R O X X O N I V Y B R A N C H H Q - S E V E R A L W E E K S A G O
Midday | Cornell County, Ivy Town, Connecticut
Clayton Burr was an ordinary man with an ordinary life. He met a girl in college and fell in love. Married that girl and found himself a nice house in the suburbs. They'd only been married a year by the time their first son was born. William, a feisty little warrior- reminded Clayton of his own younger brother growing up. The handful that he was, Clayton loved him with all of his heart, and he'd do anything for that boy.
Even stomach working for his father.
Clayton Burr Senior was a company man. Spent his whole life working for the Roxxon Energy Corporation, fighting his way to being the head of the Ivy Branch Headquarters. He didn't care about much in his life. Never much cared for his family, even the ones he'd brought into the world. Didn't much care for his friends, either. But he did love his job- and the piles and piles of cash it brought him. Ruthless, cold and greedy. Clay despised the man, but he needed the job; he needed to leave enough behind when he died so that his own son could be happy and comfortable. So he became a company man, too. For the good of little Will.
He'd worked at Roxxon for fifteen years, and now he had his own office all to himself. Wasn't much to look at. Organized, clean, and bare, save for a single framed photo of everything he cared about. Wasn't much, but it was his. And it was a great deal better than the cubicle he used to work out of. He especially liked how they'd soundproofed the walls so he could work in peace and quiet.
Well. He usually liked it, anyway.
A man had come to visit him during his lunch break. A grim-looking fellow, with gaunt features and sun-kissed skin. Clay could see that age had gotten to him from the laugh lines 'round his eyes and the slightest of wrinkles dotted on his cheeks. No gray in his dark locks yet, though there was no telling how much time he had until then. Handsome, if it weren't for that permanent frown of his.
The stranger had questions for Burr. Questions he couldn't answer. Uncomfortable ones. Ones his bosses had tried to sweep under the rug. No company had clean hands, Clay had learned that a long time ago. But Roxxon's were particularly dirty. He tried to ignore it best he could. Tried to do the straight work and look the other way whenever he could. 'Course, being the son of the executive officer made it hard to blend into a crowd. Burr was an accountant. He dealt in numbers. Numbers that didn't always add up.
Somehow the stranger knew that. And he wanted to know more- but Clay didn't know
more. He'd already said everything he could.
So why was he still hurting him?
"I TOLD YOU EVERYTHING!" Burr screamed. He bucked in his chair and flailed his body like a man possessed, desperately fighting against the bent metal wristbands that kept him pinned in place. His face was drenched in sweat, mingling with the tears that flowed freely down his cheeks. The agony was unbearable. It felt like worms had crawled into his veins and started exploring his insides. Every movement brought another whimper from the businessman. "Make it stop! P-please! I'll do wh...whatever you want!"
The stranger sat on the desk in front of him, that same, grim look on his face. "I don't like liars, Mr. Burr." He spoke in a soft voice, touched by an accent Clay didn't recognize. It was thick and beautiful, giving a sharpness to every word the stranger spoke. "You send eight times the oil to South Africa than what actually arrives in their ports. Where does the rest of the shipment go?"
"I told you-" Burr panted. "Their books are the same as ours-"
"I'm sure they are." He interrupted with a click of his tongue. "Books are easy to change. But I've been on those docks, Mr. Burr, I worked in that port and I know those containers weren't there. So I'm going to ask you one last time: where does the rest of the shipment go?"
"I don't kn-" Before he could even finish the stranger had made a flourishing movement with his hand, and the pain had come back with a vengeance. He could feel those things racing through his body, tearing apart the insides of his arms as they moved further inside. He could barely move them anymore. There was no telling what would happen if they reached his torso. "I just- I just handle the books, I swear! I-I write down what they tell me to, I never ask questions, I'm not supposed
to know. I sw..swear, I swear I don't."
"Then who does?"
"What?" Burr blinked.
"I need a name." The stranger breathed. He brought his hand upward, palm facing toward Burr. Even the slightest twitch of his fingers made the worms start moving again. Clay had no idea what would happen if he closed his whole fist.
"Wait, wait!" Burr demanded. "My...My father, Clayton Senior. He runs this place. He knows e-everything that happens here. If- if anybody knows, it'd be him. Please, that's all I know, I swear. Don't- don't kill me." He whimpered.
With a flick of his wrist, the stranger pulled the liquid metal out of Burr's body. It exploded from his flesh in a thousand tiny pieces, leaving behind a smattering of red, bloody dots all across Clay's arms. He screamed, but nobody could hear him. "PLEASE!" He pleaded. "I have a family- a son! They need-"
"So did I." His captor whispered. Then he balled his hand into a fist, and the metal in the air tore through Burr's heart like shotgun pellets.
