereotyping I was. Just because Sam talked with a thickish accent and often used southern idioms...I assumed that he wasn't really all that smart of a guy. Given that and his habit of speaking in a sort of broken English at times. I was very accustomed to smart people showing their intelligence off (not arrogantly but at least using complicated vocabulary and stuff - like Hank for instance). Sam must have been one of those smart dudes who hid it well, maybe not on purpose, but just didn't flaunt it.
"Oh. By the way...were you ever into rodeo style riding?"
Sam: "Why d'you wanna know?"
"It's just the way you rode Motaro - uh, I mean, the Minotaur."
Sam: "It's not something I like to brag about."
"Really? I would."
I immediately pictured him in a cowboy getup. I had to force the image out of my head because I started to pop a boner right about then. The rest of the drive I spent controlling myself so that I wouldn't have any recurrences...
"I Just Need To Know"
Logan stood outside on his balcony, savoring a cigar in the cool night air. He had a habit of brooding over a lot of things. It was a common sight to see him standing on that balcony, staring ahead blankly...
Ororo: "When will you get it through that adamantium laced skull of yours? This school is a no smoking facility."
Ororo swooped down from above. Some people take night walks for relaxation. Ororo took night flights over the Mansion grounds. She would often see Logan standing out alone and would stop by for a few minutes. Logan wasn't really intimate with many people at the Mansion. But Ororo was one of the few exceptions to that general rule. Over the years, they had become quite close. So much so that they shared a lot of their guarded secrets with one another. Even though he didn't like to admit it - talking about his problems helped a great deal. Aside from Ororo, he didn't trust anyone else in the school with his deepest, darkest secrets. Not even the celebrated, so called therapist, Emma Frost.
Ororo: "You're looking even gloomier than your usual tonight, Logan. Anything you want to talk about?"
Logan: "I never wanna talk - but somehow when you drop by I always end up doin' just that."
Ororo smiled as she lowered herself so that she could sit comfortably on the ledge.
Ororo: "I'll take that as a compliment. Now - why the long face?"
Logan: "It's - "
Ororo: "Don't even try to tell me it's nothing."
Logan didn't speak at first. There was a lot Ororo knew about him. A lot that he was proud about. But his depressed frame of mind was centered around one of the biggest mistakes he'd ever made. Even now, after nearly seventeen years had passed, he was still being affected by the repercussions of it.
Logan: "It's about...Jean."
Ororo: "What about, Jean? Wait...you don't mean the aff - "
Logan: "Yeah. The affair. Doesn't it always come to that when I think of her."
There was no denying the compulsive attraction that Jean Grey and Logan felt towards one another. They both tried to deny it for so long. But eventually there came a time when they couldn't fight their feelings any longer. There wasn't any doubt in Logan's mind - he loved Jean. And he truly thought that Jean felt the same way. Yes, they'd had an affair that amounted to a one night stand. Logan had confessed that he loved her. And she had broken down and did the same. Neither wanted to carry it any further behind Scott's back. They weren't married then. But it was probably in the works. The only problem was - Jean changed her mind. What they were feeling wasn't love to her - it was nothing more than an unhealthy infatuation that would lead to pain for the both of them, and to Scott. To the outside world, Jean treated Logan just the same as before. But when they were alone, she avoided even mere conversation with him as far as was possible.
Ororo: "Logan, you were not to blame for loving Jean. You didn't force her into anything. She made a choice to be with you. I know you loved her - but perhaps what she felt for you was only infatuation. At least she wasn't a married woman when she... I mean, cuz then you'd feel worse. Wait, what the hell am I saying - if she was married, you'd never have done anything."
Logan inwardly sighed. Whether she was married or not wouldn't have made any difference. All he knew was that he loved her and wanted her. He'd never tell that to Ororo though.
Logan: "It...isn't that. There's more I didn't tell you."
