Megan Gwinn watched Clive Ulney as he lazily floated across the roof
of the Institute. His moves seemed effortless as he simply glided
across the length of the building, only to fall quickly as he
cleared the roof.
Megan's breath caught in her throat as she watched him fall, and
then let out in a sigh of relief as he caught himself only a couple
feet from the ground, to float on as if nothing had happened.
Then she saw the other girl, Melody, as she flew out of one of the
second floor windows to join Clive. Megan stopped in her tracks,
for she herself was about to take to the air and join him. She
wanted to talk to him a bit, but had no clue what she'd talk to him
about once she caught up with him.
Megan sighed and settled back into the chair she was sitting in, and
watched the pair float out of sight. She felt worthless right about
now. Too scared to even approach Clive, even though she thought
about him all the time.
"Feeling a bit left out, are you?" a voice came from behind her, and
she turned to see Sydney Greene, standing behind her. God, but he
was huge, she thought. At least six-five, and built like Colossus,
and maybe as strong.
Megan tried to come up with something to say, anything to get
Sydney's attention diverted from her real problem, but he wasn't
having any of it.
"You like him," he said.
Megan turned away. "I don't see where it's any of your business,"
"You're right. It's not." Sydney said, not moving. "But when
you're obviously wasting your time pining for the guy, and then not
taking advantage of the chances you get, it tends to irk me a bit."
"Like I said," Megan repeated. "I don't see where it's-"
"Yeah, yeah. Any of my business," Sydney finished for
her. "Listen. Why don't you just go and tell him how you feel
about him? Even if he's not interested, it'll still make you feel a
lot better." He turned to leave, and said something else that Megan
would remember. "I wish I'd done it when I had my chance."
Callie Mastin smiled as her father handed her another gift. It
wasn't her birthday or anything like that, but this day would go
down as one of the special ones in her life. It was the day she had
earned her father's respect.
Of course, Jack Mastin always respected her, and had told her as
much several times. Even Jean Summers, sitting nearby, had told
Callie as much. But the light in Jean's eyes as she watched Callie
open her next gift was something to behold.
Callie pulled off the giftwrapping and held aloft the pair of staves
that Jack had just made for her a few days prior. As Callie had
improved with the longbow that had long been her trademark, Jack had
brought in other melee weapons, as had been Callie's request long
ago (1), and had been teaching her how to use them. The staves
Callie now held were based on the designs of the former Avenger
Mockingbird, who had died long ago and recently returned to life
(how did that happen?) (2). The staves could be joined to form a
quarterstaff or broken to form shorter staves, or joined by a small
chain to form nunchaku. Callie had the staves she wanted now, and
strapped the leather holster on her hip, sliding the staves into
their new home.
"A perfect fit," Jean Summers remarked.
Callie nodded, hugging Jack. "Thank you so much," she said.
Jack held her for a moment, and then pulled away, looking into her
clear green eyes. "Don't thank me," he said. "You do what's right
always. Stick to your friends like glue, and you'll do fine. Learn
all you can, because you'll someday need all your knowledge and
courage to make it through the trials coming our way."
Just then, both Mastin and Jean caught the Professor's telepathic
call. "We're on our way," Jean said, and both of them rose and
left, making room as they passed for Cessily Mastin as she entered.
Mastin looked at his adopted daughter and smiled as he passed her,
and a few seconds later, the only two occupants in the room were two
adopted sisters who had never spoken to each other.
Julian Keller used his telekinetic powers to carry the medical
equipment as he followed Melissa Myers toward the front gate of the
mansion. Apparently, Colossus, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler were en
route back to the school with a new student who had nearly been
killed by some human bigots. (3)
Julian saw the gathered students as they surrounded the newcomer,
and noticed Bret Bohannan as he entered the gate after everyone had
approached the new girl. Julian noticed that Bohannan was actively
trying to avoid any attention, but had failed miserably, as Mister
Mastin and Professor Xavier both approached him.
"Julian," Melissa called to him. "Over here." She was standing
next to the young woman, who looked positively weird to Julian.
What with all those mouths on her neck and all.
Julian brought the supplies over to Melissa and watched as she
expertly hooked the new girl up to a couple of machines. "Don't
worry, young lady," Melissa said. "These are only to do some basic
tests. We're going to make sure that you're healthy enough to walk
around, and then we'll get you some food. You must be tired from
all the traveling you've done."
The girl nodded, looking over her shoulder at Bohannan, who was now
speaking with Professor Xavier, Mister Mastin, and Mister Summers.
Julian followed her gaze, and would have loved to be a fly on the
wall for that conversation, since he knew that Mastin and Xavier
seemed to disagree on virtually everything.
