The School Year Begins
AN: Yeah... Been a little while since I updated this. Sorry about that. But, I got past that particular bout of writer's block, and managed to finish the next chapter. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Chapter 4: The School Year Begins.
The young man working on his motorcycle looked up. There was an older man, dressed in a leather coat and carrying a cane, standing just inside the tent. “Yeah?”
“Caught your show today. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed watching you ride.”
Johnny turned back to his bike, disinterested. It wasn’t as if he would be riding much longer. Not without his dad… “Oh. Thanks.”
The man didn’t seem deterred. “Perhaps you’ll ride for me one day.”
“You run a show?” Johnny asked.
“The greatest show on Earth.”
Johnny looked up, slightly perplexed by the odd statement, but shrugged it off. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
The man walked farther inside. “What’s wrong, Johnny? Worried about your father?”
Johnny turned around, his attention fully on the stranger. “What do you know about that?”
The man kept walking around the tent. “Even a blind man can see he’s sick. The thing about cancer is, the time it takes. The toll on the loved ones.” He continued his progress through the tent. “Johnny… What if I could help your dad?”
Johnny kept eyeing the older man. “Yeah? How?”
“How is not important. What if I could make him better? Give him back his health? Would you be willing to make a deal?”
“Oh, for the love of Anubis, Hades, and whatever else you want to call yourself. Are you actually trying to talk him into a devil’s deal?”
The man turned sharply, looking at the entrance to the tent. He let out a hiss. “Harris.”
Xander grinned broadly. “Hey. Nice to see you again.” He looked at Johnny. “Mr. Blaze, if you could give the two of us a moment? I need to have a word with the gentleman.”
Johnny stood abruptly, glaring at the newcomer. “Hey! He says he can help my dad! If you’re tryin’ to stop him…”
“I’m not, Mr. Blaze, I assure you. Once my business with him is complete, you can make whatever deal you want. However, if this is done correctly, you’ll come away from this scott free. Please.”
Johnny frowned, but left.
Xander looked back at the old man. “Hello, Hoff. Nice to see you again.”
The man’s appearance morphed into that of D’Hoffryn, lord of the vengeance demons. “Harris, what have I ever done to you?”
“Oddly enough, nothing,” Xander grinned. “Though, turning me into a vampire in an alternate reality does spring to mind.”
“How did you know about that?” the demon asked.
Xander shrugged. “Such was Anya’s pillow talk. Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because of that young man.”
“Let me guess,” D’Hoffryn drawled. “You want him for yourself?”
“I wouldn’t object to him coming to my school,” Xander admitted. “But, if he chooses to leave with his girlfriend, like he wants to do, I won’t stop him. Of course, in order to get that far with him, I need to take care of you.” He smiled. “I know what you want him for. The contract of San Venganza. You give Johnny what you offered him, make his father healthy, let him live a long life, and I’ll get the contract for you. You know I can do it.”
D’Hoffryn pursed his lips. It was definitely a good offer, and the loss of Blaze, in the long run, wouldn’t hurt him. “Fine.” He held out his hand. Xander shook it, and lightning crashed outside. The deal was struck.
“I’ll expect that contract within the month,” D’Hoffryn informed the mutant.
“No problem.” Xander reached into his leather jacket, pulling out the contract. “Here you go.”
D’Hoffryn glared at him. “Of course. You already had it. And my old friend Carter?”
“Alive and kicking,” Xander grinned. “Living on a graveyard. He thinks that you can’t come onto consecrated land. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that only works on ghosts.”
D’Hoffryn chuckled. “In all my time of making these deals, and having vengeance, the riders I create are some of the dumbest creatures I’ve encountered.”
Xander looked over his shoulder. “You were just going to suppress his mutation? Never let him know what he could have been?”
“Oh, no,” D’Hoffryn shook his head. “I can’t make a rider who isn’t a mutant. They have to already possess the ability to manipulate fire before I can do anything with them, even if they can’t access the ability consciously. There’s more than a few people like that.” He looked at his contract. “Why did you give me this? It has a thousand souls bound to it.”
“Please,” Xander snorted dismissively. “You’ve been doing this for, what, a few billion years? That’s a slow Wednesday for you. Besides, those people made their choices. Nothing I can do to stop them now.”
D’Hoffryn nodded his approval. “Very pragmatic of you, Harris.” He smiled. Well, he came close. “I’ll be seeing you.” He disappeared in a burst of flame.
Xander gave an involuntary shudder. He hated when D’Hoffryn said things like that. He really did.
When he got outside of the tent, Johnny was waiting for him. “Well? You done yet?”
“I am, Mr. Blaze. I’ve struck a deal. Your father’s cancer has been taken care of, and you are free to run away with your girlfriend. But…” Xander reached into his jacket, pulling out a business card. “If the two of you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to call. Food, shelter, even legal trouble.”
Johnny looked at him suspiciously. “Why’re you bein’ so generous? You expect somethin’ in return?”
Xander shook his head. “No. I just know what it’s like to need a leg up. Consider this yours.”
