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Blue Belle: Director's Cut

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Blue Belle Universe". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: He dressed up as his state's senior senator. Now he's a blue woman. How the hell does Xander keep landing himself in these situations?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > X-Men > Xander-Centered
Marvel Universe > Avengers
Marvel Universe > Spider-Man
(Moderator)JoeHundredaireFR1840204,388126934217,8944 Jun 1215 Oct 14No

Chapter 37

Joe's Note: If you read the beta version of this that was posted? You won't recognize much. I completely rewrote it from top to bottom to shift the perspective character and remove all the Spider-Clan field team members other than Felicia. Given that I needed to introduce a tribe of five new characters in the chapter, having a whopping seven existing characters simultaneously occupying that space was just… a mess. Out of those five new characters, two are original: Samantha and Kaida join Astrid as visitors from my very first fanfic, Ultimate Arachnia. Rita, on the other hand, is getting a bit of a makeover at my hands but is a canon Marvel character. So while you're free to use her, please ask if you want to borrow my personal bugettes, if you don't mind?

November 30, 2011
Giants Among Men Incorporated
New York, New York

     Checking her phone for the fifth time, Gwen sighed. "Seriously, Felicia? We're going on twenty minutes here. How hard can it possibly be to put that thing on?"

Felicia Hardy     "Evidently hard enough to take twenty minutes, Dexter." Finally, the door to the locker room swung open and Felicia stalked out, scowling as she rubbed at the small of her back. Given that she'd never been involved in the creation of Felicia's costume or equipment, Gwen was able to scrutinize the albino's new costume with a wholly objective eye. It was definitely a whole new aesthetic for Felicia, but that wasn't something Gwen really cared about. There was a reason the girls brought her designs to turn into reality rather than leaving that aspect up to her, after all. And so whether or not it was a change for the better, she mused, would come down to if it could deliver on Doctor Pym's promises. "So, Doc. I'm finally dressed. As Gwen mentioned, that's a pretty nasty jump in prep time. I can get my catsuit on in just over a minute if I need to swing into action. This took me twenty times that. Five for the tail and the plates around it alone. And we're not even going to touch on my thoughts about the tail's connection system at the moment. I hate to break it to you, but this isn't looking like a good return on my investment…"

     Hank Pym let out a snort of disgust as he eyed the PVC catsuit dangling from Felicia's right hand. "Yes, and I'm sure the twelve original backers of Henry Ford's company didn't think they were getting a good return on their investment for the first few years. Then 1908 happened." Comparing Felicia's new costume to the Model T was an unfounded bit of arrogance in Gwen's opinion, but Pym steamrolled onward before she could voice that thought. Yanking Felicia's old catsuit out of her hand, Pym tossed it onto a nearby table before leading its owner over to a full length mirror. Turning Felicia sideways, he reached back and grabbed at the tail, lifting the lifeless end and waving it back and forth. Reaching down, Gwen rolled her wheelchair forward, eager to get a better look at a piece of technology that was admittedly far beyond her own technical skills. "Yes, right now this is a lifeless lump of crap that took a while to hook up. Once I boot it up, though? It's prehensile, capable of transmitting a full range of sensations straight to your brain, outfitted with a series of gyroscopes to improve your balance and ability to fall safely, and powered by your body's own bioelectricity so you don't need to worry about it running out of juice in the middle of a battle. You asked us for something that would replicate a cat's far superior balance and preferably its ability to land on its feet from great heights. We've done that."

