Fan Fiction: X-Men: Sanctuary # 1 by Kyle Phoenix


"Connections"


            "Aren't you a little too young for the X-Men?" Warren Worthington, III said to Danielle Moonstar as she hopped off of her Harley in the driveway.  He was the first to open the door, his proud feathery wings, eight feet high, haloing sun kissed features that made him a cross between Brad Pitt, Robert Redford and a Heaven sent angel.  He was a man worth more than her entire line, saving up for five hundred years, could have deposited in a bank by his 18th birthday and his intelligence had multiplied it a dozen times over since then.  He was a veteran of not only the original X-Men but the Champions, Defenders, X-Factor and even Apocalypse's Horsemen.  His tone and slightly dissatisfied stare suggested that he was both aware of Charles Xavier's call to her and censorious of it.  To him she was still the rail thin teenager who had come up these stairs years ago to be a part of the New Mutants, in his mind a necessary but questionable investment.
Archangel
            Dani took in his stare, helmet off to let free her waist length hair, held to the sides by a headband woven by her thrice great grandmother and handed down to each female child, against her worn leather pants that her mother had worn through four years at Kent State, particularly the fateful day when the bullets flew, and her dead grandfather's Korean war leather bomber jacket.  She'd graduated, not from this school but from the college of life in her own twenty odd years and the eight thousand she could trace her bloodline back to being a woman.  Not the kind she was sure he was used to dealing with but in her opinion the kind that would teach him that his people had been doing this judgment crap to hers for so long that she was always ready, friend or foe to lay down her resume.
            "Archangel, right?  Mutant powers: wings that allow him to fly.  Not even a high-powered sonic tweet.  You remember me?  I'm Danielle Moonstar, Cheyenne tribe, psi mutant who rips fears and pleasures from minds, created solid objects from thought, lethal psi bow and arrow, burgeoning mystical energy battery, only human to be consecrated into the Asgaardian Valkyries,  see, identify and then subsequently fight the cosmic force white men refer to as Death on a regular basis, trained here and with SHIELD, fought in several Asgaardian wars, avid Louise Erdrich fan, more woman than you'll ever have and probably more man than you'll ever be.  Oh, and all of mine is earned, not dolled out my mommy, daddy and daddy surrogates," she tossed him her helmet and walked up the stairs into the mansion.  "I'll try to keep up with you, Wings.  Somehow.  Someway."
Danielle Moonstar
            "Good to see you've gotten rid of that chip on your shoulder.  I'll just stand here and pay for all that every white man has done to your people for hundreds of years," he snapped sarcastically.
            "You do that.  I'm sure thinking without Xavier or Cyclops is still new enough to you to be occupying," Dani snickered.
            Karma was waiting in the sitting room, she jumped up and hugged Dani before her friend could even speak.  "It has been so long!  You look wonderful!"
            Dani stood back from her, taking a long gander, Karma was still wearing her green New Mutants graduation costume with a predominant yin yang symbol on her chest.  "Don't you think it's a tad retro, Shan?" she laughed.
Cecilia Reyes
            "It's served me well over the past few years.  I've made some adjustments to it.  I've been through some changes," she said and her smile dimmed then she quickly changed the subject.  "Have you heard from the others?" Karma asked referring to the other New Mutants, changing the topic that it was obvious  Dani wanted to pursue.  What adjustments and changes?
            "Occasionally, phone calls and letters.  A little world saving.  I ran with X-Force for awhile," Dani glanced at a corner of the room.  "What's she doing here?!" she balked.
            Allison Crestmere formerly Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla known as Magma in the New Mutants turned around, resplendent as always in a white silk dress, her long blonde tresses draping her shoulders as gold thick as magazines adorned her neck and wrists,  "I was invited."
            "Allison, I thought you were out for a buck?" Dani asked snidely.  The last time they had seen each other Dani had been with X-Force and Amara with Hellions, they were on opposite sides and Amara hadn't seem at all coerced.  Her biggest concern had been getting paid for her villainous actions.
Emma Frost
            "I legally changed my name back to Amara, it was more fitting to my taste.  Though Nova Roma may not have ultimately been real, it was still where I became someone of style and status that I find preferable to my previous existence as Allison before Selene kidnapped me.  And as you put it, I was able to salvage some of my former worth so that I'm not as destitute as I was when I foolishly associated myself with the Hellions.  I also made some mistakes.  Charles and I have come to an agreement," she answered in a slight British accent.  "Selene's influence over my people left me confused for awhile.  I got better."
            "Blaming Selene?" Dani asked snidely.  "I'll bet it was Selene.  Or perhaps you're just more like her than you ever wanted to admit."
            "Come and find out, Danielle, one day I will take that woman's heart for killing my mother but she is an excellent role model of how to handle the lesser castes," Amara said roughly and her eyes flashed with flame for a second.  All was quiet in the room between the three former friends, each waiting to see what the next move would be when a booming voice from behind ended the stand off.
            "Now this is what I call a maturity worth waiting for!" Bobby Drake said as he came into the room in his new X-Men uniform, eyeing all three women appreciatively.  "Damn, you ladies are beautiful.  Gorgeous.  Stylish.  Sexy.  Intelligent.  Love the Easy Rider look.  And Princess Amara?  Magnifique!  Karma, as always a total trooper ready for the good fight!"
Paulie Provenzano
            "Finally the Professor is coming out with some style," Dani murmured looking Drakes new leather black and yellow uniform with trench coat then shot a glance at Amara.  "Not always taste, but style."
            Nightcrawler appeared with a sulphurous bamf in the room, a tray with lemonade and finger foods in his three fingered hands.  "Ladies, welcome.  I took the liberty of preparing something for you all.  You must be famished!"
            "Careful, Moonstar likes to bite hands," Warren snapped from the doorway.
            "Go clean the bottom of your cage, Tweety.  Come on, Kurt, no brews?" Dani sighed.
            "Are you legal?" Bobby asked.  "How about we keep this chit chat clean and sober and me and you head out later for those brews."
            "I'm legal for brew and more, ice cube," she grudgingly took the lemonade.  That was Xavier's all over, lemonade while the world was ready for a brew.
            Northstar came in next to Prof. X and Dani fought the urge to stand up, to pay him that honor.   He was walking again but she refused to act surprised, to show him too much emotion. They had parted, civilly.  She was here out of honor to her grandfather's word.  Out of respect for what the Professor had taught her years back.  For the peace of mind of learning to control her shifting powers.  But she wasn't going to pretend that there hadn't been reasons that the others in this room didn't know about, things Xavier had done to her secretly, all in the name of his precious dream that had made her stay away so long.
            "Thank you for coming," he said, his eyes leveled on Dani for a moment.  She had grown and with a cock of his head he realized that technically she was older than she should be by three years by his count.  She noticed where his observation was going, and gave him a psi reply to not pry.  He complied and without missing a beat anyone would notice went on with his words.  "You ladies hopefully remember Jean-Paul Beubier known as Northstar, formerly of the Canadian Alpha Flight.  He's agreed to join the X-Men, our family as I like to think of it.  I hope that your presence here  means I can persuade you to seriously consider a long term commitment in my offer to be part of the Blue Team."
