Between the conversation that Miriam and Cordelia had all the way back in Chapter 9, the differing relationships between cast members, and the inclusion of Janet this time around… the first three scenes of this chapter will be both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The last two? Totally new and something I've been dying to include since I started fleshing out the Howlett family for this version of the Blue Belle
November 23, 2011
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters - Bruce Banner's Lab
Westchester, New York
"I could be wrong, Bruce, I do believe dinner was a good seventeen hours ago. Actually, I'm fairly certain it was and that I saw you there, speaking with Jean. Which I do in fact appreciate, by the way. But it leaves me curious… dinner has come and gone, and yet I'm still without the answers you promised me…"
Sighing, Bruce ran one hand over a stubble-covered cheek before pushing his glasses back up his nose. "Yes, well, I figured you'd appreciate more than just a list of names with 'yes' or 'no' beside each, Emma. So rather than just verify the presence or absence of an X-gene in each sample, I had the computer run comparisons between each of the girls and our full database of known mutants to see how many might manifest powers similar to individuals known to us. I'm glad I did; based on what I found, I definitely think we need to watch them closely going forward."
Emma moved to perch on the arm of his chair, breasts pressing against his shoulder as she leaned against him. "Oh? Do tell."
Opening his mouth to remind Emma of a little thing called 'boundaries', Bruce abruptly shut it and shook his head. It was a waste of time, he knew from experience; Emma did what Emma wanted and he doubted anything short of an encounter with a massive green fist would discourage her from behaving like this around him. Well, an encounter with a massive green fist or Emma actually getting together with Jean. He and the redhead were little more than awkward colleagues here at the school, but Bruce was fairly certain that Jean wasn't the type to tolerate her significant other throwing herself at someone else. Shaking his head again, he fired up PowerPoint and then opened a copy of the file he'd been getting ready to email her.
"Let's start with the blood sample you brought me. Willow Rosenberg truly is her father's daughter; her X-gene is as close to her father's as your daughters' are to yours." Passing quickly through the first two slides, Bruce moved on to the third and used his cursor to draw Emma's attention to the almost imperceptibly different sections of Willow and James's DNA. "You mentioned that she had a different claw arrangement than James; as best I can tell, it's a simple case of sexual dimorphism. If he has any children in the future - or we discover any more that he's already fathered - I might be able to give you a more conclusive answer. But that's my best guess using the available information."
Emma nodded in agreement. "It makes sense; plenty of animals are that way. I'd actually been wondering about that, given that more known mutants are reaching the age where they'd settle down and have children. I guess we'll have to wait and see if we're right or not. Moving on..?"
Clicking the mouse, Bruce moved on with his presentation, bringing up a slide with a list of names. "Fourteen of the girls are completely X-negative. Based on the information I found on some of them by accessing the Sunnydale High School servers, that's not an entirely bad thing. With that being said…" Bruce advanced to the next slide, which bore a picture of a blond girl along with some basic biographical data. That had been an unexpected perk of accessing the school's servers; he'd found the most recent set of school portraits, allowing him to add visuals to his endless slides of text. "Aphrodesia Michaelis is X-negative but there's something about her DNA that bothers me. She's not a perfectly normal Homo sapiens sapiens
, she's not a member of Homo sapiens superior
… I'm certain I've seen her particular difference before, even, but I can't for the life of me remember where."
"That's right, your other half came from an attempt to recreate Project: Rebirth, didn't he?" Bruce gave a start at that, making Emma chuckle softly. "Don't worry, your brain didn't accidentally violate your NDA. General Ross and I met a few times regarding a few of Frost Industries's products. His mind is a sieve. At any rate… what you're seeing is likely the result of Miss Michaelis undergoing a magical version of the same process that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America."
…huh. Bruce could honestly say that he hadn't seen that one coming. And while it was certainly interesting, any attempt to discuss magic left him with a colossal headache. Better to just let it go, he decided. Shaking his head, he moved on to a slide featuring a dark-skinned girl. "Aura White… X-possible but improbable. I've detected most of an X-gene in her DNA, but it seems to lack the triggering mechanism that would allow her to naturally manifest powers. Mister Foley might be able to 'fix' that, but that's about the only way she'd develop powers as best I can tell. It'd be psionics of some sort; the variations within that power pool are still too minute for me to be certain whether she'd manifest telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, something else entirely, or a combination thereof."
