The Race
by Indigo

Chapter 3

Sean Cassidy absolutely hated to fly if it wasn't under his own power, or with himself in the pilot's chair. But when Emma had abandoned her Massachusetts Academy, she had taken her private jet with her, leaving Sean to resort to commercial transportation. He also knew he had little in the way of advantage. Betsy was at his side, but they both knew if it came to a psionic confrontation between the two, Emma would have the advantage there as well. Sean could turn the advantage to a win with Banshee's scream, but he sincerely hoped Emma would not escalate the situation to that level.

Simply put, he planned to beat her to the punch -- get in, contact the new mutant, and get out again with the new mutant safely under his wing.

And God help Emma Frost if she tried any of her old tricks to get her way.

Emma Frost chuckled to herself, as Bumpkin drove Jono, Monet and herself to Kennedy Airport. She admitted with bemusement that she had made an oversight. Or, rather, she had discovered the advantage to having not forced the Generation X kids to join her when she returned to New York. Jubilee, Angelo, and Paige, were not privileged rich kids. They were able to relate to kids of their own station far better than Monet could, or Jono could from their position of privilege. She would have to rectify that situation as soon as possible.

In the meantime, though, if her affluent appearance was offputting to this new contact, she had an ace up her sleeve.

She quietly sat back in the seat, listening to Monet and Jono discuss who their new contact might be. Beside her, Tessa was on the phone, attempting to secure accomodations for them. "Oklahoma City is the best we'll be able to do, Ms. Frost. Only place within 100 miles of our contact with four star accomodations."

"It will have to do, then."

Bobby knocked on the edge of the doorway. "Hank, you decent?"

"It's ten am, Bobby. Of course I'm decent."

"Well," Bobby said with an air of mischief, "One never knows. Last I saw you, you were looking for Cecilia and..."

This got Bobby a beaker thrown at him, which he caught, laughing. "Seriously, I need your help."

"I have tried to persuade our Cecilia that this would be a good opportunity for her to see the less -- chaotic side of being an X-Man first hand, but she is immovable and refuses to accompany you." Hank shook his shaggy head slowly, looking faintly disappointed. "She is, I'm afraid, quite stubborn." Then, he grinned goofily, and added, "Whatta woman!"

"No, I'm good going by myself, Hank, honest. I was just hoping you'd make reservations at a hotel for me, so I could get a move on that much sooner." He already had a duffel bag and a garment bag slung over his shoulder.

Hank nodded. "Very well. You have my cellphone number. Call me in an hour and I'll let you know where you'll be dwelling for the duration of your scouting visit."

"You're the greatest, Hank, man. I owe you one."

"Indeed you do. You can take me out for beer at Harry's when you return."

"Done." Bobby turned and pelted for the door as he heard the cab honk for him. "I'll see you in a few days."

"Best of luck, to you!" Hank called.

"I'll need it!" Bobby called back before the door slammed behind him.

Once safely on the road, Bobby closed his eyes. The Professor hadn't mentioned it, and that lack of acknowledgement was all Bobby really needed. There were more organizations than the Xavier School and the Xavier Institute interested in contacting new mutants now. He doubted X-Force would care, nor what remained of X-Factor after Havok's death. But Banshee had raised holy hell telling the Professor that his plan had finally backfired -- that Emma Frost had showed her true colors and gone back to the Hellfire Club.

Bobby doubted it was as simple as that. He'd been there when Emma had awakened from her coma. He'd seen the horror and shock in her eyes when she'd found out that the first Hellions had been murdered in cold blood.

He'd seen the regret. He'd heard from Jubilee, despite the girl's outward condemnatioon of her, that the White Queen had developed compassion and genuine concern for the new students to which she had been entrusted.

It just didn't fit that she would go all the way back to the dominatrix bitch who had kidnapped Kitty Pryde after all this time.

As a result, Bobby Drake expected to run into Emma in Oklahoma, taking a less 'villainous' approach at swaying this newly manifested mutant to her camp.

Bobby decided that whether he would stand by and permit this would depend solely on whether Emma's change of heart had been as thorough as Charles and Sean would have him believe. He knew very well that, with rare exceptions, when someone reformed and joined the ranks of the X -- they usually stayed reformed.

He didn't want to scare off this new prospect, but he was determined to see for himself what the deal was with Emma. Why not do both at once?

He settled in to close his eyes. His powers would inform him by the ambient heat around him when they approached the airport. In the meantime, Bobby thought, I'm going to need all the rest I can get.

