Part One - First Contact

by Sabia

Disclaimer: The X-Men and X-Force belong to Marvel Comics. Big Sugar belongs to themselves. Corn Pops, Pop Tarts, WD-40 and Deep Woods Off are trademarks of their respective owners. This is a nonprofit work of fiction. Julia de Santos/Shockwave belongs to me but she'll deny it if asked.


Author's Notes: This story begins just after X-Force #46.

~telepathic conversation~
*sound effects*

On a lovely Saturday in Westchester Julia de Santos, assassin, mutant and larval wine critic, was trying to avoid snorting a delicate Chardonnay up her nose. She was listening to a particularly scandal-minded tour guide declaim the habits of the proud founders of the surrounding region. What they put those dunking stools to use for was creative to say the least. I just love regional history she thought as she reached for another glass. You can always count on hearing more dirt in one hour than in one month of history classes. Hmm, not bad. I wouldn't have pegged this area good for Pinot Noir.

After skillfully securing a suitable lunch and a couple more bottles of wine to further critique, she wandered out towards a secluded portion of the vineyard's picnic area.

She was sitting in the shade with slice of Brie in one hand and a slightly warm glass of Chablis in the other when something loud sounded overhead. Julia squinted into the general direction of the noise.

Huh. That plane looks awfully low. Didn't notice an airport on the map. Must be a crop duster. Where'd that corkscrew go?

Come to think about it, that looks a lot like a SHIELD PACRAT. It looks like it's going to crash too. Probably close by.

"Oh, damn."

The plane wavered then dropped out of the sky and skidded along the tractor path. The loose parts flying off all directions would keep kids with metal detectors happy for months to come. Beams of red light lanced through the side of the PACRAT and a very disgruntled looking man with feathered wings came flying out. Something body-shaped and completely black followed a second later.

She stood up and shrugged her jacket back on. After a brief moment of consideration she picked up the remaining half bottle of Chablis and sauntered over to the black flying figure. He seemed to be keeping out of the way while a big Native American looking fellow and even bigger greyish guy were being beat up. They looked like they were both suffering from migraines for some reason.

"Sunspot, keep the crowd out of the way!" yelled a white-haired older man while taking aim with what was most likely the largest gun she had ever seen. I wonder if that's got a stun stetting, she thought absently. She looked at the energy-covered figure beside her. As far as she could tell from his expression he was annoyed at having been placed on the sidelines. The crowd was staying back anyway. Nobody wanted to be in the middle of a superpowered fistfight.

"Hi. Do you mind telling me what going on?"
Roberto DaCosta started at her direct question. Bystanders generally weren't this calm.
"He got loose. We're trying to bring him down." Hey, she's cute, he thought. She's not freaking out either. Wow.
Just then the older man was sent flying towards them. She waited until he'd bounced to a stop before asking "Do you folks need some help or are you just playing around?"
The older man's expression became even more glacial. "Kid, if you think you can stop him go right ahead. Otherwise get out of the way!"
"All right, settle down." She twisted her left wrist and a throwing knife dropped into her hand. She turned to see the winged man with the glowing red eyes flapping towards them.
She threw the knife which landed in his abdomen. The air in front of her shimmered she sent a force wave after it that hit him in the chest, shattering his sternum and more than a few ribs, throwing him backwards in the process. He landed among some Cabernet Sauvignon plantings screaming in pain until the drug seeping out from the hollow blade took effect. She trotted up and looked down at him. He didn't seem to be getting up again. She pulled the blade free, wiped it on the remains of his pants and tucked it away.

The team came running up. The older commander type stood with his excessively large gun in hand and glared down at her. Now that she came to think about it he looked really familiar. Her brain supplied a name after some searching. Nathan Dayspring. Cable. In the top ten of the Guild's 'do not mess with if you can possibly help it' list. Gods. I can't run into any random trigger-happy American. I run into the poster boy for Soldier of Fortune and his merry band of mutants. This started out to be such a good day. She pasted on her most charming smile.

