Sorry about the delay, with the holidays and everything, I didn't want to get started and have it languish. I should be back onto a more regular schedule soon.
May 27, 2009
The Office of Judge Perry Burr - Burkesville, Cumberland County, Kentucky
Sitting surrounded by adults, the thirteen-year-old blonde stares at her gauze-wrapped hands, sniffing slightly as the cloying smell of old cigars tickles her nose. Paige Guthrie fiddles and picks at the dry and cracked skin of her fingertips, listening as the four men in the room speak of her as if she isn't there.
"Yes, Mister Michelli, I understand the point you're trying to make. I freely acknowledge the fact that her mother has abandoned her, and that she needs a new guardian. But you're ignoring my point. You're quite insistent that the only option is for her to come live at your client's school for fr… erm, mutants. But…" Looking away from the lawyer the Professor brought with him, Thomas Mellon turns to the judge seated on the other side of the large oak desk. Rail thin and balding, there's something about Mellon that makes Paige deeply uncomfortable. "Your honor, this 'school' of his… it's nothing more than a place of indoctrination and anti-human sentiment. It's not a fit place for Miss Guthrie to stay. One of our state's homes for abandoned children would be much more suitable, if you ask me."
The heavyset judge sits behind the desk in his large leather chair, fingers steepled under his reddened nose, his rosy face framed with a neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard. His cool blue-grey eyes regard the state's attorney for a moment before sliding over to rest on the tiny blonde sitting directly in front of him. "Thank you, Mister Mellon, but I think I'd like to hear what Paige thinks about the situation."
Paige jumps a little in her seat before sinking back into herself, trying to bury her face in her ever-present scarf. Her long blond hair falls over most of her face, leaving only a single brown eye peeking out. Her fingers clutch at her simple, long, grey cotton skirt as she looks up at the Judge timidly. "I want to stay at school, sir. All my friends are there: Artie, Sarah… Emma."
"Yes, yes. It's also where your brother was killed due to the neglect of Mister Xavier," Mr. Mellon sneers. A look of distaste washes over his face, as if she were a bug crawling across the floor.
"Your honor, that is highly inappropriate…" the man to Paige's right interjects, rising out of his seat beside the Professor with obvious anger in his voice.
"Be seated, Mister Michelli. I will handle this," the judge informs the Professor's council with the tone of a disapproving grandfather. His wise old eyes flick over to the stoic Xavier before slowly sliding back across the length of his desk to the smirking Mellon. After a moment of contemplation, Judge Burr leans forward and points firmly at the rail thin man in the tweed coat. "Mister Mellon, this is your only warning. Any further outbursts of a similar nature, and I will reject your case and find you in contempt. Do you understand me?"
Paige smiles into her scarf as the chastised man beside her squeaks and acknowledges the judge's orders. Lowering his hands to rest on the desk, Burr intertwines his fingers as he turns his attention to the Professor. "Now, Professor Xavier, while Mister Michelli has done an admirable job of painting your school as the best possible option, I think I'd like to hear from you. What makes you feel you have Paige's best intentions at heart? And while Mister Mellon could have phrased it better… she did lose a brother at your school. Do you feel her safety can be ensured?"
Sighing, Professor Xavier leans back in his chair. "Well, your honor, Mister Mellon is correct to a degree. I did fail Samuel, as well as twenty-three others, and that's something I will have to live with for the rest of my life." Paige stares at her feet as she listens to the man she's grown to admire admit to his failure. Shutting her eyes tightly as she feels the tears building inside her, she wonders why she can't be perfect and strong… like Emma. Taking a deep breath, the Professor continues. "Like Paige, I think it would be best for her to remain with her peers. She lost her brother a mere twenty days ago, and more recently her mother and remaining siblings. It would be monstrously inhumane of us to strip away what little remains of her old life. Furthermore, while her control is improving, her mutation isn't easily hidden. How would a state-run home - or school, for that matter - handle a girl spontaneously turning to stone?"
