Monday, October 26th
Over a month had passed since the attack on the school. To say it’s been an easy and peaceful month would be one big lie. We didn’t have school for over three weeks which would have been good if not for the circumstances and the fact that a week of that would be added to our summer vacation. After those three weeks were over, we were sent to other schools for a little over a week before all the damage and new precautions were done at my school.
These precautions were one of the two things which made this last month hell. To no one’s surprise, and really in all fairness, humans were freaking out worse than ever. In Washington mass protests were calling for mutant registration while on the news many kids from my school were cashing in on their fifteen minutes by saying how horrifying of an experience it was for them, which I guess was true. People were scared of us, the fact that the X-Men saved the day was pretty much left out and we, as usual, were said to be accomplices.
Two weeks after the attack it was decided that the Sentinel program would go on ahead for as the government said “The safety of human and mutant alike”. I failed to see how Sentinels would keep us safe. A way the government tried to comfort us was that there was only a limited number(they never specified the exact amount) of Sentinels being produced and that they would not be patrolling the skies and will only be used in situations deemed worthy. Yes, it was super comforting. About a week after that, due to pressure from parents, we were told that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents will be placed at our school to watch over us, again for some reason I wasn’t comforted.
It didn’t help that now, more than ever, people were pushing for DNA testing in schools and if these students failed the DNA test, it would be up to the school district, S.H.I.E.L.D, and a committee of parents to decide if that student should be allowed to stay at the school. In other words, a witch trail. Luckily, this was still being heavily debated thanks to people like Cassie’s dad who was fighting for something which would keep me one step away from registration.
With all this happening, one could only have hoped for the mutants of the world to be on their best behavior, but that would be too easy. In the past month there have been six separate mutant attacks with five mutant related deaths. There was the bank robbery in Texas which wasn’t something my team had to deal with, there were two random attacks in the middle of crowded streets in New York City and one in Northern New Jersey. And then there was the attack another attack in California, again something I didn’t have to deal with. It was less stressful when school was out but once I was being bused to some other school, things got a bit more difficult. And with mutants attacking humans, humans attacked mutants in return. The whole circle of violence thing. It was nerve wrecking to say the least, things were just getting worse all over.
But right now the thing making me most nervous was the fact that it was time to go back to school, and I mean my actual school a place I hadn’t been since the attack. It was being kept under the watchful eye of Stryker now with the added addition of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents roaming our halls. It wasn’t something I was exactly excited about.
I woke up and with my mom in the passenger’s seat, drove my mom’s car to school. I don’t know why I wanted to get my license, truth be told I could fly and run wherever I wanted carrying one person and probably another person could grab onto my back which as wrong as it sounds, its much faster than taking a car. But it’s something everyone has to do right? Get a license. I need one of those. Even if means listening to my mom nagging me.
Walking up the stairs to school, I saw my first S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He wasn’t dressed in full S.H.I.E.L.D gear or anything, just dark blue pants with a long sleeve shirt and vest, which had S.H.I.E.L.D. written across of it. As I passed him he gave me a nod and I nodded at him back and noticed the gun on his gun holster. It felt like I was going to school in Newark, Detroit or some other place rappers would rapped about their hard gangsta life. Yeah, they wanted to see a hard, dangerous life they could have always switched with me.
We now also had to go through a metal detector which would prove really useful in a mutant attack. I was a little hesitant about going through, as there are also people lobbying to getting the mutant detectors from inside of the Sentinels into appliances like metal detectors but as of right now from what we heard, they couldn’t find a way to actually build that let alone get that law passed. I try not freak about things like this because these rumors have been around for years but as things get worse it is more likely to become a reality.
I made my way down the hall passing students at their lockers talking to their friends they hadn’t seen in a while. Not everyone was bused to the same school, they were three different schools nearby and to not over run them, they divided us between those schools. I didn’t go to the same school as Lily or Cassie, who were both sent to different schools. Lily went to some school which she called “Dirtier than a Hilton Sister and Pam Anderson combined” and Cassie to a school which she said “Lowered my expectations of the human race even more”. The school Cory and I went to wasn’t bad, we were only there a week so it really had no affect on me.
