Innocent Bystander

Hey thanks for your great reviews! I've decided to make this a series, as you can probably guess. So here's the second chapter!

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That could not POSSIBLY be Warren…

Pandora's jaw was strained and her eyes were watering from staring slack-jawed as her ex-boyfriend flew into the horizon. How could she not have realized? Wings?! Now that she knew the truth, it couldn't have been more obvious.

The heavy jackets? The aversion to swimming? The blindfolds in the…er…bedroom?

She switched off her iPod and thought of what to do.

Wait. Why should I do anything? Let him be a mutant, it's got nothing to do with me!

She shook her head indignantly and set a course toward her office building, SPAC News, adjusting her stuffy black suit jacket and dusting off her floaty, knee-length black skirt.

I just hope he's not off to that…institution. Full of freaks….

She was lost in thought until a voice cut through her mind's tirade.

"'Dora, you're late," said her colleague and best friend, Aidan White, said in a fake warning voice.

"Oh, like you haven't been wasting fact-checking time flirting with that guy from the third floor by the water cooler," Pandora retorted.

"Well, I'm a lowly fact-checker, sweetheart, you're an anchorwoman. No mistakes from you, missy."

"Speaking of mistakes, I broke up with the biggest mistake of my life yesterday."

"Ohmigod! Details, Pandora. Now. "He pulled her down onto the waiting room couch, crossed his ankles and set his head on his hand, waiting for her to dish.

"Well…" Pandora told him about the phone call and how he was a mutant. She left out what she saw only ten minutes ago, she figured it would be on the news anyway. When she finished, Aidan looked pensive, which was a look very rarely displayed on his face unless he was trying to figure out the discount percent of a Ralph Lauren suit on sale.

"He was a mutant and you didn't notice? What can he do?"

"The freak can fly. He has these huge white wings that I can't believe I ever missed!"

"I can't believe it either, darling. What, did he blindfold you when you were getting' it on?"

"Well…"

"Naughty naughty, Pandora!" Aidan crowed joyfully. Pandora blushed and shoved him in a playful manner.

"If I hear one rumor, I will hunt you down and kill you."

"Sure, sure, sweetie." She waved goodbye and wandered off to hair and make-up. As soon as she got there, she was hugged fiercely by another friend of hers, Sooraya Qadir.

Sooraya was a newly hired hair and make-up assistant, who, in Pandora's opinion, was the best in the department.

"Sooraya, your clothes are all dusty…"

"I know. I walked by that construction site down East Street, who cares." Sooraya's Arab accent was soothing and calm, as it always was.

"Come one, Pandora," she said, pulling Pandora into the second seat that day, "let's get you gorgeous."

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"Done," said Sooraya, her eyes portraying a sense of victory. Pandora always sensed some insecurity in Sooraya, probably because she was without her niqab, a face covering that women in her native Afghanistan wore.

"Thanks, 'Raya," Pandora said gratefully. She checked her rouged lips and lightly shadowed eyes in the mirror, marveling at Sooraya's finesse.

"'Dora, have you seen Nori anywhere?"

"Nori?" Noriko Ashida was a fact-checker like Aidan, and their mutual friend, "No, I haven't seen her anywhere. You think she's on sick leave?"

"I don't think so, 'Dora. She's been gone for a week." They sighed worriedly for their missing friend.

Pandora Papadopoulous, you're needed in the studio. Pandora Papadopoulous, you're needed in the studio.

"Duty calls," Pandora said to Sooraya. She walked to the elevator and began her ascent to the studio on floor 9. Once there, she exited the elevator and checked in at the security desk. Waiting there, checking her watch impatiently, was her personal assistant, Cessily Kincaid. Smiling, she slipped quietly behind Cessily and placed her hands over her eyes.

"Guess who?"

"Oh my God, Pandora, you are so immature sometimes."

"Hello to you too, Miss Oregon." Cessily turned and looked at Pandora, letting her grey eyes flash betray her stoic face. They set off down the marble hallway leading to the studio.

"You have a story on the recent mutant Cure first-"

"Thank God for that Cure."

"-then a commercial break. When you come back, you are talking about the recent trashing of an Alison Blaire, a.k.a Dazzler, concert."

"Sounds good. Hey, Cessily, I have a question."

"Yes?"

