Coming Back To Life
Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
X-Men belongs to Marvel.
Hammer Bay was the largest city in Genosha by a distance but even now in the middle of the night its lights did nothing to block out the stars. Almost every night I had been able to see the stars clearer than anywhere else I had been. The crickets nearby were doing a good job of drowning out the faint hum from the city that I could still hear if I strained. Most people, if they faced away from the city would think they were miles away from civilisation rather than a brisk ten minute walk.
I had found this spot only a couple of days after I had arrived in Genosha. I was struggling to find my place so had walked a short distance out of the capital. After a few minutes I found a path that led up to the top of a cliff. The moment I stepped through it was as though a switch had been thrown. The noise of the city was barely there and soon my spot on top of the cliff had become a regular habit.
I glance down at my watch and see that it's just turned midnight. Turning away from the city I pull my jacket closer round me as I feel the wind pick up. It's too dark to see any distance across the sea but I can hear the waves crashing below and after coming here for this long I can tell that a storm will be hitting the coast soon.
I turn round at the sound of the voice and see Amelia Voght standing there. Rather than shivering in the cold like I was she was wearing her acolyte uniform which was much better insulated than I had expected. Voght was the one who had recruited me to the island and while not being very sociable she had become something like a friend in my time here.
“You said you'd be here thirty minutes ago, I almost started swimming.” I responded to Voght's almost greeting knowing that she didn't care much for niceties no matter who she was talking to.
“Running a country isn't quite as simple as you might think Daniel. I got here as quickly as I could,”
I could almost see the beginning of a smile on her face but it vanished so quickly that I think I must have been mistaken in the first place.
“Anything a problem?” I ask.
“Not unless you've changed your mind.”
Voght's short reply brings back to me the reason why we're meeting here rather than back in a nice warm well-lit bar in Hammer Bay. I need to do this.
“I haven't. I still want to leave.”
Voght smiles at me but I can tell there's nothing in it. She closes the distance between us and puts her hand on my shoulder. The world spins round and suddenly we're no longer standing on a cliff but on a beach with gentle waves just managing to reach my feet.
“This is Mozambique Daniel. I can't take you any further.” Before I could react she leaned towards me and whispered in my ear. “I wish I had your courage.”
Dizzy from the journey, I only manage to look up and she her still wearing the same smile from earlier before she dissolved away and left me alone on the beach. With nothing more than the clothes on my back I turn around and start walking up the beach.
Six months later...
I wake up to the sound of my alarm clock and almost manage to sit up before I remember I had volunteered to work both the open and the close today. While the extra cash from this would be nice working for more than fourteen hours straight would certainly take the shine off things. Still I rolled out of bed and hoped I could make it to the shower before anyone else in the house.
I had moved in here about a month ago and had been thrilled at finding at what passed for a cheap room in London. It was a snap at a mere £83 a week. That's about $140. And that's before electricity and all the other bills. And my room pretty much had enough space for a single bed and a wardrobe. But I was in a good area and unlikely to find anything better so I had gone with it.
I had three house-mates who were all PHD students so were a few years older than me and seemed to spend most of their time studying or drinking. Alan was a medical student as was Tim while Sam was a bit different and was studying history. All three of them were over six foot but only Sam had any bulk on his frame. Add that to him having blond hair rather than Alan and Tim's brown, he stood out the most of everyone in the house.
After my shower I headed to the kitchen to grab something to eat before my marathon session at work. I started creeping past Alan's room before realising that the door was open and that once again he hadn't come back last night. Like most other mornings I mentally kicked myself for not remembering Alan's odd sleeping habits, which mainly were don't sleep in your own bed, and started walking normally again.
Thirty minutes later I was out of the house and walking to the pub that I worked at. I had been lucky to get the job considering I had no experience but in the end I think having someone who could work full time and pull stupid shifts like I was about to outweighed the need for experience.
The pub was called The Woodman and since it was just round the corner from Highgate tube station so managed to have a steady stream of customers even when it wasn't too busy. With my limited experience of British pubs it seemed to be par for the course. They had a selection of beers, some of which were served warm, or at least not cold, and every weekend they had a big screen which showed soccer or rugby or whatever British sport was being played.
By the time I got in my boss Margaret was already there starting to open up. Once she noticed I was there, she smiled sweetly at me, something I already knew was bad news.
“Oz, it's just going to be you and Craig until eleven today so you're going to need to be on your toes.”
“No problem.” I replied, hoping that it would be a quiet morning until more staff came in. somehow I just knew it was going to be one of those days.
