Part Three - Getting Comfortable
They were walking back to her hotel
room discussing the latest movie they had seen. There were only
so many tourist traps that anyone was willing to visit in two
weeks, no matter how far away they came from. Shatterstar was
amazed that she hadn't been exposed to television or motion
pictures until comparatively late in life.
"I grew up in secret society in the middle of a mountain range. I knew what it was but television as popular culture kind of eluded me until I moved to Europe. Anyways, too much TV's supposed to bad for your eyes."
"My eyes are in excellent condition and I have seen more television than anyone I know. Perhaps not enough TV is bad for your eyes?"
"I think I'll let medical science work on that." She decided as they reached the lobby of the hotel. "I'm moving out of here tomorrow." She added offhandedly.
For a moment, he didn't know what to think. I knew she was only vacationing here, he thought, but I hadn't prepared myself for the instance when she would leave. Julia was oblivious to his reaction.
"I thought I'd set up keep somewhere a little less transient." She said they got into the elevator.
"What do you mean?"
"I'll be moving into a place that's outside the city. I really don't change locations all that often. I was in Paris for two years before this."
"I would have thought due to your profession you would be on the move frequently." He commented. I am glad you are not leaving yet, he thought.
"You're confusing me with a mercenary." She said as they settled onto the sofa. "At the risk of sounding boastful, I don't leave witnesses or survivors in the course of doing a job so I'm not really worried about anybody out for revenge coming after me. If someone comes out of the woodwork, well, there's few people I can't take."
He raised his eyebrows at that. "Why do you think I have confused you with a mercenary?"
"Mercenaries are pretty much freewheeling in their methods. They can do anything they want so long the price is right. They can even go after each other. They end up running from all sorts of people after awhile." She explained. "Guild assassins can't take contracts on each other, so a major source of worry is gone right there. We don't involve innocent third parties, we don't do anything except neutralize the target."
He picked up the room service menu. It was his turn to choose dinner. "I can understand how you can be more relaxed about how you conduct your life then. Theresa has a friend who is such a mercenary and we still don't know where he lives or how he locates us." He said studying the selection.
"Well, if this guy has been in business for while then he probably has to hide from a lot enemies." She paused. "And locating you guys wouldn't be too hard if someone puts their mind to it. You're X-Force and you live at Xavier's Institute for Higher Learning with the X-Men. There's a suspicious number of X's in there. I think that's what phone books are for."
"We actually have not been in the mansion for very long. We previously lived at a facility formally owned by a man called Arcade."
"Gods. Arcade? Really? He gives assassins a bad name and we don't have much to start with. Can I hope you nailed him then?"
"Ah, no. I am sorry but I have to disappoint you. The facility was abandoned when we moved there."
"I agree. I have found him to be of particular annoyance." He said reaching for the phone. While he placed their order, she dug around for the address of her soon to be new residence. When he hung up the receiver, she handed him a small card.
"That's where I'll be, if you'd still like to hang around together."
"I'd like that very much."
Jimmy was enjoying a snack in front
of the TV when spotted Caliban lumbering by with bundle of
blankets under one arm and a large pack under the other. He was
wearing a strange, mismatched set of clothes.
"Hey Cal! Whatcha doing?"
"Caliban is going to live with Morlocks."
"Caliban misses Morlock friends. They are going away to be safe. Caliban is going to go way with them."
"Uh, does Cable know about this?"
"Caliban told Cable-Nathan. Cable-Nathan and Patch-Eye were very unhappy."
"Oh. When are you friends coming to get you?"
"They are waiting outside now. Caliban senses them."
"I'll walk you to the door."
Sure enough, there was a collection
of Morlocks waiting outside. They somehow had acquired a beatup
school bus. Jimmy watched with more than a little sense of
foreboding as they all piled in and drove off. Caliban's hitting
the highway, he thought. The roads will never the same again. I
wonder what'll happen when they stop at a rest area?
He pulled up to the end of a row of
converted warehouses. The neighborhood appeared to be in
transition from industrial to artsy with all sorts of creative
looking individuals walking around.
He pushed the intercom button next
to a featureless steel door.
"Hello Julia, it's Shatterstar."
"Be right there."
Julia opened the door and showed
him in. The warehouse had been split into two levels. The
personal living space was upstairs with the main floor consisting
of a training area, kitchen and living room-like space. He couldn't
help notice that, while there was an expensive-looking stereo
system, she'd didn't appear to have bothered with a television.
There was a stained glass skylight overhead. Three large trunks
of miscellaneous weaponry were lined up against one wall.
"How did you get your weapons
through the airport?" He asked looking at the neat
arrangements of knives and swords.
"It's not as difficult as you'd think. As long as it goes as sealed cargo, I can more or less bring it everywhere. Go ahead, take a look if you'd like." She said as she poured them drinks. "I suppose I could just buy new equipment when I relocate but some of those blades were custom made so they're hard to replace. Others are just bits and pieces I've picked up over the years."
She handed him a glass as he poked curiously at the various bits of hardware. "I packed everything this time. I would have left most of the older stuff with my apartment but the girl who moved in after me isn't into bladed weapons."
"You know who is living your former home? Do you who lived here before you?"
"Yes. The girl who's at my old place is a seer for the Paris House. This place was owned by a thief so I can be pretty sure the security system is good."
"That is reassuring." He commented. There were several styles of swords. The knives were mostly throwing blades with few long bladed types. "You don't use firearms?"
"I can. I will if the job requires it but those are really tough to get across borders. I just pick up whatever I need wherever I happen to be." She smiled mischievously. "And guns have no style. Any moron can pull a trigger."
He laughed and they clicked their glasses together. "Yes. When my teammates found out I knew how to use a gun, they were amazed. I didn't point out that it was far easier than using two swords in combat. I'm sure Cable would be displeased to hear this, though."
"I can imagine." She laughed. "It's too bad you didn't bring your gear with you. I don't know many people who fight double-handed."
"Are you suggesting a duel?"
"I would like that also. I didn't bring my swords but perhaps you have a pair I can use?"
"I think so." She dug around in a trunk. "These are matched set but they may be a little light for you."
He took a proffered sword. It was lighter than either of his own Mojoworld swords but not unworkable. The blade itself was thinner and longer. Better reach, he thought. The grip was good too. The sword was balanced to itself so he could suppose that it was not custom made.
"This is very good." He said at last. "I have secondary pair similar to this. This type is called a 'katana', correct?"
"Yes." She said as she pulled another sword from a different trunk. "I find it very useful if I'm going to packing it around for a long time because it's so light. Something like this just for dueling." The sword she was holding was a long bladed type with an elaborate guard. He took it from her and studied it. "It's a medieval European style blade with a few modifications. The common use is sword and knife."
She looked up to see him smiling openly at her. "What?"
"Nothing. I am just enjoying myself." He said. He looked down at the clothes he was wearing. Not very good for fighting. She seemed to guess what he was thinking.
