Ties Never Binding, part 10

Disclaimer: Marvel stuff is Marvel's, everything that remains is mine.

Author's Note: Weird chapter tittle, I know, but it was all I could think of really, and it seemed appropriate. Both Karen's phobia and Dawn's arm band do indeed serve a purpose, so don't y'all think I just put it in there to take up space!

The Faces of Fear

:Damn,: I heard Jonothon swear quietly. I knew what he meant. The bandages drew attention to him anyway, how would a hyper paranoid group of bigots take it? Probably start pounding his face in before he got three steps, most likely. I frowned at the thought that my dad had once done this kind of thing--he had never had any great love for mutants, and he HAD been a member of the FOH. I chewed on my lower lip nervously as they started trying to force those stupid 'Vote Creed' buttons on passerbuys. This was NOT a good sign. I knew for a fact that not all anti-mutant people were hostile, but from the looks of things the non-hostiles had stayed home that day.

"This could be a problem," I heard Paige say softly.

"No kidding," I agreed. "You can definitely pass as human, but my height alone makes me kinda conspicuous. And Jono..."

:I've got me own problems,: he sent. I thought I caught the slightest edge of bitterness in his tone, but it was hard to be sure. I felt a pang of sympathy for him, but I quelled it. He had made it quite clear he needed no sympathy from anyone, and I had to respect that at least so I left it be.

I felt a few new psi-prints approaching and recognized them immediately. "Hey guys," I said without looking over my shoulder. "Look at what's waiting for us at the door." I jerked my finger at the demonstrators outside the mall.

"Oh, wonderful," Angelo muttered. I noticed him pulling his hat down self consciously, probably out of habit. He and Jonothon fell into the same category when it came to noticeable mutations, or at least pretty close, and I had a feeling he'd already had some experience with this kind of thing before. Of course, with a background like his he'd probably had experiences like this even BEFORE he was a mutant.

"Y'know," Everett said thoughtfully, "If Ms. Frost were here she might be able to create an illusion or something, or maybe even make us invisible. Do you think you could do it, Dawn?"

"I... I'm not really sure, actually," I said. "I've only done it once or twice, and it was only for a few people, not twenty seven. I don't know if I could do it with that many, but it's worth a shot, I guess." I glanced around. "Where's Mr. Cassidy?"

"He said he'd meet us outside," Mondo volunteered.

"Then I guess we're on our own," I sighed. "M? Got any word of wisdom you'd care to share?"

:I will help,: she agreed psionically.

"Then let's make a break for it," Jubilee piped up. I nodded, thinking Man, we need more full telepaths on this team and touched the twenty-seven protestors' minds, which wasn't problem. The REAL problem was making those twenty seven mind see what I WANTED them to see, which was a bunch of normal kids. As a precaution I scrambled everyone's features so we were totally unrecognizable. It was more difficult then I was used to, since the most I usually handled at one time was up to three or four at most. I had difficulty keeping track of all the minds, but those I let slip Monet immediately picked up and compensated for until I found out I had lost one. I was curious as to why she wasn't just handling this herself since she was obviously capable of this kind of stunt, but I decided to wait for later--as in when I wasn't occupied keeping the bigots at bay.

After we got far enough away I dropped the illusion with a sigh of relief. I wasn't that tired, but it was nervous work. I was glad it hadn't been more then twenty seven people, because I would probably have screwed up and fried someone's brain by mistake. Small groups I had no problem with, but that many people was hard to focus on. But moving on, we found Sean waiting in the Jeep reading the newspaper. He glanced up and flashed a quick smile.

"How was yuir trip?" he asked us.

"Tiring," I said, flopping down in the backseat after stuffing my purchases in the trunk.

"Talk about it," Jubilee said, jumping into the front seat again. "Did ya see the demonstration out front?"

"What?" Sean turned around to inspect the front of the mall. He raised his eyebrows, slightly startled, and then frowned. "I didna notice THEM before," he said. He rubbed his head. "I can feel a headache comin' on."

"Sorry, I beat ya to it," I told him, rubbing my head. "I wonder if I can still ingest aspirin..."

