Today, Mutant Town:

Sally Blevins was walking down Corning Road, once a place of commerce and trade in the district of Manhattan called Mutant Town. The broken signs and neon along the fronts of the buildings still reminded the casual observer that this was once a street where people would come to buy their groceries, clothing or household appliances. Everything was geared to the mutant population that was thriving here before M-Day. Now it was all rubble. Most of the shops had been looted, some stores were boarded up, and a few buildings were severely damaged by fire. In the days after M-Day, when Sally had been hiding out among the X-Men, the crazies had come crawling out of the woodwork. The normal human or mutant response to something incredible happening or any form of crisis was usually one of panic. Sally knew all to well if enough people panicked at the same time and place, riots were the common result. That was exactly what had happened in mutant town. Mass panic, mass rioting, mass destruction and blind hatred had all conspired to wipe out this community of mutants.

Sally had only visited mutant town once, when on leave from her duties at X-Corporation. What she had found here then had amazed her, but had also frightened her. Sally had never truly embraced her status as a mutant, still preferring to fit in with human society instead of flaunting how she was different. She had never felt like a true Homo Superior after she was finally free of the MLF and the Acolytes. Sure, she caught herself calling human bigots flatscans more than once, and sometimes ignorant humans had also earned her anger, but she was not a part of the `Mutants Shall Inherit The Earth’-crowd, and the fact that she had once felt that way, when she was forced into the MLF, served only as a reminder of how much Stryfe and his people had violated her. The Mutant Town she was now walking through was dead. No More Mutants, indeed, she thought, as she remembered the stories she had heard when she was at the 198-encampment with the X-Men. With the Mutant Population either gone or depowered, the opportunists, hate-gangs and other pleasant people had started taking Mutant Town back. The only people still looking out for the former mutants here were X-Factor, the group that included her old buddy Rictor from her own X-Factor days, and the huge number of former mutants that had come here to be among other depowered mutants.

The reason Sally had come here was to look for just such an individual. Fred J. Dukes, AKA The Blob, a horrible man who once ran with Freedom Force and was responsible for her capture by the MLF, was seen arriving here by train, and he was the one person of which she was certain that he could tell her about the fate of the Inferno-Babies. Together with Joe the Demon and Sheriff Derek Moseley she would track the big fat bastard down, and make him tell her what he knew. If necessary, she would beat it out of him, and part of ally hoped that it would indeed come to this! After all, this whole exercise was about making things right and getting her life back on track by resolving the issues of the past. If she could just find a way to get the Inferno Babies home, she would have found a reason to survive everything that had happened to her. She could look herself in the eye and think: “It was worth it to protect these children.”

However, as always something had happened to derail her plans for a bit. Two days ago, she had witnessed the brutal beating of a friend on National Television. The former Morlock called Tarbaby was left for dead in the streets of Mutant Town after another riot had erupted between hate-groups and former mutants. Tarbaby had been a friend to Sally when she hardly had any, back when she lived underground in the sewers below New York. Sally knew that he had wanted to be so much more to her than just a friend, but that no longer mattered. Right now, he was lying in a Hospital, being cared for on her money, and she was looking for one thing: revenge! It had been easy to find out who were responsible for what had happened to Tarbaby. The Trueblood Stormtroopers had been a highly visible hate-group in the riots after M-Day, and several of their members, wearing the reversed Swastika in red on their arms, were seen fleeing the scene after the fight that got Tarbaby impaled on an Iron Pipe. As soon as Sally, Joe & Derek had checked into a cheap hotel in Manhattan, one of the few they would be able to afford after Sally had paid for Tarbaby’s medical care, Sally had announced to her companions that she intended to go after the ones who had hurt him. Derek had cautioned her about going of on a revenge mission, but Sally wouldn’t here from it. Joe had been as disinterested as ever, preferring to try out every channel on the television to look for his favourite cartoons. Derek had not protested for long, and instead he had hacked into the NYPD computer records on his laptop and provided her with an address within minutes: 101, Corning Road. Sally was standing in front of the building now, and she saw the flag with the gang-insignia hanging on the window. She put up her forcefield, and remembered all the combat training she had ever received from the Acolytes, X-Corporation, X-Factor and especially the MLF. They would never know what hit them!