"If it doesn't weird you out too much, I probably have a pair of sweats or shorts you can wear."
"I would appreciate that."
She went upstairs and looked through her workout clothes. "How about these?" She called as she tossed a pair of unisex shorts down at him. University of Madrid, he read on one leg as he inspected the garment. It looked too big for her so it would likely fit him.
"This is fine." He said. He could hear her rustling upstairs. She must be changing clothes also, he thought.
"Are you decent?" She asked.
She hopped over the railing and landed in front of him with a pair of towels in one hand. His eyes widened. "I wouldn't have expected you to be able to do that."
"It's not too high. Why not?" She smiled dropping the towels on the sofa. She was wearing a sweat pants, a brief top and what looked like fitted black slippers. "I don't want to wear my boots." She explained at his look. "And my other shoes aren't really any good for this kind of thing."
"It would be unfortunate for you to jump from that height only to hurt yourself with poor footwear." He said picking up his swords.
She picked a knife belt and strapped it on for a cross-body draw. Spring-loaded wrist sheaths were better for surprise attacks. He's knows I'm here, she thought amused. I certainly know he's here. Especially now that he was down to a pair of shorts and runners. Stop that, she scolded herself.
"As these are not practice weapons we should pull our strikes." He said facing her.
"Okay. En garde, s'il vous plait." She said raising her sword in salute.
"For the glory of the Arena." He replied.
They started slowly. Playing with real blades against a new opponent made them both more cautious. Gradually, they because comfortable to each other's style and picked up speed. The warehouse echoed with clash of steel.
Shatterstar was impressed anew by
her skill. Her style was very elegant, not the same as a warrior
of the Arena at all. There were no wasted motions, no flamboyant
gestures. She smiled devilishly and switched her sword and knife
hands midway through their match. He was momentarily on the
defensive as he adapted to the difference in her attack.
Julia leaped over him as he pressed
the attack again. She twisted in the air and faced him as he
stepped forward. His face was expressionless but his eyes were
sparkling. Her initial assessments of his style came back to her
as they danced around the floor. Strong, fast and very skilled.
He was inclined to large gymnastic-type moves that were a unique
combination flashy and superbly effective. It certainly is
wonderful to watch, she thought as she blocked a strike with her
He watched admiringly as she
flipped away from him and land almost delicately. They had been
going for an hour but she didn't seem to be excessively fatigued.
She brushed a damp curl out her eyes and smiled.
"Want to take a break?"
"Yes. I believe I would like a drink." He said putting his swords down. She undid her knife belt and left it with her sword on the floor. She pulled a pitcher of juice from the fridge as he brought their glasses over. They settled across from each other on the sofa, sipping their drinks.
"That was fun." She said wiping her neck with a towel.
"Yes, very much so." He replied as he studied her. He found his attention taken by the fall of a curl against her neck and the flush of color on her face. "I don't often have the opportunity to practice against a live opponent. The training facilities at the mansion are excellent but it is not the same. None of my teammates, save Jimmy who is just learning, use any manner of bladed weapons."
"Oh? I'd have thought because you're a strike force everybody'd be trained to a least be proficient with a few other weapons other than their mutant power. That's a real weakness."
"I know. Domino has also expressed a similar view. Unfortunately, the others aren't inclined to learn or when she insists, they participate reluctantly. They are able to use firearms, though."
They moved on to unarmed combat
with a 'win' being counted as dropping the other to the floor. He
definitely had the advantage of strength so she resorted to high
speed techniques and tactics.
She flipped over him and quickly
pressed the attack. Let's try something I'll bet wasn't covered
in school, she thought gleefully. She ran her fingers lightly and
rapidly over the sides of his midsection.
"Za's vid!" He exclaimed as he leapt away from strange torment. "What manner of attack was that?"
"I guess you haven't been tickled before, hmm?" She smiled.
He looked puzzled. It wasn't painful but at the time he felt an uncontrollable urge to get away. A harmless attack, he considered. Very suitable for practice. "No, but I learn swiftly." He said as he grabbed her wrist.
She twisted in an effort to counter his greater strength and ended up pressed up along the length of his body. At sensation of her struggling against him, he could feel his body reacting. He jumped away from her as if burned.
"Are you okay? Did I hurt you?" She asked alarmed at his extreme response.
He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself ."No. You did not harm me." He said shakily. She looked him over. He wasn't even bruised. What's wrong? She wondered.
"Okay." She said at last.
"Julia." He said hesitantly. "I was, I behaved so because I was reacting to you not as a fellow warrior but as a woman." He was staring at the floor. She went over to him and lifted his head to look into his eyes.
"Well, I am a woman. If you had reacted to me as a rhinoceros, then that would be cause for concern." She said softly. "Can I guess this is the social stuff you said you still had to learn?"
"Oh." She paused. I suppose I should be flattered but he looks so damn mortified. "Why don't we get changed? We can talk about this later if you'd like."
He sat on the sofa while she fussed
over the directions on a frozen lasagna.
"I think the hardest thing to learn on my own was this domestic stuff." She said after placing the dish in the oven. She seated herself across from him. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"I think so." He said. "It is not unpleasant, just unexpected."
She sighed. "Fair enough. Can I ask you something?"
"Why are you here with me?"
He sat back in thought. "At first I did not know. I found your company compelling. I enjoy our conversations very much. I thought I had at last found a companion who is also a warrior at heart." She was watching him closely with an unreadable expression in her eyes. "Why do you choose to continue to associate with me?" He asked.
"I don't have to hide what I am from you." She stirred her drink absently. "I can talk to you with softening any edges. Does that make sense?"
"I," She bit her lip. "I think you're attractive, but that's not the reason I like being with you so much." She smiled tentatively. "Not to say I don't notice."
He relaxed slightly. "In that case, I would have to say that I notice you are attractive also. I was concerned that this was unusual between companion warriors."
"Not that I know of. Training can override biology only so far." She held out her hand. "Still friends?"
"Yes." He smiled taking her hand. With a mischievous smirk, he yanked her closer to him and tickled her without mercy. She shrieked and squirmed frantically out his grasp. She glared at him from several feet away. He was obviously trying not to burst out laughing at the lapse in her composure. A few strangled snickers escaped his control.
"You know, this means war."
Domino watched them from a second
floor window. Jimmy was continuing his bo-staff lessons with
Shatterstar. Julia was lounging with Tabitha on the lawn chairs.
It looked like they were heckling the proceedings. Terry was out
with Wade. Again. Roberto was in the library studying Latin for
some reason. Occasionally he'd lean out a window and yell a few
phrases at Julia. She'd snicker at his accent and yell stuff back.
She'd been around almost every second day for last week. The
other days, the team was hanging around her place. They're really
enjoying the downtime, Domino thought. I can't say I'm not either.
If nothing else, it's forced me and Nate to sort things out
Down on the lawn, Julia unrolled a
brace of throwing knives and held one out at Tabitha.