     While she understood what was being said - unlike Felicia, if those glazed pink eyes were anything to go by - it only served to reinforce Gwen's earlier feeling: there were people out there who were so much smarter than her, it wasn't even funny. First in her classes at Midtown Science High School. Head intern to Doctor Connors at OsCorp. She wasn't used to not being at the head of the pack, or incapable of accomplishing something she set her mind to. And yet here she was, staring at the answer to a question that had left her gaping like a landed carp, and the man who'd answered it. It was humbling and yet exciting at the same time. While technically outside of her desired area of expertise when it came to life sciences, Gwen still found herself wondering if Doctor Pym might have space in his life for one more apprentice…

     "Okay, fine, so that all sounds cool." Peering back over her shoulder, Felicia poked again at where the tail met her body. "But did you really have to-"

     Releasing the tail, Pym offered Gwen a curt nod as he passed her, making his way over to a long workbench covered in computer equipment. "We've been over this already, Felicia. Most of the things the tail does requires it to be directly connected to your nervous system. The base of your spine was the most logical place to put the tail's connector port. If you really want, though, you can pay me to perform another surgery to remove the port, you can pay us to go back to the drawing board, and then you can pay to return for a third surgery when we come up with a better idea? There will also be an additional fee for any changes that need to be made to the hardware…"

     Felicia sighed in resignation. "Well, doesn't that just sound about as fun as calling up Doctor Rapaport and making an appointment to get turned back into a scrawny albino. In other words… pass. Speaking of 'once we boot it up', though… how about we try that?" Pym shot her an unreadable look before stabbing at the keyboard in front of him. The tail surged to life, nearly making Felicia jump out of her skin and spooking Gwen into rolling herself several feet backward for safety's sake. "Ack! Weird!" Turning to the left and then to the right, she frowned as the tail evaded her attempts to catch a glimpse of it. "Son of… seriously? I'm getting trolled by one of my own appendages?"

     A high, tinkling laugh from behind Gwen gave voice to Mary Jane's thoughts on the situation, but the blonde ignored her friend in favor of slowly wheeling her way closer to Felicia. She'd faced down the Lizard - and God, who at The Daily Bugle kept rolling 1 on their Creativity checks? - at the OsCorp labs to buy the time she needed to synthesize an antidote to his cross-species virus. Gotten her spine snapped for her trouble, even, and yet she'd still managed to drag herself out of the building so she could pass on said antidote to her father, who'd delivered it to Peter so he could distribute it through the Ganali Device. Compared to that, a renegade prosthetic was nothing.

     Reaching Felicia, Gwen brought her hands up to rest on the albino's hips, bringing an end to Felicia's increasingly frantic twisting. "Calm down, you spaz. We went through this with Astrid and her legs, remember? This isn't a new grappling hook or something. You now have more appendages than the average person. Of course things are going to be weird until you get used to it." Felicia stared down at Gwen for a long moment before nodding, slowing her breathing as her tail began to swish back and forth behind her rhythmically. "Okay, let's assume this is at all like Astrid's situation. Picture your tail wra-" A black blur whipped around from behind Felicia, smacking into Gwen's cheek roughly and making the blonde cry out in pain. Jerking her wheelchair backward, she scowled as she rubbed at her cheek with one hand. "Okay, fuck that. You're on your own."

     Taking a step forward, Felicia froze as Gwen rolled herself further away before glaring down at her insolent tail. "Listen, you. Behave or you're going back in the box." At this point, Gwen wouldn't be terribly upset with that outcome. Because… well, ouch. She could feel her poor cheek swelling up already. As she watched, though, the tail slowed its back and forth movement before slowly curling itself around Felicia's waist. Hesitantly, the albino reached down to pat it. "Good girl." With that taken care of, at least for the moment, Felicia turned her attention back to Pym… who had wandered over to stand near a pair of mannequins, inspecting the catsuits they were wearing. "I have a question. I'll admit it might be a stupid question, but… how did you test whether or not the gyroscopes will work for me? I mean, you can hook the tail up to a computer and poke it, run a lighter near it, rub an ice cube over it, et cetera. Little bits of data come flowing out if your sensors are working. But how exactly did you test the 'gives her better balance' or 'lands on her feet' properties if I'm the first person to actually wear this?"

     "Considering you're the only person with the jack it plugs into? We couldn't. That's about to change, though." Pym nodded toward the opposite end of the room and raised his voice. "Samantha?"

