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5782Fic: Runaway to Home(1/1) Logan, Marie, Jubes, Kitty, OCs(Mike and Jim) [PG-13]

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  • pphillips914
    Mar 1, 2004
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      Some of the students at Professor
      Xavier's school have learned too
      well from their teachers. So when
      a problem pops up, they decide to
      solve it.

      Title: Runaway to Home

      Author: Pat Phillips

      Rated: PG-13 (language, violence)

      Characters: Logan, Marie, Jubes,
      Kitty, OCs(Mike and Jim), and
      misc. cameo appearances.

      The two OCs (Mike McWhirter and
      Jim Flanagan) have appeared in many
      of my other stories.

      Background Note:

      Most of my fiction occurs in an AU
      where X2 simply didn't happen. In
      fact, Logan never left the Mansion
      at the end of X1 to go back to
      Canada. Consequentially, he's much
      better integrated into both the
      team and the school than in X2.


      I got a friend interested in fanfic
      a while back. After he read a bunch
      of it, I asked his opinion. He said,
      "There's a lot of good stuff, but you
      can tell the hobby is dominated by
      girls. Too much of it is about romance
      and relationships and there's
      not enough in the way of fights,
      explosions, gratuitous nudity,
      and blow jobs."

      Thinking that over, I said, "Well,
      most of the characters I write
      about are too young for me to be
      putting blow jobs into the story,
      but I'll try the rest."


      I do not own 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


      JIM **********

      It was just after three in the morning and the school was dead
      silent. I glanced around my room, double-checking everything. I
      had my jacket, backpack, and wallet. The backpack was loaded with
      everything that I would need for a couple of days on my own. The
      letter for Miss Munroe was on my desk. In it, I tried to explain
      why I was leaving -- without giving away too many details.

      I hoped that I had said the right things. I didn't want Miss Munroe
      to think that I was unhappy with her or the school.

      Oh, damn it, there was a lump in my throat and my eyes stung.

      Sometimes, things just don't make sense. I was kicking, screaming,
      bitching, and whining all at once when Mr. Logan and Miss Munroe
      dragged me from Boston and threw me into the school. And now that I
      had to leave, I felt terrible.

      I carefully pulled on my jacket, hefted the pack over my shoulder,
      and quietly left the room. Neither of my roomies woke. I've gotten
      pretty good at moving quietly over the last couple of years.

      Much to my surprise, Mike was waiting for me in the hallway. He was
      the only person I'd told what I was going to do. He was dressed and
      was also carrying a backpack.

      I shut the door behind me, making sure that it didn't make too much

      "What the hell do you think you're doing?" I whispered to Mike

      "I'm coming with you," he whispered back.

      "Forget it. Go back to bed."

      "Nope," he said with a shrug.

      I gave Mike a long, hard look. He's a year younger than me -- he
      just turned fifteen last week. Some folks think he's mentally
      retarded, but he isn't. And he can be stubborn as all hell when he
      wants to be.

      "I don't want to get you in trouble, Mike."

      "Either you let me go with you, or I'll just walk out the door and
      head to Boston on my own. Your choice."

      Like I said, Mike can be stubborn. I shook my head disgustedly.
      But, truth to tell, it would be good to have someone with me. And
      having Mike along might come in handy.

      And when you get down to it, I didn't want to do this alone.

      "OK, let's go," I said. He grinned back at me.

      I put my arm around my best friend's shoulder. The nature of the
      light around us shifted. Invisible, we walked out of the school

      MIKE **********

      Jim and I hiked to town, neither of us saying much to one another.
      It was a beautiful night. Cold as all heck, but a beautiful night.
      The school is far enough from any big town that there's not much in
      the way of city lights to hide the stars.

      When Jim told me what was happening yesterday, I knew then and there
      that I couldn't let him do this alone.

      "So tell me about this girl," I finally said.

      I couldn't see Jim's face in the dark. He seemed to think a while
      before answering.

      "Her name is Donna. She comes from the same neighborhood I grew up
      in. She and my sister have been friends ever since grade school.
      She worked at the... same place that my sister used to work."

      Jim's sister used to be one of those dancers that takes their
      clothes off in a bar. He's never liked to talk about that.

      "So how long has Donna been missing?" I asked.

      "As near as we can tell, about a week," replied Jim. "Donna's folks
      are really worried. And it's not like her to just take off. That's
      why my sister hit the panic button and asked me for help."

      CHARLES **********

      Ororo can be very proper when it comes to formalities. For example,
      she never enters my office without knocking. And in front of the
      students, she never addresses me as anything other than "Professor

      At the moment, I was in a hotel room in Washington D.C. The next
      two days would be spent attending a series of meetings with various
      government officials. I was hoping to calm a few nerves concerning
      the "mutant crisis". So when Ororo broke her self-imposed rule that
      she never called me when I was on an important trip, I knew that she
      was deeply upset.

      "Ororo, what's wrong?" I asked.

      Ororo's response was terse. "It's James. He's left the school.
      And we can't find Michael anywhere either."

      I winced, "Well, it was inevitable that something like this would
      happen someday."

      "We have to find them! I need to..." she began in an intense tone.

      "Ororo, please calm down," I interrupted quietly. I hate being
      rude, but Ororo is fiercely defensive concerning the students. I
      couldn't have her acting without thinking.

      She took a deep breath, making an audible effort to slow down. For
      a split-second, I remembered Ororo as that startling beautiful and
      intense teenager who had entered the school a decade ago.

      When she spoke again, it was in a far quieter tone.

      "They've both come so far in just the last year, Charles," she said
      worriedly. "I... don't want to lose them. Especially Michael. He
      was talking about attending college. About becoming a teacher."

      There will be second school someday. Ororo's deep concern for the
      students was one of the reasons I want her to be the headmistress
      when it finally opens.

      "We'll find them. But we won't be dragging them back by force,
      Ororo. The situation is too complicated for that."

      "I know. What do you recommend?"

      Unspoken was the fact that I simply couldn't leave Washington. It
      had taken months to set up this series of meetings. So I wouldn't
      be able to return to the school and use Cerebro to track down James
      and Michael. We would have to find those two via other methods.

      A slight smile appeared on my face as I reached the obvious
      conclusion, "We'll send in our experts on the subject of running

      There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone. Then,
      despite the gravity of the situation, a slight chuckle came from

      LOGAN **********

      I stuck my head into the classroom. Jean was doing her first-thing-
      in-the-morning Biology class. She gave me a pretty unfriendly look -
      - she hates interruptions when she's teaching -- and stopped talking.

      "Yes, Logan?"

      "We gotta job, I need to borrow Marie."

      Jean gave me a long look that put me on notice the I owed her an
      explanation. Yeah, as if I would ever be able to deny her
      anything. Then she nodded and looked at Marie, "Marie, you'll have
      a make-up assignment sent to your room."

      Marie grabbed her books and bailed out of the room. The classroom
      was buzzing with a lot of "what's up?" chatter as the door shut
      behind her. Inside, I could hear Jean trying to get everyone's

      "What's going on?" asked Marie.

      "Mike and Jim took off. The Professor want's us to find 'em and
      talk it out."

      As I figured she would, Marie got mad.

      MARIE **********

      First I'll find them and make sure that they're safe.

      And then I'll slowly, painfully, kill them both.

