Crystal
April 28th, 2004
Almost Nine Months Prior To Present Day

“I don’t get who this man is,” my sister asked.

That was quite the question wasn’t it? I looked to my sister unsure of how to reply.

We were sitting on a medical table in my father’s dimly lit lab which was located deep underground in my mansion. The shelves were stock with files and books, none neatly placed. The ground was dirty and hard and the walls painted black. The only light in the rooms came from the ceiling light which hung over the medical table and desks lamps which were placed at the four tables scattered in the room.

Currently my father and this man, if you can call him that, were standing in front of the table just across from us. For the first time in my life my father looked pale and frightened, a look which came over him the moment this man entered the room. His eyes had widen with fear and he dropped the beaker he had been holding. Now he was eyeing this man nervously, sweat beaming down his forehead, his balding head glistening.

As scared and nervous as my father looked it was nothing compared to how horrifying the man standing next to him appeared. His skin was pure white and wrinkle and blemish free, his eyes irisless and bright red, his raven black hair was sleeked neatly back, making the red diamond on his forehead even more apparent. Worst when he parted his pure white lips he revealed razor sharp teeth. He was tall and intimidating, with a strong frame which alluded power. He wear a black suit with a white dress shirt and black tie, which made me wonder if he was coming from a funeral, which in turn made me wonder if he was the reason for that funeral.

But who was he? What did he want? Moments ago I had found him in my living room reading my diary which he seemed to take no shame in doing. He then told me he said some sort of proposal for my father and I, and that he was going to find a cure for the x-gene, which my father had been trying to accomplish for years now.

Strangest of all, my father seemed to know the man. I mean, why else would he have been afraid of him besides the looks? There was something between them and that was only about to be confirmed.

“Where are you here Essex,” my father said breathlessly.

“As I told your…daughter,” he stressed in way which made it sound like he did not believe in the validity of the word, “I am here to assist you in accomplishing your goal to cure the X-Factor Gene.”

My father cast him a suspicious glance, “And why would you do such a thing? Wouldn’t you want the glory for yourself?”

“I care little about glory and fame Agon,” the man Essex replied, “My mind is set on far greater concerns.” My father still looked skeptical so the man went on, “I know how extensive your research has gone into the cure. With your notes and my knowledge, I believe this is the most certain and efficient way to reach our goal.”

My father wiped sweat from his brow and cast Dusa and I glance. I looked to Dusa who looked back at me. She must have thought I was frightened because she put her hand on mine, a sign of affection which was rare for anyone in this family besides Locke and I. I was glad Locke was in his room studying with Max and Bart. I would not want him to be around this man.

“I know you Essex,” my father went on, “I know what you’re capable of. If you wanted my notes to make this cure, you would have just taken them.”

“Yes,” Essex nodded, “I would have snapped your neck like a twig.”

My father grew even more pale and I notice his leg wobble a bit. He put his sweaty hand on the desk, trying to casually hold himself up, “But you haven’t.”

“No,” Essex casually replied, “And why should I? I have helped you before. I find your experiments amusing. At times you remind me of a child burning ants with a magnifying glance.”

“Don’t you dare insult me in front of my children,” My father mutter almost inaudibly, avoiding eye contact with Essex.

“Children,” the man scoffed and then looked to me, “They’re nothing more than lab rat to you Agon.”

I moved forward on the medical table, preparing to jump off but Dusa’s hand tighten around my grip. I looked to her and she shook her head at me. Fuming with anger, I eyed the man. Who was he to call me some sort of ‘lab rat’. He didn’t know my father. I knew my father loved me. I knew he saw me as more than just a lab rat. Despite the fact he showed me no emotions, that he made me sick with his experiments, that he and his Terrigan mist made Max mad and Bart mute, he did it all for us. He was building an empire for us; his Inhuman Empire.

I wanted my father to defend himself, to defend us, yet he said nothing and instead looked down at his hand on the table.

“I respect it,” the man continued looking back to my father, “Emotional detachment is a virtue in our field of work. You would never have accomplished the little you have accomplished without it. I have to admit I admire that Terrigan Mist invention of yours. It is nearly genius of you.”

“What is it that you want?” my father said in a meek, soft tone. “You always want something in return.”

