————— X.S.E. Headquarters, New York —————
“Come on Monet, would it kill you to let your hair down for one drink?” asked a young, sallow skinned man.
“Frankly, I doubt you want my answer to that question,” replied Monet as she walked a few steps ahead of her admirer, doing everything possible to make this uncomfortable for him.
A sudden rush of hot air blew across her back and she found herself walking toward Neal Shaara. He stood standing with a smirk on his face knowing that his pestering attitude was beginning to wear on Monet. “To hear your voice I would listen to any answer”, he said with mock feeling.
Monet St. Croix rolled her eyes and flicking her hair, roughly shoved past her Indian teammate and continued walking down the hallway toward her destination. She had had another long day doing her various X.S.E. duties. This morning she had attended a career fair in a school in Mutant Town, and had had to put up with pushy teachers and parents shouting at her for telling the students that for them it was either garbage men or the X.S.E. She had then spent a couple of hours dealing with a domestic situation in Central Park where a girl and her mutant boyfriend were engaged in a battle over who cheated on whom more. She had simply gone in smacked the boy around a bit, handed him over to the authorities and told the girl not to mix synthetic and natural fibres. The last thing she wanted now was Neal’s boorish attempts at picking her up.
Not that she wasn’t flattered, of course, she thought Neal was an attractive enough man, and from what she had read from his file, he came from a fairly well to do family. On paper he was exactly the sort of guy Monet would go for. However she did not want him to know that just yet. She decided to let him steam a little more.
“I’m just going to keep asking until you say yes,” he said walking behind her again.
“Then I advise you to record it and save your voice for someone who likes to hear corny pick up lines,” she replied with a sneer.
Neal rolled his eyes but couldn’t help smiling. As much as Monet tried to make herself seem cold, distant and unattainable, he knew that it was only a matter of time before she would agree to a date. Neal had her pegged; she wanted to keep him dangling for a while before she appeared to give in. Well he would let her believe she was doing just that, in the end he would still get a date. He chuckled as he watched her walk to a large metal doorway and walking up behind her he sighed and laughed, “Oh the games we play.”
Monet just turned around and looked at him like he was crazy. She then turned around and pressed a key sequence on a pad beside the door. She relaxed as her retina patterns were scanned and momentarily dropped her mental shields as her psi-pattern was similarly investigated. She was doing her last duty for the day which was to debrief the psi-lab. After some training and her promotion to a member of the New York X.S.E. strike squad, Monet had also taken on the responsibility for the telepaths in the New York division. She basically summarised what they had gleaned from the casual thoughts of New Yorkers and presented any mutant cases or emergencies that arose during the day.
As the door slid open she gasped and staggered back. All ten of her psychic operators were lying passed out in their chairs. She quickly ran over to the nearest one, a blonde young man and checked his pulse. He was still alive.
She looked over at Neal who was checking the pulses of some of the others. “They all seem fine, all breathing, and hearts beating.” He shrugged his shoulders, unable to give any further thoughts on what might be wrong.
“I’ll see if I can talk to them mind to mind,” said Monet. She stretched out her mind and attempted to connect with any of the ten familiar presences of her team. What she got instead was searing, white hot pain. She shrieked and fell to the ground in a heap.
“Crap, Monet, are you alright?” called Neal as he rushed over to her. Checking her he realised she was now the exact same as the other telepaths in the room. Just then all the lights and consoles shut down. “What is going on?” he wondered before getting up and leaving the room to get help.
————— Office of the X.S.E. Managing Director —————
Ororo Monroe pushed her chair back from her desk and walked to the windowed side of her pent house office. She had finished dealing with the paperwork from today and had managed to get in a few interviews for the director of a new branch of the X.S.E. she was opening in Sweden. She sighed and rubbed her tired eyes and brushing her white hair behind her ears, let a gentle breeze she conjured play around her face, refreshing her.
She looked out over Manhattan, the view from the X.S.E. headquarters’ tower was probably one of the best in the city. She could see down the stretch of green that was Central Park and further down toward the business district where the impressive Baxter Building and Avengers’ Tower could be seen. She smiled as memories of her own time with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes drifted to the front of her mind. She had been happy back then working alongside her fellow Avengers and her, at the time lover, the Black Panther. As good as those times were though, she had been happy to go back to the X-Men.
For a while anyway, before all that business with the Destiny Diaries. The team she had led, her so called X-Treme X-Men, had been the last time she had belonged to an official X-team. After Rogue had proven the diaries to be only possibilities, Ororo had been tempted to reunite her team with the X-Men at the mansion, but rising tensions and differing views between herself and Xavier at the time had resulted in this, the eXtreme Sanctions Executive.
It had started as herself, Sean Cassidy, Tessa and a selection of mutants from various X backgrounds. She had started off in New York, albeit a more modest headquarters with tentative government background. But as their successes and achievements both in protecting the state and country from super-powered threats and dealing with mutant issues, the X.S.E. had blossomed and spread and was now established globally with support both political and financial from many sources.
She chuckled to herself, remembering those humble beginnings. Back then she had never thought that she would have achieved so much, that her version of the dream would have been so successful.
She realised everything she had gone through in her life was preparing her for this. And it felt good.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the beeping sound of her direct line. She left her viewpoint and walked over to the large screen on the opposite wall. Pressing a button, it flickered into life, and the face of her caller appeared.
“Wind Rider, thank God you answered,” came the panicked voice of the woman Ororo knew only as Callisto. The woman looked panicked and there seemed to some sort of commotion in the background. The image flickered and Callisto’s voice began to come through more broken.
“Under attack by countless ……. don’t know where ……………… but they are killing ……… mutant in sight. I don’t ………. enough here to stop them…………. taken significant damage and …………. We ………… help, Storm…………..”.
The screen suddenly went blank. Staggered by what had just happened Ororo ran to her desk and quickly sent out the emergency signal to her strike squad. As she looked up the doors to her office burst open and Neal Shaara flew into the room.
“Storm something’s wrong, all the telepaths are unconscious. I was just at the Psi-Lab with Monet when she went down too,” he said walking toward her. “And all the building’s systems are down.”
Storm looked down at the button she had pressed to raise the alarm, she had wondered at the lack of sirens and now knew the reason. “Neal I need you to gather the rest of the strike squad, I just had a disturbing call from the Genoshan X.S.E. Director. We will deal with the telepaths now, but I want the rest ready to leave in the hour.”
“I think we should be more concerned about ourselves,” said Neal turning her around to look out her window. Where it had been blue skies and the Manhattan skyline a few minutes ago, it was now sentinels, uncountable sentinels. Storm and Neal dived as the leading robots aimed a blast at the windows, shattering them.
Neal looked at Ororo from where he was laying and saw the determined look in her face. Her eyes turned white and lightning flickered through her hair as she summoned her mutant weather powders. With a surge of wind he watched as his leader tore through the shattered windows straight toward the sentinels. Standing up he took a deep breath before following her into the New York skies.