     The door to the locker room swung open a second time, and out stepped a girl her own age who would have easily been the strangest looking person Gwen had ever met if not for Felicia. Mostly because the newcomer was also albino… ish. Her skin was a bit warmer than Felicia's and her short hair was pale blonde rather than white, but she was definitely past even the unnatural paleness of the few goths Gwen had tutored in high school. With her rather extensive knowledge of common genetic disorders, it didn't take her long to properly identify it: tyrosinase-positive oculocutaneous albinism. Less severe than Felicia's own tyrosinase-negative variation, but no less striking. Then again, Samantha would have been striking no matter what considering the glossy red and black catsuit she was wearing, especially given that the legs of the stylized ant on the catsuit's front had been shaped to highlight what curves the relatively slender girl did have.

     Gwen was distracted from her inspection of the girl herself by the name finally processing. Samantha. Was this Samantha Peters? As in one of the girls Doctor Pym had mentioned he was mentoring at the moment? Holy crap. On one hand, Gwen wasn't so sure she wanted to be one of his apprentices anymore if it meant being turned into a guinea pig for his experiments. Her time working under Doctor Connors had thoroughly soured her on the idea of getting that directly involved with the science she was advancing. But on the other hand, she wasn't sure she could compete if this was the product of his selection process. While firmly a one on the Kinsey scale, even Gwen had to admit that Samantha was beautiful. Given that Pym had openly admitted to looking for a combination of both beauty and brains in his companions during one of their conversations… where did that leave her?

     But even as Gwen took a moment to sit there and ponder that, Felicia decided to open her mouth and do her best to destroy any chance Gwen might have of striking up a friendship with a fellow nerd girl. "…just what I need, another bug girl in my life. Let me guess. Ant-Girl?"

     "Considering I saw you reading the hundred and fifty point font labels on the lockers when you were in there, I'm going to assume that's rhetorical." Deliberately bypassing the waiting Felicia, Samantha made her way over to Gwen and offered her hand. "Samantha Peters. You must be Gwen Stacy; you're even prettier than you are on TV." Given that she'd only been on television once to the best of her knowledge, and it had been an interview from her hospital bed shortly after the Lizard's rampage… thanks? Maybe? "Are you thinking of applying to work here too? Because you're more Cassie's type than mine - she leans toward the life sciences like you whereas I'm mostly applied science - but I'd love to pick your brain about a few things. Especially your work under Doctor Connors. I've always been fascinated by his ideas because… well…" Trailing off, Samantha offered a rueful chuckle as she ruffled her own hair with her other hand before bringing it down to gesture to her eyes.

     Reaching out, Gwen shook Samantha's hand even as she shook her head in response to the blonde's train of thought. "If he was working on anything related to melanocyte-specific transporter protein, I wasn't involved with it. And even the experiments furthest along weren't even close to being ready for human trials when… well, he turned himself into his own human trial."

     Samantha grimaced before letting out a sigh of disgust. "What a mess that was. Damn. Hearing that actually makes me feel better in a strange way, though. At least now I'm not going to be sitting here thinking I was one mad scientist's power trip away from a cure to my condition or something." After a few seconds of silence, she abruptly turned and made her way over to Felicia. "At any rate, my senior project for my Electrical Engineering degree isn't going to do itself. Let's get this over with." Realizing what was about to happen, Gwen grinned widely as she began wheeling herself backward. She'd been dying to see 'this' in person ever since she'd found out what Doctor Pym was working on…

Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy     Even as Mary Jane was sliding onto Gwen's lap and settling in for the show, Samantha swung her left arm around in a sweeping circle before bringing her wrist up to chin height. Reaching across with her right hand, she hooked a finger in a ring protruding from the chunky red bracelet she was wearing, pulling it outward and twisting it ninety degrees before ramming it back in. A split second later, a blue aura crackled to life around her, and Samantha began to grow. Mary Jane let out a gasp as the albino passed NBA star height and kept going, and Gwen didn't blame her. Hearing about Pym's experiments was one thing. Seeing it in person was something else entirely. By the time Samantha had roughly doubled in height, her hand was large enough to wrap around Felicia's body, lifting the older girl into the air as Samantha continued to grow.