Almost nine months after the affair, Jean had given birth. When it became clear that she was pregnant, Scott and Jean had hurriedly made plans to get married. And Logan had to sit quietly by as the question was asked - If there is anyone here present who objects... then let him speak now or forever hold his peace... But that wasn't the worst of it. Jean was emphatic that the baby was Scott's. Logan felt that he had the right to a paternity test. But she vehemently denied him that right. He would have pressed it forward. But she eventually relented and begged him not to. It would destroy her relationship with Scott. Whatever her feelings for Logan might have been, it was clear that she loved Scott a great deal. Logan couldn't find it in himself to deny her. So he held his peace...for sixteen years.
Ororo: "Oh dear God..."
Logan: "I just can't go on not knowing anymore."
Logan had lost a lot of things in his life. His memories chiefly among them. He knew that he was of indeterminate age. And his long lifespan could have had something to do with his lack of memory. He was forever plagued by the feeling of loneliness...hardly any real friends outside of the Mansion. No ancestral links to his past, and no descendents to shape his bloodline's future. No relatives whatsoever...allegedly...
Logan: "I have to find out once and for all."
Ororo: "How are you going to..."
Logan: "I'll need someone to run a paternity test...DNA...whatever it's called."
Ororo: "DNA fingerprinting."
Logan: "You know how to use them machines Hank has in the lab, right?"
Ororo: "I am his protégé. And yes, I'll help you if that's what you want."
Logan: "Thanks, Ro. It'd mean a lot to me."
Ororo: "But...uh...if John is your son, what will you do?"
Logan: "Nothing. I just need to know - get some closure."
Ororo: "Nothing? But, Logan - surely you can't be serious. I could understand it if you won't do anything for now. But - "
Logan: "Too much time's gone by. He's almost all grown up. Pretty soon he won't need a fath -"
Ororo: "The need for meaningful parental relationships doesn't just go away with adulthood, Logan. He'll need - "
Logan: "I'm not exactly...father material, Ro. If it's true, then he's better off with Scott. I only mess things up. It'll turn John's world upside down. And then there's Jean to think about. It would mean bringing out what we did - disgracing her memory. Let her rest in peace."
Ororo: "If she didn't want to let you have a paternity test so badly, she must not have been convinced that the baby was Scott's."
A point that made a lot of sense.
Logan: "I know I'll need to somehow get a DNA sample from John. That's the tricky part."
Ororo: "There isn't anything tricky about it. Generation X members have regular physical exams. Just like we X-men do. Aside from you and Warren that is...with your healing factors and all - you're always in tip top shape. We can use a blood sample from one of those when John is tested."
Logan: "Well, I guess I'll hafta wait 'til the next scheduled phys exams..."
I woke up with a start. I never was the type of person who fell asleep during car rides. But I did that night. The car had apparently stopped suddenly and I woke up when I was semi-thrown forward, straining at the safetybelt. I glanced around outside and realized that we were nowhere near the Mansion. Cars all around seemed to have stopped and now choked the roadway. I looked questioningly at Sam for an answer.
Sam: "Traffic? Now?"
There was a bend in the road and whatever was causing the pileup seemed to have occurred around the corner. Since we couldn't go anywhere, we got out of the car and started running towards the source of the problem, like most of the other people around. When we cleared the bend, we saw that the bridge had collapsed and the entire area was on fire. What was more, on glancing across to the left of the bridge, the old Santorini Warehouse was up in a blaze.
"Why is the bridge down if the warehouse is on fire?"
Sam: "Jesus! The gas pipes. The fire must have spread through them and exploded along the bridge."
And just where were the damned firefighters when you needed them? The land prices in Bayville were rather high, and to maximize land use, buildings were packed rather closely together. The threat of the fire spreading to other properties was very real. The assembled people had by then decided to lend a hand. Garden hoses and pressure washers were brought out from the surrounding buildings and an effort was being made to contain the flames until help arrived.
Sam: "The bridge is down. The firemen will have to take the long way around to get here. But how will they get through all the cars? The road's jammed."