T H E X - M A N S I O N - E A R L I E R T H A T D A Y
8:00 a.m. | Salem Center, Westchester County, New York
Charles Xavier always felt a sense of satisfaction at the sound of chalk moving across a blackboard. Every stroke invigorated him like a shot of dopamine, and he found himself turning away from the board with a content grin on his aging face. "Genosha," the professor stated, tapping the name he'd just writt en in large, bold letters. "Does anyone know who first founded it?"
His question road like a wave across the makeshift classroom, which was little more than a sitting room with the chairs all turned to face forwards and a blackboard rolled in front of it all. Bobby Drake had made sure to occupy the furthest seat from the board, the hood of his jacket drawn down juuust
far enough to hide his eyes as he tried to catch up on missing sleep. Movie night with Kurt had run a couple of hours too late. How was Drake supposed to know the marathon lasted that long? He regretted not checking the clock or something, 'cause being reminded by the sun coming up hadn't been very fun.
Kurt, to his credit, hadn't quite passed out yet. His head was resting in his palm, his three fingers running through the blueish fur on his cheek. His eyelids kept trying to clamp shut every few minutes, only for Wagner to lurch awake in a violent and distracting display that would keep him lucid for a couple of minutes before it all repeated again. If he ever tried to answer any questions it came out in unintelligible German.
Two pencils went soaring through the air like a pair of shurikens, one striking Kurt in the forehead and the second bouncing off of Bobby's nose. Both boys were thrown wide awake by the sudden attack, with Bobby nearly leaping out of his chair in surprise and Kurt vanishing and reappearing right back in his seat in a puff of black smoke. They shared a confused glance with one another seconds before realizing where the attack had come from, their heads turning simultaneously to glare in the direction of Scott Summers.
Scott crinkled his nose incredulously at them- even with his eyes hidden behind his crimson visor it wasn't hard to tell he was glaring. Sweat glistened off of the young man's forehead, still clinging to him after his long and exhaustive morning run. After making sure the two troublemakers were thoroughly and silently accosted for sleeping through the lesson he returned to looking in Xavier's direction, unable to muster an answer to the question. This was the first time they'd broached the subject of Genosha, and Scott wasn't too confident he'd be able to even point it out on a map.
The Professor pursed his lips, his eyes slipping between the three of his students as he seemed to contemplate how to deal with the brief interruption. The look lingered on Scott, giving the team's leader his own look of quiet admonishment before Xavier shifted his attention fully back to the lesson at hand. "Anyone?" Charles asked with a raised brow, "Hank?"
It wasn't until he heard his name that Hank McCoy even seemed to notice there was something going on around him. His pencil was rapidly shortening as he ran the tip of the graphite against his notebook full of crazy ideas and half-finished schematics. The current drawing before him was a series of functional upgrades to the team's costumes. Their current suits, aside from being a little tacky, didn't have any kind of temperature control, built-in communications, armor or other crucial parts to any superhero uniform. Hank blinked, pushing his nose up his glasses as he looked up to the Professor and then at the blackboard. "I'm sorry, uh, could you repeat the question?"
"He asked who founded Genosha," Jean Grey cut in before Charles got a chance, speaking in a very matter-of-fact tone as she looked down at her notes, "and you're gonna say the British first declared the colony in 1901, but there was actually
activity from various colonial powers going as far back as the 16th century. And..." She stuck her tongue into her cheek, her brows furrowing a little. "Something about making the suits out of a carbon fiber mesh?" Jean leaned over from her seat and attempted to get a look at whatever it was Hank had been doodling on his notebook. "-Are you making us new costumes?" She asked curiously.
"Hey!" Hank practically tore the book off his lap and slapped it up against his sprawling chest. "No mind reading!" He huffed, clearly caught off guard at having his thoughts so casually spoken aloud for everyone to hear.
Bobby was out of his seat and leaning over the back of McCoy's chair as quick as the word 'costumes' had left Jean's mouth. He grabbed both of Hank's shoulders and attempted to drag himself up high enough to see the notebook in his big friend's hands. "We're getting new costumes?!" He inquired with an energetic excitement that had seemingly spawned from thin air. Kurt shared his enthusiasm, popping up on Hank's opposite shoulder in a puff of dark smoke and trying to leer down at the page. Hank didn't take well to the intrusion, trying to buck the duo off and keep the sketches hidden against his chest at the same time.