     When Samantha finally stopped growing and straightened up, the top of her head was somewhere between the twenty-five and thirty foot marks painted on the wall. Felicia looked around curiously from her new vantage point before going very still, slowly turning her head to look over - and up - at Samantha. "No."


     While there was only one way this could end given the parameters of the experiment being conducted, Gwen still gasped as Samantha abruptly released Felicia, the white-haired girl letting out a squawk of indignation as she plummeted downward. Twisting in midair, she spread her arms and legs to distribute the impact, her tail stiffening and standing straight up like the mast of a ship. Her hands hit the ground first and Felicia's elbows bent as her arms absorbed the sudden stress they were subjected to, her feet touching down a second later. Snapping her legs shut, she pushed off the ground hard and popped upright, thrusting her hands up into the air and looking to one side and then the other. And then she turned around so she could kick Samantha in one giant shin. "Bitch."

     "I'd say 'that's Queen Bitch to you', but I'm pretty sure Doctor Lang would dispute that." Samantha took a few steps backward before carefully lowering herself to the floor, sitting Indian style in the large empty space that Gwen assumed was probably large and empty because it was used for times just like this. "So. Satisfied that your tail works now?"

     Felicia nodded slowly, running her hands over her body. "As satisfied as I can be by a single test done under controlled circumstances." Turning away from Samantha's smirking form, she looked over at Pym as she continued to pat at her body uncertainly. "What about-"

     "The optical camouflage system? Look down at your belt; starting at the centered section, move three segments to the right and push down on it." Pym waited for a few seconds as Felicia's hand ventured down and then lingered in the appropriate area, before making his way over to her and jabbing at her belt with two fingers. Abruptly, the albino's body rippled and shifted from black with grey and white accents to… Samantha's shins. Had they seriously invented- "It's a wearable optical phased array system. In terms that won't have you staring at me blankly, it projects a three-dimensional hologram around your body of background scenery so that no matter where someone's standing, you stay camouflaged. A massive improvement on the two-dimensional technology that SHIELD's currently using. There's the obvious limitation that comes with your head not being covered, but since you mostly work at night? This should be more than adequate for what you need."

     Batting at Pym to try and force him out of her personal space, Felicia paused as her arm rippled and turned white to match the lab coat he was wearing. "Huh. Well that's just plain nifty. What about the rest of the stuff I ordered? I'm pretty sure throwing a pair of silver gauntlets on over this is going to destroy my sneakiness." Pym nodded before turning and gesturing to… Gwen spun her wheelchair around and then did a double take as she realized that rather than the one sneaky person she had expected, there were three: a pair of girls her age bookending an older - but not quite as old as Doctor Pym - man with strawberry blond hair. She could make educated guesses as to their identities, but Felicia was nice enough to confirm who the man was for her. "Hey, Scott! What've you got for me?"

     "Other than the fashion advice you'll ignore just like every other time, you mean?" Snapping his fingers, Doctor Scott Lang led his companions over to one of the few clear lab tables, each one placing a gunmetal grey briefcase on the surface before hopping up to sit on one of the ends. He gestured for Felicia to approach and then Gwen, but kept his attention fully on the former. "Sweetie, I'm proud of you for dumping the Catwoman chic but I still think we need to reconsider your entire persona. You're an albino. You need to embrace it. Own it. Think… Manx. Or maybe Persian, seeing as how you have a tail now. But mixing that much pale with a black costume… you look like a vampire. And not the hot Robert Pattinson kind of vampire, either."

     Someone needed to message Astrid and let her know that she was no longer the gayest member of the burgeoning superhero community, Gwen thought with a bemused smile. Not that there was anything wrong with that. It was kinda like hanging out with a geeky Carson Kressley. A loud snort… earned her a faceful of Mary Jane's chest as she forgot about her passenger and tried to turn her head in the wrong direction. Turning to instead peer back over her left shoulder, Gwen raised an eyebrow at Samantha. "You get used to this eventually. He's going through a 'pretty superhero' phase. Wants us all to be as photogenic and marketable as possible. Rita and I have learned to tune him out, and Kaida barely understands him to begin with."