"Do you ever loosen up? You know, let your hair down, chillax, take the proverbial Sears Tower out of your ass?"

Cessily laughed sardonically, "No, I don't."

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The camera man counted down from five with his fingers, giving Pandora a familiar feeling of anxiety and excitement.

Three…two…o-

"Good morning, San Francisco. I'm Pandora Papadopoulous for the San Francisco Public Access Channel, " Pandora was greeted as she read her lines from the prompter in front of her. "Lined up for this morning is information on the Cure, then a story celebrated pop star Dazzler's trashed concert. Julian?"

"Hello, Pandora," Julian Keller said in his arrogant, self-centered voice, "The Cure's popularity is on the rise, with three-hundred mutants waiting to be cured today. The day started with a crash as Warren Worthington III, a newly proclaimed mutant, jumped out of the Cure-administering office. He reportedly flew away with a pair of wings, do you believe that, Pandora?"

I sure as hell do, Pandora thought.

"I sure do," she said with a fake smile that anchors all over the world knew. "The Cure, for all who are not familiar with the term, is a formula designed by Worthington Labs to neutralize the mutant X-gene."

"It's time for a commercial break, there'll be more information on the Cure when we return."

The house lights came up and the spotlights dimmed, causing Pandora to be partially blind for a second.

Five minutes…what shall I do…

Pandora found herself strolling down the hall to the fact-checkers division.

902…904…906…908…910…aha.

She knocked on the door of room 912. A young man, nervous and green-looking, answered.

Probably an intern…she recoiled visibly when she looked back and caught sight of a tail protruding from his backside.

"How could they possibly hire those monsters?!" She muttered incredulously. She shook her head and looked around the large, brightly-lit room. People on computers and telephones were everywhere, throwing papers and taking notes and yelling into receivers. She picked her way through the chaos and found herself at the private office of Adrian White. She turned the doorknob. A woman's voice was whispering aggressively.

"Yes Magneto, I heard you. We'll have to find a way to get rid of it. Don't worry, I'll take care o-"

The voice stopped. Pandora, still behind the partially open door, froze in fear. All of a sudden, the door flew open and Pandora was forced inside.

"What did you hear," the person grated out into Pandora's ear. Her face was crushed against the wall. A smart person would have said "nothing", but Pandora was a reporter, and reporters do stupid things for a story.

"I heard about some Magneto and how you need to get rid of something. Tell me what's going on." The female intruder laughed and pulled Pandora's head into her shoulder. To Pandora, the woman's body felt strangely masculine. She forced her captor to let her go, allowing herself to turn around.

"W-what? Adrian?" So-called Adrian cackled and cocked his head to one side. Pandora almost fainted as she watched Adrian's skin peel away to reveal a blue-skinned, red-haired woman.

"'Dora, 'Dora, 'Dora. Did you really fall for that? I thought reporters were…perceptive."

Pandora was revolted by this mutant woman.

"They can hear our conversation outside, they'll come in any sec-"

"Oh, sweetie, it's far too loud out there for them to hear anything. Besides, they're too far into this mutant Cure story to pay attention to anything else…darling." The woman's words, though said in Adrian White's voice, dripped with mocking venom.

"Who the hell are you, mutant?" The mutant in question switched back to her own deep, womanly voice. Her golden eyes flashed.

"That's not important. What is important is that the one I answer to-"

"Magneto, is it?"

"If you could not interrupt me, that'd be great," the woman spat. "As I was saying, the important thing is that the one I answer to gets what he wants."

"What does he want?"

"Interrupt me one more time and I will turn into you and resign from your job."

"No need," Pandora said, too curious to be disgusted or terrified by the mutant before her any longer. "I'm about five minutes into air-time, I'll be fired anyway."

"Then, since you have nothing better to be doing, I suggest you LISTEN TO ME!"

The woman gripped Pandora by the throat and pushed her into the wall. Pandora could no longer feel the floor beneath her feet.

"These are our demands: We have fifteen minutes of airtime at a time that we will dictate. Be prepared to receive our call at anytime. Also, if you tell anyone about the fact that I am infiltrating this station to pick up information, we will hunt you down."

"Just one problem: I just said I'm going to be fired for sure. How can I do anything about that if I don't even work here?" Pandora was struggling to breathe. The mutant let her fall to the floor in a crumpled mass.

