Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters, locations and concepts belonging to Marvel Entertainment. No claim of ownership is made or implied by me in using their property. No part of this work is intended for material gain of any kind. It is intended for the sole purpose of creative exercise and the entertainment of others.


The Adventures of Kitty Pryde

Issue 1, November 2005

Cover image: Kitty stepping forward, a determined look on her face. Her fists are clenched and one foot is still phased in the brick wall behind her. Bullets fired from off camera streak through her and ricochet off the wall.

John Byrne Variant: Kitty stands facing the camera with arms crossed and says, "All right kids, this is your only warning: Buy my book or I'm coming over there and ripping up all of your She Hulk."


"SIXTY-THREE BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL!"

Katherine Pryde, that's me, and it has been a long time since I found out I was a mutant.

Every school has field trips, and Xavier's is no exception. An ordinary yellow bus carries its decidedly less than ordinary occupants to their destination.

I'm nothing close to the little girl I was when I first joined the X-Men.

Inside, students ranging from their early teens to as young as eight are engaged in their own special brand of idle mischief. A bizarre arsenal of fireworks, snowballs and gas clouds take the place of spitwads in an impromptu battle. One student hangs from the roof of the bus like a sleeping bat and another is tying knots in the hair of a girl who is levitating above her seat in a meditative trance.

Sometimes thinking about those days helps me forget about things I'd rather pretend never happened.

Kitty sits at the front of the bus, looking utterly defeated as she ignores the chaos behind her and pets a very content Lockheed.

But I was never that young...

The bus driver, who is not a mutant, nervously focuses on driving as beads of sweat grow on his forehead.

...was I?

Stan Lee does not present

The Caber Caper


Two days ago...

"Exactly what part of 'I don't babysit' are you having difficulty comprehending?"

Kitty can be quite fearsome when she's on a tear, but Emma bears it with calmness inversely proportionate to the amount of clothes she is wearing. "I expect it's the part where it isn't babysitting," she replies.

With the exception of these two women, the teacher's lounge is strangely empty, despite several cups of coffee that still have wisps of steam rising from them.

Kitty shoots a glare at Emma and says, "Sending me out with a bunch of kids while the mansion is repaired is hardly what I would call a field trip. Especially after school hours. On a weekend. It's obviously just an excuse to get them out of the way."

"There's a legitimate educational benefit to the Highland Games. Think of it as a cultural experience." Emma turns her attention to stirring her coffee.

"A trip to the science museum is a cultural experience in my book. This is more up Rahne's alley."

"Regrettably, Ms. Sinclair is not available. Perhaps you've noticed."

Kitty's hands ball into fists. "Not a single one of your pet students are going. They're the youngest kids in the school, and half of them are castoffs from District X!"

))Yes, do shout,(( Emma fires back, using her telepathy. ))These walls are not soundproof, and I'm sure voicing your opinion will encourage them to make the excursion a pleasant one for you.((

"I'm not doing it," Kitty announces.

"I can certainly see where Xavier went wrong with you. Insubordination was never tolerated at the Massachusetts Academy."

"I know exactly where I'd be if I'd become one of your Hellions," Kitty responds. Too late, she realizes what she has said, and pales when she sees Emma stiffen at the insult. "Oh, God. I didn't mean..."

In a voice that suits her name Ms. Frost says, "Your objection has been noted. We both know how this will end, so there's no point in arguing."

Kitty, still regretting what she had said, grumbles inaudibly.

"I beg your pardon?" Emma asks.

"Fine," Kitty concedes. "But don't start thinking just because you're Headmistress that every time you want something I'll roll over and take it."

"Certainly not," Emma Frost says, her composure regained. "I expect you save that for your trips to Peter's room."

What happens next even soundproof walls wouldn't conceal.


"TAKE ONE DOWN, PASS IT AROUND..."

Kitty continues to scratch Lockheed behind his horn while she rests her chin on her other hand. "Can't believe I let her talk me into this. At least she let me bring you along. You'll help keep me from going crazy, won't you, Lockheed?"

The dragon simply coos in pleasure, but Kitty accepts the response as consent.

A younger student walks up to Kitty and gives her sleeve a tug. "Miss Pryde?" he says.

Suddenly a tune from Cat's Laughing jumps from her pocket and Kitty pulls out a cell phone. "What's wrong, Travis?" Kitty asks in a kind voice.

"I have to go," the boy says in an embarrassed whisper.

"Driver, can you take the next available rest stop?" At his worried nod, Kitty turns back to Travis and says, "We'll be stopping somewhere, soon, okay? Do you think you can hold it a little longer?"

The boy gives a reluctant nod and Kitty pats him on the head. "Back to your seat, then," she says and flips open her phone to find an Instant Message waiting for her.

--ManofSteel129: How are you?--

Kitty allows herself a nasty smirk as she raises the lens of the phone, snaps a picture of the chaos behind her and hits "send."

For a few moments nothing happens, and then finally another message appears.

--ManofSteel129: Patience, Katya--

Kitty's fingers dance over her keypad as she types her response, but before she can complete it, the girl who was meditating storms up to her.

