Author: Pat Phillips
Summary: In this very dark AU, a powerful
conspiracy is not merely persecuting
mutants -- it's slaughtering them.
Normal humans are being treated almost
Rating & characters:
Jean, OC(Joe), Raven, Erik
With the exception of Joe Keene, I don't
own any of these characters. Instead,
they are the property of Marvel Comics.
As a firm believer in property rights,
it's only reasonable that I specify that
my use of these characters should in no
way be interpreted as a threat to Marvel's
ownership of them.
All of my fan fiction, including this story,
is a not-for-profit venture. After all, when
you get down to it, who would pay for this
X-V (Part I)
Joe had definitely picked a beautiful day to run away from home. It
was early spring, and the temperature was very mild. Joe needed the
jacket he was wearing, but not by much. That was good, since there
was a good possibility he'd be sleeping outside until he could get a
It was getting towards evening when an elderly couple dropped Joe off
at a truckstop just south of Cheyenne. They were at the junction of
I-25 and I-80. The older folks were heading eastwards towards
Omaha. Joe was planning on going south to Denver.
At the truckstop, Joe took care of a few details for the people who'd
given him a ride. He cleaned their windows, checked the oil, and
pumped gas for them. Really, he was pretty grateful. Wyoming was an
old-fashioned part of the country, but not so old-fashioned that a
young man hiking by the side of the highway could reasonably expect
to be given a ride by a pair of old folks.
Mr. Means helped his wife back into his truck -- she was barely able
to get around with a walker. Then he held out his hand to Joe. They
"Thank you for the ride, Mr. Means."
"You're welcome, Joe," said the older man. Then, after a slight
hesitation, "Are you sure about what you're doing?"
Joe nodded, "Yes, sir. I'll spend a week or two in Denver, seeing
the sights. Then join the Army. I'll be fine."
Mr. Means squinted at Joe for a long moment. Then he asked
quietly, "Joe, how old are you?"
"Eighteen, sir. I just turned a few days back." The truth was that
Joe was only sixteen. He didn't like the idea of lying to Mr. Means -
- or to anyone for that matter. But it was necessary.
The older man nodded slowly, obviously not sure about Joe's answer.
Then he handed Joe a folded piece of paper. The boy automatically
"That's our phone-number back in Lander, Joe. We'll be back there in
a week. If things don't work out for you in Denver -- say you have
some trouble getting into the Army -- then I want you to give me a
call. I'll be happy to come to Denver and give you a ride back... a
ride to wherever you need to go."
Joe was surprised and not sure what to say, "Thank you, sir."
Mr. Means glanced back at his car. His wife was watching the old man
and the boy with concern in her eyes.
"We've got to get going Joe. Promise me that you'll call if things
don't work out."
"Yes, sir," answered Joe. Lying was getting easier. He'd been
telling nothing but lies for the last few days.
Joe waved goodbye as the Means' ancient pickup truck pulled away.
Mrs. Means waved back.
Hefting his backpack over one shoulder, Joe started walking towards
the restaurant. He'd ask around and see if a trucker heading south
would mind some company. Joe knew he would have to be careful -- his
father was a trucker and he wouldn't want to meet up with someone who
knew his dad.
He'd have to tell more lies.
He had a plan. Joe had helped-out his grandfather at the family
ranch many times. He was both good with animals and a hard worker.
When he got to Denver, he would check with the veterinarians, seeing
if they needed a minimum-wage cage-cleaner and roustabout. If he
could pay the bills for a while with that, then the Army would be an
option when he finally turned eighteen.
Joe knew that the plan was pretty weak. But at least it was
Out of curiousity, Joe opened the double-folded piece of paper that
Mr. Means had given him. To his surprise, there was a badly worn
twenty dollar bill inside. Joe stopped in mid-stride. Mr. Means was
a retired ranch-hand with next to no education. He and his wife
could barely afford this trip to see their newest great-grandchild.
There was no way they could afford to be giving him twenty dollars.
But they were gone. There was no way to give the money back.
