CHAPTER ONE – Complications of the Romantic Variety
Los Anyas, Genosha; The Palace of Lord Magnus
“So explain it to me one more time, please,” Gabriel Summers was saying. He and the beautiful Lorna Dane were seated in a second-story sitting room in her father’s large palace. Gabriel, an American, was very interested in Genosha’s marriage laws.
“I’ve told you twice over already,” laughed Lorna, scratching her green head of hair. “There are no laws on marriage here. My father thinks that marriage is a religious issue, not a political one, so if you can find a church to pronounce you married, then you’re married.” Her long hair matched her bright green mini-dress almost perfectly, and her black choker looked like it had been made from the same material as that of her thigh-high leather boots. Pale green leggings completed her rather over-dressed outfit.
“But what about things like hospital visitation, or conjugal visits?” Gabriel looked almost like an exact replica of his older brother Scott. Besides their eyes (Scott’s red, due to his powers, and Gabriel’s bright green), the only real differences between them was that Gabriel’s hair was several shades darker, and that Scott was more muscular, while Gabriel was rather wiry. The two had often been mistaken for each other, in particular by their elderly grandmother who nearly always mixed them up.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I think you can apply for a civil union or something. All I know is that my father doesn’t think the government has any right to decide who can get married.”
“If the government has civil unions, then whats the difference?”
“You really think I would know these kinds of things? Go read the Rights of the Couple, or whatever it’s called.” In reality, there was no such thing, but Lorna, who maintained that she couldn’t be bothered with things like legalities, didn’t know that.
“You guys have a library, right? Maybe I’ll go look it up,” said Gabriel, getting up out of the comfortable chair he was seated in, fighting the overwhelming urge to fall asleep in it.
“Library? Doesn’t ring any bells,” said Lorna, also getting up as she looked at something in her palm, which Gabriel assumed was a mirror.
“You’re so helpful.” Gabriel then performed a very over-exaggerated eye-roll.
“Don’t mention it,” she said, walking out.
Gabriel shook his head. “I’ve been to this city so many times, I should know where a library is,” he said to no one in particular. He then sat back down on the couch.
In fact, Gabriel had been to Los Anyas exactly forty-three times, and nineteen of those visits took place after he had already learned to drive. His father, Christopher Summers, was a close friend of Lord Magnus and Lady Magda’s, and the two of them had even stated on more than one occasion that their rise to power in the formerly structureless country of Genosha couldn’t have happened without his help.
Just as Gabriel was getting on his iPhone to find a library, his older brother Alex came into the room.
“Hey bro,” said Alex, sitting down right next to Gabriel. “What’s up?”
“Apparently your desperation, since you’re about to break your only scruple and ask me for a favor.” Gabriel had not even looked up from his phone to respond to Alex.
Gabriel had something of a knack for knowing when his brother needed something from him. It was something that exasperated Alex to no end, which actually only made it more fun for Gabriel to do.
“Heh. You’re so funny, bro. You know, I was just talking to Emma about how funny you are, and sh-”
“Save it. What do you want?” Gabriel had still yet to look up from his phone.
“Nothing big…” Alex started nonchalauntly.
But, in fact, it was ‘something big.’ You see, Alex and Gabriel’s father Christopher had a very successful business back home. All three Summers brother got regular pay-checks from the company, though they did little to deserve it. Alex had taken several advances over the past year, but there was a company limit on how much he could have advanced to him at a time. As soon as he had reached the limit, Alex had asked for a loan from his father to pay for a five-star hotel ballroom for a few nights. His father had been sure to warn him that he had better get it payed back on time. The deadline was actually tomorrow, and Alex had lost all his money at a casino the night before. Ironically, the hotel ballroom he had taken the loan out for was Alex’s contribution to the surprise party that Scott and Alex had thrown for Gabriel a few months prior.
“No,” said Gabriel after Alex had explained the situation to him, leaving out the part about the ballroom.
