“Are you serious?” The speaker was in his early thirties, maybe. Brown hair, brown eyes, 5’11” or so, wearing a green shirt with two parallel rows of yellow circles, a black jacket, black slacks, black shoes. His name was Jamie Madrox, he was seated in Scott Summers’ office, and he was currently regarding Scott with the most dubious of looks.
“Very,” Scott replied.
“Why us? Hell, why haven’t you handed her over to SHIELD? They’re sure as hell better equipped to investigate something like this.”
“SHIELD doesn’t have the means to keep her under wraps. We do. And why you?” Scott met Jamie’s gaze. “You’re good at what you do, and you’re a known factor. An ally. We know we can trust you to do the right thing. And a friend recommended you.”
Jamie scoffed. “You remember who you’re talking to, right?”
“I remember,” Scott said.
“So you want to hire us to trace this girl - who doesn’t exist according to official records - back to whoever it is that was pulling her strings - a man who might not even exist in this dimension?”
“... You know that we’re busy with our own investigations, right?”
Jamie sighed. “We’ll see what we can do. No promises, but we’ll do what we can.”
Scott smiled. “I knew I could count on you.”
Jamie didn’t particularly like that Scott Summers thought of him as a ‘known factor.’ Something in him chafed at that. Reminded him of what that duplicate had said, after M-Day. It bothered him that the dupe’s words resonated so strongly, but there they were:
The fly in the ointment.
The spanner in the works.
A New World in my View
by P.H. Wise
An X-Men Crossover Fanfic
Chapter 12: The X-Factor
Disclaimer: The DC Universe and its associated characters is the property of DC comics. The Marvel Universe and its associated characters is the property of Marvel Entertainment LLC. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Joss Whedon's baby.
“So that’s Divine, huh?” Noriko asked.
Karen nodded. A woman named Rogue had brought them down, and was in another room at the moment, but probably going to be out at any moment. She and her friends stood at the entrance to the titanium-steel holding cell. With its walls and door reinforced with a force shield plus a nullification field able to render a mutant unable to use their powers, the cell would have been enough for most threats. Divine, though, was not a mutant, and the nullification field would do to her precisely nothing. So what dominated the cell was a bit nonstandard: no bed, no toilet, no chain or shackles, but a large transparent stasis tube inside which Power Girl’s clone rested, held in suspended animation.
It was weird, looking down at a mirror image of herself. Well, except for the hair color.
“I hear Miss Frost is planning to rewrite her brain,” Julian said, making a stabbing motion as if it somehow helped to emphasize ‘rewriting.’ “Just gonna go in there, fry her synapses, and then rewrite her from the ground up.”
“I’m sure Miss Frost would never dream of doing such an awful act, even to an enemy,” Cessily said. Everyone looked at her. She blushed. “... OK, she’d do it in a heartbeat if she thought she had to.”
“Is that OK?” Laurie asked. “Is that really any different from killing her?”
An uncomfortable silence fell.
“Well, what other choice is there?” Cessily asked.
The speaker was one Karen didn’t recognize. She’d heard the girl approaching - super hearing and all. She turned. The girl was blonde, her hair in pig tails. She had green eyes, and she wore a white tank-top over a blue skirt with orange and black striped leggings.
“You a new student?” Julian asked, and folded his arms. “You know you shouldn’t be down here without a teacher, right?”
“I know lots of things,” the girl replied. Karen pegged her as somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen, maybe. Hard to tell.
Karen raised an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? Like what?”
The girl shrugged. “I know you’ve got an appointment you’re not going to want to be late for, today. And that going home is going to make you angry.”
Noriko made a face. “What are you, a fortune teller?”
The girl shrugged a second time.
“Then I’m not impressed,” Noriko said. “I can do way better than that. ‘A meeting with a stranger will change your life.’" She gestured to the stasis tank where Divine slept. "Or how about ‘I sense that you’re having a problem with a friend or relative’?”
The girl gave Noriko an annoyed look, but said nothing.