"As if I didn't have enough students in my classes." Emma shook her head. "I suppose we could make the offer if I can convince the rest of the Sunnydale girls to come out here for classes so the group can stay together. Otherwise? Pass. Fourteen plus one… and four current mutants. That means you found two other X-positive girls in the group?"
Nodding, Bruce advanced to a new slide that showed side-by-side images of a pair of blonde cheerleaders. "Gwendolyn Ditchik and Claire Bennet are both X-probable; they're currently powerless but it is very likely they will develop powers. What powers… well, that's the rub. Gwendolyn's gene appears to be similar to the one found in Piotr and Paige, albeit a bit closer to the former than the latter. You and your daughters have a variant; it's the source of your secondary mutation. So she's likely a transmorph of some kind, but I'm not sure what substance she'd turn into. Diamond, steel, stone, wood… maybe a being of pure electricity or fire? There's no way to tell until it happens, really. As for Claire? Her X-gene bears some resemblance to Willow, James, and Victor's. My guess would be the portion controlling regeneration, unless Ivette has memories that would indicate otherwise."
Emma frowned, her eyes flicking back and forth between their normal appearance and glowing blue several times in rapid succession. Finally, she shook her head. "None of the girls saw anything, nor did they spot anything incriminating when they went poking through the cheerleaders' minds. I personally didn't notice anything usual when I was signing an autograph for her. Granted that doesn't mean much; she could have retractable claws like the Howletts. On the other hand, claws without regeneration would probably leave some ugly scars that I would have noticed when we shook hands. James and Willow both have excellent senses… Claire could have those? Hmmph. All this speculation is rather fruitless without data to back any of it up, isn't it?"
"That wouldn't stop most people." Hand hovering over the mouse, Bruce sighed and then clicked the left button, advancing the slideshow to the final slide. "And then we have Brittany Pierce. She's one of the group's four current mutants… and the only one with the potential to develop a secondary mutation. It's a near-exact match for something in our database, too: Paige Guthrie's powers."
"Interesting." Placing her hand on the right side of his neck, Emma slowly ran it upward until two fingers were pressed against Bruce's temple. Suddenly, he was standing in a gymnasium with a group of teenage girls, watching as Brittany's hair came to life and writhed around her head in thick blond tendrils. After a few seconds of that, the world warped around him again and he was standing in a unicorn-infested bedroom. Based on the tendrils of blond hair reaching past 'his' face to tangle in his companion's locks, Bruce had a feeling he was inside one of Brittany's memories… watching a teenage girl who'd started as a redhead shake her head each time her hair cycled to a new color, eventually settling on a rich golden blond. Then he was back in his lab and Emma was pulling away, circling around him and moving to sit on the edge of his desk. "Given that she already possesses a limited ability to transform herself and others, I'd be willing to bet her secondary mutation would expand on that rather than manifesting the way Miss Guthrie's does."
That… actually would be rather interesting, Bruce decided. Carefully avoiding the nearby expanse of pale thigh, he rested his hand on the computer's mouse for a few seconds before looking up at Emma's stationary form. "Is there something else?"
Emma looked from him to the computer screen and back several times before sighing. "What about the last two samples? The ones I expected you to be most curious about?"
"Ah yes. Raven's 'daughter' and the sole boy in the group." Bruce had in fact finished that analysis before he'd started in on any of the other samples, but had opted not to include the results in the same PowerPoint because… well, mostly because he was still trying to figure out what he was looking at. Switching applications, he pulled up the appropriate files and frowned as he leaned back in his chair. "If Michelle here really is Raven's daughter? I'm not sure I want to know who the father is. The degree of similarity between their DNA is… unnatural… for parent and child. Alexander's sample just makes things stranger; I see traces of it in Michelle's DNA but not enough for him to be her father. Grandfather or great-grandfather, perhaps, but nothing closer. Both of those are impossible, though, and even father would be pushing it because he's a junior in high school right now. Or he was before his mysterious disappearance."
Chuckling, Emma planted her elbows on her knees and leaned forward, making Bruce fight to keep his gaze fixed somewhere appropriate. "What if I told you… that I gave you two samples taken from the same person?"
