Wow... It's been awhile. Exactly a year and a half. Heh... sorry. A big thank you to Lynse, who kept reminding me about this when too much time passed, and for being a beta for this chapter.
On the plus side, I just got my BS degree in Game Design! That's what mainly took up my time for the past year, although I also had a job for awhile on top of that. I had to quit to focus on school. Unfortunately, being done with all that doesn't mean I'll have time now, though I have more than before. I've got to focus on getting a job and everything, which is not easy.
*ahem* But me rambling is not why you're here, is it? On with the show!
Warning: I don't know when I will get to the next chapter! It shouldn't be as long of a wait, but it could be awhile.
Also, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with one or the other - or both - the Raven (from Teen Titans) mentioned in the last chapter has no connection to the Raven (Mystique) mentioned here.
Somewhere in a nondescript suburban neighborhood, a woman stirred a cup of tea. She very calmly watched while events which hadn't yet occurred appeared before her eyes. This was her gift, her curse: the ability of foresight. Clairvoyance. She could see into the future. It came with a price, however, as it was the only thing she could see.
The blind woman took another sip of her tea, briefly considering going for a walk. The idea was squashed the moment she saw what would happen if she did. After another half hour, the gang initiation would be complete and the group will have moved to another location, freeing her to walk uninterrupted. A momentary smile slipped her lips. These moments where she could truly appreciate her ability were rarer now than they once were.
But the smile didn't last long. There was still what was coming, soon, and how very little she could do to change it. Every action the clairvoyant could take would only serve to make the situation a thousand times worse.
It was at times like these that the woman could use the reassurances of her friend. Even the ones she knew to be untrue were a help. Taking another sip, a regret flashed in her mind that Raven would remain unreachable for so long during her periods of time with Erik. Magneto has always been so demanding, and Mystique so very good at being hidden.
Suddenly, the woman known as Destiny choked on her tea as her world turned upside down. Spitting it out and dropping the cup, her hands went to her head as suddenly everything changed. Her mind screamed as she tried to figure out what to make of what was shown to her. What could possibly have changed the future so much?
And then she saw.
Dropping her hands from her head and gripping the table, Destiny painfully cried out, "Raven... NO!"
The tunnel of light cracked open, and a temporary tear in the fabric of reality made way for the three traveling teens. Danny, Tucker, and then Sam, a few moments later, all fell out and into a heap on the grassy ground below the exit of the tunnel between universes. Behind them, the rip in the multiverse closed and was sealed off.
Danny quickly untangled himself in the dimming light, barely noticing the sunset in the distance. He and Tucker managed to get up and help Sam to her feet, as she was slightly shaking and coughing from Phantom's powerful grip. Worried, Danny ducked his head under her arm to hold her up from the side. "Sam, are you all right?"
The goth girl took a moment to take in a few deep breaths before responding, "Yeah, sure. Mom's made me wear dresses that gave less room to breathe." Looking at Danny and forcing a grin, she made it clear she didn't want any more fussing on her behalf. "I'll be fine."
If Danny wanted to call her on it, he didn't get the chance. An explosion interrupted the three as it blew out a section of a wall, further down the building they'd arrived beside. The group dove for cover behind trees and bushes, quickly snapping their attention back to whomever was attacking them.
It didn't take long to notice the battle occurring on the front lawn of what appeared to be a mansion. It was difficult to tell from the side and at their angle. What was really strange about the battle was that it was between two groups of teenagers, with a couple of exceptions, each with some strange power that they were using in the fight.
One boy was blasting ice at his foes, while another was shooting spikes from his arms. There was a guy shooting powerful lasers from some device on his eyes, trying to hit some kind of white-green blur that was knocking fighters off balance as he ran past. The list went on, with many of the fighters getting stranger in appearance, including a couple of blue furred acrobats and a girl that transformed into a dog. Or was that a wolf?
The three inter-dimensional heroes stared in awe at the fight, wondering what to do about it. They couldn't even know which side of the battle was the good guys, if any.
Suddenly, the spike-throwing kid shouted, "Get away from our home!" It made things easier for the travelers, who quickly sided with the group protecting their home from invaders. Danny couldn't help but start to work on labeling which individual fighters were friends and which were foes.
Danny spotted a lanky kid wearing a sneer and a thin layer of dirt, bearing a nasty look and taking aim toward the mansion. He didn't know what exactly the other boy was planning on doing, with his hands held intensely stretched out, but the ghost boy knew the look of someone about to unleash destruction. His deduction was assisted by the crazy stuff already happening in the colorful battle.
As the ghost hunter stepped out to fight, however, he was held back by Sam. A look told him she knew exactly what he was thinking, and she disagreed. "We shouldn't involve ourselves, Danny. This isn't our fight, we've got nothing to do with this, and we've got a task to complete. And we don't want to broadcast you and your ghost powers anymore!"
Danny frowned at her uncharacteristic behavior. "I'm not going to just sit by and do nothing."
Sam bit her lip, looking unsure of herself. However, her response came out steadily. "Whatever's going to happen would have happened if we hadn't come. We're not here to involve ourselves in other worlds' battles; we're here to keep the tears from interrupting the way things should play out. That means no helping out if we can avoid it. We have to stay out of this."
A rumbling sound interrupted them as they felt the ground quake. Danny immediately focused on the dirt-covered guy he'd felt was dangerous, whose increase in concentration seemed to match the movement of the ground. The other members of the fight were too deeply involved to notice. "Where do we draw the line?"
Sam blinked, again looking unsure of herself. After a deep breath, she calmly and unemotionally stated, "If a life is at stake, then we get involved."
Danny looked at her, shot his gaze at the mansion, then the boy, and then looked back at Sam. Finally, he came to a decision. "We don't know how many people are in there; we have to help."
Before Sam could get another word in, Danny flew off, squashing the wonder at his friend's change in attitude as he focused on the bully shaking apart somebody's home. He felt slightly guilty, however, as he distantly heard her shout his name.
Lance Alvers smirked as he could feel the ground beneath the mansion start to give a little. This had not been as easy as he had expected. The mansion would have been much simpler to take down if that was all there was to the foundations, but Xavier had built a far deeper structure than was visible from the surface. With everything the X-Men had hidden under the mansion, Avalanche would be lucky to bring down even a quarter of the building. But all they needed was a distraction, and that would be enough.
When Mystique had approached them with the opportunity to redeem themselves, all of the Brotherhood members were quick to accept. She and Magneto had come to a truce, looking past recent disagreements, and now some weird-eyed, card-obsessed lackey called Gambit needed a massive distraction while he "borrowed," as he put it, blueprints for a prototype X-Jet integrated with a smaller, newer Cerebro system. At least Mystique knew that the overconfident mutant couldn't do it without the Brotherhood backing him up.
Avalanche's part was important, despite being a misdirection. He had to make the home of these dweebs look broken as they fought, causing them to lose their focus. The earth mover was told there wasn't even a need to destroy more than the very front, but after the scores of losses suffered from their dumb luck, this mutant was looking for a bit of payback.
Lance was pulled out of his memory as he felt the strain from his work. He pushed harder, feeling his grip on the earth wrap around the edges of the ground level base of the X-Men's home. The extra push caused his nose to bleed, but it was worth it to show these idiots what real power was. With all of the do-gooders focused on the other members, and Xavier still unable to return in time thanks to Mystique's planned distraction, no one would know to try and stop him until it was too late.
Unfortunately for Lance, that would have been true if not for an unexpected observer nearby. As Avalanche geared up for his finale, a white gloved fist came out of nowhere from off to the side. The strength behind it was definitely more than human, and the mutant found himself knocked off his feet and flying through the air. He landed harshly, rolling several yards before coming to a stop, face down. He weakly pushed himself off the ground and rubbed his sore jaw as he looked in surprise at a glowing boy who hovered in the air.
After a few moments of staring, Avalanche looked over to the rest of the battle, which had stopped in confusion at the new arrival. Well, except for Wolverine and Mystique; or rather, the fake Sabretooth. They seemed to be content with trying to rip each other to shreds. But everyone else seemed interested in the new mutant in town.
Oddly enough, the floating, glowing, white-haired boy in front of them hovered in what seemed to be embarrassment. He was rubbing the back of his neck, with a bashful look on his cheeks. The kid put a hand up in what looked like a half-wave. "Uh... Hi?"
Nearly a minute passed with almost nobody moving, until the spell keeping the fighters still was broken as Pietro, impatient as ever, dashed over to Scott Summers and bashed him on the head with both hands held together. Cyclops was knocked out, and the rest of Xavier's losers reacted harshly to the unexpected attack.
As Lance tried to get up, a half dozen spikes shot next to him, each one a few inches closer than the last. When one ended up an inch from his leg, he suddenly found himself a little less sure about the X-Men's general policy of not seriously harming their enemies. It was at that moment he heard Mystique's voice give the command to fall back. A command he now found himself happy to comply to. This was not turning out how they had planned!
After the Brotherhood had left, Jean, and everyone else, turned their attention to the new kid. After knocking out Lance, he had sort of watched the last few minutes of the fight without involving himself, except for when Toad attacked. It was... short-lived, as the stranger had hit him in the air with some sort of beam before Tolansky even got close, knocking him into the Blob, Fred Dukes, on his way out. The glowing boy was now standing on the ground, having floated down afterwards, but still wearing the same sheepish look on him as before.
Jean wondered if he was feeling awkward for joining in a fight with people he didn't know.
As they all approached the stranger, two other kids joined him, standing by his side. The dark boy in the red beret looked indifferent, but the goth-dressed girl crossed her arms and seemed like she was trying not to look defensive of the white-haired kid. Despite being a telekinetic telepath, Jean could guess without reading her mind that the goth was his girlfriend. Or older sister.
Jean took a quick peek into her mind, just to save herself from an awkward moment later on.
After too much time of nobody saying anything, Jean suddenly realized they were being a bit rude to the small group that had just helped save their home. Both sides seemed stuck staring at the other. The redhead stepped forward to introduce herself.
"Um... Hello!" The telepath mentally slapped herself. They were hardly making a good first impression. "Welcome to the Xavier Institute! My name is Jean Grey. Thank you for the help."
The boy who had displayed powers stepped forward cautiously, waving slightly. "Uh... Hi. My name's Danny." He turned to his friends as he introduced them, "And this is Sam and Tucker. We're... new to the area."
Jean raised an eyebrow. Danny's pause gave her reason to think they could be keeping something from them. The telepath found herself having to focus on not reaching out with her mind and finding out what that was. He had just helped them, after all, so she could grant them a little trust.
Of course, she should probably find out what business they had being here in the first place. Jean could leave the question of whether to probe their minds to the professor when he returned.
Deciding that any more information gathering would best be done inside, since it was now dark, Jean asked, "Would you like to join us inside? We can discuss what brings you to our school while we catch our breath from fighting the Brotherhood."
The three teens looked to each other and seemed to have a silent conversation before nodding. Having felt no psychic movement, Jean came to the conclusion they'd known each other long enough to communicate without words. Danny, the obvious leader, replied, "Sure, that sounds like a good idea."
Nodding and putting a kind smile on, Jean turned to shoo the rest of the X-Men inside. It was only then that she fully realized Cyclops was unconscious. "Oh, no! Scott!" She knew he'd gotten hit, but it couldn't take priority during the battle. Frustrated with herself, she panicked. "Hank, get Scott to the medical facility! Kitty, go help him!"
Kurt stepped forward with a hand raised. "Actually, I could probably-"
Again, Jean mentally slapped herself for the oversight. It was one of those days. "Yes, Kurt, thank you. Please get Scott and Hank both down there if you can."
The two went to attend to Cyclops, disappearing with Nightcrawler's signature bamf-ing sound. The three newcomers had wide eyes as they watched them vanish, obviously unused to the sight, but didn't react beyond that. Perhaps they'd had enough exposure to mutants already for some of the novelty to wear off.
As everyone gathered towards the front door of the mansion, each made sure to greet the three strangers who had joined them. Jean took her time going inside to sort through this. She was busy concentrating on telepathically contacting Professor Xavier. He needed to be here to properly deal with not only the guest situation, considering that it was his mansion, but also to help figure out just what the Brotherhood wanted.
After a whisper from Tucker, once they entered the living room of the mansion, Sam drew attention to herself as she began asking questions about the mansion and answering vaguely when asked about where they were from. While she distracted the large group of super-powered teens – no one saw what happened to the big guy with claws – Tucker pulled Danny to the side and showed him the readouts on the PDA.
Nothing was there.
Danny frowned. "What's this supposed to mean, Tuck?"
Tucker shrugged. "I'm guessing it's out of range. Or maybe there's interference? I can't think of a reason we would be so far away from it, this PDA has a range of about three thousand miles."