“Who are you, anyways?” Karen asked.
The girl smiled, as if amused by a private joke. “I’m Layla Miller,” she said. She might have gone on, but a voice called down the hall at that moment.
“Layla!” Woman’s voice. Scottish accent.
The group turned. A woman with short red hair was fast approaching. “When Jamie said you could tag along, I doubt he meant ‘could sneak into off-limits parts of the mansion’,” she said.
“Rahne?” Noriko asked.
The woman smiled. “Hello, everyone. Keeping out of trouble?”
“Your hair,” Laurie said, staring.
Rahne grinned, running her fingers through her buzz-cut hair. “Figured it was time for a change,” she said. “You like it?”
Laurie nodded. “It looks good,” she lied.
Layla shrugged, then. “We going?”
Rahne gave Layla an irritated look. “Aye,” she said.
Karen and the others exchanged glances as the two made their way back the way Rahne had come.
Three hundred soldiers dead. Six combat helicopters destroyed. Two humvees destroyed. Half a mile of public land reduced to a series of pockmarked craters. The mission only saved from complete disaster by the intervention of assets from the Avengers and the X-Men. To say that Maria Hill was having a bad day was to understate the matter. She’d never felt any particular urge to drink profusely, but about now it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
The day after the biggest failure her career had ever known, a failure which had in all likelihood torpedoed that career and sent it straight to the bottom, Maria Hill sank into her office chair. She had been... wrong.
And here he was, President of the United States on her personal comm-channel, ready to tell her all about the mistake she’d made.
“I expect your resignation by tomorrow,” he said.
“I don’t work for you, sir,” she replied. “SHIELD is an international agency under the purview of the United Nations. I know we like to pretend differently, but it would require a full vote by the security council...”
“The vote is scheduled for Tuesday.”
That was it then. The sense of resignation she felt must have showed on her face, because his expression softened.
“For what it’s worth, Maria, I’m sorry it turned out this way. You’re a good agent, but you made a monumentally bad call. The sort of bad call I can’t just sweep under the rug.”
She didn’t reply. Didn’t look up.
“Do you really intend to put SHIELD through this? The official investigation into your mistake? A complete neutering of its ability to function while the wheels of the bureaucracy move towards your dismissal? Don’t disappoint me, Maria.”
Silence. He disconnected a moment later. Three hundred dead. She’d been wrong. So very, very wrong.
And there, alone, in the dark, Maria Hill said what she could never say in public. Not to Tony. Not to Captain America. Not even to the President of the United States. Never in a million years. There, in the dark, whispered to the empty room: “... I’m sorry.”
It didn’t help.
The responsibilities of a king were many. It was more than just being a head of state. The king and his land were one, as the king and his people were one. Namor, King of Atlantis, had privilege beyond those of any ordinary Atlantean, but with that privilege came responsibilities. Sometimes, meeting those responsibilities brought him grief. Sometimes, meeting those responsibilities was a pleasure. Taking vengeance upon the one who had maimed Namorita - his cousin and member of the royal family of Atlantis - would be the latter.
He and his honor guard stood at the gates of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, and he was not impressed with what he saw.
“Sir, you’ll have to wait,” the soldier at the gate told him. “I need to check this with my superior.”
They would have him wait? They would have him ‘go through channels?’ “I think not,” he replied.
He went through the gate. Literally. A mass of twisted, discarded metal was all that was left in his wake. His honor guard followed him through, and the guard stared, dumbfounded.
Two Sentinels were on them eight seconds later. “Halt! This is a restricted area! You will drop your weapons and place your hands over your head!”
Sentinels. They had sent Sentinels to face him. The X-Men under guard. Hundreds of mutants living in what he could only describe as an ethnic ghetto here on the grounds of the institute, tents mingling with more permanent structures right up to the mansion itself. Did they suppose that because his human half bore the mutant genome that he felt threatened by such machines? Only one response could be made.