      BOBBY **********

      Mr. Logan looked serious and Marie looked pissed. I was racking my
      brains. I'd talked to Jim just last night and both Mr. Logan and
      Marie were hoping that I knew something useful.

      From what I hear, Marie and Mr. Logan work real well together. And
      I know that what they do is important. But I have to admit that it
      bothers me to see them together like that. It's tough enough
      competing with Mr. Logan as is, but when they go on a mission, it's
      like Marie completely changes and I stop existing as her sort-of

      For example, right now she was looking at me like I was a crook or

      No. That really wasn't fair. She was just really focused on
      finding Mike and Jim. She likes both of them an awful lot.

      Finally, I remembered something, "You know, Jim did mention a call
      from his sister back in Boston."

      Mr. Logan nodded, "That makes sense, Jim left a letter saying that
      he had to help somebody. But he wasn't too specific about who or

      Marie gave Mr. Logan a long look, "Jim's sister is that girl Miss
      Munroe told me about? The stripper?"

      Mr. Logan shrugged, "Yeah. Last I heard, she was going back to
      school. The plan was to get a degree so she could stop making a
      living by taking her clothes off in public."

      "So I take she's pretty?" asked Marie, still studying Mr. Logan.

      "Drop dead gorgeous," confirmed Mr. Logan with a grin.

      Marie made a "hmph!" sound. I think I managed to hide my smile.

      LOGAN **********

      Jubes was all worked up and was showing zero signs of calming down.

      "Look, kid, forget it," I said. "There's no way that you're coming
      along with us. First, you're a student, not an X-Man. And second,
      the Professor called the mission and he picked me and Marie."

      "Since when do you care about the rules!?" she yelled at me.

      Hmm, I had to admit that was a good point.

      "I agree with Ch... with the Professor on this one. Which means
      you're not tagging along."

      "Hey! BLEEP that! Mike's my BLEEPING friend and I BLEEPING well am
      going to BLEEPING see that he's BLEEPING all right!"

      Sigh. Kids nowadays.

      "Language," I said to her mildly. She gave me an absolutely pissed-
      off look and stomped away. That works every time with Jubes. It
      took me a while, but I'm getting fairly good at playing with the
      kids' heads when I have to. It feels better to get what I want that
      way instead of by threatening them. Not, mind you, that the
      occasional hint of possible bloodshed doesn't have it's place.

      I looked at Marie, "What's up between those two? Is Mike luckier
      with the ladies than I would have guessed?"

      Marie shook her head, "It's not a boyfriend-girlfriend sort of
      thing. It's more like brother-sister. Jubes doesn't make friends
      easy. But she hangs onto the ones that she's got really tight."

      "I can understand that," I replied truthfully.

      "The thing I don't get about this is Mike," said Marie with a
      sigh. "Jim tends to substitute testosterone for brain cells, but
      Mike isn't like that. I just can't see him running away."

      "I've been thinking about that," I said with a nod. "According to
      that letter Jim left for 'Ro, somebody Jim knows is in trouble.
      Enough trouble that Jim thought he had to run away from school to
      solve it. And as for Mike... well, the last time Mike sat back and
      let the experts handle things, we ended up having to tell him that
      his brother was dead. I figure that he went with Jim because he
      figured that this was something that he didn't dare let Jim handle

      She nodded in agreement, her face turning hard.

      "I figure we try the train station first," I suggested.

      A smile quirked across her lips and she gave me a look loaded with

      "You bet," she said.

      MIKE **********

      We got off the train at the Boston station. Jim made a quick phone
      call to his sister.

      "Are we going to see your sister first?" I asked Jim once he got off
      the phone.

      "No. Donna's still missing. There's no point in wasting time." Jim
      looked real worried.

      "Do you know this Donna girl very well?"

      "She used to babysit for me every now and then. And like I said,
      she and my sister are real tight. She's real pretty. Nice, too."

      "So, you like her, huh?" I asked.

      He shifted uncomfortably, "Yeah. Well, maybe I had a crush on her
      once. Pretty dumb, I guess. She's six years older than me."

      I shrugged, "That sorta thing happens."

      We hopped onto a city bus.

      KITTY *********

      Jubes walked into our room without a word, threw a jacket on,
      stuffed some money into her pants pocket, and headed for the door.
      She wasn't saying anything -- which is a bad sign for a motor-mouth
      like her. And her body language could best be summarized as, "The
      Entire Universe Can Kiss My Ass".

      I got in her way. "OK, what's going on?" I asked.

      She looked at me, and I was shocked at the worry that I could
      suddenly see on her eyes, "It's Mike and Jim, they ran away."

      I blinked in surprise, "Huh? I can see Jim doing just about
      anything. But Mike wouldn't do that."

      Jubes frowned, "I know. Do you think Jim talked him into it?"

      "No way," I said, shaking my head. Now I was getting worried, too.
      I've tutored Mike almost since the day he got here and I think it's
      fair to say that I know him pretty well. He gives people the
      impression that he's not too bright, but he's got a lot of common
      sense and he knows right from wrong. Interestingly, those were two
      characteristics that Jim sometimes lacked. Actually, it sort of
      made sense that Mike and Jim were friends. They filled gaps in each
      other's character. But no matter what people may think, Mike wasn't
      dumb and definitely didn't let Jim -- or anyone else -- do his
      thinking for him.

      "So what are you going to do?" I asked Jubes.

      "Go find them. Logan and Marie are on the way, but..."

      Jubes ground to a halt. I've never asked what happened between her
      and Mike. I figured that it wasn't any of my business. But the
      result was pretty clear: they were very close friends.

      "You're going to get in trouble if you go after them," I said. Yes,
      that was obvious. But I felt that it had to be said. Jubes has
      never been big on rules. Sometimes she forgets that they exist.

      "Kitty, I'm not going to just sit here! There is no way Mike would
      do this if it wasn't something serious."

      I nodded, "OK, just so everything's clear. Let's go."

      Jubes opened her mouth to object -- and then hesitated. Reaching
      for my own jacket, I realized that I knew why Mike had gone with
      Jim. It was the same reason I was going with Jubes. I wasn't going
      to let her get into trouble on her own.

      LOGAN **********

      With Charles out of town, we didn't have Cerebro for back-up. Which
      meant we'd have to track down the boys the old-fashioned way.


      I caught Jim and Mike's scent just as soon as we entered the train
      station. They'd been in the station sometime within the last few

      So I sat back and watched Marie talk with the guys at the ticket
      counter. Long ago, she and I had figured out that a lot of people
      will bust their asses to help her in a way that they won't for
      someone like me. Marie was getting pretty good at using that to our
      advantage when we were on a mission.

      The train station had been rebuilt since the last time a significant
      number of X-Men had visited the place. My bones ached just thinking
      back to that day and I made a mental note -- again -- to do
      something permanent of Lensherr the next time I saw him.

      Marie came back, stuffing the pictures of our two runaways back into
      her jacket pocket.

      "One of the guys at the counter remembered Jim and Mike. They
      definitely went to Boston."

      I nodded. We had figured as much after talking to Bobby. But this
      confirmed it. And now we knew where to start tracking them when we
      got to Boston.

      KITTY **********

      Jubes and I almost froze to death tailing Mr. Logan and Marie to the
      train station on the little motor scooter of hers.

      When I'm intangible, I don't have any scent. So Mr. Logan couldn't
      notice me that way. Otherwise, I disguised myself by bundling up in
      a bunch of old clothes that Marie had never seen. A big scarf kept
      most of my face covered. The weather was cold enough that I didn't
      look out of place.