Danny felt his mind strain, trying to figure out how far that was. Apparently, his effort showed, because Tucker clarified, "That's about the width of the United States."
"So it's in another country?"
Tucker shrugged again. "Maybe."
Danny sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I hate it when it's not easy!"
Tucker nodded sagely. "I am right there with you, dude."
"So what do you call your abilities?"
Danny and Tucker jumped as they were surprised by the youngest of their hosts. They were even more surprised to find five of him. Four duplicates of the brown-haired kid stared at them, along with the original, and Danny just knew they were being creepy on purpose. They had the same look of mischief in each set of eyes.
Danny smirked and glanced about to see that only the one boy – and four clones – was looking at him. Feeling satisfied, Danny split himself into four just long enough to hear five copies of the same gasp. With four voices, each already creating a echo-like sound by themselves, the effect of Danny's voice was supernatural as he quietly said, "I call them ghost powers." He then let the three duplicates fade away before being spotted, creating quite a spooky imagery for the now-stunned kid.
Tucker had to keep from laughing as the group of one grinned and walked away, chattering excitedly amongst himself while joining back into a single person, one by one. He and Danny chuckled before going over to rescue Sam from all the questions and answers.
Jean watched as Danny blinked, then realized she wanted his last name. He'd faded into thought for the past few minutes, so Jean had discussed things with Sam and Tucker. Well, mostly Sam, who liked slamming a boot down on Tucker's foot when he started to speak. She had a very violent edge to her. Besides, Tucker's eyes were still wandering the room and outside the windows, taking in the size of the professor's mansion from his seat on the couch. As for the rest of the students, they had been dismissed to give their guests some space to breathe.
Jean had to focus back on Danny when she realized he was answering her.
"Fenton. Or Phantom, in this form. Danny Phantom..." The boy raised a hand indicating himself as he talked, pausing as bright rings appeared around him. They traversed over his body, changing the way he looked. Now, instead of a white-haired boy in a black and white jumpsuit, he had black hair in a civilian's outfit of blue jeans and a white t-shirt. On top of that, his glowing green eyes changed to baby blue ones.
Still indicating himself, Danny grinned as he said, "Danny Fenton." Jean suddenly noticed that there had been a slight echo to his voice before, as it was now noticeably absent.
Jean smiled. "That's a very interesting gift you have, Danny Fenton. Although, we've been talking for some time and I still know next to nothing about you and your friends. Sam is very good at deflecting questions and answering just vague enough to not have answered at all."
The girl in question crossed her arms and drew into herself, face heating with embarrassment at being caught like that.
"So," Jean felt the need to shift back on track, "obviously you're gifted, Mr. Fenton. Are your friends as well?"
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Tucker and me? Nah, we just tag along while Danny takes down the bad guys. We're practically useless." Tucker jerked around to face her and stared in confusion.
Jean watched her for a moment, forcing herself not to peek inside the girl's head. Even so, the telepath did not have the professor's level of control, and the subconscious desire to know overrode her conscious control. By the way she so brusquely brushed off any idea of her usefulness, Sam wanted to be underestimated for some reason; and yet, she also seemed resistant to the idea of not defending herself, like going unheard was a foreign concept to her.
Batman said to use people's misconceptions against them, so I've just got to play it cool for everyone. Damsel in distress and all that. Jean nearly cursed herself for that slip. She hadn't meant to hear that, but Sam was thinking it so loud, it was like she was having difficulty with it.
Though the girl didn't seem to have experience with telepaths, she did control her face fairly well. The brush-off was obvious, but Sam's poker face remained steadily intact, despite her resistance to what she was saying. The teen might have been completely convincing, if not for two things. She was far too quick to downplay herself, a sign of possible lying, and her friends were openly staring at her like idiots.
The dark-clothed girl might as well have said her favorite color was pink.
"I thought you- OW!" Danny jerked his foot away from his friend, looking at her as he rubbed his shoe. "Sam, those boots hurt!"
Tucker smirked. "Now you know how I feel!"
Sam let out an exasperated cry of frustration with the two. She seemed to really want to keep a low profile. Jean didn't know why but decided it was best to make sure they knew that whatever their secrets, they were among friends now.
"It's okay, Sam. You're among friends. There's no reason for you to appear harmless to us."
Sam looked up sharply at that. "What do you mean?"
The telepath blushed, remembering that she'd been looking into Sam's mind without anyone knowing she could. "Well, I kind of accidentally heard you think it."
All three teens' eyes widened. Jean quickly explained, "I didn't mean to; you just thought it so loud. I couldn't help overhearing it."
Danny blurted out in surprise, "You read minds?"
Sam narrowed her eyes. "What exactly did you hear?"
Jean shrugged. "Only something about a man named Batman telling you to have people underestimate you."
Danny and Tucker turned their wide eyes to Sam, who looked nervous for a moment. Suddenly, her face shifted into a less-than-harmless look and Danny and Tucker immediately dropped the subject. Sam looked back at Jean and tried to look harmless again before realizing it was pointless and growing frustrated with herself. Apparently, it was harder to change one's attitude than she'd believed.
Jean was ready to move on. "Listen, it's okay. The Xavier institute is here for mutants with special abilities to come to a place of safety, where they can learn to control their abilities in a fear-free environment where no one is judged."
Danny frowned. "Mutants? Is that what you're called?"
"It doesn't sound very flattering," commented Tucker.
Jean looked confused. "You don't know who we are?"
Danny shook his head. "No, we fell out of a- agh!"
Sam, having just jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow, finished his sentence, "-plane! We fell out of a plane and Danny used his gho- mutant powers to fly us down safely."
Tucker raised his hands up in disbelief as he said, "Oh, come on, Sam! She's a telepath! She can read our minds, remember?" Despite his logic, Sam still looked like she would hit him, so he backed down.
Danny, throwing out all thoughts of that compass talk he'd had with Raven, decided to take control of the situation. After all, if Sam was being unreasonable, that wasn't his problem. Turning to their lovely host, he told their story. "Look, we're from an alternate universe, one that's similar, but a good bit different. We don't have mutants where we come from, but we do have ghosts. Due to a lab accident, I'm half ghost with all their powers, but still alive."
Taking a deep breath, Danny continued. "We've been hired, more or less, to travel the multiverse and fix cracks in the space/time continuum, or something like that. I don't know what Sam's problem is, but I'm sure you guys can understand where we're coming from, right? I mean, you have super powers, so you've probably seen weird stuff, right?"
Jean was still for a minute, trying to absorb everything he'd said. Another universe? Ghosts? Yeah, she's seen weird stuff, but that didn't mean she expected something like that. But a quick skim of their minds, which she felt only slightly guilty for, confirmed their story.
What was she supposed to do with this?
After another moment of silence, she finally felt a voice in her head that put her at ease. "Well, Danny, Sam, and Tucker, if you would just wait here for a few minutes, we'll get this all cleared up. Hopefully, we'll be able to help you... do whatever it is you need to do. Just wait here for a moment." She got up to leave.
Jean Grey turned around before exiting the door. "Because Professor Xavier has just returned."
Toad groaned as he flopped on the Brotherhood's worn couch, ignoring the spring jabbing into his aching side. His tired voice carried over the tense silence as he whined, "Aww, man, who knew the X-geeks had gotten a new face around there? That blast of his sent me into next week!"
For once, Lance had to agree with the lump of slime. "We had those losers right where we wanted them!" His fist slammed the wall next to where he stood, and everyone felt a small shake from the house around them as the earth quaked a little. "And now they've got a new powerhouse!"
"He didn't look so tough." Blob's comment was snorted out as the immovable mutant plopped onto a flattened armchair that had long lost any cushiness.
"Yeah? Well, you didn't get punched in the face by him! Kid's got a rocket for an arm!"
Blob laughed. "Pff, I'd like t'see him get by me. I'd pummel him into the ground so hard that he'd... uh... y'know... get some kind'a... concussion or somethin'. Brain damage."
Before Lance could snarl a reply, or Toad could throw a witty retort, Mystique was suddenly in the doorway. She was not looking merciful. "He's not the one who was brain damaged out there, was he? That would fall to you lot!"
As everyone gulped and tensed up, readying for whatever anger the shape-shifter was going to throw their way, Pietro zipped in and taunted them at high speed. "Yeah, losers! You all fell faster than Xavier meeting a flight of stairs! Meanwhile, I was busy taking down Summers, and I could'a taken more if you all hadn't forced a hasty retreat."
Mystique nodded. "Pietro did manage to disable a valuable part of their team." She watched as the prideful son of Magneto came to a stop at her side, acting like he was her second in command. He had another think coming.
Mystique grasped the speedster's uniform at the neck and slammed him up against the wall behind her. She snarled at his surprised face as she bit out, "And that almost redeems you for your earlier mistake! Or do I need to remind you of how your hot-headed stunt nearly left me without an arm!"
Pietro let out a shuddering, nervous laugh. "Heh, heh... sorry?"
Mystique angrily threw him onto the ground, glaring at him as he rolled twice before zipping to his feet and speeding to the other end of the room. Toad snickered at him from a few feet away, before shutting up at the look given to him.
After several minutes of glaring at everyone in the room, Mystique looked away and calmed herself down. Finally, she looked back at them with a neutral expression on her face. "Well, at least the night was not a total loss. Gambit has the copy of the blueprints that Magneto plans to use in building a counter to the newest jet model of Xavier's. The distraction was enough so Xavier and his students will be none the wiser until it's too late. If not, I think they were just as surprised as us at the new arrival, which will keep them busy for now."
She again glared at the Brotherhood for their failure. "But make no mistake. The next time we go up against the X-Men," her voice lowered until it practically hissed, "you will be prepared!" It then raised to shouting as she announced, "You will all have a new training regime. Tomorrow morning, you will find a list of exercises and tasks posted on your doors, every single one of which must be finished by noon. And you will exceed my expectations, or so help me, I'll hand your carcasses to Magneto myself!"
With that she turned around and headed for the door. "When I return, you will have completed one hundred push-ups and sit-ups each. And I'll know if you haven't."
Toad spoke up in confusion, "Hey, where're you going?"
Mystique snarled. "That new mutant. Something about him was... off. Add that to the fact we know next to nothing about him. I have to investigate what new fool Xavier has conned into his school."
With that, she exited the small building, slamming the door behind her.
"So, Danny," Professor Charles Xavier began, "I hear that you're not of our world. Do you care to expound on that?"
Hoping he understood the word "expound" correctly, Danny gave a brief summary of their situation. He started with a quick summary of the teens' meeting with Clockwork and his mysterious friend, then skipped over the majority of their adventures by simply saying that they've had experience dealing with a number of varying worlds. Danny briefly wondered how many times he'd have to tell all this before they were done. Whenever that would be.
Charles listened closely to the boy's tale, then asked a few complementary questions to assure he understood the majority of what was told to him. Once he was satisfied, Xavier hesitated momentarily before moving to a subject he disliked. But it had to be done. "Danny, would you give me permission to enter your mind and see what you have told me for myself? I might have a theory about how to help you, but I would first need to know many of the details you may have skipped over from your conversation with this... Clockwork you mentioned."
Danny hesitated briefly. "You're not gonna... I mean, you won't-"
Charles raised a hand, stopping him. "Danny, I promise you, I will not look anywhere you don't want me to. Any memory or thought you feel come up that you don't want me to know about, simply imagine closing a door on it and I will ignore it. I will be sure to give you time to do so with everything I try to pull up."
Danny relaxed and nodded. "Okay, I guess."
The professor readied himself to enter the young man's mind. "Danny, the human mind is a big place. I will need you to guide me to the relevant memories. Do you think you can do that?"
Danny bit his lip. "I can try."
Charles nodded and entered Danny's mind, both sets of eyes glazing over. Less than a minute later, they both snapped out of it. "My. You have had an extraordinary life, from what little I saw."
Danny blinked, shaking his head. "Yeah. I guess. How long were we in there? Sam and Tucker are probably getting worried by now."
"Time passes differently within the mind, Danny. I was in your mind for no more than a minute, if that."
The ghost boy's eyes widened. "Really? That's kind of cool. I think."
"Yes, and I've had a thought on something we could try in order to find the location your missing tear." The professor folded his hands, holding his chin up as he rested his elbows on the arms of his chair. "We can use Cerebro."
At Danny's quizzical look, the professor smiled. "Cerebro is a powerful machine that allows me to connect to minds telepathically from far greater distances than I am normally capable. If anyone has seen the phenomenon you are looking for, I can pick it up on Cerebro. It will take some time, of course, as there must be great care in dealing with the complexity of the human mind, and much more so for many billions of them. Looking for such specific information is quite a task."
Danny had smiled at the explanation of Cerebro, but he now understood the implications of what the professor meant. Searching carefully through billions of minds? This was going to take a very long time. He began to feel dejected.