The man smiled that horrifying, sinister smile, “Your daughter,” he looked to me, “I need her.”

My father looked up at me shocked, “I will not give you my daughter.”

The man laughed, “I do not want to take her. But I am collecting young mutants for a certain purpose and I want your daughter to be one of those mutants.”

My heart was pumping in my chest and stomach was tied in knots. I was both scared and angry. This man was now talking about me like I wasn’t even there. He wanted to use me to accomplish his goals and I did not like that at all.

I ripped myself from Dusa’s grip and jumped off the table.

“What purpose is that?” I asked angrily.

The man turned to me, “A little experimentation.”

“You will not experiment on my daughter,” my father finally stood tall and I felt pride and joy that he was coming to my defense.

“She is not the one I want to experiment on,” the man replied. “The young mutants you will be curing for me are the ones who I am experimenting on.”

“Excuse me?” my father said bewildered.

“I see no reason to cure your daughter,” the man glanced at me, “I would like to put her powers to use instead.”

I folded my arms together as my eyes fell on the man. I did not want to be cured, I loved my powers and I did want to put them to use. It always seemed like I had no choice but to lose them but if this man was giving me a choice to keep them, was I really willing to take it?

“What are you trying to get at?” my father asked.

“There are four mutants who I have taken a special interest in,” the man replied his voice even and cool, “I have a plan for them and I need your daughter to take part in that plan. I have been involved with these children since before they were born. They are to me, what your children are to you. They are my most important subjects; key to my grand design.”

“I still don’t get why you need me for that,” I commented.

“You are their age,” The man looked towards me, “You can easily fit into their social circle.”

“You want to spy on them?” I said in slight disbelief, “Why?”

“So you can eventually cure them,” he said this in a way which implied I was a very stupid child, “And so you can befriend and consequently betray them.”

I gave a hollow, “I will not do that.”

“Of course you will,” the man replied, “Just like you will also join other young mutants I collect in forming a team which many will consider terrorist but in actuality you will be so called freedom fighters.”

“Are you kidding me,” I shook my head, “What in your right mind makes you think I will do such a thing?”

“Because I am giving you what you want,” the man moved closer to me and I took a step back, “You will not only keep your powers but you will venture out into the real world, away from this dreadful mansion.”

“I will not give permission for this,” my father stepped in between Essex and I.

“You know this is the only way,” the man replied his voice firm and confident, “I am the only person who can provide you with the help to find the cure. You will kill your daughter before you even come close to achieving your goal.”

My father looked away from the man, “I am making headway.”

The man laughed a cold laugh, “You have made no such thing. You’re failing Agon and I am giving you your chance at glory. If you want to find this cure you need me.” I saw the confidence in my father all but cease. I knew he believed the man was right. The man’s lip once again moved into a smile and a chill went down my spine, “And let me see if this will make you more open to my offer. I will also help you create the X-Gene. You know if anyone could do it, it would be me.”

My father’s eyes seemed to light up at this, “But you always refused to help.”

“That was before this,” the man replied.

“How I could trust you?” My father replied.

“I have never lied to you before,” the man said so earnestly it made me sick, “I am a man of my word. Have I done nothing but help further your goals Agon? So why the distrust and hesitation? I have only always done what you asked. Do not let your pride get in the way of your glory. I plan to take not credit for my findings. It all goes to you, all the admiration and idolization, the money and the fame, it is all yours. All I ask is for a simple favor.”

My father said nothing for a few seconds. His brow was arched in thought. My heart seemed to slow down as I waited for him to say ‘no’. He had to say no. He turned to me, “You will do it.”

“What!?” I looked at him aghast.

“Father!” Dusa moved her way over to us, “You can’t be serious.”

“It is for the best,” my father said regretfully, “We have no other choice. This man,” he looked at him with the utmost hate, “Is the greatest mind I know next to myself. If he could provide us with both a cure of the X-Gene and a way to create it, do you know what it will mean for me?”

“For you,” Dusa replied, “But what about Crystal? You are putting her life in danger.”

“He is giving her what she wants,” the Essex man butted in, “If she does this, she will stay a mutant and be able to live among people her age. She desires this more than you know.”

