New Branches

(Continued)

Lance listened to the tale while he thought, This isn't fair. They've been alive all this time and never checked up on me? How could they? What kind of parents just abandon their own kid like that?

He wanted to curse them out, but what would that accomplish?
So he kept listening . . .

Meanwhile, Peter and Mary Jane were developing the photos Peter had taken earlier that day.

"Oh, what cute babies!"

"They're twins." Peter explained. "For some reason, their dad didn't want me taking pictures of them..."

"Why? They're adorable!"
"I guess it's a mutant thing . . ."

"Well, Pete, it's time people started getting over their—"

"Raging paranoia?"
"I was going to say 'unconscious prejudices'," she corrected him. "Paranoia's going a bit too far, isn't it?"

"You obviously haven't read Mr. Jameson's latest editorial." Peter quipped.

"Like I'd read anything that--" she started to say . . . Then she remembered what her mother had said to her about watching her language and corrected herself. "Like I'd read anything he wrote. Face it, tiger, your boss is not only a bigot, he's a hack."

"Yeah, but he pays real money, and I need all I can get."

She hated to admit it, but Peter had a point.

Back at the Institute, everyone was talking about Peter's photo spread.

"When can we see it?"

"Probably won't be in the paper till tomorrow," Logan said. He just hoped the kid got the twins' names right.

The twins themselves, meanwhile, played on the floor. They were driving their Bob the Builder trucks around on the floor when someone stepped in their way and told them,"Hey, guys, easy on the furniture."

John and Jared weren't happy, but they did what they were told anyway to make their mama happy. So they abandoned the trucks and started playing with their stuffed dolls instead. Those, at least, didn't hurt anything.

"I should take them home," Mystique said. "It's past their bedtime."

"Go ahead," Logan said. "I got one more security check to do here. Shouldn't take long."

"Okay." She started picking up toys and getting their jackets out.

"Oh no!"

"What is it?" MJ looked up from the latest batch of pictures.

"I left my lucky pencil at the Institute!"

"A pencil?" She gave him a funny look.

"Not just any pencil! Uncle Ben gave it to me before my midterms in sophomore year. I only use it for really important tests. The rest of the time I just . . . kinda carry it around . . ." He knew that sounded stupid, but he'd never been able to express himself. Especially when it came to feelings.

But somehow she understood. "Go get your pencil," she said. "I'll keep an eye on this stuff for you. Are you taking the train or--?"

"Actually," Peter said, pulling his costume on, "I'm taking the rooftop express."

Meanwhile, Logan had started testing the new security systems.

And when he tested something, he really put it through its paces.

As he slugged it out with the perimeter guard droids, something new popped up on his right flank.
Trust Xavier to throw a curve at you, he thought, and swung at what he thought was a drone.
"Don't hurt me!" said Peter Parker.

"What are you doin' here?"

"I needed to get a pencil back. I dropped it when I was going home earlier . . ."

"Make it quick."

The tone of Logan's voice told Peter that he didn't want to linger, so he hurried around to find the missing pencil. Just as he'd thought, it was in the office.

After that was done, he was about to leave when he saw a door he hadn't noticed before.

Danger Room? What's that?

He tried the door . . . and found it open. So he went inside to check it out.

He'd never seen anything like it.

Wow! This is really amazing!

He jumped a bit when the doors closed automatically behind him. "OK, Parker, get a grip . . ."

Time to break out the fancy duds and do a little wall-crawling.

Suddenly a computerized voice said "Please enter authorization code now."
Shoot! He didn't have one!

Think, Parker, think!

When the alarm went off, he knew he was in trouble.

At that moment . . . Pietro Maximoff had arrived.

With his stupid rabbit puppets. Which he used to act out a scene from "Romeo and Juliet".

Rogue wasn't happy. "That's it, Maximoff, you're dead..."

"Whaaaaat?" he asked. "I thought you liked my puppets!"

"NOBODY likes them." Mystique warned.

"I like them," Pietro asserted.

"Then you need professional help," Rogue said.

"I do NOT!"

"They're disgusting!"

"Look, I didn't bring the X-rated ones!"
"That doesn't matter," Rogue said. "This house is a puppet-free zone!"

Pietro pouted. "Puppet-hater."

"Hands that touch puppets can never touch me," said Rogue teasingly.

"See?"Pietro said."She's a puppet-hater."

Just then, John and Jared made their feelings about the puppets clear by barfing on them.

"Hey!"Pietro protested.

"I think that settles the puppet issue once and for all," said Logan.

"Fine! I'll just take my puppets somewhere else!"

"Not if I can help it." Mystique grabbed all his puppets and threw them in the trash. "Don't make me search your room for puppet-making materials."

"Your mama's another puppet-hater."Pietro told Jared.

Suddenly an alarm went off.

"We got trouble."said Logan. "There's an intruder in the Danger Room."
"How could anyone get in there without us knowing?" asked Rogue.

"Unless he was here already," Logan said. He wouldn't put it past that Parker kid to go snooping around where he'd been told not to go. "Let me go give him a talking-to."
When he got down to the Danger Room, however, he was quite surprised to see . . . Spider-Man? Where'd he come from?

Spidey was just as surprised to see Logan. Uh oh, I'm in trouble . . .

He dived into a ventilator shaft . . . but Wolverine was right behind him.

And gaining . . .

I hope this doesn't lead to the girls' shower room . . . that might be hard to explain.

He lunged through the opening ahead of him.

It wasn't the girls' shower room.
What it was, was a garage full of all kinds of vehicles that Peter couldn't stop staring at.
Whoa! What is that?

Before he could find out, he heard a growl from behind him.
"Whoa! This isn't what it looks like!"

"I don't know who you are under the mask, bub, but I've givin' you five seconds to clear out, and then..."

"Hey, I'm one of the good guys! Trust me!"

"How come I don't believe you?"

"Uh . . . you really want me to answer that?"

Wolverine's claws sprang out . . .

"Okay . . . I'll prove it."
He reached up and pulled his mask off.