Nodding, Johnny took the card. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Xander smiled. He considered telling the young man about his soon-to-be-emerging powers, but decided not to. It was a lot more fun to find out on your own.
As Johnny went back inside, Xander wheeled back to the van. He let out a sigh. School started in two days…
*** September 1st, 2013, the Tara Maclay Institute
Harry, who had been walking through the entrance hall to get to the kitchen, looked up in time to catch the bushy-haired torpedo that was coming at him.
“Hello, Hermione!” he said, laughing. “It’s good to see you!”
“It’s good to see you too!” Hermione pulled back, grinning like mad. “Have you met any of our teachers? Are they nice? Have you been keeping up with your studies? Are the new Muggle courses difficult for you? What about the magic? Is it different? I understand we’re not being taught by traditional witches. Have they been able to show you anything?”
Harry laughed again. “Let’s see if I can answer all that in order, shall we?” He smirked at her blush. “I’ve met all the teachers. They all seem nice enough. I’ve been doing some studying in the massive library that you’ll no doubt spend the rest of your natural life in. I spent most of my time pre-Hogwarts at the local library in Surrey, so I knew enough then to skip a few grades, I just didn’t dare do any better than Dudley. So, no, the new courses aren’t a problem. I’ve been keeping up with my magic. The magic teachers, who are all drop-dead gorgeous by the way, are definitely
not traditional. And they’ve managed to get me to learn that magic is all about intent. The words we use are actually quite useless, unless one is performing a ritual.” He grinned. “There. I think I got it all.”
Hermione laughed. “Yes, you did.” Her face fell somewhat. “I take it you know that Ron isn’t coming?”
Harry sighed. “Yeah, I know. I wrote to him, trying to convince him to come, but Molly’s got him convinced that we’re following the Devil, or something like that.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “That woman’s a menace, I swear… Just because something isn’t Dumbledore approved, she assumes it’s either worthless or evil. Bunch of sheep, that’s what they are.”
Harry shrugged. “Yeah, but, what can you do about it? Other than avoid the kidnapping attempts, that is.”
Hermione was shocked. “What?! Kidnapping attempts?!”
Harry nodded. “Oh, yeah. Dumbles wasn’t too pleased with my leaving. Decided I had to be brought back ‘for my own good.’ Last one was just a few days ago…”Flashback
Severus Snape crept through the darkened halls of the institute, wand in hand. Dumbledore had ordered him to recover the Potter boy. Personally, Snape was happy enough to let the brat stay in America, but he wasn’t going to jeopardize his position at Hogwarts by not following orders.
“Where is that idiot boy?!” Snape hissed under his breath. “How am I supposed to get him back if I can’t even find him?” Sighing, he lit the tip of his wand, and held it on his palm. “Point me, Harry Potter!”
The wand spun around, then stood straight up. Snape growled. He was on the second floor.
“That brat is going to send me to an early grave…” Snape made it to the top of the stairs, and repeated the locator spell. Down the left hall. Snape stalked toward Harry’s door, unlocking it quietly. As he crept into the room, he suddenly felt something press into the base of his spine.
“You broke into the wrong house, bub.”
Snape’s breathing quickened as he realized what he was feeling. Three blades, in the perfect position to either permanently paralyze him, or just end his life. He gulped. “I… I’m here on orders from Albus Dumbledore. He wants the boy. I’m just following orders…”
Logan growled. “Not the first time I’ve heard that. You gonna come quietly, or are we gonna have to do this right here?”
Snape shook his head quickly. “I’ll come along. Don’t kill me.”
Logan tugged Snape out the door, thankful that Harry hadn’t woken up. He closed the door softly, and turned around to see Xander wheeling up to them.
“Well, well. Another Wizard, here to cause us no end of trouble. He’s here to try to kidnap Harry, I assume?” Xander directed the question at Logan.
“That’s what he said,” Logan growled. “‘Just following orders.’”
Xander snorted. “I bet. Escort him off the grounds.”
“Wait!” Snape cried. “I have to take him back. I don’t know why, but the headmaster needs the boy. It has something to do with the Dark Lord. We can’t defeat him without Potter.”
Xander arched an eyebrow. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Voldemort,” pause for flinching, “a whisp of spirit who’s been forced to live in the bodies of pathetic losers for the last twelve years? I mean, seriously, I’ve seen more dangerous things crawling out of the ground on a weekly basis. I’m not worried.”
Snape glared at the man in front of him. “I can’t leave without him. Dumbledore…” his mouth snapped shut, not allowing him to speak any further.
Xander focused slightly, easily moving past the potion master’s mental shields. Dumbledore had forced Snape to swear an unbreakable vow, both to retrieve Harry by any means necessary, and to tell Xander as little as possible about his mission.
Xander pulled his mental probes back, sighing deeply. “We’re going to have a problem with this one, Logan. Better toss him into the holding cell. And, don’t forget to take his wand.”