"Here. Throw this and see if you can hit that tree over there."
Tabitha hesitated. I hate looking like a loser in front of everyone. That's a real skinny tree. "I might hit Logan."
"You've named the trees?" Julia asked disbelievingly.
"There's someone living the woods. He's sort of having a personal crisis."
Julia surveyed the backyard. "I don't see anybody. Hopefully he'll know not to stand in the way. C'mon, it's easy."
"Oh all right. Just don't laugh."
Tabitha held the knife as directed. I can throw timebombs and nail a moving target, she thought. How hard can a little piece of metal be? She threw the blade and it landed about three feet short.
"A little more power. Your aim's great."
The second blade hit the tree but it wasn't deep enough. It wavered before dropping to the ground. Tabitha threw the third one and it sunk in hilt deep.
"Excellent!" Julia enthused. "You're a natural."
"Cool." She threw the next three blades and they all landed dead on.
"All right Tabs!" Jimmy cheered. He was in a good mood, having managed to actually land a few hits on Shatterstar for a change.
Tabitha grinned and ran to retrieve the knives. "What next?"
"More of the same. Try alternating hands this time."
"I'm right-handed. I'm a feeble shot with my left."
"The more reason to practice. You could break you hand, you know."
"Yeah, I guess."
Tabitha found she didn't have the same power or aim at all. I can do this, she thought. She tried to visualize how she threw with her right. Okay. Now, same thing, only other side. The blade hit the tree off-center but it hit.
"Yes! The blonde bomber makes it!"
Cable came up behind Domino as she
continued to watch out the window.
"Nate. Don't sneak."
He smiled ruefully. "Okay. No sneaking. What's so interesting outside?"
"Tabitha is throwing knives with both hands."
"What?" He looked out the window. Sure enough, Tabitha was throwing knives at a tree. "When did she starting doing that?"
"Thirty minutes ago. From what I can make out, Julia is encouraging her to use her throwing skills for other things besides her timebombs."
"Huh. They're getting along well then."
"Yeah. I don't think these kids have known anybody who wasn't part of the incestuous X-crowd and not attacking them. It's sort of a novelty."
"What do you think about making her a part of our incestuous crowd?"
"I like it." She turned around and smiled suggestively at him. "I like lots of other things too."
"Oh? Such as?"
"Why don't we go back to my room and discuss them?"
"Are you trying to lead me astray?"
"Good. Lead away."
She reached up and grabbed the collar of his shirt. He gagged a bit as she dragged him down the hallway.
"Help." He said half-heartedly.
"No one can save you now." She said cheerfully as she pushed open the door to her room.
Roberto reread his letter once more
just to make sure there weren't any glaring errors. Since Julia
spoke the language as her mother tongue she'd been able to help
him translate things like 'my cellular phone service was cut off
because I'm considered a terrorist by the government'. Stuff like
that wasn't covered in the regular textbooks. As it was, his
missive was seventeen pages long. We do some amazing things, he
thought. I don't really think about it until afterwards but how
many people can say that they've had it out with SHIELD in a
futuristic space station or been mentored by an immortal
stockbroker? He tucked the letter into an envelope and sauntered
down the hall. Given the postal service to Nova Roma, she should
receive this somewhere around New Year's Day, he thought
He went back to his room and sighed
at the large pile of mail from DaCosta International's agents. He'd
been ignoring his duties since his fall out with his former
mentor. Damn you, Gideon. He thought absently. He opened a letter
at random and tried to summon interest in the contents. My family's
fortune, and I can't be bothered anymore. I loved this work once
and I am good at it. Ran the company after Father died. Well,
sort of. Gideon was there the entire time and the board of
directors certainly had their opinions about letting a minor
become their CEO. He stared down at his hand as he played with
the papers. He was powered up all the time now because of what
Gideon's pet scientists had done and what had happened when he
was pulled out of time by that time-traveling terrorist Locus.
Good alliteration there, 'Berto,he told himself. Now my head's
full of Askani nonsense from Cable's mindfix to get my alter-ego
under control. Had to watch a lot of TV and reread the history of
conquest of Brazil a few dozen times to remember who I am.
He went to his dresser and pulled
out the small box that held his family ring. He'd stopped wearing
it after he'd been 'cured' of being a terrorist leader. After all
those times I made fun of Magneto's purple jumpsuit with the
giant 'M' on the front, what do I do when I go nuts? Get really
big hair and an unbelievably bad costume. Just goes to show, I
really didn't learn anything from Mags when he was still teaching
us. He put the ring on and buffed it on his shirt. He glanced
back at months' worth of neglected mail. It didn't look so
intimidating now. Deal with it, DaCosta. He told himself firmly.
It's your duty and you don't ever run from that.
"No, I don't." He said out loud as he sat down at his desk.
The next morning Domino was sipping
her coffee when Cable wandered into the kitchen. He poured
himself a cup and sat down.
"You didn't wake me up." He complained mildly.
"You never sleep in normally. Besides, I understand that older men need more recovery time." She smiled knowingly.
"I recovered fast enough last night."
"But the day's still young. You'd better drink a lot of coffee. You're going to need the energy."
He smiled. It was a rarity that they could actually flirt with each other outside of the privacy of their rooms. After all their years of dancing around, he was bound and determined to not to screw things up.
"I think I can make the effort." He said a heroic voice.
"Where'd you send the kids off to?" Not that she minded having the peace and quiet.
"Terry and Tabitha have gone out with Julia to a mall. Roberto roped Jimmy and 'Star into something so they've disappeared too."
"I thought you were going to start more telepathic training today."
He sighed. "The kids really don't like me poking around in their heads. You damn near punched me out the first time I tried to scan what you're thinking."
"Yeah, I did. I don't mind the link so much as I thought I would but I'll belt you one if you go pawing through my head without asking."
"I consider myself warned. My point is that I'm going to just use it the field. When regular vocal commands would compromise our position or something like that. It took long enough for them to trust me as someone other than a disciplinarian with a big gun. I don't want to give them reason to doubt that trust."
She sat back, impressed. "Why, Nate. You're paying attention to other people's concerns all on your own. Does this mean I can expect you to remember my birthday now?"
"I'll try that next year." He said dryly. "I think my new trick quota has been reached."
"Damn. I had something I wanted to show you too." She sighed melodramatically. "I guess it can wait until January first."
"Well, I think I can fit one more new idea into my skull."
Tabitha and Julia were watching the
crowd. Theresa had disappeared into a lingerie shop. She's dating
Deadpool and shopping for lingerie. I do not want to know,
thought Tabitha. Actually, I do want to know but I don't think I
could handle the answer. She came back holding a shopping bag and
they resumed their stroll through the temple of consumerism.
"So Terry, who's the lucky fellow?" Julia asked. "Anybody I know?"
"Nae. His name's Wade Wilson. Ye haven't met him yet. He's away on business."
"What does he do?"