One thing I noticed as I walked through the halls was how everyone seemed to be right back to normal. It was like S.H.I.E.LD. agents weren’t roaming around, like the school wasn’t attack and four people didn’t died. But thats how it always was. People choose to go on with their lives and ignore what’s going on around them. I just wished I could do the same.
I walked to my locker, got my stuff and immediately made my way to the other side of the school to where Megan’s locker was. She was already at it, surrounded by friends and others who went up to give her a hug. She looked good. Her blonde hair had grown again and was now just a bit above her shoulders. She had no visible scars on her face, due to surgery and make up. Though she wore jeans, I knew she was wearing an ankle brace and her arm was in a cast. Her bright blue eyes moved to me and she smiled. I smiled back and walked up to her, giving her a kiss on the lips. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of days so it was good to be with her again.
“Hey,” I said smiling at her.
“Hey,” she said back.
“We’ll talk to you later,” said Megan’s friend Sasha as she began to watch away.
“Is Lily here yet?” Allie asked me as she followed Sasha. I shrugged and she walked on.
“So,” I looked back to Megan, “First day back at school…”
“I know,” Megan sighed, “It’s weird for me being back. I mean while you guys were being bused to schools I was in my bed, watching daytime soap operas and trashy talk shows.”
I nodded, “And now you realize how similar high school is to the trashy talk shows.”
Megan put her thumb and index finger together. , “Just with a tad less class.”
“Well I promise I won’t be sleeping with your sister anytime soon.”
“Like you could,” Megan tried to push me back with one hand but I didn’t budge, super strength and all.
“Get a room.”
Megan and I turned our heads as Cassie walked up to us.
“Or well, you’re into kinky stuff aren’t you Megan,” Cassie smiled at Megan, “So rooms are probably a turn off for you.”
“Hi Cassie,” Megan laughed and shook her head.
“I corrected your math homework for you,” Cassie handed Megan a folder, “Tomorrow maybe we could study? I have tutoring with Jamie today, so it’s a no go for tonight.”
“Sure,” Megan opened the folder and then looked at Cassie, “Thanks so much. I mean giving me work after what happened to me. I appreciate it. I blame it on you since you insisted they give you more work after your traumatic ordeal.”
Cassie shrugged, “It’s how I roll.”
I looked from Megan to Cassie with a raised eyebrow and gave a lopsided smile. This new relationship between them was weird and sort of awkward. I mean Cassie was still sort of snarky to her but in a really nice way which was all some could ask for with Cassie.
“So you’re tutoring Jamie today?” I asked.
Cassie nodded, “Yup.”
“You going to get personal?”
She looked at me and said in a very serious tone, “And up close.”
“Just I know you’ve been waiting so it isn’t suspicious,” I said.
“Hey I’ve gotten sort of personal,” Cassie shrugged, “I know the basics but now I’m just digging a bit deeper.”
“Is he doing the same?”
Cassie shook her head, “Actually no…I’m not sure the MLF are trying to find out more about us. They know what they need too, I just think they are trying to stay close. I don’t know what they are doing. Which is worrying.”
I nodded, “Right, well if you could find out who his homies are it would be really great.”
“I’ll try,” Cassie gave me a thumbs up and looked Megan up and down, “You know you can’t cheerlead in that condition, you must be dying on the inside. How will you get your attention now?”
“I’m thinking of being a hateful bitch, but I don’t want to steal your shtick,” Megan replied with a smile.
“You better not,” Cassie smiled turning around and began to walk away.
“Cassie,” I called out to her causing her to turn her head towards me, “Be careful.”
She rolled her eyes and walked away.
Josh wanted me to be careful, which I understood He wasn’t just talking about my little undercover op with Jamie but the fact that I was now back in school and had no way to avoid William Stryker. For the past month Stryker has been trying to talk to me but my dad has prevented him. I had one small conversation with S.H.I.E.L.D. telling them I basically remember nothing now, but I knew Stryker would want to talk to me.
