Twin Poles One: Journeyman of Magnetism Part 10

Twin Poles One: Journeyman of Magnetism Part 10

Rotating Disclaimer: The Denver geography is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Xenith was a real restaurant in 1995 (I don't think it still exists) and it really did serve portions of food that were tasty, highly decorative, and way too small. It was also really a non-smoking restaurant. My boss was considerably better at handling Denver's passion for healthy non-smoking environments than Margaret's patient.

Speaking of Margaret's patient, any appearances of cigarette-smoking lung-cancerous black ops conspirators crossing over from the X-Files did not happen. We have plausible deniability. You have no proof. No one will believe you. I wouldn't pursue that line of questioning if I were you.


Back at the mansion, Joseph barely had time to dump the books he'd acquired in his bedroom before Hank McCoy barrelled cheerfully down on him and half-dragged him off to the lab for tests, having been told by Cyclops what was going on.

The tests were ridiculous and intrusive, in Joseph's opinion. Five separate tissue samples-- two skin, one on his chest and one on the back of his leg; one scraping from his inner cheek; and two painful muscular samples, one from his upper arm and one from his thigh. Two different blood samples, taken two hours apart. Urine sample. Semen sample ("Why the devil do you need that?" "Spermatocytes are more fragile than other bodily cells; if you have experienced lengthy exposure to cosmic rays in your lifetime, as the true Magneto should have from residing on an orbital asteroid, you are more likely to show spot mutations in your sperm than anywhere else on your body. Will you need a magazine to assist you? Logan and Bobby have left the lab with a goodly supply for this purpose--" "NO.") Brain scan. Several different EM-output and control tests, taken over the course of six hours as his powers slowly started to resurface. And after all that, Hank declared he wouldn't have results until tomorrow afternoon-- which, given that by now it was 4 am, was not that unreasonable, but Joseph was not feeling very charitable about it, and carped about the delay until Hank kicked him out of the lab.

He had no concept of time. He was tired, but his undefined period of unconsciousness, as well as the seventeen hours of sleep after the mental probe, had left his biological clock all askew, and he was entirely too nervous to sleep. Besides, all he'd had to eat all day was a roast beef sandwich and an unsatisfying burger at the Omaha airport. Joseph's first thought was to go the kitchen and make something to eat. After making a monstrous turkey sandwich with raw spinach in place of lettuce, though, he decided he wasn't going to sit around in the kitchen where any still-wakeful X-Men might stop in and bother him. Right now he was feeling decidedly antisocial. And while those books were an excellent resource, the X-Men had access to something much better.

The argument with Scott had been inconclusive. That didn't matter. Joseph knew the passwords of every X-Man who'd logged into the network anywhere near him. Bishop's best security procedures included having X-Men shield their passwords from Joseph's sight when they typed them in, but Bishop apparently hadn't thought of Tempest shielding, the sort of electromagnetic shielding necessary to keep devices, or people, that could read magnetic fields from picking up the commands that went through the keyboard cables. Deliberately Joseph logged onto the network as Scott, who was asleep, and ran a database query to retrieve all the X-Men's records pertaining to Magneto and email them to his network email account. While the computer was doing that, he logged onto a different one, this time as Rogue, and started browsing the records manually.

He was still at it when Scott walked in on him at 8 am. "Did it ever occur to you," Scott said, "that the network security would tell me that someone else was logged on as me?"

Joseph glanced over at the computer retrieving Magneto-related records. Incredibly, it was still doing it. "I didn't expect the query to take quite so long."

"That's all you have to say? You didn't expect it to take so long?"

Joseph spun in his chair to face Scott. "I told you. I will not exist under the restrictions you have placed me under. Jean has confirmed I cannot become Magneto through exposure to knowledge of him, you have confirmed you will not kill me to stop me from learning what I can, and as far as I am concerned that was the end of the argument. I would have asked you to change my access, but you were asleep."

"So you logged in as me. How long have you known my password?"

"A month. You have been known to log into Cerebro's data files at War Room meetings, several times, and the keyboards aren't Tempest-shielded."

"How many passwords do you know, then?"

"Not Gambit's or Bishop's. They change theirs every three days. And Psylocke has never logged in in front of me."

"Everyone else's, in other words."


Scott sighed. "Neither Gambit nor Bishop have reported any incursions onto the network we couldn't account for. So either you're damn good or you haven't used your unauthorized passwords before tonight. Which is it?"