Terry hesitated. "He's self-employed. He, um, runs his own business."
"That's very enterprising of him." Julia complimented. A mental alarm bell went off at the name. Is this the mercenary friend 'Star mentioned? My gods. She wouldn't be seeing that fruitloop would she? Tabitha snickered. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing. Let's check out that store."
They decided to take a break from
shopping and headed over to the food court. Terry expressed her
displeasure when informed that energy-using mutants like Tabitha
and Julia could eat whatever they wanted to without fear of
harming their figures.
"I donnae like it one bit!" She muttered into her salad. "It's nae fair at all."
Julia smiled over her double latte with whipped cream. "It's all random. You can fly, which is neat. There's lots of people who'd like to able to do that."
"I'd rather be able to eat chocolate all day and not gain an ounce."
"Bad for the skin." Tabitha advised with the wave of a french fry. "Or so I've heard."
Roberto studied the wall of
television sets. He wanted something to say 'thank you' to Julia
for her Latin help, and, given who he was, flowers and candies
just didn't cut it. Shatterstar had mentioned that she didn't
have a TV at her new place, so it seemed like the perfect choice.
He fiddled with the power inhibitor bracelet he wore. Doctor
McCoy said it was new design that could be used for longer
periods without causing any damage to the wearer. I like the
power increase, he thought. But being reliant on this thing to
look normal is a pain.
"'Berto, are you sure that this such a good idea?" Jimmy asked. "I mean, a TV's kind of a lot. Why don't you just get her a thank-you card?"
"No, it's not." Roberto replied. I don't think he really understands where I'm coming from. "I've got the money to get a decent gift. She won't mind or get weirded out by the price, if that's what's bugging you."
Shatterstar turned from the unit he was inspecting. "How can you be sure of that?"
"It's a cultural thing. I can't possibly offend her because she knows it's the type of gift people of my status give."
Jimmy gave up on the conversation. DaCosta's attitude grated on his nerves some days. "Well, whatever. Pick one already."
"'Star, what do you think? You're the big TV expert." Roberto asked.
"This unit here is sufficient. Although, she has told me she does not habitually watch television."
Jimmy looked intrigued. "She doesn't watch TV? What could you possibly have in common then?"
"We find other activities to occupy our time."
Roberto's eyes widened. He was about to ask what those activities were when the salesman circled back. A suitable unit was purchased and carried out the car.
Since the girls were going to meet
them at Julia's place on a couple of hours, they decided to kill
time wandering around the mall rather than going back to the
"We might get nailed doing chores." Jimmy reminded them.
They found a large music store and
split up to goggle at the selection. As they wandered around,
Jimmy noticed that there was a girl that appeared to be following
him as they went from store to store. He studied her in a mirror
as she loitered across the hallway from him. Long straight black
hair, exotic dusky features, great body. Well, at least I get a
cute stalker, he thought. She didn't pursue him when they went
back out the car so he put it down to one of those things that
Terry looked around as they brought
in their bags. Julia had added a bit more furniture and
decorations over the last week. A few more plants, a punching bag
and a training dummy decorated the open space.
"These look neat." Tabitha said, patting an oversized floor cushion. There were a bunch of them arranged around the coffee table across from the sofa. She flopped down. "Comfy."
"Very new age, I know." Julia nodded, putting the drinks and snacks away. She never bought any significant amount of foodstuff unless she was expecting company. "I didn't want to hassle with a decor."
"Ye can say it's post-modern urban retro martial artist." Terry offered as she helped put the bottles in the fridge.
"Gosh, that sounds fancy." She said wide-eyed. "Does that involve berets?"
"Possibly." Terry allowed. "Ye get the option of piercing yer visible body parts too."
Tabitha hopped up and rooted through the cupboards. "You got a popcorn maker!"
"Yeah. Yesterday. There's a bottle of popcorn above your head." Julia said.
"You guys want butter and salt?"
"Sure. Healthy food gives me hives."
Terry went over to the stereo system. "Want do ye want to listen to?" She asked.
"Anything loud and fast." Tabitha said.
Terry picked out five discs that matched that category and load the CD changer. A moment later, the music of Big Sugar blasted out of the speakers at about twenty-one on the volume scale.
"Saints! That's loud. Even for me." She turned down the volume to somewhere where she could actually hear herself think.
Julia giggled as she went to go answer the door bell. Predictably, it was Roberto, Shatterstar and Jimmy.
"Check it out. The Mutant Musketeers." She called.
"I'm not French." Roberto sneered good-naturedly.
Shatterstar went over and prodded the training dummy experimentally. "This looks like a particularly easy foe to defeat."
"So you say now. " She smiled. "What's this?" She asked as Jimmy carried in a large box.
Roberto smiled "My thanks for your help with my Latin. Especially for that 'modern phrases' dictionary you made up for me."
"You're welcome. What is it?"
"A TV." Jimmy said setting the box down. "Do you have something to cut it open?"
"Jimmy, this is me you're asking. Of course I do. I probably have something that colour-coordinates with your clothes."
She pulled open a drawer of everyday knives and handed him a large utility knife. They went to work installing the thing. There was a live cable line to the stereo and Shatterstar had thought to acquire a line splitter so all went well. They turned it on and awaited the verdict.
Julia raised an eyebrow at the flickering images. "Wow. Five hundred channels of nothing worth watching. I think I like it, though. Sort of noisy wallpaper."
After they'd fiddled a bit more
with the new TV and argued about what music to listen too, Julia
brought a few drinks out of the freezer where they'd been
undergoing high-speed chilling. They looked dubiously at the de-alcoholized
wine. Roberto winced. I know it's a courtesy to Terry but that's
Julia smiled. "I've bought beer, if you'd rather have that. I employed the highly sophisticated technique of buying the brand with the nicest looking box and Spanish name."
He inspected the offering. "Hey, this is good stuff. San Miguel is all right by me." He took a bottle out and settled contentedly on a floor pillow.
"You know, I think you're the
first mutant we've met who hasn't attacked us." Jimmy
Julia balled up a paper napkin and threw it him. "There. Better now?"
"Much. You attacked Mimic but it's just not the same."
"You're a strange boy." She noted. "And Cable did say either help or get out of the way."
"Ye helped him into the infirmary." Terry smiled.
Julia sniffed. "He didn't mention any specific parameters."
"You come in peace but shoot to kill." Tabitha snickered.
"I didn't. He was still breathing."
"Severely injure, then."
"I'm feeling persecuted."
"Don't." Roberto advised. "It's cool. We're into the same thing."
"Yes. However, you proved to be more effective than Roberto or Jimmy or Cable even." Shatterstar said.
Julia smiled. "Why, thank you kind sir."
"Hey!" Jimmy and Roberto chorused indignantly.
"Ye've started something now 'Star." Terry advised with a laugh. "The lads willnae let that rest."
He gave her a superior smile. "I do not fear them. Perhaps they should consult Guthrie for strategic advice."