Melissa checked the readouts and smiled. "It seems that you managed
to escape any real injury out there," she said. "Let's get an IV in
you to get you hydrated and then we'll get you fed and settled in.
How's that sound?"
The girl turned to look at her, smiled and nodded. As they left,
the girl's eyes met Julian's and she smiled at him.
Julian returned the smile, even though all those extra mouths made
him want to laugh at her. Freak.
"So we've been sisters now for almost three months and we have yet
to speak to each other," Cessily said, somewhat uncomfortably as she
sat down next to Callie.
Callie nodded. "We've never had anything in common to speak to each
other about," she replied. "You have always ran with that Keller
guy, and I can't stand him."
Cessily laughed. "He can get on a person's nerves rather quickly,"
she said. "But that doesn't change our situation. Dad's been
wanting us to start at least acting cordial to each other, and we
haven't found anything to talk about, so I figured we at least
needed to try to find some common ground."
Callie nodded, and fired the opening salvo. "Are you angry because
he adopted me?" she asked, and Cessily smiled.
"You don't waste words, do you?" Cessily asked. "I'll be honest.
I've always been an only child, and the idea of having a new dad was
a big step for me. Now, having a sister on top of that is beyond
anything I've experienced before."
"But you have Amber," Callie said.
"She's not my sister," Cessily countered.
Callie smiled. "You certainly treat her like a little sister," she
said. "You two have so much in common that she would have been a
far better choice than me if dad was adopting for that reason."
"Amber's not interested, though," Cessily said. "She and I have
very similar powers, yes, but she wants nothing to do with dad."
"And that similarity draws you two together," Callie said. "Not a
big deal. You've been very good for Amber. Everybody knows it."
"No they don't," Cessily said.
"Yes, they do," Callie countered. "I heard dad talking to the
Professor about it. Professor Xavier said that Amber has progressed
so far so fast since you came here. It's because of you that she's
doing so well."
Cessily nodded, and then changed the subject.
"What about you?" Cessily asked. "Do you feel any jealousy toward
Later that day, the rec room
Twilight had just had a conversation with Crimson Tide that left him
livid at his rival, and when he saw his own sister, Sara Kalus,
Dusk, leaving with Bohannan, Jessica Vale, Celeste Stepford, Chris
Bradley, Hisako Ichiki, and Sydney Greene, he was positively
He turned to see Clive Ulney, Flutter, as he tried to make his way
past him. Jason moved to one side, allowing him to pass, and headed
back toward the front entrance of the school.
Jason didn't need all this crap he was constantly putting up with
here at the school, and he didn't care what Cable had told him.
This place was for mutants who were too weak-minded to reach out and
take control of their destinies for themselves. All they wanted to
do was follow Xavier's weak-kneed dream of harmony.
Mutants didn't need harmony; they needed action.
And it was time for Twilight to make that happen for them.
As he headed back to his room, he saw Ben Hamill, Match, heading the
"Ben," Jason said. "Find Axe. We've got work to do."
"I don't know what Celeste is thinking, but she's going too far with
this," Esme Stepford griped as her other sisters, Sophie, Tara, and
Phoebe, walked into their suite.
"What now," Tara asked. "Don't we have better things to do than
worry about each other's love lives?"
"Not really," Phoebe said. "I find it tantalizing how Celeste has
fallen so deeply for the roguish Bohannan boy."
"Tantalizing," Esme scoffed. "Pull your mind out of all those
romance books you've been reading and listen to me. We are the five-
in-one, and Celeste is ruining that for us."
"How so?" Sophie asked. "How is it that every time she, or any of
us for that matter, go out on our own or with a group other than
ourselves (3), we're automatically in the wrong?"
"Because we have to stay together," Esme replied. "We are the five-
in-one, not them. And without Celeste, we lose a part of our power."
"Is that what this is about, Esme? Power?" Phoebe had sat in a
recliner, and was looking at her sisters. "You were pushing for
greater power back when we were members of Infirna Terra, (4) way
back when, and we followed you right into prison. We followed you
then, but I'm not certain that we're all going to follow you now."
"You're missing the point," Esme said. "Our plans cannot be
fulfilled if there are only four of us. We need all five if we are
going to become the power we always wanted to be."
"So it's about power," Tara said. "Well, I'm not in the mood for
power plays anymore. You can have it. We're done." And with that,
Tara rose and headed for the door.
"We're not done here," Esme said as Sophie turned away from her to
follow Tara. "We cannot let this happen to us. We cannot become
like the rest of those here at the school."