I bit my lip and looked away from everyone. It was true. I wanted my powers. I wanted to actually communicate and live amongst the living. But I did not want this.

“Crystal,” my father put a hand on my shoulder, another rare sign of affection, “If you do this for me, for our family, we can finally accomplish our goals. We can finally put aside this single minded pursuit we have chased for so long and live as a family.”

I looked at my father surprised and touched. I felt my eyes water as my father said everything I ever wanted him to stay.

Dusa scoffed, “Don’t believe this Crystal.”

“Quiet,” My father sneered at her.

But I did believe him. At least I wanted too.

“Okay,” I bit my lip and nodded, “I’ll do it on one condition.”

My father looked at me surprised. He nodded, “Anything.”

I took a deep breath. My father and I had already made a deal a few years back. There was this horrible contraption he had used on me to awaken my powers, a torture device that he had used on my brother, sister and cousin before me. I made him promise to not use it on my youngest brother Locke. My father reluctantly accepted.

A while after that I tried to make another plea with my father when I asked him to not even put Locke through the Terrigan Mist treatment that he had put the others through, to stop his experiments on him and to just let him be a boy. He refused. My father did not see Locke as I did. He did not see as a child. And honestly, I believe my father did not love Locke like I did. I believed he loved him but Locke was the most important thing in my life. Father had always disapproved of my emotional attachment to Locke. Father believed in never showing emotions of love, in separating emotions from the family equation because it could get in the way of science. Even when Locke was toddler my father treated him with indifference because he thought it would make him stronger and smarter. I on the other hand, treated Locke like a child, like a boy his age was supposed to treat him. I showed him love, affection and I made sure he was always happy. I protected my brother, made him feel safe and I was going to continue doing that.

“Don’t experiment on Locke anymore,” I said firmly, “Let him be a normal boy.”

My father’s become stony and unreadable. He took a deep breath, “Fine. But he stays in the house, at least for now. He will be home schooled.”

“That’s fine,” I nodded, “But let me take him out once a week.”

“Are we talking of a dog or a boy?” the sinister man smirked.

I glared at him with pure hatred than looked back to my father, “Deal?”

“Yes, fine,” my father nodded.

“Crystal,” Dusa whispered somberly.

“Alright,” I said ignoring my sister. I looked to the man, “So Dr. Essex-”

“Call me Sinister,” he cut me off.

My eyebrows rose, “Seriously? Isn’t that a little on the nose?”

He smirked, “I believe it fits.”

“Fine,” I said, “Sinister…I will join your group.”

“I expected nothing else,” Sinister replied boastfully, “Now for you to meet your new leader.”

“Are you not the leader?” I asked.

“I will be commanding you on what to do,” he replied, “But you will have both a leader and field leader.”

“Quite a chain of command,” I folded my arms.

A heard a ‘swooshing’ sound from behind me and heard Dusa gasp.

“I am a fan of chains,” said an unfamiliar female voice.

I turned to see a beautiful woman with pale, porcelain skin. Her hair was raven black, but it looked healthy and vibrant, it was styled in waves and hung over her left shoulder. Her eyes were a dark, piercing blue and despite their beauty, seemed menacing and almost soulless. Her lips were blood red and contrasted against her pal skin. Her face was gorgeous, almost perfect, from the size of her nose to the way her eyes were parted. She was stunning and from her short, black cocktail dress it was clear she also had a perfect body which she obviously kept in shape. I could see dark black smoke crawling up her sleek looking legs.

“Oh my God,” the woman gasped, “This is an actual lair. You know they always say if you hang around with bad guys long ago you’ll eventually see a lair but I never believed them but obviously shame on me.”

“This is Serenity,” Sinister motioned towards the woman.

“Serenity and Sinister,” I sighed, “That’s…interesting.”

Serenity looked to me, “She’s pretty, in desperate need of a makeover but pretty.”

“Uh thanks…”

“So that makes two,” Serenity looked to Sinister, “Look at our little group go.”

“Two?” I asked, “So you’ve already picked another one up?”

“I have,” Sinister replied.

“Who?”