Joe cursed softly and tucked the bill into his wallet. He was now
all the way up to twenty-eight dollars and fifty-two cents. After a
moment's thought, he put the phone-number in his wallet as well. He
wouldn't be calling Mr. Means. But someday he'd be able to pay him
From Joe's point of view, the truckstop was huge. He came from a
small town of less than a hundred inhabitants -- and there were
easily more people in the truckstop than lived in all of Indian
Springs. Joe stood inside the front door, feeling more than a little
overwhelmed and lost.
His best bet would be to find where the trucker's hung out and find
somebody talkative. The smell of cooking from the restaurant made
Joe's stomach rumble. He sternly told himself to wait.
Then Joe spotted the three men.
They were city fellows dressed in suits, standing by the coffee
pots. He didn't like the way they were staring at him. And once
they noticed that Joe was looking back, they all glanced away.
Joe marked them as potential trouble.
"Excuse me," said the woman.
Joe blinked in surprise. She was talking to him.
"Yes, ma'am?" Joe replied, trying not to stare. The woman was knock-
down gorgeous. Medium-length, dark-red hair. An intelligent face
with warm, alert eyes. And a body that was athletic, but definitely
curved in all the right places. Joe estimated that she was in her
"I'm having trouble with my car," she said with a devastating
smile. "I was wondering if you would give me a hand?"
Both common courtesy and teenage hormones demanded that Joe help. He
followed her outside.
"What's the problem?" he asked as they approached her car. Joe's
eyebrows rose as he noticed that it was an expensive foreign sports
car -- a model he'd only seen on TV before that moment. It was
parked a fair distance away from any other vehicles in the parking
"Well, you're going to laugh, but I think one of my brake lights
isn't working. I was almost rear-ended today. I was hoping you
could watch while I tested them."
Joe told himself to stop bringing up mental images that involved this
"Sure!" he replied.
Both lights were working fine. The woman thanked Joe for his help.
"I guess the problem is that other people just aren't looking for
lights like they should. I had two incidents in a row where people
didn't seem to notice until the last second that I was slowing down."
"Sorry to hear that. Say, where are you headed?"
"I'm going that way myself. Would you mind a passenger?"
She didn't hesitate, "Sure. I'd enjoy the company."
"But we've got to go right now. I'm running a little late," she
Joe shrugged, "Hey, no problem."
They climbed into her vehicle and she started it. Joe took a last
glance towards the truckstop.
The three men who had been staring at him inside the truckstop were
now outside and standing around a small SUV. They were watching the
sports car as it left the parking lot.
What the hell was their problem?
"My name is Jean Grey," said the woman as she expertly shifted gears.
"Pleased to meet you. Mine is Joe Keene."
Jean stole a glance at the boy in her passenger seat.
Joe was tall for his age, almost six foot tall. He was strongly-
built and had black hair and grey eyes. His coloring was dark --
thanks both to a distant Indian ancestor on his father's side of the
family and a young lifetime of summers spent mostly outdoors. His
clothing was rugged and a little worn around the edges. He wouldn't
attract a second glance in rural/small-town Wyoming. But without
quite leaving his home state, he was already beginning to look a
little out of place.
"Why are you going to Denver, Joe?"
He hesitated, "I'm going to visit for a while. Maybe look for work."
Jean nodded to herself. She could tell that the boy didn't like to
lie. He was keeping his responses very general to avoid that.
"Do you have any friends in Denver?"
"Call me Jean. There will be time enough for 'ma'am' when I'm an old
Joe chuckled at the odd thought of this beautiful woman as a
spinster, "You bet."
Jean glanced at the rear-view mirror as she asked, "Where are you
"A little town called Indian Springs. It's northwest of here."
"Do you have family there?"
Joe hesitated before answering, "Yes."
Jean could feel the momentary flash of pain. Another outcast.
Sometimes they were even younger than Joe.
"Do you have a girl?"
"Not any more." Joe's voice was more bitter than he intended. You
didn't have to be a telepath to know that there was something painful
behind his words.
