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S E A S O N O N E : H O M E C O M I N G
Location: New York City (Queens)
Multiverse Mayhem Tie-In: X-Men/New Mutants

Interaction(s): @Retired


They were a little rusty.

Katie and Jack were both up at street level, directing the flow of people down into the subway. Alex was at the platform, his gravity manipulation powers holding wide the normally concealed entry to the Morlock Tunnel, where Julie was zipping back and forth – helping to move the flow of people away from the door to make room for the continuing flow to people.

A few of the Morlocks had come up to see what was going on, a few bringing coffee or water to the displaced and disheveled now cowering in the shadow of New York’s underground.

Like Kitty, Prince Kofi Whitemane of Kymellia was another ace in the hole. While his ability to manipulate the principle forces of gravity, velocity, density, or energy were still developing, he was one of the few of his species to develop the ability to displace mass. In other words, he was a teleporter.

The white, equine alien seemed to appear and disappear, popping up on a rooftop in order to survey for his next launch point or destination. A series of blue light holograms appeared around the youth, as the alien scanned for lifesigns in distress.

As he did, he was also collecting data on the aliens causing the distress. “I know this species,” the Kymellian realized, talking across the communications network as he explained, “These are Kroloteans.”

“Well, at least its not the Snarks for a change,” Katie quipped, helping an older woman cross the street toward the 84th street station entrance.

“Hank, we’ve got intel on the hostiles,” the girl heard Dani remark, communicating back to the Xavier Institute before the woman demanded, “What can you tell us about these Kroloteans?”

Appearing inside of a burning home, the Kymellian scooped up a man who had passed out from the smoke. “They are universally regarded as an interstellar nuisance,” the Kymellian supplied, his white mane singed as he appeared down inside of Friday. Passing the man off to the boy with the medical kit – Bobby? – the youth continued, “Rather than allow their society time in which to process or progress according to their understanding of science, they instead scavenge ship graveyards, prey on disabled ships, conduct invasive experiments on other species in order to accelerate their technological capabilities and their species’ genetic evolution.”

“Great, we’re under attack by a bunch of space raccoons,” Jack deadpanned.

“Hank, did you copy that?” Dani was overheard to ask.

Picking up on Jack’s remark, the Kymellian boy said, “I’ll assume that is a particularly witty metaphor to which I am merely unfamiliar with the referenced lifeform.”

“And I’m going to assume... I have no idea what you just said,” Jack’s voice interjected, before he added, “When this is over, can someone translate Kofi for me?”

Any other time, flying like this would have felt relaxing. Instead, as the blue-skinned X-Baby circled over Queens, he felt both powerless and useless for the present crisis. Katie and her friends were doing the actual work. Kitty, Dani, and Sammy were all contributing their part. And he was just...

...doing circles. In the air.

Movement on the ground.

Dipping his right wing, the boy swooped around. As he did, he called out, “There’s a group of six aliens. No, wait, there’s more. They’ve got weapons and just came around the corner toward you.”

“Cherub, get higher and out of visual range. Let’s not find out how far their weapons can fire,” Dani’s voice snapped over the radio.

Flaring his wings back, the boy allowed a thermal current to buoy him upward, until he was passing through the moist air of a cloud.

“The rest of you, on me, and stay quiet. We’re hiding.”

“We can’t let them see people going down into the subway,” Alex Power’s voice interjected, before he called out, “Jack give us some cover!”

The teen with the cloud like emblem on his blue costume seemed to expand, as though growing larger, before he seemed to dissolve into a cloud-like mist that expanded over the street.

“Katie, stop the flow of people from crossing toward the station,” Alex called out next, before he explained, “We’ll have to use Kofi to teleport people directly down into the tunnels.”

“I’ll see if I can find another entry point,” Julie’s voice announced.

“I’d advise caution,” Kofi’s voice noted in the clone’s ear. “If I am correct, the Kroloteans are using technology adapted from both Kree and Shi’ar – very advanced civilizations.”

“You’re suggesting that they could see through Jack’s fog?”

“I’m theorizing that they could be aware the fog is, in fact, a lifeform.”

Katie tapped a spot behind her ear. “What about the people in the Morlock tunnels? Could the Kroloteans be aware of them?”

“My scanners can’t penetrate that far down. It is unlikely theirs can, without a more powerful sensor in an overhead or orbital position,” Kofi replied over the channel.