Alex hesitated. “Are you sure? Because I know a big, big secret that you’ll want to kn-”
“You’re sleeping with Lorna,” said Gabriel before Alex could finish.
Indeed, Alex and Princess Lorna had indeed been having an affair, unbeknownst to Lorna’s fiancée, Carter Ghazikhanian. Up until now, Lorna and Alex had thought that Lorna’s brother, Prince Pietro was the only other person aware, as he had walked in on them once.
“How on earth did you know that?” Alex asked his brother.
“Emma told me.”
“How did Emma find out?”
Scott and Emma’s room
“Scott mentioned it to me a few days ago,” said Emma Frost, brushing her hair. Emma was Scott’s soon-to-be wife. She was extremely beautiful, had shoulder-length blonde hair, and had a perfect nose as fake as the world is round. She sat in front of a mirror which was stationed on the wall above a small writing desk. She was dressed in a satin, white robe.
“Scott told you? So Pietro told him?” asked Alex.
The door to the bathroom opened, and Scott walked with only a black towel around his waist. “No,” he said, “it was Everett.”
“Okay, now how the hell did Everett know?”
“Wanda told me,” said Everett. Everett was a boy who had saved the Princesses, Lorna and Wanda, from a terrorist attack a few weeks ago. Since then, he had been living in the royal palace and had been going through the trials necessary to become a member of the Red Guard, the royal family’s personal security team. “She accidentally let it slip to me that night I was taking her home. Remember, when we were out on the town.”
Everett was referring to something that had happened about three weeks ago. While out clubbing, Alex, Gabriel, Scott, Lorna, Pietro, Emma, and Jean Grey, the twenty-something aide-de-camp to Lord Magnus had run into gang of mutants who claimed to work for ‘The Black Queen,’ a terrorist leader who had been trying to bring down the Lensherr family for years. No one had ever seen her in person, save for her followers, who all had strong telepathic protection, and were ordered to commit suicide upon failed missions. The palace ‘Dungeons’ currently held three of her followers, who had been prevented from harming themselves, however all of the people who attacked Alex and his friends that might were dead. However, Everett and Alex, along with most others involved, were blissfully that such a thing had happened, due to a combination of too much alcohol and telepathic tampering by the Queen’s personal agents.
Alex sighed. He was quite desperate to find who all knew of his forbidden affair. “So, do you have any idea how Wanda found out?”
“Jean told me,” Wanda explained in answer to Alex’s question.
Alex was surprised. “Jean?” he asked.
Wanda didn’t look up from the cucumbers she was chopping. “Yes, Jean. You know, red hair, works for my parents, gets paid to take all the fun from my life.”
“I know who Jean is, Wanda,” said Alex. “I was just wondering how she sound out about us.”
“Beats me how she found out. But Jean’s job is to know everything that happens in the palace. My father trusts her in some ways that he doesn’t even trust Lorna or me.” Wanda discarded the last bits of unusable cucumber and then moved on to carrots. “But Jean knows better than to tell too many people. She’d lose her job if she just started spilling secrets. Sorry about telling Everett, by the way. I was pretty drunk.”
“That’s fine,” Alex allowed. “Just as long as Carter doesn’t find out.”
“Would that be such a bad thing?” she asked.
“Is that a serious question?”
“Well, they’re engaged. And it’s not fair of her to string him along like this if she loves you.” Wanda’s tone was very matter-of-fact.
“Well, I wouldn’t say she loves me. It’s more of a-”
“Oh,” Wanda interrupted. “She loves you. I know her well enough to know. When she says you name her eyes go all glassy like all she’s thinking about is being with you. And even though it may seem like you two can never be together, somewhere, in the back of her mind, she knows that those are just excuses her mind is making because, with all the things that have happened to me-”
“With all the things that have happened to her, she’s afraid of allowing herself some real happiness.” Wanda’s eyes got watery, and she seemed distracted.
“You okay, Wanda?” Alex asked.