Logan nodded, and was about to do as Xander had asked, when Snape suddenly whirled around, casting a stunner at the bladed mutant. He whipped around, pointing his wand at Xander’s face. “Give me the boy, and I won’t kill you.”
Xander couldn’t help it. He started laughing.
“I fail to see what’s funny about this!” Snape roared.
“That’s because you haven’t looked behind you,” Xander said.
Before Snape could turn, he felt something slice into his back. Three blades. He blinked slowly. “But… I… Stunned…” He fell to the floor, dead.
Logan growled. “Idiot. Want me to burn the corpse?”
Xander shook his head. “No. I’ll have the sisters send the body back to England. Preferably right on Dumbledore’s desk. Just get it out of the hall, okay?”End Flashback
“I walked out about a second later,” Harry finished his story. “Let me tell you, it was a shock seeing Snape on the ground like that.”
Hermione gasped softly. “Are you alright?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah. I’m fine. Trust me, Snape dying isn’t very high on the list of things that’ll traumatize me. I hope Dumbledore managed to find a replacement in time.”
She scowled. “Meddling old man.”
Harry just laughed. “Ah, nothing to worry about.”
“Indeed not.” A voice came from the door. Harry and Hermione looked, seeing Luna walking inside. “Hello, Harry Potter.”
Harry nodded in greeting. “Hello. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.”
“I’m Luna Lovegood.” she said, an odd smile on her face. “Though given the habit the people here have of renaming things, you may call me Artemis.”
Harry was a bit surprised that she knew about the names, but didn’t show it. “Right. You can call me Mage, then.” He looked confused for a moment. “Artemis?”
“Yes. Goddess of the moon, and hunting.”
Hermione turned back to Harry. “Mage?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah. Everyone here has at least two names. I say ‘at least’ because most have at least one that you won’t call to their faces,” he winked. “I’m ‘Mage.’ I suppose Luna is ‘Artemis.’ And you… well, just what do we call you?”
“I don’t care what we call her, so long as I can
Harry looked at the stairs to see Alex Summers and Jean coming down. He rolled his eyes. “Good luck with that, Havok.”
Alex just grinned, and took Hermione’s hand in his. “Hello, lovely. My name is Alex Summers.” His lips brushed her knuckles.
Hermione blushed a deep crimson. “Hermione. Granger.”
Harry snorted loudly. “Good gods, man. You’re only thirteen bloody years old. Aren’t you a bit young to be such a playboy? I know for a fact that you were seen making out with Lorna not three days ago…”
Havok shot him a withering look. “Traitor.”
Harry shrugged. “Just looking out for my friend.”
“Oh, yeah? What happened to ‘Bros. before hoes,’ huh?” Alex demanded.
Mage shook his head. “Oh, you stupid, stupid little man…”
Hermione turned a powerful glare onto Alex. “Did you just refer to me as a whore?
Alex began backing up slowly. “Ah… No, I… Well, that is…” He cleared his throat. “Harry, you wanna help me out here, buddy?”
Harry pretended to think about it. “Hmm… No, I’m good.”
“Any particular reason?” Havok squeaked. He saw Hermione pulling out a wand.
“Two, actually.” Harry was grinning madly. “One, I’ve known her for much longer than I’ve known you, and like her that much more. Second… You brought this on yourself, mate. You’ll have to live with the consequences.”
“Oh, shit.” Alex made a break for it, Hermione sending stinging hexes at him until he was out of sight.
Hermione glared at where he’d been. “Annoying little piece of—” She was cut off by Harry’s hand.
“Now, now, Hermione. We shouldn’t say anything in front of the new people that will make us seem unintelligent, should we?”
Hermione rolled her eyes, but nodded. Harry took his hand away.
Jean smiled. “Well, that was entertaining. I think I’m going to like having two more magic users around here.”
“Oh!” Harry grinned. “Sorry, I forgot to introduce this one. Hermione, this is Jean Grey. Jean, this, as I’m sure you heard, is Hermione Granger.”
Hermione held out her hand, which Jean accepted.
“Nice to meet you.” (Keep your hands off of him.)
“Pleasure’s mine.” (I don’t think so.)
Harry grinned. “Excellent! I’ll leave the two of you to get acquainted. I’m sure Havoc is planning some kind of revenge on me, so I need to begin plans for my campaign.”
“Campaign?” Luna asked.
Harry nodded. “In the prank war.”
This seemed to draw the platinum blonde out of her trance-like state. “Would you like some help?”
“Certainly! Come on, we’ll use the library. He’s never
in there.” The two of them ran off.
Hermione shook her head, before turning back to Jean. “He’s certainly more extroverted than I remember.”
Jean nodded. “You have no idea how long it took to get him this far. When I got here, he was obscenely shy. But, I think I managed to get him out of his shell nicely.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow in the redhead’s direction. “You
got him out of his shell?”
Jean nodded, unfazed. “Oh, yes. Took the better part of a month before he showed any progress, but he’s grown in leaps and bounds since then. Of course, he was able to deal with males perfectly well before that, but any female presence made him a bit nervous. He hid it, but I could tell.”
