4153Fic: The Evolution of Jubilee 1/3 [Gen, PG]
- Mar 5, 2002TITLE: The Evolution of Jubilee 1/3
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@.... Feedback is better than
PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
CATEGORY: Gen, drama
RATINGS/WARNINGS: PG, for occasional cursing
SUMMARY: A school field trip to a museum turns into a crusade for
DISCLAIMER: The X-Men and the X-Men movieverse belong to Marvel and
Twentieth-Century Fox and other entities with expensive lawyers. I am
making no profit from this story. The Westchester Museum of Natural
History and the Westchester News-Journal do not exist and in no way
represent any actual museum or local newspaper. Barney's and the New
York Times exist but I don't own the names or anything about them.
NOTES: This story is the result of a splendid session on museums,
science, and society at the 100th annual meeting of the American
Anthropological Association in November 2001. I should also admit that
my husband and I (as well as my best friend and my grad school
advisor) have brief cameos in this story, because I simply couldn't
resist. In case anyone doesn't realize, Jubilee's background and
personality are taken from the comics. Oh, and I can't forget to send
the gift of a naked X-Woman of his choice to Wyzeguy for the beta,
praise, guidance, and helpful suggestions when I got stuck.
Later, when the teachers talked about it, they agreed that nobody
could have expected Jubilee to start the whole thing. Paige
definitely, Kitty maybe, and Rogue if pressed, but Jubilee? Never.
It all started on a quiet Friday afternoon--it's *always* a Friday
afternoon when these things start--during the science class field trip
to the Westchester Museum of Natural History. It seemed like a good
idea at the time, get the kids out of the classroom, let them see the
exhibits, then take them out for ice cream and ruin their dinners.
Generally, a relaxing end to the week.
The young mutants swarmed up the marble steps past the columns like a
horde of grasshoppers, buzzing their way into the cool and quiet
museum, and separating instantly to devour their topic of interest.
Their enthusiasm was dampened slightly by the pervasive hush of the
museum, but not enough to completely ruin the "out of class for the
Jubilee slipped away as soon as she could and found a quiet bench to
sit on, in a dimly lit corner just outside the new exhibit entitled
"Evolution: From Darwin On."
She leaned her head against the wall, humming a new No Doubt song
she'd just heard on the radio, when her reverie was broken by a couple
of fellow visitors settling on the bench next to her. Crossing her
arms, she examined them out of the corner of her eye. They were old,
at *least* 30 or even older, but they were being touchy feely, holding
hands and snuggling. They were both short, and the guy was muscular
and hairy, almost as hairy as Logan, but a little rounder. The woman
had a ton of frizzy brown hair and a big nose, and was apparently
annoyed by something.
"Good grief, can you believe it?" she asked.
The man grinned at her. "Yes, dear."
"Oh, shut up. Seriously, this has to be the worst exhibit I've seen in
years. Who the frell thought it was a good idea to do an exhibit on
evolution that practically ignores recent *human* evolution?" Her
voice rose with every syllable, almost ending on a shriek. Now, she
had Jubilee's attention.
"Are you sure your blood sugar isn't low? Anyway, you're the one who
wanted to see it." He patted her on the head and she batted his hand
away with a growl.
"Yeah, yeah, rub it in, why don't you. Well, the damn thing has been
in the works for years, I had to see how it turned out." The woman
took a deep breath. "It just irks me to see a lost educational
opportunity. Think of the chance they had to educate people about
mutants. About how human mutation happens, and the results in people's
lives. And they wasted all this space talking about fish, fruit flies,
and Neanderthals. And as for the section they *do* have on
"And the science explanations suck." The man sounded pretty disgusted
//Huh, I didn't think about evolution relating to mutants,// Jubilee
thought. She might not care all that much about science, but she had
an extremely personal interest in mutants.
The couple's conversation moved on to dinner plans, but Jubilee's
interest was piqued. //Well,// she thought, //maybe it's time to go
see what's got her panties in a twist.// She looked up at the brightly
colored exhibit in front of her.
The exhibit's gigantic strand of DNA, with its neon colors and
flashing lights, Jubilee scorned as a waste of her time. She blinked
as she surveyed the rest of the exhibit, which seemed to be composed
entirely of transparent display cases filled with various animals.
Lacking an obvious starting point, she wandered over to a case full of
One of the captions read: "In the middle of the 19th century,
pale-colored 'peppered moths' around English industrial cities began
appearing in darker colors, possibly due to the increase in soot and
air pollution. Birds could more easily find and eat light-colored
moths. This is known as industrial melanism. However, recent
investigations have found that the original studies looked at moths
resting on tree bark, where they are not normally found."