     Assuming that Samantha wouldn't talk about people who weren't there while simultaneously ignoring those who were, Gwen took that as confirmation that her guesses about the identities of the two girls were in fact correct. She'd been relatively sure that the fidgety Latina with spiky reddish brown hair and blue eyes - an interesting combination that left Gwen wondering exactly what the girl's ethnic background was - was Rita DeMara, the group's best computer programmer and future Yellowjacket. Which in turn made Rita and Scott's Asian companion Kaida Satou - or Satou Kaida; Gwen wasn't quite sure which name was the girl's given name and which was her family name - who served as Giants Among Men's toxicologist and entomologist. What those two fields had to do with Doctor Pym's plans, Gwen had no idea. Maybe he just financed her experiments because she was willing to let him turn her into Hornet, and decent guinea pigs were hard to come by these days? Well, that and she was pretty. Like Rita. And Samantha. And-

     "It's not a bad idea. Making sure you're photogenic and marketable, that is. Especially since you're a big part of any sales pitch that your bosses do, and said sales give them money to pay you with." Mary Jane shrugged as all eyes came to rest on her. "Just, you know, floating that one out there. Not to mention that being photogenic and marketable helps once you get out there on the street. I mean, look at the Hulk and the Abomination. One's definitely a hero and the other's a giant puke-colored douchebag, but people are pretty equally freaked out by both. Imagine how much better received Hulk would be if he was like… a green Abercrombie model? Or a pretty woman?"

     There was a long moment of silence as the rest of the room pondered that, and then Scott shook his head. "Moving on…" Opening up the left briefcase, he pulled out something similar in size and shape to a taser and handed it to Felicia. "A gas-powered magnetic grapple gun with three hundred and fifty pound test monofilament. If it works well for you, I'll start working on miniaturizing the tech so we can slip it under the skin of your costume's forearms." Felicia nodded and slipped the grapple gun into a holster at her left hip, freeing up her hands to receive a second, nearly identical gun from Scott after he removed it from the right briefcase. "And this is a taser. Constant amperage, variable voltage. I'd recommend testing the different settings on one of your teammates to get an idea for how they'll affect superhumans."

     Even if she had been a superhuman and therefore eligible for that experiment? Not it. A few months before his death, Gwen had talked her father into allowing her to participate in the phase of taser training that involved each of his officers getting zapped. She'd made it sound oh so very scientific: they needed to know how individuals of varying age and body mass responded to the weapon and while he had one female officer who was close to her weight, none of them were within so much as a decade of her age. Why she'd thought it would be a good idea, Gwen still couldn't remember… but it hadn't been. At all. Maybe they could use Astrid? As long as Felicia wore her other costume while they did it, the girl would probably beg for the 'privilege'. Speaking of costumes, though? "That's not the only thing we'll be testing. You're off the patrol roster until I can look your new costume over. I'll be perfectly capable of making repairs to your costume once I have a baseline to compare against, and I'm sure Doctor Pym has better things to do than fix every scratch you put in it."

     "Oh really?" Turning to face Gwen, Felicia slipped the taser into a matching holster on her right hip before sashaying her way over to the wheelchair-bound blonde. Bending at the waist, she placed her forearms on the chair's armrests as she leaned in until her lips were within inches of Gwen's, completely ignoring the redhead on her lap. "And if I told you that it takes at least dinner and a movie to get this girl out of her costume?"

     Rather than dismiss the - likely disingenuous - offer out of hand, Gwen actually found herself taking the time to consider it. While it was true that she didn't really consider herself bisexual per se, she was well aware that she found certain women attractive. Samantha was the most recent addition to that list. Felicia had been on it for a while now. On top of that was the fact that guys hadn't exactly been beating her door down looking for dates even before she ended up in a wheelchair. Evidently guys found being the intellectual inferior in a relationship a turnoff. Who knew? There had been one notable exception to that during her four years of high school, but Peter… no. In the short term, she'd been hurt by - and furious at - his decision, but as time passed? She'd come to understand it better. He'd made a promise to a dying man and no matter how much it hurt him to do so, he was going to keep it. That was just who Peter was. And she respected him for that.