It was a few moments before she answered. “I’m sorry. I just…was thinking about someone…Something!” she quickly corrected.
Alex smiled. “Yeah? How is Everett.”
“What?” she said, a little too quickly to be convincing. Her tone then became very fast-paced and altogether uncomfortable and nervous. “What do you mean? I wouldn’t know how he is. Why would I know how he is. I mean, I don’t know anything about him ’cause, I mean…I just don’t really see him that often. I mean, Everett who? Well, I mean, I know who Everett is, I just…The Everett you’re probably talking about is so insignificant to me so I wasn’t sure if there was some other Everett I was supposed to be thinking of when you said Everett, so I-”
“Wanda, Wanda. Calm down. It’s obvious you like him.”
“Really,” said Alex. “And I think he likes you to. But, with you being a princess and all, it’s up to you to make the first move.”
“Me?” she asked, making a particularly loud and hard cut on the current carrot. “Why me?”
“You think any guy can just pursue a relationship with you?” he asked. “Your father’s the king, for crying out loud.”
“You think I don’t know that?” she asked in an annoyed tone. She sighed, and put the knife down, looking Alex in the eye. “Look, I appreciate what my parents are doing for the world as much as the next girl, but sometimes I just wish we were a normal family.”
“I understand. Well, as much as I can, anyway. But whatever. Come on, ‘life gives you lemons,’ and all that. Just embrace what you are and go out with him,” said Alex. “Funnily enough, I said that exact sam thing to my brother about a year and a half ago.”
“You’re probably right. But things ended so badly with Eric, that I just don’t know if I’m ready again.”
“Eric O’Grady? The underwear model? Come on, Wanda. Don’t you want to be in a relationship with some one who hasn’t dropped their pants on Alison?”
Alex was referring to the time Eric O’Grady, a former colleague of Pietro’s, had appeared on the now-off-air talk show hosted by former pop star Alison Blaire. He had walked onto the set without a shirt, and halfway through his interview, had dropped the rest of his outfit to show Alison what was underneath. Though the now-Minister of Information had seen everything, the rest of Genosha had only seen his now-famous rear-end.
“Yeah, that was pretty awful…not to mention tacky. Really, who does that? Besides Eric, I mean…and Drew Barrymore…”
“So go to Everett and leave lunch to the people that are paid large sums of money to make it.”
Wanda looked pointedly at Alex and explained her reasoning. “Our chef didn’t know what julienning carrots meant. I fired him, and the replacement won’t be here till it’s time to start my mom’s big dinner party.”
“Wow. Even I know what julienning means…I think.”
Queen Magda’s personal parlor
Jean stood in front of her queen’s large, oaken desk. She was reporting a job well done. Her neat black pant suit complete with a green top and an an ornate gold necklace complemented her vivid red hair nicely. Her perfect teeth were shown, due to the pride her chest currently swelled with. She did her job well, and she knew it.
“So you’re sure none of them remember anything?” asked the Queen. Her greying light red hair was a rather tight bun, which nicely complemented her slightly aging, heart-shaped face.
“Absolutely sure. Your children, the Summers, that plastic tramp…all trauma-free. I telepathically removed the incident from their unsuspecting minds.”
“Thank you so much, Jean. The Black ‘Queen‘ will not have the satisfaction of burning a fear of her into my children’s hearts. And what about Lorna?”
Jean was confused for a moment. “I said, your children.”
The Queen stared at her for several seconds before realizing her mistake. “Yes of course! Lorna, my daughter. Of course…”
Jean had been doing this long enough to know that she should effectively ignore the Queen’s brief moment of vulnerability and move on. “Your majesty, you are aware that you’re to have dinner with the whole family.”
“Your brother. And his children.”