April wasn't especially warm in Custer City, so when Aiko woke, he shivered when he crawled out from under the handmade quilts and staggered sleepily to the shower. It was Friday, and the only day of the week Aiko regarded with anything resembling hope. It meant that if he survived this school day, he'd be able to come back to Banji's house and hole up in or near it for the entire weekend, thus sparing himself the jibes and jeers of his so-called peers.

He padded quietly down the stairs on socked feet; it wouldn't do to wake Banji. She taught afternoon classes and did what little the high school considered extra-curricular activities, before driving the 75 miles to Cheyenne and teaching night school there.

A breakfast of corn flakes -- God, what I wouldn't give for a croissant or a bowl of Chocolate Sugar Bombs, Aiko lamented, and then it was the three-quarter mile trek to school. I'm just glad Banji's not teaching at the high school or I'd really be in bad shape, having a godmother who's a teacher. He shook his head ruefully. Count my blessings where I can get 'em, I guess. He straightened his shoulders, lifted his chin, and prepared to deal with the tribulations the day would hold.

Skateboarding was not a pleasure in Custer City; it was just ... slightly faster than walking, and gave him a slight advantage over the kids who walked. The kids who had bikes were, unfortunately, another story.

"Hey, hey, Jimmy! Look! It's the freak!"

Oh God, here it comes again. Aiko sighed, and pushed a little harder off the sidewalk, so he could get what little head start he could against the boys who approached.

"What's the matter, freak boy? Scared to deal with some real men?"

Don't answer them. Don't answer them. Don't answer them. Aiko whirled, flipped them the finger, and called, "I'll deal with some real men when you can find me some, Tad!"

"You little --"

And the chase was on. If I have to put up with this Akane Tendo routine every day, I may as well make the most of it. For the first time since he'd arrived, Aiko Carey found a reason to smile. In fact, he felt positively invigorated!

Fortunately, since he was skateboarding into the rising sun, the glow that suffused his body went unnoticed.

"Monet, shortly after we land, you will fly ahead to the high school. Tessa and I have already enrolled you as a new student. You will attend classes and learn what you can about our new manifestation, discreetly," Emma said.

"Of course, Miss Frost."

Bobby Drake whistled cheerfully as he drove his rented jeep toward the little burg the pocket Cerebro was pointing him to. He knew he had a youthful enough face to pass for a high school kid if need be. Cerebro wasn't really sanguine on the details. The damn thing's been a little on the fritz since we rebuilt it after Bastion. Even Charles couldn't amplify the signal enough to pinpoint it exactly this deep in the boonies. So I get to do the undercover thing and use my looks to their advantage. Who'd'a thunk? Normally it's a nuisance to look this young; the guys needle me to death when we go out to Harry's to tie one on. But today, he felt certain, it'd serve him well.

Sean Cassidy made a plane-to-ground phone call to the Department of Education. "I'm just confirming our appointment for this afternoon. I will be with Miss Braddock, doing career training for any interested students. We've been working our way through the Midwest, and we're making a special effort to not over look the smaller towns." He glanced at Betsy and shrugged. This better bloody well work, he thought in Betsy's general direction.

[~You're a natural actor,~] Betsy smiled. It had been her idea to take this approach. It was a lot simpler than coming in with all mutant powers blazing and stirring up the community. Besides, this is a tiny little hamlet. Their nearest hospital is 16 miles away. They've got all of one police officer, according to my research. We don't want the town population to decide we're a threat. If we seem to have the welfare of their children at heart, they'll have more reason to trust us. Hopefully.

There weren't skateboarding hills, or big ramps to jump his board off, but Aiko suddenly found himself in higher spirits. He felt like he could run circles around the local yokels all day and never get tired. But he knew he couldn't disappoint Banji -- so it was off to school. Still -- this ray of hope gave him something to keep his spirits up all day. They'd undoubtedly come after him again, and he could show them how they did things in San Francisco.

Monet St. Croix sighed. I'm surrounded by philistines. The girls looked at her with envy and hatred. The boys looked at her with unveiled lust. All except for one -- the dark-skinned, exotic looking boy in the back row who resolutely kept his nose in his history book. This may make my task easier.

[~Ms. Frost -- it's a very small class, and one student is quite obviously an outsider.~ I don't dare check the pocket seeker device, though. It's a little obvious.~]

[~Keep me posted, Monet.~]

[~Of course, Ms. Frost.~]

continued >>

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