Jean's face grew beet red the instant she realized what she had done. "I- I didn't- I mean, it wasn't on purpose-" She stumbled and stuttered, retreating behind her red locks as she bent her head low in shame at her actions. Reading minds came to her as easily as actual hearing did. It was hard for her to decipher what were thoughts and what were words, and sometimes it all got so jumbled that she got her own thoughts mixed up with someone else's. "I'm sorry." She muttered.
Hank, still busy wrestling Bobby and Kurt into submission, paused long enough to listen and reply. "It's okay." He assured her. "I'm not- hey!" He started, only to be interrupted by Kurt slipping underneath one of his arms and getting a hold of the notebook.
Nightcrawler slipped right away from the beast of a man's grip, vanishing out of the classroom and appearing in the hallway. He held the picture up in the light, a bright grin spreading across his face. "I look awesome
!" He laughed.
"Lemme see!" Drake whined, jumping over chairs and racing over to catch up to Wagner. "When do I get to wear mine?!"
Hank, hot on Bobby's heels and having completely forgotten what he was going to say to Jean, was quick to shout after them. "It's just a drawing! We aren't even in the prototype phase!"
The lesson thoroughly disrupted and Jean left in her silent shame, Charles let out a quiet sigh. Kids,
he thought with a shake of his head. No matter what kind of amazing gifts they might have, it was hard to forget that these five were still all children at heart. He placed the chalk back down on the tray and moved his hands onto the wheels of his chair, planning to go to miss Grey, as he had many times before. But he paused, not all that surprised to see that Summers had already moved to her side. He had a hand around her shoulder and he was trying to say something that might've been vaguely wise had the boy any idea how to say it. It brought a smile to Charles's face.
"Come on back, my students, there'll be plenty of time for that later! Our lesson's only just begun." Xavier called out to the wrestling trio in the hallway. They all seemed to look at each other and hold and a wordless conversation for a few seconds before deciding to call a ceasefire and return back to their seats. They spent a little while putting everything back where it was before and getting themselves seated, but their attention was eventually given back to the professor. Even if they bickered, fought or messed up in some fashion, they always seemed to land back on their feet. Always seemed to orientate themselves to point north again, even if it did take a bit of time. Charles let his hands come to rest on his lap as he waited a moment, making sure everyone was ready before he continued. "So, as Jean said, Genosha was
B A Y V I L L E H I G H S C H O O L - P R E S E N T
6th hour - 1:24 PM | Bayville County, New York City, New York
Winter was over and life was returning to Bayville. It'd been a cold and harsh winter with plenty of snow and a near constantly overcast sky. But it was over. The people shed their coats and the trees were green again. Birds were singing, children laughing, and the sun was peaking through the clouds, vibrant and warm. It would've made Lance happy if returning to school wasn't part of the deal.
He felt everyone's eyes on him the moment he got into the bus. Never saw them look, but he knew they were- he could feel their stares burning through the back of his Howling Commandos' t-shirt. It was a strange and disturbing sensation, knowing what they were whispering about when they thought he wasn't listening. He liked it so much better when nobody knew he existed.
Lance kept his eyes down and his face hidden behind his long locks. 'Keep your head down.'
He ordered himself. Maybe they'd forget after a few hours. Go back to being stupid teenagers.
First hour passed and nobody had stopped looking. They kept whispering. Nobody liked Ms. Harrington's english class. It was boring. Nothing better for them to think about, he guessed. Maybe it'd be better next hour.
Physics. The hardest class of the day. Lance couldn't make head or tails of anything in that textbook, and the teacher wasn't much help. Maybe if he hadn't missed so many days he'd understand half of that bullshit. He was sure everyone else struggled as much as he did. They should'a been paying attention. But they wouldn't stop staring.
Third hour was Spanish. Another boring class. Mr. Rodriguez was ass at teaching, but at least he gave everybody good grades. They were all whispering now. Everybody had heard. Lance had only been there three hours but every single one of them was looking at him now. His face was red and hot. He wished he could just bury his head in the sand and never have to pull it back out.
Fourth hour was the same. Then lunch came. No more whispering. Now they were just talking. Didn't seem to care that he heard any of them. A few of them were even pointing at him. Lance took his lunch outside and ate behind the benches by the Football field. Nobody came back there. It was nice to have some time to himself.
Study hall was right after, so he had even more time to get away from it all. He checked in with the teach and told her he was headed to the library before he walked out the front door. Didn't have time to get far, but he found himself a nice, secluded plot of land a good ways from any of the school's buildings. Lance made sure there were plenty of trees between him and any prying eyes before he plopped down on the grass and let out a heavy, tired sigh.