"As much as I would like to claim to be 'damn good', the truth is I haven't used them before. Before tonight, or more precisely last night when I learned I cannot be Magneto, I feared becoming him if I should learn too much of his life. But today..." Joseph shrugged.

"And when I didn't give you permission, you made an end run around me."

"I will not come crawling to you for what by all rights should be mine, Cyclops. Besides, you proved you have no justification for keeping it from me."

"The X-Men's private databases aren't yours by any stretch of the imagination. If we authorize you to access them, it's because we trust you, not because they should be yours. And if you're talking about Magneto's memories, I thought the whole point was that we don't know if you have any rights to Magneto's memories or not."

"I have every right to Magneto's memories whether I am him or not; what few fragments of memory I do have are his, so where else would I go to find my memories?"

"The point is these aren't Magneto's memories. They're the X-Men's memories of Magneto. Big difference."

"And I am an X-Man. I have fought beside you, saved the world, proven myself a dozen times over--"

"And that's why I'm not reading you the riot act for this." Scott sat down heavily. "If you'd woken me up in the middle of the night to ask for access I'd have told you to go away until morning, but you're probably right. If you can't be Magneto you may as well know everything about him. If we're lucky it'll help you from making the same mistakes. I'm not thrilled about the way you did it, but I know what amnesia's like. I'm not sure I'd have been willing to wait until morning if it'd been my past in that computer."

Joseph frowned. "You have had amnesia?"

"Not like yours. When I first came to the X-Men, I could barely remember my childhood. Even now I've mostly got fragments and things my brother or my father told me. I've come to terms with it, but there was a time when I didn't remember what my parents looked like, and I didn't even remember I had a brother. I thought I did but people told me I didn't, so I thought maybe I'd imagined Alex."

"I thought the two of you were closer than that."

"When we were real little, yeah. But I don't remember that. Just pieces." Scott shook his head slightly. "It doesn't matter. The point is, much as I'm sure you'd like to continue to believe I'm an unfeeling, unreasoning jerk, I have reasons for what I'm doing. I want to protect the X-Men, and I want to protect you."

"I don't need the protection."

"You most certainly do. We've been through this. I'm going to make a deal with you, Joseph, pending the results Hank comes up with it. I'll give you access to the records with Magneto's history, but not some of the files on us-- the details, the private histories, our weak points. Same deal I gave Gambit before he proved himself. We don't give new X-Men full access to the files until we know we can trust them."

"And you trust Gambit?"

"The Professor did. It was the Professor who gave him sysadmin access, since he knows more about modern computer security systems than Bishop and myself combined. The Professor trusted you, too. The trouble is, it wasn't the first time Professor Xavier trusted Magneto, and the last time we all got badly burned, so I'm not willing to extend you that trust until you prove yourself to me."

"And how am I supposed to do that?"

"Same thing you're doing. Work with us, keep your nose clean. I also want you to stay at the mansion or on the grounds unless you've got one of us with you." Joseph opened his mouth to protest. Scott held up a hand. "Don't argue with me. You made your arguments and I don't agree with them. You may be trustworthy, but you're not safe; Magneto's got too many enemies you don't know about."

"And what do I get for this largesse?"

"Don't get snide, mister. You're the one who wanted so badly to be an X-Man."

"I may be rethinking my position."

"Rethink all you want, but there's only two safe places for you in the world. With us, and with Magneto's Acolytes. And that might be safe enough for your body, but your sanity would be in danger and I think you know it."

Yes, he did know it. "What makes you think I can't carve out my own safety?"

"Because there are devices that can find Magneto specifically, and if Magneto knows how to baffle them, you didn't get that. The Avengers found you with no problem. And any innocent bystanders near you will be in danger, and I don't want you running off to hollow out a mountain and brood in it like Magneto used to." He stood up. "My brother got captured and brainwashed by the Brotherhood. Hank got captured and replaced by the Black Beast. I'm not having one more X-Man disappear, especially not as one as powerful as you are with as many enemies."

"So you believe I need to stay here, with people who fear and distrust me. That I am safer here than I would making my own way, or amongst people who believe I mean them no harm."

"That's right. You've done a good job of proving yourself so far. Even this--" he gestured at the computer. "If you're telling the truth about how you got the passwords, and I don't see how else you could have, then you're telling the truth about how long you've had them, and to the best of my knowledge you haven't used them until tonight, to get something you were going to be given access to anyway. I'm willing to overlook you being impatient about it because I know what it's like, and the fact that you waited this long helps your case. Of course, I am going to have Tempest shielding installed." He smiled. It was surprising how natural it looked, given that Joseph had never seen Scott smile while talking to him.