Jubilee read that one twice, then gave up on finding its point in
disgust. At the end of the room, she saw John and Angelo wander by,
and she considered giving up and joining them, but she decided to
persevere. Next, she tried a case that contained pictures of different
kinds of eyes.
"Many proponents of creationism argue that it is impossible that
something so complex as the compound eye--many small simple eyes, each
with its own lens and nerve receptors, closely packed together--could
have come into existence on its own. Even Darwin himself said 'To
suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for
adjusting the focus to different distances, and admitting different
amounts of light... could have been formed by natural selection,
seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.'"
//Is this exhibit supposed to *explain* anything? Geez, I hope not.//
Skulls at the far end of the room caught her attention, and she
hurried over. Confronting her was a case full of bones with labels
like "Radius and Ulna--A. afarensis," "Mandible--A. africanus," and
"Metacarpals--A. robustus." The wall behind the bones was covered by a
long timeline with entries such as "1974: Lucy discovered in Ethiopia"
and "1953: Piltdown forgery uncovered."
//Huh,// she thought, //I wonder what forgery they're talking about,
that sounds more interesting than the rest of this crap.// Dismissing
distraction, she shook her head and kept going. If these human-looking
things were here, mutants couldn't be too far.
Finally, against the far wall, she found what she'd been looking for.
The final case in the exhibit contained more bones, and some
photographs and text.
The first section contained pictures of a bunch of monkeys and people,
all walking around, and it seemed to be all about how monkeys walked
hunched over and humans walked upright. //So what, big deal,// she
The next panel said it was about the origins of human speech, and
showed a row of skulls with various bits highlighted. //What is a
hypoglossal canal,// she wondered, //and why the hell should I care?//
The last section, finally, was labeled "Mutation Today." She stared in
disbelief at the sum total of human wisdom on mutants, as seen by the
creators of this exhibit.
A picture of Magneto next to one of the damaged Statue of Liberty. A
complicated diagram that seemed to have something to do with which
chromosome controls hair color. And a sample tract from the Friends of
//Well, geez, that's lame,// she thought, turning around in hopes
she'd missed something. //I mean, mutants popping up all over, riots,
babies thrown out to die, and *that's* what they think is important?//
"Hey, Jubes, whatcha doin'?" Bobby asked, as he and Kitty came around
a corner and found her staring at an exhibit case. He didn't wait for
a response. "Come on, Peter found a video with animals having sex, and
we were going to-"
"I don't get it," Jubilee said, not listening to her friend.
"Huh?" Bobby asked.
"This exhibit. I don't get it. It's supposed to be about evolution,
"Um, yes?" Bobby said as he and Kitty looked at each other.
"Well, I slept through most of biology, but," Jubilee shook her head
sharply, "evolution is all about mutation, right?"
"Yeeees," Kitty said.
Jubilee put her hands on her hips, finding herself unreasonably irked.
"Then where are the mutants?"
Dead silence as they looked at her and then looked around them.
Jubilee was annoyed, so she decided to take her concerns right to the
top. She left her classmates wandering around the exhibit in confusion
and marched up to the nearest bored security guard. "I'd like to speak
to the guy in charge of this place."
The guard had her sign into a little book and pointed toward double
doors marked "Staff Only." He said, "Through there, up the steps, make
a right, the director's at the end of the hall."
She marched through the doors, and stopped dead in her tracks. Harsh
fluorescents had replaced the warm, incandescent lighting, the neutral
carpeting was now faded gray linoleum, and the paneled exhibit walls
abruptly changed to greenish paint and a few bulletin boards. She
blinked a few times, then marched up the worn stairs.
She saw as she approached the end of the hall that the battered door
was ajar, and a light was on. She didn't hear any sounds, so when she
reached the door, she pushed it open, calling out, "Hello? Anyone
The room was empty of life, but full of just about everything else.
Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, shelves were filled with books, toys,
and a variety of objects she couldn't begin to describe. The books had
titles like "The Tourist" and "Europe and the People Without History"
and the other objects included, from Jubilee's vantage point, a Power
Puff Girl, a plastic shovel and bucket, and a miniature skull with a
sign labeling it "Lucy's Younger Sister."
"Excuse me," a deep voice said behind her.
Jubilee jumped and nearly knocked the man (who looked rather like a
rotund elf) over. He stepped back and smiled politely, stroking a
short gray beard. "Geez," she said, "give a girl some warning before
you scare the hell out of her."
"That's what I thought I was doing," he said. He stopped playing with
his beard, and stuck his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
Jubilee looked him over dubiously, from the plaid shirt to the
sneakers. "Have you seen the director? The guard said he'd be here,
but there's nobody in the office."
