Malibu, California, USA
Jean and Lord Magnus sat in a dark room. She looked around. There were twelve people seated around a large round table, along with Jean and her king. She couldn’t make out the faces of the people, the members of the enigmatic ‘Pride’ that they were meeting with. She could just barely scratch the surface of their minds. There was something blocking further entry into their psyches, however, and all she saw when she looked deeper was a pair of eyes, glowing a sickeningly bright violet color. As a rule of thumb, Jean did not trust anyone whose mind she could not read.
“I won’t insult your intelligence or power by pretending you don’t already know why I’m here,” Lord Magnus said to their hosts.
“Actually,” said the deep voice of the man directly across from Magnus, “we tend not to invade the privacy of our friends, unlike certain people.” The last part he spoke pointedly in Jean’s direction.
“You’ll have to excuse my assistant,” said Magnus. “She likewise does not know why she and I made this little venture to the U.S.”
“Our intuition tells us, however, that California’s sunny beaches weren’t your main cause for such a trip,” said another, female voice next to the previous speaker.
“Catherine, my dear,” Magnus said in a tone of almost familial affection, “Your powers of deduction know no bounds. While a tan is rather high on my list of priorities, it is not exactly at the top.”
“So what have you come here for?” asked another woman in an annoyed tone.
“As I’m sure you know, there is something brewing.”
“There’s always something brewing, Magnus,” said Catherine. “Get to the point.”
“At the risk of beating around the bush, there is a war coming. And I intend to win it.”
The first man spoke again. “Magnus, we broke protocol helping you win your crown. We are not a
Genie you can come back to whenever you need a few billion dollars to fight over the TV remote with whichever country you’ve angered most recently.”
“But no, tell him how you really feel,” said Jean.
“I’m sorry?” the man said.
“I just think it’s time for us to go. You all are obviously not interested, so we’ll have to find another rich American who wants to get behind the guy that’ll be running the world two years from now.” Jean spoke in a most matter-of-fact manner.
All were silent for a moment, until the man finally said, “I like this girl, Magnus.”
The king smiled. “So do I.”
On a plane over Port-au-Prince, Haiti
5:03 pm (Genoshan Time)
“…And now we’re in Haiti,” Prince Pietro finished. He was video chatting on his phone with his fiancée Betsy. He had just finished explaining to her the circumstances that lead him to Africa.
“Well, at least you’re not being forced to sit through negotiations between Britain and Latveria,” said Betsy. “And I thought talking to you was boring…”
“Oh,” said Pietro rather urgently. “Speaking of us hating each other, I want you to meet someone.”
At this point, Crystalia came walking from the plane’s lavatory in the tail. Her chestnut hair blew slightly from the fans in the ceiling.
Pietro turned his phone towards her. “Betsy, this is Crystal.”
“A word of advice, Crystal,” said Betsy, “you can do so much better than him.”
“I still don’t get it,” said Gabriel Summers, sitting a few seats over from Pietro. “Why are you two engaged if you don’t like each other.”
“Well,” Betsy stared from her place on Pietro’s palm.
“it just seemed hopeless at the time that we would ever find anyone else. We figured if we were going to be alone, it might as well be together.”
“And then I met Pete…” said Betsy. “Britain’s Defense Minister.”
“And I met you,” Pietro said to Crystal. “It all worked out pretty well, considering.”
“So…are you going to call it off then?” asked Alex, Gabriel’s older brother.
“We probably should,” said Betsy.
“Attention passengers, this is your captain speaking,” spoke a voice from the speakers in the walls. “We are now beginning our descent into Port-au-Prince. Please fasten your seat belts.”
“We’ll talk break-up later,” Pietro said. “See you.”
“Hopefully not too soon,” Betsy answered.
The palace of Lord Magnus
Las Anyas, Genosha
Queen Magda sat in her office. She stared at a rather old photograph, from many years ago. It was one of her, taken more years ago than she cared to admit. Her beautiful, long red hair was frozen in time, as she laughed at whatever it was she had found so funny at the time. She stood in the picture with a group of people. They were all well-built, attractive individuals. Directly behind Magda was Magnus, her husband now, but back then, just one of her friends.
In the photo, Magnus had the same smile he did now, though Magda rarely saw it anymore, but there was also a youthful energy, a certain…optimism in his eye that was absent now. Next to Magnus was his best friend Charles Xavier. Charles died about twenty-five years after the picture was taken. Magnus blamed himself for their telepathic associate’s death, and was never the same after it happened.
Part of the Queen’s attention was focused on the hand of her younger self, or rather the hand that it was clasped in. A young Calvin Rankin stood next to her, closer to her than anyone, his hand firmly around hers as he buried the better part his face in her hair. But the remainder of Magda’s attention was transfixed upon the photographer’s last subject; the girl that stood on the other side of Magda. She had waist-length black hair and, though she was smiling, there was a certain sadness in her presence.
