Text in bold is used for emphasis. Text in italics indicates telepathic communication. Underlined text indicates any form of electronic communication. And one more thing. I have been, inadvertently using Striker and Stryker to refer to Colonol William Stryker. They ARE on and the same person and it was my mistake. Won't happen again. From now on it's Stryker. No you can read (^_^).

Phoenix: Death Wish

Chapter Five

I knew full well that walking back into the War Room would convince the Professor, Betsy and dad that they had won some sort of a victory. My sense of pride would take quite a blow alright. I have mentioned before that I am the kind of person who likes being right all the time and rubbing it in when other people are wrong, right? I figured that before I let them start fiddling about in my head, I'd let them know that I wasn't just giving in because I was pitifully weak. If I didn't have my family's safety to worry about (and getting outted and possibly leaving behind Julian) then I would have packed right away and left.

BUMP! I bumped into someone and staggered. Walking with your head held low (down to the ground really) tends to cause that a lot.

Logan: "It's usually a good idea to watch ahead when you walk."


Logan: "Why so glum, kid? You look like shit."

Okay, I'd give him points for the voice tone. It could pass for genuinely concerned. Still, Logan needs to work on the actual words he uses.

"It's nothing. Just a little...I guess you could say it's something like a family misunderstanding. That's all."

I was still looking at the ground when I said it. But then I heard Logan grunt in - what sounded to be - actual annoyance. I looked up and saw that he did in fact look mad. And not just a little bit.

Logan: "That father of yours still insists on actin' like an irritating prick?"

I know my eyebrows shot up in surprise and my mouth sort of gaped. Yes, I knew that dad and Logan weren't actually friendly. And that Logan was what dad considered to be problematic. But I had never before heard Logan refer to my father in such irreverent words and tone of voice. Seeing my expression no doubt was responsible for Logan apologizing two seconds later. It didn't really sound all that convincing though.

"He said something stupid just now. With the Professor and Betsy."

Saying that he merely said something stupid was a way of sugar coating it. I can't believe how quickly dad forgets his promises. Just the day before he promised that he'd try to change. That he'd put out an authentic effort to improve what passed for our parent-child relationship. As did I. And how quickly he seems to forget that and reverts back to being a...prick. I suppose I should have realized that it was a little too good to be true. And I guess that I should have seen the signs. Like from the night before.

We were supposed to start talking to each other about stuff more. And when we went to the cafeteria and I'd witnessed something awkward going on between him and some other people (Remy, Warren and Hank) with weird gazes and all. I asked him about it and he evaded. He said that we'd talk about it when we got home later. But when I tried to bring it up into our conversation - he shrugged me off. I just figured that maybe it was something that adults only had any business in knowing. So I let it go. I guess that was a sign that our talk hadn't really accomplished anything at all. Because there he was in the War Room granting the Professor permission to enter MY mind and do whatever the hell he wanted (or needed) to!

Logan: "John?"

Damn that spacing out habit of mine.


Logan: "Anything you wanna talk about? It might...uh...help you feel better?"

That second sentence of his wasn't spoken with much faith at all. And he looked so doubtful, that I almost laughed. Keyword there was almost - you don't laugh at a man like Logan. If you're lucky though, he might let you laugh with him. Logan wasn't the type to go around telling people that talking things out would make things better. He usually employed different ways and means to "make things better". And as such wasn't one of the teachers who were called upon for counselling and such.

"Since when are you the talking it out type?"

The words came out before I could stop myself from uttering them. It was true that we students had a lot of freedom with what we said to Logan. He let us say a lot of things to him that the other teachers would no doubt consider disrespectful. Still, there were times when we (the student body) crossed some invisible line with him and ended up saying something that he didn't like. I was actually a little worried that maybe I had done just that. Logan wasn't the talking it out type and he seemed to take a little offense when I said that.

"Sorry. I'm still a little angry and I say pointless shit when I am."

Logan: "It's no big. I say pointless shit all the time. Angry or not."

Well, no one could argue with that indisputable fact.

"Look, I gotta go meet dad and the others before things get worse."

Logan: "Yeah, right. Still, if you ever need to talk - about anything..."

Okay, the eye to eye staring was... Well, it was weird. But somehow, I really did get the feeling that maybe Logan gave an actual damn after all. I wouldn't say that he was ordinarily uncaring and heartless. But he was usually sullen, distant and somewhat cool. I don't know why - but I felt something akin to "warmth" from him then. And I can truthfully say that I had never felt it from him before. I nodded in response to his statement and he walked off on his way. As did I. After five more minutes of walking, I stood outside the War Room's door. Pressing my hand to the scanner, the panels opened and I walked inside. They were all still there. But they looked somewhat calmer. I assume that they felt that they had won.

Scott: "Glad to see that you're back."

Yeah, that tone sounded a little bit victorious. The least I could do in such a situation would be to salvage some pride.

"First off - don't think that you've won some kind of big victory. If I had my way, I'd say piss off and then I'd pack for grandma's."

Dad scowled (at my choice of language and tone no doubt) but didn't say anything about it. Okay then - some pride salvaged. Let's move on and get this over with already...

Betsy: "But?"

"But I'm not going to run the risk of hurting her and granddad. And that's...that's the only reason I'm here."

Okay that was a lie. It obviously wasn't the only reason...as the Professor and Betsy might find out soon. But of course I couldn't say the other reasons for dad to hear them. Besides, Betsy and the Prof would find out soon enough.

Professor Xavier: "So I take it that you're going to let us help you?"

"Yeah. But you and Miss Braddock and going to have to make me a solemn promise."

The three of them eyed each other knowingly. Of course what I was going to ask them to promise me would be obvious to anyone with a shred of common sense. They would have to subject themselves to an unbreakable oath of secrecy.

Professor Xavier: "Yes?"

"You and Miss -"

Betsy: "Oh call me Betsy. It's more personal. I'm about to enter the deepest recesses of your mind. That's about as personal as two people can get. Enough with the Miss Braddock."

"Yeah...well. You and Betsy will have to keep whatever it is you see in my mind a secret...and never speak about it to anyone else. Not even dad."

Scott: "But if it's something I should know about? Are you going to fill me in?"

"It isn't something for you to know right now. And I will be the judge to decide when the right time for you to know is."

Dad was obviously not pleased with being left out. But the Professor and Betsy gave me their solemn word that they would not share anything with anyone else. There were some other things that needed to be said though. But telepathically so that dad wouldn't hear them.

No matter what you see...what it looks like...I AM safe. I am not being used. And it's what I want more than anything else, okay?

Betsy and the Professor looked at me confusedly, but nodded to show that they understood. Of course when dad saw that we were staring at each other he realized that we were conversing mentally. Sighing impatiently he made some remark that he didn't understand what could be so dark and mysterious in my life...that he didn't see what all the melodrama was about.

And you'll see things that will probably shock you. Things that concern...someone else. I want you to know that this person...means the world to me and I am completely okay with...with what you'll see.

There was an exchange of confused glances between Betsy and Professor Xavier. But once again they nodded in understanding.

"Okay. I'm ready. What do I do?"

Professor Xavier: "Just have a seat and get comfortable. You won't have to do anything but lie back and relax."

"And how long will it take?"

Professor Xavier: "It shouldn't take more than twenty minutes or so."

"O-okay then. Let's get this over with. I want to move on with my life sometime soon."

That said I took a seat, closed my eyes and tried my best to ignore the tingle I felt when Betsy and Professor Xavier established a connection to my mind. I've trusted you, Julian. God don't let that trust be in vain. Please...

In The Library

Jubilee: "Ah! Amara, don't sneak up on me like that! How many times have I warned you about doing that shit!"

Lead Librarian: "Excuse me! This is a library!"

The lead librarian did not take noise in the library very lightly. Glancing in a warning manner at the two errant girls, the sacred silence was soon restored. It was just after seven and Jubilee was still behind the computer terminal...researching for her latest project. It was time for dinner. But Jubilee had decided that there were far more important things than food in the here and now. And so she was more than determined to stay on and read. Most everyone else had since left the library...in awe at the unsurpassed studiousness of Jubilation Lee. She had been at it for over three and a half hours.

Had Jubilee been a little more vigilant, she would have heard the soft footsteps of someone approaching her from behind. But as it was, she was totally taken in by the sheer amount of new and exciting information before her. To hell with behind her. Amara had noticed the absence of her friend at the dinner table. And since there were few places that Jubilee could possibly have been - the library was at the top of that short list - Amara went looking for her missing friend. And found her huddled behind a computer monitor in a back corner of the library.

It was a habit of Amara to sneak up on Jubilee when she was totally engrossed in a book of some sort. Jubilee never reacted like that before however. Whatever could she have been reading that made her so jumpy, Amara wondered. Just once, Amara would have liked to catch Jubilee sneakily downloading porn or something. But considering her jumpiness...Amara was inclined to believe that perhaps Jubilee was reading some kind of horror story or the like. How wrong she was. As she was to discover firsthand upon glancing at the screen. What she saw was enough to elicit a loud gasp (and another warning stare from the lead librarian). Speaking in a soft, yet forceful whisper, Amara demanded that her best friend explain herself.

Amara: "Jubilee?! What the hell is the meaning of this?"

Jubilee guiltily looked away as Amara read a few lines.

Amara: "Jubilee? Are you a lesbian?"

Jubilee: "What?! No."

Amara decided that it was her duty as a best friend to be supportive. After all, Jubilee had helped her through more than one teen girl crisis.

Amara: "Cuz it is totally okay with me. I mean...I myself have wondered at times what being with another girl might be like and..."

Jubilee: "Shut the hell up. I am NOT gay."

Amara: "Then what are you doing here reading all of this?"

Amara's doubtful gaze was beginning to get to Jubilee. And she decided that if there was anyone who could be trusted, it was Amara. It was starting to dawn upon Jubilee that she couldn't keep a burden like this on her own. She needed someone else to share it with. Her list of female friends was very short. Just Amara and the newcomer, Ashley. And Ashley was far too new to the Mansion and her group of friends to be trusted with something like this. That and she seemed to have a crush on the very guy it concerned. Some voice deep inside was saying that it wouldn't be wise to include her.

Jubilee: "I think one of our friends might be gay."

Amara: "Really?"

Amara didn't look too convinced but she was willing to listen.

Jubilee: "You have to keep this between us. Don't ever tell anyone. Especially not those bitches you hang with."

Yes. Amara was a princess. And whilst her main friends were Ray, Jubilee, John and Bobby - there were a lot of other girls (and naturally, guys) who flocked around her. Something of a fan club really. Amara looked shocked that Jubilee would even think she couldn't be trusted.

Amara: "They are just my bitches. You guys are my friends. I thought you knew that. Gosh, you really are serious. Aren't you?"

Jubilee: "Yes. Which is why this has to remain a secret. If this thing every gets out...well there could be hell to pay."

Seeing the stern look of Jubilee's was enough to convince the previously dubious Amara. It did more than convince her. It made an already curious teen girl even more curious. Curiouser and curiouser, as a matter of fact. She had a need to know...

Amara: "Well, who do you think is gay?"

Jubilee: "Um...the emphasis is on THINK. Okay? I'm not sure yet. Which is why I was researching before I was so rudely interrupted."

Amara: "Okay, tell me right now who you suspect or I'll bitch slap the truth outta you."

Jubilee: "John. I think he's been holding out on us."

Amara: "No way!"

Amara didn't believe it one bit. She knew quite a few gay men back home in her country of Nova Roma. As a matter of fact, most of her attendants and bodyguards were gay. They were the only men her father, King Jerick, trusted around her. And trusted Amara with too for that matter. Go figure. Amara felt that if there was a gay man within her line of sight, she'd be able to identify him. But John didn't seem to have any OGTs (obviously gay traits) to speak of.

Jubilee: "He could have been very good at concealing it. It says here that many boys hide it well for years. But when circumstances take a turn they sometimes start to hide it less well. Cuz then the constant stress of self-denial finally catches up with them."

Amara: "Circumstances changing?"

Jubilee: "All this sudden talk of gay coming from Ray and Bobby. We never really had gay as a topic of conversation before. So it must have been easier for John to hide it back then. But now it's all Ray and Bobby talk about."

Amara was beginning to realize that maybe her gaydar wasn't as faultless as she thought. If it turned out that she was wrong about John - who knows how many gay boys had slipped by unnoticed.

Amara: "You're right. Say...Ray and Bobby seem to be gay obsessed these days. You don't think that maybe they could be gay? Do you think..."

Jubilee: "Nah. They're just assholes."

Amara: "True. But have you anything else to make you suspicious of John?"

Jubilee did. John had never had a girlfriend. And what was more, he didn't seem to want one. And he had never even expressed interest in any girl. When Bobby and Ray bragged about how many bitches they had bedded (which Jubilee strongly disbelieved), John was always silent and somewhat distant. Jubilee always thought that it was because he was brought up better and frowned upon such behavior and disregard for the respect of women. Now she attributed to it a whole new meaning.

Jubilee: "And then there's Ashley."

Amara: "Oh... She's been hitting on him."

Jubilee: "And what has he done about it?"

Amara: "Nothing."

Yes, nothing. Whilst Bobby and Ray would taken her for a...well, they'd have done something all right. As a matter of fact, John seemed to get a little upset when Bobby and Ray assumed that Ashley was John's girlfriend. Most guys would have been flattered and all out for such an assumption. But John kind of irritatingly insisted that Ashley was just a friend. Sure he could have denied it - but there was no need for him to sound irritated that someone made that assumption.