            "Where's Storm?" Karma asked.  "I thought she lead the Blue Team?"
            "She did.  She and several of the others have left for parts unknown.  Psylocke, Rogue, Bishop, Thunderbird, Tessa, and Gambit.   On leave of absence."
            "They quit?!" Amara blanched, her shock was an outcry from what all the others were thinking.  Those were some of the most loyal ones to Xavier's dream.
            "I prefer to think of it as a leave of absence," Charles said with a slight smile.  "In pursuit of other---matters."
            "Hence, the call for others," Warren interjected.
            "Literally, the B Team," Dani snorted.  "No offense to anyone here, well, maybe you three who have been X-Men but we ex-New Mutants were never ranked high enough to make the All Star X-Men."
Karma
            "Though I loathe too, I'm afraid I have to agree with Dani.  I don't take to being asked to join the 'B' Team," Amara sighed.  "It's painfully obvious that you're trying to swell the ranks without regard to how it may feel to be called in now when you need us."
            "I don't think we were ever considered second stringers, Danielle.  If I understand you correctly," Nightcrawler interjected.
            "Kurt, I excluded you, Bobby and Warren, I never got the nod to the X-Men," Dani said bitterly.  "Only Cannonball did.  A real boys club, eh, Professor?"
            "You weren't ready when you were a student.  Several of you weren't.  You needed time to experience yourself and life and your abilities without the expectation of becoming an X-Man.  Ultimately, so that you could make an informed, adult decision to become one.  As all the others have," Charles said smoothly, having expected this feeling to come up and glad that it could be faced immediately, his voice still calm but it was clear that his focus was on Dani, she was the center of the distrust, the residual anger.  "Now the time has come.  You're needed by me.  By the world.  My I suggest we enjoy Kurt's repast and then move on to a session in the Danger Room to acquaint you all with each other's capabilities and give me a chance to evaluate you as a team.  It's imperative that you be ready posthaste.  Lives are depending on this team going on a mission immediately."
            Karma stood in the center of the Danger Room slowly moving through her warm up exercises, mental and physical.
            "The arm still hurting?" Cecilia Reyes asked from the elevated control booth, they'd met last week when both had arrived at the mansion.
            "Non.  It was an accident, it could've happened to anyone," Karma said referring to their sparring session earlier.  She had taken Cecilia by surprise and gotten a rude force projectile to the arm.  Karma had forgiven Cecilia, silently upset more with herself at being caught so off-guard but Cecilia, still new to the X-Men was awash with guilt.
            "It happened to me," Cecilia said nervously.  "My powers worry me.  I'm new to this game.  Paulie and I are the newest and I'm not exactly here by choice, Bastion ruined my life out there.  I don't like them, honestly, my powers, how they 'Spike'."
            "It's a good code name," Karma said neutrally.  She had also learned from a few days with Cecilia that pity wasn't what the woman wanted.  She simply worried out loud.
            "For a Little Rascal," Cecilia muttered as Archangel, Iceman, Northstar, Magma, Nightcrawler and Psyche filed into the Danger Room.  A moment later Prof. X and Paulie Provenzano came into the control room with Cecilia.
            "I trust all explanations are unnecessary?" the professor said over the loudspeaker then the Danger Room walls shimmered and became a jungle.  "The object is simple, get to the other side of the valley in under five minutes.  All of you must make it for the session to end."
            "If they're the 'B' Team what does that make Doc Cutie Pie and me?" Paulie asked the professor.  "I mean flipping through all them files for days waiting everyone to show up, those pretty phillies down there have more experience than both of us put together."
            "Don't call me that," Cecilia snapped.
            "Okay, Doctor Hotstuff," he grinned devilishly.
            "I'm warning you, goomba," she pointed a finger at him, their arguments already the stuff of legend around the mansion.
            "At this point, I want you to be observers," Charles said calmly, ignoring their constant bantering.  "Because of your limited experience with the X-Men I want you to see what I am asking you to voluntarily follow.  Should you accept, the others would help you learn the ropes as you go along, as it were, the two of you will be risking your lives the most starting out in such a fashion but trust that the need is there and your potential more than attainable.  For now, watch them, please."
            Sentinels rocketed from out of the horizon and as Magma went hot and Iceman cold, they landed a few meters away.  Some remained three stories tall while others separated into three ten-foot tall opponents.
            "Cute," Psyche grunted as her psi bow and arrow appeared.  She let one shot go and two mini-Sentinels came at her. 
            "Form on me," Archangel instructed.
            "I'm faster, I'll go for the other side," Northstar said and whisked into the air, his words half lost to his speed.
            "Northstar, no!  You think the professor doesn't know that!" Archangel yelled but it was too late, treetops snapped open and tracking lasers and machine guns filled the air.  Archangel was forced to dive low as Iceman and Magma tried to hold off two of the larger Sentinels with ice and lava blasts, respectively.
            "Ladies!" Nightcrawler said, grabbing Karma and Psyche and vanishing in a burst of smoke as several Sentinels converged on their position.  He appeared a few meters away and Karma grinned then vanished.
            "Shan!" Psyche yelled, a moment later a translucent man appeared, wearing Karma's costume though now it was more masculine in design.
            "Tran actually," he smirked and headed off into the jungle.
            "Her brother?  I thought she killed him---absorbed him?" Psyche yelled, covering her back and Nightcrawler's with psi arrows as they ran through the jungle.  Her arrows were more for light sparkles into the Sentinels faces, it required far more concentration for her to make them compose of bio-electrical energy to harm inorganic matter.
            "She did.  He did.  It's why she came back, she's become two people occupying one body.  Hers is real, his isn't.  But he can only remain for a short period and can't access the possession power," Nightcrawler explained as two mini Sentinels came crashing through trees at them.  Psyche dove out of the way as Nightcrawler simply vanished in a burst of smoke, Tran kept going, no obstacles stopping him.  Psyche rolled back to her feet and grunted as the edge of a large Sentinel stun bolt clipped her from above.  She landed hard on her leg, it had been a awhile since she'd been in such a confrontation and when she saw the Sentinel coming to press the attack, she panicked.  A moment later she was airborne, in Northstar's arms.
            "Wow, you're fast!" she gulped, embarrassed at not taking this as seriously as he was, watching out for her teammates.
            "And you're not," he snapped then unceremoniously dropped her to the ground and continued zig zagging through the trees trying to avoid mini Sentinels and lasers that seemed targeted to him.
            "French son of a---!" Psyche grunted but didn't have time to finish as Magma tumbled next to her, dazed, felled by a Sentinel blast.  "That must've hurt."
            "Yes, it did," Magma said as Psyche helped her stand and they started heading towards the far side, the gloves of the new X uniforms protecting her from Magma's superheated body.  Archangel soared over them, closely followed by Iceman.
            "You two okay?" Archangel asked.
            "I am out of practice for mayhem but it's coming back," Magma laughed and then fired a lava bolt over his shoulder, turning a Sentinel into slag that sent it careening to the ground. 
"Hop on, my pretties, we're almost halfway there!" Iceman said as he formed a slide beneath their feet and soon they were sliding behind him. 