"Hmm. Yes, I see your point. Moving on… how would her tuition be covered? According to what I've read, the Guthries aren't a wealthy family. What sort of arrangement did you have with them, and would you be willing to continue them going forward?" the judge queries.
Paige perks up at the question; she's been curious about the second half for a while now, and as for the first… well, it stands between her and returning to her friends. It too is of definite interest to her. "We've had several children experience the same issue with their families over the years, your honor. Some were even as young as Miss Guthrie when they came to us. In exchange for an education as well as room and board, we demand nothing more than what they would have been asked to do at home: simple chores around the mansion. Things are handled as discreetly as possible to ensure their peers don't come to see them as servants or the like." As the Professor calmly explains her future, the judge nods and Paige lets out a sigh of relief. That doesn't sound horrible at all. "Additionally, the students receive a modest bi-weekly stipend for discretionary spending. In a few years, Paige would be eligible to supplement that with money from any number of small on-campus jobs, ranging from groundskeeping to tutoring to secretarial work in the school's main office."
"Your Honor! He's freely admitting he's planning on using her as free labor!" Mr. Mellon's exclamation is accompanied by the harsh smack of his hand against the judge's desk, and Paige sighs. Even she can see that's not true: she'd be getting a lot in exchange for… probably less than she had to do back home. Why does the annoying man have to be so darn… well, annoying?
A soft glow in the corner of her eye catches Paige's attention; turning to look at the Professor, she sees the familiar soft glow of his psionic power signature. He winces in pain, making her nibble her lower lip out of a mix of curiosity and worry, and then a look of distress passes over his face. A few seconds later, his eyes narrow and a small globe of light flaring to life above his forehead, causing Mr. Mellon's tirade to die on his lips.
Paige's breathing seems incredibly loud to her as a heavy silence hangs over the room and then, almost mechanically, both Judge Burr and Mr. Mellon turn to look at her as Xavier's power signature fades. Pulling a pen from its holder on his desk, Judge Barr signs his name on the papers sitting on his desk with several deft flicks of his wrist before handing them to the Professor's council. "I hereby declare Paige Naomi Guthrie to be the ward of Charles Xavier. Dismissed."
"Thank you, your honor," the Professor says with a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. Feeling very confused, Paige watches the men shake hands before following Mr. Michelli and Professor Xavier out of the judge's office.
The group is quiet as they wind through the halls of the Cumberland County Court House, but as they reach where the Professor's car is waiting for them out front, Mr. Michelli vocalizes the question that Paige too is curious about but doesn't know how to ask. "So, in the end you used your powers to get her. I know you'll still pay me for my time, so at the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth… why did you bother bringing me at all, Charles?"
"He was going to decide in our favor anyway, thanks largely to your convincing arguments. Unfortunately, it wouldn't have been quickly enough and so rather than leave Paige in the state's custody while I go deal with a situation that was just brought to my attention, I opted to… expedite things." Xavier holds up his hand to forestall Mr. Michelli's reply. "The needs of the many versus the needs of the one, John."
Sighing, Mr. Michelli shakes his head. "That's rather easy to say when you're not the one, isn't it, Charles?"
"A debate we can have another day, my friend." His frown returning, the Professor turns his head to stare off into the distance. "Something truly awful is going to unfold if I don't act quickly."
A wave of panic washes over Paige as they get into the car.
May 27, 2009
The Frost Summer Home - East Hampton, NY
"Okay, so, I've got good news and bad news for you, Munchkin. Which do you want first?"
"All right, bad news first. You're going to have to go near other people. I just bought two round trip tickets on LIRR along with a pair of seats on the Acela
from Penn Station to Boston and back."
"And the good news is… we're taking the train to Boston because the coolest big brother ever just snagged a pair of Monster seats for the Red Sox versus Yankees game on the ninth. So not this coming Tuesday, but next Tuesday. Sound good?"