"Miss Pryde, look at what that little creep did to my hair!" The student's long, jet hair is indeed a confused mess of tangles and little tufts poking out from odd places.

Kitty grants her a sympathetic look and turns to where the culprit is trying to look innocent. "Kyle, trade seats with Tayja."

"But-"

"Now, young man."

"Did I just say, 'young man?'" Kitty thinks before she turns her attention back to the hair horror and says, "All right, turn around." Kitty then reaches up and phases her hands through the girl's hair, selectively phasing the locks apart until they hang loosely and untangled. "That takes care of that. Go see if Tayja will help you style it." After the girl goes back to her seat Kitty completes her message.

--PunkinCat: Lst patience ages ago. Rdy to feed brts to the brood. JK--

Kitty watches the display read "ManofSteel129 is responding..." for a while. "Poor dear still isn't used to IM," she thinks.

"Miss Pryde! Lois keeps blocking the window!"

"Miss Pryde, can I sit on top of the bus?"

"Miss Pryyyyyyyde!"

Kitty grits her teeth. "I'm going to kill Emma when we get back," she mumbles. Just then Peter's reply appears on her screen.

--ManofSteel129: IMHO you enjoy this more than you admit.--

Kitty lifts and eyebrow. "Maybe he's catching on quicker than I thought."

--PunkinCat: Sez you.--

As she gets a new tug on her sleeve, she has just enough time to send a final message.

--PunkinCat: RL calls. B4N. H&K.--

"I am seriously going to lose my cool."


"She's so cool!"

In the very back of the bus, four of the oldest students on the trip are huddled together as they study Kitty with naked admiration.

Warren Epps, Shortwave. Able to intercept wave transmissions of any frequency.

"I heard she was my age when she joined the X-Men."

Scott Lightfoot, Lightfoot. Does not register on any weight sensors.

"She's so pretty."

Ben Rice, Abacus. Able to calculate and perform any mathematical function instantly.

"I heard she beat the Danger Room with her eyes closed."

Ben is cuffed on the back of the head by the only girl of the group.

Alana DuBois, Compact. Able to shrink to the size of a mouse. Nearly indestructible while shrunk.

"Dummy, she destroyed it while fighting a demon. Besides, everyone knows she killed it using her ninja powers."

The boys, clearly impressed, "ooh" and "ahh" and lean in closer, except for Ben, who rubs his head and glares at her.

"Since when did she ever become a ninja?" Ben asks.

Alana rolls her eyes. "Duhhhhh. Since the Mandarin kidnapped her and used his mind control."

The boys are too stunned by this revelation to do anything more than say "Ohhhhh."

"...BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL!"

Scott returns to gazing at Kitty. "She's awfully pretty."

"I wish she'd pay more attention to us," Alana mutters.

"She pays just as much attention to us as anyone else," Warren says.

"Actually, the attention we receive is an average of fourteen point thirty-seven percent less than everyone else. Of course, the odds of her being able to split her time evenly is less than-"

"We get it!" Alana snaps. "You're missing the point. Think about how cool it would be if she let us hang out with her more."

Ben suddenly perks up. "You mean like sidekicks or something?"

"That does sound cool," Warren concedes. "But who says she even wants sidekicks, much less ones with lame powers like us?"

"The odds are-"

"Stop!" Alana says to Ben before he can rattle off the figure. "All we need to do is get her attention and prove ourselves."

"How?" Warren asks, sounding doubtful.

"I have a few ideas," Alana promises.

"I just love her hair," Scott says in a dreamy voice.


Liverpool, NY

The bus pulls into a parking lot outside the festival grounds. They have arrived early, but the place is already bustling with activity as visitors cruise the multitudes of tents spread throughout the grounds. Several pipe bands are involved in warm-ups and the ticket tables have long lines of people waiting to purchase admission. The festive atmosphere is thick with people proudly wearing kilts with their clan colors and perusing the craft tents.

"Alright, everybody, form a line behind me," Kitty says as she escorts the children off the bus. Lockheed perches himself on her shoulder and the children follow her instructions with little protest.

Strangely, for the most part, everyone else seems to brush off the unusual sight Kitty and the children present. Some glance at them with mild curiosity, but continue on their way as if nothing untoward is happening.

"Pardon me, Miss?"

Kitty turns and sees an elderly man decked out in full traditional garb looking down at her with a friendly expression.

"Yes?"

"I just wanted to compliment you on that fine dragon you have."

"Uh... Thank you?"

The old man chuckles as he drifts back into the crowds. "No Miss, thank you."

Kitty takes a closer look at the people attending the event, and her eyes fall on the multitude of weapons they carry. Some have swords or knives tied to their belts. Others carry those as well as staves and maces. She even notices one couple pushing a baby stroller with a broadsword draped across the handles.

"God, this place is more heavily armed than a Gun and Knife Show."


"Does everybody know the plan?"

"Yes..." several voices respond.

A young, statuesque woman with a face made for chewing bubble gum emerges from behind a tent flap. "I can go over it again..."

"Please, God, no," a rail thin man responds. Standing next to him are two other men, one tall and muscular, the other whose face is almost completely obscured by his thick, bushy red hair and beard. They are all dressed in traditional garb.