*********

“It’s time for Ani-mani-acs!!!!!!!” Joe was singing, as he was practically jumping up and down on his bed in the hotel-room he shared with Sheriff Derek Moseley and Sally Blevins. He had found five different cartoon-channels, and he was happily flicking through all of them. Having lived as a small child had thought him to appreciate the fun things in life, and one of those was cartoons. His favourites were Jimmy Neutron, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Animaniacs-reruns. In enjoying these cartoons, he was making a complete nuisance of himself, acting like the 6-year-old child he resembled instead of the age-old Demon he actually was. He was slurping cola, eating chips and chocolate and bouncing through the hotel room, particularly on his bed. If Derek noticed anything of his behaviour, he did not let on at all. He was sitting stoically behind his laptop, and was flicking through web pages at breakneck speed, seemingly happy to ignore Joe. When Animaniacs finished to make room for Sponge Bob, Joe settled down, and started to stare at the practically motionless Sheriff, whose only movements for the past two hours had been clicking and scrolling with his mouse, or rapidly moving his eyes. Joe got quickly bored with that, too, and finally decided to strike up a conversation with the sheriff he did not trust or like at all.

“Sheriff?” Joe asked.

“Derek.” Came the reply.

“Excuse me?” Joe asked.

“I’m of duty. You are an adult. Call me Derek” Derek said, not once stopping his net-search.

“Okay… Derek…. What are you doing?”

“Something useful” Derek answered.

“What?”

“I said: Something Useful”

“I heard you…. What kind of something useful?” Joe continued his questions.

“I know you heard me. This was intended as sarcasm, implying that I have no desire to tell you what I’m doing.”

“Why not?”

“Because I prefer to do something else”

“Like what?” Joe persisted.

“Something useful”

Joe got the message, but still felt bored. He disliked the fact that Sally had gone of on her own, and to keep his anxiety in check, he was desperately looking for some diversion. He looked through the room, and concluded that during the commercial breaks on television he had explored all there was to explore about it. He had already emptied Sally’s bag, and had found that it contained nothing but clothing, some care products, a few pictures a cell-phone and a paper bag containing the last of the cash Sally had inherited from her late father. He had tried the cell-phone, but there were not many numbers in it, no messages and no games of any sort. Thinking about the phone, he decided to check whether Derek had a phone. He walked up to him, and saw that he had emptied his pockets. Now, where were the contents? Joe decided that they were probably in the drawer next to Derek’s bed, and headed over to it, passing Derek. As he opened the drawer, he saw Derek’s wallet, his car-keys, his police badge, his gun and his phone.

“Don’t!” came Derek’s stern warning.

“I’m only looking” Joe said, wandering how Derek had known what he was doing when he was not even facing him.

“I do not want you looking at my gun” Derek said.

“I wasn’t…. I was…” Joe stammered.

“I know what you wanted to do” Derek said, not turning to look at Joe as he spoke, “You want to take out my gun, and hold it. You may not be a child, but from what I have seen, you do have the same impulses. You may be a Demon, but I still find you as predictable as any human being. Now close that drawer, and leave my belongings alone.”

“Fine” Joe answered s he closed the drawer, “But I’m still bored”

“Go be bored somewhere else then. Go to the hotel lounge or wherever you want to go. Do not bother me when I’m doing…”

“Something useful?” Joe asked.

“Indeed. Goodbye.” Derek said, continuing whatever it was he was doing.

“Okay. Just come get me if Sally comes back.”

“Goodbye” Derek said once more, as Joe walked out the door of the hotel room.

Stepping into the elevator to go to the lounge, Joe took Derek’s phone from his pocket. So Derek thought he could predict him, eh? Joe never cared much for guns. To him they represented violence, and violence he had seen enough of as a Demon. Now a phone, that was something different. A phone was practically a toy. It was a new model, and Joe was sure he could have some fun with it.