"You have to cool your temperature!" Psyche yelled at Magma, "or you'll melt through!"
"I know, cow!" Magma snapped then turned to cover their rear and by expelling more lava bolts but her superheated body caused her to melt through the slide and fall to the ground.  She wanted to summon lava or earth from the ground to propel her but didn't think Xavier would appreciate her destroyed the foundation of the Danger Room to call it up.  She was limited to her ability to generate lava bolts and flame.
            "Keep going, I've got her," Archangel said to the others and swooped back.  "Cool your body temperature, Magma!"
            "I'm trying," she said as he grabbed her arms, his insulated gloves affording him protection from her radiating heat and began to move away from the four Sentinels that were crashing through the jungle after them.
            "Now!" Nightcrawler shouted and Tran changed back to Shan, a rope materializing across an expanse to trip a Sentinel.
            Psyche focused and fired half a dozen psi arrows to the fallen Sentinel causing it to blow up, her psi arrows composed of bio electrical energy as well as psionic.  She let out a Cheyenne war cry when she felt something at the nape of her neck.  A buzzing, a warning.  Her Death sense had become fine tuned over the years, advancing into something akin to a constant warning of danger.  She heard Spiderman had one.  She turned and formed a bow stick in her hands in just enough time to knock Wolverine to the ground with it.  He was moving so impossibly fast that he had rolled with the blow, a slight burn and glancing psi shock from it and ducked back into the underbrush before she got a moment to really understand what was going on.
            Psyche realized that his feral nature had touched onto her ability to psychically rapport with animals.  It was the perfect way to not only track him but give her an advantage against him.  Focusing on an ability she rarely used she was immediately caught by the awareness and then subsequent connection to another.
            "What is it?" Archangel asked as he flew over to her.  Psyche looked at him and for a moment felt an intimacy, a communication of sorts that she hadn't felt since---Rahne, her New Mutants teammate.  Of course, his whole avian mutation was kicking in her empathic bonding with animals.  He cocked his head at her for a second, understanding everything that she did at the same instant, immediately disliking the intrusion and hiding something from her.  Without hesitation, Psyche pushed and found an admiration, an attraction to her and she turned away from him.  It wasn't the time for him to see that it was grudgingly mutual.  Between two teenage girls, the bonding was welcome, useful, but two adults, it complicated their different styles, differing personalities.
            "Where is he?" Archangel asked of Wolverine, having sorted through her empathic sharing and recognized what was going on, what had happened.  He'd been around telepaths all his life, it was a part of the job, he wanted to concentrate on the professor's obvious second test.
            "Brush.  Got a fix on him through my sense too.  He's not alone.  A telepath protected him from my psi connection," Psyche put her mental shields in place, blocking out the flutterings of Archangel, he thought like a bird.  Lofty concepts, zeroing in on something he'd deigned worthy of explanation, she was in his arms and in the air by mutual silent agreement as they tried to spot the hidden Gold Team.
            Karma felt her brother subsiding to the irritating voice in her head that he'd been for years, she'd simply never told anyone. 
            Your friends are interesting.  Especially Amara.  I like her---appreciation of the darker things in life, Tran laughed.
            Be silent, Tran.  You've done your part.  Or I might explore the professor's telepathic exorcism suggestion, Shan snapped.
            Of course, sister, I don't want us to fail this either.  For our mutual goals.  Tran faded back to the buzzing mental presence Shan had put up with for years and allowed her to focus, having reminded her that they were more against these people than allied as they had a secret agenda.
            She'd noticed Archangel and Psyche take to the air and they weren't headed for the opposite side of the room.  They were too far away to communicate but Shan could tell from her old teammate's body language that a new threat was about.  She felt the push of air a moment before she flattened her body and the optic blast slammed into a tree in front of her.  Karma instinctively rolled and fired small, nearly invisible needles from her sleeves, each coated with a sedative that she sometimes used on opponents difficult to possess, towards where she "guess-timated" Cyclops to have been.  They froze in mid-air, as she had expected, the optic blast having been a distraction to the true threat to her.  Karma lashed out with all of her telepathic might to the telekinetic/telepath behind the power.
            "Very good," Phoenix murmured, telekinetically tossing the needles to the ground and re-doubling her mental walls against Karma's attempt to possess her.  Phoenix had to let her mental illusion of foliage lapse from herself and her husband Cyclops as she pushed mentally back at Karma.
            "To me, my teammates!" Karma shouted over her suit's comm. link, her voice a harsh gurgling as she summoned her reserves to have a final mental thrust at Phoenix.  She felt Tran mentally adding his will to her own, making their assault seemingly building in strength while they both knew it was a distraction. 
            "BOO!" Nightcrawler shouted as he appeared only inches from Phoenix's face.  It was enough that Phoenix didn't sense Nightcrawler as he teleported in front of her, ruining her concentration, normal fright broke her concentration and she stumbled backwards.  Cyclops, only a few feet away, admired the tactic and stoically fired an optic blast at Nightcrawler, who vanished in the same burst of brimstone, his feet never even touching the ground.  An ice blast engulfed Phoenix's head in a block of ice, the sudden weight causing her to fall over.

            Cyclops grimly ignored his wife's harmless predicament and dove into the foliage, several optic blasts covering his hasty retreat. 
            Northstar appeared where Cyclops had been a moment earlier and sucked his teeth.  "Who would've expected him to abandon his own wife?"
            "Have a care, Northstar, Cyclops has been doing this for years," Karma said as she strolled over to him.  Her eyes were flashing with telepathic power, she finally had the stunned Phoenix successfully under her control.
            "I wouldn't have thought you could hold her, all that's been made of the legendary Phoenix," Northstar said and Karma shook her head.
            "I have her body.  She was stunned, didn't want to give up so she fled, left with her astral self.  She's still a threat.  Albeit invisible and limited in her capabilities," Karma said as she caused the red headed Phoenix to stand and telekinetically destroy the ice off of her head.
            "Do we have an extra body on our side or what?" Iceman asked as he slid over.  "I don't like taking out the hottest redhead in town like that everyday."
            "She's useless, it's not like a normal possession where I can access her mind to aid in my control of her.  I'm just running a nervous system," Karma said and let her possession end.  There was a moment of confusion on Phoenix's face and then Northstar abruptly knocked her unconscious by speeding around her so fast that the lack of oxygen made her body collapse.  He was back to his standing position an instant later.
            "Hey!" Iceman protested as he caught his friend before she could fall to the ground.  "We don't have to be so rough."
            "Take a look at the tree," Northstar snapped and Iceman glanced at the pulverized tree that would've been Karma had she been hit by Cyclops's optic blast.  "Not a game like the old days, Drake.  Your friends are testing us for keeps.  Perhaps your juvenile ways are to be eradicated by being on this team and not one where you find comfort."
            "I must agree with him, Iceman.  Are you with the Blue Team in form and spirit or not?" Karma asked.
            "Both," Iceman said with a grin and laid Jean on the ground.  "Let's get the others, I've always wanted to freeze Wolverine a good one."
            "Is this wise, Charles?" Cecilia asked.
            "Excuse me?" Charles was busy studying several video screens of the action below as well as telepathically observing the emotions of the participants. They were performing far better than he had expected.  In fact he could see accelerating the timeline to dispatching them.