“But those of us on the surface?” Dani’s voice interjected.

“If I can detect you, it stands to reason that they can as well,” the Kymellian warned.
Mutants are taking over Queens.


S E A S O N O N E : H O M E C O M I N G
Location: Westchester, New York
Multiverse Mayhem Tie-In: X-Men/New Mutants

Interaction(s): @Retired


“He seems scared of what he’s capable of.”

Scott Summers was an enigma wrapped inside a riddle and tucked behind a poker face. The ruby quartz glasses were just opaque enough that they served as a kind of mask. Katie could only see her own reflection. With his hands steeped and his brooding posture, it was impossible to try and get a read on the man.

He was also the man who’d fought, recovered, and rehabilitated Warren Worthington after his transformation into Archangel. So if Katie was going to develop a plan for reaching out to Cherub, it made sense to try and pick Summers’ brain.

If that’s what she was even doing. To be honest, it felt more like Katie were talking to a wall. “You had the original Archangel,” the girl remarked, prefacing the ultimate question that she had to pose. “How did you han...”

“We’ve got an emergency in New York.”

The sudden burst of static and the ensuing audio cut in to her left ear. Distracted, the girl turned her head out of instinct, halted in mid-sentence by the surprise announcement.

The Cyclops didn’t so much as move. “Problem?” the man inquired, in his flat, matter-of-fact tone of voice.

“I need you all here – and I need you all now.

“It’s Alex,” the pig-tailed girl reported, glancing back over at the man. “He says that there’s an emergency in...”

Even as she spoke, her eyes drifted over to the muted television in the corner of the Cyclops’ office.

CNN was on.

They were showing a developing story in New York.

Without so much as a flinch or grimace, Scott calmly reached over to the telephone on his desk. Three quick taps of the keypad and the intercom throughout the Institute came on. His somber voice echoing down the fall as he announced, “All faculty report to the War Room.”


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

“Hank, what do we have?”

Doctor Henry McCoy was the foremost scientific authority at the Xavier Institute, if not a contender for the title around the globe. The massive, blue-furred frame was hunched before an expansive array of monitors.

“Dimensional rifts of an unknown nature. Multiple exit points over New York City, with a multitude of threats,” the Beast supplied in answer. “It does not appear to be a cohesive effort, but it is a dangerous one.”

“Superboy and at least one other vigilante appear to be engaging a hostile force in Brooklyn,” Ororo noted. “Spider-Man and several others are converging on Manhatten.”

“Alex and Jack Power are in Queens,” Scott announced, stepping further into the War Room with Katie only a step behind. “They report a hostile force of diminutive lifeforms that we have not yet identified.”

“Yes,” Eric Lensherr uttered, “The news from that area has indicated that the hostiles appear to be attempting to capture individuals.”

“The panic has brought the crosstown tunnel to a standstill,” Dani Moonstar noted, pointing up a monitor containing an overhead snapshot of the major roads.

“An some kinna alien craft ’ave begun landing at LaGuardia an JFK,” Rahne added.

“The Morlock Tunnels.”

At the sound of her voice, several heads turned. Magneto was the first to break the icy silence, locking his gaze on Scott as the man demanded, “Who let a student in here?”

Ignoring the look, the Cyclops just looked down at the pig-tailed girl. Then he gave a slight nod. “We can’t get people out, but we could evacuate them to shelter beneath the city,” the man remarked. Then he looked up and said, “I’ll take a strike team with me. We’ll engage the hostiles.”

With that, Scott snapped into motion. “Hank, I need you working to try and ID what we’re up against, and how to shut those portals down.” Pausing, he pivoted to glance back at the diminutive girl to ask, “Can Power Pack handle the evacuation?”

“Excuse me?” Dani’s voice interjected from the back of the room.

“I don’t think we can do it alone,” Katie answered.

“Dani,” Scott uttered, giving a snap of his fingers as he pointed out the young woman and said, “I need your students to give Power Pack back-up.”

With that, the man turned and started toward the hangar.

Taking chase, Dani Moonstar caught up with the man as she said, “They’re not ready for a fight.”

Without breaking his stride, the man stoically answered, “The objective is evac only. My team will keep the hostiles off you.”

Pushing ahead, Dani cut the man off – stepping into his path to bring him to a halt as she said flatly, “I don’t like this.”