Jubilee: "So that's why I think he's gay. Gosh, it must be rough for him."

Amara: "Yeah, I know. Having no one to talk to. Keeping it a secret from everyone."

Jubilee: "Oh shit. Here we go just assuming that he's gay. We need to remind ourselves every now and then that we only suspect."

Amara: "Yeah. But we need to find out once and for all."

But what to do, the girls wondered. After sitting for ten minutes, it seemed as if their minds would be a blank forever. Until Amara had a devilish gleam in her eye. Jubilee had seen such a gleam before. And when Amara gets that look in her eye...

Jubilee: "Oh God..."

Amara smiled as her thoughts became more organized.

Amara: "Just hear me out. It might be fun...and effective at the same time."

Jubilee couldn't shake the bad feeling in her stomach as Amara discussed the technical details of her scheme. Even so at the end of Amara's speech, she was convinced.

Jubilee: "You're right. It could be fun! I was going to just suggest that we spy on him."

Amara: "Hmmm. We can do that too."

It was always a wise idea to have a backup plan. After all, in life, extra options are always advantageous.

Jubilee: "Still. Aren't you afraid of the...scandal it might cause? It's so controversial. And if your parents find out...you could get into trouble."

Amara: "Honey. I'm royalty. We're all about scandal. Besides, my parents don't have much room to talk and preach to me about morality. Daddy is banging bitches left, right and center. And mom's a little too friendly with her bodyguards. They can't tell me shit."

Jubilee was aware that Amara's family was dysfunctional. And she never could get how Amara could be so casual and unconcerned about it all. Maybe she was just a very strong girl.

Jubilee: "Okay. Let's get to it then."

Both girls grinned mischievously, left the library with the determination and drive to make their plan succeed. Come tomorrow, the Mansion would receive a shock to its system...

When you're panicking, you don't think straight. And things that you should have seen are missed. I plain forgot that aside from the Professor and Betsy realizing that Julian was involved with me romantically...he was also my co-partner and instigator in a crime other than that of hooking up with jailbait. Yes, dear friends. The fact that Julian helped me gain access to the parking lot to crush Emma Frost's car was discovered by both the Professor and Betsy. I must say that they seemed more upset about that than learning that he and I were...boyfriends.

You should have seen how the Professor's eyebrows shot right up and refused to come back down! That was when I realized that he knew. I gave him a very meaningful stare and reminded (visually and mentally) him that he had promised to zip his lip. Betsy had a look of realization on her face. And then Professor Xavier caught on - they both suddenly understood the significance of what I had said to them before they entered my mind. It was a relief when Betsy gave me a smile - not a scornful, mocking smile - but a genuinely warm one. I couldn't help but smile back. At least she didn't think any less of me. The Professor was harder to read. But I could tell that he was more surprised than anything else. I didn't get the homophobic vibe from him.

Dad had seen some sort of exchange happening between all three of us and couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. To my relief, both the Professor and Betsy replied that there was nothing out of the ordinary that he should know about. I guess Julian was right. They are trustworthy after all. The Professor did tell me that he would have to talk with Julian though. A serious talk. I got worried when he said that. But then he told me it was more to do with Julian helping me commit an offense than about our...relationship. I hoped Julian wouldn't get into too much trouble. Emma may have been exposed as a bad seed. But the Professor wasn't taking it easy at the means we had used to conduct our revenge.

I was allowed to leave when they were done. As I got up to go, Betsy told me that if I ever needed to talk to anyone - she assumed that I had no adult to talk to about my issues, and she was right - I could come to her at any time. Okay, so technically Julian was an adult. But he was the boyfriend. I thanked her for the offer and quickly left, distinctly feeling the gaze of my father all the while. Yes, things were not half bad. As long as the Professor and Betsy kept their mouths shut - which they seemed to have every intention of doing. Upon entering the subbasement proper once more, I could not help but smile weakly in relief at finally sharing my secret with others and not having the world come crashing down upon me.

Sam: "Hey, John."

'S-Sam? Where the hell did you come from?"

Hmmm, that must have sounded rude. He looked a little taken aback. Not offended exactly, but not all peachy either.

Sam: "Down yonder."

Sometimes I do wonder if Sam speaks like that to amuse others.

"Oh. Well then - hey."

He was headed to the elevator, as was I. So we walked and talked along the way.

Sam: "So you missed our flight class."

"Yeah. Something came up. How was it?"

Sam: "Well, we basically had to do an aerial obstacle course where the obstacles were moving - moving towards us actually. I can't count the times I almost got knocked down. Rough stuff."

"Oh okay."

Sam: "And tomorrow it gets exciting."


Sam: "We're going to be playing a War Game!"

A War Game? I'd seen those things in movies. Like where students who go to a military academy participate in a simulated war. And there were activities like capture the flag. And paintball gun battles and stuff. What kind of War Game were we going to...play?

"What kind of War Game?"

Sam: "The X-men versus the Brotherhood!"


I personally thought that was too far, too fast. Sam however explained that we wouldn't be fighting against the simulated members of the actual Brotherhood.

Sam: "The Gamma team are going to act the role of Brotherhood members up to some nefarious scheme. And it's our job to stop 'em."

"Ooh. That sounds good."

Gamma Team! Julian was on the Gamma team. Ah, at last we'd be together in the Danger Room once more! Pity that we'd be on opposite sides, though. But the Professor was always saying that it was our duty to try and enlighten those who were errant and give them a chance to repent for their actions. And give them the opportunity to start over afresh. Maybe I could somehow...convince the Brotherhood Julian that what he'd be doing is wrong...and then he'd switch sides and join the X-men. And then we kick the evil asses of his former cronies together!

Sam: "John!"


Sam: "Get into the elevator. You been standing there for -"


Me and my vivid imagination...

Ashley Montgomery (Mystique) found living in the presence of a roommate to be most annoying. Her roommate was a nosy, loudmouthed slut by the name of Alicia Suarez. Mystique valued her sleep. But night after night, Alicia would stay up having loud cell phone conversations. If she wasn't gossiping with other bitches, she was having phone sex with some boy. As if all the regular sex she had wasn't enough to keep her satisfied. In addition to losing sleep, Mystique's communication schedule with her M.A.L.E. allies, as well as with Magneto, was being compromised. Sneaking out of the room to some secluded corner of the Mansion was seriously starting to get to her. But for now, she would just have to put up with it...

Erik: "It's been two days since I last heard from you. I have some very, very important news."

Ashley: "This place is crawling with students. The school has grown since the last time you've been here. It's hard to find the privacy I need. What's so important?"

Erik: "Alkali Lake. About two days ago, I saw helicopters - thirty of them - encircling the area over the abandoned base. Not to mention a convoy of armored personnel carriers heading towards the vicinity of the lake. And there were some military looking men scouting the forests surrounding the lakeside."

Alkali Lake. Magneto had been keeping an occasional watch over that place for over a year. Well, not the lakeside itself. But the area where the dam was once located. It once served as the base of operations for William Stryker's group of mutant hating strike team. Magneto kept watch over that place for good reason. When the base was under threat of being submerged by the waters, Magneto and Mystique had rushed out of the base to save their own hides. They didn't have the time to destroy the computers and the vast databanks of mutant identities that Stryker had so painstakingly collected. In addition, a very powerful weapon was left behind - a psychic boosting device akin to Cerebro (that Stryker had Magneto design under brain control).

Whilst the entrances and exits to the base were blocked off by water, the base itself was encapsulated in a water-proof "bubble". If the wrong people managed to work their way down to the base's computers and accessed the databanks, many mutant lives could be endangered. Worse, if people who weren't friends of mutant kind discovered the Cerebro clone...and figured out how to use it...

Ashley: "Shit! Are you sure that the base is still functional?"

Erik: "One hundred percent positive. I can sense the electromagnetic emanations from the equipment inside."

Ashley: "They could try to send down divers. To search for an entrance underwater."

Erik: "My thoughts exactly. We cannot allow anyone to access those computer files. Or the discover the Cerebro clone."

Ashley: "We're underpowered and outnumbered. The M.A.L.E. cannot handle something like this. It'll be just me and you against all of them."

Yes. With Avalanche and Sabretooth still incarcerated, the membership for the Brotherhood proper was down to just two.

Erik: "Me and you? Not exactly. Which is why I'll have to - to pay a visit to Charles tomorrow."

Ashley: "Hmpf!"

Erik: "There is no helping it, my dear. This concerns all of us. And as much as I hate to admit it - we can't do it alone. We need the X-men's help...again. I didn't want to surprise you by just showing up."

Ashley: "I appreciate the warning."

Erik: "Right. Under no circumstances are you to compromise your cover. You will not be joining us on this mission."

Ashley: "You sound almost convinced that the X-men will agree to work with you."

Erik: "Oh I'm fairly certain that they'll be willing to put our differences aside."

Ashley: "And why might that be?"

Erik: "Because, I have reason to believe that Stryker was aware of what truly goes on at the Xavier Institute. And that among the mutant identities on file...are those of the X-men."

Ashley: "Ah, I see."

Erik: "Now. Enough about that for the time being. I want to be updated - what else have you learnt?"

Ashley began to divulge. So far, she had not witnessed any astounding psychic feats by the subject, Jonathan Summers. There was a tiff he had with some friends...and a few dishes rattled and a glass was broken - but aside from that, nothing of any significance in the telekinetic depart. He must have been upset and his telekinesis reflected it. A very common occurrence.

Ashley: "But there is more Erik. I've been trying my best to sorta subtly get close to him."

Erik: "Good. How's that coming along?"

Ashley: "Not so good. John's a queer."

Erik: "Eh?!"

Ashley: "Yes. I followed him outside earlier. He snuck out to the greenhouse to meet some older guy. Like in his early twenties. And as if the lovey-dovey talk and shit wasn't enough...they started hugging and kissing! It was...actually kinda cute. But that's not the most significant thing I learnt. He snuck out to meet his boyfriend because he was upset."

Uh huh. Apparently his telepathy had started to increase in strength and Professor Xavier wanted to mentally dampen it. But doing that would have meant that all of his secrets would be revealed since his mind would be an open book. And for obvious reasons, John had a problem with that. He was given an ultimatum by the Professor - do it or leave.

Erik: "Charles must have been rather worried to resort to scare tactics."

Ashley: "Well, Charles had his way. Jonathan said that he'd go through with it."

Erik: "I'm rather upset and disappointed to learn that the so called next step in human evolution is gay. It must be Mother Nature's idea of a joke - a cruel joke."

Ashley: "Yes. He must pass on his genes to the next generation for the good of mutant-kind's continuing evolution."

Erik: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Do you have a picture of the boy?"

Ashley: "Yeah. I snapped one with my cell phone. I'll send it over."

A brief lull in the conversation followed whilst Magneto took the time to examine the photo.

Erik: "Damn. If I didn't know any better - I'd say that Jean had a sex change and an age reversal procedure done."

Ashley: "He may look angelic. But he's a schemer. I almost forgot to tell you. He got rid of the White Queen!"

Erik: "Murder?!"

My, but Erik sounded rather impressed by that.

Ashley: "No. She was apparently into his father. And she was sorta abusing him mentally and such. No one believed him when he told...over and over again. Frost tried to control his powers so she could make it look like he was dangerous and out of control. So that he would be sent away to a mental institution. He managed to convince the Professor that Emma was plotting against him and that she staged the entire act. My guess is that he used Cerebro. Because we all saw footage of what had happened...rumors had started to fly that John had attempted murder and the Professor wanted to set everyone straight."

Erik: "Interesting. Very, very interesting. Just where is Miss Frost right now?"

Ashley: "John's rather pleased with himself. She has been committed to Happy Valley Psychiatric Hospital."

Erik: "Good to know."

Ashley: "Why?"

Erik: "I think that I'll pay Miss Frost a visit sometime in the near future."

Ashley: "Because..."

Erik: "A telepath of her standing will be a very welcome addition to our currently underpowered ranks."

Ashley: "They in all probability wiped her mind."

Erik: "That can be fixed with enough time and effort. Young Wits is rather talented."

Ashley: "Do you really think that she will want to join us?"

Erik: "Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned. She'll want revenge, alright. But she won't be able to do it alone. We can give her the opportunity. Not right now - but later on. Of all the X-men, The White Queen was the closest I ever came to respecting. The woman is ruthless on the field of battle."

Ashley: "Well, that's about all that I have to report. Are we done?"

Erik: "Yes. See you tomorrow - act scared. I'm the most infamous mutant terrorist on record."

Ashley: "Gotcha. I'd better return to my room before my roommate gets suspicious."

At that, both individuals severed the cell phone connection and went about their business...

I called Julian and gave him the heads up about what the Professor had said after my procedure was done. That he intended to have a talk with Julian. So I was hoping that Julian would manage to kind of prepare himself for it and not be caught off guard. When people get caught off guard, they get nervous. And then they say stupid things and such. And then people get the wrong idea. There was no way that I wanted the Professor to get any crazy ideas in his head. Professor Xavier didn't say when exactly that he intended to have his discussion with Julian. But I was willing to bet that he was planning on doing it that very night.