"Shh!" Emma points at the television before turning back to it, ignoring the shifting of the supple leather couch as Christian settles down beside her. She stares raptly at the news unfolding in front of her, her finger rubbing small circles on the tip of her nose. "…and to repeat, the mutant terrorist group calling themselves the 'Mutant Liberation Front' have taken East High School hostage. Details are still scarce at this point, but we do know they are threatening to begin executing the children inside starting at 10:32, and will continue to do so until one has died for each mutant student lost in the Xavier School Massacre just twenty days ago…"
While Emma's heard the same words several times since she was torn away from watching teenage sluts paternity testing potential fathers on Maury
by the breaking news, it's taken until now for her mind to process them. In a way, these people are trying to avenge her former classmates. Avenge Sam. Avenge Jean. It makes her feel… she's not certain how she feels, to be honest. Even if their plans are horrific, the intent… it's more than most are willing to offer her kind. As she ponders that, Emma watches as the camera follows a large, four-armed mutant stalking the perimeter of the school. After a few seconds, the camera shakily jumps onward to another mutant; after a few seconds, it focuses and the young blonde blinks. This one - a woman, as best she can tell - looks as if she were a human-dragon hybrid. Emma finds her fascinating to behold; while there are some physical mutations as at Xavier's, none of them are quite this unusual.
The camera slowly roams back and forth, capturing the image of several other mutants, all of them a bit unusual even by Xavier's standards. Finally, it settles on a lithe man with chalk white skin who is carrying a massive scythe… and standing guard over a group of small figures huddling in the shadows. Emma doesn't even bother counting; she knows exactly how many there are. After all, she was there that day. She remembers each and every victim of the attack that took her Jean.
"I wonder if anyone's going to get there in time?" Christian queries softly.
"I… I don't know."
"Umm, maybe we should, y'know… change the channel…"
"No… no, I have to see this out," Emma replies calmly.
Reaching over, Christian rubs his tiny sister's back. "Okay. Then I'll be here with you."
Suddenly, there's a bright flash of light and the camera zooms out as chaos erupts on the screen. A bright red beam of light slams into the large, four-armed beast of a man, sending him crashing backwards into the side of the school building. At the same moment, a familiar patriotic shield ricochets off the head of the mutant with the scythe with an ugly clang even as a burst of lightning slams into the dragon-lady. Before the terrorists can regroup, their two dozen intended victims disappear in a series of familiar purple bursts of smoke.
Emma and her brother hold their breath as the rescue mission continues to unfold in front of them. With a beastly roar, a short man in black and yellow hurls himself into the fray, six gleaming metal claws slashing at one of the terrorists. The claws cut deep groves in the spiked armor of his prey and then Instructor Howlett is moving on, a pair of explosive arrows distracting his former opponent until another crimson beam of light can put him down for the count. One of the MLF members begins to grow, the man's height and - much to Emma's disgust - girth rapidly increasing. Before he can join in the attack, a large blue form slams into the massive mutant before gracefully backflipping out of reach, and then the eight fool tall mass of fat and muscle is met with the might of a Norse god.
Slamming his fist into the immense mutant's face, Thor follows it with a strike from Mjølnir, sending the corpulent terrorist spinning through the air before slamming into the ground with earth-shaking force. A dark-haired woman in black and yellow makes a long jump that would make an Olympian cry, shrinking in size as she sails through the air and peppering another deformed mutant with yellow energy blasts. At the last second, she pops back to full size and slams both feet into the man's face, toppling her foe. As the number of terrorists still standing dwindles, the camera zooms in to focus on one last battle, between a raven-haired woman in red who's hovering in front of a man covered from head to toe in white, a large number zero on his face. Energy erupts from his outstretched fists and flies at the Scarlet Witch, only to disperse into a shower of sparks when it strikes a disc composed of glowing crimson symbols. Muttering something to herself, the mutant witch gestures and pulls the earth up around the terrorist, holding him fast as the soil shifts into a metal prison.