Jean glanced in the rear-view mirror again.
They were definitely being followed. It was the three men from the
Inside the SUV, the two men who weren't driving checked their
weapons. The driver was making a cell-phone call, carefully giving
the license plate number and a description of Jean's car.
The man in the back seat put his automatic pistol back into his
shoulder holster. Then he checked to make sure that the shotgun was
A car from the Colorado State Patrol pulled behind Jean's car with
his lights flashing.
Jean took her time pulling over, mentally weighing the situation.
This seemed way too public for any kind of trouble. The amount of
traffic on this part of I-29 was considerable. And it was still
daylight -- although not for long. Surely they wouldn't try anything
She noticed that Joe was now wearing a ballcap that he had pulled out
of his backpack. He pulled it low, so that when he tipped it
downwards, the brim would conceal his eyes. It wasn't a bad
improvisation under normal circumstances. But it would probably
actually attract the attention of any competent police officer.
Jean read the mind of the patrolman as he walked towards them. He
had been ordered to stop them, keep them busy, and wait for backup
from a State Patrol plain-clothes team. He was puzzled and a little
irritated at the lack of information. He was also completely
innocent -- just a cop doing his job.
"Can I see your license and registration, ma'am? I clocked you going
ten miles an hour over the speed limit."
Jean handed him her identification.
The patrolman stared at it in surprise. You didn't often see ID for
a CIA agent.
"This is a matter of national security, officer. Please let us go,"
Jean said crisply. Then she leaned into the patrolman's mind,
willing him to give in to her demand.
Joe stared in surprise.
The patrolman stood frozen in indecision. If she had been granted
just a few more seconds, Jean would have been able to influence him
sufficiently to let them escape.
But they ran out of time.
The SUV pulled off the road, directly in front of Jean's car. In
between the patrol car parked just behind them and the car in front,
they were trapped.
"Joe, get down!" Jean screamed. Three armed men were getting out of
the SUV. They were projecting thoughts that indicated that they had
every intention of murdering both of them.
Jean telepathically struck the patrolman, pushing hard to shut down
his higher thought processes. She was partially successful. The
officer would have collapsed, but Jean used her telekinesis to hold
him upright as she pulled his handgun from his holster with her left
She released the patrolman and he fell to the ground. Then, without
hesitating, she leaned out her open window and used her off hand to
empty the automatic pistol into the first man coming out of the SUV.
He screamed and was slammed back against the vehicle as he absorbed a
Joe bailed out of Jean's car just before a shotgun blast exploded the
Joe hit the ground and stayed down. His ears were ringing from all
the gunfire. Looking underneath Jean's car, he could see the
collapsed patrolman on the far side of vehicle. Joe began crawling
backwards, keeping an eye in front of him as his hands frantically
scrabbled at the loose broken rock that overlay the ground just off
the shoulder of the road.
One of the men came around the front of Jean's car. He was the one
with the shotgun. He grinned when he saw Joe.
He said something that Joe couldn't make out because of the ringing
in his ears. Then he leveled the shotgun.
He shouldn't have wasted that precious second. Just before the
gunslinger pulled the trigger, Joe's frantically digging hands
finally got through the crushed gravel and found the soil and native
rock of the land.
There was a timeless disconnect from reality that only Joe could
feel. His vision darkened and the nature of sound changed. The
local spirits of the earth paused their slow, rolling, millenia-long
conversation and immediately gave Joe what was rightfully his.
Joe changed just before the shotgun roared. He changed into
something manlike, but definitely not human. The pellets from the
shotgun blast bounced harmlessly off him. The stony figure that was
now Joe climbed to his feet and strode relentlessly forward.
The man with the shotgun screamed and fired again. The second blast
had no effect either. And then Joe was on him and the screaming
became animal-like as bones began to break and splinter.
Jean had barely managed to duck underneath the dash of her car in
time. If she had been a split-second slower...
Then the man with the shotgun began screaming. It was so horrible
that Jean almost froze.
