Author: Pat Phillips
Summary: In this very dark AU, a powerful
conspiracy is not merely persecuting
mutants -- it's slaughtering them.
Normal humans are being treated almost
Rating & characters:
Jean, OC(Joe), Raven, Erik
With the exception of Joe Keene, I don't
own any of these characters. Instead,
they are the property of Marvel Comics.
As a firm believer in property rights,
it's only reasonable that I specify that
my use of these characters should in no
way be interpreted as a threat to Marvel's
ownership of them.
All of my fan fiction, including this story,
is a not-for-profit venture. After all, when
you get down to it, who would pay for this
Joe threw his backpack onto the bed. It landed with an inviting
"I hope you like your room," said Jean.
"Heck, it's bigger than my room back home," chuckled Joe in a tired
voice. He still looked like a mess. His clothing was torn --
especially his shirt -- and was crusty with dried blood. His face
and and hands were also spotted with dried blood.
The room was fairly spartan, but not uncomfortable. A bed, dresser,
desk and chair were the only furniture. They were all new. A closet
door stood open, giving him a view of a clothing rod and a few
hangers. There was a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new carpet on
the floor, and recently-pressed drapes covering the sole window.
"There's a shower down at the end of the hallway. It has a sign.
You share it with several other students."
A shower. Joe sighed in relief. Most of the dried blood had flaked
from his skin by now. But this would be a chance to wash off the
rest and finally get out of his torn and blood-soaked clothes.
"We have a lot to talk about, Joe. But I really think you need to
get a night's sleep first," said Jean.
Joe nodded. A shower and then he'd go to bed. Considering the fact
he had been planning on sleeping outdoors tonight, this was actually
working out pretty well
That is, if you could ignore the murder attempt by three complete
strangers. And that echo in the back of Joe's head where screams
suddenly changed from merely desperate to utterly agonized as the
gunman he had grabbed felt his bones begin to break...
Joe shook his head, trying to drive away the memory. Jean looked at
the young man closely. He was clearly running on empty. But the
exhaustion wasn't so much physical as emotional. Everything from the
actual act of running away from home, to the fight on the Interstate,
to killing a man in bloody hand-to-hand combat, to the non-stop
exposure to the new and the strange here at the school, were all
taking their toll on Joe. It would be best to let him get some rest.
"Good night, Joe," Jean said softly.
Jean left. Joe pulled a clean set of clothes and a towel from his
pack. Then he took off his shirt, boots, and socks. Wearing only
his jeans, he headed down the hallway towards the bathroom.
It never occurred to him to knock, for the simple reason that it
hadn't occurred to him that there might be girl students at the
A sudden scream and a thrown shampoo bottle introduced him to reality.
Kitty wrapped a dozen ice-cubes into a small towel and then gave it
to Joe. He put it over the black eye that was now blossoming on his
face. Kitty hovered over him, obviously upset.
"Geeze, I'm sorry," she said for the fifth time.
"That's OK, Kitty," said Joe, his voice partially muffled by the
towel pressed against his face. "I should have been thinking that
there might be somebody else in the bathroom. I guess I was just too
"I don't normally shower this early," explained Kitty, "but I was
having problems sleeping and I figured that I'd get a jump on things
and spend some time in the computer lab."
"You've got a computer lab here?" Joe was clearly interested.
Computers were a bit of a novelty where he came from.
"Yeah. Great equipment, too. I hate to think what our internet
hookup costs all the way out here."
The tea-kettle started whistling and Kitty ran off to tend it. They
were both sitting in the kitchen. Once Kitty had determined that the
boy she had knocked flat wasn't out to molest her, she had brought
Joe down there for some improvised first aid.
Kitty put a cup of tea in front of Joe. Normally, he didn't touch
the stuff, but just about anything drinkable would do right now. He
picked it up and drank half of it in one swallow.
Kitty was wearing a big white fluffy robe and had her chestnut hair
wrapped up in a towel. Joe reflected that while, indeed, the world
had sort of sucked lately, at least he was meeting a lot of cute
"How long have you been here, Kitty?"
"About six months. My parents sent me."
"Hmm, how'd your folks find out about this school? Hell, I live here
in Wyoming and I had no clue that this place was in business!"
Kitty made a helpless looking gesture, "I'm not sure. My dad said it
was somebody he knew that told him about the school. He has a lot of
Joe absorbed that.