Magda shook off the depressing sense of nostalgia that had come over her and put the photo into a drawer in her desk, slamming it shut. What happened with Selene was not her fault, and she should just listen to Magnus and stop blaming herself. She had more important matters to attend to.
Some sort of prison facility
Sometime, probably pm
Pogrom had lost most of her sense of time. Her detention had gone much longer than expected. After the attack that had failed to claim the life of their target, What’s-Her-Face Power-Stealer from the Red Guard had dragged her down here to rot. It was dark, and Pogrom had started to forget what even she looked like. The Black Queen had promised to send someone.
Cordelia closed her eyes, concentrating hard.
Where are you, Emma? she thought.
Can I help you, Cordelia? Emma’s voice asked her out of nowhere. How’s life down under?
Still bathing in the Lensherrs’ pool of lies?
And loving it, Emma added. But what can I say, I’m nothing if not committed.
Save it, sis. Where the hell is my rescue squad?
Funnily enough, I’ve actually been wondering the same thing.
Just ask her highness next time you talk to her.
I’ll do that, Emma promised her sister.
So how’s the fiancée? Asked Pogrom.
Boring, Emma complained.
And he still has no idea?
None, the telepathic confirmed. It’s actually got me concerned for his mental health.
Any word on Adrienne? Cordelia asked, in reference to their sister that had been in Port-au-Prince during the Haitian earthquake.
Not yet, Emma answered. We landed two hours ago and are making our nocturnal accommodations before we start all the do-gooding.
At least your there. Let me know when you have news.
Will do. Planting the idea for us to the make the trip out here in Queen Magda’s head was the best thing I could’ve done.
I agree, Pogrom concurred. Well done, Emma.
10:46 pm (Genoshan Time)
The noontime sun of Haiti was disconcerting to the young royals and their cohorts, who were experiencing some pretty severe jet lag. They had just finished up making arrangements at their hotel. The rooms they were taking up in the establishment were about the only ones that weren’t completely destroyed in the earthquake.
“So do we have a game plan or anything?” asked Gabriel as the group walked down the crowded streets of the capital city.
“I thought there was going to be security with us…” started Emma.
“There is,” said Wanda. “They’re everywhere. Daddy likes them to make themselves not-so-evident. They’re the best.”
“How very reassuring,” Alex remarked.
“So for today we’re in four groups,” said Lorna, reading off of a sheet of white paper she was holding. Her bright green hair blew around annoyingly in the warm wind as she spoke. “Alex, you’re with me. We’re headed to what used to be city hall, but now it’s over-flow for the hospital. Scott and Emma, you two are helping with transportation of the wounded. Pietro and Crystal are going to be working with the team that’s trying desperately to sort through identification records to match relatives up together. Emma, could you teach them Creole please?”
“Already done,” replied the telepath.
“Thank you,” said Lorna, continuing while narrowly avoiding knocking into a group of old women. “Wanda and Gabriel, you guys are supposed be distributing meals to the uninjured at a make-shift food bank.”
“Let’s get this over with,” Pietro moaned, unaware that he was speaking in the Haitians language.
On a private jet, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
11:57 pm (Genoshan Time)
“You handled yourself very well back there, Jean,” Lord Magnus said to the young woman across from him.
Jean nearly burst with pride as she took the band from out of her hair, letting it fall over her shoulders. “Thank you, your majesty.”
“How long have you been my assistant, Jean?” he asked her as he twirled a golden ring that was around his middle finger.
“About two years now,” answered Jean.
“Right… And are you happy?”
“Very much so, my lord.”
“What if I told you that I was promoting Douglas Ramsey?”
Jean knew Douglas Ramsey better than she cared to admit. He was the Court Chancellor, and thus, Jean’s immediate superior. She and he disliked each other very much, both seeing the other as supremely incompetent.
“I’d ask what form of mental illness brought on that decision.” As soon as the words left her mouth Jean knew this was the wrong thing to say. “I apologize, highness. I spoke out of turn.”
“You are forgiven,” said Magnus in a tone of slight bemusement. “My point is, I am promoting him to be my Communications Director, as Jack Baldwin is retiring shortly.”
“With Douglas indisposed, I will be needing a new chancellor.”
“Yes,” agreed Jean, attempting to contain her excitement.
“I was wondering if you might consider taking the job.”
“Your majesty, it would be my supreme honor to do so.”
“Very well,” said the king. “Then I’ll need you to find me a replacement for yourself. As your last task in this position.”
“I’ll have a list of names for you by tomorrow night,” said Jean, unable to hide her grin.