She psionically attacked the last gunman. Dazed, he staggered
backwards. Then Jean popped-up in her seat. Fragments of safety
glass from the shattered windshield that had been covering her body
sprayed in all directions. The small .45 automatic that Jean kept
under her seat was clutched in both of her hands.
Killing the man she had just telepathically blasted was more of an
execution than self-defense. But that didn't make Jean pause even
The man Joe had grabbed was mercifully dead by then.
Jean climbed out of the car, more shards of broken safety glass
spilling from her hair and clothing.
Insanely, traffic continued to whiz by on the Interstate. From
inside the passing vehicles, faces stared at the carnage on the
shoulder of the road.
And for a long second, Jean Grey considered the boy she had picked up
back at the truckstop.
He was gone. In Joe's place, wearing Joe's clothes, was a manlike
entity of reddish stone. Patches of lichen and craggy protrusions of
jagged rock spotted his surface. His clothing was torn and ripped in
spots, and he was covered with the blood of the man he had crushed to
Joe dropped the man he had killed. The body hit the ground with a
squelching sound. Jean had seen a lot of hard things during her
eight years in the CIA, but she couldn't quite bear to look at the
misshappen body laying at Joe's feet.
Jean cursed and strode for the SUV. It's engine was still running.
With any luck, they would be able to get to the next exit without
"Joe, we have to leave," she said urgently -- not even sure if he
could hear in the same way as normal people.
The entire upper portion of the stony figure bobbed in what passed
for a nod. Joe began slowly turning back to normal as he retrieved
his backpack and jacket from the sportscar. By the time he got into
the SUV, he was almost entirely back to human.
They drove to the nearest exit. By then, night had fallen. Then
they took a series of backroads until Jean found an isolated spot
where they could abandon the SUV. The vehicle would eventually be
found, but not immediately.
Then she and Joe were walking down the side of a two-lane road. Joe
hadn't said a thing since the fight.
Jean reached out and took the boy's hand in her own. Joe still said
nothing and Jean was silent as well. She knew that Joe came from a
part of the world where men and boys were trained not to cry. But he
was taking advantage of the dark to bend that rule.
He gripped Jean's hand very hard. She ignored the sticky, drying
blood that covered his hand. He was ignoring the itchy residue of
broken safety glass on hers.
Jean waited until the time was right.
"They would have killed us, Joe. You did the right thing," she said
"Who were they?" Joe replied after a long wait.
"Somebody who hates our kind. They spotted you back at the
truckstop. I was hoping I would be able to get you away from them
without anyone getting hurt."
"But who were they?"
Jean shook her head, "They were thugs and traitors to the entire
human race -- human and mutant alike. And they don't warrant a split-
second of sympathy or regrets from you or anyone else. Joe, I know
this is asking a lot. But can you please trust me for just a while
longer? I promise to explain as much as I can once we have the
"You said 'our kind', are you a mutant too?"
They walked a hundred more yards while Joe absorbed that.
"Where are we going?" asked Joe.
"I've sent a signal for someone to pick us up. They'll meet us at a
road junction that's a mile up the road."
They hid in a small stand of trees just off the road junction. Two
State Patrol cars went through the junction in the half-hour they
It was cooling off quickly. Joe had long since put his jacket back
on. When he noticed that Jean was shivering, he pulled a sweatshirt
out of his pack and handed it to her. She accepted it gratefully.
"You're a hell of a shot," said Joe. "Is that your mutant power?"
Jean smiled, "No. The CIA taught me how to shoot. Actually, I'm a
telepath and a telekinetic. But I'm a lot better at telepathy than
"Please don't be embarrassed, Joe. Every straight guy I meet thinks
the same sort of things you do. I'm used to that by now. And thank
you for bothering to notice my face and eyes. The typical man
doesn't ever get above my chest."
Eventually, a sedan pulled up to the corner and waited at the stop
sign, it's engine idling.
"That's our ride, Joe."
They ran from the trees to the car. Jean got in the front while Joe
took the back.