Feeling Danny's thoughts, the professor chuckled. "Cheer up, Danny. It's not as bad as it sounds. As a matter of fact, there are a number of tricks to speed up the process or even eliminate areas altogether. You do recall that this astronomical event is not within the boundary of America, right? That eliminates a rather large country from the list." Danny nodded, his spirit brightening as he tried to think of other ways to help the process.
Charles steepled his fingers in thought, knowing they may need something more if Cerebro weren't enough. "I can also do some digging. I will put the word out with my contacts for any information regarding energy signatures related to astronomical anomalies, especially anything that may have appeared within Earth's atmosphere. That should be enough information to find what you're looking for without specifying what it is." Xavier lowered his hands back to his wheelchair and looked seriously at Danny. "I believe you may be correct with the threat assessment of one of these rifts falling into the wrong hands."
Danny frowned. "But I didn't say anything about that. Did I?"
The corner of the professor's mouth turned upwards as he replied, "No, Danny. But remember, I was in your mind. Telepathy is an amazing tool for communication, so long as it is used appropriately and not intrusively."
As Danny reached to open the door for his host, he couldn't help but remark, "Heh, it's kind of funny. Sam was being a bit paranoid and said we shouldn't tell anyone about ourselves. I hate to say it, but I'm glad I didn't listen to her."
Outside the window of Xavier's office, perched on a branch just out of sight from the room below, a raven listened with adept ears to the conversation going on inside. After feeling satisfied with the information gleaned from the eavesdropping, a fluttering of wings took the bird back into the air. Had it been an ordinary bird, there would have been no need for the conversing pair to be worried.
But when in a world of shape-shifters, no thing and no one can be trusted.
Mystique flapped until she found a thermal air current, then rode it as she reflected on what had been said. So, the boy and his friends come from another world. A world in which there are machines that can turn ordinary humans into mutants, with powerful results. If we could gain access to that world, the mutant race can be extended to the point where humans would be forced to either surrender to us or be annihilated!
The shape-shifting mutant chuckled at her luck, which came out more as a cackle from the bird's throat. Magneto will lead us into a golden age of mutants. And because it was my discovery, I will have earned my place back at his side.
As she flew off into the depths of the night, Mystique couldn't help but believe this Danny had given them everything they need to defeat their enemies once and for all.
While Danny was inside Professor Xavier's office, the students staying at the mansion slowly started to drift back into the living room. As Sam watched their curious glances from her seat on the couch, she rolled her eyes and gave up any hope at staying true to Batman's instructions. She knew Danny was spilling everything to the bald guy in the wheelchair. At least this group didn't seem interested in any villainous activities, or so Sam's instincts told her.
Batman had said to keep the group under a low profile while visiting other worlds. They should not interfere with other cultures, they should not display Danny's capabilities, and they most certainly should not tell anyone what they were doing unless absolutely necessary. A powerful vortex that cuts through universes would draw the wrong kinds of crowds, something she had already known since that world with Kim Possible. If they could deal with the multiversal rips by themselves, it would definitely be for the best. But on the very next world they entered, Danny broke every rule before she even had a chance to tell him about them.
Sam sighed as she suddenly wondered what had caused Batman to become the hero she looked up to. Aside from Danny, of course. Already, she felt like she was disappointing the dark knight, and she had barely known him! Other than that meeting at the hotel and the few hours Batman took her aside and gave her instructions, Sam didn't know anything about the man.
Although, considering all heroes seemed to wear a costume of some sort, one could do a lot worse than a dark, scary bat dressed all in black.
Shaking herself of her thoughts, Sam realized she'd been asked a question. She focused on the blonde girl chewing gum in front of her. "I'm sorry?"
The girl smirked and asked again, "Where'd you get your shoes? They're kinda nice."
Sam couldn't help looking at her shoes, despite knowing full well what they looked like. "Uh, well, they're just the same shoes I always get. My mom drags me shopping and I just look for the heaviest, darkest pair available." The goth gave a half-grin. "Better than the pink, frilly slippers she keeps trying to force on me."
The other girl popped a bubble, staring at her as she worked it back in her mouth. "You do know those are a high quality brand, right? What are you, rich?"
Sam's eyes widened and she sunk a little lower in her seat, crossed arms moving a few inches upward. Her cheeks reddened a bit at the rare occasion of her being embarrassed. "Not really..."
"Oh, wow!" A new voice admiring Sam's shoes made her wanting desperately to get out of there. "You're right, Tabitha, those shoes are so stylish."
Sam scowled, but could only mumble out, "No, they're sturdy and practical."
The valley girl frowned and tilted her head. "Hey, cheer up. We're, like, giving you compliments."
"Leave her alone, Kitty." Tucker and Sam followed the laughing voice upwards, somewhat taken off-guard by the blue-furred boy hanging upside-down by his tail on the chandelier. "Can't you see she's scared of you?"
The mutant's smile made it clear he was joking, but Sam couldn't help but rise to the challenge. "I'm not afraid of anyone," she exclaimed hotly. Her words may have been more effective if her body language wasn't still on the defensive, keeping her withdrawn from the kids around her. Tucker was glancing between everybody, looking unsure if he should intervene for Sam or let her handle it.
He didn't have to worry for long. The blue-furred kid let go of the light fixture and fell toward them, teleporting a moment later to land right in front of Sam. "I was only kidding," he said kindly, smiling and holding a hand out to her. "My name is Kurt Wagner, although sometimes I am called Nightcrawler." The German accent in his voice was noticeable, but he was not difficult to understand. "As for my friends, Tabitha and Kitty, I promise that they're just trying to be friendly."
Kitty nodded. "Yeah, we didn't mean to offend you or anything. We just liked your style. Our friend, Rogue, is all about the goth look, but she's laid up in the med center with a twisted ankle."
Sam hesitated, then accepted Kurt's offered handshake. "Sam Manson."
At the official acceptance of the students' offered friendship, Tucker stood up and held a hand out to Kitty, which she accepted. "I'm Tucker Foley, or T.F. as in Too Fine!" He threw in a heavy wink for good measure.
Sam threw her hand on her face as she sighed in exasperation. Kitty giggled at the cheesy line, while Tabitha snorted before chuckling, "Make that up yourself, stud?"
Sam groaned in a weary voice. "Three years ago, and he hasn't let up with it since."
Tucker rubbed his neck in embarrassment while everyone laughed, but Sam knew he was secretly glad the ice was finally breaking with everyone. She just needed to lighten up a bit.
Suddenly, they were all interrupted as the doors to the room Danny had disappeared into opened and their best friend came through, following the Xavier guy. The professor was confined to a wheelchair, which had made addressing him earlier a little awkward, but his personality was quick to put one at ease.
It was somewhat unsurprising to see that Danny seemed happy enough with whatever occurred in there. His eyes met Sam's and he had a measure of contentment that was a little surprising, especially after the intense beating from the ruthless Phantom. He'd been subtly depressed since then, and she had sadly expected it to stay that way a bit longer. If Sam had to guess, that was Danny's look of having unloaded his burdens with another person. Which meant that anything she wanted to keep hidden was out in the open.
Sam sighed in resignation. It was all probably a bad idea anyway, keeping who they were a secret.
As everybody gathered around the head of the household, Professor Xavier addressed them. "Hello, everybody. I would first like to thank everyone here for their efforts in protecting our home, with a special thanks to our new friends who put themselves on the line for people they knew nothing about."
Sam looked down, feeling slightly guilty. She hadn't really thought about it when she tried to stop Danny. It was mostly a reaction from the craziness in the last world. However, there is a certain level of discomfort in being thanked for something you tried to stop.
The professor took no notice and continued with hardly a pause. "I'd also like to welcome them as guests in our home for their visit in our neck of the woods, brief as it may be."
Sam looked up and raised an eyebrow. Neck of the woods?
"They've been hunting for a friend whose location has been lost to them. A lead had brought them all the way to Bayville from their home in Illinois. However, it seems they had just learned it was a dead end. In thanks for their assistance tonight, I have offered to use my contacts to finish their search."
Sam blinked. Either Danny was a much better liar than she gave him credit or this professor was doing a brilliant job of covering for them. And he was going to help their search?
At that moment, the white-haired woman who had arrived with the professor entered the room, having disappeared since they returned home. "Professor, the rooms are adequate for our guests."
"Thank you, Storm." The professor nodded to her before turning his attention back to said guests. "Until we manage to wrap up your search, I insist that the three of you stay here as our guests. Those mutants you helped defend my institute against are a branch of a larger group, and if they take an interest in your appearance, Danny, I fear this may be the safest place for you."
The three looked at each other, silently conversing. Danny eventually answered, "Uh… okay, I guess. I don't really know where we would go, anyway."
"Good. Ms. Munroe will see you to your rooms and I will have sleepwear sent to you shortly. Do not hesitate to request that your current clothing be washed for you to wear tomorrow. You also have free reign of the mansion, so long as you don't intrude on anyone else or the designated restricted areas."
Danny blinked. "Wow. Um, thanks. Usually we have to find some cheap motel and laundromat, but I'm liking this arrangement a lot better!"
One of the students, a dark-haired girl with a yellow jacket, snorted. "Yeah, sure. Until you find the underside of your bed frozen by Bobby, giving you hypothermia during the night." She glared at another student, one with light brown hair.
The second student, Bobby, got defensive. "Like I'm going to do that a third time!"
The petite valley girl, Kitty, crossed her arms. "Fourth, Drake."
Bobby smiled sheepishly and shrugged. "Hey, you got me back!"
Yet another student, a southern guy with blonde hair, spoke up, clearly frustrated. "Yeah, by dropping him in my room! Do you know what it's like to have people randomly drop through your ceiling onto your bed? Nearly gave me a heart attack!"
As the group of mutant students degenerated into fighting, Charles Xavier closed his eyes and frowned in concentration. A moment later, everyone who had been fighting stopped and looked vaguely upwards, not focusing on anything in particular. They then grumbled and headed upstairs, not another word of argument among them.
Daniel, Sam, and Tucker stared with wide eyes. "Wow," Tucker commented. "How'd you pull that off?"
Professor Xavier shrugged and smiled. "I simply told them that the X-Jet needs waxing and all volunteers should remain outside their rooms."
Tucker looked impressed. "That must be pretty handy. But I have a question."
"Yes, it is a real jet; and you will be impressed when you see it at another time. And yes, the kitchen is right through that hallway, there. You may fix yourself a sandwich whenever you wish."
Tucker turned and whispered to Danny. "Okay, telepathy is officially the coolest power ever!"
Sam rolled her eyes and left to get ready for bed. She was certainly feeling ready for it, and she found herself grateful that at least this much went her way today.
The kitchen was quiet as Danny tentatively stepped inside. He had slept soundly, still healing from injuries sustained by the evil Phantom, and momentarily forgot where he was when he awoke. As he remembered the events of the previous night, the sound of rumbling stomach had prompted a search for food. Although the professor had invited them to help themselves, he was still uncomfortable making himself at home in the large and unnervingly quiet abode.
Glancing around the kitchen revealed only one occupant: the muscular man who had fought with knives sticking out from his hands the night before. He was guzzling down a glass of milk and spearing some eggs from his plate. The absorbed movements as he attacked his food didn't make him seem like he wanted to talk.
All the same, Danny wasn't sure what was what in this kitchen and felt eager to eat.
Before he could do more than open his mouth, however, the hairy guy replied to his unspoken question, "Leftover eggs are in the oven. Bread's on the counter next to the fridge, toaster's few feet away, butter's in between. Drinks are in the fridge, cereal's in the pantry. Need anything else, don't ask me."
Danny stared for a moment, taken aback that the guy hadn't so much as twitched, much less turned his head, since he'd walked in. Considering the man was facing the other direction, for the most part, it was somewhat impressive that he'd known someone had entered, and especially that they needed directions.
"Heard ya. Smelled ya. Even if this nose couldn't identify scents so well, you're also the last to wake."
Danny blinked, then slowly made his way to where he'd been directed for food.
After a few minutes of eating quietly, watching the strange man move on to reading the paper, Danny felt like trying to get a sense of who he was. "So, I don't think I caught your name last night."
"Didn't give it."
Danny rolled his eyes. "Well, yeah, that would be a good reason, I suppose."
The newspaper page turned and the man's gruff voice answered, "Name's Logan. Some folk call me Wolverine."
"What kind of people?" Danny chugged some orange juice.
After a moment, Danny went in search of paper towels to clean up the juice he'd coughed up onto the table. He decided to look for them himself rather than bother the man called Wolverine.
Logan cracked a grin, keeping it out of view.
Danny looked up and smiled as Sam and Tucker came into the kitchen. He was getting along with Storm, who had come by to check on him. Wolverine had left, which Danny was thankful for, and Ororo had proven an excellent source of information on the school, the city, and even the students, which led to a bit of light gossip.