He shot into the air and delivered a titanic blow to the first robot’s midsection, the fist of a king against reinforced armor plating. The armor plating lost that fight. The robot fell, a five foot hole ripped through it by the power of the Atlantean king.
“TARGET IS HOSTILE!” the panicked voice of the other Sentinel called, and that piqued his curiousity. These creatures had always been emotionless. Now they knew fear? “ENGAGING!”
“HOLD!” a woman’s voice called from the back of an approaching jeep. “Stand down, Sentinels!” A blonde woman. Impressive, as surfaces went. More impressive, the Sentinel did as she commanded, lowering its arm: the two which had been en route from the other side of the grounds halted in mid-air. The jeep pulled up in front of him, and the woman turned towards him. “My apologies, King Namor. We didn’t know you were coming.”
“The failure of SHIELD to inform you of my impending visit is not my concern,” he replied. “You are Valerie Cooper, are you not? Where are the X-Men, Miss Cooper?”
Valerie gestured to the mansion. “My men have sent word of your arrival. I’d like to keep ‘misunderstandings’ to a minimum.”
“We shall see,” he replied. Not the most diplomatic answer he could have given, but an honest one.
He made his way to the mansion, leaving a very worried looking Valerie Cooper in his wake.
Two hours. Two hours till her appointment with Stephen Strange. Two hours till she returned to her own body. Two hours until all of this was nothing but a memory. Karen - or was it Xander? - shook her head. “How do you tell someone about something like this?” she wondered aloud. “Do you just go up to them and say, ‘hey, I just thought you should know, I’m actually a guy from another universe who’s been stuck in this body for the last few months, and now I’m going back to my old body and my old home’?”
Kara gave Karen a level look. “They’re your friends, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, but... I dunno. Maybe if I hadn’t lied about it at the beginning, but...” she trailed off. “I don’t think any of them would be my friends if I hadn’t.”
“You don’t give them enough credit. They’re better people than you think.”
“Maybe. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be very understanding about something like that, so, yeah, I’m having a hard time seeing them blowing it off and being all, ‘no big deal!’”
They were in the bathroom in the room Karen shared with Noriko. Or rather, they were just leaving it, the sound of the flushing toilet loud in the room for a moment, followed by the sound of the water faucet as she took a moment to wash her hands. Once, Karen had been absolutely mortified by … well, ordinary, day to day biological processes in her new body. Now, it just was. The idea of shaving her legs had seemed like a blow to her masculinity. Now, well, with Kara’s knowledge of how her power worked, Karen had used her heat vision to produce the same effect as laser hair removal: not permanent removal, but a permanent reduction of hair growth. She only needed to touch it up once a week or so at this point, and that no longer bothered her. A lot of things no longer bothered her, and it kind of bothered her that they no longer bothered her, if that made any sense. A little less than three months seemed like too short a time for things to stop bothering her.
Well, it made sense to Karen, anyways.
“What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back into your real body?” Kara asked.
The look on Kara’s face at that moment was one difficult to fully describe. “... Seriously?” she asked.
Karen blushed more. ‘What? A guy’s got needs, and so does a girl, and you never let me...’ She tried not to continue that line of thought. She was entirely unsuccessful, and in another moment, she was blushing so much that even her ears turned red.
“A girl may have needs,” Kara said, “But the idea of letting a guy controlling her body service them for her is too creepy for words, OK?”
‘Almost three months...’ Karen thought woefully.
“You think I don’t know that? … Can we talk about something else?”
Karen left the room, then, heading down the halls of the Xavier Institute, passing Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey in the hall. Rachel’s expression when she looked Karen’s way was comparable to what Kara’s had been a few moments earlier.
‘... That girl’s a telepath,’ Karen thought.
Rachel continued to stare.
“Yup,” Kara said, blushing almost as intensely as Karen.
‘She just heard everything we just said.’
Now Rachel was blushing.
“Yup,” Kara said.
‘... Death is looking like kind of an appealing alternative right now,’ Karen thought.
“Yup,” Kara said.
Kitty tugged on Rachel’s arm, and the two of them went off down the hall.