Bruce blinked a few times and then sighed deeply. "The explanation for that is going to involve magic, isn't it?" Emma nodded. "You know, I'm seriously starting to think about going back on the run. I didn't have to deal with this sort of stuff in Brazil."
November 23, 2011
Chase Household - Cordelia's Room
"I trust there's a very good explanation for this?"
Cracking one eye open, Michelle blinked sleepily before rocketing to full awareness as she realized she was staring into the barrel of a handgun of impressive caliber. It took her a minute to realize said gun was floating in midair and she looked around wildly, eyes eventually coming to land on a voluptuous woman in an emerald dress standing in the doorway. Miriam Chase, also known as Lorna Lehnsherr, daughter of Magneto. Thanks to her magnokinesis, she'd be able to pull the trigger without leaving behind any fingerprints. The perfect crime. Or it would have been, Michelle mused, if Miriam hadn't overlooked one critical detail. And so instead of panicking… she was going to have some fun with the situation. "Well, I would have come and snuggled up with you, but I couldn't find your room. Have you ever thought of printing up maps or something?"
And then suddenly she was the one in control of the situation. Miriam's jaw dropped and she sputtered for a few seconds before managing anything remotely coherent. "What? I… what?"
"Well, you know what they say: if you wanna know what a girl's gonna look like in the future, look at her mom. And when I do, I ask myself… Michelle, why wait twenty years for Cordelia to look like that when her mom looks like that right now?" Michelle looked the older woman up and down before leering at Miriam's chest. "There's a reason our classmates call you 'Miriam the MILF'. Cordy's mom has got it going on."
Miriam scoffed as she stepped into the room, the gun floating forward so the barrel was pressed against Michelle's forehead. "Shouldn't you be taking me a bit more seriously? I mean, I've got a gun pointed at you right now."
It was as she went to move that Michelle realized that at some point during the… err, day… they'd moved around on the bed a bit, and she was currently spooning against Cordelia's back with one hand cupping each of the green-haired girl's impressive breasts. Thankfully Cordelia was still asleep, Michelle mused, or else she'd probably be fleeing metal spikes right about now. Actually… how Cordelia was managing to sleep through all this was a mystery, albeit one the redhead could ponder when she wasn't otherwise occupied. Lifting a hand, Michelle tapped a blue finger against a spot between the slide and grip. "You left the safety on."
"Son of a-" Miriam made a beckoning motion and the gun floated away from Michelle's forehead. Before it could get too far, the redhead burst into motion, tugging her left arm out from beneath Cordelia and then kicking off the mattress. Twisting in midair as she passed over Cordelia's supine form, Michelle landed gracefully on the carpet and spun around to grab the retreating handgun. Body running on autopilot, she ejected the magazine and then racked the slide to eject the chambered round. Sighing, Miriam crossed her arms over her chest as she eyed Michelle. "So much for that idea. Should have guessed you wouldn't be scared of a gun, though. You really are your mother's daughter, aren't you?"
Michelle shrugged before tossing the gun back to Miriam, cringing as the woman bobbled it a bit. "Wouldn't know. I've never actually met her. And…" Trailing off, she shot a glance over at where Cordelia was still sleeping peacefully on the bed, her eyes widening incredulously as she returned her attention to Miriam. "She's still asleep? How the hell does that even work?"
Letting out a snort, Miriam made a beckoning gesture and retrieved the gun's magazine from where it lay at Michelle's feet. "She might be able to fool most people, but she keeps forgetting I can see electromagnetic fields. She's faking it."
"Because she doesn't want anything to do with this weird threatening-slash-flirting thing you two have going on right now." Turning her head, Cordelia shot a baleful glare their way. "Having a hard time deciding who I'm more annoyed with right now. Mom for pulling a gun on my friend, especially when she knows that my friend isn't the Smurf she's looking for? Or Michelle, who not only told my mom that she's 'got it going on', but who makes me look lame by association for hitting on my mom with lyrics from a decade-old song?"
Michelle raised an eyebrow at the latter. "So what, you'd be fine with it if I hit on her with lyrics from whatever's topping the charts this week?"
Frowning, Cordelia pondered that. "Can you like, write a song or something? I mean, she's a Chase. My mom deserves the best."