"So long as I have the access I deserve, I don't object to that."

"Log off as me and I'll give you the access you need."

Joseph glanced at his screen. The query had finished while he and Scott talked. "Done." A few mental commands to the keyboard interface, and he was logged off. He rolled his chair out of the way, letting Scott in at the machine.

Scott logged onto the machine. "Don't change your password while you're on this one," Joseph said. "I can't read keyboard signals except at close range. You'd be more secure to go upstairs."

"I was planning on getting the Tempest shielding before I change my password, actually, but thanks for the warning." Scott pulled up the sysadmin's menu for granting user access and clicked some boxes. "There you go. Log off that other one and back in. You should have access to everything up to clearance 2, with no spot restrictions."

"Thank you."

"Get some sleep. Hank's not going to be finished until afternoon."

"I cannot sleep."

"Read my mission logs, then. Bobby swears by them as a sleep aid."

It took Joseph several seconds to realize Cyclops had actually joked with him, and by the time he realized it, Scott was already on his way out the door.

Denver was not her home, nor was it anywhere near her home, which was why Margaret had chosen it for her meeting with her next patient.

Magnus had the most raw power of any of her patients, but he was probably not the most dangerous. The man she had come to Denver to meet easily fit that definition. He was also one of the most valuable, and so she cultivated him, but it was vitally important to keep him off balance, keep him from learning anything about her, keep him ill and hurting but alive and dependent on her to keep him that way. So she chose Denver because it was nowhere near San Diego, but nowhere near Washington DC either, taking him far from his centers of power.

She arrived at Xenith in the body of a tall blonde bombshell, impeccably dressed in black fur and leather. It was too fancy an outfit for Denver, but then, Xenith, a restaurant that prided itself on its nouvelle cuisine, catered to that sort of thing-- it was where the rich businesspeople ate when they were visiting in Denver. "I have a reservation for Smith," she said. "It's for two; the other party should be here shortly."

Actually, he would probably be late, to make her wait. So she ordered her meal ahead of time, and took out the Wall Street Journal-- she preferred the Times, but the very fact that it was her preference made her choose something else, and those were the only two national papers she could find at the Denver newspaper kiosks, and she wouldn't read the local rags Denver called its papers-- and was deeply engaged in the biotech news by the time her patient finally arrived.

"Is this a good restaurant?" he asked, sitting down.

"It gets great reviews," Mystery said, putting down her paper. "I've already ordered. You go ahead and check the menu."

"Hungry?" His voice was raspy, as if he needed to clear his throat, but she knew it wouldn't help him to try.

She smiled, displaying perfect white teeth that had just the slightest hint of over-sharpness in the canines. Not an obvious sign of mutation-- just a bit off-balancing. "Food's my favorite vice."

"I prefer tobacco." He took out one of his trademark cigarettes and a lighter.

"Uh-uh-uh. Non-smoking restaurant. You wouldn't want to make a scene, so far from DC, would you?"

He glared at her, but put the cigarette away. "Deliberate on your part, I'm sure."

"Most restaurants in Denver are non-smoking. They're very health-conscious here." She smiled even more brightly. "You know, cigarettes can kill you."

"So I hear." He opened his menu and perused it a moment. She took that opportunity to study him. He was plainly unhealthy. His cheeks, always jowly, sagged more than usual, and there were bags under his flat grey eyes. His hands were more wrinkled than usual, the skin sagging slightly on them in a way that indicated to her he'd lost a lot of weight. The clothes he wore-- as usual, an utterly plain dark suit, blue shirt and tie, nothing about it to draw any attention-- had actually been carefully tailored to hide this, an effect she hadn't noticed at first. His gray hair was thinner than it had been the last time she'd seen him. Something was accelerating his decline-- the lung cancer shouldn't have progressed far enough to make him this sick in six months unless there was something else involved. Stress, most likely. Aside from his demanding job, he had her demands to worry about as well, and hiding her and his enslavement to her from his organization. He looked tired and haggard and old, though his utterly flat affect made him seem no less dangerous for all that.

Her patient set his menu down. "So," he said. "Do I get a treatment today? We're at the six month mark."

"Of course you get a treatment. You look quite sick, actually. What do you have to pay me with?"

"What do you want to know?"