Roberto and Jimmy glanced at each other and nodded.
Tabitha snorted derisively. "Yeah, right. As if Sam's going to even give us the time of day now."
There was momentary confusion as Roberto and Jimmy leapt up walloped Shatterstar with the floor pillows a few dozen times. He was taken by surprise and flailed under the assault. They sat back after vengeance had been achieved. His hair was in disarray and the female contingent was laughing itself sick.
"Tabs, I heard you complaining about this 'Sam' person ever since I met you. Where the hell is he? Does he even live in this reality?" Julia asked after peace was somewhat restored.
"Yeah, he does. We even live in the same place. You wouldn't know it though."
"Sam used to be our deputy leader before he was bumped up to the X-Men." Jimmy explained. "Cable said it because he 'graduated'."
"It was too bad he accepted." Shatterstar said, adjusting his ponytail. "He was a capable leader. I mean no offense of course, Terry."
Julia poured herself another glass of mock wine. "I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying you're all sort of aspiring X-Men?"
Tabitha grimaced. "I like you so I won't hit you with a timebomb."
"That's good to know. Well?"
"I donnae think any of us really wanted to be X-Men." Terry said. "Even being in X-Force was sort of something that we all fell into."
"Huh. So why are you guys doing this? Fame and fortune?"
"Well, it's not for money." Roberto said. "And the fame is more bad than good. I went to school at Xavier's to learn how the use my powers. We wore costumes but we weren't really referred to as trainee X-Men."
"I think that was the point though." Jimmy pointed out. "You guys started up at the same time the Hellions did. We were supposed to be the next Hellfire Club and you were supposed to be the next X-Men. My brother died as an X-Man." He said to Julia. "I thought Xavier was responsible for his death."
"Oh. What did you want to be then? I've heard about the Hellfire Club. You seem a little too normal for them."
"That's for sure." Roberto seconded. "Although the women are very well dressed in that organization."
Terry dumped a bowl of popcorn his head. "Ye are such a pig some days."
"Oink." Came from under the bowl. Roberto emerged a moment later, shaking the kernels out his hair.
Jimmy stared at the stained glass skylight. "I wanted to avenge my brother. Then, I wanted to avenge my people after they were massacred at Camp Verde. I hooked up with Cable 'cause he promised to help me find who was responsible. What I wanted for myself, I haven't a clue." He smiled. "I know I didn't live to be an X-Man someday though."
"Ye've got your head on right then." Terry said. "I was nae going to be on any team. I sort of hung around after some trouble with the Shadow King."
Julia blinked. "Who?"
"He's a telepathic entity who attacked the Muir Island base." Roberto said.
"Telepaths. More trouble than they're worth." She said disdainfully. "So did you ever find out who murdered your people?"
Jimmy sighed. "Not yet. Just my luck it'll be some untouchable criminal mastermind that won't ever be brought to justice."
"Gosh, you're just full of happy thoughts." Tabitha said sarcastically. "You think you'd be able to just quit this adrenaline-rush lifestyle even if you found out?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not." He got up and fetched another beer. "It's a shitty life sometimes but we do stuff that regular people only dream about. You want another, 'Berto?"
"Yeah." Roberto looked at Julia. "What's the strangest thing you've done? I mean, that you can tell us about?"
She looked up in thought. "Besides meeting you? I've been to Hell."
Terry looked horrified. "What?"
"Hell. You know, where Satan hangs out? His kid is charge now. I was tasked to nail this guy who'd screwed over a demon but, because of the deal he cut, the demon wasn't allowed to come after him. I had to bring the body down as proof." She smiled the appalled looks. Shatterstar seemed interested but not overly shocked. "It's just another dimension and there's quite a few gateways between here and there."
"Madonna." Roberto muttered. "I might not be religious anymore but that sounds disturbing."
"Yeah. Um, aren't you worried?" Tabitha asked tentatively.
"About what? Demons are merely another magical species." Julia smirked. "They can be killed dispite rumors to the contrary."
Jimmy sat back down and handed a bottle to Roberto. "I really can't see you in a regular life now."
"Nor I. Your skills would be wasted in mundane surroundings." Shatterstar said. She smiled and they clicked their glasses together.
"How about you, Terry?" Tabitha asked. "You were raised in a convent school. You can't get much more normal than that."
She sighed. "I donnae know. I cannae see living a normal life either. A regular job, husband and kids. It sounds nice but boring." She smiled. "I was a thief when I first came to America."
Julia choked. "What? Gods, Terry. I would have never guessed. You come across as so respectable."
"It's all a front. Donnae be fooled." She confided. "What did ye want to do when ye grew up, 'Berto?"
Roberto leaned back. "I expected to go into my father's business. I didn't really anticipate this superhero stuff. Even if I am good at it."
"Are you not concerned that your reputation will be harmed by remaining with us?" Shatterstar asked.
"Sometimes. I like running the business but I said I'll stay to help. What about you? What did you want to be when you grew up?"
"I never considered it. I lived only to fight. I'm not sure what I would have done after we defeated Mojo. There have been prophesies as to what would happen afterwards but I do not place much faith in them now."
"I can't see you working a desk job after your people take over, 'Star." Jimmy commented.
"Neither can I. What is normally done after a revolution here?"
Roberto shrugged. "Depends. Either the leaders have something planned and all goes well or they realize they don't know how to restructure their country and end up just like the government they overthrew."
"It's usually option two." Julia said.
"Yeah. There's been plenty of revolutionaries in South America but nothing really changes. I mean, fighting is a lot easier, really, than creating a stable government."
"That is not encouraging." Shatterstar sighed. "My fellow warriors of the Cadre Alliance were not inclined to the sublties of politics. I fear just lawmaking would be beyond us."
"It cannae be something ye cannae learn." Terry pointed out. "Ye learn quick."
"I suppose you are correct."
Tabitha threw one of the paper balls at Julia. "What are you going to do when you retire? Is there an old assassins' home somewhere?"
"Do you really think anyone in my profession even lives to see old age?" Julia asked. "There were over thirty of us in my first year class. Five made it to full rank. Two died a year later on assignment."
Jimmy whistled. "Why's the attrition rate so high?"
"Knives, swords and children. Think it through."
There were uncomfortable looks as they realized what that meant. Shatterstar put his hand on hers in empathy. I know what they have in common now, Roberto thought. The same brutal childhood.
"Sounds bad." Tabitha muttered.
"I guess. We were always treated very well. Every comfort and privilege. We simply couldn't make a mistake." She smiled and threw the paper ball back at Tabitha. "Cheer up. I'm here and somewhat well-adjusted so it just sounds gruesome. What did you want to do when you grew up?"
Tabitha sighed. "I didn't care. All I wanted was to get out of my home town and away from my folks."
"You been to Asgard, Tabs. That's far enough for anybody." Roberto reminded her. She threw the paper ball at him.