Danny liked what he was hearing about this place. It sounded like it was doing a lot of good. The professor had made a home for anyone who wanted to learn to control their unusual abilities, especially those who had nowhere else to turn. Some mutants had even been kicked out of their homes, something that was practically unfeasible for the ghost boy. Even his ghost-hunting obsessed parents never loved him any less when they learned his secret.
As Sam sat down and Tucker made his way to the counter, Danny listened while they relayed some of the things they'd learned that morning. The students were either outside playing, preparing for some kind of survival course with Logan – the reason he'd left – or training in something called the Danger Room. They didn't get much information on it, except that the only thing it was preferable to was surviving Logan's run.
A number of the students were also pranksters at times, so they had been repeatedly warned about that. The were countless tales mentioned of tricks and their countered vengeance, which usually led to even more students getting involved and a whole mess being created before one of the adults to bring things under control. Sam used Bobby's name numerous times, each one with a bit of a hiss to it. When Danny asked about that, she only grimaced as Tucker explained that the pavement outside earlier had iced over just enough to have her slip into the Iceman's arms.
She had awarded the icy teen's grin with a sock to his shoulder, one that had him keeping his distance afterwards.
While Danny snickered, he looked up as Tucker sat down with more food, noting without surprise that he was having his second breakfast.
Sam looked over to see her other friend shoveling the leftover of the eggs into his over-sized mouth. "Tucker!"
Tucker paused, cold eggs stuck firmly to his fork. "What? It's not like anyone else was going to eat them."
Sam frowned. "You're going to have stomach problems."
"Ha! The only thing that can break through a Foley's stomach of steel," Tucker beat a fist on his stomach to prove his point, "is the nightmare known as vegetation!" He'd had to amend his original statement after the blood blossom incident.
"Vegetables are good for you! An all-meat diet is not!"
"There's no meat in eggs, so what's your problem?"
"That's not the point!"
"Children, please," Storm's voice drew their attention, "let us not become riled over such trivial matters."
"You'll have to get used to them," Danny drawled, with a mock-exasperated look on his face, "this is a never-ending argument."
Tucker and Sam narrowed their eyes at him. Before either could respond, they all heard the professor request their presence at Cerebro. Storm agreed to guide them.
Ororo smiled pleasantly and stood, indicating the main exit from the kitchen. "If you would please follow me."
The professor sighed and removed the helmet from his head, setting it back down on Cerebro's console. "I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help with this."
Danny nodded. "It's okay, you said you've got other ways of searching as well."
"Yes, that's true. And there may yet be something to be found with this, but I'm afraid it will take time."
Sam pulled Tucker away from the ledge of the walkway they were on. Cerebro was centered in a vast room, which was in a perfect spherical shape except for the door and walkway leading to the center: a platform on which the Cerebro machine sat. Tucker was admiring the fall down to the ground, while Sam was keeping him from experiencing it. They had been, of course, arguing the entire time.
Tucker shrugged her off. "I'll be fine."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Whatever. I'm just glad you haven't gone gassy from those eggs."
"I told you, stomach of steel!"
Professor Xavier, meanwhile, just finished using Cerebro to connect to the parts of their minds dealing with memories of anything related to the rifts. He had been trying to use them to help search for a similar pattern of memory elsewhere in the world. So far, there had been no luck.
"Perhaps we should wait to hear from a few colleagues I'm expecting word from today. If there is nothing, I shall try with Cerebro again tomorrow."
Danny nodded, not feeling terribly discouraged, but still a bit down.
"In the meantime, would you care to accompany me in watching the students run a mission simulation?" The professor started his chair out the overly large door into the shiny hallways, where he rolled purposefully toward wherever he planned to take them.
"A mission simulation?"
Xavier nodded, stopping and turning to look at them fully as then he spoke. "Yes, a large part of what we do here is to train mutants to handle any conceivable situation that may appear in the future. Working as a team, they must learn to fight, defend, rescue, and accomplish any number of other necessary skills to preserve life and keep the peace between human and mutant kind."
Tucker grinned. "Did you rehearse that?"
Sam frowned at him.
"It… helps to have a well-used line handy for questions." The professor smiled, then grew more serious as he continued. "And once word of mutants got out to the world, questions came in plenty. People had a hard time trusting those who were not only different, but also seemed to be preparing for a war against them. If we had been any slower in responding to our reveal, things may have taken a very different turn."
The atmosphere grew more solemn with that, and the three followed Professor X to watch the training students.
Until Tucker broke off for a panicked run to the restroom.
Inside the control room that overlooked the Danger Room, Danny and Sam watched the remainder of the current group's simulation. It was some sort of rescue mission inside a cavern. Long stalactites covered the ceiling, and sharp falls into deep pits adorned the floor. Their main obstacles to rescuing Jean Grey, who was faking unconsciousness, included the very large kid and the earth-shaker from the battle the night before, as well as a metal skinned guy and a weird card-thrower that liked to attack from the shadows.
The guy throwing glowing card bombs had something off with his eye color, with a red iris and everything else black. He also carried a glowing staff and was very graceful in his few one-on-one attacks. He didn't seem to stick around for long at any point, however, and preferred darting in and out of hiding like a thief. In contrast, his friend in metal was doing a great job taking on three of the five students with his brute force approach.
The professor had to explain that the enemies weren't the real people but holographic representations, as was the environment. Danny and Sam were even more interested after that, and found themselves constantly on the lookout for some kind of tell that this was all fake, like a shimmering or something. Surprisingly, despite being holograms, the enemy attacks seemed to actually affect the real students. Real injuries could be sustained if they were not careful, which was why there was always a controller in the control room while a simulation was running. Today's was Beast, who apparently enjoyed quoting Shakespeare as he watched.
Down below, Kitty, Spike, and Jubilee, the girl with the yellow coat, were stuck with the metal guy, although Jubilee was frequently distracted by her attempts to locate the card guy. Her powers were some kind of fireworks ability that didn't have much of an effect on metal man, so she tried lighting up shadows to take down the other foe. Somehow, that didn't seem to do much good, either. He was fast.
A little further off in the room, Blob was trying fruitlessly to grab Nightcrawler. The professor mentioned to Danny and Sam that the mission started with Blob being told to sit on Jean Grey to make sure no one could save her. A lot of points are lost for the simulation if he makes it to her, so Nightcrawler took the job of distraction. Teleporting in and out around the massive teen, Nightcrawler kept him infuriated enough to forget his original goal.
Which left the duplicating kid and Lance, AKA Avalanche, according to the professor. Apparently, his ability to bring the whole place down made him the most significant threat. Although, he was just as able to focus his ability and drop giant stalactites down on the fighters from above. Jamie, the multiplying kid, had about seven copies holding Lance down and covering his eyes. While he didn't need his eyes to use his powers, he did need them to aim. Without them, he could hit a teammate, at best. At worst, his difficult-to-control powers could bring the ceiling down on all of them, himself included.
As they watched from above, with the professor occasionally filling in more names, Danny wondered what it would be like to have all of this available for him to train with. It certainly would've been handy his first year of ghost-hunting, and he probably still had a ton he could learn from something this advanced. He could set up a fight with a fake Skulker, Ember, Spectra, and Bertrand - and the real Box Ghost would probably join in at some point just by chance - that would be in a controlled environment where he could really let loose.
He broke out of his musing when Jubilee finally found Gambit, the card guy. She gave full chase and winged him, but he returned the favor with a dozen exploding cards tossed in the air. Although slightly blinded, she covered her eyes with one arm and shot off a few fireworks with the other, in the general direction of the dark-eyed villain.
Suddenly, the battle took a turn. A disastrous one. One of Jubilee's blind shots landed on Lance, who howled in pain and started twisting in Jamie's many grips. Jamie became appropriately worried when he realized the level of agitation Avalanche had gained. He nervously shouted, "Uh, guys! Help!"
Nobody heard, or cared, about his cry, until a few moments after the room had begun shaking more and more violently. Lance was practically snarling, having lost all sense in his frustration, and was lashing out any way he knew how. And with bound arms and legs, that left only his power.
With walls cracking and the ceiling giving way, everyone turned their attention to Jamie and Lance. But it was too late, as Jean had been near a steep hole to begin with, and as it cracked through the nearby ground to become larger, a crevice just large enough for her body opened up below her, spelling the end of the program.
Beast had swiftly stopped the program before anything else could happen, and Danny felt himself relax when he realized Jean had not actually fallen.
"She was awake the whole time, you know," the blue-furred beast said, looking to Danny and Sam and smiling. Danny noticed he was comforting them, seeing as their faces were etched with worry. He felt embarrassed for having gotten caught up in the fight and forgetting there was no real danger. Beast continued explaining, "She used her telekinetic abilities to both keep anything from falling on her and keep herself from falling. Besides," he winked, "it's only three feet to the ground."
Danny nodded and looked back at where the students gathered at the center of the now-fading cavern. It was being replaced by a very large, metallic room that was now empty of everything but them. Looking at the students' faces, though, showed they knew that they had messed up in a big way.
Professor Xavier pulled a microphone toward him. "I must admit to being very disappointed in your performance. I would like to meet with all of you later on to discuss how you mishandled a volatile situation."
There were various responses, but the majority was a nod and mumble about being sorry.
The professor again spoke through the microphone. "Now, if you will all clear the room, I would like to give our guest a chance to showcase his capabilities for us."
Danny jerked and felt himself spin to stare at the professor in surprise.
Xavier turned towards him and smiled. "Well, Danny, would you like to try our Danger Room?"
Danny glanced at Sam. She shrugged, indicating she had nothing against it, and he looked back at the professor. "Sounds great!"
In ghost mode, Danny stood in the enormous room while waiting nervously for whatever settings were to be implemented. From what he could tell, this place could make it seem like he'd been sent anywhere against anyone. He probably wouldn't even recognize his enemies, or know what fantastic powers they were capable of using against him.
After a few minutes, the professor's voice came over the speakers. "We're going to leave the environment settings in the Danger Room for now, Danny, though that may change as we go along. Furthermore, as this is a test of your abilities, we shall use the more traditional equipment first, eventually working up to holographic enemies."
Danny nodded slowly, then shouted. "O-okay!"
After a moment of silence, a giant claw came out of the ground and sprang towards him. Danny yelped and dodged to the side, coming out in a roll that put him crouched on his feet. As the claw came back toward him, a turret rose out of the ground and fired a low-powered shot that stung the side of his arm. Caught off-guard, Danny no longer had the time or balance to avoid the claw.
Luckily, this was where intangibility came in handy. Danny allowed the metal arm to pass through him, as well as the next shot fired, then used an ecto-blast to fry the turret.
It was feeling a bit easy, but then the floor was dropped out underneath him. Danny fell a few feet before catching himself with flight, hovering over a red floor that might have been game over. He quickly flew back out and landed on the ground, slightly shaken from the surprise but ready for more.
Before he had a chance to catch his breath, the far side of the room had a spinning, circular platform raised from the ground, with four barrels in its sides. As it was turning, the four barrels began spewing flames that burst out in a straight line that almost reached the walls. Another platform, closer than that one but still far away, rose from the ground and repeated the actions of the first one. By the time the third came up, even closer, Danny got the idea. The floor would now be a very dangerous place, and he did not want to risk intangibility in a furnace.
Even intangible, it was still hot!
Danny flew up near the roof, getting a better view of the room as more flame turrets rose and finished off the floor restriction. If he needed to land for a few minutes, he could always stand on the flame turrets themselves. But he didn't want to stay that close to the hazard for long.
While Danny was contemplating this, he had not noticed that the ceiling was hardly off limits for traps. Behind and above, a large net that was shaped like a fly-swatter swooped down in an arc and captured Danny, lifting him up and pinning him to the ceiling. Before he could recover, Danny felt an electric current run through the wires and shock his system. It was very low level, low enough that he was able to use his abnormal strength to move, however he found his phasing ability to be interrupted. As he tried to push through the net, the shock increased and he lost all the focus necessary to follow through.
While Danny felt himself steadily losing strength, he realized that he would have to find another way out of this. Trying to keep a conscious grip on reality, he pulled himself through the pain and electricity by grabbing the wires and crawling along his back on the ceiling. Eventually, and just as he wondered if he could take anymore, Danny made it to the nearest side and held onto the metal edge. With teeth grinding and muscles straining, he pushed his fingers between the ceiling and the rod holding the net, then pulled like his life depended on it, because it sure felt like it did.
Danny started groaning, then growling with the strain. This was not like any training he had been through before and felt a lot more like he was going against a combination of Skulker and Technus, but without the snappy comebacks and endangered gorillas. Or the mullet.