The driver was a young girl, very pretty and blonde, apparently only
a few years older than Joe.
"What the hell happened?" snapped the girl.
"Something unexpected," replied Jean. "I bumped into this young
fellow. He's just newly emerged. Unfortunately, three ghouls also
spotted him. They were going to kill him."
"We're not supposed to be picking up strays. It's a security
problem. The Professor is pissed."
"That's too bad," said Jean with a distinct lack of concern in her
Jean looked back at Joe, "Joe, this is Raven."
"Howdy," said Joe.
"Fuck you, hick," hissed the girl.
"No thanks. Maybe later. I don't happen to have a condom with me,"
replied Joe irritably.
The driver blinked in surprise. Jean looked at Joe in amazement.
Then she burst out laughing.
They got back on the Interstate.
"We're headed north," said Joe.
"Hey, he can read a sign," growled Raven.
"I have my reasons for leaving Wyoming," Joe said to Jean, ignoring
the younger girl.
"We have a safe place in Wyoming, Joe. A school. There are others
there like you."
Joe thought that over. It wasn't as if he could simply demand to be
let out of the car. The police probably had a description of him.
And on the first day after he'd left home, three gunmen had promptly
appeared out of nowhere and tried to kill him. That definitely
suggested that maybe he shouldn't be on his own.
Also, the thought of being with other people who were the same as him
was appealing in a way he hadn't imagined even just a few minutes ago.
He leaned back with a sigh. Suddenly, Joe was exhausted. He wanted
to sleep, but he knew that if he tried, he was far too wound up to
actually doze off.
"Are you a runaway, Joe?" asked Jean. She already knew the answer to
that question, but it was better to get Joe to talk about it as soon
"Why did you leave home?"
Joe shrugged, "I got into a fight with another guy. He knocked me
down and I changed into... into what you saw me turn into. A good
chunk of the town saw it happen. They didn't like what they saw. I
tried sticking it out. But then things started getting weird.
People started avoiding me. My brother got beat up. And then some
jackass tried to burn my folks' house down. That's when I figured
that I'd better leave home."
Neither Jean or Raven had anything to say. The truth was, they'd
heard it all before.
It was early in the morning when they drove through the gates of the
school. It was located about half an hour's drive north of Cheyenne.
The three of them got out of the car. The temperature had dropped to
the high thirties and it was a beautiful, cloudless, moonless night.
The Milky Way was clearly visible.
Joe shut his car door and glanced at the two women -- and blinked in
Raven was no longer a pretty teenager. Now, she was a six-foot tall
woman with blue skin, oddly shaded red hair, and angry yellow eyes
that were watching him closely. And except for a light,
strategically-placed dusting of fine scales, she was naked.
She was obviously waiting to see how Joe would react to her
transformation. Her face wore an amused expression.
Unfortunately for Raven, Joe's strangeness meter had been pegged much
earlier that day. Removing his jacket, Joe tossed it at her. Raven
was surprised, but still managed to catch it in mid-air.
Raven noted with interest the strange shredding of Joe's shirt. It
looked almost as if he had been hit by a shotgun.
"Don't you have enough damn sense to bring a coat on a night like
tonight?" Joe growled at her, then he turned to follow Jean.
Unseen by anyone else, a slight smile flickered over Raven's face.
But she didn't put on the jacket. Cold didn't effect her as much as
it did other people.
They walked towards the main building. The school was an old ranch
that had been recently renovated. Looking around, Joe felt more than
a touch of home-sickness for his grandfather's ranch.
On the porch of the main building, backlit by a single light bulb, a
seated figure was waiting for them.
As the three of them approached the porch, the man rose to his feet.
He was elderly, yet looked quite strong. His hair was pure white in
color and his eyes a striking shade of blue.
"Professor, this young man is named Joe Keene," introduced Jean.
The older man extended his hand and Joe accepted it automatically.
"A pleasure to meet you, Joseph," said the older man in an accented,
cultured voice. "My name is Erik Lensherr. I am the headmaster of