The woman was reflected in the ruby quartz glass as she found herself looking into the man’s impassive face. “I didn’t say I like it,” Scott uttered flatly. “I just said do it.

With that, the man paused. Turning on his heel, he gave another snap as he pointed out another pair of young teachers. “Rahne, Douglock. I want your squads in a defensive position. If anything gets out of New York, it won’t take it long to get here and we need to buy Hank’s team as much time as we can.”

Then, as though there was nothing more to discuss, Scott brusquely brushed past Dani on his path toward the hangar.

Dani swore under her breath, before she tapped her communicator. “Kitty, Bobby, Cherub, Sammy,” the woman announced, before she said,“Suit up and meet on the lawn. We’re moving out.”

With that, the woman looked over at Katie and said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“It wouldn’t be Power Pack if we did,” Katie deadpanned in reply.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Q U E E N S
New York City


“...that’s the situation.”

It was a short flight from Westchester to New York. By the time Dani had finished giving the short-short version from the War Room, the Kymellian smartship was already lowering down into the 111th block of Queens.

Meanwhile, the Blackbird was headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the hopes of drawing the fight away from the inhabited part of the city.

Do not engage any of the creatures,” Dani warned, through clenched teeth. Curtly, she explained, “Your task is evacuation only. Katie and the Power Pack will guide people down into the Morlock Tunnels underneath the city.”

It would all have been fantastic beyond belief, except it was not the first time that Cherub had been a passenger aboard Friday.

Though, as the hatch opened and the black and gold clad Angel disembarked into the streets of a besieged New York, he found this experience quite different from the last.

“What’s the plan?” a voice asked. As Cherub looked toward where it had come from, he saw a boy form from out of the air – clad in a similar outfit as the one that Katie wore, save for the cloud-like emblem on the chest.

From overhead, a voice announced, “Priority is the South Queens Hospital and the Queens Mission.” Another male voice, this one belonging to a young man in a white and black ensemble.

“Eighty-Third Street,” a female voice offered, as a red-clad young woman in a red outfit burst in with a rainbow trail fading in her wake. “Unless they closed it, the subway should have an entry to the Queens end of the Morlock Tunnels.”

Another person just snapped into being. Though, after Cherub had taken a second look at the teleporter, he realized that the figure had a horse-like appearance. “I have no idea what a subway is, but I imagine if I just follow one of you that I shall figure it out.”
I'm just the supporting character, riding on @Retired's coattails.

Be bald. Rock a wheelchair. Be awesome.
Welcome back @Sep!

Sorry to hear about your laptop, but glad you're still here with Rogers.
Billy Batson could open up a pathway to mythological storytelling.

He-Man has had a publishing run with both Marvel (Masters of the Universe) and DC (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe), so if you treated Eternia like MCU Asgard, you could probably swap the hammer for a sword if you wanted to. After all, Castle Greyskull had doorways to many worlds, with She-Ra's world merely being one of them. No reason Earth couldn't be another.

Or maybe I just want to see Wraith rock a loincloth, but w/e.
I got bored so @Retired is going to have to deal with another plodding Bounce post.

It's what you get for making me wait. :P


S E A S O N O N E : H O M E C O M I N G
Location: Westchester, New York
New Mutants Annual #1

Interaction(s): @Retired


At the far end of the Xavier estate was a particular tree.

At one time, many years before, it had held a bald eagle nest. A massive, marvel of nature’s engineering. Whatever mating pair had settled there, in Westchester, had stopped returning. As nest had fallen into disrepair, it had created a kind of pedestal upon which one could look out over the picturesque grounds with only their thoughts for company.

The winged boy had found it early in arriving at the Institute. When he’d fly around the grounds, it seemed the perfect spot to land for a moment’s rest. So he found himself returning to it, over and over again.

And again today.

He had his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms wrapped around his legs as he sat in a fetal position with his head resting against his knees. In his mind, the Danger Room kept playing over and over again.

...or was it the Murderama?

Katie wanted him to use his wings to hurt someone. How was that any different from Mojo using his wings to try and get ratings?

Was that all any of this was? Was that all that he was? Just a means for someone to profit off of pain. Or blood. Or death.

It was a lot for a kid to take in. He’d tried to tell Katie and Sammy... well, Katie because Sammy wasn’t going to listen, but he didn’t have the words aside from what he’d said. I don’t want to hurt anyone. He’d thought about talking to Evan, but it seemed that Evan’s squad was off the grounds doing a training of their own.