Phoebe was the next to speak. "Esme," she said. "Think about it.
We're sixteen years old, and we've been part of a terrorist group,
hunted by the Shadow Kings, both of them, and are now stuck here in
the school in order to stay out of prison."
"Yes," Sophie said as she departed. "Maybe you should thank
Professor Xavier as we have for arranging that little detail. You
know that the judge wanted us back in the Hole." (5)
And then Phoebe was gone as well, having followed Sophie and Tara
out of the suite, leaving a very angry Esme Stepford alone in the
Blindfold stood atop the hill a few meters west of the mansion,
enjoying the breeze as it played across her face. She enjoyed being
outside, and even though she was blind (she had no eyes; not even
eye sockets), she always felt hopeful about the future whenever she
was outside and alone.
Being alone gave her time to reflect. It gave her an opportunity to
simply meditate on her life, where she'd been, and where she was
going. She wasn't trying to predict the future, or solve anyone's
problems. At sixteen years old, Blindfold had enough of her own
Like many of the students here at the Institute, Blindfold had no
family; her parents had been killed two years ago. She remembered
hearing her neighbors talking in the distance, and how they had said
that her parents' killers were dressed in similar uniforms and acted
like a well-trained team. That didn't make any sense to her at the
time, but after being taken by others and experimented on for weeks,
she finally understood.
The agents, and that was what Blindfold believed they were, hadn't
come for her parents, but for her. And they had gotten her soon
after, just after the dust settled around her home. The Atlanta
police had simply given her over to the agents and she had been
taken to a facility somewhere else. She had remained there for
months, a prisoner, experimented on like a lab animal, until a man
she had never before met came to her rescue.
Apparently, the man had learned of her existence and had come for
her and a couple other mutants in the complex where she was being
held. According to her fellow prisoners, both of who stayed for a
short time at the Institute, the masked man fought flawlessly,
defeating most of the staff at the facility and scaring off the
remainder, while he freed the trio of prisoners.
Blindfold never learned the man's name, but she seemed to feel that
he was close to her almost constantly now. She felt he was always
near, which was strange, since she couldn't place him among any of
the people at the Institute
But she felt that he was near, and for some reason, that made her
Just then, a voice came to her ears. "Are you well, Blindfold?"
"I am doing fine, Sophia," she replied, turning to face the
direction of the voice, as Sophia Mantega floated to the ground from
above. "And you?"
"I am well," Sophia said, moving to stand beside her. "What are you
doing out here?"
"Enjoying the wind on my face," Blindfold said. "I take it Bret
Bohannan did not ask you to go with him."
"No, he didn't," Sophia said. "And that is fine with me. It is
stupid for him to go out there after those people."
"He likes to push the limits of the faculty," Blindfold said. "He
wants to go so much farther than the rest of us here."
Blindfold turned to face her, her face "looking" into Sophia with
such intensity that Sophia could have sworn that Blindfold was
looking at her and could see her right then and there. "Bret is
beyond the abilities of most of the students here," she said. "Even
among the Alpha and Omega mutants. None of them can defeat him in a
fight, and none of them can think as fast as he can."
"You've beaten him," Sophia said. "So can he really be that
"I've never beaten him," Blindfold said. "Dryad always got the
winning shot. If not for her, Bohannan would eventually wear me
down and defeat me. He's come close a few times in the danger room."
"So you have heard of the classifying that Cable has decided to do?"
Sophia asked, and Blindfold nodded.
"I knew of it," she said. "So does Preview, and likely Network as
well. The students are not going to like it at all."
Sophia nodded. "I do not believe they will, either," she replied.
Both young women stood there for a time, not really having anything
else to say. After a few minutes, they turned and headed back
toward the mansion.
Twilight waited for Axe and Match to arrive, and his gaze narrowed
as he noticed two others standing in the distance, watching him from
afar. He couldn't make them out from this distance, and figured
that he'd deal with them in a few minutes if they proved to be a
"What's up?" Axe asked as he and Match came to stand in front of
"What's up is what happened this morning," he replied. "I'm tired
of sitting here, waiting for trouble to come to us. After what
happened this morning, I think it's obvious that we need to do
"Like what?" Axe asked. "What do you have in mind?"
Twilight pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to
Axe, who examined it as Match looked at it from the side.
"Anti-mutant rally at the local college," Axe said. "Cool."
(1) Academy X #14
(2) See current issues of the Avengers
(3) See current issues of the Crimson Tide Limited Series. This
story takes place during the events of Crimson Tide #2 and #3.
(4) See X-Force #12-#14
(5) The Hole is a superhuman prison at an undisclosed location
on the east coast of the United States