            "I know you're not used to being questioned by your students but the new Blue Team isn't exactly ready to be tested against the older, far more experienced Gold Team," she snapped.  "That's freaking Wolverine, Cyclops and Phoenix in there!  Haven't they liked saved the world a billion times over when they weren't beating up Doctor Magneto Doom!"
            "Doctor Doom and Magneto are two different guys, hon," Paulie snickered.  "You might wanna read those study files more closely."
            "Don't help me, Paulie.  And don't call me 'hon'!"
            "I'm quite used to being questioned by my students," Charles murmured.  "Answering all of their uninformed questions is not new to me."
            "Doc Hot Pants has a point," Paulie added.  "It looks like the gloves are off down there and someone's going to get hurt.  I ain't got no love for none of them but that's not how we get down in the Marines."
            "Then go help them," Charles said calmly, staring them both down, daring them to face their fears of live combat.  There was absolute silence in the control booth and then Charles turned back around to the video screens.
            Cecilia looked at Paulie who merely shrugged.  The question was whether or not they were ready, in their own opinions.  She muttered something and Paulie thought to himself that perhaps her two words were better suited for Phoenix and her hubby, he didn't really see Charlie as the get down and dirty boogie kind of guy.  Especially with him in quite the way Cecilia had intimated.
            Cecilia grabbed up her uniform's jacket and stormed out followed by Paulie.  They were going in.
            Charles smiled, pleased, he knew that they would go.  Cecilia and Paulie were rebels at heart, they needed to join the others as a way to flounce his authority in determining them not ready.  Their unique abilities, force field projection and physical invulnerability respectively, made them the least likely to be harmed but somewhere in their psyches it had made them the most reticent about physical combat.  Easy for him to telepathically remove but he didn't work that way, unless absolutely necessary.
            "My, my Charles, I would think that would be a thought closer to my own heart than yours," she cooed behind him, resting her hands on his shoulders.  The physical touch was her way of showing respect, she knew she was telepathically invisible to him if she wanted to be.  She also knew that announcing herself first was safer that simply sneaking up on him.  Though in a wheelchair, he was far from helpless.
            "Emma," he said out loud though it was unnecessary with the White Queen, a telepath of skill surpassed only by his and perhaps Phoenix's.
            "Perhaps?" she teased as she took a seat next to him.  "I faired well against the Phoenix entity who later went on to consume a sun, Charles."
            "You lost to It," he reminded.
            "But in the end you lost her too, as I remember," she parried.
            "I was thinking of the true Jean Grey," he replied, slightly confused by her choice of words.  "Not the Phoenix entity."
            "As was I, losing Jean," Emma smirked and he got her meaning.  His love for Jean that went far beyond the paternal.  He'd put those feelings away long ago.  Emma was good for picking at the edges of his thoughts, keeping herself behind such formidable shields that he often barely perceived her physical presence.  "Curious, isn't it?" she switched topics so fast sometimes that he wondered musingly if it could be another mutant ability.
            "What?" he enjoyed her games, her teasing; she rarely came out and said anything until she was sure that her targets were wrapped up in her game.
            "Jean chose Cyclops over both you and Wolverine."
            "She never knew about my feelings," it was useless to reprimand the woman on delving into privacies, it seemed to delight her to no end to constantly mess with others.
            "Charles," Emma clucked her tongue," she's a telepath.  My equal.  And like me, a woman.  Trust me, she knew."
            Charles turned his attention away from the training session below and glanced at Emma.  Intrigued and pissed at the same time.  "Point?"
            "Wolverine is all physicality, ferocity, passion.  You are intellect, paternalistic power, a telepath that could show her things that would make her forget you had no legs," she said teasingly, a light telepathic flash of erotica crossing his thoughts at her insistence.  He viewed it quickly and secretly was surprised at her choice of imagery, it was close to his own fantasies.  A good guess or a telepathic plucking from his inner depths?
            "And?"
            "She chose him.  Take away the optic blasts and what is he?"
            "One of the best strategic minds living, I daresay," Charles answered without hesitation.
            "Yes.  But without the optic blasts he wouldn't be here, hence he would've never become such a strategist. The same thing that attracted her to him, attracted you to him.  Hopefully from different intentions---I hope," she teased.
            "Continue," Charles said, if nothing else he found her examinations of those around her fascinating.  Emma readily dealt with the dark sides of psyches that he avoided dwelling upon.  After the matter with Onslaught, he had realized that it was important to have more around him who had the dark bent that was present in Logan, he needed their counter balance.
            "He was so easily influenced by the two of you, to become what you both wanted.  A noble husband, a stalwart leader.  He's the only one of your X-pack that hasn't walked away from you, Charles, isn't he?  Sabbaticals, yes.  Rests, even.  But even in his darkest days he started X-Factor to continue your dream.  Did the poor boy ever have a chance to ever have his own dreams caught in the entangling web of two such powerful telepaths?" she wondered aloud.  "Or perhaps that was your point all along?  To give dear sweet Jean a soul mate whom she would never feel inferior to, one she would never sense influencing her?  I can see why you submerged your erotic feelings, love can wither between student and superior but between her and Scott?  Never.  Any prodding there, Charles?" Emma asked, her tone all ice and conniving.
            Charles shot her a withering glare, she was smiling like a Cheshire cat.  "It often surprised me how long you have survived with both your telepathy and mouth.  I always expected someone to shut one or the other down.  Sebastian Shaw, Selene, Magneto, Jean, me.  Have a care, Emma; your days are still being counted.  A misspoken word at any moment could put you into one of those pesky telepathic catatonias that only a few of us possess the skill to bring you out of.  If we cared to revive you at all."
            Emma kept smiling, letting the threat sit where it was, not even bothering to parry it.  They both knew that she was more valuable awake.  Simple as that.  "I brought the woman we've been looking for."
            "Really?" Charles let his telepathy sweep the grounds in a millisecond.  She was in the formal sitting room.  He could barely sense her.  It was only his years at discerning those who couldn't be sensed by his telepathy that allowed him to recognize the negative space as a being.  A being of immense power.  Of them all, perhaps next to the Phoenix entity, she would be the most challenging student.  "She's angry.  Your doing, I expect?"
            "No, she merely dislikes her responsibilities to people like us.  And unlike the others we can't make our words make sense to her."
            "I've never---!" he was about to defend.
            "Oh, please, Charles, a telepath not subtlety influencing those around him?  Akin to being ambidextrous and writing with ones toes, wouldn't you say?  Isn't that what irks you about the others leaving?  Their experiences strengthened their wills, muddied their thoughts and allowed them to willfully walk away from you.  Who's next?  Maybe even dear sweet, fiery Jeannie one day?  All birds must leave the nest, even with telepathic tendrils trying to hold them firmly in place."
            Charles shook his head with a dark mirth.  The woman had no shame!  "What does it mean when I sit with a once sworn enemy assembling yet another team to face the world's horrors?"
            "That soon the Blob, Toad and Mystique will all be wearing those garish uniforms you keep coming up with," she chuckled.