"Storm. Call the mansion!"
He promptly whipped out his cellphone and dialed the emergency number. The system routed the call directly to Professor Xavier. We were informed that he was dispatching a team to our location immediately. Since the roadways were all but blocked, it would have to be by air - hence one of our two aircraft. Either the Blackbird or the Hawk.
Sam: "At the rate that fire's spreading...I dunno if they'll make it on time."
"Well then, I guess we'll have to do something to buy them some time. Discreetly of course."
Sam: "Of course."
That said, we pushed our way through the crowd, nearer to the building. The main problem seemed to involve directing a sufficient volume of water onto the fire. those hoses and pressure washers weren't going to cut it by any stretch of the imagination. The nearby waterway looked to be pretty low - not much water available there. Then it hit me. The underground water mains! If we could somehow burst one of those, we'd have all the water we needed and a whole lot more. The only problem was that it would involve using our mutant abilities in plain sight of everyone. Even though it would be to help...it might not go down too good with some people. I quickly explained the idea to Sam and he was all for it - with one exception.
Sam: "We gotta go around to the other end of the building. Everyone seems to be here where all the flashy flames are. If the other end's secluded, we can try something."
We retreated and went across to the back of the building. The area there wasn't on fire and so no one was being bothered with it. Sam looked around just to make sure, then primed up his kinetic field. It manifested from his lower body, down to his feet. In essence, he shaped it into something like a jackhammer and began tearing up the ground beneath him. It took some doing, and drilling in various places before we struck it rich. When a water main did happen to burst, a geyser of water shot straight up towards the sky with really good pressure.
Sam: "I did my part. Now's your turn Mr. Fireman."
That said, I prepared to deflect the spurting water. Before I could however, an extremely pissed voice raided the air. The voice was rather thickly accented. It sounded Australian to me.
Unknown Male Voice: "Hey, what the hell d'you think you're doin'?!"
Right after that outburst, three balls of fire came streaking towards my position, from somewhere to the side of the building. I heard Sam shout and he started running towards me, kinetic field already forming. I pulled a stream of the gushing water towards myself, flattened it out into a screen, and the three flaming missles collided with it and were extinguished safely.
Sam: "Well, I guess this fire ain't no accident."
Mhmm hmm. And judging by the fireballs, either the arsonist was packing a flame thrower... Or he could very possibly be a mutant. Sam made to reach for his phone to update the Mansion as to the new development. But amazingly, as soon as he pulled it out of his pocket - it vanished from his hand!
"What the fuck?!"
Sam: "It felt like someone pulled it away from me."
Pulled it away from him? Someone's hand was quicker than the eye alright - I didn't see anything but the phone's sudden disappearance. I immediately reached for mine and succeeded in bringing it up to my ear - then I felt something cold, wet and slimy make contact with it and my hand. I moved my hand away from my ear and saw that some sort of...vine-like tentacle had wrapped around the phone. It was promptly torn away from me.
"Some sort of tentacle took - "
Sam: "Ain't a tentacle. It was a tongue."
A...tongue?! Eeeeeewwww! I followed the direction that Sam's finger was pointed in. Against the back wall of the Santorini building was a human figure. Definitely a male and he seemed to be able to wallcrawl. There was a shifting motion to the right of the building and another man walked out of the shadows and into the light. He was clad in a red and gold bodysuit that seemed to accentuate the contours of his body. The major color was red, but he wore gold colored gloves and boots. There was a gold flame motif on the chest. It was plain to see that he was the mutant responsible for the fire.
Sam: "Stay behind me."
"Hey, I can handle myself."
Sam: "But -"
"We've only just started real X-training. You're just older. I have the same level of basic training as you do."
Which was true. The mutant training exercises at the school didn't really start low level and then increased as students progressed through school life. They started everyone off with the tough stuff - and continued the training until graduation. We live in a very dangerous world, and it's even more so when you're different. The teacher never bothered to try and sugar over that fact of life. Sam and the others had covered nothing new so far in Gen X training because they only entered the program a couple of weeks ago.