"Good afternoon."
Silence. If possible, they seemed to glare even harder. Their eyeballs are going to fall out at this rate she thought. "Would it make you feel better if I told you he's probably not dead?"
"What the hell did you do?" Cable demanded.
"Stopped your hysterical playmate from wrecking this nice little vineyard." She retorted. "You're welcome."
"You knifed him the gut!"
"Well, he was holding off the three of you." She replied. "Four, if you count that gun you're carrying. I wanted to make sure he'd go down and stay there."
He raised an eyebrow at that. Interesting attitude. "Who are you?"
"Uh, uh. I'm the nearly innocent bystander; you're the guys in uniforms. You're supposed to go first."
He decided to try a light scan, just to get her name and to make sure that she wasn't a threat. He felt his telepathic probe hit perfect mental shielding. Damn, no luck there. Should have brought Dom along, he thought. Also explained why Mimic's telepathic attacks didn't work on her. He'd have to resort to charm. He smiled. It looked a little forced but he did it anyway.
"I'm Cable, that's Warpath, Caliban and Sunspot." he said pointing to each of them in turn.
"I'm Julia."
Cable frowned again. "No last name?"
"Well, that'd give you a two for one special wouldn't it?"
Warpath and Sunspot snickered. Cable glared at them and they quieted again. Caliban looked vaguely confused.
She gestured in the general direction of the downed cause of all their excitement.
"Look, I don't mean to be especially rude but shouldn't you be doing something about your buddy?"
They looked down at their fallen quarry. He was wheezing pitifully as only the critically injured could.
"He's out cold." Warpath observed.
"It's the sedative. It'll wear off in an hour or so."
"Sunspot, you and Warpath get a collar and stretcher from PACRAT."
As they ran off, Julia watched with an expression of mild interest. They're wearing matching spandex uniforms and buttons with X's all over. I wonder...
"Hey, are you guys X-Men?"
Cable looked offended. "No, we're X-Force." He seemed disappointed when she only stared blankly.
"Oh. Sorry. I'd hadn't realized it was a franchise operation."
The two returned, loaded the winged man on the stretcher and carried him back to the plane. She watched as Caliban trailed along behind. Something not quite right about that one, she mused.


"So what do you think Jimmy?" Roberto asked as they strapped Mimic down. A few bandages and an IV was the best they'd be able to do until they got back to the mansion.
"He's in rough shape." James Proudstar said as he studied the unconscious Mimic. Why'd he react so badly to their presence in Siberia was a mystery. The attack on the station had the fingerprints of the Acolytes all over it. Shouldn't have Mimic been glad to see another X-team?
"No, I mean about the girl outside." He glanced back out the door.
Said girl was sitting on picnic table speaking to an irate looking man. He seemed to be calming down by degrees. Then he nodded, waved in the PACRAT's direction and walked back into the winery house, herding curious onlookers back inside.
"Nice. Strange but nice."
"Caliban, is that girl a mutant?" Cable asked.
The tracker nodded. "Yes, Cable-Nathan. But she's all quiet."
"Not loud like Caliban's friends." Roberto looked up at this. "Maybe he means she's low level mutant."
"I don't think so. What ever she hit Mimic with wasn't that low." Cable said pensively. "Let's find out what she's telling everyone. Caliban, stay here and watch him okay?" he added.
"Okay Cable-Nathan."


"Was that all about?" Cable asked, striding up to Julia's table.
"Hmm? I apologized to the owner for the mess and offered to pay for the damage. He was asking what you guys were doing wrecking his vineyard."
"What did you tell them?" he demanded.
"That your team was bringing a delusional individual into custody and he attacked you in mid-flight. He seemed to take that very well and commended you fine enforcement officials for being so efficient."
Cable's train of paranoia derailed somewhat at the spin.
"You make us sound legitimate." Warpath commented.
"Would you have rather I said you're a group of mutants forcibly holding someone against their will, who was then was seriously injured in his escape attempt?"
"Nah, I like your version better."
She smiled at that. "Thanks."
"What are you doing now?" Sunspot asked.
"It looks like my winery tour is officially shot doesn't it?"
"I thought I'd see all those 'points of interest' in the visitors' guidebook."
A fighter, Cable thought. A smart, mutant fighter who happens to be on a tour of New York and in need of a tour guide.