"Charles Xavier's trial," she said promptly. "How are the preparations going?"

A small smile flickered into life on his face. "They're not."

"Not?" She frowned. "They're going to let him go? After all he's done?"

"Of course--" A coughing fit interrupted him, deep, hacking, lung-destroying coughs. "Of course not."

At that point the waitress arrived with Mystery's food, and took her companion's order. Her meal-- roast lamb and mashed potatoes-- was savory and decorative, the meat and potatoes arranged into an artistic rendition of a mountain of potato surrounded by bits of meat, with thin lines of sauce swirled into designs across the plate and the food. It was a rather small portion, though. Tasty, but there had better be some good desserts here, or she'd need a second meal.

After the waitress was gone, she washed down some food with her Coke-- she'd never get used to how tasty Coke was after fifteen years without it-- and said, "So, if they're not letting him go, and the trial's not proceeding, is he dead?"

"No. Most likely not. Bastion's group has him." He tapped his fingers nervously, obviously deep in the grip of nicotine craving. "As far as our group is concerned, he's not valuable enough to wrestle with Bastion for control, so we allowed Bastion to take custody."

Mystery scowled. "Not acceptable."

"It's a fait accompli, my--" The coughing started again. "--dear." He choked down a glass of water. Politely she waited until he was done.

"What does Bastion want with him?"

"Oh, most likely information on the X-Men. Bastion's expressed concern that if we allow Xavier to stand open trial, we can expect a terrorist assault from them, and after they did away with so many of the non-mutant operatives, it'll be difficult to contain them. I believe his intention for Xavier is to use him to devise protocols to stop the X-Men if they do attack."

"Do you really see the X-Men as such a serious threat?"

"Well. They were seen working with Magneto during the whole Onslaught affair. Even if they hadn't annihilated their competition, I'd say that speaks for itself."

So the decoy had done his job, then. Too bad the X-Men continued to be such morons that they'd let the world believe they had murdered the other heroes in destroying Onslaught. She hadn't been there, but she had been involved in purging Onslaught from Erik-- if it had survived that, it would not have died easily.

She knew the man in front of her well enough to have developed some ability to read emotions in that nearly emotionless, calm voice. "But you don't actually think the threat is that serious."

He coughed again, but got it under control faster this time. "I didn't say that."

"Would you let Bastion run things if you did?"

"Touché." He settled on munching a dinner roll as an apparent substitute for the cigarette he couldn't have. "No, I think Bastion's fear of mutants is extreme, and that he's not correctly locating the threat. Ordinary mutants, or even the type who choose to call themselves 'heroes' or 'villains', are an exploitable resource, and breed less than baseline humanity. The real threat Bastion should be looking for comes from those few mutants who seek aggressively to replace humanity through genetic conquest." He looked straight into her eyes as he said the last. Though her control didn't break, though her expression didn't change, she felt a spike of adrenaline shoot through her veins. He was targeting her, her goals and her fellows in seeking them. She wondered if he knew it, and suspected he did.

"It doesn't suit my purposes that a resource like Xavier remain in Bastion's hands," Mystery said, sipping her Coke. "I want him out and I want him to stand trial for his crimes."

"I'd think you'd prefer such a fate for such a high-profile mutant. It'll hardly do your people any good to bring Xavier's crimes into the public eye."

That was what Magnus would say, if she'd been stupid enough to tell him what she was planning, which of course she was not. It didn't matter. "Things couldn't get significantly worse for mutantkind's public image. That's not what I'm concerned with. Xavier's followers need to be taught a lesson. They see a great man, a mentor, a teacher. They need to see him for what he truly is."

"So you can confirm that he trained the X-Men?"

"Nice try." She smiled thinly. "I confirm nothing, except that Xavier is an influential figure, a mentor to many mutants and the founder of a philosophical movement within the mutant community. He has to be made an example of."

Her patient would far more easily accept that explanation than the truth. She had to seem ruthless to him, without weakness, like himself, or he would see her as weak and redouble his efforts to free himself. She could never let him know the truth.

The truth was a drooling, diapered shell that had once been the man she'd loved, or someone very much like him. The truth was the man who'd saved her from hell in another world crying hysterically, clinging to her as the memories her treatments restored to him broke like tsunamis against his fragile mind, smashing it to pieces again. The truth was a white-haired man who'd once been one of the most dynamic, most powerful presences she'd known being a ghost, sitting silently and staring, answering questions in monosyllables or not at all, eating and sleeping but doing nothing else to indicate he was alive.