A sudden flicker to our right drew our gaze. Yet another guy appeared - and I do mean appeared out of nowhere. Obviously some sort of super speed. He wore a bodysuit similar in design to the fireball throwing dude. But his was ice blue with silver thunderbolts along the sides, with silver gloves and boots. As if all the silver on the suit wasn't enough, he sported strikingly silver hair. At a signal from the silver haired guy, the third man on the wall jumped down and joined him. He wore some sort of leather bodysuit and seemed to favor black nailpolish and spiky jewellery...in addition to a punk hairstyle (green hair that didn't look good on him at all. How on Earth does Lorna make it look so damned good?!).
"Who the hell are you people? And why the fuck would you want to start a fire in the middle of - "
Unknown Male #1: "Ordinarily, if you were human, we'd probably beat the crap outta you for getting in our way."
Unknown Male #2: "But since you're our mutant brothers, I figure we better give you mates a little explanation."
Unknown Male #3: "We're burning down this joint for the good of our fellow mutants."
For the good of their fellow mutants? Were they some sort of violent mutant rights activists? As if the Brotherhood wasn't enough. Sam and I both regarded them curiously. They seemed to catch on pretty quick as to why.
Pyro: "I'm Pyro. These guys are Toad and Quicksilver."
Toad? I could still feel the slime on my hand and grimaced in severe disgust. With caution, I made my way towards the water main and washed my hands quickly. Icky slime...or maybe spit... Pyro and Quicksilver laughed at that - at Toad's expense. The X-men were already on the way. We probably couldn't take down three mutants on our own. But if we could keep them talking...we could buy the X-men some time and then they could deal with them.
"Okay...Pyro. Since you seem to be the leader in this operation - how does burning down the Santorini warehouse help our fellow mutants?"
Pyro: "Okay, long story short - "
Hmmm, pity he didn't want to give us the long version. It would keep him talking longer and buy more time for the X-men to arrive on the scene.
Pyro: "The Santorini family are major supporters of an underground, up and coming mutant hating organization. Their businesses help fund the Friends of Humanity."
Sam: "Friends of Humanity? Ain't never heard 'bout them before."
Toad: "Bloody hell. Didn't you hear the word underground, mate?"
Quicksilver: "I reckon you ain't got much goin' on upstairs, eh cowboy?"
All three shared a laugh. Sam must have said something stupid in his most redneck accent to keep them talking. I hoped he wasn't sincere in asking...or he probably wasn't as smart as I had assumed...
"And what do these Friends of Humanity do...exactly?"
Quicksilver: "They're pretty new. But we know they've been using their influence and funding to try and buy over politicians and stuff."
Politicians? The policy makers. What a scary thought.
Toad: "We've even heard talk 'bout them owning some rogue elements in the police. Whenever mutants get taken in for...crimes, they get treated to a special brand of justice. The human criminals aren't so fortunate."
Sam: "Where have you heard alla this?"
Pyro: "From one of our...sources."
"Sources? How do you know it isn't some kinda rumor or mistake?"
Toad: "Better safe than sorry, mate."
Quicksilver: "Just stay outta our way, and you won't get hurt, dudes."
A faint screeching could be heard in the sky above. It steadily increased. One of the x-birds were very near...
Sam: "I'm afraid we can't allow that."
The three misfits seemed taken aback. After all their explanation about how it was for our own good...we didn't agree with them.
"Even if the Santorinis are what you say they are - you're putting innocent people in danger. And we won't stand for it."
Psylocke: Where are you? Why aren't you or Samuel answering our calls?
I quickly explained what was going on and directed them towards the back of the building.
Pyro: "Lemme guess. You wanna play superheroes and try to stop us?"
We nodded. Yeah, that was basically it.
Toad: "There's three of us - and two of you. By the way, you both look pretty soft. And you think you can stop us?"
Quicksilver: "You and what army?"