The tall man doesn't seem to be paying attention, however. He is snapping his fingers while staring intently at his kilt. With each snap it changes to a different pattern. The bushy fellow watches this and his face quivers with guffaws that are severely muffled by his beard.

"Tartan, are you ready to start?" the woman asks. When she doesn't get any response she smacks the back of his head. "Tartan!"

"Ow! What'd you do that for you crazy woman?" the man known as Tartan says as he rubs his head in pain. The bushy man seems to find this even more amusing and continues to quake.

The woman takes issue with this as well, but resists the urge for more violence and settles on placing a hand on the man's shoulder. "Listen, you two, I'm glad you enjoy the talents I've given you, and it's only going to get better. Thing is, the thing I haven't told you yet, is what will happen if we fail."

She leans close, so that her head is right between both of theirs and says, "You'll go back to being what you were."

Both men's eyes bulge, and the taller man says, "We'll do our part, Shepherdess. Don't you worry." The other one seems to make a similar promise, but it is again muffled by his beard.

"Awesome," the woman says with a smile. "Now, let's get going." She leaves the way she came in.

With a sigh, the thin man sets a newspaper down on their table. "You heard the lady," he groans as they disperse. The newspaper lies open on a photo of a large, angular sculpture. Next to it is the caption, "Rare Sculpture to be Displayed at Highland Games."


Kitty takes a moment to soak in the collective sight of the main field and the central arena. The whole place is bustling with activity as thousands of people mill about, everyone seeming to have a wonderful time. To the right of the central stage is an unusual sculpture that seems to be made of flat, interconnecting pillars.

Kitty sneaks a peek at some well built men as they stroll by in kilts that expose their muscular legs, thinking to herself, "Nice. This might not be so bad after all."

She glances at Lockheed and whispers, "It's a good thing you're the only one here to catch me enjoying myself."

"Heh," the little purple dragon responds.

"All right, kids," Kitty says as she leads them away from the ticket tables. "How about we start with an early lunch?"

A chorus of approval flies at her, and with that Kitty leads them to the food tents.

o o o

Kitty and the children tour the different areas, finding all manner of interesting activities.

The Food Tents:

Kyle looks at Kitty and says, "What's 'Haggis,' Miss Pryde?"

The Pipe Bands:

Warren leans over to Ben and asks, "Why are they all marching?"

Ben, wincing, says, "To get away from the noise."

The Clan Tents:

Tayja excitedly points at one and says, "Ooh! That's my last name! Please can we go there, Miss Pryde? Pleeeeease?"

After a good healthy walk around the fields and a few visits to the shops, Kitty gathers all the children together at the main bleachers to watch the athletics.

On stage, the announcer describes the various events and the results as they come. On one side of the field hulking men spin about as they fling heavy weights as far as they can. On the other side, equally large athletes hurl weights high into the air.

"Miss Pryde, I can't hear what he's saying," one of the students complains.

Alana nudges Warren and says, "Maybe you can help out with that."

Warren nods and concentrates for a bit. Finally he opens his mouth and the warbley voice of the announcer leaks out. "...the Kilted Mile is scheduled to start in fifteen minutes. Anybody who's interested in participating is welcome to come down to the starting line and talk to the officials. Any age can run, and if you don't have a kilt, one will be provided..."

Scott seems to snap out of gazing at Kitty and glances down at the track. "Any age?"


Kitty is watching the athletics as she sits in the middle of the crowd of students. While the children chat and cheer, Kitty becomes lost in thought.

It's kinda nice to see the kids enjoying themselves like this. Not to mention everyone else celebrating the culture, even if they aren't directly connected to it themselves.

(Although some of them, like that tramp wearing a bikini top with her kilt, ought to be arrested by the fashion police.)

I wonder if someday people will celebrate mutant culture like this? After all, wasn't there once a time where the Scottish were treated an awful lot like we're being treated now?

Kitty glances at Tayja, who is eagerly devouring the literature she got from her ancestral family's Clan Tent.

Not the way things are going now. We've all accepted that we're not human, but being a mutant hasn't made her any less of a Scot than it's made me less of a Jew.

Kitty's mind drifts to the day she discovered she was a mutant, the headache that sent her through her bedroom floor.

Mutants are what we are. It's as much a natural part of us as sight. Even if we never used our abilities, we'd always be reminded of that.

Images float through Kitty's mind. First of a piece of graffiti. The words "Die Mutie" written in huge red letters.

By the people who want to exterminate us...

A sign reading "Welcome to Genosha."

...enslave us...

The exterior of Benetech labs.

..."cure" us...

Magneto and Charles Xavier.

...lead us.

But it isn't who we are. Could it be? Until it is, will anything really change for us?

Suddenly Kitty is broken from her thoughts as she looks around.

"Where's Scott?"


Kitty hunts through the students with her eyes, but does not see Scott among them. "Lockheed, have you seen Scott?"

"Nrooo."

"Great," she mutters. Turning to the rest of the children, she says, "Has anybody seen Scott?"

Alana stands up proudly. "Miss Pryde? I know where he is."

Kitty breathes a sigh of relief and asks Alana to illuminate her, to which the young teen points toward the track below.