Hermione nodded, her expression cold. “Yes. I’d noticed before.”
Jean’s return smile was nothing less than the epitome of condescension. “I’m sure you did.” She glanced at her watch. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have some studying to do.”
Hermione glared at the redhead as she walked away. She would pay. Oh, she would pay…
“You know,” Clark said as he walked into Goku’s small apartment, “once upon a time, I would have had a real problem with stealing food.”
“And now?” Goku asked, striking out at his attack dummy.
“I’m just too hungry to care.”
Goku snorted. “Yeah. We all get there at some point. So, what’d you get?”
“Anything that we don’t have to keep cold,” Clark said, putting bags of cans and packaged food on the table. “And I think I’m getting faster.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, you remember when we met, the cops were shooting at me? I ran past them, and I was going pretty fast, but they kept their guns trained on me. Today, no one even realized I was there. I cleared two shelves worth of food, put it all in bags, and no one blinked. I mean that literally. I was watching them.”
“Huh.” Goku paused in his training. “Well, that’s weird. I mean, I can boost my speed a little, but I’ve never gone as fast as you, even when we met.”
Clark shrugged. “I guess it’s just my mutation. It makes sense that it would get stronger as I get older, right?”
“Sounds good to me.” Goku broke into a grin. “Now, you still want me to train you?”
Clark grinned back. “Yeah!”
“Okay, then.” Goku led Clark out onto the street. It was night, so they were fairly certain no one would bother them. “You’ve already got speed, so we can skip over those exercises. What we need to do, is get you in tune with your body, and increase your strength. Since we can do both at once, I want to know how much you can lift when it’s strapped to your back.”
“Um… Well, I’ve had to carry bales of hay before. They weigh about… 40 pounds, I think. I guess.”
Goku nodded. “Alright. Then we’ll start with this.” Goku went behind a dumpster, pulling out a large, purple shell. “Here. Put this on. It weighs ninety pounds.”
Clark let out a gulp, and lifted the large weight onto his back. “Okay. What do I do with it?”
“Basically? Everything but sleep with it. When you’re sleeping, you just sleep. Recovery time has to count for everything it can.” Goku looked around. “Since we’re short any actual chores for you to do, we’ll have to improvise. I want you to run, as fast as you can…” Goku pointed in a random direction, “that way. Stop when you can’t run anymore, and bed down. When you wake up, come back, and we’ll start again.”
Clark nodded, and took off. Despite the uncomfortable weight on his back, he managed to disappear in a blur. Goku watched for a few moments, wondering how far he’d make it. Speed could overcome almost anything, given you had enough of it. He might have to limit Clark to normal human speeds for the training…
Goku turned around. Clark was standing behind him. “What… Did you just…?”
“Run around the world in… five minutes, I think?” Clark finished. “Yeah.”
Goku sighed. Yep. Limitations were definitely in order.
*** The Institute
“So, Mr. Luthor,” Xander poured a cup of coffee for his guest. “What can I do for you?”
Lionel Luthor gave the telepath a calculating look. “Well, to be honest, I’ve heard about what you do here, and I’m rather interested in it. I think that this so called ‘mutant problem,’ or ‘metahuman situation,’ whatever the news people are calling it now, can be solved with places like this. Education can deal with almost anything, one way or another.”
Xander nodded. “There’s some truth to that, yes. But, I have to wonder what that has to do with me. You have the money to build a school yourself, to staff it with other mutants, and anything else you might need. I’m not sure why you’re here.”
Lionel smirked slightly. “I’ve heard about your science project on the lower floors. A computer that enhances your own abilities, and becomes a giant mutant tracker. Such a resource would be… invaluable.”
Xander raised his good eyebrow. “I see. Well, then I have to say I’m sorry. That computer is one of a kind, and the man who designed it was kind enough to sell me the patent.”
“Oh, you misunderstand,” Luthor said. “I want to be partners in this endeavor. The ability to find these young people, and help them, is very important. I’m aware of your funds, of course, but one can always use more, and I think that, one day, these people will be very important.”
Xander rolled his eye. “Tell me something, Mr. Luthor. Do you know how powerful my abilities are, even without Cerebro?”
Lionel shrugged slightly. “I can’t say I’m privy to that information, no.”
Xander’s lips morphed into a supreme smirk. “Then let me give you a demonstration…” He looked Lionel in the eye. ‘I can read every thought you possess, every deep, dark secret, including your plans to form the most powerful mutants into a personal army. You don’t want to rule the world, you just want to control those who do. All that paperwork gets tedious, after all.
‘So, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to do a little rewiring of your brain. Any time you so much as think about recruiting a mutant to do your dirty work, you’ll experience ever-increasing levels of pain. It’ll start with a mild headache, then something a little stronger, then something even stronger, and so forth, until you reach the point where you black out for periods of time, which, I imagine, will also increase. Now, I won’t stop you from doing things the old-fashioned, human, way. I understand you’ve got a business to run, and that entails certain necessary evils, but we are a resource you won’t be getting your hands on.