Jamie Madrox
One Month Earlier
March 21st, 2004

It was the dead of night. I knew my aunt was working the late shift and was glad for it. She’d be safer there than anywhere by me. I had spent the whole day avoiding my house or any other places I might have been known to hang; school, a pizza place I liked, and well that was it. I wasn’t exactly a creature of habit.

But now I was home. When I enter, the house was completely dark, not a single light on nor was there a single nose. It was uber creepy and I had been feeling crept out enough. Something bad was waiting for me, I knew it was. It had to be. Months of planning, months of research and investigating and I knew I was right and I knew that when I turned the lights on, a happy sight would not be greeting me. I could almost feel the bad in the air.

Grimacing I flickered the living room light on.

“Oh come on!” I shouted throwing out my hands in frustration.

On my living room couch was a dead boy, his face discolored, his blue eyes lifeless, his head twisted in a way it shouldn’t have been, his mouth hanging open in a pretty ghastly manner. It was pretty disconcerting seeing yourself all dead like. It was even more disconcerting to know that you sort of sacrificed said self.

But it had to be done.

Muttering curses to myself, feeling downright annoyed I sat on the couch beside my dead body. Grimacing I slowly moved my hand over the dupe’s face. I was pretty sure this was going to work, not positive but pretty sure. I really didn’t want to reabsorb the memories of a dead me but it seemed I had no other choice.

“Here we go,” I sighed placing my hand on the dupe’s face. I felt a spark shot through my body as I reabsorbed the dupe. Memories came flooding into my mind.

Earlier That Day
Dr. Essex’s Office.

The dupe sat in the reception area of Professor Essex’s office, listening to some music to psych himself up. He was wearing a green polo shirt, khaki pants and green sneakers. He felt he looked very sharp today. As the dupe listened to the music, the Rocky Theme by the way, he even did some dance moves. Obviously this dupe had no shame.

In fact he was as confident and brave as one could hope. I tried to purposely make him that way. I had to go through six dupes before this one came about. I needed someone who could stand up to Essex, someone brave enough to do what had to be done and say what had to be said. I also needed someone who, if I was wrong, would be able to not stumble and stutter like a frakin’ idiot like I would.

But I didn’t think I was wrong. For months I searched everything I could about Essex, turned over every stone, double checked, triple checked, just did everything I could to be sure this guy wasn’t who he said he was. So much seemed to check out; from where he went to school to where he did his residency. But when I went to talk to people who he supposedly knew he, I noticed strange things seemed to pop up. Like certain people seemed to get this gloss over expression when they talked about Essex or some people couldn’t remember the simplest things and no one, not a single person, remembered seeing Essex outside of the hospital or outside of classes. He had no real friends but people seemed to say the darnest things about him, like he was some sort of God. But personally no one knew anything. His parents were both dead, he had no other family and seemingly no living childhood friends. The only thing I was ever able to find about him seemed to pertain to him being a doctor.

But I believe it was all a lie. The man was a telepath and a powerful one at that. It didn’t seem too much of a stretch to me that he would manipulate and implant memories. Of course I wasn’t sure how far it went.

“Jamie!” Essex called out to me from my seat as a boy walked out of his office. The boy had bright blue eyes, brown hair, he was of average height and a bit above of average build. There was really nothing remarkable about him. I noticed that the boy looked both angry and anxious. His face was a bit red and he was breathing heavily.

The boy was looking hesitant. It was clear he wanted to say something to my dupe but when my dupe noticed him looking at him, he obviously took it the wrong way.

“I’m sorry I don’t go that way, but I’m flattered,” my dupe winked at boy as he got up. The boy looked at him a bit dumbfounded. The dupe looked over to the Professor who was standing in the doorway, “And Doc if you are going to say I’m some repressed homosexual save it. There are tons of guys I would do!”

My dupe was a total douche. I guess that’s what happens when you try to make him too much of something.

And there wasn’t tons of guys I would do, just a select few. And I wouldn’t actually do them. I was just saying if was gay. But that’s neither here or there!

My dupe passed by the kid and followed Sinister into his office. He was incredibly calm for someone going into the office of a man who was very likely evil and someone both I and my dupe hated. The man had lied to me my whole life, he manipulated me and tricked me. He pretended to be a savior but was just a selfish, manipulative asshole.

My dupe sat down on the “good” doctor’s couch and his eyes caught sight of a head shaped crack in the wall to the right.