"I'll find a way. You'll find I'm very…versatile…in my talents."

"I'll hold you to that."

"You are to acknowledge me the same way you did before you knew who I was. But, just so you know, I'm Mystique."

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Oh my God…Stein…

Patrick Stein, Pandora's boss, was stalking up to her with a look on his face that was hardly content.

"Pandora, we need to talk."

"Are you breaking up with me sir?"

Stein, who was usually a jovial man who could take a light joke from his employees, was oddly strict and forbidding at that moment.

"How dare you, Papa…Papad…"

"Papadopoulous."

"Yes, that. Missing a segment, for whatever reason, is unforgivable. You hear me? Unforgivable." Stein's stout form was heaving with anger. His balding head, which Pandora could see right over the top of, was sprinkled with beads of sweat. The twitch of his finely-trimmed mustache would have been comical if it was not for the circumstances.

"I was-"She was about to explain, but then she remembered Mystique's threat. "I was careless. Please forgive me."

"I'm afraid I can't Pandora. You are going to have to-"

"Ah. Patrick." The seasoned voice of Harrison Callow made itself heard as its owner rounded the corner and caught sight of the distressed pair. "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation. And I absolutely forbid you to fire Ms. Papadopoulous. She is the best anchor we've had in a long time."

Stein couldn't argue. While he was Pandora's boss, Callow was Stein's boss. In fact, Callow was the boss of everyone working in the building.

But this was not Harrison Callow. Pandora caught the golden flash in his eyes.

Mystique. Mutant monster.

"Yes, Mr. Callow. Will do." Mystique-as-Callow smiled, nodded, and walked away.

"Well, miss…miss…"

"Papadopoulous."

"Yes, that. You're off the hook this time. Carry on."

"Thank you, sir." She nodded thanks and walked off in "Callow's" direction.

"Mr. Callow," she called. Mystique's disguised form stopped and turned. Pandora motioned to an empty meeting room to the right, which they both walked nonchalantly into.

"You know, Mystique, I was just thinking. What if I unmasked you right now, blew this whole thing out of the water? Why wait until you have what you want?"

Pandora was out of line, she knew it. She was being stupid by telling the shape shifter this. But her prejudice against her kind was pushing her to believe that Mystique was lower than her, less able.

What she didn't know was that she was wrong.

"If you did that," Mystique said slowly, stepping uncomfortably close to Pandora, "I would have to kill you, wouldn't I?"

"Then you'd have no one to do your dirty work. You lose anyway."

"There are other people in this building, I have a king's pick. I could kill you anytime."

Pandora saw Mystique's point. She saw it very clearly. Before she could back safely away, Mystique had grasped her arm with a steel grip.

"Wh-what are you doing? Let go!" Pandora struggled and flailed to get free, but Mystique was too strong.

"Pride cometh before a fall," Mystique breathed into Pandora's ear. Pandora felt herself flying forward toward a wall of glass.

There was no crash of glass between the meeting room and the air nine stories over the sidewalk, at least, none that Pandora could hear. Fear gripped her and kept her from sensing anything but the building velocity as she plummeted further and faster. Fear blocked her throat and kept her from screaming. She couldn't think; she only wanted to somehow be saved. Pandora was fifty feet…twenty five feet…thirteen feet from the sidewalk…

But she didn't feel the impact. She stopped falling, but she didn't know what she was doing after. She opened her eyes. Where was she?

All she saw was darkness. She felt disconnected, as though she was in pieces. Pandora looked up and saw the sun and a dozen people looking down at her, confused.

How am I still alive?

She tried to get up, but felt a force keeping her still. She tried to fight it, but to no avail. After some seconds of trying, she decided to relax and try to loosen the force around her.

As she got up, she heard a few gasps and screams around her.

Of course…I just came back from the dead to them…

Looking up, she winced as she stared at the ninth floor above. She was still somewhat numb with disbelief.

"Lady! Lady! How'd you do that?" she looked down and saw a little boy fighting against his shocked mother's restrain.

"Do what? Turn alive again?"

"No, how did ya go into the floor and come back?" Pandora's face contorted in confusion.

"Wha-?" She looked back at the spot she had risen from. "I didn't go into the floor…"

"Yes you did! Yes you did!" the little boy was yanked back. His mother looked livid and revolted.