At that moment on Muir Island, Kitty was strolling down the corridor to replace the fire extinguisher she had been using.

Honestly, she thought to herself as she put said item back into its little niche, Lockheed should know better then to ignite Pete's cigarettes. Not that I WANT the filthy things around, but when he does it under my BED it makes the whole room smell of smoke for days.

"Hi, Kitty, what're you doing up?" came a voice from around the corner. Kitty turned around to discover Douglock leaning against the wall, eating a sandwich. Upon closer inspection she determined it to be meatball and mayonnaise.

Y'know, I almost regret the fact that he's got a personality... Kitty thought, suppressing a gag. Now that he HAS one it's like he feels he needs to be creative... even over his breakfast.

"Well, the fact that Lockheed lit a fire under my bed made it kind of hard to sleep," she smiled, stretching. "What're YOU doing up?"

"Not much," he shrugged. "Watching television, having a snack, that kind of thing. I--" he frowned for a moment, then twisted his neck around at an impossible angle. "Do you hear something?" he inquired.

Kitty listened intently for a moment. "I think it's coming from Karen's room," she replied. "It's hard to tell. What is it?"

"Not sure," Douglock shrugged. "Want to check it out?"

"I don't know, it--" Kitty stopped short as the smell of smoke filtered through the air. "Oh not again," she muttered. "Lockheeeed!" She grabbed the fire extinguisher again and ran off towards her room. "It'll have to wait, Doug," she called. "I've got to put my bed out. AGAIN."

"Well, see you," Douglock said as he watched his friend retreat.He was about to take another bite of his sandwich when he heard a sharp sob. Alert now, he carefully traced the sound, finishing off his sandwich as he went. He tracked the sob to Karen's room and knocked on the door softly.

"Karen?" he asked. "Anything wrong in there?"

He was greeted by another sob. Cautiously, he opened the door and stuck his head through to discover Karen curled up on her bed, eyes squeezed shut and head tucked under her arms. Douglock was confused, then concerned. He hadn't met Karen personally, but he hadheard she was emotionally unstable. He frowned again and tried the direct approach.

"Um, Karen, are you okay?" he inquired, hovering in the doorway.

She sniffed and wiped her eyes, not looking up. "S-sure," she answered in a muffled voice. "I... Who are you?"

"I'm Douglock," he replied simply. "You haven't met me yet, so I don't expect you to know."

"Duh-Douglock..." she sniffled. "No, I don't think I have." She sat up, still rubbing her eyes.

He rubbed his head uncomfortably. "If you don't mind me asking... why were you crying?"

"I... was remembering something, and..." she folded her arms over her knees and leaned forward. "Look, where's my... where's Shrive? I need to talk to him..."

"He probably sleeping right now," Douglock said. He took a step nearer and into the light. "I can get him if you want."

"Please, I'd like..." she trailed off as she got a closer look at him she paled.


"AAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!" she shrieked, her eyes wide with terror. Douglock jerked back, startled. "Karen, what--" he began, but was cut off by the sickening screech of metal on metal. Karen's control, weakened by her terror, was no longer enough to keep her powers in check. The cyber-organics that were her arms ripped through the gauze and sent spiky tendrils poking throughout the room.

"Whoa," Douglock said, taking a step back. He backed out of her room and pressed the button to the intercom. "Moira, I REALLY think you should see this..."

"Dougie?" Moira's sleepy voice came. "What is it?"

"Hey, watch it!" he exclaimed as a tendril of metal poked him in the knee. "Moira, it's Karen. She--mmmlph!" He was cut off as a strip of the metal grabbed his head and yanked him to the ground, knocking him out.

Around then Kitty came out to put away the fire extinguisher again.

"What were you saying, Doug?" she inquired, replacing the extinguisher. She looked around, but couldn't find her friend. She wandered down the hall, glancing left and right. "Hey... Doug? Douglock, where are y--DOUG!"

She stood over Douglock's limp form, fists clenched, eyes and mouth wide as she stared in horror, first at her unconscious comrade and then at the mass of gleaming, thrashing metal that filled Karen's room.