"Ye really didn't like yer parents that much?" Terry asked. "I didn't meet me Da until I was grown and me mother is dead. I would give anything to have known her."
"My mom's dead now too. My dad's a jerk." Tabitha said quietly, picking at the label on her bottle. "He really hated that I was a mutant. I mean, he thought it was something that I could just quit being if he hit me hard enough."
"I'm sorry, Tabs." Julia said softly.
Jimmy gave them a lopsided grin. "We're a happy bunch, aren't we? Do we even know anybody who has a regular life?"
There was silence.
"I guess that's a 'no'." He smirked. "We're more interesting like this anyways."
"YEAH!" They cheered as they toasted each other.
Tabitha yawned into her Corn Pops.
They'd stayed at Julia's until almost three in the morning. It
was six AM now. The only reason she was even up at all was that
they had a training session in an hour. The rest of the team
straggled in and began fumbling with their breakfasts.
"Where's 'Star?" Terry asked. She looked at her toast. What was I doing? Oh, right. Jam.
Roberto peered over his hot chocolate. "He went out for a run. I don't think he bothered to go to sleep."
"Probably a good idea. Three hours of sleep is just teasing." Jimmy said fuzzily. "Where's the coffee?"
"In front of ye." Terry pointed.
"Right. I saw that."
The high quantity of caffeine and sugar had its desired effect and soon they all acquired a veneer of wakefulness. Time for gossip.
"So what the group opinion? Are they or aren't they?" Roberto asked. "He made some crack about 'activities' yesterday but I didn't get a chance to ask."
"They're pretty tight." Tabitha said reflectively. "I saw him hug her when we left yesterday. This morning. Whatever."
"Really? I missed that." Jimmy said. He poured himself another coffee. I am awake, he told himself.
Terry shook her head. "I think ye might be wrong. I think they're only friends."
"You think 'Star would hug somebody if he was their friend?" Tabitha asked. "Mojoworld is not a huggy kind of place."
"Well, okay maybe not hug. He was close to Ric too. I dinnae see any difference."
"You know, I thought that was strange."
"Kidding. Guys, we gotta ask. Julia gave me the royal run-around when I asked her at the mall."
"I didn't get a straight answer out of either of them last night and I've got more tact than to come out and ask if they're sleeping together." Roberto put in.
Tabitha nodded. "Yeah. That would be ugly if we're wrong. We gotta ask subtle-like."
"Okay. We ask. You do it." Jimmy said.
"No. I think 'Berto should do it."
"You're the Latin Lover. Ask 'Star mano a mano. I dare you."
He paused in mid-refusal. A dare. A DaCosta never backed away from one. "You're on."
"Let's go." Terry said, smothering another yawn. "The faster we get this session done, the faster I can go back to bed."
The training session went
surprisingly smoothly. Cable and Domino were as mellow as they
ever got. The review lasted only a few minutes with only minor
criticisms about their performance. If I didn't know any better,
I'd say they were both hung over, Roberto thought as he went for
Later in the afternoon, Roberto
found Shatterstar in the armory sharpening his swords. Not a good
omen, he thought.
"Are you and Julia seeing each other?"
"Not presently. She is at home and I am here"
Roberto studied his target. I know he knows what I'm asking. Do I want to risk getting beat up if it offends him or something? Try another approach, DaCosta.
"No! I mean, are you, um, together?"
"No. I thought I just explained that to you. Are you well?"
"Dios! Forget it."
Shatterstar looked up and smiled as Roberto left.
Tabitha was in the living room
awaiting the results. "Well?"
"I asked. He said no." Roberto reported as he sat down.
The next day Shatterstar received
clearance to show Julia the more advanced functions of the Danger
Room from Cable. He immediately spent most of morning reviewing
log tapes for a custom program. Julia arrived that afternoon for
another practice duel. Afterwards, he triggered the program from
the floor. In front of them appeared an enormous creature in a
spidery looking device.
"What the hell is that?" She asked.
"You wished to see what a Spineless One looked like so I programmed the holographic computers with an image of Mojo."
She walked around the creature. There were masses of wires covering its head that trailed into the contraption it was sitting in. It had very large, fleshy arms and hands with long nailed fingers. The face was distorted by hooks holding open the eyes and mouth in a parody of a wide-eyed grin. He said that his people were being ruled by another species but this is not what I was expecting. Living proof that large doses of TV is a bad thing.
"Without a doubt this is the most revolting excuse for a sentient lifeform I've ever seen." She said at last. "I can see why 'Mojo-kisser' is such a nasty label now. Why is it squished into this container?"
"The Spineless Ones use their platforms to move around." He said. Even a simulation of the being who oppressed his kind was enough to cause the rage to build in him. "Tell me, what sort of attack would you recommend?"
"On this thing in particular or for the overall war effort?"
"Honestly? Given what you've told me about the relations between your species I'd say that total extermination would be the way to go. Anything that'd clone itself to stay in power can't be trusted to honour a peace agreement. One-to-one, I have no idea. Stick a grenade under it? Can it even be damaged by conventional weapons?"
"They can be killed as we can be but their platforms have shielding and weapons built into them."
"Hmm. What happens if they're not in one of those platforms? Do they have some unusual power I should know about?"
"No. They cannot move very much without the aid of their devices."
He watched as she made another circuit around the image.
"Presuming that the equipment is not magical, I would recommend a preliminary strike with an electromagnetic pulse to disrupt the electronics and electrical systems. Given that there may be other unknown defenses, a medium to long range weapon could then be used to terminate the individual." She said thoughtfully. The sheer size of the body would make for a very messy kill. I'd stand back a dozen feet at least. She looked at him. He was staring at her with strange expression. "Not quite how an Arena warrior would do it, hmm?"
"No. Not at all." He said finally. "We, I, would likely attack with at most an energy weapon at close range. I would still use my swords first." He paused. "I am not unusual in that respect. Warriors will always seek to engage their enemy in a direct battle."
"I think this is a fundamental difference in approach. Ratings, crowd response and that kind thing of doesn't matter to an assassin. What matters is that it's a definite, confirmed kill. As long as one follows the guidelines, everything else is personal preference."
"Most of the people on my world would consider such a philosophy dishounorable and such methods cowardly."
She shrugged. "Not to be blunt, but you said yourself that all those trained warriors were losing the war."
He felt a flare of anger when she brought up the faltering Cadre Alliance. "Are you saying that our skills are not sufficient?" He asked angrily before he could control himself.
She looked at him with an unreadable expression. "No. I didn't. You did that when you came to Earth looking for help. You asked for my opinion and I gave it to you."
She turned away and picked up her
water bottle from her pile of things by the wall. She settled
down against the cool metal. "You know, if we continue to
escalate the name-calling and insults this is going to be
unpleasant." She said from her seat on the floor.
"I do not want that." He said, sitting down in front of her. "I would not want to loose you friendship over words."
"Likewise." She paused. "Would you mind turning that thing off? It's giving me the creeps."