      I was careful to keep out of everyone's way. It wouldn't do to have
      someone accidentally walk right through me. Meanwhile, I watched
      Mr. Logan and Marie. I managed to eavesdrop on Marie's conversation
      with the guys at the ticket counter. Once Marie finished talking to
      them, she and Mr. Logan got into one of the school cars and drove

      Jubes met me outside. She had stayed well clear of the train
      station -- and Mr. Logan's nose.

      "How'd it go?" she immediately asked.

      "They're on their way to Boston. And we're in luck -- there's
      another train going there in a half-hour."

      Jubes grinned.

      MARIE **********

      They definitely got out at the Boston train station. Logan caught
      their scent and followed it out to a bus stop. I dug out the
      pictures of Mike and Jim and began asking questions. It took about
      twenty minutes, but I finally found a security guard who remembered
      seeing them. By cross-referencing the time they got onto the bus
      with the bus schedule, we managed to figure out that they were
      headed uptown.

      Logan cocked his head to one side in that funny way of his and
      stared at the map on the wall of the bus-stop.

      "You know, I would've bet they were going to Jim's house. But
      that's not the right direction," he said.

      Logan thought for a second -- and then nodded his head and smiled.
      He tries to pretend that this sort of thing is just business to him,
      but he loves hunting.

      "I think I know where they're going," he told me.

      JUBES **********

      It was snowing by the time we got to Boston. The only lead that
      made sense was Jim's family, but as you might guess, there are a
      zillion and one Flanagans in the Boston phone book. A quick cell-
      phone call back to the school got us the family contact information
      from Jim's student file. I owed somebody a favor for that.

      A cab ride got me and Kitty out to where Jim's mom and sister
      lived. The house was in a part of town that had seen better days.
      I'd seen Jim's mom and sister more than once. They regularly come
      to visit Jim at the school. But I'd never talked to either of
      them. I don't mix much with the other kids' parents.

      Jim's sister answered the door. She's in her early twenties and is
      a knock-out with long, dark hair and a less intense version of Jim's
      vivid blue eyes.

      "Miss Flanagan, my name is..."

      "Jubilation Lee. And Kitty Pryde," she finished for me in a
      thoughtful tone. She carefully looked me and Kitty over from top to
      bottom. Yeah, she was worried about something.

      "Come inside," she said, holding the door wide. We didn't
      hesitate. Not only did we have to talk to her, but it was pretty
      damn cold outside.

      "Thank you, Miss Flanagan," said Kitty once we got inside. She's
      always been better at the politeness stuff than me.

      "Call me, Jenny," she said shortly as she took our coats.

      Within a minute, we were all in the kitchen. Without asking, Jenny
      poured us cups of coffee, which we immediately and gratefully took.
      There were a bunch of school books on the kitchen table.
      Statistics, as near as I could tell. We must have interrupted her
      in the middle of doing her homework. I found myself actually
      feeling a little bad about that.

      Huh. Me feeling bad about taking someone away from their homework?
      Yeesh. The school must be getting to me.

      It seemed to me that there was no point in screwing around.

      "So what's up with Jim?" I asked Jenny. Kitty gave me a look that
      could be translated as, "Oh, for Pete's sake!" Like a lot of real
      smart people, Kitty is sometimes too in love with subtlety.

      Jenny looked us over again. Those blue eyes seemed to look right
      inside us.

      I looked her right back in the eye.

      "Whatever's going on, we want to help," I said.

      JIM **********

      We killed most of the early afternoon walking around the
      neighborhood, getting a feel for it. Now we were in a convenience
      store just across the street from the bar that my sister used to
      dance in. The bar had just opened. Mike and I sat at a dirty table
      and chowed down on chili-dogs and potato chips, watching through the
      store window as the first few customers drifted into the bar.

      It was beginning to snow. That might be a problem.

      "So why does your sister figure that place has something to do with
      Donna disappearing?" Mike asked me, keeping his voice low. The
      store clerk seemed to be keeping an eye on us. From his point of
      view, a couple of young guys out and about on a school day were
      probably trouble waiting to happen.

      "Other dancers have turned up missing over the years. That isn't
      too unusual -- the girls tend to come and go. But when Donna
      disappeared, Jenny suddenly figured out that some of the girls that
      vanished looked a lot alike. Dark hair, eyes, and complexion. Slim
      build. All about the same age."

      Mike nodded, saying nothing. I didn't tell him that a pattern of
      missing women with a common appearance just about screamed "serial
      killer". I didn't want to upset him.

      I hoped I was wrong.

      MIKE **********

      Three missing women. And all of them happen to look alike?

      Oh, no.

      JIM **********

      Mike and I bailed out of the convenience store, walked to the end of
      the block and crossed the street. Then we casually wandered into an
      alley, getting out of plain sight.

      When we got back out onto the sidewalk, I was invisible. Mike broke
      trail on the snow-covered sidewalk. I stayed about ten feet behind
      him, stepping into the footprints that he left in the snow. Someone
      watching close might have seen that something odd was going on --
      there was a moving gap in the snowfall behind Mike and every now and
      then I didn't nail a footprint exactly. But it wasn't likely that
      anyone was looking for something like that.

      Mike walked past the front to the bar and I separated from him and
      got under the overhang that protected the entrance. Mike kept on
      walking. He would wait for me in a coffee shop on the next block.

      Naturally enough, as soon as I got into position, there was a pause
      in the customers going into the bar. I fidgeted and shivered for
      about ten minutes before someone showed up. Still invisible, I
      ducked through the doorway right behind him.

      The place hadn't changed much. It had been about a year since Miss
      Munroe and Mr. Logan dragged me out of here.

      It's a pretty embarrassing story. My sister was working here for a
      while -- which was dumb on her part. But I got pissed about that
      and did something that was even dumber. I used my invisibility to
      become the best snatch-and-grab artist Boston's ever seen. The idea
      was that I'd make so much money that Jenny wouldn't have to dance
      for a living. I used to sneak into the bar regularly to drop money
      into her clothes bag.

      My career as a mutant master criminal came to an end when Mr. Logan
      and Miss Munroe came to town. I'd been attracting too much

      All I can say is that it made sense at the time. Want to know why I
      don't like it when people make fun of Mike and call him dumb? It's
      because I know he'd never be stupid enough to do something like what
      I did.

      There were three stages in the bar, but it was the slow part of the
      day and only one had a dancer on it -- a girl that I remembered from
      back when Jenny worked there. She was dancing to some canned rock
      and roll. Looking her over, I couldn't help but notice that she'd
      put on a little weight.

      It had been a year since I'd last been in that place. And the more
      I saw of the bar, the more I found myself thinking that something
      was different -- and that the difference wasn't an improvement. The
      place seemed run down. The music was dull. The laughter was
      forced. The girls looked tired and bored. The customers seemed to
      be uninterested.

      So, had the bar changed? Or had I?

      I shrugged that off. There were more important things to worry
      about. I worked my way towards the back of the bar. The manager
      who ran this place had been working here for three years. According
      to Jenny, the first girl vanished just after he started here. Jenny
      tried to get the police interested in him after Donna vanished and
      Jenny started seeing a scary pattern.