Danny shook his head to throw his wandering mind back to the task at hand. He had to get through this! He could hardly remember why, at this point, but it was in his mind that he had to get out of this.
With another growl and a snarl with teeth, Danny pushed the rod away from the wall another few inches, which was just enough for him to squeeze through. The net smashed shut behind him, just grazing his foot as it passed through. He was out of breath, and felt himself vaguely falling, having a difficult time keeping himself up in the air. That trap felt like it had last hours, or days, and Danny looked around and had to refresh his memory of what was going on.
After a moment of watching the fire spinning on the floor, it started coming back to him and he looked upwards in search of the control room. Through it, he could see Sam being physically restrained as she was obviously hurling some nasty insults at the people who put him in such pain and danger. While Danny certainly felt overwhelmed with the latest trap, he supposed this type of training was exactly what he needed. Something to really test him. He waved to Sam and gave an okay sign with his hand. This relaxed her somewhat, but he could tell she was not happy.
Danny wanted to float down and rest on one of the flamethrowers below, but with Sam freaking out about him, he suddenly felt the need to show no weakness. So he hovered in the air in the middle of the room, waiting for whatever came next.
Apparently, there was some pity taken on him after his last escape. What came next was a simple glob of green goo that covered his face. Toad, the green kid from the night before, was hanging on the wall.
Danny phased and let the green stuff fall to the floor. He gasped and held his hand to his face. Perhaps it was not pity but a new form of torture. That stuff reeked!
As Toad fired more goop, the smell of it got to him as it passed by, even while he was intangible. Danny felt himself choking and resolved to get rid of the pest, ASAP. Holding his breath and releasing his intangibility, he drew closer and fired ecto-blasts at a constant stream, trying to knock his opponent off the wall. Unexpectedly, Toad was plenty fast enough to avoid being hit, and Danny found himself trying to predict his moves so he could blindside the slimy mutant.
What the ghost boy was not expecting was being blindsided himself. A giant eagle dive-bombed him and Danny fell towards the hot surface of the ground before knowing what hit him. He slowed his descent in time and flew back up, keeping an eye out. From nowhere, a hawk flew at him from behind and jabbed his shoulders. It wasn't enough to draw blood, but it felt like it should have, leaving Danny to wonder if there were some safeties in this program after all.
As another bird came at him, Danny dove to the side out of reach, expecting for it to harmlessly pass. Instead, the bird's leg grew several feet and caught the ghost in the gut. Danny yelped in pain and jerked away, keeping the bird in sight. As it circled away from him, however, it disappeared from view.
Danny frowned and kept a paranoid lookout all around himself, shifting into phased mode both to avoid another attack and keep from getting hit by the newest assault of smelly goo. He could ignore the smell for now, because as soon as he started to run out of energy, he'd need to phase back to being tangible, which would leave him open for attack.
Danny caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and struck out, flying as fast as he could after it. Obviously surprised, whatever the bird was doing to hide itself was dropped while it flew away from the irate half-ghost. Just as Danny could almost reach it, however, the bird jerked around and turned into a large dragon, easily four times the height of Danny. While it was no Aragon, it didn't look safe to be around, either.
Eyes wide, Danny turned around and flew away for a safer spot to view the newest form of his opponent. But it wouldn't be that easy, as the chase had resumed with the tables turned as the dragon neared Danny. The two flew through the air, twisting and turning as each tried to outfly the other. Danny was faster, but the size of the dragon gave it greater distance with less effort, and Danny had really begun feeling the effort. He was still feeling worn from that net trap.
As Danny realized he wouldn't be able to last much longer, he finally remembered he was supposed to think in these fights. He began trying to work out what kind of weaknesses a giant dragon had. Were there any weak spots? Anything they couldn't do? What would Vlad do?
Danny shuddered at his last thought. He didn't like the idea of using Vlad as a role model.
Then Danny's mind started racing. He hated to admit it, but he learned a lot from Vlad. And one of the lessons Vlad arrogantly tried to teach him, using some kind of a chess metaphor, was that a foe's strength was also his weakness.
Danny desperately searched the battlefield, until he realized he had an advantage staring him in the face. The end of the fire from the flamethrowers came too close to the wall and rotated too quickly for the dragon to pass through. They were also several feet off the ground, plenty of room for him to move around. While he could never rest and relax in such a hot area, he could certainly glide under the room-wide net and have a safety area where he could strike against the dragon without being seen.
Danny quickly turned intangible and shot through an opening in the flames, disappearing underneath. The dragon stopped and hovered overhead, roaring loudly.
Danny stayed underneath, having turned invisible as well as intangible. It was certainly draining, but having his feet on the ground and waiting for the dragon to either shrink or turn its back to him in search made it more bearable.
After a moment, the creature grew impatient and turned into a hawk once more.
Before waiting to see if it would dive-bomb under the flames or hang out around the ceiling, Danny burst forth from the floor at a dazzling speed and gave the hawk a massive, ecto-charged punch that sent it reeling through the air. Danny grinned in relief, feeling that its collapse into the far wall had put it out.
And then the side of his head was hit with smelly goop.
As he hovered there, unmoving and feeling a tickling sensation in his ear, he turned toward Toad and let a very imposing glow envelop his hand. He was feeling pretty sure this simulation would end as soon as he blew the wall out from the miserable green pest crawling along it.
Before he got the chance to let loose with the last of his energy, however, he was shocked by the returning sound of the dragon. Turning swiftly, Danny had just enough time to go intangible before it passed through him. Immediately after, however, the energy dissipated from his hand and he lost a good deal of height, falling slightly toward the floor. The intangibility was wearing him out, and he'd have to be careful.
As he saw the dragon come at him again, Danny realized his only option was to run, or rather, fly. Taking off through the air once more, the chase resumed between him and the shape-shifter, only now the latter was furious. This time when Danny dove through the flames, he nearly choked at the sight of the dragon turning into a flying shark and following him. That was not expected.
The winged shark bared its many rows of jagged teeth and was quite literally the most fear-inducing thing Danny had ever seen. Even going at his highest speed, the shark managed to keep up with him and got him sweating from more than just the flames surrounding them. The two of them shot up through the fiery floor and Danny felt himself losing steam. Flying generally used less energy than walking, but right now his entire body felt like crying out to stop this stupid simulation, which had stopped feeling like a simulation some time ago.
And then the smelly goop hit the side of his head.
They had flown too close to Toad, and the other had gotten a nice shot in. Danny started swatting at the side of his head in frustration, trying to get it off. It was not easy to get off without going intangible, which he couldn't do, and it was terribly restricting.
Danny blinked with a sudden thought. It was with the barest of remaining brainpower that the ghost boy came up with one last desperate gamble.
Putting all of his effort into this last chance, Danny started diving in towards and then away from Toad, always fast enough that the other couldn't quite get his shot. This was driving Toad nuts, as he kept preparing an attack and then having to hold off on it. Each time, the gunk he had in his mouth got bigger, and he was just waiting to unleash the full load onto the phantom weaving about in front of him.
Just as Danny was hoping. Taking one last spin around the room, Danny let the shark get closer and closer. Finally, just as the mouth was open and less than a foot away, which was very frightening, Danny dove straight for Toad. Said foe saw him coming from across the room and prepared for the attack.
Danny was beyond nervous, and found himself praying beneath his breath for it to go like he planned. He got nearer and nearer to his destination, but Toad hadn't shot at him yet. Just when Danny was about to seriously lose hope that he'd come out of this in one piece, in a flash, Toad finally unleashed his load of mucus in a stunning projectile of nauseating goo.
Expecting it, Danny used every last ounce of energy to twist out of the way and pull himself up, away from the flame floor.
The shape-shifter, however, had not been expecting it. The entire mess flooded over the shark, which lost control and smashed into Toad enough to knock the both of them unconscious.
Danny was surprised to see the winged shark turn into a blue woman with red hair. He might have considered her pretty, if not for her encasement in the most disgusting substance he'd ever encountered.
Which he now realized he'd have to encounter again, as both she and Toad fell towards the fire below.
Danny was barely staying in midair as it was. He didn't have the strength for another burst of speed, especially one that would allow him to reach the others in time. So, he let reflex and instinct guide him as he threw everything he had in an attempt to save them from burning below.
In this adrenaline-fueled state, it didn't even occur to him that they were holograms in a safety-netted simulation.
Danny closed his eyes and reached into himself for a power he rarely used. Time slowed as he felt a cold wind burst from his chest in a deep gasp, and then he threw his arms out and unleashed a devastating fury of cold. It poured from him as if he'd simply unlocked a door, and it blew across the fiery field below and created an icy, smooth surface that was perfectly slanted to allow both villains to survive the fall and hit the ground rolling. Upon hitting the bottom, their bodies stilled and all was silent.
The silence lasted for several minutes. Then the program faded. Toad and the blue girl disappeared. Half the turrets lowered, the other half too frozen to do so. Even the accursed net disappeared. All that was left in the room when Danny slowly landed was a field of ice, plus captured turrets, and some blast marks on the wall.
Danny let himself turn human and dropped to a knee in exhaustion. He heard the futuristic door to the room open and turned to look at more than a dozen faces staring at him, impressed beyond words. He noticed Tucker had joined them at some point, and both he and Sam looked very proud, even if Sam was getting over her fuming.
Professor Xavier rolled forward, smiling. "Well done, Danny Phantom. I think I speak for us all when I say well done, Danny Fenton."
Danny felt some heat go to his cheeks, but smiled in return.
Charles Xavier watched as several of his students, and Sam and Tucker, played mutant tag in the outside lawn of the backyard. He, too, had found himself in the great outdoors, though no further than the smooth tile of the patio. Being confined to a wheelchair made a walk through the woods a distant dream, but he was content with his place.
He found his best source of happiness was watching the youth enjoy themselves. Most of them had come here because they had nowhere else to feel safe. It was satisfying to see them explore their special gifts in such a carefree environment, among friends who understood their hardships.
Xavier gave an amused chuckle when Sam's Wrist Ray shot one of Tabitha's "time bombs" only a moment after it left her hand, startling the explosive mutant with her own medicine. There had been an initial concern among the students that Sam and Tucker would not be able to keep up with them. As it turned out, the two had a few gadgets that they were well-versed in using. It was more than enough to level the playing field.
Behind him, the mutant professor heard someone approaching and turned to greet Danny, whom he had called for. Frowning, Xavier watched as Bobby Drake stopped a few feet away, smiling like an idiot. "You called for me?"
The telepath rubbed his temples. "Danny..." Charles looked back up and continued, ignoring the boy's mischief, "I'd like to talk to you in private."
A moment later, Danny Phantom appeared a few feet to Bobby's left, phasing away from his overshadowed puppet. Bobby blinked and shook his head, before turning a growl towards the vengeful spirit beside him. He raised a suddenly icy fist.
"Bobby." Charles' voice was even more authoritative with Bobby, as he was Xavier's responsibility and the one who most likely brought it on himself.
The hot-headed Iceman got the idea and left, grumbling over his shoulder.
Danny had a mixture of sorrow and a smirk on his face, which made for a strange combination. "Sorry about that." And he was, too, most likely. No doubt, the young Mr. Drake had again tried to prove he had the better ice capabilities. After Danny's demonstration in the Danger Room nearly a week ago, Bobby had been insufferable in his attempts to show that he was the best "Master of Cold," as he had phrased it. It also hadn't helped the mutant's case to flirt with Sam, even though she had made it clear what she would do to him if he continued.
Regardless, there was something important to discuss.
"We received a hit on our search for your missing anomaly." As Xavier spoke, Danny jerked to attention. "There have been several reports of strange spatial events occurring in a park here in Bayville. It fits your description for what signs to expect."
Surprised, Danny rubbed the back of his head as he hesitantly said, "Oh… well, that's… good." At the professor's raised eyebrow, Danny clarified, "I've just been enjoying myself here, is all. I'm going to miss this place and all the… interesting students when we're back on the move. Plus the comfort of staying in a mansion."
Charles smiled, but before he could say anything, Danny beat him to it. Raising his hands to let the telepath know he wasn't done, Danny quickly amended, "But, I know my responsibility is for the good of the multiverse and yada yada. I'm not going to flake out on it or anything, I just liked the opportunity to rest for a bit."
The professor nodded his head. "Danny, it is a rare person who is as attuned to their responsibilities as you are. I see nothing but great things for you, despite the hardships you'll find yourself facing. If you ever find yourself in need of anything at all, our door is always open."
Danny's face lit up in a glow at Professor Xavier's praise. He rubbed his neck in embarrassment before thrusting his hand out to shake that of the wheelchair-bound man whom he'd come to respect so much. Xavier smiled and accepted the handshake.