He smiled at her lighter tone as he moved to the panel on the wall. "I would have expected us to begin fighting in anger had we continued."
"Bad form. I'm not getting paid to kill you, so why bother?" She asked with a wicked grin.
He looked startled then recovered. "There is no one watching. I cannot see the point of killing you either." She squirted him with her water bottle. He retaliated in kind as he reviewed her words in his head. "You choose your attack based on personal preference. What part of your recommendation was that?"
"The part about long range weapons. Quite frankly, I think I'd be too disgusted to get close. I'd have to be paid a whole lot to get within arm's length of that thing." She smacked him lightly as he smirked at her reasoning.
"You can't tell me you'd be willing get touchy with that."
He laughed. "You are correct. I too feel unwell at the thought of physical contact with a Spineless One."
"Hey guys! Whatcha doing in
here?" Jimmy called from the control room.
"We are discussing why we don't kill each other and well as things that induce illness in us." Shatterstar said truthfully.
"Uh. Okay. Whatever." He sounded bewildered at their choice of topics. "They've got the barbecues going so come outside."
"We will be there shortly."
Julia walked across the roof
towards the hunched figure. The gang was down below playing
basketball and exploring the wonders of propane cookery. Carbon
was supposed to be harmless, wasn't it? I think I'll stick to the
salad, she decided.
"Bonjour Monsieur LeBeau." He turned his head towards her.
"Bonjour Mademoiselle. Wha' are you doing up here?"
She settled down beside him.
"Just saying hello. There aren't very many members of either guild around here. I thought I'd come and pay my respects."
"Non, der aren't." He looked at her. "You know dat I told dem you be an assassin?"
"Yes. It wasn't hard to figure out."
"It don' bother you dat dey know?"
"Not really. It would have come out eventually. They don't seem to mind. And even if they did, they aren't in the position to do anything about it."
They watched the basketball game for a while. Roberto was experimenting with cooking his food with his flares.
"Remy, why are you sitting up here? It's not very comfortable."
"I was jus' t'inking." He glanced at her again. "Is he still mad dat I left?"
"Who? Oh. No, I don't think so. He should have known that there's things you can't do because of who you are. I told him that I couldn't play thief for the same reasons. After he thought about it, he seemed to be okay with that. It didn't come up the last time I talked to him."
"You be careful about telling anybody here dat you know him. He's been messing wit' some of dem and dey aren't going t' be forgiving any time soon."
"I'll keep that in mind." She shifted around again. "Why are you thinking up here? There's lots of nice lawn chairs down there."
"T'inking about a woman, petite."
"That figures. On the prowl again?" She asked. Remy LeBeau was famous in both guilds for his ladykiller habits.
He felt his mood lift slightly despite his resolve to be miserable. "Non. I be chasing jus' one now."
"Wow. Just one? Is there a restriction on? Who is it?"
"She be an X-woman. Rogue."
"I don't think I've met her yet. Is she down there somewhere?"
"Non. She's away."
"On a mission?"
"Non. We kissed and she den she left."
"You must be losing you touch, Monsieur LeBeau. I thought the ladies always stayed around when you kissed them."
"You be bad, petite." He chuckled. "Rogue, she can see your mind when she touch you. I t'ink she saw t'ings in my head dat she don' like. Der be plenty in der dat I don' like."
"So? There's plenty of that in everybody's brain. You're a lot less messed up than most people."
"It not be dat simple, petite."
"Are you sure? Is it because she might know about the Doctor? So what? What's the worst she could do to you?"
"She can fly. Mebbe she drop me from a few hundred feet."
"Oui." He sighed. "De X-Men don' trust me. Dey got a problem wit' t'ieves." Even after all this time he was only friendly with Stormy, and maybe Logan, really.
"They should. You thieves steal anything that's not nailed down."
"You assassins kill everyt'ing else." He retorted.
She just grinned back at him. "You got it. Give me five more years and I'll be on the Council too."
"You ambitious petite."
"Of course. Aren't you? There isn't anywhere to go after master's rank and you can't honestly sit there and tell me you're going to go back to being a novice."
"Dat's for sure. Remy likes de privileges dat rank bring." I worked damn hard to be a master thief too. Papa said that he wanted me to take his place as head of the Guild. I wasn't ashamed of my family or my Guild before. What's happened to me? I stayed with people who don't trust me and fell in love with a woman I can't touch. Merde. I think I should let the Doctor look at my head. I must have been hit too many times.
"Hey you two!" Domino called from below. "What are you doing up there?"
"We be plotting de Guilds' takeover of de world!" He called back.
Julia waved at Shatterstar.
Remy perked up. Gossip was better than gold in the mansion. "Let's go down and see your amour."
"He's not my amour."
"Oh? Dat's not wha' I heard. You look very happy petite. Wan' to tell me something? I promise I only tell Belle. She stop trying to marry you off den."
"No. And you can tell your lady that she can stop playing matchmaker." She looked down. "Want to jump?"
"What the hell?" Said
Domino disbelievingly. Remy and Julia just walked off the edge of
the roof. He had decided to show off and somersaulted on the way
down. She went for simplicity and came straight down, landing
neatly beside him.
"Hi guys." She said. "What's cooking?"
"Do you normally jump off roofs for fun?" Asked Jimmy.
"Sure. Don't you?" Julia asked, all puzzled innocence.
"Dey be delicate petite." Remy smirked. They all looked highly offended at that.
"You're skating on thin ice, Gambit." Domino warned.
"Ah, but I have only de greatest respect for you all. Especially you, ma belle blanche." Remy responded with a courtly bow. "I see you later dis evening, oui?" He tried to kiss her hand but she yanked it away.
"Non? Why you so cold to me in public, chere? I be at de usual place. Don' be late." She glared at him as he strolled off.
"Dom? Are you and Remy going somewhere?" Asked Cable as he came up.
Domino looked like she was going to hurt somebody soon. "No! I'm not going anywhere with that greasy Cajun!"
They left Cable to calm Domino down and to persuade her not shoot Gambit in the head.
They commandeered a few lawn chairs
and dragged them away onto grass away from the X-Men. Cable and
Domino wandered up after a while with drinks in hand. They made
collective small talk as they picked at the identifiable bits of
their meals. After a little telepathic prompting, the rest of the
team excused themselves and went off to occupy themselves
elsewhere. Julia watched them go. Even Shatterstar had gone. He
threw her an apologetic look as he followed Jimmy away.
Cable cleared his throat. "Julia,
we'd like to know if you'd consider joining the team."
She nearly dropped the glass she was holding. "I beg your pardon but what the hell did you say?"
Domino leaned forward. "I know this seems sudden but we'd like you to think about it. We really could use someone with your talents on side."
"Why? You don't even know what my talents are." Damn, I knew this might happen. I just don't know if it's what I want to do.
"We know you're an assassin and a mutant." He noted. "That's pretty impressive."