‘... Well it’s not like I’ve got any shortage of times I’ve humiliated myself in front of a cute girl,’ Karen thought despondently.
“It’s not THAT bad,” Kara said.
Karen shook her head. ‘OK. New subject. What are YOU going to do when you get your body back under your control?’
“Take a bath. Fly to the moon and back. See if anyone needs my help. … Go home.” A pause. “I wonder if it’s been three months back home?” Kara asked, not really expecting an answer. “... I hope Atlee’s OK.”
Karen smiled. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing Willow and Buffy again.’ Her smile faded. ‘God,’ she thought, ‘I even miss CORDELIA, and I’m treasurer of the ‘We Hate Cordelia’ club.’
“The ‘We Hate Cordelia Club’?” Kara asked.
“IMPERIUS REX!” someone shouted, followed by the sound of ripping metal and a gut-wrenching impact.
In a flash, Karen was outside, flying, zooming along towards the entrance to the mansion.
A Sentinel was down. A man with black hair and pointed ears was leading a group of blue-skinned people with face-masks towards the mansion.
Karen landed in their path. “OK,” she said, “I don’t know what your problem is, but if you intend to attack this …” she trailed off as she noticed the blonde woman in the approaching jeep who was frantically waving to get her attention. “You’re not actually hostile, are you?” she asked, feeling somewhat embarrassed.
Namor smirked. “You must be the original,” he said, holding up his arm: his honor guard halted.
Karen glanced towards the approaching jeep, then back to Namor. “You’re here about Divine, huh?”
Namor nodded. “Your clone stands accused of the attempted murder of a member of the Atlantean royal family. As King of Atlantis, I intend to see to it that she be transferred to my custody.”
“He can’t be serious,” Kara muttered.
“You can’t be serious,” Karen echoed, and then mentally frowned, ‘Why can’t he be serious?’ she asked.
“She’s one of the most deadly creatures on the planet. Taking her out stasis - and more importantly, out of Emma’s control - is a recipe for disaster.”
Karen echoed Kara’s words, and Namor scowled. “You had best pray that the X-Men do not agree with your opinion on the matter. I will not be denied this.”
Karen shook her head. “Whatever. Nice to meet you, Aquaman.” With that, she rocketed up into the air and kept going until she hit orbit, leaving an offended and slightly puzzled Namor to wonder: ‘... Aquaman?’
Sagan once said, ‘the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us - there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation of a distant memory, as if we were falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.’ And there, floating in space with all the earth below her, watching the interplay of the solar wind and the earth’s magnetosphere, Karen felt all of that and more. Kara’s powers were beyond amazing. She could see... so much. Hear so much. This she would remember. However briefly, a boy from Sunnydale, and undeserving of such a bounty, had walked among the stars. It looked so different. So much grander than what she knew. She was seeing parts of the universe that humanity had never been equipped to perceive. And there was the Earth floating in the middle of it all, so finite, so lonely, the whole human species carried on its back. And it was... pretty.
Karen frowned. Calling it ‘pretty’ didn’t even come close, but she didn’t have a better word. She shook her head. ‘I should be used to this by now,’ she thought.
‘You’re used to it, right?’
“To an extent,” Kara replied. “It never stops forming the context of your daily life. And that context will always separate Kryptonians from human beings. You see the spectrum of visible light. We see everything.”
‘There’s not a lot about being in your body that I’m going to miss,’ Karen thought. ‘... But this, this I’m going to miss.’
She floated there for a good ten minutes, watching as the sun’s terminator line spread across the Midwest. Watching as the world woke up, watching as the occasional satellite passed by in the distance. Watching and hearing the radio-song of the Earth’s magnetosphere.
And then she spotted the enormous high-tech space station with three futuristic star ships docked at it, a fourth departing, and a fifth on approach.
“No way,” she muttered. Or tried to. It was hard to talk in a vacuum. She didn’t need to breathe at this point: the yellow sunlight supplied all the sustenance she needed, but it still felt weird to feel the air empty out of her lungs with her attempt at speech.