Finishing off what had to be my tenth red bull of the day, I breathed a sigh of relief as it neared midnight. The pub was emptying and in a couple of hours I would be in bed and not need to come in until tomorrow afternoon. From the moment Margaret had left in the morning I had been run off my feet. It seemed that every man and his dog had decided to come in today and I could swear that my right hand would never be the same again after pulling so many pints. Still it was almost over.
“I'll have a pint of speckled hen please mate,” A voice behind me said.
I turned around and saw a man in his late twenties with messy black hair wearing a cheap suit standing there.
“No problem,” I smiled at the man, grabbed a glass and began pouring him a pint.
“Why don't you have one for yourself too? You look knackered.” The man offered smiling.
“I'm working, I can't I'm afraid.” Part of me thought that he was hitting on me and was trying to come up with the best way to get out of the situation.
“It's near enough last orders and I'm the last bloke in here anyway. Besides, one pint can't hurt can it Daniel.” The man smiled again and he seemed so sincere in wanting to buy me a drink that I almost missed that he knew my name. I stopped pouring his drink and looked him in the eye.
“Just pour yourself a pint another one of those and I'll tell you all about it.” He smile didn't falter. If anything it got even wider. Looking round the bar I saw what he had said before was true, he was the only one left in here.
“Just have a drink?” I asked, feeling uncomfortably backed into a corner.
“And a little chat, he leaned forward on the bar “I'll even pay for your drink.”
I nodded my agreement and he let me finish pouring the drinks in silence. The clunk the glasses made as I put them on the bar seemed almost foreboding and I was tempted to forget everything I had here and just run.
“How much then mate?” The man speaking brought me back to reality and I knew by looking at him that running would make no difference whatsoever.
“Three ten a pint? Bloody London prices.” The man grumbled as he dug out a £10 note and handed it over. I opened the till and gave him his change as slowly as I could but my time ran out all too quickly. He pocketed his change and took a sip of his pint before looking back up at me.
“Come round this Danny. We've got a bit to talk about and I'd rather this be a bit more personal.”
Slowly I walked round the other side of the bar and took a seat next to him. I looked straight at him and waited for him to speak.
“Drink up Danny, it's not like it's the end of the world.”
I took a sip from my drink and tried not to pull a face. Despite my house mate's best efforts I still wasn't a fan of British ales. The man noticed and chuckled.
“Maybe a should have bought you a lager instead?”
“This is fine.” I took another sip and this time managed to keep a straight face. He seemed pleased with this and took his much larger sip from his pint.
“So, would you like me to tell you what this is about?”
I didn't reply. It was meant as a statement, not a question.
“The long and short of it is that I know you're a mutant.”
I tensed up, while mutant-human tensions were much better in Britain than they were back home you could still by lynched by the odd bigot.
“But that's not what's important.”
I relaxed a bit. Not some bigot trying to prove a point. Maybe nothing to do with me being a mutant.
“What's important is that you've been to Genosha.”
He paused for another drink. I took this opportunity to speak.
“Why does that matter?”
“Because, son, that means you've been trained. You're in control of your ability.”
“Aren't most mutants?”
“Aye, but then your ability is quite useful.”
“Useful for what?” I felt the hairs on the back of my neck go up as he looked me over.
“I work for government organisation that tries to help people. And I think you could be a part of that.” He leaned back in his chair, somehow managing to look completely relaxed.
“What government organisation? Hell, when it comes down to it who are you?” I snapped at him not liking that he had managed to talk a lot without actually saying anything. Rather than be intimidated he just smiled at me. Again.
“My name's Pete Wisdom. The organisation I work for is called Black Air. What we do is try and help people in certain situations. And try stop people in others.”
“That's not saying much.”
“I can't say much. Top secret, hush-hush, all that crap. But you spent your time in Genosha at one of the camps out there right?”
“The Legacy camps. That's right.”
“So you want to help people. We can help you do that. It won't be pretty and you won't get much credit. But you'll be able to help a lot of people.”
“What do you mean not pretty?”
“The greater good Danny.”
I don't reply. Wisdom doesn't talk either, he just finishes his drink.
“You don't have to answer right now, he says “You can think about it.”
“What will happen if I say yes?”
“You'll get training, that'll take a couple of months at least. Then you'll go to work.”
“Not always directly. But yes, you'll help people.”
“And I can quit? Just walk away?”
Wisdom pauses for a moment then takes a sip of my own abandoned drink.
“Aye, if you want. But it won't be easy work.”
“But it'll be important work.”
Wisdom nods and finishes off my drink. He looks at me, not smiling for the first time.
“So what do you say? Give up being a bartender?”
Rather than reply, I just nod and then start clearing away the glasses. I hear Wisdom's voice behind me.
“We'll pick you up tomorrow. Midday at your house. You don't need to pack.”
I hear the pub's door close behind me. I hope I'm making the right choice.