So... he’d wound up here.

The was a rustle of dried leaves, the crack of the former nest’s twigs, before Cherub realized that there was someone else in the tree with him. Had someone made the climb? No, this was the Xavier Institute. It was probably a teleporter or something.

Which, rude. He came here to get away. And didn’t feel like talking. So the boy kept his head down.

“Great view, isn’t it?”

The boy gave no response, save to turn his head so that he was pointedly looking away from the speaker.

There was a comfortable silence for a brief period. Maybe a minute. Maybe more.

“You know, when I’d come here, it wasn’t about wanting to be alone. It was because I didn’t know how to ask for help.”

There was a metallic whine as the child’s wings sprang from out of the sheath on his back, the razor-like wings folding over the boy as though to form a techno-organic cocoon to shut out the world.

“All right, I still don’t know how to ask for help,” the voice offered as the boy closed himself off. “But we can be honest with ourselves, right?”

Raising his head up just enough to center it back on his knees, Cherub’s voice echoed inside the protective shell as he uttered, “What do you know.”

“I think I know us pretty well.”

The blue-skinned child’s head came up, a strange expression on his face as the fading daylight trickled back in from where the razor-like feathers retracted back enough for the boy to peer up at the owner of the voice.

It was a man with familiar features. The same fair hair. And a pair of white, feathered wings rising from his back. The Angel still wore the suit pants and dress shoes of his earlier attire, but had discarded the coat or dress shirt for the A-style undergarment that dressed his torso.

At the same time that recognition set in, Cherub’s face twisted into a look of skeptical disbelief.

“What?” the man demanded, before pausing show off his profile as he asked, “Didn’t expect to be this handsome?”

“I didn’t expect to be so...” the boy chirped, lapsing into a stunned silence as he struggled for the right word.

“Rugged?” the Angel supplied, before flexing in a display of his physique. “Swole?”

White,” the blue-skinned X-Baby blurted aloud finally.

The man gave a nod of his head at that. “All right. Fair,” he conceded, before dropped down to sit next to the boy. As he settled on the remains of the nest, the man held out a hand and said, “I’m Warren.”

+ - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

“...but we were one of the more popular characters, right?”

“Wolvie’s the most popular character,” Cherub answered, the tone of his voice giving away that the news should hardly come as a surprise. “He’s in, like, every show! But... but, there was this, like... this ‘Cyke is right’ campaign thing for a bit and he was stooooopid annoying when the ratings charts were shared.”

“I’ve absolutely never thought that Scott was stupid,” Warren offered, coming to his fellow X-Man’s defense. Then he thought twice about it and admitted, “Today.” All right, thinking more on that, perhaps not entirely accurate. Was it wrong to lie to a child? What about to defend a friend? “Or, the last hour, but... we were in the top five? Yeah?”

Ehhhh... the blue-skinned X-Baby uttered, his head bopping from side to side as the child considered how to answer that. “…top ten,” the boy stated finally, his tone slightly dejected as he confessed, “Usually around number ten.”

Number ten? In a popularity contest of X-Men? Oh, Warren uttered, his head turned downward as that... actually stung a bit.

Realization set in with the tone in the man’s voice. “I’m sorry,” Cherub uttered quietly, seeming to shrink as he asked, “Do you need your tree?”

At that, the man gave a laugh. A hand reached over, tousling the boy’s hair. There was a pause, then the Angel changed topics as he said, “Dani said you’re having trouble with your wings.”

The look on the child’s face went from concerned to sad to... something else. Something Warren felt he recognized, even without putting a finger on exactly what it was. The boy folded back up into a fetal ball.

“To be honest, I had trouble when I had wings like yours,” Warren admitted, reflecting back on his time as Death and Archangel. Except, he’d been an adult then. It was hard to even try to imagine that phase of his life placed on the back of a young boy. Casting a look over at the downtrodden youth, the man asked, “You want to talk about it?”

The metallic wings sprouted back, folding over the boy in another protective shell.

...that seemed to be the answer.

Then a quiet voice from inside the cocoon said, “It was... scary.”

Scary. Lots of things were scary. The kid would need to be more specific than that. The current stock market and the global supply chain scared Warren, but he doubted the kid even had an investment portfolio yet. So what did scary mean? Something the boy didn’t know how to put in words?