You see, the Professor doesn't believe in putting of for tomorrow what you can do today. And the day was fast drawing to a close. So Julian figured that him sneaking into my room during the night wasn't going to happen. And damn, I was hoping to score a hat trick with him coming for three nights straight (Saturday, Sunday...tonight). But I guess he was right. There was that War Games thing on the schedule for the next day anyway. Against the Gammas. I wanted to show my man what I was made of. So a good night's sleep was in order. Being lost in my own thoughts, I didn't hear dad come inside.

Scott: "So what? You're going to keep up this not talking shtick?"

Ah ha! Trying to be tricky eh? Like I'd ever answer that question with some stupid two word sentence (such as 'Uh huh')...which would be talking to him. Which was what I wanted to avoid. Try something better! I'm much too smart for ya!

Scott: "I can't be your father and your friend, you know. And sometimes making tough decisions comes with the territory."

I continued to eat my sprinkle, hazel and walnut-covered, chocolate ice-cream in silence. I usually feel the need for it when I'm nervous. Or angry. Or celebrating. Or - okay, I just love it way too damned much. So I'm a hazel and walnut-covered, chocolate ice-cream junkie. Sue me.

Scott: "Stop ignoring me."

And that, my friends, is when he made the second mistake of the day. My ignoring him was apparently something he found irritating. So, to get my attention, he casually walked over and sneakily grabbed my container of ice-cream away from me! A word of warning to anyone of you (if I ever decide to invite you over) NEVER do that! It is a sure fire way to make me transform into -

"What in the Hell?! Give me back my damn ice-cream!"

Scott: "Do I see your name on...oh."

Yes. I labelled everything that I cherished in the freezer with my name. That way, no one could ever claim that they had no warning. You see, my aunt and uncle treated our house as open to them at all times. And I have mentioned before that Aunt Lorna is especially prone to making poor eating choices on occasion (hence her constant fear that she'd go fat). It's for Lorna's own good too - or she'd just eat my ice-cream and feel guilty about it afterwards. And aside from Lorna, when Emma started making regular trips to our house (and by extension, our freezer), I wasn't taking any chances. So with that in mind, there was no way that I'd risk running out of ice-cream...the withdrawal symptoms were very ugly.

"Ha! Since my name is on it - hand it over."

Scott: "Um...it was a figure of speech. Still, it ain't yours. As I recall...I'm the one the bill was made out to at the supermarket."

Ooooh! That was so fucking cheap! Notice the swear word - see, the withdrawal is already beginning people!

"Look, I let the Professor and Betsy do what they had to. Fine, I hope it made you happy. Now pass that ice-cream over so that I can be happy."

Scott: "Telling the Professor to go ahead and do it did not make me happy. But you weren't giving me - giving anyone a choice."

"It was you guys who laid down the ultimatum. Xavier said leave and you...you said nothing!"

Mhmm hmm. The Professor made a decision and dad just went along with it.

Scott: "I couldn't fight him on it and put everyone danger."


Scott: "Of course I didn't want you to leave. And to be honest - we were just trying to scare you into making the right choice."

Yeah, scare me. They did one hell of a job alright.

"You know, I'm starting to wonder. When you people look at me now - do you see me as a person with rights? Or just as some kind of a threat - a time bomb - like Betsy said?"

Scott: "That is not fair. Of course we know that you have rights. But you also have responsibilities... John, you really made the Professor uneasy today."

"Oh? I think it's only fair. He scared me - why should he be the only one to scare people shitless?! God, I saw my entire world come crumbling down in less than ten seconds and..."

Goddamn me. I really have got to get some sort of help for this rambling problem I have. That last bit about seeing my life come crumbling down was enough to elicit a very disturbed expression from dad. And then the conversation took a turn that I had been dreading since it began. Although, I should have known that we eventually boil down to it at some point. Just why did it have to be so damned soon...and without me having the comfort of ice-cream to help me through it?! (Hey, some people use alcohol and/or sex and/or drugs to help deal with their problems. I use ice-cream. Don't preach to me about mentioning the chocolaty goodness so often!)

Scott: "Son, what could be so bad that you couldn't stand us finding out about?"

Let's be precise. It wasn't bad by any means. I was scared that he'd think it was bad.

Scott: "Did you do something wrong?"

Uh huh. Just assume that I committed a crime, dad. Yeah, just assume it's because I'm an innate criminal. Way to go with that one! Although, come to think of it - I did criminally vandalize (sugar-coating here) Emma Frost's car. But that was absolutely unavoidable...sorta.


Scott: "Tell me. I'll understand."

"I was just being a typical melodramatic teenager. It's nothing important. It just seemed important at the time. I just blew it way out of proportion."

It was a well established scientific fact - we teenagers all have our moments of melodrama. Did he accept that as a viable excuse? If you guessed no - then ten points to ya!

Scott: "For God's sake, John. You ran out of the room looking like you wanted to throw up."

Actually, I don't know how I managed to keep from doing just that. One of life's great mysteries I guess.

"If it was something serious - don't you trust the Professor to do the right thing?"

Scott: "Hey, you can't try that one with me. This is not like -"

"Earlier, you expected me to just have faith in Xavier. Why don't you have some faith in him yourself. Too much of a hypocrite, are we?"

He opened his mouth to say something...ah but the well ran dry. He gave me a look that said, "this isn't over." I gave him one that replied, "sure it is, now surrender the ice-cream to me or else!" Which he did. Then he left for upstairs. Mhmmm! Yummy in the tummy! Trust me guys, I'm in orbit here...

Logan wasn't the type to take time off to smell the flowers. Or that was what he told himself. He often felt that it was overrated. But truth be told - it wasn't that bad at all. Especially when you had someone nice to do it with. Having long been the victim of an unrequited love interest, Logan was finding the company and attention of Ororo to be flattering and downright addictive.

For someone with senses advanced far beyond usual human parameters, he should have seen it sooner. Ororo obviously had been harboring feelings of attraction to him for a long time. Logan was beginning to realize that all the while he was hung up on Jean and the dead-end dream of ever being with her - he had missed out on pursuing a relationship that actually stood a chance. He regretted the time he wasted. Well, now he had been given another opportunity. And he was making the most of it. This time, he'd try to make sure that there were no regrets.

Ororo: "So - how's it coming along with John?"

Logan: "Eh? What?"

Ororo: "Logan, is something wrong? I was under the impression that you had very sensitive hearing. Or maybe you just find me exceptionally boring and you were spacing out."

Find her boring - no. Spacing out, yes.

Logan: "Of course I don't find you boring. I was just thinking. I do get lost in thought sometimes, you know."

Ororo: "Hahaha. Oh? And what were you so engrossed thinking about?"

Logan: "Oh, about how beautiful you look in the moonlight. Your hair goes from white to silver."

Ororo: "I bet you say that to all the girls."

Logan: "Only the girls with a full head of snow white hair."

Ororo blushed, but thanked him for the compliment nonetheless.

Ororo: "I was asking if you've had any luck with John. You know, making a connection of some kind?"

To be honest, Logan didn't really know. He had tried the very morning he learnt that he was a father. John seemed to think that it was all due to him walking into the Med Bay at a bad time and catching Logan all shaken up. It was weird for both the involved parties. And he had tried earlier that very day. Walking the corridors of the subbasement, he had bumped into John. Or rather, it was a very preoccupied John who bumped into him.

Logan: "He had some kinda misunderstanding with Scott earlier today."

Ororo: "What about?"

Logan: "I dunno. But I kinda got a little loose with my tongue and called Scott a..."

Ororo: "I'm a big girl."

Logan: "A prick."

Ororo: "Logan!"

Logan: "Oh come one, 'Ro. Tell me he's not annoying as shit. If he was my father - I'd probably give him hell too. Except that I'd enjoy it."

Ororo: "Still, I don't think that you should say such things about Scott to John. When you do tell John...he may think that you've been holding something against Scott all along."

Logan: "In a way - I kinda am. I mean, he doesn't value what he has."

Ororo: "It only seems that way."

Logan: "Look, I'm tough on the kids like he is. But even a hard-headed fool like me knows that they gotta have fun and be carefree too. Scott's too strict with the discipline. Or what he thinks passes for discipline. I'm willing to bet that whatever misunderstanding they had was somethin' to do with that."

It was Logan's view that Scott expected too much from the students. And certainly far too much from John. They were kids. And these were supposed to be the most carefree years of their lives. Yes, they were mutants and their lives were never going to be easy - there was no denying or escaping that fact of life. But they needed to have a life worth living. And forcing them to act too maturely before their time was robbing them of whatever little remained of their childhood. Logan personally couldn't remember his childhood. What was probably the happiest time of his life (for all he knew). And he felt cheated because of it. Wasn't it wrong to deny the students - and more so, John - their carefree years of innocence?

Ororo: "Scott's had a very hard life, Logan. He never really had a childhood. He was forced to grow up way before his time. And to him - that's what seems normal. And so, that's kind of what he expects of the students."

Logan: "Well, I say that it's wrong. Every time I push for the Prof to allow the students out more, Scott has to shoot my ideas down."

Ororo: "For the record, let it be known that I have always agreed with you."

Logan: "I'm glad someone does."

Ororo: "And speaking of letting the students out. I have an idea."

Logan: "Yeah?"

Ororo: "Uh huh. How about you take the Alpha's out if they do well tomorrow in the Brotherhood Battle?"

Logan: "Like a reward? A celebration?"

Ororo: "Yeah. If they do well. John's Alpha. It won't look suspicious if you take the entire team out to celebrate. And you'd get to spend some time with him and maybe learn some more about him."

Logan had to admit that it was a good idea - except for one catch. A rather significant one. The places Logan was known to frequent weren't exactly where Scott would approve of 'his' son going. Yes, Logan was known to visit certain...places now and then that might make some people believe that he was morally challenged. He wasn't planning to take the Alpha Squadron there of course. It was just that Scott might not trust his judgement. God knew that he barely trusted Logan's actions on the field of battle. Or Logan flying the jets. Or driving the goddamned Mansion vehicles.

Ororo: "Logan, I do hope that you've stopped visiting those bloody whor - "

Logan: "Shit. Of course I'm not going to those - um - places anymore. I used to get a little...lonely. Now I have you for company."

Ororo: "Good. Because if I ever catch you...I'll lay the hurtin' on ya. That adamantium-laced skeleton of yours makes for excellent electrical conduction..."

Just to tease him, Ororo made her eyes glow white and the sound of thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance. It was not often that she made use of her powers for such trivialities. But this time, she saw no harm. It was worth it alone to see the look of mock terror on Logan's face.

Logan: "Okay...you can stop that shit now. It's always creeped me out...big time."

With a smile, Ororo complied and the two made their way up the Mansion's front steps...

Ah, morning. A bright new day filled with new opportunities and the chance to make the most of them. Yes, I know that I have said once that I wasn't a morning person. But that was in the past. I actually woke up happier. I mean, the morning after me and Julian got together, I was less bitchy. But still a little grumpy - even though my life had gotten a lot better. And the morning of the day after I exposed Emma, I managed to significantly decrease the length of time for my waking up grumpiness to go away. But now - life was good. I was out to people - two of them. And their lips were sealed. Even though I was totally against it at the start - I have got to admit (after thinking about it) that keeping it all in was a terrible burden. So no wonder I was feeling so much better and light hearted.

Yes, and today, I'd be in a training exercise with Julian in the same area. Sure we'd be on opposing teams - but at least this time I'd be able to actually see him and he won't be hidden up on overhead monitoring platforms. Smiling a little to myself, I got ready and went downstairs...

"Good morning, dad."

He, as was usual, was up, already dressed and reading the morning paper over coffee. I noticed to my delight that there was a healthy supply of Belgian waffles on the table. He must have been sorry and was trying to submit a peace offering. Which I was more than willing to accept.

Scott: "You're...not angry with me anymore?"

Well, I still didn't appreciate the scare tactic that he, Betsy and the Professor had used on me. But I had to admit - it was for the best. I'd better cut the old man some slack, I figured.

"I try not to carry over yesterday's anger into today."

Oh, even my voice sounded cheerful! In the morning! Dad looked at me oddly.

Scott: "What the hell have you been smoking?"

He said it jokingly - but I really did wonder if some part of him was in earnest.

"You want to punish me for doing crack? Look at what it's done for me."

Scott: "No. If crack can accomplish this - I'll buy it for you myself."

I smiled and would have laughed shortly afterwards, had dad not said,

Scott: "That was a joke. I do not condone narcotics and - "

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Let me enjoy these waffles you've prepared as a peace offering."

Scott: "Oh, I didn't make them. Emma made a whole batch and packed them away in the freezer for storage."

"Oh. You know, they are really tasty. I'll be sure to think of Miss Frost whenever I eat them."

Mwahahahahaha! Some people might find it exceptionally weird that I was enjoying Emma Frost's Belgian waffles without any qualms whatsoever. After all, the mere thought of her was enough to get me sick and raving mad at times. Shouldn't I have thrown away those (tasty) waffles. No, my friends. You see, those waffles were...well, they were perfect and represented the gargantuan effort that Emma made to try and ensure her plan's fruition. An effort that failed completely. Every time I sink my teeth into those things, I'll be reveling in the fact that it was all in vain. That ultimately, she lost and I won. To the victor go the spoils - and damn were the spoils delicious! (^_^) Ah, the taste of vengeance is to my liking...

"Revenge IS sweet."

And to emphasize it, I deliberately spread some syrup on a waffle with a liberal hand and took a nice big bite.

Scott: "Revenge is also a dish best served cold. Maybe we shouldn't de-Frost them and see if they're better frozen."