*********

Sally opened the door to 101, Corning Road, There was a flight of stairs heading up immediately behind it, and Sally slowly but confidently walked up the stairs. At the top, she came to a door that bore the Trueblood Stormtroopers insignia, and she knocked on it. She heard some noises and a person walking up to the door. The door was opened by a tall, broad shouldered man in a faded denim jacket over his bare torso, that had the gang logo tattooed on it.

“Yeah…. Well what do we have here?” the man called out, as he saw Sally’s slender figure wearing a pink top and tight jeans. Sally looked as coy as she could manage, and smiled at the man.

“Can I come in?” she asked.

“By all means, babe…” the man said, and Sally walked into the room. She saw four men sitting on damaged furniture watching porn on a brand-new television. Thinking that this gang of thugs was too cliché for words, Sally smiled, and walked into the middle of the room.

“So babe, what brings you here?” an older member with long grey hair asked, looking at her as if she was here for his personal amusement.

“I just wanted to tell you something…. You see, I’m a mutant…” Sally said smiling.

All of the men started laughing, except the older guy.

“Really? And what are your powers, then?” he asked, looking dead serious.

“Nothing much. Just a force field I can control. No claws,super strength or magnetic force or something”

“I see” the elder man said, as his companions stopped laughing “And you’ve come her to do what? Kill us?”

“Close. I don’t want to kill you, but I will beat you to within inches of your lives!” Sally stated, tensing up as she felt the fight was about to start.

The older man stared at her for a second, and then drew out a gun. Sally responded right away, and spun around to kick the man to her left in the face. The gun went of, but the bullet bounced of her forcefield. The other men all scrambled to pick up chains, a bat and a beer bottle. Sally wasted no time dodging their clumsy attacks, but instead jumped up to land another beautiful kick combo in the face of the man who had let her in. She was very happy for once with her MLF training, which had taught her to strike quickly and with as much damage as possible. Her kicks had taken out two of her assailants. The older man rushed her to wrestle her down, but found he forcefield to slippery to hold on to. In the meantime, Sally had picked up a bat, and struck another of the men hard in the stomach. As he doubled over, a knee to the face took him out as well. The remaining two had gathered their wits by now, and both jumped on her, this time succeeding in taking Sally down. They then proceeded to hit her with chains and an iron pipe. Sally could not feel the blows, but she knew she had to get up, as sooner or later she would no longer be able to keep her forcefield up. The older man sat right on top of her, and sally panicked for a brief moment as she felt she was not strong enough to push the men of. The she remembered the night in the woods near Harington. She closed her eyes, concentrated and expanded her forcefield outward explosively. The older man hit the ceiling head first, and the other man went flying out the window. All the other attackers that were lying around were shoved into the walls, and most of the furniture was crushed by the expanding forcefield.

Exhausted by the effort, Sally barely managed to get up. The older man was lying on his back, still conscious, and gasping in pain.

“You b**ch! You broke my neck! You b**ch!!! You..”

Sally laughed at the man, feeling energised by the man’s impotent rage. He continued to curse, but Sally only laughed. She looked around and saw a Trueblood flag lying on the floor. She also found a lighter. Sally picked up both items, and held them in front of the elder man.

“You know, I may just kill you anyway…” Sally said as she flicked on the lighter and held it near the flag.
“Do it then, you f**king b**ch! You f**king h*le!” the man screamed in between gasps.

“Nah… This is much more fun!” Sally said, as she draped the flag over his face.

Sally walked out of the room, kicking one of the men who just started to move in the head. She went down the stairs and felt the exhaustion return. When she stepped back into the street, she saw a man standing by the gang-member she had pushed through the window. He had longish brown hair, a tanned skin and wore a green jacket over a yellow sweater. He looked at Sally with a surprised smile.

“Skids?” he asked.

“Hello, Rictor…. I had a feeling I might meet you here…” Sally said, and then collapsed from exhaustion.