The Queen sighed, with good reason. Though her younger brother Bernard lived in the palace, Magda took great pains to avoid him at all costs. She had not, in fact, spoken a word to him in seven months, three weeks and two days, and even then, it was only staged conversation at the opening of their newest children’s hospital. Bernard and Magnus had long had an antagonistic relationship, and Magda had chosen her husband over her brother for reasons not clear to many. Magda positively adored Bernard’s children, however. Tyler and Talia, twins, were born to Bernard and his wife, a native Genoshan, who died in childbirth. Magda took every opportunity to spoil the twins, and not just to spite her brother.
“Shall I cancel…?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you shouldn’t. But, perhaps I do have a few things in Paris to attend to…”
“With all due respect, Your majesty-”
“Oh, save it Jean. I know I should go. He just infuriates me so…”
Jean smiled. “Then infuriate him back. What does your brother hate more than anything?”
“Christopher Summers,” Magda answered without hesitation.
“And what else?”
“Secrets, unless he’s the one keeping them of course.”
“Then I may have an idea for you.”
“Well? What is it?”
“How big is your dinner table?”
The Royal Gardens
Crystalia Amaquelin strolled leisurely along the path. She wore a knee-length sun dress and was barefoot. The small rocks scattered along the trail felt good under her feet. She had forgotten all of her problems, though in the back of her mind she thought of her sister Medusa. Medusa was in meetings all day about maybe allying the nations of Attilan and Genosha.
“Hey there,” said a voice.
She turned her head to see Pietro Lensherr walking beside her. He definitely hadn’t been there before.
“Hello. Where did you come from?” she asked.
“From under a cabbage leaf, of course,” he replied.
She laughed. “Oh, is that so?”
“What, you think there’s some better explanation?”
Her smile not wavering, she retorted, “The might be…Would you care to find out?”
Pietro’s jaw dropped. He quickly recovered, however, and said, “No can do as I have dinner with my family in,” he checked his watch, “fifteen minutes.”
“And you’re going in that?” asked Crystal, indicating his outfit.
He looked down at his worn blue jeans, white shirt with multiple grass-stains, and seemingly several year old tennis shoes. “What, you think my mother will mind?” She smiled, and he continued. “No, I’m going to go shower and change.”
“You better go soon.”
“I have time…”
“Yeah, I like to think I’m pretty fast. Anyway, what are you doing for the evening meal?”
“Oh, Bart and Medusa are in meetings, so I’m eating alone.”
“You should join us, then,” the words came without warning. He knew how his mother hated surprise guests and he knew how important this dinner with his uncle, who hated surprises even more, was. he honestly didn’t care in the slightest though.
“Oh, I don’t want to impose…” Her tone made it very clear that she did, in fact, want to impose.
“Nonsense. No one will mind.” But they really would.
“Will, if you insist.” And he really did.
Queen Magda’s personal parlor
“Mom?” called Pietro.
He heard low talking from the closet. Moving nearer to it, he said, “Mom? You in there?”
He heard her mutter a quick good bye, and then she came out of the closet, closing her cell phone. “Hello dear,” she said.
“Hi. Ummm…Mom, I’ve done a bad thing.”
“Isn’t she engaged to Scott Summers?”
Pietro rolled his eyes at the Queen’s display of her distaste towards Emma Frost. “Very funny. Anyway, I kind of…well, Crystalia was alone for dinner tonight, and I…”
She held up hand for him to be silent. She pressed a button on her desk phone.
“Yes, your majesty?” said Jean’s voice.
“Jean, dear, have another spot added to the table for dinner. Next to Pietro, preferably.”
“Yes ma’am. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it.” Once Jean had hung up, Magda looked at her son. “Well, you better go shower. I’m not about to let you not my dining room looking like that.”
Pietro smiled. “So you’re okay with her coming?”
“Pietro, I may not like what you did, but the fact remains that my brother is one-hundred-percent against allying ourselves with Attilan. Seeing a member of their royal family at our table may just give him a heart attack. Actually, I’m sure there’s something I could put in his wine that could-”
She laughed. “I’m joking, son. But I’m serious about banishing you if you’re not presentable.” She snapped her fingers and pointed towards the door. “Go!”