Julia considered Cable's offer. Why do I get the feeling that this is a bit more than simple mutant to mutant hospitality? If I humour them, I'll probably get a look at the rest of their team and it'll be something to do for the rest of the day. If I decline, I'll bet Cable'll have at least one X-type following me around just on general principles.

She smiled winningly at him. "Sure, why not?"


Eventually it was decided that Julia and Sunspot would take her car back to the mansion while Cable, Jimmy and Caliban would take the PACRAT. Jimmy looked down at Lotus Esprit racing along well in excess of the posted speed limit. Roberto gets to ride with the girl with the cool car 'cause there's no way I'd fit into the cool car. Life was not fair. Cable was matching the road route the two were taking as much as possible just in case she wasn't as friendly as she appeared.

Theresa Rourke and Domino were sitting on the front steps. Cable had radioed in saying that Roberto would be arriving with a guest. Theresa was trying to explain why she was about ask out one Domino's most unfavorite people out on a date. The conversation had pretty much died a quick death and they settled for just waiting in silence. They watched as a black sports car sped up the drive and came to a tire squealing stop at the bottom of the steps. Roberto and guest emerged a few moments later.

Domino looked them over. Roberto seemed kind of rattled but all right. She didn't recognize the girl, though. After sorting through the introductions, Domino led them to a backyard patio off the wing X-Force occupied of the mansion.


In the medlab, Doctor Hank McCoy looked down at Mimic's battered form.
"Oh my stars and garters. What happened to the poor man?"
"A nearly innocent bystander." Cable quoted.
"Good heavens." Hank busied himself for a few minutes setting up the fields that would speed his patient's healing. Cable studied the monitors of the damage to Mimic's chest and abdomen.
"Do you have any idea what drug was used?"
"From the initial blood samples I'd say it's a synthetic derivative of metomidate. I'd have to run a few more tests to determine a specific variant."
Not just any knife welding mutant then, Cable thought. She's using professional quality stuff.
"Thanks, McCoy." he muttered as he walked out.


Domino decided to try the female bonding approach. It's damn frigging rare that we meet another mutant who isn't attacking us, she thought. Much less one who's obviously trying to make nice. She brought out a pitcher of Margarita mix and she, Theresa and Julia were discussing a whole grab bag of topics.

Tabitha Smith strolled out and joined them. I am not thinking about my sucky love life, she repeated mentally as she introduced herself to their guest.

Julia took another sip of her drink. It was non-alcoholic but very good. "Are all of you students here?" she asked. "Because that's quite the school uniform you're all wearing."
"Nah, we're a kick-butt mutant strike force." Tabitha replied.
Julia looked the costumes over carefully. Bad colors aside, from an assassin's point of view the outfits simply didn't seem very practical. They were lacking in any significant armor except for the shins and forearms. The torso, while well fitted, was not protected at all. And there wasn't any place for even the basic assortment of weaponry that she'd take on a job. I wonder if those little yellow pouches glow in the dark, she thought.
"I don't think anyone could be kick-butt in yellow and purple." She commented.
Tabitha looked somewhat offended by the assessment. "Hey, it's what the stylish superhero wears."
"Stylish is Donna Karan, Channel, and, when dressing down, Calvin Klein. Purple spandex is just outdoorsy fetish wear."
"Oh, yeah? What'd you know about fetish wear?"
Julia decided to ignore that question. Theresa giggled.
"Why all the poisoned knives then?" Domino asked.
"I heard that New York was full of brightly-colored costumed weirdos so I thought I'd come prepared." Julia answered dryly.
Domino smiled at that. "Point. Pun intended." She added.
"And, for the record, I only carry one poisoned knife while on vacation. The other seven are regular blades."
Theresa looked amazed at the idea. "Seven! Where do ye put them all?"
Julia picked up her coat from her chair, held it at arms' length and dropped to the cement. It landed with a muffled *clunk*.
"Gives a whole new meaning to 'feminine protection' doesn't it?" snickered Tabitha.