“What happened there?” my dupe pointed to the wall.

“Some light construction,” Professor Essex said sitting down in his arm chair.

My dupe stayed quiet for a while, his eyes focusing on Essex’s face.

“Is something wrong Jamie?” the doctor asked.

“Yeah actually,” my dupe replied firmly, “I have a question.”

“Do you?” Essex leaned back in his chair. There was something off about him today, it was like he wasn’t even trying.

“Who are you exactly?” he blurted out pretty bluntly, “Because I know you’ve been lying to me all these years! I know you aren’t you.”

Well the subtle approach clearly wasn’t someone’s forte.

A smile crossed Essex’s lips that only seemed to make my dupe more determined, “My, my today is really the day for revelations.” My dupe had no clue what that meant nor did I, “But of course, if I wanted my secrets to stay secret, they would have. I am bored of playing the caring doctor. But your timing could not be more perfect Jamie. It makes things so much simpler.”

“Por que dude?” My dupe looked at Essex confused.

“The boy who left,” Essex leaned forward. His eyes had suddenly turned red and despite the bravery my dupe was filled with, he tensed, “His name is Josh Kerr, he’s part of an,” a smile crossed the man’s face, “experiment I have been working on for years. I guess I would call it more of a trial, a grand scheme if you will.”

“You should really just pick one name,” my dupe replied.

“Yes well he has figured out who I was too,” Essex explained and then he looked to the hole in his wall, “That was his doing. He was not very pleased.”

“And who are you exactly?” My dupe asked.

Essex smiled and his lips turned pure white. The white from his lips began to spread over his face, which began to become both thinner and sleeker. All the wrinkles in Essex faced seem to flatten, his cheeks become more sullen and the crevasses between his eyes grew deeper, meeting his bright eyes that much more noticeable. That strong, upright, handsome face slowly began to disappear. He still had the strong chin and jaw, but his long nose shrunk slightly and his trim goatee had all but disappeared. The whiteness had spread to his hands now and even his outfit seemed to change. He looked like he was ready to go to a funeral. I could feel my dupe’s heart beating faster.

“Much more comfortable,” Essex said baring his teeth, which were razor sharp.

“Who or what the hell are you?”

Essex smiled, “Identity seems to be such a question for you Jamie.”

My dupe glared at the man. He was mustering up the courage to do what he had to do, though all he wanted to do at that moment was run to the door and get the hell out of here. I couldn’t blame him. Essex was pretty scary looking.

“I want to know the truth,” my dupe said firmly, “What did you do to me? The day my body seemingly stopped functioning, you had to do something?!” Essex just stared at me, his face unreadable. His hands were clasped together and rested on his chin, “Everything you’ve told me has been a lie!”

“I have done nothing but help you,” Essex casually replied, “I have nothing to do with what happened to you-”

“Liar!”

“Think what you will,” Essex rose his chin slightly, his eyes barred down the dupe, “But I have always had you best interest at heart.”

My dupe rose from the chair, “No you haven’t! You’ve lied to me! You poisoned me, I know you did!”

“Or you hope I did,” Essex remained casual, “Because that is your way of being real is it not?”

“No,” my dupe shook his head, “I’ve been real all along haven’t I? Everything you said was a lie.”

“You are wrong,” Essex unclasped his hands, “I have been keeping you and your kind alive. Jamie Madrox died years ago.”

“Liar!” my dupe replied and I prayed he was right.

“The Jamie Madrox who you come from is a dupe,” Essex stood and then gave a chillingsmile to my dupe, “Yes I know you are a dupe.”

“No,” my dupe shook his head knowing what I was feeling, “He’s real…I’m real. He would have disappeared if he wasn’t.”

“He would have disappeared if it was not for me.”

“You’re a liar,” the dupe replied.

I was feeling sick. I didn’t want to see anymore.

“No boy,” Essex moved towards my dupe at a speed not capable of any human. He was practically just a blur. He grabbed the back of his head, “You are the lie, the very living embodiment of it.” My dupe was scared, his heart was pounding, his throat was tight and his palms sweaty. Essex looked into the dupe’s eyes, “I guess it is time we stop lying to each other Jamie.”