Charles Xavier had broken Magnus, shattered him into a billion pieces and left him around for someone else to put back together. In a world that no longer existed, Xavier had at least had the balls to try to fix what he'd wrought-- and died for it, leaving his blood on Magnus' conscience, crippling Magnus again and making him unable to work together with the X-Men, or do very much useful at all, until nightmare had overtaken them all and there was no longer any choice, or any hope. In this world, Xavier would earn the punishment for his crimes, for Magnus, blankeyed and practically foaming at the mouth, slicing her head off with a whirling blade and then begging for death rather than endure being possessed by an entity that could make him do such things. But he'd earn the punishment cleanly, without bloodying Magnus or burning what few bridges he had to the X-Men. And the X-Men would either learn their mentor's true nature, and grow wiser and stronger, or they would turn on the government that had punished him, growing more paranoid and more willing to make pre-emptive strike. Either way, it would shore up this world against the nightmare that had consumed hers.

"That might be--" He was racked with coughing for a moment again. "--difficult. Bastion has a lot of influence."

"More than yours?"

He looked at her levelly. "In the matter of mutants, perhaps. There's some suspicion that I might be compromised."

His food arrived then, along with a bottle of wine that he carefully sniffed and sipped before pronouncing it acceptable. Mystery didn't like the taste of alcohol enough to bother indulging; if she was in a safe place and wanted to get inebriated, there were easier ways.

"That might be a problem," she said. "I can only help you out so long as you can help me. If they believe you to be compromised, that threatens our working relationship."

"I'd recommend giving me something I can take back to them," he said. "My lungs are a merely personal benefit, but if you give me something my colleagues would consider valuable, I can turn my relationship with you into an asset." Bland grayish-blue eyes looked at her intently, emotions sliding off their smooth surface as if they were greased marbles. He gave nothing away. Didn't change the fact that he was full of shit.

"Anything in mind?"

"Did you ever have dealings with a Dr. Nathan Milbury?"

She mopped up the last of her potatoes with her last piece of meat, and stuffed it in her mouth. "The name's vaguely familiar."

"We believe he goes by a nom du guerre that might be somewhat more recognizable-- Mr. Sinister."

If she didn't have total control over her own body, and if she hadn't been exerting such control over her autonomic nervous system since this meeting started, she might have choked. They'd tied Milbury to Sinister? Nat was going to have a fit, if she told him, which she probably wouldn't. He wasn't her Nat, and the stories she'd heard from Callisto and young Sarah painted him as a far more vicious and irrationally evil SOB than her teacher had been, though he seemed as urbane and controlled as the man she remembered. There was a good possibility that it would come to war between them sooner or later, and right now her only advantage was knowing him better than he knew her. No, she wouldn't tell him. Being able to sic her patient on him was a useful trump card she should keep in reserve.

"Pretty lame name. What about him?" she asked.

"Well. If your resources could locate him and give me information as to his whereabouts and activities, that'd go a long way toward restoring me to grace, so to speak."

She shook her head. "If I get such information, I'll definitely consider it. You're valuable to me. But I need Xavier pulled out of there and put on trial, by any means necessary. I can turn up the political heat if I have to to give you ammo. But it absolutely has to be done."

He had an extended coughing fit. "I see," he said weakly, when it was done and he could speak. "Do what you can, and I'll do what I can."

It was capitulation. He wouldn't outright say he'd do it-- that came too close to admitting his own slavery. She'd give him what he needed, tweaking some of the politicians who owed her favors to agitate for Xavier to stand trial. Perhaps she could even find a mutant criminal to toss to him, although at his level it was probably the ones she knew personally that he'd most want. But Bastion couldn't be allowed to have Xavier under any circumstances-- the man knew too damn much.

"Good to hear it," she said. "Do you want to get down to business?"

"All right." He put down his fork and put his hand out across the table. She could see his back straightening, his body going rigid, bracing for pain.