Shatterstar had been relieved that McCoy had seen fit to finally release him from the medlab. What the point was of all of the doctor's tests he couldn't fathom. All the man was able to say was that he wasn't human. I told him that, he thought sourly. As he had been dressing, Jimmy and Caliban had entered, carrying a wounded man in on a stretcher with Roberto and Cable following in after them.

He gathered from Roberto and Jimmy that the mutant they had been sent to retrieve, Mimic, had been subdued by an unknown person. "And she drives a cool car." Was Jimmy's additional observation. They decided to join the rest of their team on the patio with their guest. Caliban had left them to visit with the remaining Morlocks in the tunnels.

He studied her as they approached. Despite her casual dress he could see the grace and control of trained fighter in her movements. Judging from the wounds McCoy was now treating and her readiness for combat perhaps a good one. Quite different than the women at the clubs Rictor and I went to, he thought. I wonder what Rictor would say about her. Smaller than himself. Well shaped body. Black wavy hair pinned up. She turned and looked directly at him. Attractive features. Silver eyes. He could see the intelligence there. Rictor would say she is a 'babe', he concluded

Theresa was asking were the woman kept her weapons. She picked up her coat from her chair, held it at arms' length and dropped to the cement. He could hear the weapons inside land with a clatter.
Julia smiled at Tabitha's remark as she picked her coat of the ground. She felt someone's gaze on her and turned to see Jimmy and Roberto standing with a person she hadn't met yet.
"Hello. I don't think we've been properly introduced," she said politely "I'm Julia de Santos."
"My name is Shatterstar. I am pleased to meet you."
"Likewise, I'm sure."
Gods, he's beautiful. Julia gave herself a mental shake. Where did that come from? Think with your brain, girl. As it was, she was acting out of habit enough to scare herself back to Paris. Since when am I so chatty with strangers? She wondered. They're a nice bunch, though. Maybe not professional operatives but damn close. Free-lance heroes being managed by the ever-lucky Domino and the gun-toting Cable. They're not a new version of the Wild Pack so do they do their hero stuff for free? That's bizarre.

They discussed weaponry and concealment for a while. Domino, Julia and Shatterstar debated whether it was easier to carry bladed weapons or firearms with the others putting in comments intermittently.

Jimmy leaned over to Roberto as the issue of trenchcoats and swords was being considered.
"Maybe so, but what are you going to do when the weather heats up? You'll look pretty obvious; sweating like mad in a long coat in July." Julia was saying.
"I've never seen 'Star talk this much to someone who wasn't on the team." He said quietly.
"You've haven't seen him talk to a girl who carries knives while on vacation." Roberto responded. I think it's a sign of a dysfunctional personality, he thought. The people he knew who carried weapons all the time were crazy.


Professor Xavier was waiting in his study when Cable entered. He gave a terse summary of what happened when they retrieved the Mimic in Siberia, the possible involvement of the Acolytes and their meeting with Julia. The professor turned his hoverchair to face out the windows.

"Do you think that she knows that she is a mutant? Perhaps she struck out unconsciously."
"No. I'd say that she knew exactly what effect her power would have."
"But she doesn't register on Cerebro. I did check that when you mentioned that you were bringing in someone new to the mansion. I would suppose that her powers have only recently manifested themselves or are doing so sporadically."
Cable suppressed a sigh. He had spent enough years in the field to spot an operative when he saw one and Xavier had a hard time accepting that his mutant finding equipment wasn't as flawless as he made it out to be. But, in the interests of inter-team cooperation, he'd let Xavier have his way this time.
"Why don't you talk to her?"
"Yes, I think I should. Would you mind showing her in?"