‘The hell is that?’ Karen wondered.
“Don’t ask me,” Kara replied. “This isn’t my world.”
A small vessel undocked from the space station and made its way over towards her, coming closer and closer, and then... ‘Well, well,’
Irma’s telepathic voice said all at once. ‘Between making Rachel blush worse than I’ve ever seen, offending the King of Atlantis, and now violating the airspace of... OK, I’m not sure what that is, you’ve racked up an impressive tally of accomplishments in the last hour, haven’t you?’
‘Urk,’ Karen thought. ‘Get back down here before those space ships decide to open fire. We need to talk.’
Karen glanced at Kara’s ghostly form and found no help there. With a shrug, she descended. She went slowly in order to not burn up her clothing on reentry, but her shoes still got a little singed. Irma was broadcasting her location, which was good: it would have been hard to hone in on a single individual from orbit, otherwise, Karen spotted her far, far below, standing next to the entrance of the maze on the grounds of the Xavier estate.
She descended. Landed without a sound.
“Hey,” she said.
Irma looked up. “Hey,” she replied.
A pause. “You weren’t planning to say goodbye,” Irma said. A statement of fact. An undertone of anger. Ice beneath that.
Karen looked down at the ground. “I... uh...”
“Don’t bother, Xander,” Irma said. “I already know every excuse you’ve invented for this. I never pegged you for a coward, before.”
That struck a chord. For the span of maybe half a second, Karen felt a deep, angry resentment. For the span of maybe half a second, she kind of hated Irma. And then she felt ashamed. “What was I supposed to say?” she asked.
“‘Goodbye’,” Irma said. “That’s all. I know what’s going to happen, Xander. I know that I’m not going to see you again in that body. Maybe not ever. And even if I do, you'll be different. I just thought that maybe you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.”
She was angry. Karen felt like she kind of deserved it. What happened next was more instinct than anything else: she moved in, took Irma into her arms, and kissed her. A deep, prolonged kiss, filled with longing, and with that bittersweet sense of impermanence. Irma welcomed it, leaning into her. And when it was over, Karen looked into Irma’s eyes and whispered, “... Goodbye.”
And then she was airborne again, flying again, moving off towards Doctor Strange’s home, scrubbing at her eyes and calling herself an idiot the whole way.
The Sentry had spent the day in pain. Robert Reynolds had spent the day in pain. Reed Richards had done his best to accelerate the healing process, and the advanced technology of the Baxter building’s medical facilities were indeed a wonder: provided he went in for a treatment every day, the Sentry would be fully healed within a week. A compound fracture, fully healed, one week.
The idea that he had been injured at all still burned like a brand to the gut. Only one creature had ever been able to hurt him, and he had thrown it into the sun. The Void would be back. He knew that. It always came back. Always undid all the good he’d accomplished. Always. But now, this... Divine could hurt him.
Tony said to leave her alone. The X-Men had it handled. Reed agreed with Tony, and that hurt. A rational person might have taken their warnings for what they were: a reflection of a unique situation wherein his power set happened to be a bad match up against the villain’s. It happened to everyone, Reed had said. That was one reason why you had team mates. If the villain fed on fire, Johnny had the rest to fall back on. If the villain grew more powerful with kinetic impact, The Thing could rely on his team mates to find another way to take it down. It happened.
It didn’t happen to the Sentry.
Bob Reynolds, not a rational man, was curled up with his arms around his legs, one arm still in the armored cast that Reed had made for it, rocking back and forth on a church pew. It was dark. He was alone. And someone had hurt him. He didn’t know how long he stayed like that, ignoring CLOC, ignoring the whole world. He just knew that it hurt, and it shouldn’t.
It was a Victorian church. Wood construction. High ceilings that peaked in the middle. Two rows of pews. Stained glass windows along the eastern wall, lit up with the light of the morning sun. A crucifix on the front wall, and an altar before it on the stage, and a pulpit in front of that. He’d come here because it was empty.