"Omigod..." Kitty whispered. She slowly approached the intercom and pressed the button. "Moira..." she said quietly, "I would really... REALLY... appreciate it... if you could get over here. NOW."

I whistled cheerfully as I swooped through the clouds, feeling much better. I had clothes that fit and it was a beautiful day, what more could one want? It felt pretty good to fly for recreation again instead of having to save people all the time, and I felt relaxed in a way I hadn't in weeks. So relaxed, in fact, I nearly fell out of the sky when Everett appeared unexpectedly directly in front of me several hundred feet up.

"Eeeek!" I cried. Once I got a good look at Everett, however, I frowned and crossed my arms. "Don't DO that, Ev!" I said.

"Sorry," he said, but I could tell from the grin on his face that he didn't mean it one bit. I took stock of his shredded sweatshirt and the new pair of opalescent wings on his back and couldn't help but grin myself.

"I didn't know your aura could trigger that much of a physical change in you," I commented, pointing to the wings.

"Actually, I didn't either," Everett confessed. "I mean, when I synched with Sabertooth that one time I grew a few feet taller and gained about a hundred pounds of muscle, and when I tune to Angelo I grow a few more yards of skin, but I've never actually grow anything this complex before. But I've never really synched with you before, and I was just curious as to what would happen."

"Hurt, didn't it?"

Everett winced. "More then I thought it would. YOU make it look easy..."

I laughed to myself. "I should hope so. I've done it often enough. Wait till you try and get them back in. THAT'S the tricky part."

He snickered. "Oh, I can't wait," he said, rolling his eyes. He glanced downwards towards the ground several hundred feet below us. "You've got a great power, you know that?" he inquired. "I can see why you like doing this so often. It's got a great view."

I shrugged. "It's relaxing, I'll give it that. Kind of like a nice, easy jog without all the exposed roots and mud. But why're you up here, anyway? There IS a reason, right?"

"Well, sort of," Everett admitted. "We were all wondering how you were coping with all this."

I smiled thinly. "You're the regular spokesperson, aren't you?" I inquired.

"I guess."

"Well..." I eyed him slyly, "You can tell everyone that I am just fine now, thank you. That is... AFTER you get your hood out of your mouth."

"What are y-HEY!"

I giggled as I quickly dove in close enough to yank the hood of his sweater over his head and tie it shut, leaving him effectively blind. I wasn't worried about him crashing into anything like, say, the ground, because I was guiding his wings telepathically, but HE didn't know where he was going.

"Catch me if ya can!" I snickered, gliding off into a cloud bank. I felt much better now. No Legacy Virus to hide, no malevolent manipulation to endure, just nice, safe fun.

For a good five more minutes.

Mountjoy, 'riding' Emma, strode down the hall towards Sean's office. He opened the door slowly and discovered Sean contemplating a picture of his daughter, Theresa. He hastily turned it over when he noticed him standing in the door way and raised an eyebrow.

"Aye? What c'n I do for ye, Emma?" Sean inquire politely.

"Oh, nothing in particular," Mountjoy said sweetly through the headmistresses' lips, smiling evilly to himself. He sauntered over to Sean's desk and leaned forward seductively until his host's face was almost touching his, thoroughly enjoying the look of unease on Sean's face.

"Emma, what're ye... this isnae... would ye mind gettin' off me desk..?" Sean stammered.

"Oh, my dear Mr. Cassidy, I wouldn't dream of disturbing you," the body thief sneered. He moved Emma's hand along the top of Sean's and, before he could even think to flinch away, grasped it tightly and began to absorb the shocked headmaster.


"--AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" I shrieked, clutching my head. I felt a flash of pain and terror, then--darkness. I plummeted earthward, mind still reeling in shock. Luckily, Everett was alert enough to catch me, so I didn't fall far. I noted dully that he still had the hood pulled over his head, so reasoned he had used my own telepathy to find me, which was fortunate because if not I would have been a rather large, rather messy stain on the lawn. If I had still had a body, anyway.

"What happened?" Everett asked as he set down on the lawn and removed the hood.

"I... don't know," I gasped, slumping to my knees. "I thought I was... dying. I don't know what it was..."