"And now things are getting weird. I'm out of here." Turning around, Miriam called back to them as she walked toward the door. "Dinner's in half an hour. I told the ladies to set the table for seven." Michelle nodded absently, more than a little distracted by the hypnotic sway of the older woman's hips. With the green silk of her dress stretched tight across her derriere, it was like watching two angry midgets wrestle in a gunny sack. The door closed behind Miriam, Michelle shook her head to clear it…
…and then grunted as she got smacked upside the head by a flying pillow. "Ugh. Why do I have to be the one with the hot mom?" Sitting up on the bed, Cordelia grabbed two more pillows and continued her assault. "I mean, yay for providing a good gene pool and all, but seeing stuff like that is gross. Why couldn't I have been put up for adoption by a gorgeous mutant because single motherhood wasn't part of her life plan, and the Chases could be my rich but repulsive adoptive parents?"
Dodging the second pillow, Michelle grabbed the third out of midair and lunged across the room, smacking Cordelia with it before flopping onto the bed beside her friend. "Dunno. Not gonna complain, though. Makes for one hell of a view."
Cordelia let out a groan at that before punching Michelle's shoulder hard. "Do you mind?"
"Hey, I woke up to find a gun in my face. I'm sure once the adrenaline wears off, I'll be incredibly embarrassed by all the stupid stuff I've said in the last five minutes." To be honest, Michelle was already starting to enter that phase. She'd actually met Miriam face-to-face a handful of times before today; presumably this showdown hadn't occurred in the past because Miriam didn't know which of her daughter's friends was blue on the inside. Now, though… Michelle had turned what probably would have been a 'hurt my daughter and I hurt you' moment into something that would jeopardize her ability to attend future sleepovers and other events. Fuck. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Rolling onto her back, Michelle gave Cordelia sickly smile. "Do me a favor and punch me a few more times? Just so when I look back on this, I'll remember exactly how bad of an idea it was?"
Snorting, Cordelia punched Michelle's arm three more times, landing shots along her bicep and shoulder. "Don't need to ask me twice. But as fun as that is…" Sliding off the edge of the bed, Cordelia wandered away before bending over, picking up a blanket and showing it to Michelle. "We're missing somebody. Or somebodies, I should say."
Michelle pushed herself up on her elbows, looking around for a few seconds before sprawling back out on the bed. "Janet and Willow's backpacks are still here, so I'm guessing they didn't go far. Kendra could have wandered off, but I doubt it. I mean, where else is she going to go? Try and find Buffy's house? Hike all the way back to the school? She doesn't exactly know many people in town."
"You say that like you think she cares. She's The Slayer. Capital T, capital S. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if she ditched us to go hunt demons or whatever Slayers do during the day while vampires are asleep." Dropping the blanket back onto the air mattress that Janet and Willow had shared the night before, Cordelia crossed the room and disappeared into the walk in closet. After a few long, awkward minutes, she emerged with some clothes thrown over one arm and… was that an iPad in her hand? Making her way back over to the bed, Cordelia dropped the latter next to Michelle's head. "If Willow hasn't let you near hers, it works like a giant iPhone. The password is my birthday; if you don't know it, you're a horrible minion. Make yourself useful while I'm in the shower and check all the apps I have open to see if there's been any activity. If you're feeling really ambitious, my phone's on a dock in my closet too. You'd only need to check Messages on that."
Picking up the iPad curiously, Michelle poked the home button before swiping her finger across the screen and tapping out 0-7-2-3. Hah. She was a good minio… wait a minute. Was she supposed to be proud of that fact? "Yes, Mistress Cordelia. Anything else? Make the bed? Clean your room? Do your homework?"
Cordelia scoffed as she turned away. "I've seen your grades. Definite no to the third one. And if your room at Willow's place is anything to go by? No to the other two as well." Michelle rolled her eyes; everyone was a critic. Sure, it may look like a pigsty to an outsider but it was actually a very carefully organized mess. She always knew exactly where every last… almost every… most… some of her belongings were. "Anyway, off to the shower. Be right back."
'Right back' turned out to be close to forty-five minutes later. In that time, Michelle managed to go through a handful of messages sent by other iOS-using Cordettes, investigate all twenty-five Notifications in the Facebook app, email herself some interesting selfies found in Cordelia's Photo Stream, delete the evidence of that, and purge a handful of spam emails from each of Cordelia's inboxes. The bed shifted as Cordelia sat down next to her, making Michelle peer around the side of the iPad at her. "Dinner started fifteen minutes ago."