After Cable let again, Professor Xavier studied a list of possible safe houses for the unfortunate Mimic. Why had Magnus' followers attacked him? Did they target him in particular or was it merely that they had happened on the research station and found it had connections to the X-Men? Do they still blame me for dealing with Magnus' madness as I did? Xavier mused. He closed his eyes at the memory of his one-time best friend's mind dissolving under his telepathic attack. It was necessary, he thought with his fists clenched. I must remember that.


They were discussing what tourist traps to terrorize when Cable came back.
"Julia, Professor Xavier would like to meet you. He's the founder of the school." Cable said.
Julia looked up at him. "Certainly." She collected her coat and followed him back into the building. The team glanced at each other as she and Cable left. Now she was gone they could talk about her.
"Hey, Domino, is the Prof gonna ask her to join up?" Asked Tabitha
"I don't know. We don't know anything about her." She replied.
"How old do you think she is?" Jimmy inquired.
"She's old enough to rent a car. At least twenty-five." Theresa said.
"She could be using fake ID. She doesn't look old." Roberto pointed out.
Domino frowned. "Twenty-five is not old DaCosta."
Roberto decided to leave that one alone.
"She's loaded. Did you see the clothes she's wearing? All designer stuff." Tabitha observed enviously.
Domino left them discussing their new acquaintance. I'd better run a background check on her, she thought.
~Nate?~ She called through their link.
~Yes?~ He sent back.
~I'm going to do a check into that kid~
~Okay, I'll see you after~


Cable and Julia entered the study. The room was dominated by a mahogany desk at the far end. Behind the large desk was a severe looking older man. He motioned for them to sit.

"Hello Julia, I'm Professor Charles Xavier." He said. His voice was studiously neutral but not unfriendly.
"Good afternoon, Professor. It is an honour to meet you. I must thank you for your hospitality." She responded formally.
Cable kept his expression blank. The kid could really pour it on. Xavier was a soft touch for manners.
"You're quite welcome." Charles considered how broach the subject. She'd already met X-Force so presumably she knew that they were mutants. "Nathan tells me that you demonstrated some unusual abilities when you encountered Calvin Rankin."
"I'm sorry, who did you say? Do you mean the fellow with the wings?"
Charles nodded.
"I didn't think my abilities were unusual, sir." She stated. Might as well cut to the chase. "I was under the impression that everyone here possessed metahuman abilities." She said with a wave indicating the school at large.
Charles nodded again, encouraged. That the child was aware of her powers and not horrified by her mutancy was good news indeed.
He leaned forward on his desk. "Quite so. I founded this school to help mutants learn how to control and use their powers. It is my dream that mutants and humans may eventually live in harmony."
"An admirable dream, sir."
"Do you mind telling me how your mutancy has manifested?" Charles asked gently.
"What has Cab-I mean, Nathan told you?"
Cable cleared his throat. "I told him that you threw Rankin back with some kind of invisible force."
Julia shrugged. "That's it, then."
Charles frowned slightly at her meager description. Perhaps she doesn't know how to articulate what she does, he thought. From what Nathan described earlier, it sounded like a raw form of telekinesis. He decided to try a light scan to evaluate her mental shielding. He reached out and had to contain his surprise. To his mind's eye her shields looked like a curving metal wall without a flicker of weakness anywhere. Was the child a telepath?
"Can you read people's minds or hear their thoughts?" He asked out loud.
"No." She answered in a puzzled tone. "Sir, not meaning to be rude but may I ask where this conversation is going?"
Charles drummed his fingers thoughtfully on his desk. Where indeed? The child was most likely telekinetic. She didn't claim any kind telepathic abilities but, given the level of her mental shields, those may had yet to manifest themselves. Decision made, he looked at her.
"Julia, would you be interested in learning how to use your mutant powers effectively?"
"Sir, that is a very generous offer. But may I ask why you think that I am unable to already use my power effectively?"
Charles sat back in his chair. That was not the answer he expected.