"Ah, that would be me." The man flashed a quick grin, and meandered
into the office to settle down at the desk with a sigh. He swiveled
the chair around to face the door and said, "Won't you come in?"
She shook her head and followed the man into the office, settling down
in the only chair not covered in books, which creaked a little. "So,
I'm here to complain."
"Complain?" His eyebrows shot up, and he leaned back, resting his
hands across his ample stomach.
"Yeah, I'm a student at the Xavier School, and we came here to see the
evolution exhibit, but it's really stupid."
"Ah." The temperature in the room seemed to drop with one syllable.
"It hasn't got any people in it, it's all about animals, the captions
don't make any sense, and it totally ignores mutants," Jubilee
persisted, expecting to annoy the guy even further.
His eyes widened and he looked at her more closely. She held her
ground. She'd come here to complain, and damn it, she was going to
complain. She was shocked when he broke into a wide grin and held out
his hand. "Congratulations, that may very well be the first useful and
intelligent comment I've received on that exhibit. Please, let me
shake your hand. My name is Joe Dent. You can call me Joe."
"Jubilee," she said, shaking his hand in a slight daze.
He continued, "I agree with you, the exhibit misses the point
entirely. Evolution isn't just an abstract scientific concept anymore,
it is the lived experience of mutants around the world, and it is
irresponsible of us to ignore that."
"But then why-"
"Why did we do this exhibit?" He sighed. "I'm afraid the company that
designed it was hired before my tenure here began, and I started too
late to have any input. To make bad matters worse, some influential
members of the Board of Directors love it. Politically and
practically, there is little I can do without a public outcry." He
looked directly at her.
Did he mean what she thought? "So, if there was a lot of noise about
how bad the exhibit is, then you could change it?"
He started to smile. "Yes, we would then be forced to make the exhibit
"Hmm." Jubilee sat and thought for a moment. She certainly knew how to
make noise. "It might just happen. I take it you'd have to disavow any
knowledge of this conversation?" //Whew, too much _Mission Impossible_
"Unfortunately, yes. But believe me, if you make the noise, I'll fix
the exhibit. Besides updating the exhibit text to be understandable, I
was thinking of adding an oral history approach."
"Interviews. Interviewing mutants in the area, and using their words
to describe what it's like to be a mutant. Mixing that in with the
hard science. It would make the exhibit more interesting, as well as
"But why did mutants get left out in the first place?"
"That's complicated, and requires an introductory course in cultural
anthropology to explain properly. But to simplify, it was deemed too
politically sensitive a subject to touch. If they explained that
mutants are a naturally-occurring phenomenon and it's probably not
polite to lynch them, then someone might be offended or upset."
"That's dumb," Jubilee said with the conviction of someone who has
never attended a committee meeting.
Lips twitching, the director said, "Just think of the Board as the
running dogs of capitalism." When she looked perplexed, he shook his
head. "Never mind, I think that joke isn't funny until you reach
graduate school, anyway."
They talked about the exhibit for half an hour, the director
describing things that were wrong, and Jubilee asking questions, until
she realized she should rejoin her classmates.
On her way out, she stopped briefly to look at a small sign posted by
the light switch. In ornate script, it read: "Given standard
temperature, light, and humidity, the organism will do as it damn well
pleases." She turned to look back at the director, who smiled at her
beatifically and went back to typing on his computer. Jubilee, in a
daze, wandered back down the stairs toward the exhibit hall.
Ten minutes later, she found Scott frowning at a caption in the
evolution exhibit. "I want to write a letter and complain," she said.
She wasn't sure what he was doing behind his dark glasses, but
suspected he was rolling his eyes. "No Cheetos in the cafeteria?"
"No, about this exhibit."
That stopped him cold. He turned the glasses on her. "I'm sure I'm
going to regret this," he said. "*Why* do you want to complain about
"Because it's bad."
"I think you'll have to be a little more specific than that. Not
enough flashing lights? No music?"
"It ignores mutation as a lived experience," she said, remembering
something the museum director had said.
Scott's jaw dropped. //That's pretty cool,// Jubilee thought, //I've
never seen anyone actually *do* that.//
"Huh?" he managed after a while.
"That means it doesn't talk about what it's like to be a mutant."
"Yeah, I actually knew that. I just didn't know you did."
"So, I want to write a letter to complain." She paused, having reached
the tricky bit. "Will you help me?"