"So you're a mutant, too?" he finally asked.
She nodded. "Watch."
The girl laid her hand on the table and concentrated -- and suddenly
pushed her hand directly through the table's wooden surface. For
several long seconds, she held her hand in that position, and then
pulled it loose.
"I can turn desolid. I can walk through walls," she said.
"Holy cow!" breathed Joe, staring at the girl in surprise.
"What do you do?" Kitty asked.
Joe frowned, "That's kind of hard to explain."
Kitty shrugged, "Try me."
"I... talk to spirits. And they give me power."
Kitty blinked in surprise, "I don't understand."
Joe was clearly struggling to explain himself, "The earth has spirits
within it. If I can touch the earth -- the real soil or rock of a
place -- then the spirits hear me. And they make me one of them for
a little while."
Kitty sipped from her own cup of tea, obviously confused by what Joe
was saying, "I think you'll have to show me that someday."
The Professor was waiting for Jean. He caught her as she was
returning to her room.
"We have to talk," he said simply, gesturing towards the library.
The library looked more like something more appropriate to the home
of a wealthy bibliophile than a school. Actually it filled both
roles. At one of the study tables, Professor Lensherr courteously
held a heavy wooden chair for Jean as she sat down. Then he took a
seat in another chair across from her.
"Are you angry at me, sir?" Jean asked. Of course, she already knew
the answer to that question, but she had discovered that people were
much more comfortable with going through certain rituals.
"Yes and no," the Professor answered truthfully.
"I messed up, sir. When I saw Joe and realized that those ghouls had
spotted him, I thought I could get him safely out of their without
drawing attention. It never occured to me that they would act so
The Professor frowned, "I must admit that their actions surprise me
as well. But this is not the only case we've seen lately of our
enemies violating their precious Masquerade."
Then the Professor looked Jean directly in the eyes, "Jean, I respect
your sentiments. But there is only so much we can accomplish. And
it is vitally important that you and Raven be careful. We can
neither draw too much attention to ourselves or suffer any
unnecessary losses. Our margin for error is very small and we simply
cannot lose either of our most effective agents."
"Yes, sir. But I think I may have found us another potential
The older man leaned back in his chair, his eyes narrowing, "Joseph
is far too young."
"Yes, sir. And I agree that now is not the time. But Joe is very
powerful And he didn't panic or run when we got into trouble."
Professor Lensherr nodded, "And he killed that ghoul very
efficiently. Yes, he is a remarkable young man in ways other than
his mutant abilities. The potential is clearly there."
Jean opened her mouth to speak, paused for a second, then plunged
onwards, "I'm requesting your permission to take him on a
reconnaisance operation tommorrow evening."
"Where do you plan on going?"
His ice cold blue eyes bore into her as the Professor considered
"If anyone else but you were making this request..." he half-
"We don't have time, sir. We have to bring Joe in as quickly as
possible. That means we have to banish all of his doubts and answer
all of his questions. And we have to do that immediately. Not over
a period of weeks or months. But right now."
The old man heaved a sign, "Very well. But you will give him the
option of going with you or not. And you will tell him that it is
Jean nodded, "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"And there's one more thing."
"I need your word on something before I will allow you to do this."
The old man's eyes were suddenly colder than interstellar space, "You
are to operate under this fundametal understanding: if things go
badly, your number one priority is to return safely and with our
secrets intact -- Joseph is expendable."
"Your word. Give it to me."
Jean leaned back in her chair and took a deep breath, "Yes, sir. You
have my word."
Kitty finally let him go after she was sure that she hadn't seriously
He almost fell asleep standing in the shower.
Finally, he snapped out of his daze and stumbled back to his room.
Joe didn't even remember getting into the bed. Surprisingly, he had
no nightmares, but that wasn't just a matter of luck.
It was getting close to noon when Joe awoke. He was still buttoning
his shirt when he left his room. Several young people noticed him in
"Howdy, I'm looking for a lady named Jean Grey," said Joe to the
There was a long, uncomfortable moment while the others seemed to
examine him minutely. Joe felt his temper begin to rise. Finally,
one of them -- a boy a year or so younger than Joe -- responded.
"She's not in classes right now, so she's probably in her office.
It's just next to the lobby, in the main hallway. You can't miss it,
it has her name on the door."
"Thanks," said Joe briefly.