"Is there anything you need before you go? The park is not far from here, so you can make it on your own, but I'm sure anyone here would gladly accompany you to your destination." As he asked, the two of them turned and headed into the mansion. They'd let the others run off their energy before calling them in for a rest before leaving. Nightfall would likely be the best departure time from the world, with the darkness and fewer people around to witness it.
Danny shook his head. "No, thanks. We've taken care of ourselves this long, and I'd rather not bring anyone else into it. We should just say our goodbyes and get a move on." He sighed a little, with obvious regret but acceptance.
As Danny walked and the professor rolled, the ghost boy couldn't help but ask, "So, do you think we should take Bobby and lose him in another world?"
"Now, Danny, don't you think that's a bit cold-hearted?"
While Sam was busy organizing the supplies graciously offered to them, Tucker pulled Danny aside from all the goodbyes he'd been making. He needed a little more detail than the watered-down version the professor told the group in front of the students, considering he couldn't mention what the trio were actually looking for.
"So, what did he find?" Tucker kept his voice low but was anxious enough that Danny pulled him further to the side. He didn't want anyone getting too interested in listening in. In this place, even the walls had ears, when Kitty was nearby. She had much better control over her phasing ability than Danny.
Danny quickly explained what he'd been told, about the sightings in a nearby park that matched what they were looking for.
The explanation didn't seem to satisfy his friend, however, because he responded with a frown, murmuring, "That's weird. If it's so close, why isn't anything being picked up on the sensors?"
Danny shrugged. "I don't know, maybe something was blocking the signal?"
Tucker thought about it but didn't look convinced. "I don't know, something doesn't feel righ-"
"What are you guys talking about?"
Tucker jumped at the sound of Rogue, the X-Men's resident goth who had sort of gotten along pretty well with Sam, but not as well as the other students had expected. Apparently, their fashion wasn't enough for them to just click that fast. It probably didn't help that she'd been avoiding Danny like the plague.
During the first day that Rogue had been up on her feet and introduced to everyone, a small argument – nobody knew what about – broke out between Sunspot and Berzerker, fueled on by Tabitha. Iceman decided to cool things down, literally, and all three ended up going after him. The end result was Sunspot swinging a punch at an ice wall that went through to Danny, who was on the other side and investigating why a wall of ice had suddenly appeared. Rogue witnessed Danny's side turn into ectoplasmic goop at the misdirected attack, but he shrugged it off as a not uncommon side-effect of his powers. Since then, however, Rogue preferred the side of the room opposite to him.
It was explained to them the tragedy of Rogue's power, that she would absorb the memories and abilities of anyone she touched. Although the three felt bad for her, they were all too happy to give her the space. Which was why it was strange for her to be here like this.
Danny blanked for a moment, trying to come up with something to say. For once, he was grateful for Tucker's quick mouth.
"We've been talking about all the fine cuties here we'd be missing on the road again."
Okay, not that grateful. Luckily, Rogue and them had gotten to know each other enough from afar for her to ignore Mr. Too Fine.
"Yeah, whatever." Rogue waved his comment away like a fly had come near. "Look, I just want to... make sure you didn't take my behavior the past week the wrong way. I'm not good at apologies," she still had not looked at them, and continued to not do so, clearly feeling awful about the whole thing, "and I don't feel I need to, but I just wanted you to know that... it's nothing personal." She was definitely not very good at this.
Danny smiled at her attempt, anyway. "No offense taken. We understand, it's got to be quite a burden not being able to touch people."
Rogue sighed and smiled half-heartedly, still looking guilty.
Danny put his hand forward. Rogue looked at it for a moment, before carefully shaking it with her gloved hand. She rolled her eyes as she did so, finding the gesture cliché, but seemed a little brighter after it anyway.
As she left, the two boys were approached by Scott and Jean, the former of which was leaning against the other. Cyclops had been laid up from his head injury for the past week and had only gotten out that day. Pietro's attack managed a lucky shot on a nerve. Scott had made it obvious that he was sorry for missing out on having guests at the mansion. The fact that Danny's many powers had made him a partial celebrity among those who still thought he was a mutant made it a bit worse for the field team leader of the X-Men. Not that the three hadn't visited a few times.
Jean spoke up first. "It was a pleasure meeting all of you! Feel free to stop by for a visit anytime."
Scott, wearing his constant red sunglasses, put forth a hand. "Yeah, it was good having you. And thanks for coming down to visit boring old me while I was bedridden."
Danny shook his hand, followed by Sam and Tucker, each. "No problem. And you weren't boring. You had some decent stories to tell."
The X-man smiled. "Thanks. It's always nice to have a listening ear."
Danny, Sam, and Tucker walked over to the tiny clearing where everyone had gathered around, ready to say their last goodbyes. Danny looked around at everyone, sheepish from all the attention, and rubbed his neck nervously. It was hard to leave. "So... how do we get there?"
Xavier turned to Ororo. "Considering Storm knows the areas from a bird's-eye view best, she'd be the best to ask."
"Thank you, professor." Storm proceeded to give Danny directions that he could follow from the air, as only a flyer could.
After she was finished, everyone started saying their final farewells. Bobby tossed an ice heart at Sam, who stepped aside and allowed it to bounce off the ground instead of catching it. A number of students giggled and snickered. Kitty and several others waved enthusiastically. Everyone else was a bit more reserved, but nobody wanted to see their new friends leave.
As they stepped away from the group, preparing to depart, Danny turned around and added, "Thanks for everything, Professor Xavier!" His sentiment was quickly echoed by Sam and Tucker.
"It was a pleasure having you here." The professor smiled. "I'm sure I speak for us all when I say, 'Good luck.'"
With that, it was time to go. Danny, Sam, and Tucker waved to all their new friends as Danny effortlessly lifted the three of them into the air. They quickly moved through the sky in the direction Storm had indicated, looking for the landmarks that could only be spotted from a bird's-eye view.
It didn't take long to find the park and set down in the middle, a quick bout of invisibility making for a subtle descent. It would be best not to have anyone notice a glowing person flying into the middle of an area they may have to spend some time searching through. For some strange reason, the PDA still wasn't picking up the signal from the anomaly.
As they began walking amongst the trees, the sun started receding behind the distant city. It wouldn't be long until darkness would follow, and then Danny would be the primary source of light in the area. Along with the occasional street lamp, of course, but those didn't penetrate far through the leaves.
After a few minutes of the three of them searching together, Danny huffed. He found himself frowning as he looked up at the darkening sky. "Tucker, is that thing still not reading anything?"
Tucker sighed as he looked at the screen for the third time in as many minutes. "Yep. Or nope. Whichever one means, 'Sorry, we've got nothing.'"
Danny looked around him at the forest, biting his lip. "It's going to take us all night to search like this." Looking at his two friends, he made a decision. "All right, let's split up. We can cover three times the area if we do."
Sam and Tucker looked at each other. "Uh… no offense, Danny…" Tucker started.
Sam finished for him, "But you're kind of the only light in this place. We'll probably be tripping over every tree, rock, and bush if we split up."
Danny blinked. "Don't we have flashlights?"
His friends shrugged. "Just the Fenton Stunner and glow-in-the-dark Fenton Bright Sticks."
Danny frowned, but a moment later asked, "The glow sticks are reusable, right?" At his friends' affirmative nods, he continued, "Okay, then! Sam takes the Stunner, try not to shine it on anyone, and Tucker takes the glow sticks!"
Sam and Tucker didn't look thrilled with the idea, but a few minutes later, the three of them had separated and sought their objective in the midst of a large thicket of trees.
Sam moved another large branch out of her way as she shone the stunning flashlight over another pile of leaves. She heaved a sigh as she continued onwards. This was not how the goth had expected to spend her last few hours on this world. And this trip had been going so well.
'Well,' Sam thought to herself, 'almost.' After all, Danny did completely ignore her when they first got there. She still felt a little sore about that. However, if he hadn't of ignored her, they may not have been able to find the location of the rift they still needed to fix. Not that they've found its exact location yet, but still. The professor was very helpful, and everyone at Xavier's Institute was very understanding. It was nice to have things go their way.
Sam got on her hands and knees and looked under a bush. 'Until now, anyways...' she couldn't help but think. Why was the PDA malfunctioning, anyway?
As she scooted back a few feet to more easily stand back up, Sam froze at the sound of a crunching noise from behind her. She shot into a crouched position, partially hiding behind the nearest tree. She knew it could've been Tucker, blindly wandering into the area she was supposed to be searching, or even a small animal, like a squirrel or bird. Neither of those options helped quell the nervousness she felt, however, and Sam kept quiet as she listened.
A few moments passed. The teenaged girl took a breath to calm her nerves, then stepped back out from behind the tree.
"Little girls like you shouldn't be out at night."
Sam spun around at the voice behind her, only to feel like a baseball had been batted into her gut. She didn't even have time to take in the image of her captor before she felt her body lifted from the force and flying through the air.
Her landing consisted of two bushes and a tree. She was thrown for a loop for a bit, but then managed to shake it off enough to do a quick mental check of her body. Nothing major was broken, thankfully; the bushes had kept her landing clean. However, as she tried getting up, Sam noticed the punch had cracked a rib or two.
She gasped a sharp, painful breath, then bit her lip as she focused her eyes on her attacker. Sam was again startled, this time by his appearance. What she first thought was a smug smile, she slowly realized looked more predatorily hungry. It fit right in with his clawed hands, hulking form, and dangerously glowing, deadly eyes.
As he slowly stalked towards her, Sam wondered why this creature reminded her of some twisted version Wolverine. Perhaps it was because they had the same hard look, only this guy came with a whole lot of crazy thrown in. Sam felt her throat constrict as she realized that, whoever this mutant was, he had less compunction about killing her right there than Danny's evil future self; and he had been the most crazy she had ever seen. Not anymore.
As the crazy man who reminded her of a cat reached Sam and smiled maliciously down at her, she noticed he was toying with her; his prey. She briefly wondered what he would look like in the full light, if he was just as scary then. That's when it hit her. One last move this "powerless" girl could make.
Sam looked directly up into the monster's eyes, hardening her own as she calmly gripped her only available weapon. As she had hoped, he focused entirely on her face and paid no attention to her hand and the flashlight strapped to her wrist. The Fenton Stunner had been in a position that made it hard to grasp, and Sam knew she wouldn't stand a chance if she made what she was doing obvious.
Just as she got the grip right, the cat man glanced at her hand, showing he had been paying attention all along. However, he obviously thought it was not worthy of his notice as he said, "Whatch'a gonna do? Blind me?" He finished with a quick huff of laughter.
Sam smiled. "Something like that."
She threw her hand up and flipped on the switch as she aimed it at the creep standing less than a foot away. The light activated and a powerful stun ray blasted in the large man's face. He immediately stumbled back and cried out in confusion, closing his palms over his face as he tried to contain the turmoil in his mind.
Sam didn't know why the guy didn't pass out as she kept the light aimed on him, but wasn't going to stick around to find out. She dove through the bushes and ran for Danny and Tucker, not looking back and being sure to make as little noise as possible.
After almost a full minute of running, she stopped herself from entering a clearing where she heard voices.
Peeking through a low-hanging tree branch, Sam stifled a gasp.
Tucker tried to keep himself from panicking. He was still trying to figure out what exactly happened. One moment, he was talking to Danny after having accidentally wandered into the wrong area, and then next thing he knew, Danny had been knocked unconscious by a surprise attack. Some kind of metal ball came from nowhere and conked the ghost boy out.
As Tucker tried to wake his friend, he found the two of them were surrounded by some big tough guys in weird suits. They were obviously mutants, one guy had metal skin, another could control fire, and a third was hovering above the ground. The fourth had some kind of inverted eye condition, but didn't show any other signs of powers. Until the playing card he was holding glowed menacingly.
The non-powered teen felt himself gulp involuntarily as the floating guy lowered himself to the ground next to Danny. He wore some strange purple and red helmet that matched the rest of his suit, which came with a cape. Tucker quickly got the feeling he was the boss, with how impassively he treated the others while they waited uncaringly.
Purple helmet, as Tucker decided to call him, looked at Danny in interest. After a few moments of studying him silently, the guy turned and gestured towards the sky. Immediately, a strange, metal rectangle showed up and descended to land on the grass next to Danny. It started pushing itself underneath him, like it was going to carry his body. Tucker realized the purple guy had metal powers, and did a quick inventory on himself to check for anything metal.
That's when he remembered that he was the carrier of the PDA, and all the power that he couldn't let this guy use. Tucker tried to calm himself and keep a steady head. There was no use-
A motion off to the side drew his attention. Tucker tried to discreetly watch the bushes on the other side of the clearing, while also watching the large, metal rectangle bend itself around Danny's form, trapping him inside. If Tucker could have done anything to stop these powerful men, he would have.