Cable looked at the two of them. Julia was wearing a 'young and respectful' expression and Xavier seemed taken aback by her decline for training. The kid obviously wasn't going to give an inch.
~Charles~ he sent ~She might not want to tell us right away. Why don't you ask her what she thinks of human-mutant relations? If she's already comfortable with her powers we may be able to use her on one of the teams.~ He felt Charles' mental acknowledgment.

"Tell me, have you heard of the X-Men?" He asked.
She looked mildly surprised at the change of topic. "Yes, sir."
"Are you aware of the goals the X-Men strive for? Of the reasons they risk their lives for a world that fears and hates mutants?"
Julia considered. Should I go for honesty or politeness? Let's try honesty and see where that goes. Cable was watching closely but didn't seem inclined to participate.
"If their goals are massive property damage wherever they go, scaring civilians, not explaining why they do the first two and thus generating additional negative media attention for mutants worldwide, then my answer is yes."

The conversation went downhill from there. Xavier found himself strongly disliking Julia's more militant stance. It sounded too close to what Magnus had always advocated. She didn't seem to think mutants and humans could live in true harmony either. "There will always be a particular group in charge, sir. I feel that mutants should be that group." She had said. He dismissed her and Cable after he felt she wasn't going to be suitable for his school.

Cable thought about the conversation as he walked her back to the patio.

"Cable, do you think the X-Men will be able to achieve Xavier's dream? You were very quiet during that little fiasco." She asked suddenly. He glanced down.
"Not really. X-Force is trying to use different methods to get there."
"We believe in the same goal but we take a more proactive approach to dealing with things.." He stated directly, watching her.
She seemed to consider that carefully. "Hmm." Was her response as they stepped out onto the backyard.
"I've got to check on a few things. Dom and I'll be back in a while." He told Theresa.
She nodded. "We'll try not to wreck anything in the meantime."


The mansion's information room had connections to their own extensive network of contacts and almost every law enforcement computer network in the world.
Cable leaned over Domino's shoulder to read the monitor. It bugged her to no end but privately he thought she was gorgeous when she was mad so he did more or less intentionally.
"Anything interesting Dom?"
"Not much. Not anything actually. Are you sure she gave you her real name?"
"Not at all. I can't read her so I'm just going on what she gave us. What are the chances she's just a well-off kid who just happens to be touring New York?"
Domino just looked at him with one elegant eyebrow raised.
"I thought so. What do you think?"
"She seems nice enough. Hit it off with the kids." She smiled mischievously. "And, if I don't miss my guess, Shatterstar was rather taken with her."
"Huh. Will miracles never cease? Well, whatever if it keeps him from sulking about Rictor going back to Mexico." She chuckled. "Seriously, Dom. The kid told Xavier point blank that the X-Men should be more aggressive or find another way of fighting for his dream because she doesn't see them doing a damn bit of good for the cause as they operate now. "
Domino whistled. "Pretty gutsy. Most people get overwhelmed by his all-knowing act."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. What do you think?"
"Nate, I like this kid. Politically she's perfect but we don't know enough about her do anything either way."
"I guess we should do something about that then."