My dupe wanted to cry, he wanted to scream. He wasn’t so brave anymore. He knew he was going to die and he didn’t want too. He was making silent prayers to God. He wanted to throw up, I wanted to throw up. I wanted to do something to help him, but I was only reliving a memory.

With that I felt Sinister grip the back of my dupe’s neck, he was pressing against it hard and than his memories faded to black.

“Oh God!”

I gasped as the memories ceased. I was back on my couch, cold sweat all over my body. I was breathing heavily. I rubbed the back of my neck, it stung with phantom pains. My face was wet and after touching my cheek I realized it was not just sweat pouring down my face but tears too. I had never witnessed the death of a dupe before, never felt the life drain out of one. It was horrible.

And then there was what Essex said. He said I was a dupe and that he was the only thing keeping me alive. I wasn’t sure if I could believe him but deep down, in the very pits of my stomach I felt, or at least feared he was right.

“You should fear that I am right.”

I launched off my couch and looked to my left where Essex stepped out of the shadow, still in that horrible white faced form.

I stepped back, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“We have much to discuss,” Essex moved towards me.

“I have nothing to discuss with you!” I spat, “Get out of my house!”

Essex moved forward. He looked around the living room with disdain, “The humbleness of your home is nauseating. Someone like you is meant for so much more.”

“Shut the hell up!” I screamed as my fist curled into a ball.

Essex moved towards me, going so fast I wondered if his feet even hit the ground. He backhanded me hard and I feel down on the couch face first. I put my hands up to block my fall and caught myself against the couch. I looked back up to Essex just as he threw a blast of yellow energy through a newly formed dupe’s stomach.

I looked away, kneeling closer to the couch, as the dupe crashed to the ground. I felt like I was going to throw up.

“Now we will talk,” Essex demanded.

“What do you want from me?” I asked inclining my head towards the couch.

“Your help,” Essex replied. I heard his footsteps from behind, “And in return I help to ensure you never cease to exist.”

He wanted to help me ‘Never cease to exist’. What a bastard this guy was. I felt like a puppet. I felt weak and scared. And damn it, I didn’t like feeling like that.

“Yeah well I rather not exist than help you!” gathering me strength and my courage, I got back up. I looked him right in the eyes.

“That is a lie Jamie.”

“Yeah well so are half the things that come out of your mouth,” I wasn’t going to take his crap anymore.

“I have only lied about who I was,” Essex said in an oh so innocent tone.

“Oh that’s it,” I rolled my eyes.

“You just cannot accept the fact that you are a duplicate,” Despite the fact that he said it yet again, I still didn’t believe him. I had to be real, “The real Jamie died in the car crash. You were born from his death.”

I was breathing heavily but I wasn’t going to show this bastard any sort of emotion. I just glared at him, stared him right down. My anger was seething but I was also in pain. Two dupes had been killed and I was facing the fact that I wasn’t real. All pretty heavy stuff to deal with in under a half hour.

“I have kept you alive all these years, giving you the medicine you need,” I felt his horrible eyes fall on me, “The truth is Jamie you have been living so long you can never just simply disappear. It seems the only way for you to ‘cease to exist’ now is for your body to just stop functioning. Quite horribly really, but you have been through it, you know.”

“Well isn’t that convenient.”

Essex smiled, “It is what it is. But I know you Jamie, I know you want to live and I am the only one who could help you do that.”

“What makes you think I would trust you?” I asked in disbelief.

Essex smiled widen and I felt a chill go down my spine, “What other choice do you have?”

My choice should have been to risk it. I should have just walked away and if I was really a dupe I would die a horrible, painful death, one of the worst death possible I imagined. That would be it for me. But I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to die. But I also didn’t want to be whatever this guy wanted to be, I didn’t want to become a killer.

“You will not kill anyone,” Essex seemed to have read my mind, which after I while I realized he probably did. I looked to him and I must have seem more intrigued because he moved closer, “You will be a spy and you will join a group of young people like yourself in putting the fright in some humans. You might harm some but you will not kill. And the harm you do is for the greater good of mutants. The pathetic Homo Sapiens fear and what you, they will have you slaughtered if they could.”