            Charles laughed, a rare easy laugh with Emma.  With her there were few secrets and all the things he feared were both out in the open and accepted as the norm.  Emma, Jean, Magnus and Lilandra, the few beings amongst the billions his mind had touched whom he felt the luxury of being completely honest with.  "Monitor the skirmish below, I'll go speak with our guest."
            "Yes, Charles," Emma purred, mockingly obedient and seductive at the same time.  The perfect Cheshire cat.  Or psychologist, it was often difficult discerning which she was and when.
            Spike and Paulie stood in front of the Danger Room access doorway, they just had to press the red button and they would be let into a session already in progress.  Both of them were in their blue and yellow training uniforms with the exception that Cecilia had added neck and wrist spikes and a waist belt that contained emergency medical gear.
            "Scared?' he asked her.
            She was about to snap at him when she looked in his eyes.  He was as nervous as she was.  She softened, Paulie was a jerk sometimes but she knew that they both shared the same anxieties at being X-Men and the same resentments of their mutant gifts throwing them into this life.
            "All of them have major experience over us.  Even the ex-New Mutants.  We're rookies.  I don't want to hurt anyone or get hurt," she admitted biting her lip.  "And knowing that Cyclops and his Gold Team are playing ambush games in there doesn't make me feel any better."
            "Yeah, that is fucked up," Paulie smiled.
            Spike smiled, Paulie had a way with words.  "Paulie, when are you going to settle on a codename, I know it's bugging the Professor."
            "He keeps offering the stupidest code names. "Taut"?  What a dumbass name.  Sounds like something Northstar would suggest while watching me walk.  I'm leaning towards Cadaver myself."
            "Cadaver?" Spike giggled.  "That's silly!"
            "Yeah, but it's what I'm hard like and what I feel like I might end up."  She waited expectantly and he looked back at her.  "What?"
            "What?!" she said in mock awe.  "The sleaziest X-Men not going for the obvious twist on that?  Could you actually be taking this seriously?"
            Yeah, I am.  We're the newbies.  I don't want to go in there and be seen like assholes.  My life is kinda shot too so I need this gig.  I need a place to belong and maybe even do some good.  And if this next part sounds wrong than so what: I wanna kick one of those X-Men's asses.  Just to represent Brooklyn, y'know?  I'm tired of being treated like a retarded stepchild."
            "Wow, Paulie.  That's really cool.  I'm repping the Bronx, let's do this!"
"Besides between my invulnerability and your force fields we're the least likely to get hurt," he grinned.
"I'm all over that," Spike mumbled then reached out and pressed the red button that would let them into a session in progress.
            Dani had to admit that being in Warren's arms afforded them a unique insight into the battlefield below.  With Rahne and other animals, Dani had always been the more mature one, the more dominant personality but with Warren there was a blending, a sharing.  His keen eyesight, was now shared between them and they made and dismissed plans at the speed of thought, his experience tempering her zeal and her determination fortifying his lack of focus.
            "Shan, the Gold Team has got to be setting us up.  I don't trust Phoenix wandering around as an astral body and I can't spot her, which means she's actively hiding from me," Dani said over the comm. Link.
            "I concur.  The Sentinels were obviously a distraction to soften us up while the Gold team got positioned," Shan replied.  "Suggestions?"
            "They'll go for our transports.  Nightcrawler and Northstar," Archangel said aloud, more for Shan's benefit than Dani's as their thoughts and instincts were so meshed.
            "They set us up by letting us come in here without a full plan, a full awareness of their intent.  Prof. X is still sneaky," Dani muttered.
            "Sneaky?" Warren asked incredulously, their psychic rapport dulling as she clamped down tighter on her thoughts.  "I've never thought of Charles as exactly sneaky."
            "He didn't turn you over to SHIELD for additional 'training'," Dani said darkly then her psi bow and arrows appeared and she opened fire on the brush below.  Optic blasts flew up in the same instance and Archangel realized that she could shut him out while still reaping the benefits of his enhanced sight.  He wasn't sure of how he felt about that but he calmly fly higher, dodging the optic blasts.
            "Distraction again," Dani said as she reached out with her psi talent for animals, searching for Wolverine.  He could hide from a telepath by regressing himself mentally into a more animalistic state but to her he would stick out even more.  When he first sweep of the 'jungle' below showed no signs of him, she started a scan for Phoenix.  Her abilities were so wildcard these days that she didn't know if she could find an astral body so simply.
            I'm sure you'll be able to one day, a psi voice whispered and then Phoenix's astral self appeared in from of Dani and Archangel.  Once Dani saw her, she realized that she'd been using her telepathic powers to mask Wolverine below, he was only a few feet from her teammates below, poising to attack.  The alarm in her thoughts caused Archangel to reel back, aware that Phoenix was invisible to him but not Dani.
            Phoenix was perplexed for a moment at the strong rapport she sensed between the two and that was enough of a distraction for Dani to swipe her bow and arrow into Phoenix's psi body, similar to being shot.  Dani saw the optic blast a moment before it struck Archangel and felt herself falling for an instant before Nightcrawler appeared and they vanished in a haze of brimstone.
            When they reappeared on the ground, Dani immediately felt Archangel sluggishly landing, and then nothing as Phoenix put him to sleep with a telepathic push.
            "Looks like Jean has scored one against our erstwhile team," Nightcrawler whispered to Psyche.
            "Looks that way.  And Wolverine is closing in on the other group.  Can you teleport us over there as soon as he attacks?"
            "Not a problem," Nightcrawler said as the two hurried on foot towards their teammates.
            Northstar was about to take to the air, to find out why Archangel and Psyche's commlink had been disturbed when he heard a familiar feral growl and Wolverine sprung at him from a tree.  Without even a conscious thought, Northstar was twenty feet away in the blink of an eye and almost pleased with himself when he saw that he'd never been Wolverine's original target.  Wolverine slammed into Magma from behind then tossed her at Iceman, their opposite physical states causing a huge cloud of steam as soon as they came into contact with the other.
            Without even a glance behind him, Wolverine was silently and swiftly moving in for Karma who stood next to Phoenix's inert form.  Northstar realized that his super speed allowed him to see Wolverine moving at a normal pace while to the others he must be almost a blur.  With a fierce determination not to be outclassed, Northstar sped to Karma and snatched her out of the way as he spotted Spike ad Paulie rushing through the jungle bush.
            "Spike!  Wolverine is playing opposing side, a little help would be appreciated!" Northstar shouted at her and watched as she reached out her hand and golden energy flew at Wolverine encasing him in a bubble. 
            "Not good enough!" Wolverine growled, popped his claws and slashed through the solid energy leaving shreds that quickly winked out of existence.  Paulie stepped in-between Spike and Wolverine and valiantly decked the diminutive X-Man which stunned him for a moment.  But only a moment as Wolverine swiped his claws across Paulie's chest.
            "NO!" Karma shouted and reached out with her possession power to save Paulie from injury.
            Paulie stumbled back, light scratches on his chest under his torn uniform.  "AHHHHHHH!"
            Wolverine turned back to the hovering Karma and Northstar and leaped at them, fighting her possession with all of his considerable willpower.
