————— X.S.E. Headquarters, New York —————
Neal watched as the jet’s bottom thrusters ignited, slowly lowering it to the ground of the hanger. He waited while Storm and Warpath went through the landing checks and silently wondered why Ororo had phoned ahead and asked that he be there to meet them when they arrived back for the Xavier Institute.
“Did they just get in?” said a voice behind him. He turned his head to see Heather Cameron approaching. She was wearing her X.S.E. uniform as he was, and was in the process of tying her blonde hair back in a pony tail.
“Did Storm ask you to be here too?” he asked.
“Yeah but she didn’t say why”, replied Heather.
“Well here they come, I guess we will find out soon enough”, said Neal as the hatch lowered from the jet to the ground and Warpath exited.
“I’ll get someone to come clean up the sick”, he called back over his shoulder into the jet.
Neal frowned and raised his eyebrows in question as James Proudstar approached him and Heather.
“Hey guys”, he said chuckling, “Boy are you two going just love Storm when you find out”, he finished, laughing out loud as he walked past them to the exit of the hanger.
Heather turned and yelled after him, “Find out about what?” she called.
Just then they heard more voices coming from the jet.
“I told you I don’t fly well”, said a young male voice. A second later Neal saw it belonged to a dark haired, teenage boy, “My codename’s not Groundhog because I fly through the damn clouds at high speed”, he continued.
“Yeah but did you have to throw up that much?” said another, young sounding voice which belonged to a girl with brown, shoulder length hair, “Seriously the smell of it was epic”.
“And your vomit smells like roses I suppose”, replied the young man.
By this stage Neal was very confused and turning to Heather he said, “What’s with the junior brigade?”
“I have no idea, but my best guess is these are some of the kids that survived the attack on the mansion”, she replied, watching them exit the jet with curiosity.
“Right”, he replied, “I hope that isn’t all of them, there’s only what, a handful here?” he said.
Heather shrugged her shoulders and they waited as the last of the young teenagers exited the jet followed shortly by their leader and boss, Ororo Monroe. She ushered the kids towards them both and smiled at Neal and Heather in turn.
“Oh oh”, whispered Heather to Neal, “I know that smile, we are getting some bum job, ten bucks I’m right”.
“Not on your life” Neal whispered back, “I know that smile too”.
“Neal, Heather, thank you both for meeting us here”, said Storm, “I suppose you were wondering what I am doing here with all these children?”
“The thought had crossed our minds”, said Neal.
“These are some of the kids that survived the attack on the Institute, Cyclops has decided that the school is to be shut down indefinitely, the students remaining there are being trained as X-Men”, Storm explained.
“Seriously?” blurted out Heather, “That’s a bit sudden and extreme on Scott’s part isn’t it?”
“Huh”, said a purple skinned boy, “You’re telling us”.
“Regardless”, interrupted Storm, “I offered to take in those students who did not wish to remain and train as X-Men; they are here to finish their education and training in their mutant powers. To that end I have a little job for you two”.
Understanding dawned on Neal and Heather’s face as they realised why they had been summoned here. “Hang on, you mean?” started Neal.
“Only temporarily”, said Storm, “I need you two to get the kids settled, they will be living here in the building for the interim, and I need you to see what they can do. I have had their files transferred from the Institute to your computers, but I want you both to test their powers in the Danger Room”.
“I thought we left the Danger Room back at the Institute”, Neal heard another of the students grumble. It was the one who was kind of see through, and sticky looking.
“I guess we can do that”, said Heather, before he had a chance to say anything about it.
“Good”, replied Storm, “Let me introduce you briefly then. Students, these are your mentors for the next couple of weeks, Mr. Shaara and Miss. Cameron, otherwise known as Thunderbird and Lifeguard”.
“Thunderbird”, sniggered the large, rocky looking guy. Neal shot him a fierce look and he fell quiet.
“That is quite enough Mr. Green”, said Storm to the same student. “This is Sydney Green, codename Onyxx”, Storm continued, referring to the rocky guy before she continued along the line of kids, “Hope Abbot, or Trance and Henry Adams, or Silicon”, she was now pointing at the sticky guy who had complained a while ago.
“This is Paul Howard, or Olympian” she continued pointing to an athletic looking young man, “and beside him are Paras Gavaskar and Sarah Vale, otherwise referred to as Indra and Network”. The purple skinned boy and a dark haired girl beside him waved.
“Lastly we have Alan Baxter, or Groundhog”, she pointed to the vomit guy, “And this is Cessily Kincaid, or Mercury”, finished Storm as she placed a hand on a metallic looking girl.
“Quite a bunch”, said Neal as he looked at the collection of mutant kids, “Okay guys let’s get you settled I guessed”.
Storm, Heather and Neal walked toward the exit with the students following behind. They didn’t notice as one of them, the dark haired girl, paused and fell behind.
————— x —————
Sarah Vale paused as the others walked out of the hanger, following after their newly appointed mentors. She was finding this all a bit much to take in, the last few days had been a whirlwind of events, what with the attack and now leaving the Institute. Or as she thought of it, being kicked out because she didn’t want to be an X-Man.
She was also missing her sister Jessica. She had been one of the many who had gone missing during the sentinel attack on the mansion. Nobody had any idea where she had gone only that the sentinels had carried her off.
She sucked in a deep breath and bit back tears that threatened to leave her in a sobbing heap, as she had found herself doing often the last few days. To steady herself she reached out with her powers, her technopathic and cyberpathic abilities and sensed the machinery all around her. She lost herself in the presence of the building, something only she could feel. She did this often when she felt she needed to ground herself.
Roaming along the wiring and electrical data pulses she paused as she felt something unusual. The ‘personality’ of the building, the term she used to describe the feeling and sense she got from a mechanical object, was there, but there was something else. Concentrating, it felt like there was another presence embedded in the background noise of the building. Focusing harder she was surprised when she noticed a second extra presence. They were both faint but there nonetheless.
“Hey Sarah, shake a leg”, called Indra from the exit. It broke her concentration and she snapped herself out of her electronic trance. She shrugged off her discovery, assuming it was just the normal state of this system. She followed after the others.
————— ‘Inside’ the Building —————
Monet eagerly watched the screen that was displaying the hanger of the building. She had felt the young girl’s presence as she had connected to the systems.
“Finally”, she breathed in a sigh of relief, “Someone with some brains who might be able to get me out of here”.
She lay down on whatever passed for a floor in this place and began planning how she could get this girl to help her out of her current situation.
Next: X.S.E. #3 System’s Failure – Monet thinks she has a way to restore herself to her body, and it involves the young mutant girl Network. Only question is how she can get this to happen? Also who was the other presence Network detected in the buildings system?