Just as the announcer is saying, "On your marks... get set..." Kitty follows the finger and is horrified to see the assembled racers.

BLAM! At the sound of the gunshot, all the runners leap forward, some full tilt, others at a more measured pace. "He didn't!" Kitty cries as she sees Scott, kilt draped over his jeans, running for all he is worth near the end of the pack. He does slow down enough to wave to everyone.

"What does he think he's doing?" Kitty says.

"Looks like he's running, Miss Pryde," Alana helpfully tells her.

"Why would he do that? He doesn't even have any speed powers."

"Isn't that what makes it fair, Miss Pryde?"

"Well, yes, but... That isn't the point! We're supposed to stay together! Do you know what the Headmistress will say when she finds out about this?"

"But, Miss Pryde," Alana says, now looking uncertain. "You're competing too."


"DANCING?!?"

Kitty clutches the program with both hands, disbelief written all over her face. The students look on with a mixture of fear and amusement. "Who could have-? It must have been her!"

"We'll just see about that!" Kitty says as she storms away. "Keep an eye on them, dragon, I'll be right back."

"Yah!"

"Stay together, kids!" Kitty calls behind her before vanishing into the crowds.

Kitty storms off to find some officials, muttering, "That wicked hussy must have arranged the whole thing. She's probably having herself a good laugh right now. Well we'll just about that..."

She finally locates the judge's table next to the dancing platform and stands in front of it to face a fussy man who is flipping through a notebook.

"Excuse me, sir, my name is Katherine Pryde and-"

The man cuts her off with a raised hand. "One moment, please."

"But there's been a mistake-"

"I said: One moment."

Kitty can do nothing but gape in frustration until the man is finished. Finally, he looks up at her and says, "Now, then. Katherine Pryde. What seems to be the trouble?"

"There's been a mistake. My name's been entered into the competition and-"

The man opens his program and scans through it. "Which Class, please?"

"Um, Beginner. But that's not the point. I shouldn't-"

"Katherine... Pryde. Ah!" He looks at her more carefully. "There most certainly has been a mistake." The man rises from his chair and seizes Kitty by the shoulders. "You can't go out on stage looking like that!"

Kitty eyes widen in surprise. "What? No, I-"

"No, not at all," the man continues as he pushes her away from the table. "Where's your uniform? Where's your number? Why isn't your hair tied up?"

"What are you talking-?"

The man finally succeeds in pushing Kitty into an enclosed tent and calls inside. "Doris, fix this girl up, would you? And be quick about it, the competition starts in half an hour!"

Kitty's attention, however, is diverted by a tall woman, the only one in the tent besides her. It is the woman Tartan addressed as Shepherdess, and she obviously isn't Doris based on her reaction. She slams shut a book she is reading just as Kitty is shoved inside, looking surprised, vexed and guilty at the intrusion.

"I-I'll go get her," Shepherdess says as she brushes past Kitty to leave the tent. Before she leaves, however, Kitty is able to glimpse part of the title of the book she is reading.

"-CIENT

-K MAGIK"

Kitty looks toward the tent flap with a thoughtful expression. "Well, that wasn't suspicious..."

She wanders over to a trunk and starts to browse through the dancing uniforms. "I suppose I might be able to stay..." she thinks.

Kitty holds up a green and red kilt and inspects it. "...for a spell."


Later...

Kitty is standing at the edge of the practice area next to the dance platform. Her hair is tied into a tight bun and she is inspecting the blouse and green kilt she is wearing. Plastered to the front of the kilt is a large label with the number 237 in large writing. She seems less than pleased with the image. "This is not one of your better ideas, Pryde."

She glances at the other dancers, a motley collection of young girls and young women. All of them are chatting with each other or going through their routines while they wait for their turn on the stage. All of them, that is, except for the woman she saw in the tent, who is only pretending to practice as she shoots glares in Kitty's direction.

"This isn't exactly the sort of dancing I did at the ceilidhs in Scotland, but I think I can manage," she muses as she works on her steps. She catches Shepherdess glaring at her and thinks, "She knows I don't belong here. Well, that makes two of us, I'm guessing."

"Maybe it's time for a friendly introduction." Kitty gives her new plaid socks a final adjustment and strides off to where the other dancers are. She puts on her most winning smile as she approaches the Shepherdess.

"Hi there. I'm-"

"-About as graceful as a diseased hippo in a kilt? Yes, I noticed," the woman finishes without even looking at Kitty. Instead she returns to her routine as if to shame her with her superior dancing skills.

A small crack appears in Kitty's smile, and through the clenched teeth of a painted smile, she laughs and says, "I suppose it has been a while since I last competed..." Meanwhile, random thoughts cross her mind. "Kill." "Maim." "Fricassee"

"I'm amazed you didn't get a lifetime ban," Shepherdess says between kicks. "I don't see why you're even bothering. Why don't you just leave before you embarrass yourself? Just because you don't have talent doesn't mean you shouldn't have any pride."

Kitty laughs again, feeling a bit more relaxed. "Actually, that's my last name. Pryde. I'm Kitty, and you are..." Her thoughts continue their violent stream. "Smash." "Clobber." "Tranquilize."