            "I can't slow him down!" Karma gasped in frustration as Northstar started flying backwards unbeknownst to him into Cyclops line of sight.  A short optic blast knocked both mutants out of the air but not unconscious as Cyclops ran out from the brush.
            "Always watch your back," Cyclops chided the two groggy mutants on the ground.
            "Take your own advice, mein freund!" Nightcrawler said as he teleported onto Cyclops back, ripped off his visor then vanished.
            "Kurt!" Cyclops shouted in anger, his hands covering his uncontrollable eye blasts.
            Wolverine hesitated, Nightcrawler able to appear anywhere near him, he hadn't heard the re-appearing bamf nearby which meant that Nightcrawler had purposefully reappeared much further away.
            "Ok, lets they that again!" Iceman said as he untangled himself from a dazed Magma and fired two bolts of ice at Wolverine, freezing his claws and forearms in chunks of ice almost as big as the X-Man himself.  Repositioning himself for leverage to use his claws to cut himself free, Wolverine didn't see Psyche creep to Karma's side.
            "Together," Psyche said to Karma as she helped her stand and they linked hands.  Psyche let her psi power reach for Wolverine at the same time that Karma re-doubled her efforts to possess him.  With Psyche fighting for control of his feral side and Karma, his human, Wolverine roared at the invasion then collapsed to the ground.
            "Well done," Northstar said as he sped around Cyclops removing his lungs oxygen and causing him to faint as he had Phoenix.
            "Wow, we beat them," Paulie said in surprise as Spike looked at his chest cuts.
            "Glancing at best.  Either he pulled back or Paulie is even harder than expected," Spike reported to the others.
            "Oh, baby, hardness is not a problem for me," Paulie grinned but everyone could see that it was false bravado, he'd been genuinely terrified when he'd thought Wolverine was seriously injuring him.
            "I guess you should all hurry to the finish line, I'm in no shape to continue this," Phoenix said as she sat up, still physically and psychically worn out.  Nightcrawler?
            "Here," the German X-Man said in response to her telepathic call as he reappeared next to her.  He handed her Cyclops's visor and joined the Blue Team as the headed towards the marker.
                       
           
            "I've hung up my hat, old white man!  I am tired of the monsters, the ghouls, the nightmares, the lost friends and loved ones.  Good and evil have existed for far longer than your precious mutant gene.  I trust in powers whose names you can't even conceive of that life will go on without my wearing spandex to try and save it's current ungrateful, insect-like infestation!" she spat at him as soon as he entered the room.  She stood before him, beautiful, hair swirling around her jeans and denim shirt and hiking boots.  She wore a bandanna around her head. 
Of course she would, Charles thought to himself, knowing what lay under it.
            "The Reckoning is coming and you'll need allies, one of my students is a Valkyrie, another a priest and well, you've met Emma.  Alpha Flight won't be enough.  You've learned about your mystical roots, I offer knowledge of the flesh being, the mutant body, you inhabit," Charles said simply.
            "You know of the Reckoning?" Elizabeth Twoyoungmen grinned darkly.  "A dangerous old white man, you are."
            "I will stand with you.  I bid my soul to you and those of my noble students, Talisman," he added.
            "I see you realize that not every one who crosses this thresh hold is subservient to your simple harmony dream."
            Charles nodded.  "There are things bigger than even mutant and humankind."
            "Good.  Don't forget that.  I could use time away from Canada, time to learn more about how my powers work and why they work the way they do."
            "Then we're in agreement?"
            Elizabeth seeming haughtier than her young twenties, appraised him carefully, almost condescendingly then gave a short nod.  "Yes.  Actually it'll be a pleasure to be amongst those who aren't as volatile as my former teammates.  It'll be too soon before I see some of them again, especially that snit Northstar."
            "Ahh, yes, about him…", Charles started with a grin.
Tokyo, Japan:
            Anna Reese keyed into her apartment, tossing down her pocketbook in disgust.  It had seemed like a good idea to come to Japan to do her junior year of school abroad but the bartending she did at a karaoke bar was starting to wear on her.  The expensive city and the language barrier no longer seemed wild and exotic, it just seemed like constant work and feeling like an outside all of the time.  Her Japanese was better than most but not as good as a native born and people weren't shy about letting her know that.
            Anna flopped down onto her futon and raised her hand, sparkles dancing from it.
            "Hi, Mom, what's up?"
            "Nothing, honey, just figured I would check in, see how you were," her mother's flickering image said within the sparkles.
            "Work and school, school and work."
Northstar
            "Well, your reception seems quite impressive, I can see what a mess your place is," her mother chuckled.
            Anna grinned.  "Oooooh, Anan Reese able to create mutant communication links with only genetic relatives.  Yeah, I'm an applicant for the Avengers any day now, Mom!"
            "I think I prefer the International Lawyer track you're on," her mother laughed.  "You look tired and I don't want you getting worn out by this call.  Just wanted to say form me and Dad.  Love you!"
            "My love to you guys too!" Anna said and with a flicker her mother was gone.   At least her mother and father weren't freaked out by her passive mutant talent.  Then again she could only create the holo-links with them and her older brother; they didn't have to worry about her rushing off to save the world in tights.  Though Thor was a hottie, she wouldn't mind meeting him.
            She jumped up, startled as the door open and a man walked in.
            "Don't be startled, Ms. Reese I am Camus and I'd like you to meet my associate," he said casually as I f they knew one another and pulled a gun and shot her.
            A half an hour later she awoke standing on her window sill, twenty stories up.  She wanted to scream but she couldn't.  She was in only a t shirt and slacks and around her throat was a silk scarf, blowing in the wind, a scarlet "c" monogrammed on it.
            "Let's go together," a man whispered to her.
            "Ohmigod!" Anna shrieked.
            "See?  I'm fair.  I allow you to scream and I'll be with you the entire time.  Well, not the entire time…."
            Anna's terror increased as she unwillingly stepped forward and began to plummet.
The Xavier Institute:
            "What in the hell are you thinking?  Do you have any idea what that woman is?!" Dani roared at Charles, she had burst in after a shower and an introduction to Elizabeth.  Her hair was still wet and she was in sweatshirt and jeans, barefooted and clearly upset.
            "A mutant, like everyone under this roof," Charles said calmly, not looking up from his writing tablet.
            "She is more than that, Xavier!  She is----," Dani fumbled for the words her spirit-sight had shown her about the woman, "something that you and your clever mental blasts have no concept of."
            "Then it's a good thing that I have you, a Valkyrie, on hand to protect me and the others should she get out of hand," he said.
            Dani hesitated with her next words, for all of her bluster, she respected Xavier though she was beginning to suspect that his mental powers made him feel superior in a world that had long since grown far more dangerous than even he could handle.  "She has other goals besides being a good little X-Man."
            "Don't we all?" Charles smiled benignly and Dani knew that they weren't getting anywhere.  He was too stubborn and superior, had lead too many wild mares from the fields to his pasture and assumed them tamed.  Her for one.
            Dani left the office wondering if he had always been so manipulative, she'd been so young and impressionable when they'd first met but now she'd seen some of the world.  Made her own way, lived her own life.  Under this roof had walked the omnipotent to the insipid and Dani wasn't sure if she felt responsible to them, for them or a third, dark alliance, against them.  Xavier's dream of co-existent, harmony between mutants and humans was stupid prattle, her own people were evidence of what happened when you let your guard down around the majority.