But it wasn’t empty.
He heard the man’s approach long before he saw him. Soft on his feet, but loud for one with super-hearing. Footsteps on the rich, burgundy carpet that went the length of the church, between the two rows of pews. A presence. He kept rocking.
“What troubles you, my son?” asked a kindly voice.
An older man with white hair dressed in a black suit with a white shirt, a black tie, and a silver cross hanging down over the tie. He was smiling, and Bob stopped rocking, looked up and met his gaze for a good six seconds. The man didn’t look away. Bob did.
“Is it your injury which brings you here?” the man asked. “Do you seek the Lord’s healing?”
“She shouldn’t have been able to hurt me,” Bob muttered.
The old man smiled grimly at that. “A woman did this to you, then? I might have known.”
Bob looked up.
“It’s no mystery, son. By the actions of one woman in the Garden of Eden, all mankind was made to suffer. Theirs has ever been the sex more prone to wickedness. A woman tempted man into sin,” he looked a bit rueful, “As a woman once tempted me into sin. To forsake my divine calling. It’s no mystery at all.”
Bob shook his head, his thoughts growing clearer now. “No,” he said. “There was no garden. Women aren’t... who are you?”
“Me? I am the Lord’s humble servant. But if you need a name, then I am the Reverend William Stryker. This is my church you have sought refuge within, and it is open to all who are in need.”
Bob’s expression became more closed off. More guarded. “You’re being tried for attempted murder.”
“A vicious lie. The devil moves against God’s chosen, son. He fears the good work we might do.” He sat down next to Bob, then, putting a hand on the Sentry’s shoulder. “When a man comes through those doors in your state, it’s usually because he wants to talk. The Lord is here for you, young man. As his his servant.”
Silence for about fifteen seconds. And then, “... I thought I was rid of the Void,” Bob whispered. “I threw him into the sun. But he always comes back.”
Stryker hid his smile, and nodded along sympathetically. He knew who Sentry was. He had heard of the Void. Most people had. “This ‘Void’ has returned?”
“I heard him,” Bob confessed. “When I fought with... her. Divine. I heard the Void’s laughter.”
“And you’d like to know what that means.”
Bob didn’t answer.
“Son, I am no Sentry. The all-mighty never saw fit to bless me with any form of power beyond what is common to all his children: the indwelling of the holy spirit. But that girl, that girl who falsely claims the title of ‘Divine,’ let’s consider her a moment, shall we?” Stryker paused, wetting his lips with his tongue before he went on. “Her powers mirror your own, do they not? Hers and her sister’s?”
Bob nodded. “I... yes, they do.”
“And there are two of them. One light, one dark. What does that say to you?”
Bob shivered. One light. One dark. One serving the cause of good, one in the service of wickedness. Powers that mirrored his own. He didn’t want to think about the implications of that idea.
“If this situation really is what it appears to be, can you really afford not to take action?”
“But the light only made her stronger... she only grew more powerful...”
“The Lord once directed his servant Gideon to attack the Midianites under cover of darkness,” Stryker said.
“I...” Bob shook his head. “No. You’re not... I shouldn’t listen to you.”
“Gideon doubted as well. Listen to me, Sentry, and listen well: God does not require blind obedience. Behold, I shall perform a miracle. Give me your maimed arm.”
Bob looked doubtfully down at his cast, then at Stryker. He rose to his feet, then. “It was a mistake to come here,” he muttered. “You’re trying to manipulate me. You’ve got a grudge against the X-Men, and you know that their mansion is where she’s being held...”
“Give me your maimed arm, son. If God does not restore you here and now, then you can be on your way and content in the knowledge that I am but a senile old man, as deluded as he is foolish.”
Bob started to leave. The laughter of the Void rang out in his thoughts once more, and he stopped in his tracks. He turned, and he offered his arm, cast and all, to William Stryker.