Shepherdess stops dancing and gives Kitty a withering look. "You're supposed to say that Pride's your middle name. How stupid are you?" With that she marches to the other side of the platform.

Kitty watches her depart in stunned disbelief. "Vaporize." "Defenestrate." "Legislate."

"Don't mind Roseanne..." a friendlier voice says from behind Kitty.


"...she's rude to anyone who's better looking than she is." The person talking is a lithe blonde who offers her a sympathetic grin.

"Which basically means she's rude to everyone," another dancer says, and they all share a laugh.

"I'm Denise," the blonde says. "You're new on the circuits, then?"

"Something like that," Kitty tells her.

"Figures," the other dancer says, "As usual, she's wasting her time intimidating dancers who aren't even in the same class as her. She can't stand the idea of someone threatening her record."

"The only thing doing that is her current lack of talent," Denise jokes, and the three of them share another laugh.

"Didn't you used to be friends with her, Pat?" Denise suddenly asks.

The other girl stops practicing and says, "Yeah, before the accident."

Kitty's ears perk up at this comment. She glances at Pat. "What kind of accident?"

"A couple of years ago a dancing platform collapsed while she was on it," Pat explains. "Her leg got messed up pretty bad and everyone thought she wouldn't be able to compete anymore."

Denise snapped her fingers and said, "Oh, yeah, I remember that. We were all pretty surprised when she showed up at the next Games."

Pat nods her head sadly. "I was happy for her, at first. But she was so... well, you saw how she is now. Plus, there's that new boyfriend of hers."

"Who's that?"

Pat points across the field toward the central stage. "It's that guy, the thin one."

Kitty notices the man, who is indeed thin, both in general and along his scalp. He is walking the length of the field and his attention is fixed on the sculpture sitting next to the center stage.

"He looks kinda creepy," Denise observes.

"Why is he staring at that sculpture?" Kitty asks.

"I dunno," Denise says. "Maybe it has to do with the rumor about it being made with some of the fragments of the Stone of Scone."

"The Stone of what?" Pat says.

"Scone, haven't you heard of it?"

"I have," Kitty says. "No need to tell them I've actually seen it a few times," she thinks to herself. "It's an ancient slab of stone said to have magical powers. It was stolen from Westminster Abbey by some university students a long time ago, but they accidentally broke it in two. It was put back together, but I never heard anything about the fragments that were left behind."

Denise nods her head. "According to the rumor I heard, the artist's grandfather was one of abbey's staff, and he kept the fragments for himself."

Pat seems interested but doubtful. "So this guy gets a hold of the fragments and uses them in his sculpture? Weird."

"Definitely," Kitty agrees. She steals another glace at Roseanne and thinks, "Well, the picture's starting to come together at least. I'd better keep up this charade a while longer. I hope Lockheed's not having too much trouble with the kids."


The students have all gathered at the lower field, where a guest band is performing for everyone's entertainment. At the fringes of the group, however, Shortwave, Lightfoot (now dressed in his jeans again), Compact and Abacus are slowly detaching themselves from the others.

"Are you sure about this?" Warren asks.

"Absolutely," Alana assures him. "Miss Pryde's in trouble. Why else would she be gone this long?"

"Maybe," Ben says doubtfully. "But what does that have to do with us?"

"Duhhh, she'll need backup." Alana tells him matter-of-factly. "Which means this is our chance to look good in front of her."

Once completely broken free of the group, they work their way toward the main field. They get about fifteen feet away, just within earshot of the loudspeakers for the border collie demonstration, when Lockheed intercepts them.

Over the loudspeakers, a pleasant sounding woman's voice says, \...You can see from the direction of their ears that the sheep are always aware of the dog's location...\

The four teens keep their eyes fixed on the dragon as he hovers in front of them.

"Nice dragon..." Alana tries to say in a friendly voice, "Easy, boy..."

\...As you can see, I don't need to move from my spot to control the dog. This allows me to direct him from a distance. He understands what I want and acts accordingly...\

Alana and the others try to slip around Lockheed, but he cuts them off and moves in. His behavior is menacing enough to make them back off a little.

"You don't think he'll bite us, do you?" Ben asks nervously.

\...notice the way he keeps his head near the ground as he...\

Lockheed swoops low and eyes them as they take another nervous step back. Alana whispers a quick plan to the others and they look at Lockheed with their best innocent faces.

"Okay, Lockheed. You're right, we'll just go- NOW!"

At that the teens split into two groups of two, each headed in a different direction. Before they get very far, Lockheed cuts one pair off, while shooting a warning blast of flame that falls just short of singing the hair on the other two.

\...and it looks like he's penned them in record time...\

Alana glares at Lockheed as she and the boys rejoin the other children. "Man, this stinks."


Kitty stands on the dancing platform. Beneath her are a pair of crossed swords. To her left and right are four other young women at the ready.

She looks out at the crowd seated in the secondary bleachers and thinks, "Okay, Pryde. This is just like dancing on stage at a Cat's Laughing concert..."

"...except there's bagpipes."

The piper sqweezes out the first few notes, and in unison the dancers place hands on hips and slowly bow toward the audience. Once the music gets going, however, so too do the dancers, until they are jolting back and forth on their toes. Some smile for the crowd, while others show nothing but intense concentration as they follow each step of the ancient dance to the best of their ability.