And once again, Mwahahahaha!

"Okay. For once I must give you credit. That could actually pass for funny."

Having said that, I was eyed very suspiciously indeed.

Scott: "Hmmm...do you want something? A raise in allowance, maybe?"

"Why must you suspect me of having ulterior motives? Can't I just be happy and nice without being put on trial?"

He said nothing but merely shrugged. Then I had a thought.

"Well, I wasn't harboring any ulterior motives until you brought it up. But now that you mention it - I might need a small favor."

His eyebrows raised, so before he could start up with me, I cut him off.

"Mother's Day is this weekend."

Scott: "Uh huh."

"And I am a little...uh...short on operating capital."

Scott: "You're broke?"

Yeah, that was the other - more direct way of saying it.

"And I have to buy presents for Lorna, Auntie Sarah and Grandma."

Yes, the three women in my life who I considered to be the most important females of the species.

Dad: "Ah, I see."

"Yeah. And I was thinking jewellery. And anything decent is going to cost..."

Dad: "I think it's never too early for you to learn that it isn't ever wise to live beyond your means."

You want to know what else he said. That today I was contemplating buying jewellery I couldn't afford for Mother's Day. And the next thing I knew, I might be trying to do the same thing for some girl through extravagance! Excuse him! He talked about responsible spending. First off - I would more than willingly apply for a job or something to make money. But as it happens, I wasn't allowed to. Since I couldn't leave the Mansion and there weren't any jobs that I could do working from home - my sole source of revenue was my allowance.

Dad: "Son - "

"You know - I just need to ask. When you were doing Emma, how much did you spend on her? The dinners, and the gifts, flowers and other stuff?"

He went red.

"I thought so. I'm not asking for myself. Are you saying that she was worth more than Granny and Lorna and Auntie Sarah? Or maybe you don't wanna shell out because they aren't trading sex for the V.I.P. treatment?"

Hmmm, perhaps being so loose with my tongue was risky in retrospect...

Scott: "Whoa, whoa! Okay...I give in!"

Yes, there are times when my having a smart mouth paid off.

"I want your word."

Scott: "I promise."

Ah! Got him to promise. Now he'll have to follow through with it.

"Good. Cuz I think my granny deserves a pearl necklace a lot more than that whore anyway."

Dad heard the words "pearl necklace" and grew a little bit disturbed. I had to resist the urge to laugh at the look on his face. But I couldn't resist poking some more fun.

"And gold is waaay too passe. I'm thinking platinum. Gotta get Lorna some decent bling. Alex is so damned cheap...it must run in the family..."

Scott: "Let's not get carried away."

"Just kidding. But I will be getting granny a pearl necklace."

Yes, no Ifs, Ands or Buts. Mom was no longer here - so I couldn't give her a present. I might as well go all out with granny. In addition to being a loveable grandmother - she was against dad and his relationship with Emma Frost. And for that, I wanted to show her how grateful I was. Oh, I couldn't wait to tell her face to face about the real Emma. Of course I could have just called her on the phone. But then I'd miss the look of astonishment when she first heard. And I wouldn't want to miss the look on Granddad's face - he was for Emma. Straight guys! Like Tabitha says - they're all the same. They can't look at a woman as see what's really there.

Scott: "You know. I was thinking - maybe we could go up to Alkali Lake this weekend. Like maybe spend the night on Saturday, then head off to your grandparents' on Sunday morning."

"I don't think so."

Scott: "Why not? Alex and Lorna could come. And -"

"I really don't like that place."

Scott: "Maybe we could have a little informal - I dunno...ceremony . Rehash the good times."

Yeah, last Mother's Day he went up to the lake. Back when he was still reeling from the blow. I doubt he rehashed any motherly memories back then.

"Alkali Lake is - well, it's cold there. When we went camping there, I was freezing."

Totally stupid sounding excuse. Yeah, I know. But I was grasping at straws. I so did not want to go there.

Scott: "It won't be like that now."

"I'm not the camping type."

Scott: "I don't have the nightmares anymore. I won't be freaking you out."

"It's isn't that. You were there before mom died - when there wasn't even a lake. You can picture what it was like before - what happened. When it was just a hydroelectric dam. A power facility. All I see there is that huge lake, and a mass of ruins. And I can't help but think that mom's buried somewhere under there."

So true. The lake was huge. And I knew that it wasn't natural. It was caused by the erosive action of tons and tons of water breaking the dam and flooding the area. And when I went there, I couldn't help but wonder at the chaos that created the lake. The force of the water that carved out a basin that size. And when I thought about what it must have looked like when it was happening - when the dam broke and all watery hell broke loose - invariably I'd get these visions of mom going under.

And that wasn't the worse part. I remembered watching stuff on television. There was one show on the Discovery Channel that said that water had a very high surface tension and reasonably high viscosity (density). And that when something crashed into water at high speed - or water crashed into something at high speed - it was like crashing into a reinforced concrete wall. And then these dark, morbid thoughts would weave into my mind. Thoughts about whether mom's body was obliterated completely by the amount and speed of the water. About how much it must have hurt her if death wasn't instantaneous. And that if she somehow survived the impact and was conscious, then she would have drowned. And I'd read that drowning was one of the worst ways to die and...oh gosh...I'm rambling on and on.

Scott: "Oh."

"So no more talk about that place. Okay?"

Scott: "Okay."

There was an awkward pause then - I figured that he was absorbing what I had said. I had never really talked to him about how I felt where Alkali Lake concerned. And now he knew why I didn't ever agree to go with him there after our first trip. I hated that place.

"I'm...gonna go to the Mansion."

Scott: "Oh, you do remember the -"

"War Game thing? Yeah. I'll be on time. I have more than a few hours. That's after lunch. I'm just going to go hang out until then."

Scott: "Right. I'll see you later. And son?"


Scott: "It's good to see you happy."

Yes, and it felt good to be happy too. My friends did a good job at making me forget sadness a lot of the times. But sometimes you just need more than the distraction friends could give you. Even the best of friends. You needed someone who could help you face your problems instead of temporarily forgetting them. And I was happy that I'd finally found such a someone.

"It's good to be happy. See you later, dad."

And out I go into the bright and sunny new day.

How many times in movies have you seen the weather reflecting the state of human affairs? Like say for example, rain falling during funerals. Almost as if the heavens themselves were crying for lost life. Eerie, would you say? There are people who believe in those sort of things - as above, so below. Some people are of the belief that a bright, sunny morning is a sign that the day will go well. And waking up to thunder and lightning is of bad omen. It was bright and sunny on that Tuesday morning. But would the day go well? That was the question indeed...

Jubilee: "Nice touch with the tops, Amara."

Amara giggled and thanked Jubilee.

Amara: "I knew you'd like it."

Yes. It was simply amazing what a spray on fabric paint could do!

Jubilee: "You ready?"

Amara: "Yeah. A little nervous about how John might react - but we can't back down from our plan now."

Both girls stared out from the window of Jubilee's dorm room. In the distance, they could make out the form of Jonathan Summers slowly making his way towards the Mansion's front door. With a final strengthening of their resolve, Jubilee and Amara tidied up, locked the door and stepped out into the empty hallway.

Amara: "No one's in the hallway."

Jubilee: "They're all downstairs. Either in the finishing stages of having breakfast or lounging around waiting for their classes to begin."

Amara: "Okay, let's go down to the dining hall first."

And so they made their way down to the ground floor. The Xavier Institute was about to be rudely awakened...

I had barely walked into the Mansion's ground floor lobby when I noticed the hustle and bustle about. All around me I could hear the sound of scandalous murmurings. And cell phones were working overtime. We have quite the rumor mill at the Institute. I personally suffered when it somehow got out that I had tried to "murder Emma Frost". I reasoned that people must have been spreading gossip around. And damned good gossip too by the looks on the faces of everyone I saw talking on the cell phones. I knew that people were all talking about the same thing - whatever it was - because I saw one group of friends get a call. And then another group got a call. And then the members of both groups looked at each other - broke out laughing and yelled "Dining Hall!" Whatever the hell that meant.

I dismissed it. But upon walking down the hallway, I knew I just had to check it out for myself. You see, there was what could pass for a stampede right about then. And I estimated that close to thirty five people were heading for the Dining Hall. I myself loved a nice scandal every now and then. And since I had a lot of free time, I decided to go see what all the hype was about. When I finally reached the Dining Hall, I could see that a fair sized crowd had gathered. And I couldn't see anything past that thick conglomeration of people. So I levitated myself upward and over the throng. Those who were similarly blocked and could fly followed my example. What I saw left me shaken and very, very disturbed...

Jubilee and Amara were sitting together, having breakfast it seemed. But Amara's head was on Jubilee's shoulder. They both wore matching tops and skirts. And on each top, there were emblazoned the words "I'm With Her!". Together with an arrow pointing to the other girl. I began trembling when I saw Jubilee take a morsel of food and feed it to Amara in a very tantalizing manner. And the way Amara liked her lips (and Jubilee's fingers) and asked for more was...was...

Jubilee: "Do you people mind? Me and my girlfriend are trying to have breakfast."

Amara: "Yes, be gone. We worked up quite an appetite last night and I'm starving."

Girlfriend?! Jubilee, Amara - lesbians! My mind refused to process that as a remote possibility. Wait a minute - did Amara say that they worked up an appetite during the night? Doing what exactly?! Or maybe it was better that I not find out... I visually scanned the crowd looking for Bobby and Ray. And at last I located them. They were both at the front and Bobby was busily snapping photographs. Ray seemed to be keeling over with laughter. All the disruption caused by this spectacle was bound to attract attention from the teachers. And sure enough, here come Logan and Remy right now. They look alarmed at the size of the crowd. They must have thought that some kind of fight was going on. Logan pushes his way through the crowd, angrily yelling for people to get the hell out of his way. Remy is more reserved with his language and manner. But when they finally managed to break through, the look on both their faces was the same. It was that of unadulterated shock.

Logan: "Jubilee?! What - what are you doing, kid?"

As I've mentioned before, Logan isn't particularly close to any of the students. Except for Jubilee. She's like a daughter to him. And I'm guessing he wasn't too happy with what he caught his "daughter" doing. Logan's sharp eyes scanned the writing on both their tops.

Jubilee: "I'm trying to have breakfast with the girl I love - and all these people insist on bothering us."

Remy's shock had by then passed. And damn me if he didn't look a little...turned on. And then I noticed that a lot of the guys did seem to be kinda turned on by the idea. The girls however were a different matter. They must have been upset with all the attention the self-proclaimed lesbians were getting from the boys.

Logan: "Break it up! Ain't nothin' to see here!"

I jumped (well, as far as "jumping" goes when you're in midair). Logan's voice tone sounded...kinda irritated. The crowd didn't shift except to get closer to the action. Logan was feared and respected by most of the students. But this spectacle was enough to enflame young hearts with the courage to stand against an angry Wolverine...

Boy: "Says who?!"

Jubilee: "Oh well, it's obvious that they aren't going anywhere until they see what they came for. You think we should give the people what they want, baby?"

Amara: "Uh huh. Our public awaits."

My jaw dropped. Logan's eyes popped. Remy's mouth drooled. And everyone gasped. Jubilee's lips were edging dangerously close to Amara's. Time seemed to slow down. Amara's lips parted. As did Jubilee's. I saw Jubilee's tongue slip over Amara's lips and into her mouth. And then they were both lip locked, sealed in a passionate kiss that seemed to go on and on and on (many boys began to sigh)...

Logan: "Jubilee! Amara! Stop this shit right now!"

They did nothing of the sort and kept right at it. That kiss was so NOT PG-13! There were some cat calls then. Most girls frowned.

Logan: "Remy."

Remy: "W-what?"

Logan: "Gimme a hand here!"

The next minute, Remy was busily ushering / pushing students out of the Dining Hall under pain of promised detention. Pretty soon the room was emptied. Logan looked up and saw me hovering there. Jubilee finally saw me and waved. I shakily returned the gesture and landed at their table. Bobby and Ray poked their heads around the corner. Jubilee and Amara waved them over too. They were more than happy to come over. Despite the obviously upset Logan. As soon as Bobby was close enough, Logan grabbed his camera and tore out the memory card.

Bobby: "Hey! I was -"

Logan: "Gonna go beat your meat to it?!"

Bobby froze - not literally of course. But he went pale and was rooted to the spot. I looked on in shock that Logan would react like that. I know he's one of those macho types. And homosexuality would be like poison for him. But I was also aware that a lot of straight guys weren't too aggressive towards lesbianism. Faggotry - yeah. But not so much against lesbos - many like watching girl on girl action. Hell, a good deal of them stash lesbian porn. I guess Logan was one of those types who felt that it was man/woman all the way and any other pairing was totally wrong and incomprehensible.

Bobby: "Can I please have my camera?"

Logan: "You can get your camera back. But I'll be clearing this memory card before I return it."

Jubilee: "Stop being so mean."

Amara: "Don't worry, Bobby. We don't mind celebrating our love and preserving it for posterity. We'll take a few shots just for you - promise."

She winked and Bobby went red in embarrassment. Logan also went red - well, redder. Except in his case, it was probably due to anger.

Logan: "What in the hell are you two thinking?"