"No, dinner starts fifteen minutes from now. Mom just said thirty minutes because she knows if she tells me I've got an hour, I'll come down an hour and a half later. It's a thing." Running a brush through her long green locks, Cordelia nodded toward her iPad. "What's going on outside the house?"
Michelle tapped the home button twice and then switched to the Notes app, bringing up the list she'd made as she worked. "Let's see. Brittany has a new episode of Fondue for Two
up on her YouTube channel. She outs herself as a mutant in it. Worth a watch if you have a few minutes to burn later; all the interesting stuff happens before she starts rambling about My Little Pony
if you want to stop there for sanity's sake. Handful of messages and emails from the Cordettes you need to deal with. Harmony wants your advice because she had a blond moment and now has first dates planned with two different guys in the span of two days. Assorted junk on Facebook, including you being tagged in five different posts from the library last night. You might want to tell the girls to delete their posts. Or not. We're getting less secretive about the supernatural stuff, after all. And… that's about it." Dropping the iPad behind Cordelia, Michelle sat up and slid off the edge of the bed. "Now, if you don't mind? I need-"
"To go shower, yes, yes." Cordelia pointed her hairbrush toward the open door leading to the ensuite bathroom. "And before you try blaming me for only having fifteen minutes… I was done with the shower twenty-five minutes ago. You could have hopped in then. Or, you know, gone and used the shower in any of the other three bathrooms on this floor."
After pondering that for a few seconds. Michelle shrugged and continued on her way. She could have, sure. But that would have required cutting short Brittany's ramble about how trippy it was to watch the holes disappear when Emmental melted…
November 23, 2011
Rosenberg Household - Willow's Room
Closing the door of her room behind her, Willow wandered past her bed before plopping down in her computer chair and letting out a sigh. Normally the idea of being out of the loop would irritate her to no end, but there was something about Kendra that made her skin crawl. And so while Cordelia and Michelle were on their way back to the library with the Slayer to see if Giles had pinned down a definite - or even probable - date for Spike and Drusilla's ritual, Willow was spending the night home alone. Given that didn't seem to happen much anymore… she'd decided to take advantage of it to catch up on a certain pastime she'd been neglecting as of late.
Willow flicked her finger against the Magic Mouse sitting on her desk, jarring it just enough to rouse her iMac from its sleep. She watched the screensaver go by for a few seconds, a series of shifting tiles displaying pictures of her and her friends at school… at the Bronze… at the mall… at sleepovers at several different houses. And to think that only a month ago, her Photo Stream had consisted solely of pictures of funny signs and the handful of stray cats that roamed her neighborhood. Oh, how things had changed…
Typing in her password, Willow stared at her desktop for a few seconds before bringing up first iChat and then Mail. The former yielded nothing of interest, and the latter… nibbling at her lower lip, the dark-haired girl waited as her computer prodded various mail servers, peppering her four inboxes with new messages. iCloud… a handful of emails from assorted iOS-using Cordettes. Four were pictures sent by Harmony: one 'you should come buy this because it's so you' along with three 'oh God, who let these people dress themselves?'. Nothing spectacularly special in her personal Gmail. Deleting the assorted newsletters and emails about sales on bras, leather pants, and Sandy Bridge processors, she read and replied to the email from her mother asking if she'd be bringing any strays home for Thanksgiving - no, at least as far as she knew - before moving on. Two messages from hosting companies on the separate 'work' Gmail account she used for freelance website design; she'd deal with those later. And then… twenty-seven new emails for 'Danielle'.
Unsurprisingly, most of them were from MyGirlFund and bore subject lines beginning with 'New Message from'. Her sales had slowed to a trickle as of late, what with her lack of updates and lack of chat availability. Not that she entirely minded; she'd been able to pay for the off-year upgrade to the newest iPhone in October without using her parents' plastic, and already had enough set aside to buy a new iPad whenever the next model came out. On the other hand, she did enjoy the attention and financial freedom… and her MacBook Pro was almost three years old.