"Hey, guys." Julia said as she settled back down on a lawn chair. Jimmy and Shatterstar were bashing each other with bo-staffs. Roberto was flying over head, doing loops in the late afternoon sun. Julia watched enviously for a bit. It must be nice to be able to fly, she thought wistfully.
"What'd baldy have to say?" Asked Tabitha.
"Xavier? He asked whether I'd like to learn how the control my mutant powers, what I thought of the X-Men. Stuff like that."
"Are ye going to be attending school here then?" Theresa looked interested. It would be nice to have another girl my age to talk to, she thought. The X-women were nice enough but they had a tendency to talk down to her.
"No, I won't. No offense to anyone, but I can use my powers just fine. And I don't think Professor Xavier and I agree philosophically."
"Oh. What do ye mean 'philosophically'?"
"He said he'd like for mutants and humans to live in harmony." They nodded back. They'd heard that any number of times before. "Well, I happen to think that mutants won't be really safe until we're in charge. And no, I'm not one of Magneto's Acolytes. Xavier already asked that."
"What'd Cable say?" Asked Theresa.
"Not much. He said you guys where more geared to taking 'a more proactive approach'. This would be the 'kick-butt' aspect you mentioned earlier?"
"Yeah." Commented Tabitha. "What are you going to do now?"
Julia shrugged. "See the sights. Enjoy my vacation."

They watched the guys fight for a while. Despite his larger size and greater strength, Jimmy was pretty much being beaten up by Shatterstar.
"Jimmy, don't drop your right hand after every thrust." Julia said suddenly. They stopped and looked at her. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt."
Jimmy lowered his staff. "You didn't. I could use a break anyway." He poured himself another drink. This weapons stuff is a lot harder to learn than I thought it would be. Especially against Mr. "I've been trained since childhood to be warrior".
"How long have you been using a staff?" She asked.
"Today is day one."
"Julia, are you familiar with this weapon?" Shatterstar asked speculatively.
"I get by."
"Would you consider demonstrating you skill?"
"Against you?"
"If Jimmy doesn't mind interrupting his training." She said with a glance at Jimmy.
He shrugged and handed his staff to her. "No problem here."
She took it and walked over to where Shatterstar was standing. She tested the footing. The grass was soft but not too bad.
"What is your preference?" He asked solicitously.
"How about a timed match? Go to ten minutes or whoever hits the dirt first?"
"That is agreeable."
"Oh, I don't possess any kind of accelerated healing, so can we keep this at low strength?"
"Of course."
"Theresa, would you mind being the official timekeeper? Start the clock once someone moves."

They faced off. He noted that she was holding the staff lightly despite her smaller size. She didn't seem to be inclined to attack first so it fell to him.

Julia watched as he tensed, then sprang forward. He was easily one the best fighters she'd ever seen but his style was full of large movements that were strangely inefficient and gave her enough openings to land a few light blows. She jumped sideways as he swung his staff at her legs. He corrected the swing quickly and tapped her on the ribs. Ouch. If this was for real that would have been bad.

Shatterstar backflipped away from her strike to his head that, had they been in actual combat, would have crushed his skull. Her manner of fighting was excellent. There were almost no weaknesses in her technique and it was obvious that she could see the patterns and weaknesses in his. A warrior, he thought. Like myself. The idea pleased him in a way he couldn't define.

Both of them had increased their speed as the match progressed. They were now almost moving faster than their observers could follow.
"Jeez, look at them go." Said Tabitha.
"She does more that 'get by', that's for sure." Jimmy noted. I've got to learn how to do that.
"Time!" Called Theresa.
The two combatants stopped as if a switch had been hit.
Julia stepped backwards and bowed. "Good match.".
Shatterstar bowed back to her. "Yes."
Remarkable, he thought as he observed her. She wasn't breathing hard so he could presume that she hadn't been taxing herself excessively. There was just the slightest flush of color on her pale skin. The only indication that she had been doing anything except socializing was that a few locks of hair had escaped their pins. He was about to ask her about her training when she glanced down at her watch.
"Guys, it's been a blast meeting you but I've got to get going." She put the staff down and picked up her coat. "Please give my regards to Cable and Domino."
"I'll walk ye back to your car." Offered Theresa.
"That'd be nice. Take care everybody." She gave them a final wave and followed Theresa back to the driveway.

End of Part One

Part 2

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