"What are you asking? What do you people actually do?" She asked. I can't decide but I can stall.
"We're fighting for human-mutant peace. This team was created to be a strike force to that end." He said. "I think I've mentioned it before."
"I'll think about it but I'm not promising anything."
He frowned. "Can I ask why you're so reluctant? You told Xavier that you thought mutants should have greater influence in society. Traveling around the world as an assassin isn't helping the cause."
Julia stiffened. "Don't presume to judge me Cable. You were happily bombing civilians for the highest bidder not too long ago." He openly scowled at that.
"We're not judging you." Said Domino reasonably. She looked at Julia, who was watching both of them with a carefully blank expression. Domino recalled a photo of a site that been wiped off the map. It was hard for her to connect this friendly kid with the reputation of one the deadliest, most destructive assassins in the world, even if that was why they wanted her on board. ~Nate, don't push too hard. I don't want to find out what she can do while I'm still sitting at close range~
"Nathan!" Ororo was striding towards them. "Why are you over here? Will you not join us at the pool?" She gave Domino barely a glance as she stopped before them, looking at Cable inquiringly.
"Ororo, you've met Julia, right?" Cable said slightly defensively.
"I cannot say that I have." Ororo studied the girl curled up on the chair. A lovely thing with striking sliver irises. "I am Ororo Monroe. Welcome to our house, child."
"Julianna Selena de Santos. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms. Monroe."
Ororo smiled. There was ingenuous air about the girl that was quite charming. "Remy mentioned to me that he knows you. Are you from New Orleans as well?"
"No. I'm from the main house of his wife's guild."
An assassin. How awful. "Why have you chosen such a life, child?" She asked gently. Perhaps they could save her from such an corrupting environment.
"I didn't want to be a thief."
Domino smiled. That may not have
been a dig at Ororo's past but it sure sounded like it. ~Nate, go
entertain her worship. I'll talk to Julia~ No one could say she
wasn't magnanimous in victory.
Julia watched as Cable led Ororo
away. He had looked almost nervous for moment before he offered
to join Ororo and the other ladies at their table. Domino had
smiled but it hadn't reached her eyes. I think Cable is, or has
been, in a lot of trouble with the ladies, she thought.
Domino considered different opening
ploys. The kid wasn't a rookie, despite her appearance so she'd
have to work more along the lines of recruiting another
experienced operative. I'll try something less intense to start,
she thought. A little friendly gossip never hurt.
"You and Shatterstar seem to get along very well." She said with a speculative smile.
Julia had no problem detecting the layers of the statement. "Dom, he's a married alien from the future of another dimension. He's my friend but it ends there."
"He's married?" Domino couldn't suppress her surprise.
"Didn't you know that? He has been under your command for sometime now."
"It's never come up."
More like you haven't asked, Julia thought. Every one of your people could die tomorrow. What do you really know about them? Could I really work with people who are so locked away in themselves?
"At any rate," She said aloud. "yes, we get along. But that's not enough reason to sign my loyalty to you. Why are you here? Is it because Cable and you have been working together for so long anyways? Is this another job for you or do you actually care about this cause?"
Domino didn't change her expression. So she knows about the Wild Pack. Not surprising considering the circles she moves in. She probably knows about some of the jobs we've, I've done, then too. This was a job, a favor to Nate. Now what is it?
"I'm here because I want to be." She said. "I'm willing to fight for the mutant cause and it's something that needs to be done."
Julia tilted her head. "Are you and Cable fighting for the 'let's hope we can convince them not to hurt us' mutant cause or the 'sooner or later we want to run the world' mutant cause?"
"Which one do you subscribe to?" Domino asked.
"I think we'll have to do more than guerrilla strikes before we're ever going to be truly safe from flatscan threats."
"You sound like you're advocating Magneto's line of reasoning."
"Professor Xavier said that too. I don't have a problem with Magneto. No matter what he did, he wanted to protect mutants." She paused. "You didn't answer my question."
We're fighting for the Professor's Dream, Domino thought. Nate's methods, no matter what, are to that end. What do I want? When did I start following Xavier? Hell, unlike some these professional lapdogs I know my politics. The Dream will never happen as long as there's an imbalance of power between mutants and humans. Mutants have natural power and humans have governmental power. Either mutants loose their natural power or they gain governmental power. I know that, so now what do I want to do about it?
"Right now all the teams are working for peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants." She said. I sound like a fucking parrot, she thought. Next thing you know I'll be dying and coming back a couple of times.
Julia thought about it. Peaceful coexistence, huh? Not the kind of win I'd expect from Cable and Domino to be fighting for, given their reputations. She sounded just the tiniest bit uncertain though. With her, that's a whole lot. Good enough for me.
"Okay. Can I have time to think about this? I'll let you know either way."
Domino watched as she went over to where the rest of the team was wasting time. I've got some thinking to do too, she mused.
The scene was similar to the first
time she'd visited the mansion. Shatterstar and Jimmy were
continuing the staff lessons with rest of the team hanging out.
"Okay, you guys. What the hell was that all about?" Julia asked.
"Dom said they wanted to talk to you privately about something." Terry said, playing with her ice cream float.
"What's up?" Tabitha asked.
"Take as guess. Cable and Domino are on a recruitment kick."
"Oh, hey. Cool." Jimmy said as he played with his new double-bladed staff. "So are you joining the team?"
"Didn't they tell you about this first?" Julia asked. "Seems kind of strange."
"Not really. They play things pretty close to their chests." Roberto said. "So, are you signing up? I think you should. We need another member with Latin blood. I try to bring the standards up but I could use a little help."
Julia smiled. "Viva Latina. I need a little time to think about this."
"How much time?" Asked Shatterstar.
"A few days maybe. I'm sure they'd like an answer right away but I can't promise my loyalty on a whim."
Terry smiled around her straw. "Donnae worry, we'll still be here. Unless the mansion gets blown up again."
"The building contractors must just love you guys." Julia smirked.
"Yeah. If it's not our place that someone's wrecked, it's someone else's place that we've wrecked." Tabitha said. "We should get frequent buyer points or something."
Shatterstar walked her back to her
car after the party died down. The issue of her joining their
team hadn't been brought up again.
"Julia, have you any feelings as to whether you will accept Cable's invitation?"
She sighed and leaned on the roof. "I really don't know. I like the idea but it would mean a lot of changes to my life that I don't know if I'm ready for."
"Will you still remain in New York if you decline?"
She bit her lip and shook her head slightly. "'Star, there's a lot of people who could identify me as an assassin now. How would I know that they'll keep quiet if I hang around for much longer? I would really have to consider disappearing if word gets out much more."
His gut tightened as her meaning became clear. She was leaving and he couldn't think of any way to convince her to stay. He reached out and took her hand.
"Promise me you will not leave without letting me know." He said quietly.
She nodded. He released her hand and she got into the car. He watched as she drove away.
End of Part Three
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