     In the end, though, that left Gwen with no immediate romantic prospects and someone who at least claimed they would be willing to go out with her. And so while she didn't really think girls were her thing, where was the harm in at least giving it a shot? Going out on a date - singular - still counted as being only incidentally homosexual, didn't it? "In that case, pick me up tomorrow night at seven. Your choice of movie and restaurant, since you're paying for it." The blonde chuckled softly as Felicia's jaw dropped, reaching out and using one finger to close the albino's open mouth. "You said it'd take dinner and a movie. You never said I had to pay for it. So I'll see you at seven. You can wear one of your older domino masks if you want this to be Black Cat/Dexter time instead of Felicia/Gwen time, but I'm not going out with someone wearing a catsuit." Rolling her chair back a bit, she slid Mary Jane off her lap before gesturing off to her right at Scott and his companions. "Last time I checked, you hadn't found someone to help with your Sunnydale problem. Why don't you talk to Rita while I ask Doctor Pym a few questions about a project of mine?"

     Felicia nodded slowly as she straightened up, turning away before pausing and looking back over at Gwen. "How does The Muppets sound?"

     "Actually, I was looking for someone to go see that with. MJ didn't want to. So that works out well. Personally, though, I'm kinda surprised that you didn't say The Artist. I know how much you love things that are black and white." Turning her chair ninety degrees, Gwen left a laughing Felicia behind as she made her way over to Doctor Pym. "Did you get a chance to look at that email I sent you the other night? All of the variations on that formula are technically viable, but I'm not sure which would be the best replacement for the OsCorp BioCable that we're transitioning away from…"

November 30, 2011
A Rooftop With an Excellent View
New York, New York

     Three pairs of eyes watched as a pair of girls helped their disabled companion into the back seat of a black Volkswagen Jetta before breaking down her bright pink wheelchair and storing it in the trunk. As the car merged into traffic and began its journey uptown, the largest and most colorful of the three observers spoke up. "So, can you explain to me again why this is a good idea? Sir."

     Sighing, Director Nicholas Fury looked up and to his right, regarding the world's first super-soldier with a critical eye. Steve Rogers, better known to the world as Captain America, had a mind like a steel trap when it came to all matters military, capable of memorizing a seemingly endless amount of information about weapons, technology, enemy dossiers, and tactical training for modern warfare. Basic principles of economics, however, were evidently something he couldn't quite wrap his mind around. "The same reason I tolerate Tony Stark's bullshit, soldier: Henry Pym could be very useful if we need to reactivate the Avengers Initiative someday. Problem is, we're stuck in a catch-22 right now: the Council won't let me fund his research until he's got a useful proof of concept, and he can't bring his ideas to life without an infusion of outside cash. But by letting Pym use the money he's earning through 'Giants Among Men' to fund his own experiments…"

     "…then we get all of the reward without any of the risk. And if he's more like Stark than we care for, we can target his test subjects for recruitment instead of the doctor himself. Either way, we get what we want for a fraction of what it would have cost us to develop it ourselves." From his left, Romanoff finished his thoughts, and Fury again found himself pondering the feasibility of leaving Rogers as the nominal leader of the Avengers while elevating the redhead to be the true power behind that throne. Loathe as he was to take his queen off the black ops chessboard for any real length of time, the team needed someone capable of guiding them through any mission he set them to. Given time to learn, Rogers might catch up with or even surpass Romanoff, but at the moment? Psy ops were something that eluded Rogers, he had no head for fourth-generation warfare, and the man could barely operate a smartphone much less comprehend net-centric warfare. "Not to mention that this arrangement helps improve the quality of the city's street-level heroes, in turn decreasing how often we need to deploy assets to deal with superhuman crime."

