(continued directly from last post)
* * *
"You're a strange child," Scott said quietly.
"This can't be coming as a surprise to you," Annie
observed, putting her feet up on the coffee-table.
They were watching the news, the morning after their
return. "I was raised as a mentally-deficient
lab-rat. I can't just come out of that a Normal
"Good point. I'm impressed by how well you're coping,
mind you." Scott absently stole a handful of
fruit-loops from the box on Annie's lap. "I do wish
you hadn't killed those guards."
Annie looked rather ashamed of herself. "They shot
Marie. I got.... upset."
"Don't do it again."
"Good." Scott leaned back on the couch and looked at
her thoughtfully. "Annie, you know what they planned
to do with you and Marie."
She nodded, eyes glued to the screen. "Assessment,
elimination, and dissective study."
"And Marie told us this morning that you discovered
the existence of several more bases like the one you
"Yup." Annie stuffed another handful of sugary loops
into her mouth.
"So what are you planning to do about it?" he asked
patiently. "I think you should inform the
Annie sighed, muting the television and giving him her
full attention. "Nah. They'll go in, there'll be
nothing there. You think they've gone undetected all
this time by not having at least one good eye on the
authorities?" Annie shook her head. "It'd be nice if
you could really turn people like that in, but it
Scott sighed and nodded. For someone who was often so
very naive, Annie could sometimes be surprisingly
cynical. "True. I hope you're not planning some sort
of bloody rampage.... are you?"
"Me?" She shook her head pensively. "I'm too young.
My dad might be able to pull that off, but I'm too
Scott blinked at her. "Too small?"
"I'd get swarmed," she explained matter-of-factly.
"No matter how strong they are, or how many powers
they have, it's easy enough to swarm someone who's
only five feet tall."
Scott nodded slowly. "Ah... speaking of powers...
I've counted at least three seperate mutant powers
that you seem to have, all of them unrelated.
That's... well... more or less impossible...."
"Oh, I've only got one." She grinned at him
mischieviously. "I'm a mutant xerox machine."
Scott blinked. "What?" he asked blankly.
"I duplicate other people's powers," she explained.
"Sort of like Rogue, only better, 'cause they don't
know I'm doing it and once I do it, I have the powers
Scott stared at her. "What... *any* powers?"
Annie grinned ruefully. "It sounds better than it is.
It takes years to learn to use ANY mutant power
properly. I can DO stuff, technically, but I don't
have any real control with any but a couple of
powers." She ticked them off on her fingers. "I've
had the shapeshifting since I was little, and I'm
still not too good at that.... and I can do the
crystal thing, but I have to practice a lot... and the
healing factor pretty much handles itself. "
He relaxes a little. No supermutant to deal with,
then. "And you never mentioned this?"
"I wasn't sure I could trust you," she said pointedly.
"It's a big bad world, Mr Summers, a girl can't be
Scott chuckled softly. "I told you that, didn't I?"
"Yes you did."
"And it was good advice." He leaned back against the
couch. "Annie... what *are* you going to do? I know
you well enough to be sure you won't let this slide."
"I have a plan. It's a simple plan, but I'm confident
that it'll be successful." Annie kicked at the
coffee-table contemplatively. "And it doesn't involve
any fighting or spouting rhetoric or running around in
tight black leather, which looks kinda *wrong* on me."
Scott waited patiently. Annie liked to talk. She'd
get to the point eventually. "What's the plan?"
Annie shrugged, and jerked her head at the screen.
"Trust in the fourth estate."
Annie unmuted the television, where a serious-faced
woman was talking from some place with a lot of trees
and concrete buildings. "-this terrible tragedy," she
said gravely. "Although there is no official word as
yet, the senior officials of the Atticus Tremane
Corporation are believed to be in police custody at
this point, following the unearthing of more than five
hundred bodies at this facility alone. So far, all
the bodies have been those of children, ranging in age
from early infancy to approximately ten or eleven
Annie leaned back in her seat, making a small,
"The fact that all these children have been mutants is
an alarming one," the woman continued, "bringing such
attempts at 'mutant control' as the Mutant
Registration Act under suspicion. Evidence has
already been located of extensive chemical testing on
the dead children, often resulting in their deaths.
It is believed that-" she paused, touching the small
earpiece nestled in her ear. "It's just come to my
attention that searchers have located a small group of
living children hiding in the lower levels of the
"Good," Annie said with a small, relieved smile.
"They got there in time."
Scott gave her a long, thoughtful look. "When you
said you'd dumped all that information to a
"I alerted the media," she confirmed. "All of them I
could find online." She gave him a small, soft smile.
"There's no way they'll be able to cover this up, Mr
Summers. Everyone in the country is going to know
that they tortured and killed thousands of little
kids, just because they were mutants, and nobody's
going to be able to ignore it, or say it didn't
happen, or that children deserve to have those things
happen to them, just because they're mutants."
Scott took another look at the screen, and his throat
constricted as he was confronted with a collection of
paramedics, each carrying a tiny body-bag. They were
children. Murdered children. It was obvious. It
wasn't something that even he, already knowing what he
did, could look away from. "Good plan," he said
"I liked it."
* * *
"So... what are your plans?" Xavier asked quietly.
"None of your business," Creed said bluntly, folding
his arms across his massive chest.
"I'm concerned about Annie," Xavier said, taking a
calming breath. He would not summon the X-Men. Or
the police. Not because the man didn't deserve it,
but because Annie didn't. "What are your plans
The massive villain shrugged, looking down at the
floor. "Not sure yet. Thinkin' I'll stick around for
a while, get to know the kid."
Xavier blinked. "Do I... take that to mean that you
plan to leave her here?"
Creed snorted. "What am *I* gonna do with a brat?"
"Well... I confess that I do believe we can take
better care of her..." And he'd expected an argument
on that point, too. "You are, of course, welcome
to... see her," he added lamely. "Provided you don't
interfere with her schoolwork...."
"Won't," Creed muttered.
"And don't lead her into evil ways," Xavier continued
awkwardly. "No.... encouraging her to kill people,
and so forth."
Xavier sighed, looking down at his hands, folded in
his lap. "This is very awkward, isn't it? Attempting
to... converse... despite our ethical and moral
Creed shrugged. "I don't care what yer ethical and
moral stance is. She's my kid, and I get to see her
if I want... but I don't know nothin' about lookin'
after a kid, and you seem to..." He looked out the
window at the students, and a keen observer would have
noticed the slightest hint of an unhappy droop around
his mouth. "You read my mind. You know."
Xavier nodded. "We will take the very best care of
her," he promised. "She will never be neglected or
"Yeah." The man looked out the window again. "Kids
seem happy. Good sign."
Xavier nodded slowly. From being a bitterly angry and
violent man, Creed was already shifting imperceptibly
towards a calmer, more rational frame of mind. It was
a start. And something Annie, at least, might be able
to build on. "And... you plan to visit?"
Creed nodded. "She'll know when."
Xavier smiled a small, wintry smile... the best he
could manage, under the circumstances. He still
didn't like the man. "Storm has... a problem with the
idea," he said carefully. "She is... intimidated by
Creed shrugged and nodded. "She'll live."
Xavier cocked an eyebrow. "We may still find
ourselves in conflict," he said coolly. "And should
that be so, you need not think that the X-Men will be
easy to defeat."
The big man nodded, grinning lazily. "Neither will
I," he rumbled. "But f'r now.... call it a truce."
"A truce is acceptable," Xavier agreed quietly. "For
Well, that's it.... thanks to all who got this far,
and I hope you enjoyed it. :) There's a sequel
planned, too, so let me know if you'd like to see it!
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