"Then... I'm assuming you don't know what that is either?"

He indicated my bare left arm, and I glanced at it to see a shimmering band of silver, about two inches thick, surrounding the upper part of it, right above the elbow. It was shining brightly. A little too brightly, in fact.

"I... really don't, actually," I said. "This is weird. It almost looks like part of my psionic armor, but it only pops up in the astral plane. I've never seen anything shine like THIS before, either. It's got to be my powers playing tricks on me." I fingered it tentatively. It FELT solid. I scowled to myself. "All right, this is getting REALLY annoying," I growled. "All these stupid new uses for my powers keep popping up, and I haven't even been back for a week!"

"But then how--" Everett started, but he was cut off by another scream. It took me a few moments to realize that it was, in fact, coming from me.

Mountjoy smiled to himself as he stood up, Paige's head and hands still flailing about wildly within his slim form.

"Ah ah ah, child," he said, pushing her head back into his chest. "I find too much struggling... unpalatable."

"Hey, Hayseed, what's goin' on?" Jubilee inquired, rushing into the room. "I heard--who are YOU?!"

Mountjoy merely smiled. "No one you would know, little appetizer," he said. Jubilee tried to generate her pyrotechnics, but Mountjoy's basilk field slowed her actions. She stared, wide eyed and helpless, as Mountjoy placed his hand over her face and absorbed her as well. Jubilee didn't even have time to scream.

So Dawn did it for her.

"Ms. Frost--Sean--Paige--JUBILEE!" I shrieked, my voice shrill with pain and fear.

"Dawn, what're you talking about?" Everett exclaimed.

"Can't you FEEL it?" I demanded incredulously. "Something... something did something to them. They're alive... but it's hard to feel them now. Can't you tell?"

"Dawn, I think you need to go to the Med Lab," Everett told me, helping me up. "Again."

"Y-you're probably right," I sighed, shivering a little. "If YOU can't feel it... I guess maybe it's just my powers fritzing out again." Maybe. Oh God, I hoped it was...

Everett helped me to the main building and I began to feel better. Maybe I WAS just imagining things. Lord knows I had plenty of reason to be paranoid, but the intensity of the feeling I'd received...

I flopped down in a chair in the Rec Cottage, insisting that it was all right to stop for a minute. Jonothon and Angelo were there too, playing air hockey on a new piece of equipment Sean had ordered.

"What's up, chica?" Angelo inquired.

"I'm just not having a good day, that's all," I told him, rubbing my head.

:Why's that?: Jonothon asked, scoring in Angelo's goal.

"Just thought I felt something..." I said.

"Hey, your arm band is starting to glow again," Everett pointed out.

"You're right," I said, staring at it. "What's going on here?"

Mountjoy smiled to himself as he roamed the campus. This was easy. Perhaps too easy... but no, he quelled that thought. The X-Men hadn't put up more then a token fight, and these were their trainees. He licked his lips in anticipation. He was feeling much better after a good meal of four, but he could fit a few others in as well. He leapt onto the roof, where he knew another student to be, and almost ended right on top of Monet.

Mountjoy frowned. She hadn't reacted in the slightest, and he could see from the others' memories that she was one of the most powerful children at the school, and yet she just sat there, completely devoid of the slightest hint of awareness. He shrugged to himself and absorbed her quickly. Only then did she regain consciousness, struggling violently against him. It was too late, however, because even she could not pull herself out of the time lost madman.

"Well well well," Mountjoy murmured to himself, "You were quite the treat, young lady. A delicious catch indeed." He licked his lips hungrily. "Let us see what we can do about the remaining students, shall we?"

This time I couldn't even scream aloud, my mouth just gaped open in a silent cry of agony. I could see Everett was starting to look scared, and Jonothon and Angelo extremely confused and worried. I wasn't able to tell them what I was feeling anymore, however, because my brain decided it had had enough and shut itself off. A cocoon of blackness seemed to swallow my mind and I basically passed out, though somehow I managed to keep my body whole and solid as I did.

I regained consciousness about fifteen minutes later to discover one of the most horrifying sights I'd ever seen in my life standing in the doorway of the Rec Cottage.

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