When he was Archangel, what had scared him?

Wait, that was it. “Before you knew it, your wings just... reacted,” Warren said. An answer? A guess? A memory? Something he needed to try to verbalize? Yeah, that was pretty scary to recall. “Like they had a mind of their own.”

The wings folded back. It seemed Warren had made a pretty good guess. “There was so much blood,” Cherub said, his words muffled but distinct as the sob could clearly be heard catching in the boy’s throat. Tears ran down the boy’s face, even as he looked up at Warren and tried to continue, “And... and the audience was cheering...” The sob caught him in the throat again, the child stopping before he could go any further. A loud sniffled, the boy wiped his nose against the back of his hand before he simply said, “I was so scared that I just ran. Or flew. Or whatever.”

The names were different. Cherub had dealt with Mojo, not Apocalypse. The X-Baby had faced the Murderama, not the Horsemen of Apocalypse. But, it seemed their emotions and fears were similar. If not the same. “Mojo plays some...” Warren began, choosing his words carefully before he continued, “...very bad games.” There was the understatement of the year. Resting a hand against the child’s back, the man offered, “Its not your fault.”

At least now Cherub was animated. Arms and legs springing forward, the boy blurted aloud, “But then I go to sleep and I don’t know what I’m going to wake up to. At best, I shred the sheets,” the X-Baby lamented aloud, looking at Warren as he exclaimed, “I’ve cut two bed frames in half having a dream about flying!”

Now, the kid was starting to make Warren recall his own childhood. Not exactly, perhaps, but he could recall those kinds of feelings vividly. “You’re scared of the one thing that makes you... that makes us... who we are.” the man commented. “Our wings are what makes us special – makes us feel special – so flying is special to us.”

The child seemed to huff at that thought. I wish I never had wings at all.

It really was like having a conversation with himself. “Well, that I do understand,” Warren offered in a low tone. How many times as Archangel had he had that thought, sitting here, in this very tree?

Craning his head back, the man looked up at the sky as he began, “I... lost my wings.” It was a simple statement. But about as far into the matter as Warren cared to get. “It was the lowest point in my life. Who was I without my wings?” the man asked, turning his head to look over as he posed the rhetorical question to his clone.

Looking away again, Warren continued. “Then a man came along and offered to give me wings again.” There was a certain bitterness that came through in how the man spoke now. Particularly as he explained, “In exchange, I would have to do something terrible for him.”

A wan, ghost of a smile seemed to grace the Angel’s features. Then he turned and asked the child, “Would you take that bargain?”

Cherub seemed fixated on the story. The boy’s eyes darted off to the left, as though he knew the answer that he ought to give. But seemed to hesitate before he finally admitted, “Yes.”

Warren gave a hollow laugh. “I should know better than to ask myself that question,” the man offered cryptically. “I guess I wish I could back and give a different answer. But that’s not who we are.” As though to punctuate that last remark, Warren glanced down and said, “Your wings are the result. I had everything I wanted again... and it gave me nothing but regret.”

All these years, he’d thought he’d at least taken an account of all his sins. Looking at the child-like Archangel before him, he realized he’d missed one. “And it seems that my choice led to you being created as well.”

The child seemed to shrink as he hugged himself tighter. A sheepish, quiet voice asked, “Do... do you regret that?”

“I regret...” Warren began, starting and then stopping as he thought more about his words.

“I regret that my choices led to Mojo hurting you, and I’m guessing there were others before you,” Warren said finally. And probably another since Cherub left Mojoverse, but that line of thought of something for another day. Returning to the point that he wanted to make, the man said, “You and I can’t control what Mojo does or who he hurts. It’s not your fault. You and I just have to try and rise above the people who’ve harmed us.”

Dear god. He was starting to sound like Charles. He was Warren Worthington the Third. He had much more style than that. Though, even as he had that thought, the Angel reflected aloud and offered, “... and maybe the mistakes I’ve made as well.”

A sheepish smile broke through the tears that still rolled down the boy’s face, as he peeked over at the Angel and offered, “Our mistakes?”

“I’ll thank you to make your own,” Warren quipped back in a teasing tone. “I’ve already made my contribution for the both of us.”

The pair seemed to just enjoy the quiet, out on the limb, for several minutes. The sun was starting to dip to the horizon, painting the landscape in a sea of orange and red.

“Warren?”