      But dancers are rolling stones -- it wasn't unusual for one to pull
      up stakes and move to the next town without telling anyone. The
      cops knew that, and they weren't taking Donna's disappearance
      seriously -- despite the fact Donna was a life-long Bostonian.

      That's when Jenny called me in.

      The manager, a big ex-biker named Chris, was at the end of the bar,
      working on some paperwork.

      His office was way in the back of the bar, isolated from everything
      else. I tested the door. It was unlocked. After carefully
      checking to make sure that no-one was looking, I cracked open the
      door and hurriedly snuck inside, quickly shutting the door after me.

      Inside, I started going through the office, looking for something,
      anything, that might be a clue. I figured that if this didn't work
      out, we'd try his home next.

      I didn't really know what I was doing. Nothing really stood out. I
      kept searching.

      Time passed. I still wasn't having any luck. And then the office
      door began opening behind me.

      One of the desk drawers was half-open. I had barely managed to drop
      the papers I was holding back into the drawer and step back against
      a wall before the door finished opening. I didn't have time to
      actually close the drawer.

      I froze. I was still invisible, but this was an enclosed space.
      Just about any movement on my part would be detected by senses so
      subtle that most people don't even realize that they have them.

      Chris walked into office, absent-mindedly flipping through the
      paperwork he had been working on out in the bar. He was a big,
      burly guy who'd once been covered with muscle. But now there was
      more gray than black in his hair and the muscle was running to fat.
      The story I'd heard from Jenny was that he was once in a biker
      gang. After doing some time for meth trafficking, he got out of the
      biker scene. But even though Chris was no longer in his prime, he
      was still someone I definitely wouldn't like to tangle with. He
      must have outweighed me by a hundred and fifty pounds.

      He looked at the half-open desk drawer, grunted, and slammed it shut.

      Then he picked up his phone and dialed a number.

      Someone answered.

      "Bill, it's Chris here. I got your message. Let's make it midnight
      at the "Far Isle" instead. I've gotta lota stuff to take care of


      "Good. So is the old man is happy? I'm tired of waiting for the
      rest of my money."


      "Great! Tell him I'll keep an eye out for another one that fits his
      specs. Later."

      He hung up the phone and left.

      I slumped against the wall in relief. I couldn't be positive. But
      it sure looked like the meeting planned for tonight was something to
      work with. So far, I didn't have anything else.

      MIKE **********

      After a couple of hours, Jim walked into the coffee shop with a
      relieved expression on his face. He pulled up a chair next to me.

      "How'd it go?" I asked.

      "I think I got something. And there was a scary moment when Chris --
      the manager -- walked into the office. I thought I was gonna pee
      my pants."

      "What did you get?"

      Jim told me about a phone conversation he'd overheard.

      "Uh, Jim, that seems kinda... I don't know, non-specific? For all
      we know, the 'old man' bought a car from this Chris guy."

      Jim shrugged, "Yeah. But it just doesn't sound like it's something
      legit. And we don't have anything else to work with right now."

      Well, I couldn't argue with that.

      LOGAN **********

      Marie and I got back into the car. She was shivering despite the
      coat she was wearing. I started the engine and turned up the heat.

      Looking out the window, Marie gave the strip-joint a long,
      disapproving look. Then she turned and gave me a long, disapproving
      look. Apparently I was now standing in for the entire male half of
      the population.

      "What were they doing here?" she asked.

      I thought about suggesting that maybe Mike and Jim had heard that
      this place had some really hot dancers. But then decided that they
      were in enough trouble with Marie already -- and that I didn't need
      to join them.

      "Dunno," I shrugged. "But a couple of things fit. Jim and Mike are
      in town because of Jenny. Jenny used to work here. And I
      definitely caught their scent near the building. They've been here."

      Marie nodded and glanced up and down the street. It was getting
      late and the snow was continuing to fall.

      "Can you track them?"

      "Maybe. The snow and the city traffic are getting to be a problem."

      MIKE **********

      We found the "Far Isle" in the phone book. It was a bar.
      Fortunately, it was within walking distance.

      I don't know much about bars. But the "Far Isle" sure looked like a
      dump. And from what I could see through the big window in front,
      the people inside fit the bar.

      "Same as last time?" I asked Jim.

      He nodded, "Yeah. Where ya gonna wait?"

      "Out here. I'll watch through the front window."

      He nodded again.

      JIM **********

      Invisible again, I snuck into the bar. I found myself an isolated
      corner where I could get an eye on the door. Through the big glass
      window in front of the bar, I could see Mike hanging around
      outside. He only occasionally glanced inside the bar.

      The bar wasn't crowded, which was good. I wouldn't have to worry
      about dodging people who couldn't see me.

      A jukebox was playing eighties tunes. Not to my taste, but at least
      it was something to listen to while I waited for something to happen.

      Within fifteen minutes, Chris walked in through the front door. He
      looked around, waved at a guy who was sitting at the bar, and sat
      down at a table that was a long way from anyone else.

      A middle-aged guy wearing biker leathers ambled over to the table.
      He slapped Chris on the shoulder and then sat down. I drifted over
      so I could overhear the conversation.

      The guy in the leather pulled out small package out of a jacket
      pocket and slid it over to Chris. Chris made it disappear.

      "Ya gonna count it?" asked the leather guy.

      Chris smiled, "I know who to talk to if it's short."

      The leather guy seemed surprised, but shrugged it off, "Your
      business. The old man told me he likes the product that you're
      providing. It looks like little Donna has a new home. He'll be
      picking her up in a couple of days."


      Chris shook his head disgustedly, "Hey, business is business. I'm
      not doing this because I like the guy. And speaking of business, do
      you know anyone else who's interested in doing a deal?"

      Leather guy nodded, "As a matter of fact, yeah. What've you got in
      the way of Chinese? We're talking fifty k in it for you if you can
      find one the client likes."

      "No Chinese," said Chris thoughtfully. "But there's a girl who's
      half-Korean and half-Japanese who dances every week or so at the
      bar. Maybe that's close enough?"

      "Get a picture of her. I'll ask the client."


      I got so involved in what those two assholes were saying that I
      forgot to pay attention to anything else. Right then a guy that I
      hadn't seen coming walked right into me. He wasn't moving too fast,
      but he was a hell of a lot bigger than me. I was knocked square
      onto my ass. In all of the surprise, I lost control of my power and
      turned visible.

      "What the hell?!" yelled Chris as he made a grab for me.

      MIKE **********

      Oh, nuts.

      I ran into the bar, heading right to the table where I'd seen Jim
      suddenly become visible.

      "Hey, kid! Get out of here!" yelled the bartender at me. He hadn't
      seen the ruckus that was starting near the front of his bar.
      Instead, he was worried about an underage kid.

      Chris was on his feet and had a hold of Jim by the arm. The biker
      was also standing. The guy who'd knocked Jim down was backing away
      from the scene, his eyes wide and scared.

      "Let him go!" I yelled.

      Chris and the biker looked at me in surprise.

      "What the fuck?" said the biker as he looked me over.

      "Get lost, kid," snarled Chris.

      While everyone was distracted, Jim tried to wiggle away. He almost
      made it. But Chris reacted pretty quick and punched Jim hard with
      his free hand. Jim grunted and collapsed to his knees.

      I charged forward and slammed into Chris.

      MARIE **********

      It was just after midnight, and Logan was getting frustrated.

      "Dammit, they came this way," growled Logan with quiet
      certainty. "But the snow's covering most of their scent. I can't
      get a solid trail."