Xander leaned back in his chair. “Have I made myself, in any way, unclear?”
Lionel looked at him for a moment, before placing a hand on his temple, wincing slightly. “No, Mr. Harris. I think we understand each other very well.”
Xander smiled. “Good. And you understand that, if you try anything, I’ll not only kill you, but your son as well, from right here in my office?”
Lionel paled, and nodded. “Yes.”
“Excellent! Have a nice day, Mr. Luthor.”
As Lionel’s chopper was lifting off, he considered possible ways of taking the telepath out before he could retaliate. Hiring an assassin was certainly an option. There were several good ones who employed technology, or other means, to disguise themselves from psychics. That Bulls-Eye character, perhaps…
Lionel tapped his headset, which connected to his phone. “Yes?”
“Sir, we thought you should know, your son just complained of a headache, and passed out. He’s bleeding out of both his nose and ears.”
Lionel’s eyes widened. ‘Alright, you’ve made your point. Just because the assassins can protect their minds, doesn’t mean I can. You don’t have anything to worry about from me.
After a few seconds, the voice on the phone came back. “Mr. Luthor… I can’t explain it. Lex is fine.”
“Don’t worry about it, Amanda. Everything’s been taken care of. See to it that he’s cleaned up.”
Lionel shook his head. It had been a long time since he’d found someone he could actually respect…
“Artemis, confirm target’s location.”
Luna tapped the ear-piece Harry had given her. “Target is in the dining room, chatting with Polaris.”
“Excellent. Everything’s prepared?”
“All set. Ready…”
Luna pulled out several small, black balls.
Luna’s arm reared back, taking careful aim at her intended victim.
Luna threw the pellets quickly, releasing a cloud of dark gas over and around Havok’s chair. He tried to run, but Harry had cast a sticking charm on him, pinning him in place. Everyone else vacated the area quickly.
“Well done, Artemis. Phase one of the campaign is complete.”
Luna smiled brightly. “Glad to be of assistance, Mage.”
*** San Francisco
Clark looked at his friend, letting out a sigh. “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely,” Goku nodded. “Since you can’t seem to control your speed very well yet, we’re just going to have to increase the weight you train with.”
“Yeah, but… a pick-up truck?”
Goku grinned, picking up the harness he’d attached to the bumper of a Dodge Ram. “Come on, it’s not that bad.”
“You put the parking break on. It won’t roll. I’ll tear up the road, and ruin the tires.”
“Do you want to carry it on your back?” Goku asked.
“Then this is how we’re doing it. Now, come on.”
Sighing, Clark strapped the harness on. He probably wouldn’t even be able to move the truck, if he couldn’t get up to speed, so the actual property damage would probably be zero…
“Okay,” Goku grinned widely, “go!”
Clark tried to move forward, but just as he predicted, unless he could get moving, the truck was too heavy…
Clark felt himself take a step. He looked back, startled. What the hell had just happened?
Goku’s eyes narrowed. “Do that again.”
Shrugging, Clark took another step. The truck tore up more concrete as it followed him.
“Huh… Well, that’s just not fair.”
“What?” Clark asked, taking off the harness.
“You’re strong, too. I’m betting you actually could
carry the truck on your back, though it’d probably get a little cumbersome. Easier to just pick it up.”
Clark shrugged. “Okay, so… now what?”
“Well, you’re strong, and you’re fast… I guess that just leaves us with technique.”
Clark shrugged. “Okay. How do we do that?”
Goku grinned. “Sparring!” Without warning, the monkey-boy launched forward with a punch.
Clark blurred out of the way, but found himself in the path of a kick to the ribs. It didn’t hurt, really, but it was surprising.
“You’re too predictable,” Goku said. “You can’t always evade. Sometimes, it’s better to block.”
Nodding, Clark took a stance. When Goku launched his next attack, Clark put his arms up to block it. He went flying into a wall.
“You can’t always block,” Goku said, grinning. “Sometimes, it’s better to evade.” At Clark’s glare, his grin widened. “Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.”
*** The Institute
The assembled students snapped to, looking straight forward. Xander smiled slightly. He’d never admit it, but he really
enjoyed commanding that much respect.
“Welcome to the Tara Maclay Institute for Higher Learning. My name is Alexander Harris, though you’re more likely to hear me called ‘Professor X’ on a daily basis. To my right, is my wife, and the advanced self-defense instructor, Faith Harris. More likely than not, you’ll come to know her as Lady Deathstrike. Trust me, she’s more than capable of living up to her name.
“To my left is your instructor in the sciences, as well as our math expert, Doctor Henry McCoy. If you can’t tell, he’s better known as ‘Beast.’ Along the back wall, are our other five instructors. Logan, the Wolverine, will be teaching basic defense. The young woman next to him, Ororo Monroe, A.K.A. Storm, will be teaching the other basic courses. Social Studies, History, and English.