Logan went off on a rant. Which was so not like him. He doesn't talk and talk and talk. So I was figuring that he was having a hard time coming to terms with this and his ranting was his way of trying to sort out what was going through his head. He mentioned that Amara was royalty - the sole heir to the throne of Nova Roma. And that her parents were going to freak out if they got word. And considering that so many students knew - it was just a matter of time before the news hit the Internet. She had to learn to act responsibly. She had a responsibility to her people and - here Logan was cut off.

Amara: "I owe more to myself than to my people. I am fed up with hiding who I am. I deserve to be happy."

Jubilee smiled at the statement and hugged her girlfriend supportively.

Remy: "Ain't your father planning to -"

Amara: "Arranged marriage is not for me. Nova Roma better get used to the idea of two queens. Because I'm not changing."

Jubilee: "Oh baby..."

More mushy hugging was precipitated right about then.

Remy: "Damn..."

I looked on, speechless. Amara had had a couple of boyfriends in the past. What was she doing then? Keeping up appearances of being straight. Wait a minute. Benjamin Haynes had dated her and cheated on her. Was Amara not giving him intimacy or sex? Was that the reason he did what he did? Because she wasn't giving it up to him because she was in love with Jubilee? And oh my God! Jubilee had never had a boyfriend before. I always thought that it was because she was so ambitious that she didn't want a boy to get in the way of her academic growth. But now...

Logan: "Jubilee, this is some kind of joke? Right?"

All the while, Jubilee was reasonably calm and collected. But there was something about the tone that Logan used in that statement that got to her - hey, it got to me too. She became somewhat irate.

Jubilee: "No, it isn't. I love Amara, she loves me and that's all there is to it. Hey! What are you -"

Logan had taken Jubilee by the arm and was trying to lead her away.

Amara: "Unhand my girlfriend, you ruffian!"

Amara tried unsuccessfully to release Jubilee from Logan's hold. After failing miserably, she pouted in annoyance. Logan looked at Jubilee sternly.

Logan: "See - here's one of the reasons why you need a man. For protection."

That was a direct contradiction of what the teachers (including Logan) preached! That girls should rely on boys? Uh huh - it seemed that Logan was prepared to resort to hypocrisy. Because here at the Xavier Institute, we preach that everyone should strive to be self-reliant. And our strong female role models (and teachers) didn't stand for girls taking a backseat whilst the boys drove.

"But don't we teach everyone to defend themselves here? We don't assign all the girls to a guy, and let the guys train while the girls cheerlead them on. Do Storm, Rogue or Psylocke need a man to protect them?"

Amara: "Mhmm hmm. How many times has Rogue saved your behind, eh?"

Yes, at long last I had found my voice. Jubilee and Amara (however much a part of me still refused to believe it) had done what I was too chicken shit to do. They had my respect. And now they needed support. Bobby and Ray were speechless and didn't look like they had it in them to say anything to Logan. So if they weren't going to stand up for Jubilee and Amara - I would have to. The way Logan was reacting... Well, Jubilee was to be pitied having him for a father figure. I was so glad that he wasn't my "dad". Whether biological or just playing the role. I could only hope that my dad wouldn't react like that when he found out (I didn't plan on coming out soon. But eventually the truth would come out, it always does).

Jubilee: "I don't need a man to feel whole! Now let me go!"

Logan: "I'm getting you down to Betsy. Or maybe the Professor. Someone who can help you."

Jubilee didn't answer for a minute or two. She just looked at Logan like she had been slapped. I felt like hugging her. Hearing that from someone I looked up to like a father would do the same thing to me. Him believing that I was "sick" and needed "help". Basically, it seemed that Logan wanted someone to straighten her out. Presently, with a massive twist, Jubilee managed to extricate herself from Logan's grip.

Jubilee: "There's nothing wrong with me. And I don't need their help."

Logan: "I'm only tryin' to - "

Jubilee: "I don't need yours either."

Logan looked to be genuinely stung.

Jubilee: "I mean, this is ridiculous. You freak out because you hear that I love Amara? It's better than being a cold stone like you and loving no one."

Ouch. Very ouch! That was not only something mean to say...but it was also sorta true. Okay, suffice it to say that Logan's expression was as hurt as I'd ever seen him (excluding that morning when I walked in on him and Ororo).

Logan: "I have a class now. We will be talkin' about this later. I'm only lookin' out for ya, kid."

Jubilee: "Well, you can stop doing that as of now."

With every appearance of being genuinely hurt, Logan walked off.

Remy: "Just, give him a little time, girls. He's just shocked, is all."

Remy checked his watch and said that he had to go too. He gave a small, but supportive, smile and left. Left us alone in the now empty Dining Hall. Jubilee, Amara, Ray, Bobby and me. Where was Ashley? I glanced uneasily at Ray and Bobby. They looked like they were about to say something to me. But they held off on it. I made my way over to Jubilee. She was still standing where Logan had pulled her.

"Jubilee, maybe we should go somewhere else. Those students will be coming right back over when they realize that Logan and Remy are gone."

Jubilee: "Yeah. Let's go to the front lawn. The only people there will be the odd gardener or two."

She looked a little shaken. Okay, more than a little. I was going to help lead her but then I had a feeling that Amara might not like that. After all, if that were me and Julian it just happened to, I would want to be the one helping him get back on his feet (well, when we're out in any case).

Amara, could you come over and help your girlfriend?

Amara: Oh - sure.

We all walked out the back exit of the Dining Hall and managed to make our way to the front lawn in peace. I decided that the best place for our cool down would be in the shade of the grove. And we would have the added benefit of being hidden from the view of prying eyes. Well, at least if people were looking for them from the Mansion. If they were on the lawn, then they'd be able to see us and we'd be able to see them. Presently, we were seated under the shade of the largest tree in the small grove. As soon as we did so - Bobby spoke.

Bobby: "So how long have you known?"

Jubilee: "Oh, since I was thirteen."

Bobby then made it clear that he wasn't talking to either Amara or Jubilee. He looked at me curiously. And not with the anger that filled his eyes the last time he looked at me.

"What? I didn't know anything. I am just as shocked as you are!"

Jubilee and Amara were watching me with unreadable expressions. I guess I must have sounded harsh - I spoke a little forcefully to drive the point home to the questioning Bobby (he was looking at me unbelievingly).

"Shocked but supportive, girls."

Bobby: "Is that why you got so mad whenever we teased you about being gay? You knew about Jubilee and Amara and stuff? And thought that maybe we were being...prejudiced or something? It made you uncomfortable keeping their secret."

"I just said to you that I didn't know!"

Amara: "We didn't tell anyone, Bobby."

Bobby: "He could have been spying on you and found out?"

"I have better things to do than spy on girls."

Oh shit. I quite forgot that was Bobby's favorite pastime. Luckily for me, neither he nor Ray said anything. Ray as a matter of fact had said nothing since he saw them. A fact that wasn't lost on Jubilee.

Jubilee: "I'd appreciate it if you'd say something, Ray."

Ray: "So...you're lesbians."

Well why don't we all don't just point out the obvious?

Amara: "I hope that you don't have some kinda problem with this."

Ray: "No. Of course I don't...have a problem."

Okay, surely he could sound a little more supportive than that. Jubilee and Amara were going to need all the support they could get. Bobby seemed okay. Ray could do better - but I was sure that with a little work he'd be okay. So they'd be okay with the support from the male division. What about the female division? The only other girl in our group was Ashley. And she was nowhere to be seen.

"Guys, have you all seen Ashley for the morning?"

Ray: "No."

I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. I didn't expect Ray to be talking to me. He hadn't done anything to suggest that he'd seen me earlier. For all I knew, I could have been invisible and inaudible to him.

Bobby: "So...thirteen, huh?"

Jubilee: "Yeah."

Bobby: "And you, Amara?"

Amara: "Fourteen."

Bobby: "Why did you think that you had to hide it from us? I mean, we're all friends."

Amara and Jubilee both gave Bobby a very cold stare in response to that question. The boy flinched. That was how cold it was.

Amara: "We didn't have any clue how you guys would react."

Jubilee: "Until you and Ray started up this gay thing with John."

Amara: "And we got so scared that you'd freak out on us."

Both Ray and Bobby looked on in shock and embarrassment.

"Um, but why did you decide to come out? I mean - shouldn't seeing the way they were acting have convinced you to keep it secret?"

Jubilee: "Sometimes John, you get fed up of living in secret and denying who you truly are. Having to live a lie day after day."

The look in her eyes as she said this was disturbing. Poor Jubilee. And for that matter - poor ME!

Amara: "The torture it is whenever a boy keeps asking you out and you don't want to get found out - so you just go along with it."

Jubilee: "We decided after a long discussion that we'd had it. And we owe it all to you, John."

They owed coming out all the me?! How in the hell did they owe it to me?

Bobby: "I thought you said that you didn't know?!"

"Of course I didn't, idiot!"

Jubilee: "When we saw how open-minded John was. How he wasn't a homophobic bigot like you two were...we figured that even though it might open us up to the possibility of ridicule...we'd do it. Because no matter what, we'd still have true friends like John who'd support us come what may."

Amara and Jubilee both stared at me with heart melting gratitude and each pecked me on the cheek.

Jubilee: "Now we can finally be free for God's sake."

Bobby: "I don't know about Ray - but I would have been totally okay with it."

Amara: "Oh?"

Ray: "Me too."

Jubilee: "Ray, when you were teasing John you went way overboard. You called him a faggot."

Ray: "Faggots are different."

The son of a bitch!

Amara: "How is it different?"

Ray: "Well...for one thing, it's two guys...and..."

Yes Ray. Do go on!

Jubilee: "Okay. So if Bobby happened to come out tomorrow - you'd be all supportive to Amara and me...but turn your back on him at the same time?"

Yeah, talk about hypocrisy. Jubilee and Amara looked at Ray a little piercingly.

Ray: "Bobby's not... Wait, you aren't gay by any chance, right Bobby?"

The expression on Bobby's face was enough to tell me that he wasn't amused in the least.

Bobby: "Judging by the look on your face, even if I was - I wouldn't tell you."

Bobby looked a little angry. He may have been teasing me about the gay stories with Ray. But Ray had gone so far as to accuse me of actually being gay. Maybe Bobby wasn't homophobic after all and really was taking things too far because he has snow for brains. Ray, I knew for certain was a homophobe - faggots are different my ass!

Bobby: "So if I was gay - you'd -"

Ray: "This is crazy."

Bobby: "What would ya do, Ray?"

Ray: "You'd...still be my friend. I mean...obviously..."

Bobby: "You don't sound too convincing. You don't look it either. I mean, if you were gay I'd at least make an attempt to be supportiv- "

Ray: "Don't put me and gay in the same sentence."

Ray and Gay. They rhyme. Those two words would so go together - had a nice ring to it. Ray-Gay, Gay-Ray...(^_^)

Bobby: "Forget it. I guess maybe we aren't as tight as I thought."

Ray: "Oh come on!"

Bobby: "Jubilee, Amara - I'm sorry if the way I was acting made you feel bad. And John?"


Bobby: "I'm sorry about making you feel so uncomfortable. No more gay jokes."

"Uh...thanks, Bobby."

An apology at last. And a genuine one too. Amara and Jubilee's coming out had several very significant advantages. It revealed that Bobby was not the little homophobic prick that I thought he was. Of course, Ray was still a jerk in my book. But I guess I'd have to get used to people in my life not liking my lifestyle. Especially people I, at some point, was close to. And since Amara and Jubilee were gay like me...maybe I could...come out to them? Getting the burden off my shoulders by sharing it with Betsy felt so good. Maybe I'd feel even better to share it with actual friends? And being gay themselves, they'd be able to understand.

And let's not forget that they had left me in the dust. There they were, those two amazingly strong, brave girls who had the courage to come out to the entire school it seemed. A school full of straight (Well of course, statistically they couldn't all be straight. Let's say straight-acting instead) students...and there I was...having misgivings about coming out to two gay girls. Man did I feel like a wuss. If they could come out to the entire school. Then I could come out to them. As former in the closet lesbians, they knew what fear of discovery was. They wouldn't tell anyone if I didn't want them to.

Amara: "Thank you, Bobby. If I ever decide to give boys a chance - watch out!"

Jubilee: "You slut! You'd leave alla this for a scrimpy little piece of dick?! After all I do for you?!"

Bobby: "Hey, it ain't little! If Amara saw it she'd switch teams so fast it'd make your head spin."

Jubilee: "You have nothing that can surpass my dildo."

They laughed. Well, except for Ray. He was still frowning. No doubt at what Bobby had said.

Bobby: "Were you guys serious? Uh...about taking a few...shots for me?"

Jubilee and Amara merely gave him a withering look. Bobby tried to persuade them - after all, they had promised. And the awkwardness of having two lesbian friends who were in love with each other started to dissolve as they bickered. Things were starting to return to a state of near normalcy - at least in our group of friends...

Erik Lensherr a.k.a. Magneto stood outside of the Xavier Institute's front gate in full battle regalia. Since he didn't want to attract attention by flying to the Mansion in broad daylight, Erik was forced to rent a heavily tinted car. But at least the tinted glass allowed him to forgo wearing a disguise and he could then wear his uniform instead. He knew that his arrival at the Xavier Institute would be greeted with much ill feeling. And probably some attempted violence too, considering the way things went the last time they got together. He'd need his armor and mentally shielded helmet in case things turned nasty.