A moment later, a group of uniformed men rush in with heavy shackles and begin the task of cleanup. The group of superhuman rescuers gathers off to one side, allowing the camera to catch them all: Captain America, Thor, and Wasp of the Avengers Initiative standing alongside the bore Summers, Ms. Monroe, Dr. McCoy, Instructor Howlett, Kurt, and Mrs. Lensherr. Even from a distance, it's obvious that an air of sadness hangs over them. Captain America puts his hand on Kurt's shoulder, saying something that doesn't reach the camera. The look on the man's face speaks volumes to Emma, though; she's seen that face before, "Oh… oh Kurt."
"Hmm? What's the matter, Munchkin?"
"Nothing. I need to get some fresh air." The petite blonde stands and walks to the front door, not sure why, but all she feels at the moment is anger.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Christian calls out to his sister.
Stopping, Emma stares out the large windows looking out over the Sound. It dawns on her why she's so angry, why she can't feel joy at the victory that unfolded on the television. She clenches her fists and for the first time, tears don't come as she thinks back to that day. No, she's far too angry to that. Turning her head slightly, she looks back at her brother. "Where were they, Christian? We'll come running to help the Avengers save flatscans, but where were the Avengers when we were under attack? Nowhere! The Sellout was at Jean's funeral; where was she during the attack? Nowhere! You know why? Because we're just weapons to them. And when they don't need us, they hate us and shun us just like everyone else. Because we're different. Because… we're better than them. All of them."
"Emma…" The young man looking at his sister, the expression on her face harder than any diamond.
"Don't, Christian. Just… don't. Don't try and defend them. Because you can't. Because… maybe Magneto's right…"
May 31, 2009
Medical Bay - The Baxter Building
"Well… this is turning into quite the sausage party. Haven't seen this many guys on one girl since that time my best friend Janice and I downloaded a Sasha Grey video."
Scott sighs at that, closing his eyes so he can reach up and pinch the bridge of his nose without punching a hole in the wall of Tony Stark's undoubtedly expensive office building. While he draws a salary working for Professor Xavier, he doesn't want to think about how long it'd take him to pay off the results of an uncontrolled discharge in the middle of Manhattan. Why is here, he finds himself wondering again. Ah, that's right. With his father off playing Captain Kirk for SWORD, parental rights over the younger members of the Summers clan falls to him. And so even though Henry could have driven Charles, given that both are present for this little get together, he's stuck here playing babysitter to a teenage girl who's gone from traumatized to traumatizing in record time. "New rule, Dawn: don't say anything around these people that you wouldn't have said to Aunt Joyce."
Letting his glasses drop back into position, Scott opens his eyes and meets the bright blue gaze of the girl he'd previously thought to be his cousin. Except she's actually not, because it turns out that dear old dad couldn't keep his pants on around his brother's wife, and so Dawn is really his half-sister. His sarcastic, far too inquisitive, also a mutant and living at Xavier's with him now half-sister. "Does this mean I can start talking to them about my period, colors of nail polish, and cute boys, then?" The uncomfortable looks the question earns her makes Dawn cackle before returning her attention to Scott. "Actually, Mom knew I downloaded porn. She sat me down once and gave me a lecture about how if that was what I was expecting sex to be like, I'd probably be disappointed because most men aren't that big… or that interested in getting their partner off. I've heard that size doesn't matter, so I'm not that worried about the first part, but the second half better not be true or I'm never doing anything with a guy. Ever. Because if I'm putting in as much effort as some of those girls were? I'm going to want a reward for it."
"Wow. You must have been watching something really old if Sasha was actually getting into things. In her newer videos, she just sorta…" Peter Parker trails off as all eyes in the room come to rest on him, blushing furiously. "I mean, that's not the kind of thing a girl your age should be watching. Or thinking about. Or… someone want to help me out here?"
Chuckling, Tony wanders over to give Peter a pat on the back before peering over the younger man's shoulder at the tablet he's holding. "Sadly, Peter's right. I ran into her recently at a movie premiere and we went out to dinner before coming back here for some… dessert. Trust me, she no longer loves what she does the way she used to."
Before Scott can speak up, because this is neither an appropriate topic to discuss around his teenage half-sister nor something he has any particular desire to hear, another voice calls out from across the room. "Really?" Stephen Strange turns his attention away from the long strings of numbers scrawled across the wall in front of him, peering over at Tony. "It must have been the company. Last time I saw her, we had a rather magical evening."