“The final three, Piper Halliwell, Phoebe Halliwell, and Paige Matthews, Freezeblown, Psi, and Sparkle, respectively, will be instructing those who want to learn in magic. For those of you who doubt, believe me when I say, magic is very real. If you want proof, attend the class.
“Now, our rules for conduct are probably a little different than what you’re used to. We don’t discourage fighting. We don’t discourage arguing. We will punish you for sloppy form during a fight. We will punish you for ineffective arguments. We don’t particularly care what you do, so long as you do it to the best of your ability. However, if you attack someone, and they refuse to fight back, you stop immediately. You can do whatever you want, but you won’t infringe on anyone else’s personal freedom of choice. By the same token, you can smoke, drink, whatever you want, but you don’t force it on anyone. You don’t let anyone near your second hand smoke, you don’t insult them while you’re drunk. Besides that, there’s only one rule: Don’t Die.”
Xander’s eye twitched toward the door. He sensed a familiar mind, someone he hadn’t sensed since Sunnydale. He grinned. “I think that’ll do it for know. Classes start first thing tomorrow. Today, I want you to mingle, get to know your classmates. Go on.”
The group of students, now up to twenty with last minute walk-ins, and a few runaways who they’d found, broke up, heading out onto the grounds. Xander wheeled toward the door, opening it with a smile. “Hello, Dawn.”
“Hey, Xander,” the young woman smiled in return. “It’s been a while.”
“It has,” Xander agreed, looking over her shoulder at the large figure behind her. “I see you’re still running around with a rougher crowd.”
The brute of a man looked down at Xander, smirking. “Least I ain’t in a chair.”
“Victor,” Dawn cut her companion off with a glare. “This is our last shot. Keep your mouth shut.”
“Yes, dear,” Victor growled out.
Xander just laughed, and moved away from the door, letting the two of them in. “‘Last shot’? What happened this time?”
Dawn’s face fell. “Listen, can we talk in your office? Faith, too.”
Xander frowned, and nodded.
“What’s that all about?” Piper wondered aloud.
“The girl’s an old friend of Xander’s,” Logan said. “He mentioned her to me a few times. Don’t know the guy.” Logan’s eyes hadn’t left Victor from the moment the other man had come inside. There was something unsettlingly familiar about the large man…
“I don’t like him.”
“What?” Logan snapped back to reality.
“I said I don’t like it. Why would they just show up out of the blue? They’re probably in some kind of trouble.”
Logan grunted, and headed for the elevator. He needed to work off some energy…
Xander pinched his nose. He’d brought Dawn, Victor, and Faith into his office, and Dawn had just told him why she was there. “Say that again, please. Just… one more time.”
Dawn sighed. “Buffy attacked us. She and Willow had some kind of new spell to reverse what happened to me. We managed to get away, and we ran straight here.”
“Oy… And I take it the process still hasn’t stopped?”
Dawn shook her head. “No. It’s slowed some, but it’s still going.” She held up her hand, her nails extending a full three inches.
Xander let out a breath. “Right. Well, you’re welcome to stay, of course. We’ve got plenty of room. Just try to curb the killer instincts, okay?”
Dawn smirked, showing a pair of razor sharp incisors. “No promises.”
Xander smiled. “Go on, both of you. Pick out any unclaimed room.”
Smiling, Dawn left, dragging Victor along with her.
Xander shook his head. “I didn’t think Buffy would give up that easily. It was only a matter of time before she went after them again. Probably a matter of time for us, as well.”
“You sure about that, X?”
“Almost positive. She won’t tolerate us for long. We don’t operate under her rules. We’ll do whatever’s necessary, up to and including killing one to save a thousand. She can’t deal with that. I don’t blame her. It’s a hard thing. In fact, I’d rather that it things like that didn’t need to happen. As it is, though…”
Faith sighed. “Yeah. So, how long before she shows up?”
Xander leaned back in his seat. “I’d say… a few days. Maybe a week. The sisters put anti-detection wards up around the school, but that’ll only stop Willow for so long. There’s a reason she’s known as the ‘Wicked Wicca the West.’”
“What do we do then?”
He sighed. “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. Until then, we’ll explain the situation to the other teachers, and I’ll try to warn the Council off.” He ran his hands through his long hair. “Call the others in, please.”
“Okay,” Xander cleared his throat. “I have something everyone needs to know.”
The assembled teachers looked at him expectantly.
“Back in 2002, just before the summer, we dealt with a group of… Well, for lack of a better term, Uber-Geeks. They called themselves ‘The Trio.’ Long story short, they killed someone close to us. On the plus side, she ended up getting a school,” he waved at their surroundings, “named after her.
“Anyway, once that was over with, Dawn, the young woman who showed up today, she ran away. We didn’t see her until… December of that year. When she showed up, she’d changed drastically. You see, Dawn wasn’t born, in the traditional sense. She was created to house a really big, green, ball of energy. And when I say big, I mean on a cosmic scale. It was called the Key. Dawn was given memories of a fifteen-year-long life, we got all the memories of her we needed, and no one was the wiser. At first, anyway.