"You stay away from my son! Mutant!" Pandora was shocked and hurt.

"Miss, I-" she stepped toward the crowd, only to see them recoil.

"Stay away!" An uproar was rising from the growing crowd.

"Evil monster!" "Get away from here!" "Leave!" "Freak!" "Disgusting mutant!"

Tears of hurt and disbelief welled up in Pandora's eyes. She wheeled around and ran toward the train station.

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"Whyyyyy?" she cried out into the darkness of her bedroom. Sooraya and Cessily held her and passed her tissue and after tissue.

"It's not that bad, 'Dora." Sooraya soothed. Cessily rolled her eyes and stood.

"Of course it's not that bad, Sooraya. We have to tell her now." Pandora's curiosity was peaked.

"What?" she sniffed. "What do you have to tell me?"

"Cessily, she's not up to it now, drop it!" Sooraya said, suddenly forbidding.

"She'll never be up to it, Sooraya, she hates people like us."

"People like you? Wh-what?" Pandora prompted with her eyes even though she had the distinct feeling that she would not like their answer.

"You tell her, Cessily."

"I will. Pandora, we'll tell you our secret, but you have to promise not to flip out when we do." Pandora nodded, eager to hear this secret.

"Pandora, we're mutants. Sooraya and I, and Noriko as well, wherever she is. Sooraya is also known as Dust, I am Mercury, and Noriko is Surge."

Pandora's mind reeled with disbelief and betrayal. How could her friends keep this from her? Were they her friends anymore? She hated mutants, from their DNA to their stupid codenames. She wanted nothing more than to storm out of the room.

"I know you want nothing more than to storm out of the room, but you will suck it up," Cessily ordered. "You have to stay at work. Don't let this keep you from your job."

Pandora nodded, finding the whole situation too unreal.

"Pandora," Sooraya said, "You never told us what exactly you did."

"I…d-don't know, 'R-Raya," Pandora sniffed, leaning her head on her friend's shoulder. "I fell through the sidewalk. It was like my molecules melded with the stone, or something."

"Wait, try to do the same with the bed."

"I dunno, Cessily. Maybe if I ignore this curse, it'll go away."

Cessily slapped her, "It is not a curse, and it will not go away."

"Owwwww. Fine, I'll try. But I doubt I'll be able to do it at will." She placed her and on the bed and concentrated on an image of it sinking into the mattress.

"Anything?" Pandora asked with her eyes closed.

"No," Sooraya said. All of a sudden, a hard slap upside the head caused Pandora to start.

"Owwwww. Cessily, you've got to stop doing that."

"Look!" Sooraya cried. The trio stared at Pandora's arm, which appeared to have stopped at the wrist.

"Your hand's gone!"

"It's in the mattress, Sooraya. Try to take it out again, Pandora."

Pandora tugged and then relaxed, attempting to loosen the force like she had before. Out came her hand and out came a gasp from all three of them.

"So you can Meld," said Sooraya.

"Is that what it's called?"

"I just made it up." Pandora laughed uneasily. She still hated that she was a mutant. But a curiosity kept a fresh wave of tears at bay.

"So…what can you two do?"

"I can turn into sand and control sand around me," Sooraya said. Cessily did not speak, but held out her arm and let the Pandora watch it melt into a silvery substance. Mercury.

"Wow. So what, do I just go back to work?"

"Well, yes." Both her friends nodded. Pandora frowned. Wait…

"Wait! The Cure! I could get the Cure!"

"Pandora, there is nothing wrong with you! Don't get the Cure! This is a gift, use it!"

"I can't go back to work now, guys. I need some time to think and control this."

Sooraya and Cessily smiled as they looked at her.

"Xavier."

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End.

If you're not familiar with the comic verse, you won't know that Cessily (Mercury), Sooraya (Dust) and the so-far unseen Noriko (Surge) are part of the New Mutants comic. They're not mine, but their personalities kind of are, seeing as I have no idea what they act like in the comic. Also, to any New Mutants fans, this fic is decidedly AU. The main plot belongs to the creator of X-Men and Marvel, but any small changes that aren't seen in the movie or comics are mine. Like Pandora(my OC) and Mystique's deal. That's my idea. Okay, review, kthxbye