Erik didn't know the location of Charles within the grounds. And it was best that he speak with him privately and in person before the less restrained X-men discovered his presence on the premises. It was a little after nine and the lawn was clear of students. They must have been wasting their time with their "classes", thought Erik. Which was a pity. If he had to fight his way through to Xavier, then using the students' safety as a bargaining chip would have been an advantage. He could have easily taken a few students on the grounds "hostage" and then demand that Xavier come out to converse with him. But they were all probably safe inside with their "teachers". Maybe he should wait for recess?

Erik: "No. There's no time for that."

Hovering over the gate, Erik began flying over the Mansion's front lawn and landed on the walkway. Determined to get to Charles Xavier - one way or another...

Jubilee: "Well, I guess it's time we go back inside. I have a Biology class with, Mr. McCoy."

I'll give Jubilee one thing. Nothing really seemed to phase her for long. She just outted herself to the school and got a less than understanding response from Logan (who I was really starting to dislike as a cold, insensitive person) and she was worried about missing her Biology class. She didn't even cry or anything - which I would have expected a girl to do. See what I mean when I say that she was ambitious - she was going to classes regardless. With a final deep breath, she got up, took her girlfriend by the hand (very lovingly, I might add) and we all began walking out of the grove with the intention of heading back inside. We didn't make it there however.

We had just made it out of the grove and onto the main walkway when Ray squinted, then stopped very suddenly. Then he pointed ahead of us - with a shaky finger - to draw our attention there. Ray was not very often speechless. But he was then. Walking some distance ahead of us was a man. Tall, certainly over six feet. The most prominent feature was the long, red cape. I had seen a cape matching that description only once before. And that was on the news... My blood ran cold at the realization.

Bobby: "That...that can't be..."

Amara: "Oh God! Look at his head!"

Jubilee: "A...helmet!"

Yes, a very characteristic helmet. One of kind really. And worn by only one person. Magneto! I didn't even stop to consider the possibility that there person up front could have been someone else. All I saw was the cape, the one of a kind helmet and assumed the worst. His back was turned. He wasn't psychic and we were far enough away so that he couldn't hear us. In a fair fight, Magneto would be a very formidable adversary. But what if he were attacked when he wasn't expecting it? With his back turned, all it would take would be a heavy enough object, travelling with enough speed...and the world would be rid of the murdering, so called Master of Magnetism!

Glancing around, I saw that there were many such objects in my nearby vicinity - a lamppost, a potted plant, a stone bench... All it would take would be a few seconds and it could be all over. It would be dishonorable to attack someone with their back turned (as Logan always reminded us in our training sessions) but it was far more dishonorable to stab someone in the back, like Magneto had done to the X-men last year. Oh yeah, and let's not forget maiming and murder.

"G-get back under the grove."

Even I was a little surprised at my cold, even voice tone (slight stutter notwithstanding). I sometimes wondered if I ever had Magneto at my mercy, what I'd do to him. And at those times, I panicked a little. But that was back when I was powerless. I pretty much doubted that throwing a small desk would have done anything much to the likes of Magneto. But now - I had the power I needed...a stone bench was more like it...

Ray: "You aren't going to do something stupid, are you?!"

"Get back under the grove!"

Amara reached for her cell phone and announced that she was calling the Professor via his emergency extension. The X-men weren't a death squad, dad had said to me during our little heart to heart. I was all for the death penalty where Magneto was concerned. But dad had done his best to let go of his rage. As had the rest of the team. Their sense of ethics would preclude them from taking such a course of action. They wouldn't give Magneto the death he deserved. They'd go for incarceration again. And then he'd just break out again and the cycle of suffering would continue with other innocent people being hurt. If I knew that the X-men would try to permanently solve the problem of Magneto - I would have mentally contacted the Professor myself. But they wouldn't kill him. So I'd have to do it myself. It'll all be over in a few seconds, I thought, steeling myself against the sudden cold chill that had come over me.

"Call whoever the hell you want. That bastard is going down today!"

Jubilee grabbed my arm to stop me. But that's the wonderful thing about having a power like telekinesis. Someone could restrain your hands, but that isn't where the power comes from. Sure, pointing can help your coordination and make things easier - but it wasn't an essential requirement. All I needed to do was look at the nearest stone bench (the entire walk was lined with them) and lift it into the air. I sent it hurtling towards Magneto's location. It picked up speed along the way and we all held our breath as time seemed to slow down. Any second now, the bench would collide with his back. For a guy his age, it could shatter every bone in his body. Just as the moment of truth arrived, a glowing orb of translucent, white energy materialized around him and the bench shattered upon it. The figure stopped and slowly turned around.

Bobby: "Oh shit!"

Ray: "John, you fucking idiot!"

Amara: "The Professor says to take cover and keep our distance. Magneto wouldn't risk coming here if it wasn't important - if we don't give him reason to hurt us then..."

Ray: "Oh, I think John just gave him reason enough!"

We started backing off. Even as Magneto slowly approached.

Professor Xavier: The staff and I are on our way. Just keep your distance and do NOT provoke him further!


A black blur materialized behind Magneto and Nightcrawler's arrival halted Magneto's further approach. They were saying things to each other that I couldn't pick up on, being relatively far away. But judging by the looks on Nightcrawler's face - I expect that he was calling down God's divine displeasure upon Magneto. Thirty seconds later, the Mansion's front door was blown open and the entire contingent of X-men stood at the threshold. In civilian garb - but in full battle stances.

Jubilee: "They're just standing there. It looks like they're...talking?"

"What the hell is going on here?!"

Professor Xavier: I want you all to slip around the to the back and get inside.

Talking to him?! They should have been pummeling him to the ground! He backstabbed them last year and left them all to die! How could they just stand there when mom's...murderer was right before them?!

Bobby: "John! Come on inside!"

"I have got to hear for myself what he has to say. What they think is sooo important that it warrants actually listening to him - as opposed to beating the hell outta him."

Without waiting for any of their responses, I took to the air, making my way over to where the teachers were all standing. Ororo was the first one to repeat the Professor's mandate. It came as something as a shock when my father silenced her and Professor Xavier said nothing about it. Seeing as I wasn't going to be made to go inside, I lowered myself to ground level next to my father. Everyone was silent for a few uneasy seconds. Until the bastard spoke, eyeing me coldly (hey, I'd just thrown a stone bench at him).

Magneto: "Is he yours?"

Apparently that was addressed to my father.

Scott: "What of it?"

Magneto: "It explains the flying bench, is all."

Amara had told the Professor over the phone about what I had done. He now glanced at me a little disappointedly. And several of the other X-men gave me a few wierd-ish, semi-pitying looks. The fool went on.

Magneto: "I would have expected that a son of yours would have had better upbringing. Throwing stones at a visitor's back - where are his manners?"

Scott: "Yeah? Well you're an unwelcome visitor. A very unwelcome one. I would have sicked Dobermans on you."

That's telling him, dad. Before anything else could be said, the Professor raised his hand for silence.

Professor Xavier: "Please do us the favor of explaining your presence here, Erik. While I can hold onto my patience."

The Professor's voice was tight - as was his jaw. And I was aware that he was doing his utmost to restrain himself. Dad always said that mom was his first student, and in many ways the Professor considered her his daughter - and she viewed him as a second father. I was wrong for getting angry at them for not bashing Magneto's face in immediately. Dad and I weren't the only ones who'd lost her. If they could restrain themselves, then so could I. For now anyway. Just until we heard what he had to say. I suppose the fact that dad thought me mature enough to stay out with them had done a lot to pacify me. If he had faith that I wouldn't act in a less than acceptable way - I wasn't going to disappoint him.

Magneto: "I come on a matter of grave import. An issue that concerns all of us. But I don't think we should discuss it here. Not with...him present."

He raised his hand to point at me. Why the hell not? What would he not want me hearing from the likes of him? Because of him, my mother is dead. What could he have to say that was worse than that?

Professor Xavier: "Whatever you have to say - you'll say it right now or not at all. And in front of all of us."

Magneto: "Very well. It concerns our little bit of drama last year."

Ororo: "Little bit of drama? You left us all to die! How can you trivialize that?!"

Magneto seemed to be a little bewildered at that statement.

Magneto: "What do you mean I left you to die? If it were not for me - you'd all be dead."

Professor Xavier: "I very much doubt it. We're alive today due to Jean's sacrifice."

Magneto: "I am well aware of what Jean did. But have you considered that she would not have had the chance to save you had I not offered a helping hand."

Scott: "You tore Alkali Dam apart so that we wouldn't be able to follow you."

Magneto: "Wrong, you fool. Stryker triggered explosives along the dam's length to deter your pursuit of him. He didn't mind sacrificing his troops to escape. Mystique and I merely used the distraction to flee. I wasn't about to return to that plastic prison. And she's not a fan of incarceration either."

Professor Xavier: "What do you mean by saying that you helped us?"

Magneto: "Did you ever wonder who it was that maintained the dam's integrity for so long? Who kept it from crumbling while you were all - including Jean - inside your jet trying to take flight?"

Hank gasped. All present glanced towards him for an explanation.

Hank: "Professor, I told you that the dam should have shattered whilst we were all inside the jet. Do you remember?"

Professor Xavier: "Yes. Yes, I do."

Hank explained that while dad and Storm were busily trying to get the Blackbird into the air, he was calculating the stresses and force that the dam was being subjected to. And his quick simulation revealed that the dam was supposed to have crumbled within five minutes of the first major crack appearing on its surface.

Warren: "I thought that we were just frickin' lucky."

Dad had said that they were lucky that the dam held as long as it did. When we had our little heart to heart and he was explaining what had happened to them out at Alkali Lake...I distinctly remembered that.

Magneto: "Luck had nothing to do with it. I kept the dam from falling apart to buy you time to escape. But your jet remained stranded. And then I saw Jean get out. She was focussing on the jet and it did begin to rise. But then my limits were reached and I could not support the strain of the dam any longer. That is when the wave came rushing at her."

Most everyone present was distrustful of that explanation. But the Professor and Hank seemed convinced.

Magneto: "So you see, young man. I was not responsible for your mother's untimely passing. And I offer my condolences. She may have been misguided - "

Magneto glanced at the Professor, then continued,

Magneto: " - but she was a very courageous, unselfish woman who gave her life for the cause she believed in. And that I can respect."

"You could be lying. I wouldn't put it past you."

Professor Xavier: "He does not lie, John."

Magneto: "I give you all my word that I am being truthful."

Scott: "No, he doesn't lie. But he sometimes...forgets to mention certain things."

Magneto: "I believe I did not use any uncertain terms just now. I am part of the reason you're all alive - and now I demand an audience."

Everyone could only nod - somewhat dumbly - in agreement. Obviously still reeling from the revelation. As was I! I was unwilling to trust Magneto's words at the start. But no one present seemed to doubt his truthfulness any longer. Not even the Professor or dad. Not even Logan - and he pretty much doubts everyone - even allies.

Magneto: "Well, are you going to invite me in anytime soon?"

Professor Xavier: "Give us the gist of what's so important...and we may."

Magneto: "Oh very well. It concerns Alkali Lake. Or more specifically, what lies beneath its surface."

Having garnered everyone's attention, Magneto went on to explain. It was some very disturbing news indeed. Apparently unknown, seemingly military individuals had staked out the lake side and there was some heavy activity going on down there. What was more, Magneto revealed that the base itself was still functional underwater. And that it held a psionic boosting device, as well as very dangerous data in its main computer's memory banks. Data that included the personal details of many identified mutants. And the mutant list could very well include the X-men.

Professor Xavier: "Oh dear God."

Magneto: "What is more - we all know that Stryker considered the mutant race as a threat of the highest order. He may have left behind information in his computer files concerning your school...and its true purpose."

That made logical sense. But if he hated all mutants to such a degree, and he knew what the Xavier Institute's true purpose was...then why did he not reveal the school to the general public? If we were an institute that merely taught academic subjects to students who were all mutants - we wouldn't really get into any major trouble. Although the public would be very disturbed at the thought of a large gathering of mutants in one place. But as we gave training in the use of mutant powers and self-defense...not to mention the fighting and battle simulations we ran...Stryker could have used that information to further his ends. Why didn't he?

Magneto: "I trust that you now appreciate how desperate the situation is. We're outnumbered - greatly."

Storm: "And the Brotherhood is down to two. Say...where is Mystique anyway?"

Magneto: "She's busy carrying out schemes of her own. She won't be joining us, I'm afraid."

Storm: "I'm grateful."

Professor Xavier: "I'll have to mentally scan the area around Alkali Lake. Hopefully I'll be able to get an idea of how many we're dealing with."

Magneto's response was that Professor Xavier wouldn't like what he'd discover. He appraised the X-men. Their current number included:

Scott Summers (Cyclops)

Ororo Munroe (Storm)

Logan (Wolverine)

Warren Worthington III (Angel)

Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler)


Remy LaBeau (Gambit)

Elizabeth Braddock (Psylocke)

Piotr "Peter" Rasputin (Colossus)

Henry "Hank" McCoy (Beast)

That made ten X-men. Eleven if you threw in the Professor. Twelve counting Magneto. If they all went away, then who would look after the school? Well, I supposed that the Gamma team could handle it.

Magneto: "We'd still be outnumbered."

The X-men may have been a highly trained mutant team...but if those people skulking around Alkali Lake were in any way military, then they'd have special training too. And in all probability, they'd be well armed. Since the only significant thing about Alkali Lake was that it housed the base of an anti-mutant group...that was the only reason those unknown people would take interest in it. Considering how closely it concerned mutant kind - they could very well have been trained to fight mutant adversaries too.

