In case anyone is interested, I just reuploaded all the chapters, so each contains minor alterations, plus the addition of the little blurbs I've started including. I'm trying to make them all pertain somewhat to the upcoming chapter too. I also altered dates slightly; Robin II's origin was a little off.
Still have not gotten around to re-editing in consideration of my concrit, but I bear it all in mind for future chapters. I do still plan to rewrite the beginning chapters though. Just later.
Thanks to everone for reading!
If love is strong and hate is weak, why do we have so much of the latter?
Saturday; October 23, 2004
"What?" Josh's eyes are wide in bewilderment.
"My name is Dana. You asked me earlier?" Suddenly the butterflies return to my stomach and worst-case scenarios begin parading through my head, double-time. I start second-guessing my decision—until that warm smile returns to his face.
"It's nice to meet you Dana." He crosses the room, his right hand outstretched, but mine is hidden behind me, trapped against the wall by my thigh. I offer a weak smile instead.
"Listen, uh, you're pizza's getting cold. Let me help you back over…"
My reticence to accept help is hard to let go of, drilled into me by months of training, but I need support to make it back. Biting the bullet, I lean on his muscular, bronze shoulders and wobble back over to flop down on the mattress. It feels so good to be horizontal again that I hardly notice sleep overtake me.
Saturday; October 16, 2004
"So who were those guys?"
"Terrorists." Wolverine is standing in a corner, his arms crossed. Now that the fighting is over, he's his normal, surly self. Not that being consumed with bloodlust is much better.
"And we are the X-Men." The Professor cuts in quickly, drawing attention off Wolverine. That's probably a good idea; the redhead looks nervous enough. I decide to assist the Professor.
"The people we were fighting are the Human Protectorate's Vanguard. The HP is an anti-mutant organization. The Vanguard is their army."
"Mutants? You mean like those gross little creatures you hear about in horrors?"
It takes all my self control to keep a cool head. Even so, I bristle at Ronald's ignorance.
"Uh, I think he means us—metahumans?" Virgil isn't angry like me, but he still wasn't happy about Ronald's guess.
Metahumans…Now that's a name I haven't heard before. I wonder where Virgil got that one? Sounds a lot better than 'mutant'.
"What are those?"
"I do, and a mut—metahuman is a person who is born with abilities that humans don't have."
Ronald's eyes lit up the moment I mentioned the word 'abilities'.
"Oh, you mean wizards! The muggles know about us?"
Wolverine and I exchange incredulous and confused looks, but the Professor maintains his confident demeanor. I try to do the same, recomposing myself. Virgil just gives us a little shrug.
"You wanna speak English, half-pint?"
Wolverine. No tact, but it's the same question on all our minds.
"But I am speaking English!" Ronald protests in frustration, but a firm glare from Wolverine cows him immediately. Slowly, he explains the term. "Well…I'm a wizard, and I assume you are too. I can cast spells and such, but the muggles can't."
"Uh-huh." 'Spells'?…Interesting…Where the term 'muggle' came from I'll never know, but Dr. McCoy enters the room before I can consider asking.
"Perhaps I should give the lad a lesson while you bring Virgil up to speed on the situation?"
"Good idea, and while you're at it, why don't you give the kid some real clothes."
Ronald seems mortified by Wolverine's assertion that his clothes were less than normal. I honestly can't see how he might be surprised by that. Dress shirt and tie under an ankle-length robe on a teenager? Probably the school uniform over in England.
Glad I don't live there.
The minute the door closes I get down to business.
"Okay, so here's the deal. There are mutants emerging everywhere, without warning, and it has the public scared. They think we're a threat."
"Why? What about the Justice League? Nobody's afraid of them."
Virgil's interruption irks me a little.
"Well, I never actually heard of the Justice League, so maybe that's why. Anyway—"
"Never heard of the Justice League?! How could you not've heard of the JLU? They're like, the best and most powerful superheroes in the WORLD! Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Batman—well not Batman anymore, but Green Arrow, The Marsh—"
"I'm sorry Virgil, but I've never heard of any of those people." This kid is really going to test my resolve.
Unsure why I suddenly feel I have to justify how things have gotten as bad as they have, I resume my speech defensively. "Anyway, a lot of terrorist groups have emerged because of that fear, and are trying to wipe us out. They don't just attack mutants that have committed crimes; they don't even just attack mutants with dangerous powers. They target all mutants, and some even hurt the families of mutants because they may also carry the X-gene."
"And the X-gene is…?"
"What gives us our powers."
"Oh, well actually I got my powers from the Big Bang."
Confused, I strain to imagine how the beginning of the universe could possibly have given anyone, even a single person, powers—especially after so long. Wouldn't that have shown up long before now?
I don't have to wonder long, though. Virgil notices my confusion and elaborates.
"It was a chemical accident, this weird purple gas exploded and…" He ends his explanation with a shrug.
The room descends into an uncomfortable silence, everyone staring awkwardly.
Speaking up for the first time, Jean breaks the silence, trying to ease the mood.
That's my Jeanie.
"Most of us were born this way. But groups like the HPV and the FOH won't care where our powers came from. We are all in danger, so Professor Xavier put together the X-Men to fight the violent extremists like them, and also Magneto."
This kid's ignorance of not only the gravity of the mutant community's situation, but also of world events is really starting to frustrate me. Fortunately the Professor rescues me from losing my cool.
"A powerful mutant who believes peace is only possible through conquest."
"Oh great. So he's a supervillian then, huh?"
"We do not like to label. He is entitled to his own views." The Professor's answer is diplomatic, but I think Virgil is more accurate. The things Magneto does…they haven't helped our situation much and only really seem to hurt people.
"Yeah, but don't his views get people hurt? You said he was violent."
Huh. The kid's pretty sharp; guess he isn't as dumb as I thought. So how did he manage to get through life without knowing anything about the anti-mutant conflict? It's been raging for over two years!
We chew on his words a bit while Virgil awkwardly looks around at the Professor's office. Professor Xavier has been staring intently at Virgil for most of the meeting, studying him. But as the most powerful telepath in the world, he may also be studying Ronald.
"So X-Men, huh? Whaddaya call this place?"
"This is Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Children."
I notice Virgil is more relaxed when Jean is talking; she has that effect on people. A smile creeps into the corner of my mouth.
"You are welcome to stay here for as long as you like, Virgil. You and your friend." It's not a surprising offer—the Professor is often very generous—but something about the look in his eyes when he says those words catches me off guard. I wrestle with the thought for all of thirty seconds before discarding it as my imagination.
"He's actually not my…You mind if I use you're phone?"
Professor Xavier nods, and I show Virgil to the phone.
"Who are you calling?"
It's a simple question, but for the first time, