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Fic: The Evolution of Jubilee 1/3 [Gen, PG]

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  • avimara
    TITLE: The Evolution of Jubilee 1/3 AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass AUTHOR S E-MAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com. Feedback is better than chocolate. PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE:
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2002
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      TITLE: The Evolution of Jubilee 1/3
      AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
      AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@.... Feedback is better than
      chocolate.
      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
      Jubilee.
      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.

      //thoughts//

      ***************************

      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
      day" mood.

      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
      humans...Arg!"

      "And the science explanations suck." The man sounded pretty disgusted
      too.

      //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
      bugs.

      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
      thought.

      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
      Humanity.

      //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,
      right?"

      "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
      home?"

      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
      more inclusive."

      "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_
      there, babe.//

      "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."

      "Huh?"

      "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
      more realistic."

      "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
      this exhibit?"

      "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
      Diddy."

      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
      eight-syllable words.

      "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
      community apathy.

      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
      sitcom.

      "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
      exhibit?//

      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--
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