He couldn't have looked more surprised if the parrots in the case in
front of him had launched into an a capella version of "Doo Wah
Jubilee held her breath. She knew she wasn't his favorite student, and
she'd spent a great deal of her time annoying him, but if there was
anyone on the staff who could write a killer letter about science, he
was the guy. Hank was her buddy, but he didn't seem like a
letter-to-the-board type, unless the board knew a lot of
"I would be delighted to help you," Scott said after a moment. "In
fact, if you think it would do any good, I'll write one of my own."
"Yeah, it'll do some good," she said with satisfaction.
It started with a letter from Jubilee and one from Scott. But when he
gently pointed out to her that two letters might not even make it off
a secretary's desk, the great letter-writing frenzy began.
Soon Scott was coercing the other teachers to write as well, and
Jubilee started on the students. The halls of the school rang with
conversations like this:
"Yo, Johnny!" Jubilee called, gallivanting down the hallway like a
runaway freight train. Several students leapt out of her way as she
buttonholed the unfortunate St. John outside the Professor's office.
"What's up?" he asked, watching his friends desert him in the face of
a determined Jubilee.
"You're gonna write a letter of complaint about the museum exhibit."
"I am? Why would I want to do that? You know, I've got that project
due for Mr. Worthington and I haven't even started the research-"
"Puh-leaze, you're not gonna do that until the last minute anyway.
Just give me a few minutes and write a letter, then you can do
whatever you want." Jubilee grabbed his arm and started dragging him
toward the computer lab. "C'mon, just one little letter to the museum
board, that's all I need."
"What am I gonna write about?" John whined.
It was an uphill battle the whole way, as her fellow students weren't
quite as enthusiastic as Jubilee. But she persevered and not just with
her classmates. Jubilee was nothing if not direct and pragmatic. She
realized it might look a little funny if the only people complaining
were students at the Xavier School.
So, she launched her attack on the venues she knew best: stores at the
local mall, talking to shopkeepers she knew, chatting up people in
line, stopping by every cafeteria and fast food place where she was
known. She had Kitty talk to the local librarian, and even Bobby
agreed to talk to a few people he knew in the community. Jubilee was
psyched, but her excitement began to wane after a few days of
After dinner, about week and a half after the fateful museum visit,
Jubilee dropped down onto the couch next to Rogue, who was watching a
"It's not working," Jubilee said.
Rogue laughed at something on the television. "Hmm?" She asked,
"what's not working?"
"The letter thing. Nobody wants to write a letter and nobody cares."
Jubilee gave a heartfelt groan.
"What do ya mean? We've all written." Rogue turned to face her friend.
"Yeah, but trying to get anyone else to do it is like pulling teeth.
They nod and nod and agree that it's just a terrible thing, but
they're not interested in actually *doing* anything."
Rogue patted her arm carefully. "These things take time. But nobody'd
be upset if you, you know, stopped. You've done a lot."
"No!" Jubilee stopped. "It's just...it's important and nobody else is
gonna do anything. So it might as well be me."
"But Jubes, you might want to get used to the fact that maybe you
can't solve this."
Jubilee crossed her arms and glared at her friend, then leaned back
and stared mindlessly at the television. Rogue, satisfied, went back
to watching the show.
//Why *do* I care so much about this?// Jubilee wondered silently, as
on screen a couple of beautiful people argued with each other about
what to have for dinner. Stretching out her legs, she propped them on
the coffee table while she pondered. //I've never taken anything this
seriously before, why now?//
The television switched to a commercial, and Bobby came by to ask
Rogue if he could borrow a CD. //I mean, here I am living at this
great school, where the worst thing I have to worry about is getting
my homework done, why should I stick my neck out over a stupid museum
She leaned back on the couch and watched the school life drift around
her. Pietro flashed by, once again forgetting to slow down to the same
pace as everyone else. Bobby and St. John were sitting outside on the
steps amusing themselves by alternately freezing and thawing a can of
soda. Mr. Worthington wandered into the room, looking for Angelo, his
white wings stretched out behind him as naturally as a bride's train.
Jubilee held up her hands and let out a series of tiny colorful
fireworks. Rogue yawned and changed stations. Bobby cracked the can,
causing chips of icy soda to cascade down the steps, and John laughed
at him. Mr. Worthington said to the room at large if anyone saw
Angelo, they should send him to the Danger Room.
//This may be the only place in the world right now where who I am is
cool, where what I can do is totally normal,// she thought.
She laced her hands in her lap and stared down at them. //I always
hated feeling like a freak. That look people got when they realized
what I was, like I was a disease that might infect them.//
//I just wanted to feel like I was normal.// A tear rolled down her
cheek and she wiped it away before anyone could notice.
--tbc in part two--