Betsy: "We still have no idea of the intentions of these...people."

Logan: "Worst case scenario - they're another rogue, anti-mutant military group."

Scott: "Best case scenario - they're government sanctioned. Either way - if they discover what's in that base and learn how to use it...we're screwed."

Magneto: "Our best hope is to infiltrate the base. And then set remotely detonating explosives in order to destroy it once and for all."

Professor Xavier: "We'd better get down to the subbasement and formulate a plan of action."

Magneto: "It's been ages since I've last been down there. Done anything new with the place?"

With withering looks, the X-men quickly followed the Professor and Magneto into the Mansion, leaving me behind to ponder. So Magneto wasn't responsible for mom's death after all...

Shortly afterwards in the War Room...

Professor Xavier: "It's the strangest thing. I definitely sensed the presence of human minds around the ruins. But when I tried to zero in on them, in order to glean information...I couldn't."

The gathered mutants didn't take that as a good sign. Professor Xavier was quite probably the most talented mutant telepath on the planet. With the psionic augmentation that Cerebro afforded, his psychic range was on a global scale. Alkali Lake was previously no problem for him. And the minds around the area were supposedly non-mutant, human ones. Far easier to deal with than the unique minds of mutants. No one could understand what the problem could be. Until Psylocke made a suggestion.

Psylocke: "Well, if they are anti-mutant dissidents, with military backing...then perhaps they have discovered a way to shield their thoughts from telepathic scans. You and Magneto managed to figure out how over a decade ago."

She pointed to Magneto's infamous telepathy blocking helmet to prove her point.

Psylocke: "You two were men ahead of your time. They must have caught up by now."

Professor Xavier: "That seems very plausible. And very disturbing. Who knows what else they will come up with over time."

Magneto: "So now I take it that you believe me fully and I have your absolute trust?"

Wolverine: "You ain't ever gonna have our absolute trust...but close enough."

Cyclops: "If the area IS crawling with them and we're outnumbered, we cannot risk an all out confrontation or we'll lose. And then we'll certainly be put under interrogation - "

Magneto: "More like torture. And then who knows what we might reveal under such treatment. There comes a time when the strongest of wills shatter..."

Magneto trailed off as he remembered his own experiences with Colonel William Stryker...

Storm: "Yes, we have to conduct this mission covertly. Open fighting is to be avoided at all costs."

All present glanced seriously at Wolverine - who merely nodded impatiently.

Magneto: "It's not our aim to defeat them today. All we need do is prevent them from accessing the Cerebro clone and more importantly - the data in the computers' memory banks."

Magneto was of the belief that if he were close enough, he could create an electromagnetic disturbance powerful enough to inactivate all the technology on the base and quite possibly wipe the computer's stored data. But the base itself would still need to be destroyed in order to dispose of the Cerebro clone.

Cyclops: "We'll set explosives for remote detonation. That's simple enough. But...we have one big problem."

Professor Xavier: "Yes, how do we get down under the water and into the base itself unseen?"

No doubt the roads leading into the lakeside area would be watched by the unknowns. As would the sky. So land and sea approaches would be cut off. Probably for miles and miles around.

Magneto: "Pity that Avalanche is languishing in prison. Or we could have tunneled underground and..."

A thoughtful look manifested upon Magneto's countenance.

Magneto: "Teleportation. We can teleport inside the base."

Most eyes looked upon Nightcrawler. Who was quick to quash that particular plan.

Nightcrawler: "I won't be able to see where it is I'm teleporting to. And what's more, I can't remember the layout of the base - so I haven't got a mental image."

Magneto scoffed and replied that he wasn't thinking of Kurt at all.

Magneto: "Your particular brand of teleportation is nigh useless in this instance. But I know someone who can help."

Professor Xavier: "Who?"

Magneto: "He's a bit shy and certainly wouldn't be interested in meeting any of you lot."

Wolverine: "Ain't that just a load of bull."

Magneto: "He has the power to remotely teleport anyone or anything - anywhere on Earth. And that's not even the end of his range."

Professor Xavier: "Remote teleportation?"

Magneto explained. This mutant could simply think of a place where he'd like to be or where he'd like to send someone or something...and presto, like magick...it happened. Nightcrawler looked on in awe - and a little jealousy.

Nightcrawler: "But how does he know where to teleport if he can't see or remember where..."

Magneto: "You know how birds navigate? They have a region of their brain that's sensitive to the local variations in the Earth's electromagnetic field. Most people think they use instinct - but they use the Earth's gridlines of electromagnetic force as a global map. This fellow's powers follow the same principle. I'll just have to send a message."

Professor Xavier: "Well...I suppose it is a godsend."

Wolverine: "Just a little question."

Magneto: "It had better not be a facetious one."

Wolverine: "If he can do alla that - and you're friends - then why didn't you ask him to bust Sabretooth and Avalanche outta prison for ya?"

Magneto: "Well...it seems that he has a misguided sense of ethics and doesn't want to break the law."

Storm: "Hmm, imagine that."

Professor Xavier: "Well, as long as we can get in and out."

Magneto: "Okay, so here's the plan."

All present will board the Blackbird. It's put on stealth mode and landed a safe distance from Alkali Lake. The Professor will monitor the situation from the Blackbird via the portable Cerebro unit. Magneto's mystery friend will then teleport all active mission members under the surface of Alkali Lake and near base's entrance. All present will have oxygen masks on for breathing. If there is any opposition - they should be taken out. Then the strike team will enter the base.

Magneto: "I'll give you my friend's number, Charles. If any of us contacts you saying that the mission should be scrapped, you can call him and tell him to get us out of there."

Professor Xavier: "Good idea. You seem to want to keep his identity a secret from us. Aren't you afraid that I'll trace his location via the call?"

Magneto: "Oh I'll make sure he's far from home during all of this. Besides, it's not like you'll ever be able to find him if he doesn't want to be found. Oh, just one more thing - "

Professor Xavier: "Yes?"

Magneto: "This mission will NOT go to hell like the last one at Alkali Lake. We're going there to safeguard mutant-kind. If there are humans in the base and we have to detonate it, we will not be wasting time saving their behinds. I'm not willing to die for their sake - especially as they in all probability will try to kill us."

All present had no choice but to agree. With a lot of Stryker's men, the situation was different - they had no will of their own and they were being mentally controlled. But these people were different. And they were at Alkali Lake on their own free will.

Professor Xavier: "We'll depart immediately - just as soon as Hank and Remy are through with those explosives."

Magneto: "Good. Now if you'll excuse me...I have a call to make..."

Whilst the Professor and the X-men were busy in the subbasement discussing their Alkali Lake issues, the rest of the school was divided into groups of manageable size. Each group was assigned several Generation X members for the purposes of supervision. As luck would so have it, all my friends happened to be placed in the group I was assigned to. And since I had by then become pretty friendly with everyone on the Alpha Squadron, my friends thought it comfortable to say some things to me in front of my newest friends - after all, we were all friends (by association), weren't we?

Ray: "You done lost your mind."

Bobby: "Pelting Magneto with a bench? What the hell were you thinking?"

"Um...I wasn't really thinking right. I just saw him and flipped out."

Ray: "I'll say. You have been acting strange lately. Ever since - "

So help me God - had he mentioned anything remotely close to those gay stories I'd have beaten the shit out of him right then and there!

Ray: " - ever since Emma went and screwed around with your mind."

Thank you, God.

Tabitha: "Well, I understand why you did it."

I looked at her with gratitude and thanked her.

Tabitha: "Not that I would have done it myself though. I mean, you saw the guy responsible for your mom's death and..."

I blushed a (more than a little) in embarrassment.

"Yeah, well...the thing about that is Magneto wasn't responsible for what happened last year."

That was enough to send waves of shock amongst them. After being badgered for details, I explained what I had learned during Magneto's little speech outside the Mansion's front door.

Bobby: "Mags could just be playing them for fools."

"He convinced everyone. Including the Professor and dad. They know more about what went on at Alkali Lake than I do. Truth be told, I think Magneto's telling the truth."

The incredulous stares continued.

Jubilee: "So you tried to crush Magneto when he wasn't really responsible at all?"

Bobby: "Well, let's all try to remember that Magneto isn't an innocent in any case."

Amara: "Mhmm. He might be innocent in that he wasn't responsible for what happened at Alkali Lake. But what about Liberty Island and all the other plots he's concocted."

Tabitha: "So true, so true."

Ray: "What exactly are they doing in the Subbasement? Why the hell did he come here in the first place?"

I opened my mouth to speak (not to reveal everything against the rules of course). But Tabitha hastily interrupted me.

Tabitha: "That is classified information and is to be divulged purely on a need to know basis."

Bobby: "But -"

Tabitha: "Luckily for you, I have never been a stickler for rules and regulations and all that shit."

They were really fortunate that Sam wasn't with us. I had a feeling that he would have put his foot down and enforced the regulations. I had some misgivings about telling them what was up - but I supposed that there wouldn't be any harm once they didn't go about spreading it. They - as all students knew - what our teachers really did when they went mysteriously missing.

"Okay, as long as this doesn't leave our group."

Ray: "Can't we tell Ashley if she asks?"

I thought about it. Ashley wasn't anywhere to be seen. So she must have been under the supervision of another group of GenXers. She was the newest addition to the school. And I was sure that the Professor had explained to her its true purpose. But even so...if she wasn't here now to listen, they were not to be telling her. I trusted my friends completely (well, at least I was sure they wouldn't blab about this). But Ashley was new and would have to earn trust like that.

Jubilee: "So spill it already."

The first thing they'd need to know was the rough gist of what had happened at Alkali Lake the year before. It was a long drawn out story. So I just told them about the mutant hating group and their base there.

Bobby: "And you're saying that it's still in working order?"

Ray: "And underwater. And...military people have been swarming the area?"

"That's right. And Magneto knew he couldn't handle the situation on his own. So he came running here for help."

Amara: "Why would that concern the X-men?"

Tabitha: "Well...you see, there's information in the computers there that might relate to the school and what it really does."

Bobby: "Fuck! How would anyone know about -"

Tabitha: "Jason Stryker's dad was a Colonel in with the rogue military faction. And so he knew what the school was about. He may have backed up that info on those computers. He was the one who kidnapped the Professor last year."

Ray: "Jason Stryker...the dorky looking kid with one blue and one green eye?"

"That's the one. Though I might add that he wasn't as pathetic and dorky as you think."

Ray: "Eh?"

Tabitha explained about the brain operation that Jason had undergone (after his powers lashed out and killed his mother). They couldn't believe that someone as "dorky" as Jason was capable of such a thing.

Tabitha: "Rub someone the wrong way long and bad enough and you'd be surprised."

I noticed that Tabitha was eyeing Ray when she said that. I had pointed him out as being the main jackass responsible for my recent teasing. Arrogant Ray at first blushed when he thought that she was giving him the eye (he's so damned conceited). But within seconds he realized that for some reason unknown to him, she was looking at him in scorn. He promptly stopped smiling. Tabitha took up the story once more and enlightened them further.

Jubilee: "So they're totally outnumbered?"

They all looked at me and I knew why.

Bobby: "John, aren't you worried?"

Of course I was worried. Mom died there and I didn't want my father to lose his life or get hurt at that place. So yeah, I was worried. But not as much as I'd be if they didn't have a good plan. They weren't going to go their in an all out assault. Kamikaze was not an option. They were going to sneak in, do what they had to do, and then sneak back out. It was a far cry from "safe", but it was as safe as they could get, and from what I'd heard - a good plan. The plan they had the year before was anything but good. It wasn't even a real plan, it was a desperate act. This was different and I explained that to my friends.

Amara: "Well, I'm sure they know what their doing."

"Yeah, they do."

I hope...

It was a little after eleven thirty at night. And all members of the X-men were standing in the Hangar, making the final preparations for their journey. I was also present there ( as were the other members of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma squads) . Earlier that night, a second briefing was held in which members of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma members were more thoroughly informed as to what would be taking place. It came to me as a source of shock to learn that the Gamma members - and Julian was a Gamma - would be accompanying the X-men on this mission. The reason was simple. It would not be wise to leave the Professor all alone in the Blackbird unguarded. Whilst all the X-men were away, the Gammas were to maintain defensive positions around the jet.

It was a good plan, I kept telling myself. Dad was experienced in these things. But aside from simulations and a few active minor missions - Julian and the other Gammas weren't. And I admit that the worrying centers of my brain started to work overtime. I had only learnt that bit (about the Gammas going along on the mission) a couple hours before. And since Julian was busy getting ready and going over mission details with the others - I didn't have as much alone time with him (as I'd have liked) to keep warning him to be careful. In public all I could do was give small, discreet looks. I didn't dare send my thoughts out to him telepathically for fear that in my nervousness, a stray thought or two might leak out to other people around him.

As for the Beta team, they would operate the Mansion's security network and be responsible for Mansion defense whilst the main team was away. Just in case anything came up whilst the Professor and the others were away. And as for members of the Alpha team, we were assigned to babysitting posts. Yeah, we had to keep peace and order amongst the students. See that they didn't play with toys that had small removable parts or strayed too near water. And make sure they were fed, did their homework and went to bed on time (boring!).

Professor Xavier: "Well...we're about ready to depart."