     Fury nodded, looking over at the statuesque redhead. On top of her superior understanding of modern warfare, she was also a good deal prettier than America's original super-soldier. It was the same reason he tended to deploy Coulson, Blake, and Sitwell more often than Hand or Hill: his position meant he had to sit through no small number of meetings and briefings on a daily basis, and the… pleasant scenery… was greatly appreciated. That, and the two of them had history together. They got along better, understood how the other thought. Most of the time, at least. "You know, Stacy's been working with Pym to improve her artificial webbing formula." One of Romanoff's perfectly shaped eyebrows rose at the seeming non sequitur, and Fury gestured down at the door that the various members of the Spider-Clan had emerged from. "Weren't you the one telling me that the SHIELD chemists you tried working with on your little project were useless?"

     Raising her right arm, Romanoff brushed her fingers over the bracelet strapped to it. "Yes. I even tried your wunderkinder. After Mister Fitz managed to pull off a minor miracle and recreate my Widow's Bite from incomplete plans in a foreign language, I had equally high hopes for that Simmons girl he's always with. So far, the closest she's come is an aerosol that causes nausea, confusion, and occasionally explosive diarrhea. Not quite as useful as the true Widow's Kiss." Fury let out a bark of laughter at that as Romanoff let her arm drop back down to her side, leaning forward as she studied Pym's building intently. "I suppose it's as good a use as any for the last of the cash I… liberated… from Luchkov." And then she planted her hands on the lip of the roof, flipping forward over the edge and plummeting down out of sight.

     "Son of a…" Leaning forward, Fury watched as Romanoff landed on the pavement below before looking up and waving at him. Even though he knew the drop was well within her body's tolerances, it still unsettled him sometimes to see Romanoff - and Rogers, for that matter - pulling off moves beyond the ability of mere mortals. Scowling down at the smirking redhead, Fury pointed a finger at Romanoff as he used his other hand to flick on the radio he was wearing. "Nobody likes a show off."

     "I'd say Barbara likes me plenty, Director."

     Eh, true enough. Fury watched as Romanoff made her way over to the building's front door and slipped inside before turning to Rogers. "Speaking of Agent Morse… your Modern Tech session with her on Monday. There was some sort of breakthrough regarding our Halloween mystery?"

     Rogers nodded before digging into one of the pouches on his belt, emerging with two pieces of paper. Unfolding one, he held out a pair of sketches that Fury was passingly familiar with. "I made sure to take off my mask during the… incident… so I could get a good look at whose body I was in, and obviously I got a good look at the girl Romanoff was possessing. They got run through all the standard databases with no hits." Tell him something he didn't know. "Turns out, it's because we weren't looking in the right place for them." That certainly qualified. "Agent Morse was showing me how you use these 'social media' sites to assist with surveillance, especially when it comes to finding individuals who might need to be placed in the Index. She had me going through the latest batch of videos posted from Sunnydale, and I found this."

     Taking a second sheet of paper from Rogers, Fury's eye widened at the series of images printed in a neat column on the page. Evidently, they'd done themselves a grave disservice by automatically excluding mutants from the search, because while her hair was different, Brittany Pierce - 'Host, Cheerleader, Mutant, Cheese Lover' - was a dead ringer for Rogers's sketch of Romanoff's loaner body. And her guest on this particular episode of 'Fondue for Two' was a blue-eyed blonde wearing a pair of ACU trousers and a blue tank top with a white star on the chest. Between her outfit and how closely she resembled the sketch Rogers had made of the girl he'd possessed… well, it made a far better lead than anything else they had at the moment. And thanks to the lower third that appeared in one frame - white text in a girlish, faux-handwriting font over a nauseatingly pink bar - they now had a name to start researching: Aphrodesia Michaelis, cheerleader and 'parkour princess'. Opening his mouth, Fury turned to Rogers and then froze before returning his gaze to the printout. Two instances of the same word jumped out at him. The potential security breach that the Council had been up his ass for a month over… was a pair of high school cheerleaders? "You have got to be fucking kidding me…"
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