Wordlessly, the man looked over at the boy.

Turning his head up, Cherub asked, “Who’s Apocalypse?”

As soon as he’d asked, the child realized that he’d made a mistake.

The man’s demeanor seemed almost icy. His jaw tensed in a way that belied a certain anger. The Angel didn’t answer for a moment, though when he did he exchanged one question for another. “Who told you that name?”

The child rocked himself from side to side. Should he apologize? “Evan,” he admitted sheepishly.

Stay a...

He’d started to bark at the child, the X-Baby recoiling even as the first word landed like a hammer.

What was Warren doing? About to tell the kid – himself – to stay away from someone? Yeah, that had always worked fabulously when other people had done it to him. Taking a breath, the man tried to start again. “You should be careful around Evan,” the man warned in a flat tone. “He’ll either be the greatest mutant since Xavier, or the greatest threat this planet has ever known.”

All things being equal, Warren wasn’t sure he wanted to give the kid the chance to prove which might be the case.

He cleared his throat. But, I came here to talk about us,” Warren offered, turning the conversation back to what had brought him – them both really – out onto that limb. “When I was your age, I hated my wings – the feathered ones, like these – because I was scared.”

The child fidgeted, then seemed to relax slightly as he asked, “Scared of what?”

“Being a mutant,” Warren offered candidly. Glancing over at the boy, the man explained, “It took a long time for me to be comfortable with that idea.” Was he comfortable with it now? Or just too publicly out to turn back? Either way, “I think that’s true for many of the kids at this school. Their powers and abilities make them different. In some cases, they even make them dangerous.”

He hoped that the boy was starting to make the connection for himself, but at the risk of sounded like Hank, Warren went ahead with the punchline. “It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault, but your wings are part of who you are. The same as it was for me. And I think your teachers can help you to control your abilities. Maybe even better than I could.”

Well, that was a heavy topic. But at least it was over with.

As the pair lapsed back into the quiet contemplation of the sunset, the man changed the subject again as he offered, “Next, can we talk about the name?”
Apologies to @Retired, that scene turned into one of those posts that got re-written 8 times and I'm still not really happy with how it turned out, but I'm going with it.


S E A S O N O N E : H O M E C O M I N G
Location: Xavier Institute, Westchester, New York
New Mutants #1.09

Interaction(s): @Retired


CAR!

A 2012 Honda Accord flipped end over end, arcing through the air toward the orange-skinned aquatic mutant.

Sliding like a baseball player coming into home, Katie shot across the asphalt of New York’s busy streets clad in a yellow costume that had a stylized starburst on the chest. Her hands were engulfed within fiery orbs of pure light. As she put herself between Sammy and the incoming car, the girl pushed to twin orbs into one another as she put her hands together...

CRACK-OOM

The explosion sent a shockwave radiating out from the girl, with sufficient force to knock the boy behind her onto his backside even as the plasma bolt lanced through the air like something from a science fiction serial.

The yellow beam neatly bisected the descending vehicle. The resulting explosion of its fuel tank broke the two halves of the car apart, so that either half slammed down several feet away from Squidboy.

Which was still startling. “OH SHIT!” the boy exclaimed, as several hundred pounds of twisted and melted metal slammed down to his left and right.

Across from the disheveled pair of tweens, the amorphous figure of the Blob gave a laugh, as the behemoth mutant started toward the two. The street cracked under his massive weight, causing the ground to tremble with each step.

The glow in Katie’s eyes started to fade, their natural blue showing as the toll on her body and the amount of energy that she’d used started to take hold. Then, gritting her teeth, the girl seemed to catch a second wind as she set her stance. Steam rose from the street, as the asphalt appeared to liquify and melt under her boots. Eyes flashing like the sun, the girl’s hands crackled with static before the golden orbs appeared once again.

Behind her, Sammy’s yellow eyes moved as his head swung left to right. They were fighting right next to Central Park. Cars were swerving to try and avoid the scene. The sidewalks were packed with panicked people, some running, some watching. There were shops and homes. As the aquatic watched as the Blob approached, he looked back at Katie and realized where this was going. “Are you nuts?” the boy asked, reaching forward to grab the girl by the shoulder.

The moment his hand connected with the glowing girl, it was like he’d contacted pure acid. Sammy swore loudly, yanking his hand back to nurse the burn on his palm. Grimacing through the pain, he shouted at Katie’s back, “You’ll nuke half of New York!