Kitty's years of dance more than compensate for the short time she had to practice. She is never more than half a step behind the others, and her natural grace helps her put on a display that is at least as decent as the trained beginners she dances between.

The dance is one that demands much of her attention, but the furtive glances it permits are enough to catch one particular person's reaction.

"Roseanne's certainly putting on a show," Kitty thinks with a mental laugh. From the grass below, the young woman is pretending to yawn with boredom. "As soon as I find out what she and her boyfriend are up to she'll have a lot more to be sour about."

As the dance continues Kitty's thoughts begin to drift. "I still want to kill Emma, but this is actually... kinda fun. I may consider doing this for real someday. What am I thinking? Let that witch have the satisfaction of knowing she got me started? Not in this lifetime."

In the corner of her eye, Kitty notices the thin man suddenly change direction and start marching down the field. "Looks like Loverboy's making his move. Wait- He isn't heading for the sculpture, he's coming..."

"...here!?"


When Kitty sees the thin man flick his hand, as if discarding a wad of tissue, she knows she's in trouble. When she feels a strange tingle over her body, she knows she's too late. In a moment she expects to burst into flames or be frozen into a block of ice, but instead all that happens is...

"...Nothing?" Kitty thinks. It seems that way, as she and everyone else are unchanged. "Well, you had your shot. Now it's my-"

Instead of leaping off the platform as she had intended, Kitty simply performs the next steps of the dance. She looks back at the man with alarm, and sees him flick his arm at other people on the field.

At the judge's table, the dance official jots notes endlessly on his paper, even though he is looking around in utter confusion. The man playing the bagpipes also seems worried. "We're all stuck!" Kitty thinks.

Tartan steps out from among the athletes and snaps his fingers. Suddenly everything within two hundred yards of the center stage, including the people, become plaid. This, in turn, makes everything within the affected area virtually invisible. Tartan walks to the dance platform, where he is joined by the man with the extremely bushy beard, and says in a booming voice, "Prepare to witness the rise of The Dark Zephyrs!"

Shepherdess glares at him and says, "This isn't a debut! Just focus on maintaining the camouflage while Lockstep and I perform the spell!" She pauses to give Kitty a nasty grin and says, "Should have left when you had the chance, Sweetie." With that, she and Lockstep rush onto the field and run toward the sculpture. Once inside the plaid zone they too are affected by Tartan's powers and vanish amidst the patterns.

The crowds at both sides of the arena look on with confusion and fear. Tartan laughs with delight, enjoying both the effects of his powers and the way the public is responding. His enjoyment is cut short, however, when a sword suddenly lands blade-first into the ground next to him with a "THOK!"


Kitty continues to hop around the stage, watching Tartan with a satisfied look. "I guess if it's still part of the dance, I can kick as hard as I want, and if that kick happens to send a sword your way..."

Tartan recovers from his initial surprise and strikes a manly pose, legs apart and fists on hips. "It will take more than a sword I can easily dodge to disrupt my concentration, little lady," he brags.

"Oh yeah?" Kitty retorts. "How about if your kilt's on fire?"

At that moment Lockheed swoops in and belches a jet of flame directly at Tartan. He howls in surprise and pain. He beats at the fire and drops to the ground, desperate to put out the heat.

The distraction is enough to do the job, and the plaid field returns to its ordinary appearance. Sherpherdess and Lockstep have already reached the sculpture and are reciting arcane verse as they plant their hands on the art piece.

"Back off, or you'll get the same," Kitty warns the bearded man. He makes a muffled noise that sounds vaguely like a growl and moves toward her in a menacing way.

"You asked for it," Kitty says and hooks her foot under the remaining sword. With a sudden kick she performs the next step of the dance with deadly precision and sends the sword flying at him.

The bearded man stands unblinking until the sword is only inches away. Suddenly he expands like a balloon violently filled with water. The blade bounces off his rubbery flesh and ricochets back at Kitty.

She phases just in time, and the sword passes harmlessly through her. She doesn't maintain her intangibility, and is caught off guard when the man's beard snakes out like a red, bushy tentacle and envelopes her in a vice-like grip.

As she's lifted from the stage, still trying to dance, she thinks, "Great. It's the Blob with prehensile hair."

His beard is flailing around like the tentacles of a sea creature, no longer obscuring his voice. "Now you know why I'm called Bagpipe!"

"How is this why you're called Bagpipe?" Kitty asks in honest confusion. "Is that all you could come up with when you found out 'Squidward' was already taken?"

This taunt angers Bagpipe, and he uses his hair to swing her high in the air and then slams her into the ground with crushing force. Instead of beating her against the earth like a club, however, both she and his beard vanish into to the turf.

Bagpipe tries to pry his hair loose, but it holds fast. "What the-? I'm stuck!" he cries in alarm.

Below the earth, Kitty floats away in her phased state. "That ought to hold him," she thinks. "Now I just have to hope Lockstep's powers wear off so I can climb out of the ground before I suffocate!"


"Come on!" Alana yells to the other kids as she leads them out onto the field. "We have to hurry!"