            She came around a corner and Warren was standing there.
            "Woah, even I haven't heard such a tone taken with the professor since---," Warren started but she raised a hand to cut him off.  His fluttery tickling psychic rapport thoughts trying to coax her out of her anger.  She wasn't sure if he was doing it on purpose but it was damn distracting.
            "I am not some suck-up insipid little mutant flower in a tacky blue and yellow obtuse sack trying to gain his approval!" she snapped, shoved him to one side and went up the stairs.
            "Okay, the first uniforms were a little hard on the eyes," Warren shrugged as he went into the professor's office.  "Charles, next time could you make a limit on how many hotheads you recruit at once?   The current class looks like a street gang."
            "Dani, you mean?" Charles said casually then looked closer at Warren, he was standing with the same bearing Dani had at him only a few minutes ago.  Their rapport, as expected was influencing both.  Charles was pleased, the two needed the balance the other could provide.
Talisman
            "Elizabeth cursed out Northstar in two languages when she saw him which got Paulie to suggesting several words that caused Northstar to rightfully go for his throat.  Emma put an end to the fight with one of her trademark icy barbs but we can't count on that all the time."
            "Tell me, Warren, what do you really think?  Honestly, if I had a mission who would you lead into the thick of it, right now.  Say six of them?"
            "Dani, Northstar, Bobby, Kurt, Magma and Shan or Elizabeth depending upon the power quotient we were up against.  Why?"
            "It's time to move the Blue Team into it's headquarters and onto it's first mission," Charles said calmly.  "Though you may want to make some revisions to that list initially upon further explanation."

  
         
Sanctuary, Australia:
Johanna Cargill

Things had changed.
            Johanna Cargill alias Frenzy formerly Ambassador of Genosha, former member of the Acolytes, personal servants to Magneto, had fallen on hard times.  After betraying Magneto by leading the X-Men into Genosha to oppose him, she'd been persona non grata on the isle nation.  Which had suited her fine.  Well, not fine, she assumed that her credentials would allow her to parlay into a nice government position in the USA.  Unfortunately she was considered a rogue agent, in the best of times there and without Genoshan national sponsorship, she was still wanted on questioning for several crimes she had committed while a member of the Alliance of Evil, lead by Apocalypse.  Charles Xavier had extended an invitation to her to join his X-Men, his teaching staff but Johanna had wanted some time to regroup her thoughts.  It hadn't escaped her notice that she was constantly jumping from mutant patriarchal figure to another.  With some money in both legal and illegal savings she'd taken a taken a literal slow boat to China.  She knew she'd end up back in the mutant game somehow but she wanted some time to sort out who she was---villain or hero?
            Then while relaxing in her stateroom with the latest Walter Mosley novel, the broadcasts of Genosha being razed had come onto her television.  She watched in horror as the entire island nation was obliterated and though she cried for dozens of friends she knew surely perished, she was grateful to be alive.  Her past literally obliterated she'd wandered around the Orient for months, spending money from Genoshan bank accounts that as one of the few living ex-cabinet members she knew about.  Millions were hers now, and securely under her name and control, but she was both bored and scared.  Frightened foremost that some mutant hunting Sentinels would pop up for her and bored at the prospect of living a life of leisure for the rest of her days.  Something about tangling, stretching her mutant muscles made her feel alive.  Reluctantly, she'd chosen the lesser of all the evils she'd been beholden to and called Charles Xavier.
            And that was how she'd ended up in the Australian outback at a ghost town his X-Men had once used as a base half ass repairing it and getting the computer systems up and running.  He had cryptically promised her that he had plans to annex the base.  Fully stocked with food and living supplies, Joanna had poured her frustrations and fears into repairing the town and sitting on the porch of the storefront she'd converted into an apartment for herself, she had to admit it had been good therapy.  It was close to a hundred mile drive to the nearest city and she'd spent the long days in silence except for music she'd broadcast throughout the town's high end communication system.  Her mutant muscles were even tired from starting an irrigation system off of a nearby underground stream.
            Xavier had astrally visited her two weeks ago with the announcement that other X-Men would be arriving soon.  There was the unspoken suggestion that she could stay or leave and so far Johanna had yet to pack.  She liked the town she'd dubbed Sanctuary and even the concept of maybe toying with being an X-Man when the team arrived.
            The sonic boom of an advanced aircraft above her startled her from her thoughts and she shielded her eyes against the sun's unrelenting glare to watch as the ship landed on the other side of the town.  She debated just linking into the comm system and greeting the X-Men that way but if she was going to eat humble pie she would rather it happened sooner and in person, than later.  Xavier would've informed them of her being the town's caretaker though it didn't make any sense why he hadn't at least phoned her to let her know that his precious team would be arriving today.
            Johanna went inside and quickly slipped on the backless and sleeveless bodysuit she'd been wearing during her work.  It was the traditional X uniform without all the garish yellow parts and the unstable molecules were resistant enough for the hard work she'd been doing.  As an afterthought she put on the X moniker belt so that they would know she came ready to be a part of their group.  How she felt about that, she wasn't sure yet.  She'd been so many different kinds of Frenzy in such a short time that she felt another change coming on.  Super villain, ambassador, Frenzy had them all covered.
            It was a quick walk to where the sleek green air ship was landed and Frenzy approached confidently, trying to remember to smile when meeting new people who were going to be her teammates and "friends".  The last time they'd crossed paths, they'd parted as allies, hopefully that good will still existed.
            The side bay door slowly opened and as she approached it the first thing she noticed was the cool rush of air, the town lacked central air conditioning so she hadn't felt it in awhile.  She smiled at the feeling until the rank stench an instant later made her recoil.
            "What the hell----?" she grunted and then her eyes adjusted to those coming down the landing ramp.
            They were most assuredly not X-Men and her life was now officially in peril.
            "Next time you have a gripe, say it to my face," Elizabeth said to Dani as she rounded the corner.
            Dani paused, she wanted to curse the little twit out but she knew what the woman was, represented and her spirit respected that.  "My gripe isn't you.  I know you're not a bad person, it's the casualness with which Charles messes with people, changes their lives.  You have a purpose, a destiny, some of it I see emanating off of you.  I'm just not convinced that being an X-Man is the best use for you," Dani explained calmly as the two walked down the hallway to her room.
            "My destiny?  What would you know of that?" Elizabeth chuckled.  "I don't even know it.  It's all myth and lore and superstition.  I go with the flow personally."
            "I have the spirit sight of a Valkyrie.  I can recognize you for what you are.  And though we're from different tribes, your people's legends aren't unknown to me, "Dani explained, trying not to look directly at Talisman.  Her first gaze of her had revealed wisps of images of animals and demons and Archangels in such a mish mash that she'd kept her mouth shut until she calm herself down with a shower.
            "Charles wants a strong Blue Team, I gather.  He knows that there are many storms coming both mystical and mutant related," Elizabeth said neutrally, she'd been unaware that Dani had been a Valkyrie, which could definitely upset her plans.
