DISCLAIMER: The characters, save Aiko Carey, belong to the Marvel Comics Group and are used without permission for the sole purpose of entertainment. Aiko Carey belongs to Indigo, and should not be used without his permission.
FEEDBACK: always appreciated to indigo@indigosky.net
ARCHIVE: Usual rules apply. Carte blanche, go ahead. Otherwise, please ask.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Matt Nute, Redhawk, and Mughi (nobody you know) for help researching some of the Nietsche quotes I used. To Frito for being a beta-reader par excellence, and to Falstaff for some New Mutants backdata that was important to some of this story.
POST DATE: June 7, 2000

The Race
by Indigo

Chapter 1

Emma Frost was awakened by someone politely calling her name.

[~Miss Frost. Excuse me. Miss Frost.~]


The White Queen stretched languidly, and raised her hands to her face to lift the sleeping mask. [~Yes, Tessa, what is it?~]

[~Monet asked me to wake you. She says there's something in the ... radio room that you should see.~]

Emma nodded, slipping soundlessly out of bed. Sebastian Shaw mumbled, slightly disturbed by the motion, then turned and went back to sleep.

[~Tell her I shall be down directly. Have a pot of coffee sent down, and my usual breakfast.~]

[~Very good, Miss Frost. Jamaican Blue Mountain, Hawaiian Kona, or Sumatra?~]

Emma paused thoughtfully, padding toward the bathroom on bare feet. She considered the question as she turned the spigots and waited for the steam to indicate her shower would be hot enough. [~Sumatra, Tessa. And thank you.~]

[~Very good, Miss Frost.~]

Emma stepped into the steaming water and closed the telepathic connection.

The "radio room" was where the Hellfire Club kept their version of Cerebro -- a device designed on Xavier's own mutant-detecting computer. And if Monet thought this required Frost's personal attention, then she had found something unique and interesting.

Emma smiled as the hot water washed the languor of sleep from her mind and body. The four months since she had returned to the Hellfire Club with Jonothon Starsmore and Monet St. Croix at her side had been fairly uneventful, save for re-securing her position as White Queen. Selene, sorcerer or not, was no match for Emma's psionic abilities. And Hellstrom seemed willing to hold the rest of his people in line under Shaw.

Monet had been flourishing in the Fifth Avenue Mansion the Hellfire Club called home. The rich surroundings suited her, as did being away from the riffraff back in Massachusetts. DaCosta's attentions had not hurt in the slightest ... and Monet's returning them distracted the boy sufficiently that he frequently forgot to be suspicious of Emma and Shaw's activities. She might have a turncoat White Pawn in her ranks before long, at this rate.

She and Shaw often discussed playfully making a bet whether that would be so.

Starsmore, unfortunately, had not been doing quite so well. His grasp on his psionic abilities was much improved. He was proficient enough now to send the length of the house without much difficulty -- this was practically a quantum leap from his previous ability to speak telepathically. He was impatient, but making a concerted effort not to let it discourage him from his efforts. He knew he was making progress, even if he had not yet developed sufficient control over the psionic energy that roiled within him to reconstruct his face. And while Amara Aquilla and Marie-Ange Tolbert now occupied the mansion as well, and fawned over him -- he remained unmoved by the girls' affections. His single-minded devotion was to restoring his body. And Emma knew, at that time, he would likely, since she remained in his thoughts, attempt to return to Paige Guthrie -- or seek to bring her to the Club.

At which point, Paige would refuse, and Emma would get to see where Jono's loyalties really lay.

The duration of her reverie was sufficient for her to finish her shower and return to the bedroom. Sebastian sat up in bed, regarding her with a sleepy, sloe-eyed smile. "Good morning, Emma."

She leaned to favor him with a kiss and the scent of her gardenia-fragranced skin, warm from the shower. "Good morning, Sebastian. Would love to stay and have -- breakfast -- with you," her smile indicated more than merely breakfast, "but it appears Monet's found something on the seeker system."

Shaw's brows lifted, and he reached for his black satin obe. "Really, now?

A potential Hellion?"

Emma chuckled throatily. "Depending on what she's come up with."

Shaw grinned. "You have taken well to getting back in the saddle, my dear."

Emma's smile remained on her face, though her eyes filled with ominous thunderheads. "I should never have left it, Sebastian." She let fall the white robe, and stepped nude into her closet, smiling as she heard Sebastian's back-throated growl of appreciation, and the accompanying rustle of the bedsheets.

The closet was full of clothes -- all white -- but no two alike. After some thought, Emma chose a form-fitting white dress with a matching lightweight overcoat. The fabric was thin enough to hint at the shadows of her legs when she walked, and snug enough to accentuate the curves she cultivated to speed men's hearts. White stockings and pumps completed the outfit. Her hair went up into a loose bun, with calculated wisps falling against the back of her neck and in front of her ears.