As I walked down the hall, I noticed a few kids turn their heads my way. Though a lot of people didn’t seem all that interested in me anymore, there were others who still where. Most of them still blamed me for what happened, for the death of their friends but it isn’t like I care what these people thought of me. Never have, never will. Still all eyes on me isn’t exactly what I’d call fun.
I made my way to Cory’s locker just as he looked at a book for a second and than put it back.
“Don’t you need that?” I asked leaning against the locker next to him.
“I do, but I don’t feel like carrying it,” Cory said, “I’ll just look on with someone else, preferably someone with boobs.”
“You’re classly,” I replied dully looking at my finger nails.
Cory closed his locker and turned around frowning, “Doesn’t even look like a fight happened here…”
“Yeah the second floor is pretty spotless but I know they are still rebuilding the library and it most likely won’t be open up until after we get back from winter break.”
Cory patted me on the top of my head, “Poor you.”
“Excuse me,” said a middle age woman with red horn rimmed glasses and frizzy black hair walking up to me. She handed me a paper, “Mr. Stryker wants to see you.”
I rolled my eyes and sighed, looking down at the note.
“Is this bad.” Cory thoughts eetered my head.
“Nope, just inevitable.”
I sighed and walked away from Cory’s locker and into the administrators office and then right into Stryker’s room. I wasn’t scared maybe a little nervous, but I wasn’t going to let it show.
“Ms. Eaton,” Stryker smiled at me as I entered his office and took a seat across from him.
I dropped my bag to the ground nonchalantly and looked up at him, “Is this going to be long? It’s the first day back from school and I don’t want to be late for class.”
“No it shouldn’t be that long,” Stryker folded his hands together and started to scan my face, “So how are you?”
I could sense his curiosity rise along with his suspicion. He was also having a bit of an adrenaline rush. This was something he had been waiting for a month. He was happy and excited probably because he thought he be close to finding himself a mutant. I could feel all this because my empathic powers were still all over the place. I’ve done astral projection practice and tried to close off my mind but ever since Serenity brought me in the astral plane, everything’s been wacky. Emma’s been trying to help and she was probably the only one keeping me sane. Jean’s teaching method’s were too sweet for me, Emma was tough. I liked that.
Another thing Emma has been trying to help me figure out was that vision I had of Destiny. It was a vision, I know that but what did it mean. None of it made sense and Emma seemed to be as lost as me. I’ve been planning on making a visit to Destiny but with everything that’s been going on with school, mutants, and life in general, I just don’t feel it’s the time.
“I’m fine,” I said dully.
“Super fine even,” Emma appeared in the seat next to me, wearing a very short white dress with white heels. Her blonde hair went down her shoulders and curled at the end and her blue eyes were looking at Stryker with interest.
“That’s good to hear,” Stryker smiled at me, of course not seeing Emma. I was the only one who could see her, I was a lucky girl.
“I believe so,” I let out a sigh and looked at my watch.
“Do you think he suspects you?” Emma asked tilting her head slightly, “What if he does? What will you do then?”
Stryker gently strummed his fingers on his desk, “Are the press bothering you.”
“No,” I shook my head, “I’m old news. Britney is pregnant or married or fat, so that’s got their interest right now.”
“The media is very fickle,” Stryker continued to strum his fingers.
“If he knows who you are,” Emma leaned in closer to me, “He’ll probably torture you. He’ll most likely think you were behind the attack on the school.”
“It sure is,” I said as my hands tightened around the chair. I knew what Emma was saying was right, I felt it too. It was what I was most nervous about.
“You’re scared,” Emma leaned closer, “Don’t show it.”
I coughed to clear my throat. Yeah I guess I was scared because if Stryker did somehow know who I was I would have to do something.
“Would you mind if we talk about that day,” Stryker asked as Emma said.
“Do I have a choice?” I asked loosening the grips of my arms on the chair.
“Of course you do,” Stryker replied, “But really, would it hurt to talk could it?”
“What do you want to know?”
“Careful..” Emma’s eyes scanned Stryker.
Stryker’s fingers stopped strumming and he looked me straight in the eyes “What do you remember from that day?”
“Not much,” I replied looking him right back, “I argued with Betsy Braddock because she’s a total bitch-”
“She is delightful,” Emma waved a hand at me. “At least I think so. She is like a young me, just her accent is real, as are her breast and nose.”