      The snow had stopped coming down, but there was an inch or two on
      the ground. It wasn't much, but it was enough to be a problem.
      We'd been over this neighborhood a dozen times. I looked down the
      crowded street. This part of Boston was full of bars, clubs, and
      other nightspots. It was a Friday night, so the snow-covered
      sidewalk was crowded and the street was full of cars.

      "Darn it. This is getting tricky," I murmured half to myself.

      Logan nodded in agreement, still turning his head from side to side,
      trying to regain the trail.

      Suddenly, a large, leather-clad man smashed through the plate glass
      window fronting a nearby bar and landed on the snow-covered sidewalk
      in a shower of shattered glass. Everyone on the sidewalk instantly
      cleared out of the man's way as he staggered to his feet. Howling
      curses and bleeding, he began pulling a pistol from his jacket.

      "You little bastard! I'm gonna kill you!" he shrieked.

      His curses turned to a sudden scream as a large object followed him
      out the window. It smashed loose what little glass remained in the
      window and took out most of the window frame as well.

      The man with the gun didn't dodge in time. His scream ended in a
      loud crash as the jukebox landed on top of him.

      "I think we've found 'em," said Logan. I nodded in agreement.

      There was a flood of people pouring out of the bar. Logan broke a
      path for us through them and we walked inside. I noticed the name
      of the bar. It was the "Far Isle". Inside, the place was a wreck.
      Mike had been the wrecking crew.

      LOGAN **********

      The bar was almost empty. It was the kind of place whose customers
      didn't want to stick around to talk to the cops.

      Mike and Jim where the only people standing on their own two feet.
      A fat guy was lying unconscious on the floor between them. The
      splintered remains of a table and some chairs were scattered all
      over. The fat guy looked like he'd been hit by a truck. Mike had a
      cut on his cheek.

      Everyone always underestimates Mike.

      Both boys saw us coming as we walked in. And for a brief moment I
      could see something new in their eyes that I'd never seen before.
      Something wild and dangerous and not inclined to take any shit off
      of anyone. Then it was gone and I was looking at two kids again.
      Both trying to do what they thought was the right thing, and knowing
      deep down inside that they were probably screwing up. I'd always
      known that those two were both gonna be damn good men someday. We
      just had to make sure we pointed them in the right direction.

      I held my hands up, palms towards Mike and Jim, "We just want to

      That wasn't good enough for Marie. Her cold anger suddenly went
      hot. She had fire in her eyes as she stalked towards Jim and Mike.
      Both boys knew Marie pretty well, which meant that they both
      suddenly looked even more nervous.

      Jim took a step forward and tried to explain, "Marie, it's like
      th... YEEEEARRRGH!!!"

      Now Jim was on the ground, clutching his balls. Nice shot, I
      thought to myself with an approving nod. Marie was definitely
      coming along.

      Oh, and so much for "just wanting to talk".

      Mike immediately got a heavy table between him and Marie. Yet more
      proof that Mike isn't the dummy that everyone thinks he is.

      "You dumb son-of-a-bitch!" yelled Marie at Jim as she trembled with

      "Ow!" gasped Jim from the floor. "Marie! Stop! Please, let me

      THUD. "YEOUTCH!!!"

      Right to the kidney. Perfect placement, but not hard enough to
      actually rupture it. My little angel was doing me proud.

      "What did I tell you? When you first came to the school! What did
      I tell you?" hissed Marie.

      Jim began frantically crawling backwards, "Marie, I don't..."

      THUD. "ARRGH!!!"

      "Think, Jim. Think hard. I told you something important when you
      first arrived at the school. Remember?"

      "'Don't run away!' You told us, 'Don't run away!' If we ever even
      thought about it, we were supposed to talk to you first!"

      "And did you talk to me!? Did you!?"

      "No! But..."

      THUD. "OOOWWWW!!!"

      Jim finally managed to scurry underneath the same table that Mike
      was taking cover behind.

      Marie looked up at Mike. "Michael..." she growled and then took a
      determined step towards him. Mike gulped and looked around for a
      place to hide.

      "The guys Mike beat up are kidnapping women and selling them!"
      yelled Jim from underneath the table.

      What the hell?

      Marie stopped. She was breathing hard and still angry. But she had
      always found it hard to be mad at Mike. She figured that Jim needed
      more than a little abuse in order to keep him in line. But Mike was

      I stepped forward and put my hands on Marie's shoulders. It would
      help her calm down.

      She leaned back against me and began breathing a little slower.

      "OK, Jim," I said, "let's hear what you have to say."

      Marie took a deep breath and nodded once in agreement -- more to me
      than Jim, of course. He couldn't see anything but her legs from
      underneath the table.

      Jim began talking from his position underneath the table. Mike
      broke in every now and then to fill in any blanks in Jim's story.

      We left by the backdoor once we could hear the sirens. I hefted the
      fat guy over my shoulder. He had some questions to answer.

      JIM **********

      Thanks to that first kick Marie gave me, I'd probably never get a
      hard-on again. Walking to the car had been a nightmare -- Mike
      actually had to help me. So what does Marie do once we got back
      into their car? She dug out a first-aid kit and began cleaning that
      itsy-bitsy cut on Mike's face while asking him over and over if he's
      all right.

      Hunched over in the seat, I told the rest of the story while I tried
      not to think about peeing blood.

      Logan had tossed Chris into the trunk of the car. The guy had still
      been out like a light. Mike had really clobbered him.

      "...so that's it," I finished through clenched teeth, trying to
      ignore the pain. "They kidnapped Donna and some guy bought her.
      The biker-guy who's now underneath the jukebox was the go-between --
      he contacted the customers and told Chris what kind of girls to get."

      Logan nodded thoughtfully, "You know, that's not a bad set-up. A
      lot of dancers are just passing through. So if they vanish, it's
      not too surprising, and everyone just assumes that they've found
      another job in some other town -- especially if the manager of the
      bar their working at can provide some general cover story. Chris
      screwed up by grabbing a local girl."

      Marie was leaning over the front seat in order to fit a bandage onto
      Mike's cheek. Finished, she tilted Mike's head forward and gave him
      a quick kiss on the top of his head. Mike sat back with this sappy
      smile on his face. Dear God, I thought, life is not fair.

      Then Marie sat back and glanced over at Logan.

      "We have to shut this down," she said.

      I tried not to show my relief. More than anyone else, Marie has big-
      time pull with Logan. If she thought we had to do something, then
      Logan would probably go for it. Which meant that Donna was half-way
      home already.

      Logan nodded, got out of the car in a blast of cold air, and walked
      back to the trunk.

      The trunk opened.

      "You awake?" I heard Logan say to Chris. "Good. We've gotta talk."

      MARIE **********

      OK, I was embarrassed. I shouldn't have lost my temper. I
      shouldn't have kicked the snot out of Jim. Not that I was EVER
      going to apologize to him, the hard-headed little toad.

      The important thing was that Mike and Jim seemed to be OK. Mike
      just had that cut and Jim... Uh, well, I guess I was the cause of
      the only injuries Jim had suffered.

      Even better, they hadn't really run away. They'd come back to the
      school after we sorted things out here in Boston.

      I tried to watch what was going on with Logan and Chris via the
      passenger-side mirror. Logan dragged Chris out of the trunk and
      deeper into the alleyway in which we had the car parked. I couldn't
      see very clearly because of the darkness, but they seemed to be
      talking. At one point, there was a loud scream that made all of us
      jump. Then more conversation.