The use of her power either brought pleasure or pain. It couldn't be neutral. In its natural state, if she didn't tweak it, it caused excruciating pain, as if the mind and body rebelled against the invasion of the foreign force her power represented as strongly as they possibly could. If she tried to numb the pain sensors, what was left was a feeling of discomfort and violation. One of her patients had described it as akin to the sensation of a needle inserted through one's epidermis, moving around. It wasn't painful, but it felt weird and unpleasant. The only way she could avoid causing pain was to trigger sensations of pleasure-- usually manifesting as sexual pleasure, though she worked very hard on small children to make it a general endorphin rush rather than intense arousal. For young patients, friends, lovers and family-- well, not that she actually had any family-- she'd grant the pleasure. For enemies and adults under her control, she let them feel the pain. It was a good reminder that she was not benevolent, not the stereotypical gentle healer dedicated to life. She was Shiva/Kali, goddess of life and death, destruction and rebirth, and she could kill more easily than she could heal.

He gasped, sweat breaking out on his forehead, as her power moved into him, seeking out the cancer cells in his lungs and any that had metatasized elsewhere. She pushed healthy cells to regenerate, to recover the damage his cancer had done to his lungs. She broke down the tar buildup, transforming the hydrocarbons into much smaller molecules such as simple sugars and drawing them back into his cells in safe, inert forms. She found the cancer cells themselves and killed them, closing the blood vessels that fed them.

And she left a colony alive, much larger than the colony she'd left last time, nearly twice the size.

She couldn't heal him. That would be worse than useless-- fully healed, with no more need for her, he would be a deadly danger to her. She was sure he was already trying desperately to find a way to be healed fully without her help, or a way to compel her to complete the healing. If she ever did fully heal him, he'd find a way to destroy her.

She let him go. He was breathing heavily, raggedly, but he hadn't screamed or made a scene despite the extreme pain. "That should help."

He got his breathing under control and took a few experimental deep breaths, as if checking his lung capacity. "Much. You might want to see if you can tone that down next time. I won't be any good to you if I take a heart attack."

"Your heart's perfectly healthy. There's nothing wrong with you aside from some minor joint pain, a tendency to constipation, the kind of spinal misalignments that everyone your age gets, and your lungs. I wouldn't risk such complications when it's so easy to take care of them while I'm in there anyway." She smiled. The truth was he really just was that healthy; for a man in his late 50's or 60's, he'd be in excellent health if not for the cancer, which was virulent and would be terminal if she didn't keep pruning it for him. "I'll see you for another treatment in three months."

His eyebrows raised. "Three? Not six?"

"I think we need to keep a close eye on that cancer."

She wasn't fooling him, of course. She knew that he knew she was tightening the leash. But the name of the game was never to explicitly state such things, to treat their relationship like any business transaction and not like one where she had the power of life and death over him.

"I see," he said, and stood. "I'm going to smoke. You take care of the bill."

Technically he was supposed to take care of the bill, as her patient, but she allowed him this small snit. Besides, she wanted dessert. She flagged the waitress down, learned that desserts here consisted of flavored sherbets, and ordered a raspberry one, which came as a scoop on a plate with raspberry sauce swirled artistically around it.

She finished the sherbet-- which was excellent, but too small-- and paid the bill. Outside she looked around for her patient, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Margaret smiled. Let him have his little hissyfit, stomping off because she'd left him with more cancer than usual. She'd be in touch with him in a couple of weeks to ensure he was doing her bidding, getting Xavier out of Bastion's hands and back on trial, and she'd see if she could find a bone to toss him. He'd be back in three months; his health would drive him back to her. And if he didn't, he'd be dead in four or five.

She left the restaurant, walked to the 17th Street trolley and took it to the food court on California, where she stopped in the bathroom and transformed into a medium-height Asian woman. While transforming she absorbed all of her hair and clothing-- fur and leather was all organic-- and increased the sensitivity of her skin until it hurt, making sure he hadn't planted any bugs on her. She altered her telltale RNA signature to indicate that she was not a mutant-- mutant signature detectors didn't actually detect DNA, which was a relatively inert molecule; they used RNA detection, and while Margaret didn't dare modify her own DNA except on her upper skin cells, she could mess with volatile RNA as much as she wished. Then, generating cotton denims, a cotton t-shirt, and leather sneakers, she left, heading for the nearby Marriott hotel. She took a taxi for the airport, where she changed in bathrooms three more times before taking a flight to Philadelphia, where she would ditch her plane in Chicago and in male form get on another flight heading back to San Diego. And if he could have her followed through that many switchbacks, he deserved to find her. But she didn't seriously think he had any chance.

Next: Hank has theories, and Margaret and Magnus have apples.

I love feedback, including tough critique, so let me know what you think! This series is a lot more flexible than some of my work, so feedback will have a bigger influence on its direction than on my other stories. Thanks, Alara.

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