“And then I went to go get some books for a project,” I continued over Emma, “And then something came out at me. Smoke, black smoke and then nothing. I just remember hearing a whisper “Tell your father to mind his own business” and puff. I don’t remember anything else until I woke up in the hospital.”
Stryker nodded, “Areypu positive you can not remember anything?”
Stryker leaned back in his chair but did not take his eyes off me, “I see.”
“Does he?” Emma asked me.
“Do you?” I asked Stryker, “What do you see?”
Stryker smiled, “Nothing, just, you were unharmed, in both mind and body.”
“And others like Miss. Gallow..”
“Yes Megan,” Stryker nodded, “She was badly injured.”
“Well Megan wasn’t in the house of smoke, so-”
“But,” Stryker cut in, “But they wanted to make a point to your father and you do not even remember the horrific experience, if anything it seems you were taken care of.”
“Oh yeah, the room service was terrific,” I replied coldly, “I don’t get your point. It’s not my fault these bad guys treat one hostage nicely while the rest were treated like dirt. And you don’t think I feel guilty about what happened. Sometimes guilt can be a lot worse than remembering a smoke filled kidnapping.”
“You have a point,” Stryker said calmly.
“Well thank you,” I said as snarky as possible.
“I do not mean to upset you,” Stryker gave me a smile.
“He’s lying,” Emma said, “He wants to get under your skin, get you angry.”
“I am just trying to protect all of you from these mutants,” Stryker continued, “Their dangerous.”
“Maybe you should show him your anger,” Emma whispered, “Not with your powers/ Show him that your bark is just as bad as your bite. Or if you really want to, actually bite him.”
I gave Stryker a very sarcastic smile, “You aren’t trying to protect anyone. You’re just going on a witch hunt.”
“Is that what you think?” Stryker asked.
“I think you’re a racist,” I said bluntly, “A hateful racist. You are what, trying to scare me to reveal that I have a horn or something? I’m not a mutant but I am a person with a little dignity and self respect whose parents raised her to fight against people like you. I’m not going to be interrogated by you. You don’t scare me.” I stood up, “You know at first I was against my dad helping out the mutants because really, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I thought we should just leave them be, they’ll find their way but you know, you changed my mind. So thank you for that.”
Stryker looked a me, his expression unchanged and calm, “I do not like your accusations Cassie. I am doing this to protect my people.”
“Your people?” I looked at in disgust, “What the human race?”
“No,” Stryker said calmly, “My students.”
“Is that what you tell yourself?”
“You need to realize that playing nice with these people will accomplish nothing,” Stryker continued, ignoring my comment, “They do not want help, they want to conquer-”
“And you’re scared,” I looked down at him, “You’re afraid of the big bad new race which is going to knock your ass of the throne it’s reigned on for so long.”
“You talk of things you don’t understand,” Stryker’s eyes narrowed at me. I could feel his anger rise but he wasn’t exactly suspicious of me, not that I could feel at least. And while he might have been angry, I could feel his other emotions too. He seemed somewhat smugly satisfied, probably because he got me to go off on him. Probably thought he made me really angry. But really, I wasn’t that angry.
That’s actually a lie. I was really angry.
“Are we done?” I asked walking towards the door.
“You may go,” Stryker replied coldly.
“Good,” I turned towards him, “I can’t wait until we can do this again.”
I walked out the door, letting out a deep breath. Maybe that wasn’t exactly the smartest move, yelling at Stryker and telling him what I think but playing dumb and close to the vest wasn’t going to get me anywhere. He knows very well that I’m loud and opinionated, so I gave him my opinions, I showed who I was. Anything else would have been suspicious. Plus it was fun.
“Goodie,” Betsy Braddock got out of a chair against the wall in the administrators’ office, “My turn.” She passed me and gave me a small smug smile and then headed into Stryker’s office.
I looked at the office door confused for a second, than looked back over into the administrators’ office, where about four kids were sitting in chairs. Josh’s friend Derek was one of them.