      Logan got back into the car. Chris was sitting on the ground with
      his head in his hands, rocking slowly back and forth.

      Something landed in my lap. It was a small package that Logan had
      tossed there. I opened it up. It had money in it. Lots of money.
      We're talking thousands of dollars.

      "When we get back, take Kitty and Jubes for a trip to the mall,"
      said Logan casually.

      Well... fighting crime seemed to have its perks.

      "Uh, wait a minute," said Jim. "What about Chris?"

      Logan started the car, "If he's smart, Chris will be visiting the
      nearest emergency room. After that, he's the cop's problem. Right
      now, we're going to go get your friend Donna out of trouble."

      There was a clicking noise.

      Logan cursed and pulled one of our radios from his jacket pocket.
      Then he put it to his ear.

      "Yeah?" he said into the radio.


      "Oh, hi, Ororo! How's it going?"


      "Yeah, we found 'em. Hey! Guess what! Marie and I have been
      doing 'good-cop/bad-cop' with them and I'm the good cop!"

      Jim snorted.

      Long pause.

      "No. Seriously. I mean it," Logan said in a slightly offended tone.

      There was another long pause.

      "Look, if you can just stop laughing..." said Logan in an
      exasperated voice.

      I couldn't help but snicker. Meanwhile, both of the boys were
      trying to keep from laughing out loud.

      MIKE **********

      Mr. Logan stopped the car a couple of blocks away the building Chris
      had told him about. It looked like we were in a warehouse
      district. But a lot of the older buildings were being replaced with
      new offices.

      We could see the building clearly because it was pretty isolated. A
      lot of the buildings that once surrounded it had been torn down. It
      was two stories tall and looked like just another one of those
      modern glass-and-steel boxes. The streetlights around here were
      spotty, but there were a lot of lights near the building.

      "Not much cover," commented Marie.

      "There's enough. I'm gonna take a look. You keep an eye out for
      anyone coming or going from the building," said Mr. Logan.

      Marie nodded.

      "Hey, what about us?" asked Jim.

      Mr. Logan looked over his shoulder at us, "You two are gonna stay
      put, keep your mouths shut, and do what Marie tells you.

      Gulp. So much for Mr. Logan being the 'good cop'.

      "Yessir!" said Jim and I more-or-less simultaneously.

      Mr. Logan got out of the car... and vanished.

      Jim looked at me and shook his head, "I have to use a mutant power
      to do that."

      Marie was scanning the area with a set of small binoculars. After a
      minute or so, she suddenly leaned forward. Then she dropped the
      binoculars and reached for her radio. She started clicking a button
      on the radio. Obviously, she was trying to get ahold of Mr. Logan.

      Jim looked at me and shrugged -- and then nodded towards Marie. It
      was a fair bet that Marie's reaction to a question from Jim would be
      a suggestion that he shut up. But she would be more reasonable with

      "What's up?" I asked Marie.

      She kept working the signal key on her radio.

      "I thought I saw something moving away from the building. The
      battery must be dead in this thing."

      Then the building we were concentrating on exploded. A flare of
      light blew out all of the windows on one side of the building. The
      light left everyone dazzled.

      We all recognized it of course.

      LOGAN **********

      I was moving slowly, depending mostly on the darkness to hide me.
      The ground around the building in which we thought Donna was being
      held was pretty open. But the cover was decent up until about a
      block away from that building. I figured that I would take my time,
      pick the best route, and then try to sneak into the building.

      With any luck, I'd be able to spring Donna -- and anyone else who
      might be with her -- without too much hassle. I definitely didn't
      want to get Marie and the boys involved if I didn't have to.

      Then a stray wind whispered down the street, carrying a familiar
      scent. I sniffed the air, thinking, "No. It can't be."

      On the other side of the street I heard the scurry of two or three
      people running over the snow-covered sidewalk. But it was too dark
      to see them.

      Then all hell broke loose.

      The front of the building blasted open with an earth-shaking roar
      like the end of the world. Shattered glass flew everywhere. The
      light was pure white frosted with red. I was knocked flat and
      blinded. I could feel the sting of a dozen cuts -- some of them
      pretty ugly. Bleeding, ears ringing, unable to see, and working
      entirely by feel and memory, I scrambled under a nearby parked
      truck. There I frantically scrubbed at my eyes with a handful of
      snow, trying to clear them.

      My healing factor kicked in. Within seconds, I could see light and
      shapes. The ringing in my ears decreased to a manageable level.
      The cuts in my skin healed themselves.

      I knew that I should give it another thirty seconds, but every
      instinct I had was telling me to quit screwing around and keep

      Finally, I got something to work with. I could hear a woman -- no,
      a girl -- sobbing somewhere down the block. Keeping low, I
      scrambled down the sidewalk, crunching through the mixture of snow
      and broken glass, heading for that sound.

      It didn't take me long to find her. She was curled up in a ball,
      hiding behind a dumpster, shaking.

      I crawled up to her, turned her over, and forced her to look at me.


      "M... Mr. Logan..." she whispered as her eyes tried to focus on me.

      She didn't seem to be injured. Not even a single cut -- which was a
      freaking miracle.

      "I didn't know you had that in you, darling," I said with a grin.

      She was the one who blew out the front of the building. She'd never
      done anything this big before. And it had knocked her for a loop.

      "Kitty... Kitty's with me," she said.

      Hmm, Boston was turning into a mutant parade.

      "What are you to doing here?"

      "Looking for Mike and Jim," she answered. Her voice was still
      shaky, but she was definitely showing signs of recovering.

      "Well, I guess you found 'em. Where's Kitty?"

      "She went inside to help someone get out of that building. She
      phoned me and told me that she'd found a couple of prisoners. She
      also said that they'd been spotted and a bunch of guys were chasing
      her. Then I saw her leave the building with two girls. I figured
      that I'd give her a distraction."

      I looked over at the building. Most of the front was blown out.
      There was a fire burning on the second floor.

      "Well, they're probably distracted," I said.

      MIKE **********

      There was no question about it -- that explosion was Jubes'. I've
      never seen her do anything that big before. But it was definitely
      all hers.

      I hadn't been looking down the street when the fireworks kicked
      off. So the blast didn't effect me as much as it did Jim and

      "I'm checking it out," I said to them. Both Jim and Marie were
      curled up with their hands over their eyes -- temporarily blinded by
      the light show. Marie half-waved her hand, which could have meant
      anything. I decided that it meant it was OK for me to go.

      Ditching Marie and Jim like that didn't set very well with me, but I
      had to see if Jubes was OK. More and more, it seemed that doing
      grown-up stuff meant having to choose between two bad things. All
      of a sudden, growing up didn't look so good.

      About a block down the street, I heard a really unexpected voice
      come out of an alley.

      "Mike! Thank God!"

      It was Kitty. She was kneeling in the snow, shivering and trying to
      catch her breath. But she was smiling at me.

      There were two other girls in alley with Kitty. They didn't have
      any clothes on, but they were huddled together trying to share a
      coat. Kitty's coat.

      I stripped off my jacket and gave it to the girls while I tried to
      keep my eyes somewhere neutral. Then I helped Kitty to her feet.