“When she ran away, it was with a man named Victor Creed. You saw him earlier. The spell that created her allowed her to mimic the one she identified as her protector. At first, that was Buffy, who our memories identified as her older sister. That changed when she met Victor. Dawn started copying his mutation, becoming more feral, stronger, faster, and just all-around meaner. She healed faster, her teeth became longer and sharper, and instead of nails, she grew claws.
“The reason I’m telling you all this is, Buffy, her sister, didn’t take too well to the changes in her sister. And since she was also a Slayer, just like Faith, she was pretty aggressive in her dislike of the situation. The biggest problem though, was the fact that she had, and still has, the most powerful individual magic user on this plane of existence at her beck and call. Since then, the two of them have made it into their personal mission to ‘save’ Dawn, no matter how much she doesn’t want it. They have the best of intentions, of course. Take a wild guess where that’s leading them.”
Logan grunted. “Yeah. What do we do about it?”
“For now?” Xander asked. “Nothing. They haven’t done anything, and they might consider it too big a risk to attack the school right now. I know the Slayers inside and out. I know how to hold them, and how to put them out of commission permanently, if I have to. I also know all of Willow’s weaknesses.”
“That’s the witch, right?” Phoebe asked. “If she’s as powerful as you say, how weak can she be?”
“Not what I meant,” he said. “I mean I’ve known her since she was five. I can out talk her any day of the week. In the meantime, I’m going to be upgrading our security, both magical and mundane. We need to be ready when the time comes. I’ve contacted two experts, a pair of old friends. Doc Strange, in Greenwich Village, is the world’s foremost expert on magic, and the other… Well, let’s just say he knows what he’s doing. He insisted I not give out his name.”
Faith smirked as she realized who Xander meant. “He’s a paranoid asshole. Still, he definitely knows how to guard a place.”
“Indeed he does,” Xander agreed. “You probably won’t see him, unless he deems it necessary, but Stephen will be making his presence known. I’ll need you all to spread the word that he’s not to be disturbed without a very good reason, and if he asks a question, it should be answered with all honesty. It’s probably necessary for his magic.” He took a breath. “Any questions?”
No one spoke.
“Alright. Try to get some rest. We’ve got a helluva day ahead of us tomorrow.”
*** San Francisco, September 2nd, 2013
Clark and Goku stood on the roof of an abandoned apartment building, squared off in their fighting stances. Despite Clark’s superior speed, strength, and endurance, he had yet to beat Goku in a fight. The other boy was just too good. Each movement flowed flawlessly into the next like water.
“Ready?” Goku asked.
The two of them ran at each other full tilt, Clark throwing a punch, Goku swinging a kick. Goku, however, was able to dodge, and sent Clark flying. The younger teen landed on the next roof over, almost falling through it. He leapt to his feet, jumping back into the fray.
Goku was actually impressed. Clark, though grossly undertrained, had a natural grasp on his body that a rare few possessed. Grandpa Gohan had been one such person, and he’d claimed Goku had the same ability. With a few months’ work, Clark would be deadly.
Goku was interrupted from his thoughts by a too-close punch. He smirked. “Felt a breeze on that one.”
Clark ignored him, continuing his attack. Goku was easily able to block and parry each assault, but he could already see Clark was improving. They’d only been at this for a day, but he was picking up the basics easily.
After nearly half-an-hour of sparring, Goku called a halt. “Alright, I think we’ve had enough for now. Let’s grab something to eat.”
Clark nodded, and the two of them leapt to the ground, heading across the street to their apartment. “So, will I be able to do that ‘ki’ stuff?”
Goku shrugged. “Anything’s possible. You’ll probably have to meditate a lot to get the hang of it, since we’re skipping parts of your training, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to.”
“Cool,” Clark grinned.
As the two of them approached the apartment, Goku held up a hand, causing Clark to stop. He could smell someone in the apartment, though he didn’t know who… he held up a finger to his lips, and crept forward quietly, Clark just behind him. The two took positions on either side of the door. Clark looked at Goku, who nodded. They burst inside.
They were surprised to find a young girl in the front room. By appearance, she was about eleven. They let out relieved breaths.
“What are you doing here?” Goku asked.
She shrugged. “Looking for food. My friend Chase said I could probably find some here.”
Clark looked at Goku, who shrugged. He didn’t know anyone named Chase.
“Um… Well, we can spare a little, but we don’t have much to begin with,” Clark said.
The girl’s eyes darted to her left. “Oh, that’s okay… I’ll just be leaving.”
Clark’s head turned to his right, just in time to see a boy, about his age, sneaking out a window, his arms laden with food. With a burst of speed, Clark ran over, and pulled him back inside.
Goku went to help, but was very suddenly attacked by the little girl. He ignored her incoming fist, and wound up being put through three walls for his trouble.
“Goku!” Clark ran in his friend’s direction, until he noticed the girl’s fist coming at him. Goku’s words came back to him. This was definitely not
a moment to block. In a blur of motion, he let her punch miss him, causing her to fall over.