Another carefully-timed wave caught his attention, and Tucker caught sight of dark purple. Sam's exact shade, to be precise. He bit his lip and waited for the right moment, pulling out the PDA for her to see and no one else. Moving it a bit to catch some moonlight that had recently come out, he aimed for the reflection to hit where he had seen Sam's movements, making absolutely sure she caught the message. Tucker knew he had one chance, one move to make, to save everybody.
"AUGHHHHH!" Tucker screamed at the top of his lungs like he'd seen his first ghost, or was told to clean out the basement. He turned and ran towards the nearest set of bushes, his unexpected outbreak slowing the enemies' reactions. As he dove into the bushes, he really hoped they would believe he had just been frozen in shock until that point. If they decided to thoroughly search the bushes, the PDA would be found and his distraction would have been for nothing.
As he was dragged away by the metal-skinned guy moments later, Tucker kept up the act. He kicked and screamed like he was completely afraid. It didn't hurt that he actually was, of course. All he could think about as the group flew away- carried by the metal-controlling guy, he'd guess- was how much he hoped Sam would find the PDA and rescue their butts.
And how much he hated being the damsel in distress!
It had taken all night, but a weary Sam finally managed to reach the mansion.
She was welcomed in with worried gazes, everyone wondering about her disheveled state and lack of friends. Despite the panic, it was comforting to find rest among friends after such a long run.
While Sam was still breathing heavily, the professor began questioning her. For the sake of privacy, he brought both of their minds into a mental plane of the mindscape where she could project her thoughts. "What do you remember?"
Sam looked around and saw they were elsewhere, in some kind of foggy blankness. The professor was there, though, so she answered. "A bunch of people attacked us. The whole thing was an ambush. I recognized that card guy, Gambit, and that metal guy, Colossus, from that Danger Room simulation. Other than that, there was a guy in a purple suit with a helmet and cape, some kind of smelly wild guy with claws, and somebody with a flame-thrower strapped to his back with its tubes running down each arm." As she described them, their images from her memories showed up around the two, surprising her.
Xavier nodded. "I see. Magneto has learned about and taken an interest in you three, especially Danny. I don't know how much he knows, but this is fairly drastic for him." He quickly showed her the basic information regarding the group she encountered, then hesitated. "Do you mind if we include the others in on who you are? If we are to retrieve Danny, the lack of information may be detrimental to our success."
Sam sighed, stressed and no longer caring. "Yeah, let's just do it and get it over with."
Professor Xavier nodded and patched all the other members of the household into their conversation. After they all showed up in the strange mental abyss, Sam enlightened the group on who she, Danny, and Tucker really were and where they were from. It was handy having the ability to show them using images from what she remembered.
"So," Bobby started, while they were still in the mindscape, "you're like, ghost hunters turned inter-dimensional rift hunters?"
Kitty grinned. "That's so cool! But why didn't you guys tell us that before?"
"Uh..." Sam tried to think of what to say, then panicked when she saw an image of Batman talking to her come up. It was behind the others, who were facing her, so she quickly waved it back down, not quite knowing the details on how to work her mind while inside it. She probably looked like she was miming something. Luckily, the professor shut down the little get-together in her head. Back in the real world, she simply shrugged before saying, "We didn't know you at first, then decided we didn't want you guys making a big deal out of it later. We only told Professor Xavier."
Kurt frowned. "We wouldn't have made a big deal out of it."
"Hey, guys, check this out!" Everyone turned to see Bobby with a crude, life-sized ice sculpture of Skulker. "It's an inter-dimensional ghost made of metal! Bet Magneto would love to get a hold of him!"
"Mr. Drake," the professor said, calm but displeased, "please do not mention anything you've heard in Miss Manson's mind again, and do not build ice sculptures depicting what you've seen. This is a matter meant to be confidential. We are explaining it to you so you'll be aware of why Magneto has taken an interest in our friends. Somehow, he has learned of exactly what you just so callously exclaimed."
Now very red from embarrassment, Iceman rubbed the back of his neck as he muttered, "Sorry." He backed up as Amara melted the sculpture with her flames. Perhaps those sculpting lessons weren't so useful after all.
Professor Xavier continued, "Please, all of you, understand that these are our guests, just passing through and not wanting any attention. Treat them as you have throughout the week. I am aware you are not ones to judge, but the matter is now about the danger involved in what they do."
Sam gripped her head in frustration. "Yeah, danger that just got Danny nabbed by a psychopath. If we don't find him, who knows what they could do to him? Them. Danny and Tucker. That's what I meant."
The professor smiled. "Danny is the one in a more dangerous situation. Greater concern for him is understandable."
Sam rolled her eyes but blushed.
Forge, a mutant with amazing technological skills who lived elsewhere but frequently visited, spoke up, curious about something. "In your mind, you showed that you could track anything from the inter-dimensional rift with your PDA, right?"
Sam nodded. "Tucker's PDA, but yeah."
"Would 'anything from the inter-dimensional rift' include the three of you?"
After a moment of blinking stupidly, Sam grinned.
"Danny?" Tucker meekly called in a loud whisper. "Danny, can you hear me?"
After the park, they'd been carried to an abandoned warehouse in some nondescript area. They were each then put in hospital gowns and strapped to stretchers and brought into a large room that looked like a mixture of a makeshift hospital and chemistry lab. A few doctors and scientists were continuously coming in and out of the room, studying Danny - and occasionally Tucker - in excitement.
Sometimes, such as now, the two teens were left alone. Tucker would always use this time to try to escape, though he never managed much success, or try to wake up his friend. His friend who had had anesthetics pumped into him for the entire time.
Tucker sighed and laid his head back down. This was bad. Bad enough that he didn't even focus on the resemblance of a hospital around him, something which would normally make him shiver. He'd heard them call Danny by name, so they obviously knew about the travelers to their world. Which explained the occasional study of himself, too. How did they find out about it? Surely no one at the mansion betrayed them.
Tucker had to admit to himself that he couldn't know for sure. As much fun as the past week had been, he really didn't know much about the people they lived with. Who just so happened to convince the three that the tear had been in the park, when Tucker's own PDA said otherwise. Who were the only ones that knew their names.
Did that mean no help was coming? Was Sam returning for help, only to run into a trap? Could whoever betrayed them do the same again to her?
Tucker banged his head back against his uncomfortable bed. This was not the thinking he needed to have right now. Getting him and Danny out of there was the only thought that should be going through his mind. Focus on freedom. Freedom and food. A big tasty, Nasty Burger with chili fries and a nice-
What was that?
Tucker stared wide-eyed at the bug that landed on his chest and seemed to stare at him. The metal bug that stared at him. The metal bug with a creepy, metal face that stared at him and reminded him of Vlad. Vlad and his creepy bug spy robot things...
The... thing seemed to assess him and deem him irrelevant. It flew upwards and then over to Danny's side of the room. Tucker's eyes followed it the entire way. After evaluating all the equipment it could find, it landed on Danny and examined him. Tucker gasped as it suddenly seemed to stab him with something, probably a needle, and extract whatever it was after. Probably ectoplasm.
As much as Tucker wanted to shout and get somebody's attention, because that thing did not look like it belonged, Tucker didn't know anything about it. It wouldn't do much good to draw attention from their captors, whom Tucker had a real dislike for. It would likely escape before anyone came to investigate, in any case. And, whatever it was, its secrecy seemed to imply it to be an enemy of the people here.
The "enemy of my enemy" and all, right?
Besides, it could have belonged to a possible rescuer. Might as well leave it be. After all, it's not like the situation could get much worse.
Sam felt impressed with the X-Men's setup. Within minutes, the group had changed into their uniforms and were prepping the X-jet for takeoff. As she entered the craft and took a seat, even if it was Bobby who so gallantly offered it, she watched as even Iceman's face was set in a determined expression. Everyone here, regardless of their strange tendencies, was fully professional in light of the danger her friends were in.
It was actually rather calming.
Danny would be safe, as would Tucker. The two were resilient, and it wasn't like the bad guys wanted them dead. According to the professor, anyway, but she felt good about trusting him. He'd proven himself, well enough.
Even if he did let them fall into a trap.
Sam scolded herself for the thought. They shouldn't have fallen for it, themselves. Everyone was to blame for the fiasco, and so it was better to just focus on getting out of the mess instead of playing the blame game.
The other students were atypically quiet, Sam noticed. They seemed to be just as worried as her, which seemed strange. Perhaps it was because they hadn't known Danny that well. He'd overcome far worse situations, and the goth trusted him to do so again.
Sam felt a tiny smile flicker onto her face before she hid it from the others. Even Tucker was pretty decent at getting out of a scrape, if he needed to be. Not that she would ever admit it to the egotistic nerd. Between the two of them, she had no fear that they weren't alive and well.
Besides, with a battle coming up, she couldn't afford to have any.
"What do you mean you can't find anything wrong?" The voice of the master of magnetism was strained with anger, but aside from that and his narrowed eyes, he seemed the epitome of patience. That would not last much longer. The incompetence of these fools were grating on his nerves.
Unfortunately, he couldn't rely on any mutant scientists for what he needed, so he was forced to work with humans. Luckily, they were more interested in the study of someone from another world than they were uncomfortable working with a powerful mutant. Lucky for them.
"Like we said," the nervous PhD holder started, "we can't find anything to indicate how to locate another universe, even if we had something powerful enough to send us there. The substance that had bonded to the boy in his world has completely altered his DNA, to the point where we don't know if a particular difference is due to being from another universe or being transformed at the molecular structure. If-"
"We captured two of them, did we not? The other boy has broken through universes as well, and he has no such changes."
The scientist bit his lip. This was the part he had been getting to, and he didn't know how the dangerous man in front of him would take it. "Yes. That's true. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have any difference in him. At all."
If Magneto's eyes hadn't been narrowed before, they were most certainly now. "Explain."
"Well... it's not like there's nothing wrong with him, or different. It's just... impossible to pinpoint it! There's something there... but then there's not. There's nothing wrong, but at the same time, I know there is!"
Slowly, all the metal in the room started bending, crumpling under an invisible hand. The man who drew the short straw in reporting to Magneto gulped as his nervous sweating increased.
But the master of magnetism made no other signs of impatience. Instead, he spoke again, "What, exactly, can you tell me?"
Taking a deep breath, the possibly doomed man took the plunge. "I think there's something protecting him. It's as if every time we find anything that could provide answers, it's immediately erased. Not just from our equipment, but even in our minds... it's like it evaporates!"
Oddly, Magneto seemed to take the reverse stance of what the scientist considered unusual. Retreating inward, the mutant whispered in deep thought, "Not just your minds, but your equipment as well?"
Before Magneto could send him on his way, to give the magnetic mastermind time to think, the scientist gained enough courage to report the last of the puzzling developments. "There's one more thing, sir."
Magneto's focus moved back to the man in front of him.
"We noticed that when we focused a microscope on some of either boys' blood, or anything of theirs, really, there was something written." He paused, until Magneto made it clear he had no choice but to continue. "Something was written... on the microscope."
Magneto blinked at that.
The man pursed his lips, before continuing. "Something seemed to write itself onto the microscope every time we looked at their DNA, at the same time that our equipment and memories... malfunctioned."
The mutant terrorist raised an eyebrow in question.
The man shifted before stating what sounded like a non-sequitur, "Bad Wolf."
Suddenly, a clap of thunder sounded and the lights went out.
Ororo had been initially concerned about cutting power to the base with a lightning strike, but she trusted Kurt's judgement that neither Danny nor Tucker were in immediate danger with the move. It was good that he had been able to teleport into the room where the two were being held, with a few stops in between to make sure he didn't end up inside any walls. She would never forgive herself if either boy had been on a life support system of any kind.
While the blue-furred boy would try to help Danny and Tucker out of their restraints, the rest were to provide a distraction by landing the jet in front of the warehouse where they were being held. The lightning, thunder, and power outage would be more than enough to have Magneto running to meet them, as well as his Acolytes and a small army of mind-controlled humans; soldiers, to be precise.
Ororo could think of a few words she wanted to have with the kidnapper. This wasn't usually his style, or so she thought.
Seeing as her role was air support, Storm hovered over the fight scene and watched her friends below. She sent gusts of wind and lightning strikes as needed, but otherwise felt fairly helpless from her position. It was not easy sitting back and watching others rush into danger.
As the fight went on, with Magneto and his Acolytes taking on Xavier's X-Men, Storm sought out Sam's figure below. The girl had great skill, and seemed well-versed in battle, as she used her weapons to harmlessly take the human soldiers out of the fight. Ororo found herself wondering if she should consider that skill a good thing, but she knew the girl would not forgive herself for sitting out of a fight over her friends. For now, her experience in fighting was appreciated.