      We held one another in a tight hug. Kitty was scared, cold, and
      tired. She was glad to see me. But it wasn't the type of glad that
      I'd always hoped to someday find in her. I guess the thing that I
      should have figured out a long time ago finally hit me right then.
      I wasn't ever going to replace Peter.

      Yeah, it was time to grow up. And like I'd already noticed, growing
      up really sucked.

      JIM **********

      OK, I could finally walk without feeling like I was about to throw

      By the time Marie and I caught up to Mike, he had found Kitty and
      two girls curled up in the mouth of an alleyway. Mike had taken off
      his jacket and wrapped it around one of the girls. Kitty had
      already given the other girl her coat. Both girls were barefoot and
      barelegged and shivering so hard that I was amazed they didn't shake
      apart. I had the impression that they weren't wearing much of
      anything underneath their borrowed jackets.

      One of the girls was Donna. She didn't look too good. I didn't
      recognize the other girl.

      "Donna? It's me, Jimmy."

      Donna took a second to focus on me. Then a barest ghost of a smile
      came over her face.

      "Squirt! Where the heck did you come from?" she said through
      chattering teeth.

      I shrugged, "Jenny sent me to find you."

      Marie tossed me the keys to the car, "Get the car over here. We've
      got to get them out of the cold."

      I nodded and took off at a run.

      MARIE **********

      I had no clue how Kitty had got to Boston, or how she had ended up
      in that alleyway, or why Donna and the other girl were with her.
      But right now wasn't the time for questions. We had to find Logan
      and Jubes and get the hell out of there before the cops showed up.

      Yeah, I recognized the blast that took out the front of that
      building. It was a heck of a lot bigger than anything else I'd ever
      seen Jubilation do, but it was definitely her work.

      "Kitty, where's Jubes?" I asked.

      Mike looked anxiously down the street towards the wrecked building
      at the mention of Jubes' name.

      Kitty looked at me, "Up the street about two blocks. She was hiding
      behind a dumpster on the north side of the street. She was going to
      cover me if I ran into trouble getting Donna out of that building"

      I wanted so much to ask her for more details. But like I said,
      there just wasn't time.

      Looking at Mike -- who was obviously impatient as all hell to go
      find Jubes -- and I said, "Come with me."

      He nodded and we began working our way further down the street.

      MIKE **********

      We stayed out of sight as much as possible, keeping to the darker
      parts of the street. I tried not to get impatient as Marie took
      things slowly and carefully. Marie's really smart about that sort
      of thing, and I trusted her.

      So it took awhile, but eventually we found Mr. Logan and Jubes. They
      were across the street from the wrecked building. He was sitting
      down on the ground with his back against a dumpster. Jubes was next
      to him. She was shaking and holding onto Mr. Logan while he stroked
      her hair.

      For a second, seeing how Jubes looked, it felt like something inside
      of me had been torn loose. Then Mr. Logan gave me a long look and
      handed Jubes over to me. To my relief, I could see that she wasn't

      "Get her out of here," he told me. I nodded and helped Jubes to her
      feet. She grabbed me and held on like I was the only thing keeping
      her from drowning.

      Mr. Logan nodded to Marie. They headed across the street to the
      building that Jubes had blown up.

      "Hi, Mike," Jubes said to me with a shaky grin. "I'm here to rescue

      "Thanks," I said with a laugh.

      We started back to the car. Jubes was staggering, but I steadied
      her. She must have thrown everything she had into that big blast
      that wrecked the building.

      "What happened to your face?" she asked.

      I touched the bandage that Marie had put on my cheek.

      "I got into a fight."

      She sighed, "Mike, you've got to stop that. You're going to get
      hurt really bad someday."

      "I'll try."


      "I promise."

      "Good. Oh, and speaking as your honorary big sister, I want you to
      know that as soon as I'm feeling better I'm gonna kick your ass for
      scaring me this way."

      "OK. But you're going to have to get in line behind Marie."

      LOGAN **********

      We had to move fast and get out before the cops, the firemen, and
      anyone else in this kidnapping gang showed up. I mostly just wanted
      to make sure that there wasn't anyone else in the building who
      needed help. On the other hand, it wouldn't bother me if we found
      something that gave us a better idea of what the hell was going on.

      There were three guys in a stairwell between the first and second
      floor. They were gunslingers, but they weren't in any shape to put
      up a fight or answer any questions. All of them were burned, cut
      up, and broken. But as near as I could tell, they were going to end
      up in the hospital rather than the morgue.

      I was glad about that. Not because I gave a damn about those guys.
      But because I cared about Jubes.

      There was nobody else in the building. So Marie and I grabbed some
      interesting paperwork, dragged the injured guys out into the street
      and away from the fire, and skedaddled.

      JIM **********

      The four guys with guns came out of nowhere. One second I was
      helping Kitty, Donna, and the other girl into the car. The next
      there was the muzzle of a shotgun pointed at my face and my hands
      were in the air.

      "Who the hell are you?" snarled the guy with the shotgun.

      "Uh, nobody," I improvised. "I was driving by and I saw this
      explosion. I found these girls wandering down the street. They
      looked like they needed help."

      Shotgun Guy shook his head, "Wrong answer, kid. Two of the girls in
      your car are valuable pieces of property. I want to know why you
      have them."

      Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kitty grab the other two girls by
      the hand. Then she looked at me and nodded.

      OK, all three of them were desolid now. I didn't have to worry
      about them.

      I turned invisible and fell flat to the ground. The shotgun roared.

      MIKE **********

      I pushed Jubes up against the wall and let her go. Still looking
      weak, she crouched down. The guys surrounding the car were looking
      all around themselves -- confused by Jim's disappearance.

      Looking around me, I saw a manhole just a couple of yards away,
      visible despite the snow. I walked over, pulled the manhole cover
      loose, shook off the snow, and hefted it experimentally.

      "Sorry, Jubes. I gotta bust my promise."

      "Less than two minutes. You're a typical guy," she grumped.

      "All right, get out of the car!" I heard the guy who had tried to
      shoot Jim yell at Kitty and the other girls.

      I drew back the manhole cover and said to Jubes, "You may not want
      to watch this."

      She closed her eyes.

      KITTY **********

      There wasn't any way those guys could hurt us as long as we were all
      desolid. So when that tall guy with the shotgun told us to get out
      of the car, I kept my grip on the other girls and stuck my tongue
      out at him.

      We were safe for the moment. But I was getting tired. Real soon, I
      wouldn't be able to keep myself or the other girls desolid.

      I was really hoping that something would happen before it came to

      The guy with the shotgun began fumbling with the door to the car. I
      felt my stomach turn over. It would only be a matter of a few
      seconds until I would no longer be able to keep us all safe.

      Then something hit him so hard that we could all clearly hear his
      bones break.

      JIM **********

      The guy Mike had frisbeed with the manhole cover wasn't going to be
      hurting anyone for a while. In fact, I sort of envisioned him
      needing a year or so before he could walk, eat solid food, or use a
      bathroom without help.

      The other three guys didn't have a clue what was going on. Two were
      already beginning to edge away. But one of them was either braver
      or stupider than the others. He pointed a pistol in Mike's

      Still invisible, I picked up the shotgun that had belonged to the
      guy Mike had nailed, and used it like a baseball bat to cold-cock
      the guy who was pointing a gun at Mike. I didn't hold back in the

      He went down in a boneless heap. The other two guys, clearly
      spooked by the weirdness factor, took off at a dead run.

