Jess Silvers sat at one of the plastic, pretend-café tables outside McDonalds. She had dark chestnut hair that fell just below her chin, gray eyes, a tall, slim build, and at the moment, she was wearing jeans, a leather jacket, and a tee shirt that said 'Harley Davidson was an amateur' on the front. "Sennya, stop playing with the mold and eat your happy meal." She pushed the cardboard box towards the Hispanic twelve-year-old girl, who had been stroking the algae that grew on the cement benches.

"Eww!" Joe, fourteen, a wiry boy with spiked black hair and a pointed face, wrinkled his nose at Sennya. "You TOUCHED it?"

"Yes," Sennya glared at him, black eyes glinting, "it likes me."

"You're really weird, you know that?"

Jess stepped in. "And aren't YOU just the picture of normalcy? Nothing odd about YOU, is there? And if you're not going to finish that, I will," She reached for Joe's whopper, which he immediately snatched out of her reach. "Yeah, that's what I thought, so no more insults or you'll be in over your head, kid."

"You're just mad because you had a crush on the Copyco manager." Joe said, setting his whopper back down and grabbing a handful of French fries.

"Sure, that's it; call me a sucker for zits and hat hair." Jess felt a tickling in her head and threw up a hasty mental block, but she was a split- second too late.

Joe smiled smugly.

Jess put her elbows on the table and leaned her forehead onto the insides of her wrists. It had been a long day. "He had nice hands, alright?"

"That's not all you thought was nice about him, though, was it? WAS IT?" Joe's eyes held a spark of sadism.

"I'm trying to eat!" Sennya made gagging motions, showing her level of interest in her guardian's love life.

"I agree. Keep it up, Joe, and you'll be back to eating out of dumpsters." Jess looked up and smiled sweetly at the boy before crossing her arms on the table and pillowing her head on them.

She felt a tiny wave of heat in her right shoulder. She sat up straight and, as casually as she could, looked in the direction of the warmth; a cluster of high schoolers were sitting two tables away. They were passing their drinks to a curly haired boy, who laughed, blew on the waxy cups, and passed them back. Every time he blew, a small glow of warmth radiated out from him.

Jess turned back around. "Joe, code green." She murmured.

"Which one?" He swallowed a mouthful of French fries and wiped the salt off on his pants.

"Curly, in the red jacket. The one who keeps blowing on stuff."

"Got it." Joe closed his eyes, and took on a look of intense concentration. A beam of heat rolled over Jess's shoulder, and she scooted to the side when the diffusion from it became too much.

Joe grinned suddenly.

The boy at the table frowned and shook his head, like something inside it was itching.

Joe opened his eyes, and the beam of heat broke.

"What's his story?" Sennya asked, her happy meal forgotten again.

Joe leaned over the table, whispering excitedly, "They're mutants, all of them, and they go to a school that teaches them to use their powers," he looked at Jess, "and they just lost a teacher, so there's a JOB open. They're mostly runaways, so all you need to get in is the 'ok' from the Professor. He's the head guy; his name is 'Xavier,' and the school is called 'Xavier's school for gifted youngsters.' I didn't find out where it is, because the kid felt me and I didn't want him to figure it out that I was in his head, because I think he's had his mind read before. I think," Joe looked ready to jump on the table and do a jig, "I think there are a lot of telepaths there."

Jess hardly dared to breathe; a place like that meant that she and the kids wouldn't have to run anymore. "What else?"

"Uh." Joe thought for a second, "the teacher they lost isn't there anymore because she's dead. That's about it, all I saw about how the teacher died was a lake and spaceship."

Sennya and Jess stared at him. "A spaceship." The younger girl said, not bothering to whisper.

"I dunno, that's what it looked like. It could've been anything. YOU wanna go ask 'em what it really was?"

"Yeah." Jess stood up, "I do. Don't move, you two, and act like you don't know me, got it? I don't want to tell them about you until I'm sure about this place."

"I hate acting," Sennya mumbled, reaching into her happy meal for the toy.