"Finally," Lance muttered, his eyes snapping shut. He took in a deep, long breath before letting it out just as slowly. He did this six times, each just as long as the last. Careful. Measured. Calm. It took a great deal of concentration to reach out with his mind and feel the earth beneath his feet. Not the grass, or the dirt, but the earth
. The stones buried deep. The foundation of everything they strode upon. Nobody ever gave a second thought to the ground. It was just...there. It'd always been there. Dirt to walk on. Stone to hold that up. Nobody really questioned it. Nobody gave it any thought. Not until something went wrong with it. Not until it broke and made a mess of things. That was the only time anyone ever cared- was when it's pain got in their way.
A stone laying at his feet began to shake. He reached out to it, though his hands remained on his knees, and lifted it into the air. He could feel it hovering just a few inches from his face, suspended in the air by his will alone. It gave him an incredible rush every time he did it. Better than any drug he'd ever tried. He let a hand slip from his leg and fall down into the grass, reaching deeper into the ground. It purred and hummed at his touch, welcoming, inviting, obedient. He had heard its hardships. He was the only one that listened to it. He was its friend.
"I been lookin' for you all day, Lance!" Someone called from behind him. The stone dropped to the ground as Lance scampered to get up to his feet. He hadn't so much as turned around before he felt a hand wrap around the collar of his shirt and drag him up the rest of the way.
"Or should I call you mutie
now?" The teenager that pulled Lance to his feet snarled, spittle flying from his ugly teeth into the other boy's face. Ryan Griffan- or Griff, as he liked to call himself- was a lifeless douchebag that spent his days picking on the kids that were somehow even less popular than he was. Everybody knew he was an asshole, but nobody ever bothered to get in his way. He was too big for that. Big and stupid and willing to bust your teeth in for even looking at him sideways.
Lance turned his eyes toward his feet, refusing to look Griff in the face. "Don't call me that." He muttered.
"N' why not, mutie?" Griff chuckled, tossing Lance back. He managed to catch himself in a stumble rather than falling right onto his back, but he landed in an awkward stance on his thin and unimpressive frame. He was several inches shorter than Griff, and there was no telling how much lighter. It wouldn't be a fair fight.
"I'm no mutant. Don't matter what they say." He muttered, eyes on the dirt and his chin tucked into chest.
Griff just shook his head. "Naw...Sal's a lotta things but she ain't no liar. Not like you, mutie. You...you're a liar." He laughed again. An ugly, spiteful laugh. Like a Hyena. "And she told evveeryyboodyy, freak, you know that? Whole school's heard about you."
"I know." Lance whispered under his breath. "They won't stop fucking staring."
Griff slipped closer. Two of his dipshit friends stepped out of the treeline. Hovering far enough back that Griff had space to work but close enough that they could pounce if Lance so much as blinked wrong. He'd been on the wrong side of this equation before, but...He knew it'd be different this time.
"What'd you think was gonna happen when you told her?" Griff spoke in a quiet drawl, lowering his mouth toward Lance's ear. "You think she was gonna like you 'cuz you could wiggle your fingers n' make a couple'a rocks float? You think people were gonna start givin' a shit about you 'cuz you're a mutie now?"
"Go away, Griff," Lance muttered, his throat dry and his hands shaking.
"What was that, mutie? Speak up."
"I told you to leave me alone
." Lance snarled, turning his eyes up to meet Griff's gaze. The two stared at one another, eyes sharp as spears. They held for precisely three seconds before Griff started to move and the next thing Lance knew he was on his back and blood was running down his face from his nose.
It felt his pain.
Like he'd felt it's pain.
"I wanna see it, mutie." Griff declared, hands resting on his hips in a triumphant, arrogant display. He stood over Lance, not even bothering to look at him as he demanded things of the fallen boy. "I wanna see these oh-so-impressive powers you lot are s'posed to have. I mean, I hear about your people hurtin' normal people on the news all the time. So's you've gotta be pretty strong, right? You supposed to be some kinda monster."
Lance rolled over onto his stomach, grass in his teeth. "You wanna see it, huh?"
"Oh yeah, I do. Show me, mutie. Show me." Griff taunted, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. His little friends in the back were whooping and hollering like the morons they were. They thought they'd get to see Griff beat up on a freak. Maybe Griff would even let them in on the fun if they were good enough. They sounded so very excited.
Then the ground began to shift.