I walked up to him and he looked at me fearful and I couldfell his nervousness. It made me feel good.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said looking up at me.
“That’s probably true and will be true for the rest of your life,” I said with a smile, “Why are you here?”
“Mr. Stryker,” he looked to the door, “He wants to talk to me.”
“Oh,” I nodded.
“Same here,” a boy few seats away from him said.
“Shush,” I said to the boy, “No is talking to you.” I shook my head and looked back to Derek, “People not minding their business annoys me..”
“Well you are sort of aren’t minding yours,” he said meekly.
“I’m different,” I said walking away with a smile. As I stepped outside the office my smile immediately faded and my stomach tensed up.
“Hmm,” Emma appeared at my side again as I walked down the hall, “Looks like Stryker is going through student by student now…”
“Doesn’t matter,” I said, “Derek isn’t a mutant.”
“But he is Josh’s friend,” Emma replied, “And while that shows that the boy has poor taste in friends, if Stryker wants information, who better to get it from than one of Josh’s best friends.”
“Who knows crap about nothing,” I passed by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who looked at me like I had lost it. I looked to Emma, “Go away.”
She disappeared and I sighed.
“Guys,” I said contacting the others telepathically, “I think we might have a problem.”
So Stryker was going through the student body now. What was he doing? Sizing them up, trying to figure out if they were mutants or not? I didn’t know and when I asked Derek what him and Stryker talked about during second period, he wasn’t too helpful.
“We just talked about stuff man,” he shrugged as we entered the class, “I mean he asked me if I knew anyone who is a mutant, I said I don’t know, he asked me what I thought about mutants and I said I don’t know and he asked me about how I felt about the attack which I said, not good. That was basically the gist of it.”
I looked to Derek, “Did he..uh..ask about me?”
“You?” Derek looked at me confused, “Dude get over yourself…”
“Yeah…” I looked down, “Sorry..”
“But yeah he did.”
I looked at Derek surprised and I felt my heart skip a beat.
“He asked about a lot of my friends,” Derek looked at me like I was insane, “He asked about Allie, Milo, Timmy.”
“What did he ask about me?” I asked.
“Just how he thinks I felt you dealt with your sister’s kidnapping and how I dealt with your sister’s kidnapping.”
“And?” I motioned from him to go on.
“I said I don’t know..”
“Why does he care about my sister’s kidnapping?” I asked more to myself, “That was two years ago…”
“It’s not everyday that someone I know gets kidnapped by Magneto,” Derek nodded.
“You would be surprised,” I muttered to myself.
“Your sister’s hot,” Derek grinned, “I miss her. Is she dating anyone?”
“Would that matter, she doesn’t even like you.”
“The me of two year’s ago,” Derek nodded, “She hasn’t met suave, sophisticated Derek.”
“Nor have I.”
He looked at me angrily but I ignored him and looked to the front of the room as students continued to walk into the room, one going right up to the teacher’s desk and handing her a note. My teacher looked down at it and looked up to me.
“Josh, Mr. Stryker wants too see you.”
I sighed and got up.
“When you get back I’m going to ask you a million questions,” Derek gave me a wave, “See how you like it.”
I rolled my eyes and walked between the rows of desk and headed out of the room. As I walked through the halls I passed another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and wondered if I had too if I could take all the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents out. There guys were trained to deal with mutants, so I didn’t really know.
I walked into Stryker’s officer and he gave me a nod.
“Come sit,” he said motioning to the chair. I did as he said and felt my stomach tighten with nerves. “Don’t be nervous.” He laughed, “So how are you?”
“I’m fine,” I replied, “And you?” I cringed… I didn’t mean to ask that.
“I am also fine,” he smiled, “Despite the harsh tongue lashing your friend Cassie gave me.”
“I’ve had many of those,” I gave him a weak smile.
He laughed again. I could tell it was a fake laugh, just like that I could tell all his smiles were fake.
“I heard you talked with Nick Fury,” Stryker began.
“Uh just a bit,” I replied.
“Yes he told me all you had to say,” Stryker nodded, “How are the cuts on your chest?”
“Fine,” I rubbed the now non-existent cuts, “Getting better.”