Storm noticed Colossus standing guard in front of Magneto, ready to leap to his protection as needed. The weather controller felt a smirk cross her face as an idea occurred to her. Linking telepathically with Charles to confirm she would not interfere with a separate attack, Ororo drew upon her link to the storm she had called up. Focusing her will on Colossus, she commanded an electric blast of lightning to curve down and blast across his metal skin.
The electricity surged across him and around his back, blasting Magneto into the wall behind him. He was officially down for the fight. While the mutant mastermind would have normally used his magnetic abilities to channel a lightning attack away from himself, coming from the back of Colossus was hardly something he would have been prepared for.
Just as Storm was not prepared for the surprising smirk on Colossus' face. He had taken Magneto's downfall in stride and continued to stand there, unmoving. It was as if Magneto had been the only reason for him to fight in the first place.
This was something she would have to mention to Charles later.
As the X-Men advanced, the Acolytes decided that it was nearing time to cut and run. Magneto was down and not even the misdirection of Mastermind, their own telepath, was able to confuse more than a fifth of Xavier's students while still controlling the humans. With a high level of doubt that the captives were even in the building, it was game over.
Sam could feel her heart beating as they got further inside and closer to Danny. And Tucker. The mutant terrorists had only had them for one night, so it's not like they could have done any real damage, right?
Sam's encouragement didn't make her feel better, and she instead found herself becoming more reckless as she ran inside while blasting anyone she didn't recognize. There'd still been no confirmation that Danny and Tucker were safe, just that they wouldn't be put in danger by switching off the power.
Having made it into the building, slightly frustrated for sneaking away from the fight, Sam ran around a corner into a hallway. She stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of someone she recognized.
Sabretooth turned around, then smiled wickedly. "Hello, again, girlie. Come back for seconds?" He held up a hand of very long, very sharp claws.
Sam didn't think he'd give her the chance to pull out the stunner again, so she fell back into her second choice. Running as fast as her legs could carry her.
Ducking back out into the room she'd just left, her brain failed her as she let instinct take over and flew out into the main fight. Unfortunately, while she had put good distance behind herself, she'd lost track of where she was going.
Before the sight of her surroundings could catch up with her brain, something hard slammed her head back before blackness enveloped her.
Sam moaned as the fog cleared and light filtered in through her eyelids. Sitting up, she noticed that she was lying on a hospital bed in a small room. Although it seemed sterilized, Sam was pretty sure she wasn't in a hospital. Looking around, she saw Dr. McCoy minding some blood tests.
"Are any of those mine?" Sam noticed her voice was a little dry, but she otherwise felt fine. Suddenly remembering why she was out, she touched her forehead and winced. There was quite a goose egg at the hairline.
Hank turned to her and smiled. "No, no, nothing here of yours. You're perfectly healthy, of course; minus the head injury."
Sam nodded, feeling a little weak as she tried to sit further up. "What did I miss?" Eyes widening at a thought, Sam had a moment of panic. "What about Dan-"
"Whoa, easy there!" The blue-furred man crossed the room to her in no time and steadied Sam as she got out of bed. "Danny and Tucker are both fine. I don't know how they're doing psychologically, but the two are as physically fit as ever." With a wink and a whisper, the Beast added, "For however much that is worth."
Sam gave a half-smile, but was too worried to afford the good doctor more than that. "Where are they?"
"I believe the majority of the mansion's residents are either in the kitchen or meeting at Cerebro. Your best bet would be to try the latter of the two."
Sam thanked him and headed out the door of the med center.
Upon reaching the room housing the Cerebro device, Sam saw that about half the students and Danny and Tucker were there, waiting on Professor Xavier. Walking up to Danny, Sam asked about what was going on.
In the time that she'd been out, the professor had contacted a local mutant genius that was an acquaintance of the students. While Danny and heads of the school had a lengthy discussion of where everything went wrong, Tucker and the mutant technological genius, Forge, had re-calibrated the PDA and safely wired it into Cerebro. Now, Professor Xavier sat there using the new setup to search for the rift directly. Danny couldn't recall any more technical info than that.
As for what had been discussed between Danny and the adults, they had narrowed down the separate causes of the unknown chaos that had led to Danny being captured and experimented on. It was most likely Mystique who somehow gained the information that they were not of this world; she had many ways of doing so and had seen Danny in action earlier. In all probability, she'd simply listened in on the conversation shared between the professor and Danny that first day.
Having taken that to Magneto, the leader of mutant terrorism decided that a human who became so powerful was too much a temptation to resist. He searched out the specifications that Charles set out, and then set up the fake sightings. This was all done in an attempt to unlock the secrets of Danny's biology, to either duplicate it or gain information that could lead to travel to another world.
However, that was not the entirety of the problem. The fake sightings only worked because the rift could not be found. As far as the PDA was supposed to work, they should have ended up near the rift. If they did, it was very well-hidden. More likely, there was something at work blocking the area in which it had appeared. Something which redirected the portal the kids came out of to an area already filled with unstable energies: Xavier's mansion.
Before Danny could continue, Professor Xavier set down the Cerebro helmet and turned around to address everyone gathered. Nodding at Sam, he first welcomed her. "Miss Manson, I'm glad you were able to join us. As I am sure Danny was just telling you, it appeared that someone powerful is hiding any traces that your anomaly exists. For that reason, I feared that the rift you're looking for is in dangerous hands. That fear was... well-founded."
Sam tensed up, and noticed Danny do the same. Of course it wouldn't be so easy; they had only gone through kidnapping and experimentation, after all.
Danny was the one to ask, "So, you found it? Where?"
The professor sighed and rubbed his temples. Wherever it was, Sam could tell it would not be good. "Latveria."
Although the name didn't mean anything to Sam and a few others, including Danny and Tucker, there was a general murmuring that started up that didn't put her at ease.
Sam frowned. "So... what does this mean?"
Instead of answering her, Professor Xavier looked past the group and asked, "Yes, Logan?" Sam, along with everyone else, turned in surprise to the entrance of the room.
Wolverine was frowning as he motioned for someone on the other side to enter with him. He was obviously uneasy with whoever he had been leading. "We've got a visitor, Chuck. And you're not gonna believe who it is."
A woman walked slowly past the clawed mutant, calmly settling into a peaceful stance a few feet into the room. Sam quickly realized the woman was blind, as she wore large sunglasses and held a white cane out in front of her. Though, she did seem to be staring right at Professor Xavier. "Hello, Charles."
With a simple nod of his head, the professor replied, "Irene."
With a small smirk, the blind woman corrected him. "Please, Charles, call me Destiny." At his hesitantly understanding nod, she continued, her voice falling into an ominous overtone. "But formalities aside, we have a problem. Something which threatens us all." Turning to look at Danny, which was really strange for someone purportedly blind, she spoke with a powerful and knowing edge to her voice. "And it concerns you most of all."
Surprised, Danny pointed at himself. "Me?"
Destiny nodded. "What I have come to give you is a warning. In Latveria, a trap awaits you. Victor von Doom, the tyrant in rule of the country, is prepared for you. He wishes to use the power of the space/time rupture to aid in his attempts at conquest. If you were to leave now in an attempt to close the rift, even with the aid of the X-Men, he would conquer you and all hope would be lost."
Kitty raised her hand, slightly nervous, and spoke, "Why do you care? Aren't you, like, one of the bad guys?"
Destiny's large, black sunglasses were directed at the phasing mutant. "I care, child, because I have seen what happens if Doom continues his tests on the outer ridges of the tear. Trust me when I tell you, the destruction that came to me within my vision is a disaster like no other. It will rip apart the world into fire and ashes, before plunging whatever's left into utter darkness."
Tucker gave a low whistle and whispered to Danny. "I got to hand it to her, she knows how to dramatize!"
Though the boy had spoken quietly, Destiny twisted her head towards him. "This is no dramatization! The end of the world is nigh, unless you recruit the only ones who can stop the Latverian dictator."
Eyes wide at having been heard, Tucker quickly blinked a couple of times before managing to get out, "Who would that be?"
Destiny focused her gaze on Danny. "In the city, there is a structure called the Baxter Building. There, you will find four heroes that are said to be 'Fantastic.' They have experience fighting Doom and his armies and will guide you through his encampment surrounding the rift."
Sam finally weighed in on the conversation, not much caring for the idea of involving even more people. "While I'm sure these fantastic guys are trustworthy-"
Bobby leaned over to her shoulder and quietly said, "One of them's a girl."
Sam rolled her eyes and gritted her teeth for a moment, before continuing. "We are pretty capable, ourselves! I mean, if you all can fly us in your jet until we're over the rift, Danny can fly us the rest of the way down. We'll phase through any attacks or barriers, Tucker can fix the tear in a matter of moments, and then we're on our way! What plan could be better?"
Destiny's eyes flashed as she shot down the girl's plan. "Have you heard nothing I've said? He is prepared for you." Turning, the clairvoyant mutant pointed at Danny. "For him! Do you think Magneto was the only one experimenting on the boy's DNA?"
At everyone's shocked looks of confusion, Destiny regarded Charles. "Xavier's queries after you informed him of your mission were traced back to him. Doom is no fool; he kept a close eye out for any clues regarding the rift found in his kingdom. While Xavier hunted for information, he himself was being hunted. And once Doom's glance fell on him, all mutants were put under his microscope."
"He knew of Magneto's plans to kidnap a boy from another world even before it was put into action. As the master of magnetism studied the hybrid, he was unaware of Doom's successful extraction of the ghost DNA. By now, the technological genius of Doom has allowed him to create a rough but efficient ghost shield."
Destiny waited a moment for that to process in the minds of her audience. "Had you gone in like you'd planned, your friend's phasing ability would have been interrupted. Had you survived the long fall, all three of you would suffer experiments by Doom's hand that rival anything Magneto would try. He has far greater resources at his command. This is why I have come to warn you."
Feeling sufficiently chastised, Sam pushed back the urge to tell Danny she had been right in telling him not to tell the X-Men anything. This could have all been avoided if they'd given as little information as possible. Now, though, any hope of that was lost. With this news, it had become all or nothing.
Feeling thankful for avoiding another screwup ahead of time, Sam looked back at Destiny and nodded. "Then I guess we should get whatever help we can find."
Bobby shot a fist up into the air in excitement. "Woohoo! I finally get to meet the Invisible Woman!"
Kurt grinned. "Ja, man. I've always wanted to meet the Thing. Ben Grimm rules!"
The Beast rubbed his chin. "I personally would love a visit to the lab of Reed Richards. I met the man once at a lecture on biodiversity sciences. He has a truly gifted mind."
Tabitha smirked in thought. "Sounds like fun. I hear Johnny Storm knows how to show a girl a good time. Yummm." She looked at Danny and winked, laughing when he blushed and Sam narrowed her eyes at the explosive mutant.
As the kids continued chattering excitedly amongst themselves, Wolverine leaned over to the professor and grunted. "I'm starting to get a bad feeling about this, Chuck. The Fantastic Four are a bit too... public for my comfort."
Professor Xavier held a very serious look on his face. "Regardless, we may need all the help we can get. Latveria is a dangerous land, thanks to Victor's enforcement over the entire region. If the Avengers weren't currently on a mission in deep space, I would consider calling on them for assistance. As it is, there are only a few individual options available."
Logan raised an eyebrow. "Such as?"
Charles pulled a newspaper from the side of his chair and handed it to Logan as he said, "Sometimes, the best help comes in small packages."
Wolverine opened the paper, a Daily Bugle special from several months ago.
"Spider-man: Hero or Menace." Looking in doubt at the professor, Logan had to ask, "You serious, Chuck?"
"Yes." Xavier leaned forward and steepled his fingers, regretting the decision he was about to make. "And... one other. Someone I had the misfortune of meeting once." Charles grimaced at the memory. "However, I feel that a full-on assault against Latveria may require a wild card that he would provide."
A frown pulled at Wolverine's face as he considered the possibilities.
Xavier turned to him and stated in a serious tone, "So long as he doesn't make things worse."
"It's clobberin' time!"
"Just your friendly neighborhood threat detect- LEFT!"
"Do you think a mere child could match wits with DOOM!"
"Who could possibly be crazy enough to do that?"
"Hey, fanfic readers! Who's your favorite psychopaaaaath?"
I'd just like to mention how much I hate this chapter. It has been the bane of my existence for the past year and a half. It's always been on my mind, and was so very slow going for all that time. I worked on various parts throughout the last two years, completely out of order, and even took out or replaced complete portions from my original outline. I had wanted a big focus to be on their week with the X-Men, but I instead skipped right over it! And I have grown as a writer through other means since I first started this story, which makes it feel like the whole thing is a giant patchwork mess from earlier days of writing to more recent ones. Not that I'm particularly great, but I believe I am better than I was when I last left you all hanging. In any case, I truly hope you all enjoy this and that it doesn't look like the giant, hulking monster it does to me.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled waiting...