A loud crack of thunder was heard then as rain began to pour from the heavens.
Pyro: "Rain? But the sky was clear and... Fuck! Tonight is just not our lucky night!"
No sooner had he said that did a bolt of lightning make contact with the ground near to his position. He jumped back and all three looked up.
Toad: "Who is that?!"
I followed their gaze and saw that Storm was hovering above us, focussing her attentions to the fire - which was quickly fading due to the rain - and had decided to catch their attention in the bargain. The sound of running was next heard and we all looked towards the direction of the sound. Clad in X-uniform and hastily making their way up to us were dad - I mean, Cyclops, Wolverine and Psylocke. It seems that Professor Xavier had sent the mentors out. The three miscreants looked at them with much more than a little anger. It was by then clear that the sudden change of weather was due to Storm. And the ground X-men wore the same sort of uniform as she did, for the most part. I guess they figured they weren't the only mutant team around. What was more, when dad eyed us to make sure we were okay - Pyro and company realized that we knew the newcomers and had probably been feigning interest in their motives in order to slow them down.
Pyro: "More mutant traitors?! Don't you dumb fucks know we're helping you! Helping us all get liberty and respect."
Toad: "M.A.L.E. It's what we do."
Male? Nice acronym.
Quicksilver: "Mutant Alliance for Liberation and Equality."
Psylocke: "It sounds so sexist. Are women welcome?"
Pyro: "But of course. It's just that we couldn't come up with a better name. You wanna join, babe? We'd be happy to take ya on."
He gave Psylocke a sexy look. She scoffed. Dad was getting impatient. As was Storm. The fire threat was pretty much contained by then and she held off on the rain, and hovered down.
Cyclops: "We're going to have to insist that you come with us."
None of the three gave any sign that they were going to comply.
Wolverine: "We could jus' beat the shit outta you and take you in. If that's the road you wanna go down."
Naturally, they weren't going to go down without a fight. All three split up. Dad ordered me and Sam to do the same and to watch our backs. The silver-haired, Quicksilver, darted towards dad and hit him forcefully on the abdomen, knocking the wind out of him. Storm once more took to the air and began to rise. As soon as she had made it three six feet into the air, that extendible tongue of Toad's came wrapping around her leg. The tongue must have been bendable and strong. Because the next thing we knew, Storm was swung around and around before finally being let go of (Wolverine had bared his claws and made to cut the tongue in an effort to free Storm. Toad must have not wanted to suffer getting cut.). Storm was sent flying. Before she could make contact with the building's wall, I caught her mentally and set her down.
Psylocke was facing off with Pyro, waiting for him to make his move. Without warning, he finally did. I heard a click of some sort. When I looked closer, I saw that Pyro's gloves were really specially adapted lighters of some kind. He claimed to be a mutant, and judging by the company he kept, I didn't doubt him. I reasoned that he must have been unable to generate flame, but could control it instead. And control it well offensively. An all out inferno was directed towards Psylocke. She ducked and rolled, then shot multiple psychic bolts towards Pyro. I didn't expect Pyro to be able to move quickly enough dodge them. He seemed to be very agile. Or maybe he had special training or something? Betsy had barely gotten up from the roll when Pyro unleashed another burst of flame.
Cyclops: "John, a little help here!"
I looked to my right and saw that dad was in the middle of some sort of tornado. Apparently, Quicksilver was running around him so fast that he had managed to create some sort of vortex. It held dad suspended and spinning in midair. And without any leverage, he couldn't move himself back onto terra firma. Sam, Wolverine and Storm were busy trying to deal with the incredibly agile Toad. So I had to do something. Try as I might, I couldn't seem to focus on Quicksilver long enough to get a mental hold on him. He was just moving too fast.
"He's moving too fast."