“Good…” he smiled, “So let’s talk… As I am sure you already heard I am talking to the students about their thoughts on our current situation.”
“With mutants?” I asked
“Yes,” Stryker nodded, “Our school was attacked, our town carnival. This little town seems to be the epicenter of many mutant attacks.”
“Maybe it’s over a Hellmouth.” Strkyer looked at me confused and I scratched the back of my head, embarrassed. I coughed a little as I said, “It’s uh..from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It like made all the demons go to Sunnydale, where Buffy lived…I don’t think it really exist-”
“No I understand what you are saying,” he nodded and his brown eyes started to move over my face, “Is that what you think of them? That mutants are demons?”
“Oh..” my eyes widened a bit. “I…uh…”
Without missing another beat Stryker asked, “You’re sister was kidnapped by Magneto was she not?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “She was…”
“For the sole reason that she was a random pretty girl that Magneto decided to kidnap,” Stryker continued, “It is just horrible…Magneto would ruin her life for no reason at all.”
“Well she’s doing okay,” I said slowly, “She goes to USC now..” It comforted me to know that if Stryker looked up Kaylee, she would show up as a USC student even though she went to the institute.
“Yes I heard. It is good that she stayed strong.”
“Yeah…” I nodded.
“And then there was Lily…” he looked at me sadly, “Poor girl, both her parents killed by Magneto, then she was held hostage by his men and her friend dies…”
“Yeah well she’s okay too…”
“Yes I know,” Stryker smiled, “She is part of my support group, which by the way, you are always welcome too.”
“And then there was Cory,” Stryker continued, “His brother was killed by a mutant and he too was at that club…”
“Yeah…he was,” I said slowly.
“And Cassie…well I don’t think I need to repeat what happened with Cassie.”
“No…I guess not,.”
“And then there was Megan-”
“I know what happened to Megan,” I cut him off.
“Strange how you and your closest friends have been wronged by mutants isn’t?” Stryker leaned forward slightly.
“Or we just all have really bad luck,” I said shrugging, “I don’t know…” I didn’t know what to say to Stryker. If you look at it, the four us being so close and all having all these horrible things happen to them it does look a bit suspicious.
“How do you feel about mutants?” Stryker asked his voice demanding yet calm.
“I don’t really feel anything towards them,” I shrugged again.
“Not even after all they have done to you, to the people you love?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know.”
“You aren’t angry,” he continued.
“No…” I said, “I’m nothing…”
“You have to feel something.”
I shook my head, “Nope…I feel nothing.”
Stryker nodded, “No anger? They kidnapped your sister.”
“I know what I they did,” I said my voice raising.
“Killed your best friends’ family and friends.”
“I know what they did,” I repeated, my voice getting louder.
Stryker smiled, “Well you do seem angry.”
I looked down, “Of course I’m angry about that but for mutants as a whole…I don’t feel anything towards them.”
“One day you will.”
I looked up at Stryker, not saying anything. I was starting to feel uncomfortable. …What was the point of this? What was he trying to figure something out or worse what did he already know?
“Why are you so nervous?” Stryker’s eyes scanned my face again, “You are not on trial here. I just feel it is important to talk.”
“I’m just not a share my feelings guy,” I said lowly, “I use to see a psychiatrist. It didn’t turn out well.”
“Well I am always here when you are ready,” Stryker said leaning back in his chair, “You may go now.”
“Uh..okay,” I said getting up slowly. He put out his hand and though I hesitated at first, I grabbed it and shook it.
“Hopefully we will talk again soon,” he smiled at me.
“Sure…yeah,” I said letting go of his hand, “Have a good day.”
I walked out of the room and back into the hall. I didn’t know what to feel about what just happened. It sort of seemed pretty ho-hum, at least more than I expected it to be. I didn’t know how to feel about that. Did he suspect that I was a mutant? Did he suspect that I was an X-Man? I passed the S.H.I.E.LD. soldier again but tried not to look at him and instead looked at the ground. I was ready for something to happen, ready to fight if I had to. But nothing happened and I moved on and back to class. As I took my seat, it dawned on me just how completely unsafe I felt at school.