“Please don’t try to make it seem like your some altruistic martyr trying to help the cause of the mutant race.”

“I do everything for a cause,” Essex replied, “Whether it is mine or yours, all my actions have a purpose. You’re aimless Jamie, let me give you aim, let me give you life. I only will need you a year, give or take, and then you will be free.”

I didn’t know what to do or say. I slumped down onto the couch and then sighed heavily as I leaned back. My mind was racing. So I wasn’t real? I was still feeling sort of numb about that, sure of what to make of what. Part of me wanted to still believe Essex was lying but another part of me, I think a growing part of me, accepted it was fact. I wanted to throw, maybe even cry. Heck I decided that once Essex left that’s exactly what I was going to do.

If I was just dupe I couldn’t just accept death. I wanted to live…I wanted to find who I was. But really, if I was a dupe, wasn’t I just nothing anyway? So maybe I should just accept death. All these crazy thoughts ran through my head, but there was one constant one. I put my hand on my head. I didn’t want to die…and if I wasn’t going to kill anyone…

“You said we’d be helping mutants?”

“In your own way,” Essex replied, “Sometimes inducing fear is the best way to send a message.”

I nodded, “If I was a psychopath I’d agree.”

“The choice if yours Jamie,” Essex went on, “If you choose to walk away, you fade away into nothing and I do not mean in physical sense. Physically your death would be much worse than that.”

“Yeah,” I replied sarcastically, “Thanks for the reminder.”

“If you die now your life would be insignificant. You will only be notable for being a dupe who survived for quite a long time,” Essex said, “Be you will only be remembered as another dupilicate, another, another fabrication in a false life. Do you not want a real life?”

I did. I wanted to be real so bad…I wanted to actually be someone other than a fake Jamie Madrox. Living is not just about breathing; it’s about doing something, anything, worthwhile.

“And do not forget,” Essex went on, “Without you there will be no more Jamie Madrox. Even if you form a duplicate before you die, there is no guarantee it will live as you have. With you gone, every memory of Jamie Madrox ceases to exist.”

Every memory of Jamie’s life was in my head, the good and the bad. My parents, my aunt, my childhood; was it mine or his? Either way, I cherished them, I cherished who Jamie Madrox was. And I didn’t know who was anymore but I knew I wanted to be worthwhile and special, not just for my own sake, but the memory I have of my parents.

“I won’t kill anyone,” I looked to him, “And I won’t stand by and watch anyone kill either. I’m not evil.”

“Nor am I Jamie,” Essex looked down at me. “I am just a humble man of science trying to see his work flourish.”

I almost puked right then and there.

“Color me skeptical,” I muttered, “So what is it I’m doing exactly, Essex?”

“All in good time,” Essex turned from me. I noticed he seemed to be fading away, his body becoming translucent, “Oh and Jamie, do not call me Essex anymore, call me Sinister.” With that he faded away.

“Really?” I frowned looking where he disappeared, “Talk about heavy handed.”

Crystal
April 28th, 2004

I lead Serenity into my room. My father and Sinister apparently had ‘business’ to discuss without me being present, which I felt was silly because I was directly involved in this whole plan. But Serenity just took me by the arm and asked me to show me her room.

“This is it,” I said my head searching around my barren room. The walls were a sickly white, the floor very old hardwood which creaked at every step. There was a twin bed in the far corner and next to that bed a night stand with a single lamp. To the side of that was a desk with notes scattered about. Other than that, my room had nothing.

“It’s very dreary,” Serenity looked around the room like something in her smelt awful, “You might as well be a pale orphan living in the attic getting fed leftovers.”

I folded my arms together, “Well it’s my room.”

Serenity’s dark blue eyes scanned over me and I hugged myself tighter, feeling a bit put on the spot.

“Well your room is very homogenous,” She made tisking sound with tound, “I guess your father does not want your asserting your own identity.”

I glared at the woman, “My father didn’t want us decorating our room because he really didn’t want us spending much time there. Our time was to spent learning or in the lab.”

“Well the room seems to match your personality,” she turned from me and moved towards my extremely small closet. She swung open the door, “Well this sad. Sun flowers dressers and dirty jeans. It’s like you can’t decide between a hippie vegan who’s still exploring her womanhood or a butch lesbian.”