The main hallway was easy to find. He'd been in it several times
last night. Near the end of it, he found Jean's office. He noticed
a list of classes and times that were posted next to her door. Joe
thought about that for a second. He knew this school was more than a
little unusual, given the fact that the students were all supposed to
be. But how many schools had a CIA agent as an instructor in
Algebra, Biology, Chemistry, and Gym?
He knocked politely, reflecting with a wry smile that Kitty had
perhaps taught him a lesson last night.
"Come in, Joe!" she called.
Joe opened the door and entered, thinking that he would probably
someday get used to the fact that Jean was a telepath, but it wasn't
going to be happening anytime soon.
Jean looked up from some paperwork and frowned, "What happened to
He carefully touched his black eye, "Kitty beat me up."
Jean cocked her head to one side, then burst out laughing.
"Does Kitty realize that she now has no womanly secrets where you are
"I'm not sure if she realizes just how good of a look I got. But I
don't think I better tell her."
"Good decision," chuckled Jean.
Looking around Jean's office, Joe noticed a framed photo next to
Jean's computer. It held a portrait of a handsome, serious-looking
man in uniform. He was wearing an odd pair of heavy, red-lensed,
"Who's that?" asked Joe, gesturing towards the photo.
"My fiancee. His name is Scott."
Joe smiled, "Damn. And here I was hoping that you were available."
Her smile grew wider -- mostly in relief that Joe was bouncing back
so quickly from the trauma of the day before, "Sorry, Joe. But even
if we ignored the difference in our ages, I gave Scott my word that I
would wait for him until he got home."
"So where is he? Iraq or Afghanistan?"
Jean pursed her lips and nodded approvingly, "Afghanistan. That's
very good, Joe. Did you guess that just from the fact that he's in
"That and the fact that he's Special Forces -- I recognized the green
beret. As I understand it, those guys are pretty busy right now, and
we don't have a lot of them to spare."
Then Joe suddenly turned serious, "We're due for a talk, Jean. The
day I left home, three guys popped up out of nowhere and tried to
kill you and me both. It looked like a cop was helping them. I
figure it's time I knew what the heck is going on."
"Yes. But I'm going to give you a choice that we don't give most of
the students here. I can try to explain it to you, like we do to
everyone else. Or I can show it to you. Which do you want?"
Joe looked a little wary, "What's the difference?"
"The truth is... bizarre. And frightening. And ugly. A lot of
people don't want to believe it. But seeing the truth with your own
eyes will prove to you exactly what's going on. And the better you
understand what we're fighting, the more likely you are to survive."
Joe seemed to be thinking it over, "You said that you don't usually
give people this choice. Why are you doing that for me?"
"You're a pretty powerful mutant, Joe. I'm hoping you'll be more
than just a student here. If you're willing, you could be very
valuable to us. That means you have to brought up to speed as
quickly as possible."
Joe looked at Jean, trying to judge both her and her words.
"OK," he finally said. "Let's go take a look."
"Before you decide, Joe, I want you to listen to me very carefully.
We're taking a chance if we do this. It's not a crazy chance, but
it's a chance none-the-less. Do you understand?"
"I'm going to tell you some important things. Things that you have
to keep in mind at all times. If you get any of them wrong, we could
"OK," said Joe warily.
"You're going to see some terrible things. But it's very important
that you don't show fear or weakness. Where we are going, that sort
of thing is an invitation to be attacked."
"Some of the... people that we're dealing with can detect mutants.
That's how you were spotted at the truckstop. I can use telepathy to
hide us. But I can only do that if you're nearby. So once we get to
where we're going, never get more than an arm's length away from me."
Joe nodded again, this time very slowly.
"Don't say anything if you can possibly avoid it. And if I tell you
to do something, you do it. No hesitations or questions."
Joe held his head slightly canted to one side, his eyes studying
Jean's face closely.
"Repeat all that back to me," ordered Jean.
Carefully, taking his time, Joe did as she asked. He got it all
right. Jean was impressed. The normal pattern with untrained people
was that they remembered only the first or last parts accurately, and
almost always forgot something in the middle.
"Do you still want to go? I'm not kidding when I say that it's
"Hell, Jean, as near as I can tell just standing around at a
truckstop is dangerous for people like you and me."
"OK. Report back to my office at four o'clock, we'll leave then."