“Molly!” the blond boy, probably Chase, called. “Come on, we gotta go!” Clark looked up in time to see Chase aim his hands at him. This wouldn’t seem like much, except Chase was wearing metal gloves. Gloves that, when extended like this, shot fire.
Clark ran out of the way, collecting Goku, and escaping the building. It was only minutes before the entire building was aflame. The two friends watched from a nearby roof.
“So…” Goku drawled. “I think it’s time we moved out of that ratty old apartment.”
Clark snorted. “Have any particular destination in mind?”
Goku tapped his chin. “LA’s nice this time of year.”
Clark shrugged. “Fine.” A smirk spread across his face. “Race you.”
*** The Institute
Elliot shook his head as he left his first day of magic class. Everyone was attending the first lesson of all the classes, so they could decide what they wanted to learn. He had sat down, half expecting some cheap slight of hand. But, when Freezeblown had destroyed three targets in a row, just by waving her hands, he’d become a believer. He didn’t know if he’d be able to do anything with it, but he was seriously considering attending that class full-time.
“Did you enjoy the lesson?”
Elliot looked up. One of the student witches in the class, Hermione, she called herself, was smiling at him. He nodded. “Yeah. It was something else. I don’t really get it yet, but I think I will.”
“So you’re going to continue?” she asked. “Wonderful! I’ve always thought that Muggles ought to be able to perform magic, given that my parents are Muggles, and they somehow produced me. The whole stigma the Wizarding world attaches to them is really unfair. Do you want any study help? I’m quite good at it, you know, and I’m sure I can help you with the magical theory. It was hard for me to grasp, at first, but it’s fairly easy once you’ve got the hang of it.”
Elliot blinked a few times, processing her rapid-fire words. “Uh… sure, I could use a little help. Thanks.”
She waved it off. “Not at all.” They heard an explosion a few rooms up. “Oh, for Merlin’s sake… what’s he up to now?”
“Harry! For the last day, or so, he and Havok have been pranking each other. Surely you’ve noticed?”
Elliot snorted. It was nearly impossible to miss the amount of property damage the two of them had been accruing.
Hermione sighed. “I’d better go make sure they’re not dead. Excuse me.” She marched toward the two boys, now stumbling out of the smoke-filled room. “What on Earth were you two thinking? Honestly!”
Harry grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, ‘Mione. It just… got a little out of hand. I mean, how was I supposed to know that, when a stunner and Havok’s plasma hit each other, it’d explode like that?”
“A stunner?” Hermione asked. “Why were you… No. I don’t want to know. You’re both going to stop this now, understand?”
Both of them nodded, and, while they didn’t quite run away, they both walked to their next classes very rapidly.
Elliot snickered. “Nice.”
She blushed. “Yes, well… I have my moments.”
Xander smiled as the small group of students filed into the room. “Alright everyone, welcome to Automobile Maintenance. By the time you’ve finished this class, you’ll be able to fix, build, and drive anything with wheels. For next six months, those of you who choose to take the class will be building a vehicle of your own. Most of you aren’t legally old enough to drive just yet, but there’s no reason not to start early.” One of the students raised their hands. “Yes, Ms. Lee?”
The Asian girl, known to most as Jubilee, lowered her hand. “How are we supposed to build something in six months? We don’t know what we’re doing.”
Xander grinned. “The best way to learn, is by doing. Don’t worry, I’ll be walking you through the process. It’s not really difficult, it’s just involved. Now, there’s twenty of you here. You’ll find your names on the lockers over there,” he nodded toward a row of said items, “with coveralls and tools for each of you. Be warned, you will
get grease on you in this class. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest you don’t come back tomorrow. Today, however, is just for the introduction. So, let’s go over what you can get out of this class. If you’ll all follow me to the garage?”
The group made their way to the incredibly large garage. No one had really been inside it before, except when Xander and Faith had picked some of them up in the black van they always drove. Even then, they’d gotten sparse looks at the other vehicles, all of which had been covered in tarps.
This was no longer the case.
The garage was lit up like a showroom, with cars, trucks, and motorcycles set up on display pedestals. The collected vehicles gleamed under the bright lights, each having been hand-polished.
“These represent years of work,” Xander informed them. “The first one I ever did was the Harley in the center,” he nodded at it. “That was a decade ago. It was a wedding present for my wife. The others have either been for pleasure, or jury-rigged on the spot, and later improved upon. There are twenty-five of them, currently, and more than a few that I’m still working on.”
“But, isn’t it hard if you’re in that chair?” one student asked.
He smiled. “That’s why it pays to have an extra pair of hands. Deathstrike does the hard labor for me, something I appreciate to no end.”
He let them walk around, looking at the magnificent machines. He let the students sit in them, imagining what it would be like to actually operate something like this.
When they were all gathered together, he asked if they had any more questions. One student spoke up. “Can we really build something in six months?”
He nodded. “If you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want. So, who’s interested?”
Every last one of them put up their hands.