            Dani stopped at her bedroom door and looked directly at Elizabeth's face, there was something in her comment which made Dani nervous.  As if she'd just moved a rock that a rattlesnake was hiding under.  And the woman's cool hazel eyes looking at Dani now made her feel like she was being given a warning in some way.
            "Fair enough," Dani mumbled.  "Welcome, Talisman."  She quickly went into her room and closed the door solidly behind her.
Magma
            "Feels like old times, eh?" Paulie said to Northstar as the two sat in the kitchen.
            "What do you mean?" Jean-Paul said.
            "Me and you in costume?  X-Men?" Paulie smirked.
            "Hmm?" Jean-Paul smiled as with a burst of speed, in the blink of an eye was in slacks and sweater.  "Thank you for reminding me to change."
            "Woah," Paulie said impressed.  "You ever considered a life of crime?  You'd make a great thief!"
            "I have plenty of lucre from my ski career and endorsements.  Though being outted as both a mutant and gay has considerably lessened the personal appearance requests."
            "I bet they have.  So what brought you back to this nuthouse?"
            "I----I want to do more than I accomplished with Alpha Flight.  There were too many personal connections with them, too many things that made it a chore to be a member there.  Here, I am pointedly welcomed and valued.  It's a change I should've made years ago.  I believe that Xavier's will allow me to accomplish things," Jean-Paul said after a moment's pause, he hadn't intended to speak so intimately to Paulie but he could see that his fellow X-Man, though often brash, was genuinely trying to be his friend.  "And you?"
            "On the lamb from the cops.  What better place to disappear, huh?  Xavier says I make things right as an X-Man and he'll make things right with the cops.  He's got lawyers on it already.  Besides plenty of babes here to be tasted of.  Not your kind of babes, my kind," Paulie winked as Amara came into the kitchen.
            "Don't be so sure," Jean-Paul smiled and Paulie turned up his face in disgust then refocused his attention on Amara as she opened one of the large refrigerators.
            "So tell me, pretty lady--------."
            Amara calmly turned around, her eyes flashing flames.  "Don't, little man."
            There was silence in the kitchen as she made herself a salad then left.
            "That went well," Jean-Paul snickered.
            "Yeah, I thought so too," Paulie laughed.
            The eleven X-Men of the Blue Team sat around the conference room table in the Situations room, Xavier at the head of the table, a schematic of the Sanctuary town on the large screen behind him.
            "…….as you can all see this will be quite the undertaking, which is why your numbers are so much greater than the Gold Team or any other teams.  It will take several of you on revolving duty to maintain the town itself and prepare it as a training facility for summer classes of the students here at the Institute.  A summer camp for the classes, if you will," Xavier explained calmly.
            "Does this Cargill woman know that's what she's been prepping the town for?" Jean-Paul asked.
            "She knows that it is to be an X-Men operating base but with the massive influx of students here at the Institute, I feel it would be prudent to establish a second base.  The attack upon Genosha is evident that a large residence for mutants is a prime target.  The mutant known as Gateway will act as transit along with the Blue Team Blackbird.  This town also affords a bit more privacy than the Institute as well as accommodations and ample room initially for all eleven of you."
            Archangel spoke up, a data pad in his hand.  "Charles and I estimate that with a minimum of four of us overseeing the base itself, we should have adequate dorms prepared for students in six months."
            "So now we're in the construction business.  This I am familiar with!" Paulie smirked and the others laughed easily.
            Dani looked at the schematics, including a highlighted stable section for her steed.  "How does the Australian government feel about this?"
            Shan answered.  "They aren't thrilled but they are starting to have a burgeoning mutant presence on their continent and would appreciate our unofficial assistance from time to time.  It's a perfect space and the Professor and Warren have been able to obtain ownership of the land.  It's advanced computer facilities make it comparable to the mansion."
            Bobby piped.  "On the other side of the planet!  And the desert isn't exactly a place where sexy icemen thrive."
            Amara smiled.  "I on the other hand will flourish there and be able to use my terraforming abilities to their maximum without fear of harming others."
            Charles smiled, "Yes, Amara, that was one of our plans.  Your abilities will cut down the construction time ten fold for the facility we have in mind."
            "I do like the looks of this medical facility, though we won't be putting it to much use, hopefully," Cecilia said looking at a schematic on her data pad.
Karma
            "This meeting is twofold.  There's a mutant presence in Tokyo which the X-Men should investigate.  The Blue Team has the capacity to split itself amongst many missions, and this will prove to be that time.  Half of you will stop off in Japan while the rest continue on to Australia.  This brings us to the issue of field leaders.  Kurt has been working on the designs of Sanctuary for several weeks now so it's best that he lead the initial group there and Warren, the group to Japan.  I hate to leave you all with this on such short notice but your pads have been up linked and I now have a meeting with the Gold Team to attend to.  Thank you all for accepting my invitation to join the X-Men in this international endeavor and I look forward to visiting Sanctuary at some point to see how you're coming along."
            With a polite nod, Charles calmly got up and left the room.
            Warren looked around at the Blue Team and smiled.  "We're on our own from here."
            "Do you think this Sanctuary is a good idea, middle of the bleeding desert?" Chamber asked.
            "The way we X-Men trash the surrounding vicinity, I think it's the best idea to come out of here in a long time," Dani said.  "But I'm a mountain girl myself, I think it's all of you raised in the city who will have the most trouble adjusting."
            "Well, I've been to Australia several times and I enjoy it," Jean-Paul said, his flight making anywhere in the world an easy transport for him.
            "You'll be on my team for this mutant presence in Tokyo, Northstar," Warren interjected.  "Dani, Paulie, Amara and Bobby.  The rest of you will take the Blackbird and all of our stuff down there."
            "Wings, any particular reason for the divvying up along those lines?" Dani asked and Warren grinned at her but a leak from him through their psychic rapport told her he was irritated by the questioning of his authority.
            Why yes, Psyche," he said sarcastically, the rest of us will be going to a Hellfire Club party and I have membership but Nightcrawler and Chamber's physical appearances won't pass butter, Cecilia and Shan have computer and organization skills to get Sanctuary up and running and as there is no mystical angle to this mutant, Talisman isn't as needed.  Any other questions?"
            "Ouch," Paulie muttered.  "The tension between the two of them can only be worked out in one wayyyyyyyyyy……."
            "Shut up, Paulie," Cecilia  snapped.  "Thank goodness you'll be a continent away."
            "Yes, lucky for you, not the rest of us," Jean-Paul muttered.
            "Why are we going to a Hellfire Club gala?" Amara asked, the thought of running into the Club's Black Queen, Selene paramount in her mind.  They had a score to settle.
            "Seems there's a mutant serial killer targeting them.  Charles got word of it through his network.  As the Hellfire Club isn't officially "out" as having mutants, we'll be providing pseudo-security for them," Warren explained.
"We're helping the Hellfire Club?' Dani balked.  "Is there anyone we're not in bed with these days?"           
The whole conference room went silent and Dani felt a mirthful feeling through her rapport with Warren as she blushed uncontrollably realizing what a huge pun she'd just tossed out into the room.
            "Too easy," Paulie said. "I don't do the easy ones."

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