"But what are we going to do?" the little boy named Travis asks.

Ben glances near the dance platform, where Bagpipe is struggling with his beard and Tartan is being chased by Lockheed. His eyes train further down and fall upon the spot where the caber is being kept. "I've got an idea. All you little kids, follow me!" he orders, and they split off from the group, leaving only Alana, Warren and Scott.

"Miss Pryde'll drown if we don't stop that guy!" Alana says as they rush toward Lockstep and Shepherdess.

"Is it drowning if you're not in water?" Scott asks.

"We have to help her!" Alana stops them and says, "Scott, can you throw?

"Well, yeah but-"

"Throw me!"

"I can't-"

"Yes you can!" Alana leaps into his arms, but before she lands she shrinks to a size that fits comfortably in his palm. She curls up into a tight ball and says, "I can't be hurt when I'm like this. Now throw me!"

"Okay, then," Scott says. He closes his hand around her and reels back like a pitcher. "Here goes!" His whole body snaps forward and he rockets Alana straight toward her target.

Lockstep is fixed on the spell he's casting, and never notices the danger he's in until Alana collides with the back of his skull. "Uhn!" he grunts, before collapsing unconscious to the ground.

At that moment, all the people he had frozen into whatever they had last been doing are freed from his thrall. Some of the dancers drop in exhaustion. The bagpiper gasps for breath. The judge massages his sore hand. Many decide to flee the area.

"You did it, Scott!" Warren says. "Now it's my turn!"


On the other side of the field the children have moved the caber into position and Ben has brought several of the athletes over to it. "Which one of you is the best at the caber toss?" he asks them.

The seriousness of the situation overrides the competitive spirit, and they all indicate one of their number. "Robert here holds the record. He's your man."

Ben concentrates and points to a spot between them and where Bagpipe is struggling. "I'm going to run out there before you throw. Aim it straight at me."

The champion athlete gives the boy a horrified look. "I wouldn't-"

"It's just to help you aim. I'll get out of the way, but if you hit exactly where I'll be standing, the angle and momentum should do the rest. Just throw from right here and make sure it's tilting slightly forward when you throw it." The man reluctantly nods and Ben runs into position while everyone sets the caber up for him to throw.

Once the massive wooden pole is resting against his shoulder, the hulking man places his fingers underneath it and with a grunt, lifts it up as he rises to stand. He marks where Ben is and rushes forward, letting the caber slide forward before chucking it with all his might.

As promised, Ben dives out of the way as soon as the caber takes to the air, and the tip slams into the ground at the precise spot he had been standing. The log swings up, and in prefect alignment, drops forward in the same direction it had been thrown.

Bagpipe grips his beard in his fists and gives a final mighty tug. "Almost there..." he grunts. Only then does he see a shadow fall over him, and as he looks over his shoulder, he has time enough to say, "Uh-oh," before the caber drives him into the ground.

He isn't crushed, but as the heavy pole lies atop his bloated body, all he can do is groan in pain.


Shepherdess sees Lockstep fall, but remains fixed to where she is. "Just a little more," she says before returning to her chants. Her brow has become rimmed with perspiration as she struggles to bear the burden of two spellcasters.

She suddenly winces as blaring bagpipe music assaults her from nearby. The crackling field of magical energy surrounding the sculpture vanishes as her spell is disrupted.

"Who dares?" she says and whirls on the source of the music. It's Warren, channeling a nearby broadcast. When he sees the fierce look on her face, however, his mouth snaps shut and he gives a little nervous laugh.

Alana restores herself to full size and grabs her classmate by the hand. "Run, Warren!" she cries, and they both start to flee.

"I don't think so, you brats!" Shepherdess vows. A quick wave of her hand and the children come to a sudden halt. Another wave and they turn around and slowly walk toward her, struggle and fear written on their faces.

"What's happening?" Warren says.

"I don't know, but we have to fight it!"

"There's no fighting this spell," Shepherdess tells them. "You're being herded like the little lambs you are. Soon your minds will slip as well. I could pen you in a field where you'll spend the rest of your lives chewing grass until I send you to the slaughter!"

"You know what, lady..." Kitty says as she phases up from the ground behind her. "...I think it's time you put a sock it!" With that she launches a vicious roundhouse and knocks the angry woman to the ground.


"Get away from me, you mangy beast," Tartan roars. He lashes a fist out and lands a lucky blow, knocking the purple dragon away from him. His clothing is no longer in flames, but still smolders.

He looks down at the field and sees that his companions have all fallen "Guess I'll just be going, then," he says, and turns to flee the other way. He barely gets one step before freezing where he stands. A line of spectators stand before him, with the Chieftain of the Games and several officials in command positions in the front. All of the spectators are glaring at Tartan, and the swords they carry make it clear what they intend to do if he tries to flee.

"Uh... I surrender?"


The on-site police quickly take the four villains into custody, while Kitty is reunited with Lockheed and the children.

"Why weren't you sitting in the bleachers like I told you?" Kitty demands.

"But, Miss Pryde," Alana says, "You didn't. You told us to stay together, and we did."

At that moment one of the police officers approaches her. Standing next to him is the Chieftain of the Games. "Excuse me, Miss. Can you explain who you are and how you were involved in this?" He notices Lockheed. "And what that is?"