I then tried to tear dad away from the vortex and set him down. It didn't work as the pull of the swirling air held him firmly. Then I had a brainstorm. Quicksilver was running on the ground. He needed to run to create the vortex. And he needed the ground to run on. If we couldn't stop him, we could tear the ground up. I'd be able to hold dad firmly so that he could aim, even though I couldn't pull him out. I figured that Quicksilver was more than fast enough to avoid incoming shots from dad. But the ground wasn't in the habit of moving. That said, I got a mental lock on dad and stopped him from spinning.
Blast the ground all around you!
He complied. Quicksilver's running surface was torn to pieces. With his running surface shattered, Quicksilver stumbled, tripped and fell. Before he could get up again, I lifted him into the air so that he was held motionless. Dad promptly shot him with an optic blast and he was out like a light.
Cyclops: "Nice plan."
Cyclops: "Let's give Psylocke a hand. She seems to need it."
We turned our attention to Betsy, who was still in the act of avoiding Pyro's fire attacks.
Scott: "We could have done this the easy way - but noooo, you wouldn't have that, would you?"
At that, dad aimed an optic blast at Pyro - who immediately countered by blocking it with a flaming heatshield. With his other free hand, he kept up the assault on Betsy. The water pressure from the burst main was still as high as ever, a shooting geyser was still spurting out from the ground. Since Pyro seemed to have forgotten about me for the time being (being too occupied with dad and Betsy), I made my way over to the geyser. I focussed on the water and formed two orbs, each about the size of a basket ball...two liquid balls of water. Hovering them along with me, I walked right across the battlefield unhindered. Logan, Ororo and Sam were still having their hands full with that Toad guy. Sneaking up behind Pyro's back was no real problem. Once I was close enough, I launched the orbs of water at his hands and held them there. His flames were automatically quenched. Shake as he might, he couldn't get the watery spheres to move away from his hands. Realizing that neither Betsy, nor dad were responsible, he looked all over and finally turned around and faced me.
"Rather creative, huh?"
Pyro: "You fuckin' runt!"
He made to lunge at me. In his mad rush, it was easy to sidestep his charge and roundhouse kick him across the back. He fell sprawled. Out on the ground. Before he could get up, I telekinetically locked onto him and hurled him towards Betsy. When he looked up, he saw he wickedly smiling at him. In the bedroom such a naughty smile would be sexy as hell - on the battlefield, it was downright scary!
Pyro: "Oh shit..."
Without wasting anymore time, she formed her signature psychic "blade" and stabbed him through the head with it. It was a weapon formed from psychic energy and as such only harmed mentally, not physically. Pyro went out like a baby...
Cyclops: "I'm surprised that these guys can give us this much of a workout."
Psylocke: "Mhmm hmm. They had special training alright."
Sam: "Ow! You slimy - "
We three glanced across towards Logan, Ororo and Sam. I found it very hard to believe that three against one wasn't enough of an advantage against Toad. Especially when two out of the three were Logan and Ororo. Just as Toad was about to tongue whip Storm, I mentally caught hold of his tongue and hurled him from the wall onto the ground below. He landed on his feet and didn't seem phased. Sam charged towards him, but Toad evaded and spit the nastiest looking gob of slime onto Sam's face. It instantly crystallized into a solid over Sam's face.
We didn't have to worry about that though. Sam expanded his kinetic field and it shattered.
Sam: "Ugh...when was the last time you brushed your teeth?"
Toad didn't respond to that, as by then the wail of sirens could be heard in the distance.
Toad: "We'll settle this some other time!"
He fingered with something on his ear.
Toad: "Gateway, get us home mate!"
None of us knew what he meant by that or what to expect. So we didn't act before it was too late. Three circles of orange light materialized around Toad, Pyro and Quicksilver. And in the blink of an eye, they all just vanished into thin air.
Storm: "It must be some sort of remote teleportation power."
The sirens had by then become very much louder...
Cyclops: "We'd better get the hell out of here."
Nodding, we all made a hasty exit...
Well guys and girls, that's chapter two. If you have any comments and would like to contact me, feel free to send an email to either
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Well, I'll be goin' now! Bye!