Stryker laid his hands upon Bob’s arm above and below the cast. “Lord God all-mighty, your servant the Sentry stands now at a crossroads in his life, a terrible choice, with every path shrouded in darkness. All mighty God, just as Gideon once asked for and received a sign of your favor, I now ask you to bestow a sign upon the Sentry to show him your will. Bring healing to him as you have brought healing to so many throughout the ages.” His voice rose, gaining a richness and a power that it had lacked before, “I ask that you knit these bones back together, and do the work of healing your servant here and now, oh Lord!”
The sensation of pins and needles began in the Sentry’s arm, and soon it spread, down to the tips of his fingers, up to the top of his head.
“In Jesus name,” Stryker cried, his voice reaching a crescendo, “And for his sake I ask this, in order that your servant might know your will!” And then Stryker looked Bob in the eye and said, “Sentry, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, be healed!”
There was a flare of something white-hot in his arm, and Bob jerked away from Stryker. The cast cracked down the middle and fell to the ground, and the pain vanished, and Bob stared at his arm in wonder: all sign of the injury was gone. “... What?”
And Stryker grinned like a madman. “The sign is given,” he said.
“This is...” Sentry began.
“A miracle,” Stryker finished.
“You think she actually thinks she’s foolin’ anyone with that fake English accent?” Rahne Sinclair asked, her own Scottish accent a little thicker than normal. Probably in reaction to having been in the presence of Emma Frost.
Jamie raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Emma,” Rahne said. “She and hers are an old Boston family.”
They were back at the main office for X-Factor Investigations: a low rent place in what used to be Mutant Town over near Alphabet City on Manhattan Island. A call had been sent out, and now they were waiting for the rest of the team to check in before they started work on the Divine case.
Jamie thought about that for a moment.
“You’re hearing it, right?” Rahne put on a really bad imitation on an intense Boston accent, then, which came out sounding the bastard child of a Bostonian and a deep Southern accent: “‘Ah’m Emma Frawst. The concaht last night was wicked pissa.’”
“I make it a point never to make fun of a woman who can kill me with her brain,” Jamie said.
Rahne made a dismissive gesture.
They heard the sound of Strong Guy making his way up the stairs to the office, then, followed by the tell-tale shriek of Siryn’s arrival. M was a little less obvious about it, and once the last of them had arrived, Layla made her way up the stairs and into the office from where she’d been waiting out front.
“OK,” Jamie said. “So the X-Men have a job for us. They’re even paying us and everything.” A very slight smirk. “Makes it all official.”
“Don’t we already have jobs?” Strong Guy asked, playing the fool for all that he knew better.
“That we do,” Jamie said. “And we’re not dropping everything for this. It looks big, but it might be a wild goose chase. We’ll see. Either way, we’re getting paid.”
“What’s the catch?” Rictor asked.
“Have a look for yourself,” Jamie replied, opening up the manila envelope and depositing the papers he’d gotten from Scott Summers on the desk. The others gathered round.
“Divine?” M asked. “Jamie, please tell me we’re not investigating whoever might be backing the girl who murdered the New Warriors?”
“We’re not investigating whoever might be backing the girl who murdered the New Warriors,” Jamie replied easily.
M sighed. “It doesn’t work if you lie, darling.”
Rahne looked at Layla crossways, then, “What about you, then?” she asked. “You know stuff, aye? What do you know about this?”
“What, no ‘you’re going to want to take this case’?” Rahne asked.
“I’m not a magic 8-ball,” Layla replied. “And I’m pretty sure you can make up your own minds about this one.”
M passed the papers she’d been examining to Rictor. “So that’s all Emma was able to get out of her mind? Description of some guy who showed up and steered her towards the Stamford house?”
“Well, that and a replica of the business card he showed her,” Jamie said. “Did I forget to mention that?” he produced the card from his pocket and set it on the table face down. After a moment, he flipped it over to display the front.
The back of the card showed the neatly handwritten address of the Stamford house.
The front of the card showed the image of a skull atop six curled tentacles.
“... Bollocks,” M said.End Chapter 12