      MARIE **********

      We were heading back to the car and the rest of the guys, when they
      drove up and met us half-way. Jim was driving. Mike was in the
      front passenger seat. Kitty, Jubes, and the two girls that Kitty
      had rescued were all in the back.

      It turned out that Mike and Jim had taken care of another bunch of
      bad guys while Logan and I were checking out the building.

      I did some math in my head. Chris and the guy in the bar. Three
      guys in that building. Four more at the car. Logan and I exchanged
      a glance. There were a lot of people involved in this gang, it was
      getting bigger by the moment.

      I could tell that Logan was counting noses to make sure we had
      everyone -- this was turning into quite the crowd scene -- and then
      he unceremoniously threw Jim out of the driver's seat and we took
      off. Mike and Jim were squeezed into the front with Logan and I.

      Everyone was talking at once, trying to compare stories and sort out
      what had happened.

      Logan yelled for everyone to shut-up, and we all did.

      "Kitty. Jubes. Explain."

      We call that the "Logan Voice". When he does that, it's a good idea
      to cooperate. After a brief pause, Jubes spoke up.

      "We took off to find Mike and Jim. We... uh... followed them to
      Boston. We stopped to see Jim's sister Jenny. She told us what
      she suspected."

      She hesitated, and Kitty took over, "We went to the strip-club that
      Donna and Jenny worked at. Then we..."

      Kitty stopped and glanced at Jubes.

      "What?" asked Logan impatiently.

      "We applied for a job," Kitty said in a rush.

      The following silence ended when Jim giggled.

      "Then what?" asked Logan.

      "Well, they said we were too young."

      Jim was snickering by now, while Mike tried to hide his smile.
      Kitty pointedly ignored them and kept talking.

      "We took the chance to scope the place out. After we left, I snuck
      in through the back wall. I checked out the manager's office. He
      had a laptop with a lot of interesting stuff in it. He had the
      files hidden, password protected, and encrypted -- but I managed to
      crack them. They told us just about everything."

      Jim stopped laughing and looked at Mike, "We've really got to get in
      step with the 21st century."

      Mike nodded.

      After giving Mike and Jim a slightly smug look, Kitty
      continued, "Once we knew that this was a slavery ring, we figured
      that we better shut it down. It seemed to us that Mike and Jim
      would come back once that was taken care of and Donna was free."

      "So I snuck into the gang's building and got these two out," Kitty
      gestured towards Donna and the other girl. "Jubes covered for me."

      "By the way, thanks," said Donna weakly.

      Logan nodded. Everyone held their breath and waited for him to
      start yelling or -- or something. But nothing happened.

      Finally, Logan glanced over his shoulder at Donna and the other girl
      that Kitty had rescued.

      "Logan, we can't just drop them off and leave them," I said quickly.

      Logan nodded.

      "Do either of you have anywhere that you can hide out? We're going
      to have to put all the evidence together into a package that the
      Boston Police Department can deal with. Until then, you're in
      trouble. You can't just go home."

      Both girls looked at one another, obviously a bit lost.

      Jim spoke up, "Hey, how about my mom's place?"

      LOGAN **********

      Mrs. Flanagan and Jenny were surprised when a herd of people showed
      up at their front door. But they didn't hesitate to open their home
      to us.

      It was a hectic night. I spent most of it on the radio with the
      Professor and Ororo as we sorted out how to break this to the cops.
      Meanwhile, Mrs. Flanagan and Jenny made sure that everyone got a hot
      meal, clothes if they needed them, and a place to sleep.

      By three am, everyone was asleep except for Donna and me.

      Old habits die hard. I found myself checking Donna out. She was
      definitely a cutey. Short, curly, black hair. Dark skin. Warm,
      brown eyes. Athletic grace to all her movements. And you didn't
      have to talk to her for very long before you realized that she was a
      pretty sharp gal.

      We were in the kitchen. Donna looked over at the living room while
      she sipped her coffee. Mike and Jim were asleep on the living room
      floor. Kitty and Jubes were bunking with Jenny. The guest room
      was reserved for Donna and the other girl -- whose name I still
      hadn't heard.

      Marie was alone on the living room couch, on the far side of the
      living room and well away from Mike and Jim. I know it has to be
      that way, but the sight of her alone like that bothered me. It
      always does.

      "I didn't expect..." she suddenly blurted out -- and then stopped.

      I cocked my head and gave her a look. Donna looked back at me and
      then away, towards the living room.

      "They're just kids," she finished a bit awkwardly.

      "Yeah..." I said slowly. I decided that it'd be best if she
      finished this on her own.

      She bit her lip for a second and looked back at me, her hands
      restlessly turning her coffee cup around and around, "I didn't say
      that right. I guess I expected something different from kids who
      could do what they can do. Which is sort of silly. After all, I've
      known Jim for years. But when you get down to it, they're all so
      damn... normal."

      I nodded.

      Donna continued, her voice a bit distant, "Jim and Mike are opposite
      ends of the teenage boy spectrum. Jim tries too hard -- he
      undresses me with his eyes every times he sees me and always has a
      smart-ass thing to say that he thinks is clever. Meanwhile, Mike
      can't look me in the eye and stutters every time I try to talk to
      him. The girls... well, talking with them was like being back at a
      high school slumber party. Chatter, chatter, chatter about boys and
      music and boys and makeup and boys and clothes -- and then some more
      about boys. Jubes is your typical tomboy. Kitty is a brain.

      Donna stopped, sipped from her coffee cup again, and then looked me
      straight in the eye for the first time, "Can the people at that
      school help Marie with her problem? Her power? Or whatever the
      hell you call the thing with her skin?"

      I hesitated before answering, "They're trying. Nobody's making any

      Donna looked a bit embarrassed, "I talked with her. I explained a
      few things that she could do with a boy while they were both wearing
      clothes. Uhm, maybe I shouldn't have done that."

      "She's a pretty smart kid," I said with a shrug. "She would've
      figured it out anyway."

      "So who's Bobby?"

      "A kid at school. About Marie's age. He's been good to her. He's
      also in big trouble if he ever treats her wrong," I said with a

      She smiled back, "She's also thinks a lot of this other guy at the
      school. Older fellow."

      "Not gonna happen," I said shortly. "She needs something else.
      Something better."

      Donna raised her eyebrows, but she didn't push it. Then she turned
      and stared out at the kids crashed in the living room.

      "You know, they shouldn't have to put up with all this. Being
      mutants. Being different. Having to hide. It's not fair," she
      finally said.

      I sure couldn't think of anything to say to that.

      MIKE **********

      The next morning, Mrs. Flanagan made us all a really nice
      breakfast. Then we got all of our stuff together.

      The last I saw of Donna and the other girl (her name was Susie, by
      the way) they were sitting at the kitchen table with Jenny. Marie
      walked over and dropped a package full of money on the table.

      Then she looked at Donna and Susie and said, "This is yours."

      "So much for your big trip to the Mall," I said to Marie as we
      walked to the car.

      Marie just smiled.

      CHARLES **********

      "Of course, we have to punish them," I told Logan.

      We had just spent a solid hour discussing the events in Boston. And
      their repercussions.

      Logan nodded slowly, "I suppose."

      He didn't sound convinced, "We can't have students running off
      whenever they desire -- no matter how good the cause. You know
      that, Logan."

      "Yeah, you're right about that, Charles. So we definitel<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)