“I am neither,” I replied curtly.

“Yes, yes I get it. You’re boring,” she threw one of my dresses out of the closet and then turned back to me, “You need a makeover.”

“I am fine the way I am,” I felt insulted.

“Not with the plans I have for you,” she said looking me over. “Do you even have a mirror in here?”

“Over there,” I pointed towards a hand mirror on my desk.

Serenity disappeared in a thick cloud of pure black smoke and reappeared just as quickly by my desk. She grabbed the mirror and disappeared again, and then reappeared right in front of me. I stepped back, waving my hand at the black smoke as it practically danced in front of my face.

“Look at yourself,” she said placing the mirror in front of me. A sixteen year old with blue eyes and dark, dirty blonde hair stared back at me. I guess I was pretty. I had a nice, small nose which some would call cute, unblemished smooth, skin which was sort of sickly pale right now and a nice, soft facial structure, “You’re bland.” Though maybe I wasn’t everyone’s taste.

“I don’t care how you see me,” I pushed the mirror out of my way, “I am happy with who I am.”

“And as inspiring as that is, you’re working for me now,” she had said this as a complete matter of fact.

“I work with you,” I replied bitterly.

“Call it whatever you want,” Serenity replied, her patience seemingly waning, “The fact is you’re going to have a role to play, and dreary librarian isn’t the role I choose for you.”

I didn’t like this woman at all. What made her think she got to choose my role? Where was my freedom in all this?

“And what role did you choose for me?” I said in a venomous tone that showed my displeasure.

Serenity smiled wickedly, “Hot slut.”

“Excuse me?”

Serenity began to circle around me, “You’re going to be an extremely hot slut. A hussy, a whore, a promiscuous woman, whatever you want to call it.”

“I will not!” I said aghast. “I have a little thing called respect and dignity, maybe you should look it up sometime.”

Serenity stopped circling me as she reached my side. She smiled smugly, “It’s just a role. I’m not asking you to go down to the docks and spread ‘em or anything. The girl you’re going to be getting close to has a complex or two that a hot slut like you would be perfect for.”

“Stop saying the words hot slut,” I said showing my full disgust.

“Fine overly friendly hottie,” Serenity said with a smirk she clearly thought was cute.

“And so what this girl is… I searched for a better word than slut, “Promiscuous and so you think she’d like a girl like her? Humans are predatorily, especially about sex and attraction. If she sees another woman after her…meat,” I shifted uncomfortably, “than she’ll only hate me.”

Serenity just laughed, “I liked the way you put that, but no this girl is anything but a slut. She has a need to latch on to the pitiful. She’s one of those people who think she can ‘change people’,”

“And you think by playing the role of sinner she’ll want to change me,” I replied dully.

“Bingo,” she bopped my nose with her finger, “The girl is the most social of the four, beside the one boy who will mostly just look at your breast. The girl is also the most trusting and gullible of the four, once you’re in with her, the rest should be simple.”

I felt a pang of guilt. I didn’t want to betray some innocent girl. I was doing all this to save myself but what about her? I hated the fact that I was practically sacrificing someone else for my own selfish needs. But it wasn’t just my needs. I had to do this for family…and for Locke.

“Why I can’t I just be intelligent and make friends with her that way?” I moved over to my bed and sat down. “If she’s as gullible as you make her, I doubt I have to play a role to get close to her.”

Serenity sighed, “Trust me, you want to play a role. If you do it just makes what has to be done easier.” She moved towards me, her dark blue eyes bearing down at me. Her voice was steady and cool but showed the tiniest hint of emotion, “If you can be this other Crystal, this oh so friendly girl who is who so unlike you, you can actually walk away from this and go back to the person you once were. What you’re doing is not going to be easy. I could tell you’re already having second thoughts. It’s only going to get harder from here on out.”

I hated that she had a point. I looked down towards the ground as my hands pressed against my mattress. I had to do this. I had to make sure these kids were cured and do whatever else was needed so my father could have his glory, so Locke could be safe and so my family can finally become a family.

“So what does this makeover entail?” I said grimacing.

Serenity’s face practically lit up, “Blonde hair dye, tight clothes and you losing a few dozen points of your IQ.”

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