She glanced over her shoulder one more time at Sebastian, then went out to begin her day. The servants all greeted her with self-effacing politeness. She strode to the end of the hall and descended the stairs. "Good morning, Roberto."

Roberto DaCosta, the Black Rook, smiled solicitously. "Bom Dia, Miss Frost."

"And to you, Roberto." She continued down, not giving the young Brazilian a second thought. He had brought himself down from the level she considered a threat. Whether Monet had planned it or not, rendering the otherwise powerful Sunspot complacent was quite a coup.

Tessa was just exiting quietly from the radio room as Emma approached the door. "Your breakfast is ready as you ordered, Miss Frost."

"Excellent, Tessa. Thank you." She smiled as the aroma of coffee reached her, and finished her entrance. "Monet? You have something for me?"

Monet, who went by Arete as Emma's White Bishop, turned. "Yes, Miss Frost. We have a contact. By the readings, this one's fairly powerful. I thought you'd want to be notified at once."

Emma drank deeply of her cup; the first coffee of the day infusing her. "Well done, Monet. And what can you tell me about the contact?"

Monet's fingers flew with blinding speed across the keyboard. "The power readings are registering psionic and energy manipulator, Ms Frost.

Higher than Jono -- almost as high as yourself." She smiled up at her teacher. "You can be sure that the Xavier School will probably be after this one as well, if their seeker device is giving them similar readings."

"Indeed," Emma nodded, nibbling croissant. "And we shall have to get there first and secure this new contact's acquaintance and trust first. Where is our contact?"

Monet smiled and hit a key. A holographic heads-up map display flickered into existence between Emma and herself. A flashing golden pitchfork icon indicated the Hellfire Club's location in New York City. A little flickering green arrow tracked across the state, triangulating against the current location. It finally came to rest in Oklahoma. A few seconds later, the voice of the computer announced, "Custer City, Oklahoma."

Emma smiled. "Excellent. Pack a few things. We must be in the air in thirty minutes if we're to beat Xavier and Cassidy."

Monet arched one brow inquisitively.

"Xavier has the original Cerebro, upon which the one at Snow Valley and this one were both based. Xavier habitually prefers to see the new manifests himself...or, last such an encounter happened, he did. You children who became Generation X were a different case entirely. But the Phalanx necessitated a change from his customary methods of contact."

Frost strode toward the door. "I'll be contacting our tyro about the Frost Academy directly. Do let Jonothon and Roberto know I wish them to accompany me."

As Emma strode upstairs, sending a mental command to Tessa to pack her a bag, she left part of her brain to think. Custer City Oklahoma is likely to be quite ... off the beaten path. While the affluent approach may awe our young mutant, it may also offend or put him off. That means I may need someone else for him to relate to. She sat down on the bed, and lifted her phone to her ear, dialing one of her memory-stored numbers. Heaven help me, that Jubilee might actually have been useful to me in such a situation.

The phone rang at a modest yet opulent villa in Spain.

"Si?" Manuel de la Rocha answered the phone himself.

"Manuel. Darling."

"Emma!" Manuel's voice lightened with amusement. "What do you need?"

"You know me so well," Emma replied, making no pretense that she ever called Empath for anything else.

"Sean, luv, looks like you've got a new one." Betsy Braddock looked up at Sean Cassidy. Her eyes glowed faintly pink-violet.

Sean nodded. "Show me what you have, Betsy, would you?" He thanked the saints one more time for Jubilee's presence of mind. The girl might have been a colossal pain in the butt most of the time, but it had been her former affiliation with the X-Men, and Psylocke in particular, that had given him the idea to ask her to replace Frost at the school. We need a telepath, and the damnable Frost woman took M and Chamber both when she reverted to type!

Had Sean been a less reasonable man, he'd have called up Charles in New York to say, "I told you so." But he knew also that he was covering up his disappointment with good old fashioned Irish temper. Part of him had expected Emma to go back to being The White Queen ... but a greater part of him had, however begrudgingly, developed some affection for her ... and, worse, begun to believe in her.

"It's out west," Betsy explained. "Oklahoma or thereabouts. This knock-off you have here isn't as strong as Cerebro, so the magnification is not as optimum as I'd hope. Not to mention I'm not nearly as -- focused -- a telepath as Charles ... or Emma."

"Can you do any better than 'thereabouts', Betts?" Sean asked, leaning forward eagerly. "I hate to press you, but you know with Emma havin' returned to the Hellfire Club, she'll likely be actively recruiting again."

"You don't know that for absolutely certain," Betsy said reproachfully. "We have been monitoring the news, television, radio, and the Internet for any mention that the Hellions had resurfaced and were up to their old tricks."

"And how public were the previous set of Hellions, hmm?" Sean shook his head. "She's marshalling her forces, Psylocke. I just know it. And we have to get to this poor lad or lass first."

Psylocke nodded. "Valid point," she conceded, and turned back to attempting to triangulate in on the signal from the second-rate Cerebro.

continued >>

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