Not to mention that it would be an interesting way to test the outside world's reaction to being confronted with a mutant. While the discussion in the small gym had been derailed rather quickly by the girls' need to gossip about Brittany and Santana dating, Willow was intensely curious as to why her school seemed to be the exception to the rule when it came to the public's reception of mutants. Was there something unique when it came to Sunnydale High? Sunnydale as a whole, maybe? Or was the average American generally indifferent when it came to Homo sapiens superior
, and the whole 'mutant menace' thing was the creation of a few obnoxious guests on Faux News coupled with some creative polling and statistical analysis?
"Well, one way to find out. And I'm talking to myself. Which means I'm nervous. Which I shouldn't be. I mean, Danielle is a supposedly a student at UCLA and her shipping address is a PO Box just off that campus. Anyone who tries to find her would end up two hours away. Unless they figure out that I'm Danielle. But if that's the case, then I'm in a whole lot of trouble anyway because, you know, sixteen and selling dirty pics." Looking down at her left hand, Willow ejected both claws. "Right. Let's do this."
There was just one problem. Willow wasn't entirely sure what to do. Most of the pic sets and videos she'd put up for purchase came from her elaborating on ideas that guys let slip in paid chat sessions. And since she'd yet to come out as a mutant to her admirers… no ideas to be had. First things first, she decided: she was a bit overdressed for shooting anything for the site. But before she could retract her claws, something caught Willow's eye. The tips… they were pretty sharp. Sharp enough to pierce a peach pit. Surely that meant they could slice through her t-shirt… right?
Opening Photo Booth, Willow flicked it from still photo to video recording mode and then took a deep breath before hitting start. Here went nothing…
November 23, 2011
Weapon XS Facility - A Random Office
Internet Explorer closed, returning her to the rather bland blue wallpaper that Windows 7 defaulted to, and she sat back in her chair as she thought about what she'd discovered on her latest visit to Willow's profile. And debated whether or not she could get one of the guys on base to loan her their credit card. Usually she 'borrowed' plastic from Doctor Mom when she wanted to buy something online, but somehow she doubted her mother would be happy to see a charge from a site like this show up on her monthly statement.
Hopefully she could figure out something, though. 'Laurent' had blown through all of the complimentary credits 'he' had been given upon signing up for the site, meaning she couldn't even message Willow anymore… and while she was at it, she definitely wanted to blow another ten dollars to find out what the girl's new 'Savage Seductive Striptease' entailed.
Up until today, she'd been content to sit back and observe her half-sister's antics, letting her mind absorb every scrap of information she could get her fingers on. Now, though? Two gleaming metal blades erupted from her left hand and she looked down at them, thinking back to the new profile pictures Willow had added today along with her two new pic sets and video. Or, more specifically, to Willow's bone claws, so similar to her sisters'… to how hers had been before the operation. Now that Willow knew what she was… who she was, to a degree… perhaps it was time to let her know that she wasn't alone.
And hey, with the new dye job, they even looked like family now.
Standing up, Laura Kinney wandered over to the door of the office and opened it… only to come up short as she found a three foot and change obstacle in her way. "…Rose."
"What are you doing?" Crossing her arms over her chest, Rose Kinney affected a… startlingly good imitation of their mother's disapproving glare. "You're not supposed to be in there."
The runt had a point, Laura had to admit. When in doubt, though? Point out that someone else was misbehaving worse. "And you're not supposed to be this far from the lab. If you tell Doctor Mom you saw me in there, you'll get in trouble too."
Rose pondered that for a moment before slipping into something that vaguely reminded Laura of one of the opening stances she used during sparring in the gym… and with a soft, wet pop the girl's stubby bone claws made an appearance. "But when you're really bad, Mommy doesn't even remember to yell at the rest of us. So tell me what you were doing so I can tell her! Or else! Grr!"
Snorting, Laura reached out and patted her sister on the head before placing her hand on the girl's forehead, keeping her from getting any closer. "Nope. But if you forget you saw me, I'll forget I saw you… and I'll take you to the dining hall to get a cookie before we go back to the lab."
"Hmm." Taking a step back, Rose stared up at Laura uncertainly as her claws receded into her hands, the tears in her skin healing themselves a second or two later. "A chocolate chip cookie?"
"If you want."
"…fine. But it better be a big cookie."