Digging in, the Energizer continued building up toward inevitable destruction. “You got a plan?” the girl tossed back at him.

“You’re the experienced hero!” Sammy quipped.

The girl’s pig-tailed whipped around as she spun to face the orange-skinned mutant. “You won’t always have me along!” she snapped vehemently, advancing a step and causing Sammy to take one backward. “So stop jerking off back there and what’s the god damn plan?

Withering under the girl’s gaze, the Squidboy seemed to shrink even as he mulled over the situation. What would Cyclops do? “We need to lead him away from the city,” the boy rationalized aloud, pausing a moment to think. Finally, he looked back at Katie and then looked up to the sky. “Cherub, hit him. If you can get him angry, maybe he’ll follow you.”

Finally, Katie uttered, exhaling with relief. Then, tapping the communicator she wore in her ear, turned back toward the Blob even as she announced, “Blue, you’re up!”

A metallic whine cut through the air, as the blue-skinned child swooped into view. The sunlight reflected brilliantly off the silvery, techno-organic wings as they spread out to their full length. Sections seemed to pull apart, as rows of razor-sharp points seemed to separate from the otherwise smooth appearance. Dropping low among the buildings, the young Archangel took a breath as he prepared to...

...do nothing.

Letting go the breath he was holding, the golden-haired clone of Warren Worthington vaulted back into the air, dropping back down as he seemed to make a second pass. Gritting his teeth, he held his breath as he set his sights on the Blob and...

...and nothing.

Letting go of the breath in a sigh, the razor points blended back into the metallic wings, which folded back to their normal appearance as the boy merely circled overhead.

“Computer, pause program!”

Drawing in another breath, Cherub seemed to resign himself to a lecture as he folded his wings against his back and dropped down in front of Katie and Sammy. His eyes were downcast as he crossed his arms in a defensive posture. Not so much defiant as it seemed he was almost hugging himself.

Katie caught the gesture, her first words paused. She said them, but tried to soften her tone. “What was that?”

The boy’s blue eyes seemed to be fixed on the ground. The toe of one foot dug into a spot where Katie’s disintegration field had caused liquification of the black top. Finally, a scant gaze came upward as the X-Baby offered, “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

Hands planted on her hips, the Energizer found herself startled. “Seriously? It’s the Blob!

Cherub’s face turned downward, as the self-hug tightened.

Inwardly, Katie kicked herself for the slip. The static field around her faded, as she held out her hands and softened her tone as she started again. “I mean... that’s not what I mean,” she began. In her own ears, she was starting to sound like her brother Alex. Did she even know what she was trying to communicate? “Wolverine can’t even cut him.”

The boy’s face stayed downcast as a meek voice asked, “What about after?”

Katie and Sammy each exchanged a glance, before Squidboy finally spoke up and asked, “What... do you mean?”

“Are we gonna pick up all my razor-feathers? Because they’re gonna wind up all over the place,” Cherub remarked, looking up as he asked, “So what happens when someone steps on one? Or a kid picks one up?”

Katie and Sammy exchanged another look, prompting Cherub to add, “They’re poisoned, remember?”

Katie started to say something, then seemed to think twice about it.

With that, the X-Baby turned and walked toward the exit from the Danger Room.

“Wait, what about training?” Sammy asked, calling out after the retreating Cherub.

Turning to glance back, the golden haired Angel repeated, “I don’t want to hurt anyone,” Turning his back to them, the boy continued toward the exit, as he offered only, “I’m sorry.”

Katie gave a slight, inaudible gasp, as memories of her brother Jack flashed briefly to mind. Except, Cherub’s tone and posture didn’t remind her of Jack.

If anything, he was reminding him of herself.

“Well, I guess he can keep Bobby company,” Squidboy offered half-heartedly, in an awkward attempt at filling the silence with... well, anything other than silence.

“We should get ready for class,” Katie offered finally, making her own way toward the exit.

“Seriously, what loser through the five of us would make a good team?” Sammy deadpanned in a biting tone.

Katie’s eyes flashed dangerously as she cut a glare over at the aquatic mutant, which seemed to convince him to be quiet for the time being.

As the two passed underneath the Observation Room, the girl looked up at where she knew Dani Moonstar was watching.

Katie knew building team work was going to be rough, but this hadn’t gone at all like she’d expected.
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