As he said this, the murmuring came to an abrupt end and the X-men, and Gammas lined up. The time for words of warning was past. It was then the time for looks of warning instead. Whilst the Professor went through his final bit of instructions, mostly to the Gammas, I gave parting looks to my dad and Julian. Once Betsy caught me and Julian in a visual exchange and practically burst into a small girlish giggle. Professor Xavier probably figured it out (he looked at the three of us clandestinely, and shook his head) but went on. And then the time came when they all walked up the ramp into the jet, the double doors closed, we exited the Hangar proper and went into the observation room...and the jet took off and left the Mansion...

Kitty/Shadowcat: "Alright, it's paaartty timeee!"

I looked at the brown-haired girl who said it. She was a member of the Beta squad. I hadn't really had much contact with the Beta squad. I guess to me, they were like the middle child in a family. You take more interest in the youngest (Alpha) and oldest (Gamma) and neglect the middle one (just joking of course). Everyone looked at Kitty in exasperation. She simmered down and replied,

Kitty: "I was just trying to lighten this tense mood!"

Well, at least she wasn't serious about it. I mean, who could think of partying at a time like this? As if a party would be enough to distract anyone considering the nature of the current mission. I would have thought that once people hit the Beta level, everyone would be acting all mature and stuff. The Gamma's all did. And even among the Alphas, everyone knew when to act the role. But I suppose that frivolity must have been one of that girl's quirks. Maybe during the absence of the others, I'd get a chance to learn more about the Betas.

Reymundo/Risk: "Well, let's go guys. We got work to do too."

Sighs abounded...

Donovan/Achilles: "And baby sitting's supposed to count as X-training?"

Similarly, the other Alphas griped as our Squad leader, Risk, led the way out of the subbasement and into the Mansion...

Babysitting was such a drag. I mean, I almost wished they'd act up and give us some trouble. But they were all goody-goody and it had long since become too damned boring. At the beginning, I enjoyed wielding a little power over my former fellows. But that quickly grew stale. They obeyed without question my "orders". It would have been more exciting if one or two of them had dared challenge my authority. But as it was - no one did. My assigned group all followed my commandments and went to bed early without a single complaint. And so I was left with nothing to do, but sit down in front of the tube watching old black and white horror movies.

As anyone who's not an absolute and incontrovertible wuss will attest to - old black and white horror movies are not worthy of being called scary. People must have been easily frightened in those days to call that shit horror. The Return Of The Mummy...HA! Come to think of it - the newer ones weren't all that spine-tingling either...Night of the Living Dead my ass. Almost without realizing it, I was drifting slowly to sleep...

Cyclops: "Professor, the motion and infra-red detectors indicate that the entire lakeside is swarming with activity."

Professor Xavier nodded in Cyclops' direction and turned towards Magneto. According to him, his friend (who he referred to as Gateway) had the power and ability to teleport all members of the strike team inside the now defunct base of Colonel William Stryker. Professor Xavier had been given this mysterious individual's cell phone number, and even though Magneto was seemingly compliant in handing over control of the mission to him...Xavier felt that it would be best for Magneto to make the call.

Professor Xavier: "Alright team. You will divide into three factions, A, B and C. Team A will be the main strike team and will actually be entering the facility. Team B will position themselves along a straight line from the jet's landing place to the lakeside - its job will be to ensure that the way remains clear in the event that Gateway's teleportation fails and Team A has to make a run for it. Team C will remain here with me in and around the Blackbird - its task will be to ensure that our bird is protected from surprise attack."

Xavier motioned towards the large display unit and the team groupings were displayed for all to acquaint themselves with.

Team A - Demolitions


Team B - Trail Guardians


Team C - Base Guardians


Professor Xavier: "Any questions?"

Nightcrawler: "Why can't I go along with the strike team? If Gateway's teleportation fails then maybe -"

Professor Xavier: "No Kurt. Blowing a hole through the base wall to give you a clear line of sight will only attract unwanted attention. You'll remain on the trail so that if they are forced to make a dash, you'll be there to teleport everyone to the jet."

Xavier looked towards the members of the junior X-Gamma team. He half-expected someone to raise an outcry at getting 'left behind'. No one did however. Possibly because they were grateful at having been thought to be sufficiently mature to come along in the first place.

Magneto: "Charles. Gateway is ready."

Wolverine: "So how does this thing work out?"

Magento: "Gateway has established a link to my mind. He will be able to teleport me and anyone I'm in direct contact with inside the base."

Nightcrawler: "This I have got to see."

Professor Xavier: "Alright then. Quickly in and quickly out."

Cyclops: "This had better work, Magneto."

Magneto: "Oh, it will."

The strike team all nodded and walked out of the jet...

Shaking. Someone was shaking me.

Tabitha: "Dude, wake the hell up!"

With a final rousing throttle, my vision cleared and I took in the semi-concerned visage of Tabitha over me. I was on the couch. So I figured that I must have fallen asleep in the midst of my not so scary movie marathon. I sat up, stretched and yawned.

"Hey, Tabby."

Sunlight was streaming in. So it was safe to say that I had slept the entire night. Which was probably responsible for the look Tabitha was throwing my way. Something between amused and mocking.

Tabitha: "Is THIS how you handle your watch duty?"

"Yeah, like YOU can truthfully say that you didn't sneak in forty winks at some point or points during the night."

She blushed, looked away and went silent for a few moments. On the whole I suppose that we were pretty safe due to the automated defenses of the mansion. But it was a matter of principle for us to stand watch - good training.

Tabitha: "Okay, I can say that. But I suppose I should be grateful that my forty winks were at least restful."

"Lucky you."

Tabitha: "You were tossing and turning as if something were attacking you. Either that or - you were having a really hot sex dream."

Definitely not a sex dream. More like a nightmare inspired by those horror movies. They might not have been scary enough to frighten my conscious mind - but my subconscious was another method entirely.

"Definitely not a sex dream."

Tabitha: "Well, what was it?"

"I couldn't tell exactly. But someone, or maybe more than one, was chasing me through a forest."

Tabitha: "What?"

"It was too dark to tell. It was at night and all I could make out were quick, shadowy movements."

In the dream, I didn't even seem to remember that I had mutant abilities that I could have used to defend myself. But then, defend myself from what exactly - I couldn't tell who or what was chasing me relentlessly through the forest. But at least I should have tried to fly up and away rather than try to outrun it along the ground. Strange...

Thankfully the chasers didn't succeed in catching me. That was the most important thing. Like dreams usually do - the landscape changed radically in a matter of moments. One minute I was running through a dark forest...and the next I was out on a plain looking at the borders of said forest. Everything on the plain was burning in a massive conflagration. But the weird thing was that I wasn't uncomfortable, there wasn't any heat and no smoke. But there was light. Intense overwhelming light that must have discouraged my pursuer(s). Though I could still make out creepy motions at the forest's edge...

Tabitha: "Yep. I think it musta been those movies."

Tabitha was of the opinion that all the zombie flicks I watched were the cause. Zombies chased the living for a bite or two to eat...and they were all afraid of fire because that could put a permanent end to their unholy existence. That and the undead preferred the darkness to the light.


Tabitha: "Come on. Let's go get breakfast. After that workout you had, I'm sure you could use it."

She was so right...

It was amazing. So different from Nightcrawler's teleportation. For one thing, there was no sulphurous smell of brimstone upon arrival (the most common side effect of Nightcrawler's teleportation power). And what was even better, the temporary nauseous feeling that Nightcrawler's "travellers" usually experienced was absent. Most welcome indeed. Not to mention that there was no need for Gateway to actually see where he was teleporting to...and the fact that he didn't seem to have any limits in teleporting anyone or anything to anywhere on Earth.

Magneto: "As I thought."

Yes, the base was still operational. There was some damage - that much was true. All it would take would be some relatively minor repairs to get it up and running again. The electricity generators were still functional. Since the dam had been destroyed and could no longer provide the power to run the facility - it had to be surmised that Stryker had backup electrical reserves somewhere (like any good villain would).

Gambit: "A'right then. Let's get to work and be outta here."

Gambit didn't say it - but the place gave him the creeps. And it was the same for the others as well. More so for Cyclops than anyone else.

Magneto: "I concur. But before we do just that - there are other things we must attend to. The first thing we need to do is head - "

That statement of Magneto's didn't go down very well with Wolverine at all. The memory of Magneto's betrayal the last time they worked together (and in the selfsame place no less) was still fresh on his mind. They came to destroy a base - alright so destroy it. But now Magento was talking about other things? It was enough to make him suspicious - or rather more suspicious than was his usual.

Wolverine: "You wouldn't be tryin' something sly, Mags? Would ya?"

Magneto scoffed.

Colossus: "Comrades, time is wasting."

Storm: "Remember people - this facility is most likely being watched by those military looking people out there. I thought our MO was quickly in, quickly out?"

The X-men looked to their leader, Cyclops, for support. But he was silent, lost in his own world, sombrely examining the damage to the base - some of which he himself caused during his mind washed fight with his now deceased wife.

Magneto: "If you would allow me to explain -"

Wolverine: "You had some really good explanations the last time - and look where it led us."

Magento: "You cretin! The computers here hold valuable information on mutant kind. Stryker experimented on mutants and collected vast sums of data. Not to mention he knew a lot about your school - some of which he probably learnt by having his son brainwash Charles."

Magneto's logic was simplicity in itself. It was a wonder the other X-men hadn't seen it. Cyclops might have - but he was currently distant. Colonel William Stryker was a military man and thought very strategically. He believed that a war was coming between mutants and humans...and he aimed to launch a pre-emptive strike before the mutants had the upper hand. In a war (of the magnitude Stryker perceived it to be) you need all the allies you can get. He HAD to have had allies. Goodness knew who he could have shared his information with. There were other anti-mutant groups out there...

Magneto: "We need to know how much he knew...and who he could have shared it with."

Gambit: "Um...good point."

Wolverine grumbled - but everyone took it that he approved. So saying, all headed towards the control room. Even after one year (and having only been inside once) they all remembered what was where. Walking along the corridor, they passed the locked down door to the cloned Cerebro room. That precipitated some cold stares in Magneto's direction. He had reconfigured the device to kill humans instead of mutants after all (betraying the X-men in the process - he would have made Xavier responsible for the deaths of billions).

Magneto: "Oh come on now. A world without human hates and prejudices - would it really be so bad."

Since all knew that talking it out with Magneto would be fruitless - no one bothered. He smirked in superiority.

Cyclops: "It's to the left - here. Isn't it?"

Magneto: "You remember well."

Cyclops: "I was brainwashed into following him and stationed here. Of course I remember."

Magneto: "Alright, alright - let's all mind our temper."

The entryway was sealed shut by the maximum security titanium door. All looked towards Magneto questioningly.

Cyclops: "Well, open the door already."

Magneto: "Generating a strong enough magnetic field to tear open the door might damage the computers inside. You'll have to weaken it for me so I won't have to use as much energy."

No one could disagree with that explanation. In the end, Wolverine had to repeatedly slash the door whilst Cyclops and Gambit took it in turns to bombard it with energy based attacks.

Storm: "I have an idea. Objects become more brittle when frozen..."

So saying Storm bade everyone to stand back. An ethereal glow surrounded her and everyone shivered as the room's temperature dropped. Launching a freezing gale towards the door, Storm hoped, would weaken it sufficiently for,

Storm: "Alright. Colossus, try to break it down."

The Russian mutant nodded. As he approached the door his skin took on a metallic sheen as he activated his mutant ability, transforming his body into living metal. After a series of mutant powered punches (that had Magneto scoffing initially as he didn't believe it would work) the door finally gave and fell to the ground with a massive clank. Storm and Colossus gave piercing looks to Magneto, who merely ignored them.

Wolverine: "Maybe you should have said something about this part of the plan before now, Magneto. Then we could have brought Hank with us to access the computer."

Magneto: "I am sure I'll be able to download the data. It no doubt will be encrypted and password protected. But we can crack those on our own time."

Cyclops: "I don't have any data storage media on me."

And the other X-men didn't have anything capable of storing large amounts of data either.

Magneto: "Not to worry. I have plenty for everyone."

That statement raised some eyebrows.

Magneto: "What?"

Storm: "You expect us to let you have access to Intel that might help you with your terrorist activities?"

Magneto: "Can't we share and share alike? Besides, its because of me that you'll have access to the data in the first place."

There was no immediate response. So Magneto started offering data discs in the manner you would offer children cookies.

Magneto: "Here, have a data disc." nbsp;

Wolverine: "Of course we'll have to scan these data discs you got for any computer viruses that you mighta put on 'em."

Magneto: "Are you always so paranoid? How do they put up with you?"

Wolverine merely replied that it was his paranoid instincts that kept the team alive more times than any of them could count.

Wolverine: "That's why they put up with me."

Colossus: "Can we please just get this over with."

Nodding in Colossus' direction, the team went to work on rebooting the master computer...

Well guys and girls, that's Chapter Five. I hope everyone had a great Holiday Season. And if you didn't - then HUGZ (pets head). I want to wish everyone the best for 2008. If you're on a roll, then I hope it continues. If you're in a slump - I offer condolences and hope that it'll change. It's a damn shame how some of us get slighted. Damn f****** shame. Thanks to all those who sent me encouraging email this year - though considering how little I wrote and updated...I probably didn't deserve it, lol.

As usual, if you have any comments, you can leave 'em at my email


That's it for now. Oh yeah, and sorry for taking so long to update. I have a busy and complicated life. 'Nuff said.