"I'm really, sorry, officer. My name's Katherine Pryde and I'm a teacher in Westchester."

"She's an X-Man!" Warren blurts out. Alana kicks him and glowers. "Well she is..."

Kitty sighs. "Yes, I'm an X-Man, as well. If you want us to leave, I'll understand. If you want to hold me for questioning I only ask that you see to the child-"

The Chieftain cuts her off with a relaxed wave of his withered old hand. "There won't be any need for that, Miss Pryde. We want to thank you for your help."

For a moment, Kitty is too stunned to speak. "You- you do?" A look of recognition crosses her face. "You're the man from the line. The one who complimented me on Lockheed!"

"Indeed," the old man says with a friendly smile. "You and your remarkable students have not only protected the sculpture and prevented anyone from being seriously injured, but you've also put on a show that will be remembered for years to come. I won't be surprised if attendance rises fifty percent next year."

The policeman turns to the Chieftain and touches his hand to his cap. "Right then, Mr. McKenzie, if that's everything I'll be on my way." Having said so, he wanders off to help the other arresting officers.

Kitty finally allows herself a smile. Not since her days with Excalibur has she been praised for saving the day by the public. "It just seemed like the thing to do," she says modestly.

"OH NO!" Shepherdess says, interrupting them. She and the other three are enveloped in a yellowish glow, and everyone backs away from them nervously. "No, it can't be too late!"

Tartan and Bagpipe suddenly quake in their spots. Their limbs flail violently until the glow becomes so intense they cannot be seen. There is a loud "Pop!" and where they had been standing lie a ragged kilt and an ordinary, worn bagpipe.

"My leg!" Shepherdess cries, and falls to the ground, clutching it. "No, not my leg! It isn't fair!"

The thin man seems not to be affected by the glow at all, and as it fades, he just stands where he is, silent and grim.

"This is all your fault!" Shepherdess yells at Kitty as the police help her back up. Tears stream down her cheeks. "I'll get you! I swear, someday I'll get you!"

Kitty rolls her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I'll rue the day. All that good stuff. You're a regular Doctor Doom."


They watch her and Lockstep get led away and Kitty looks back at the Chieftain. "Well, I won't be needing this anymore." She peels off her number tag and hands it over to the old man. "I had a lot of fun, dancing, though."

"Miss Pryde, if I may be so bold, I think we owe you a bit more in the way of thanks, and if you truly enjoyed dancing that much, I would appreciate it if you and your students were to stay as guests of honor at the Evening Ceilidh."

Lockheed snorts a puff of smoke. "Meh!"

The old man smiles at the little dragon. "The dragon is invited too, of course."

The younger children gasp in wonder at the invitation, and look to see how Kitty will respond. "I really shouldn't make the bus driver stay so late..."

"We'd be happy to make hotel arrangement for you."

Kitty hesitates, and looks at the children, who are all staring at her with pleading eyes. "Well... We'd be honored!"

All the students jump and cheer, and Kitty smiles before shaking the chieftain's hand. "Don't worry about the hotel, though. I'll find something myself and charge it to the school's account." She shares a laugh with him and with a wicked grin says, "That should teach the Headmistress never to put me in charge of a field trip again!"


The Next Day...

"Remarkable."

In a darkened room, someone tosses a copy of the Liverpool Gazette onto a table. There is enough dim light to show the splash headline, which reads, "Mutant Schoolteacher Prevents Robbery at Highland Games."

"But then, I would have expected nothing less." A figure in the shadows reaches toward a sophisticated computer and taps a few buttons on the keyboard.

"It's been far too long since I've had the pleasure of her company. I really should invite her over."

The figure leans back in his chair, and the light manages to catch a little of him. Not much. Only a broad grin that would do any Cheshire Cat proud. Below that, the polka dots of a large bow tie.

"I can't wait to see the look on her face!"

And insane laughter fills the room...

Next: Breathless With Anticipation!


Notes:

This story takes place soon after M-Day. The 198 have just moved into Xavier's and the fallout from the sudden drop in the mutant population is still yet to be fully felt.

Alana's knowledge of Kitty lore is not to be trusted.

Warren is the oldest of Kitty's fan club, at 14 years old. Alana and Ben are both 13 and Scott is the youngest at 12.


A special thanks to Kirayoshi, whose regular feedback and encouragement regarding the various plots weaving through this story have been a great help. Considering the fact that none of my beta readers are comic fans, and one of them actively dislikes Kitty Pryde, it has been tough going at times, and hearing an outside voice respond to each Issue helps keep the motivation up.

Thanks as well to Madripoor Rose, who has mentioned several times that she likes the children. Solo titles usually need a supporting cast, and if I kept using the other X-Men it would stop feeling like a solo title to me, so I decided to risk creating a few original characters. I'm very happy to hear they are proving to be a welcome addition.

And finally a big thanks to Shadowcat Rules! Her unswaggering devotion to my favorite character has long been a bright spot in an otherwise demoralizing era in Kitty's history, and had she not expressed her desire to give up on the character because of the way she's being written now I might not have been inspired to start this project.