Jess walked over to the table where the mutant kids sat, and waited for them to notice her. She put on her most charming smile. "Hi, I'm Jess Silvers. I understand that you kids go to Xavier's school for gifted youngsters, right?"

The kids looked at her suspiciously, but most nodded. "Why?" A girl with wide brown eyes and a ponytail asked. She was shimmering with heat, and Jess noticed that she looked like she was getting ready to fall.

"Because I want to know how 'gifted' you have to be to be enrolled there."

Most of the high schoolers looked like deer caught in a car's headlights. The curly haired boy who had been blowing on the cups, and a brunette with white highlights framing her face, stood up, the girl yanking her gloves off. Jess saw heat glimmer on her fingertips.

Jess concentrated, and raised her hand. The highlighted girl's burger floated three inches in the air. "I'm not looking for trouble," She said, twirling the burger and setting it back on the table, "I just want to know more about your school."

"Why do you care?" Curly was still standing, but he was waving at the Glove- Girl to sit down. Glove-Girl ignored him and crossed her arms across her chest.

"I care because I want to know if it's as safe as it sounds for.GIFTED people." Jess felt a tickle in her head again, but this time let Joe stay and watch. (Just don't look at me,) She thought at him.

"What?" a younger boy at the table, only about thirteen, looked at her in surprise. His head glowed with power. He pushed his glasses higher up on his nose, and brushed mousy-brown bangs out of his eyes. "Why not?"

Jess stared at him. (It's not polite to go wandering around in strangers' heads,) she scolded mentally, and shoved him out of her brain, putting up another mental block. He was harder to evict than Joe had ever been; Jess guessed it was due to training at his school.

"She's safe," The boy said to his friends, "She wants to send two kids she's taking care of to school with us. See, they're right over there," he pointed at Sennya and Joe, who were staring solemnly at their meals, carefully not looking at Jess and the Xavier mutants. "They're both mutants and so is SHE. The boy's name is Joe and he's a telepath, and the girl's name is Sennya and she does plants, and SHE," he jerked his thumb at Jess, "can copy other mutants' powers."

"Yo're shaw she's awright?" Glove-Girl asked in a thick southern accent, sitting back down slowly. Curly sat down too, and the girl who had looked like she was going to fall stopped shimmering.

"She hasn't got anything against the school, at least. She blocked me before I could find out much more of anything. She's got a crush on some guy at Copyco, though." The boy added, grinning at Jess.

"Watch it, kid," Jess snarled.

"OH, that cute one with the bad hair?" Fall-Girl giggled, "I don't blame you for that, he's gorgeous. Too old for me though."

"Goodie," Jess said dryly, "now are you going to tell me more about this school of yours?"

"Not here." A redheaded girl with a startlingly high voice said, "it's not safe. Maybe," she turned to Curly and Glove-Girl, who seemed to be the unofficial leaders of the group, "she could come and visit? Then the professor could decide what to do about her."

"That sounds alright," Curly said, and turned to Jess. "You know where the school is?"



The barrier Jess had put up in her mind was pushed down, and she was looking at a bird's-eye view of the city. (We're here,) a smug voice in her head said, illuminating a point on the map, (and the mansion's here.) The voice lit up another point on the map, one that was thrown out in the country. (Got it?)

Yeah, got it. Jess raised her eyebrows at the boy with glasses. He was the very picture of feigned innocence. (I don't want you teaching Joe that block-breaking trick, alright?)

The boy just smiled.

" - You know where that is?" Curly asked.

"What?" Jess blinked at him.

"I already told her where it is." Glasses said, picking up a French fry.

Curly rolled his eyes. "Whatever. So you know how to get there now?"

"Yeah, it's about two miles off Demott, right?"

"Yeah." Glove-Girl said, putting her gloves back on.

"Great. Should I come at any specific time?" Jess stuffed her hands in her pockets.

"We finish classes at about three, so any time around then." Curly said.

"Ok. Thanks, see you then," Jess walked back towards her table.

"See you," several of the Xavier kids said, waving.

(Bye,) Glasses said in her head.