"Yeeeeeeah!" Dawn's loud exclamation draws attention back to where she's sitting in the middle of the room, and she shrugs before grinning. "Except you need some sunglasses."
"I get that reference!" Reed Richards actually sounds remarkably proud of that, which baffles Scott because… well, if it's something Dawn is into, shouldn't it be beneath such a distinguished scientist? "Johnny got me to watch the one-liner compilation video on YouTube. Pretty sure he's responsible for a good half of the hits on that page…"
Something small leaps from Dawn's shoulder and multiplies in size as it sails through the air, a six foot tall blond stumbling slightly as he lands on the floor. "As fascinating as that all is, shouldn't we be concentrating on making sure this bizarre contraption will actually keep Miss Summers from suffering another unfortunate eruption?" Hank Pym takes the tablet from Peter's hands and taps at it a few times before passing it back. "Stephen, whatever magic you used to seal up the gaps between the pieces of metal seems to have done its job; I shrunk down to my absolute minimum size and still couldn't spot a single seam. Still… are we sure this is going to work? Working on a magical golem constructed in the form of a Homo sapiens superior
is so far outside of my wheelhouse…"
"Math doesn't lie, Hank. Well, except for when I let Stephen try and help." Shaking her head, Winifred Burkle uses the marker in her hand to strike out a section of the complex equation written between her and the Sorcerer Supreme, scribbling revisions in a small patch of bare wall beneath it. Scott doesn't know what to make of the slender brunette the others have summoned as a 'technomancy expert', but since Dawn is quite vocal about her being 'good people', there's not much he can do besides stand there and watch her scribble all over any flat surface that holds still. And, at one point, on the back of Henry's lab coat. "I still don't get how you can mangle simple condensed matter physics so badly. I learned this stuff back in high school."
"I'm a doctor, not a physicist. Or at least I was." Turning to face the others, Stephen bows slightly at the waist. "Now, if you don't mind… I really need to return to Sunnydale and finish taking care of things there. I've done what I can for Dawn, and I stand by my work: this will keep the energy of the Key confined to her body. If you want to continue working on a way to safely release the energy for some purpose, Winifred is more than qualified to continue on in my stead."
Clearing her throat, Dawn draws all eyes back to her but her intent stare makes it clear that she's only after one man's attention. "Doc? If Willow… if she… Warren's a horrible person. And I'm not just saying that because he shot me and created this whole mess, either. If she did… handle… him? He deserved it."
Stephen shakes his head as he approaches Dawn, laying one hand on her metal-covered shoulder. "That's not for you or Willow to decide, Dawn."
"Yeah, well, you find me a court that'll prosecute him for making a sexbot of my sister or using demons to torment her with visions of killing a woman, and maybe then I'll let the system decide." Reaching up, Dawn brushes the man's hand off of her shoulder before sniffing and looking away. "Whatever. Go do whatever you think you need to do. And if you see Buffy… tell her that even if we fought a lot, she's still my sister and I still love her. I'm not taking the Professor's offer to hurt her. She can come see me if she wants to." Nodding, Stephen steps back and waves his hand, creating a glowing red mass of lines and arcane symbols that collapses behind him as he steps through. After a moment of silence, Dawn glances down at her new rune-covered metal chest plate - complete with a window that looks in on the glowing green ball of energy in her chest for reasons Scott doesn't understand - for a moment before looking around. "So… now what? And is there any chance it involves me getting to wear a shirt?"
As the remaining doctors and scientists begin to speak over each other and Henry donates his lab coat so Dawn can have a bit of coverage, Scott looks over at the Professor and shakes his head. Especially after Erie, hearing the newest member of the Westchester espouse a 'we can so we should' view is… concerning. Hopefully Dawn can be brought around to a better way of thinking. If not, Scott has a sinking suspicion that James might end up going on another 'business trip'… and taking Dawn with him.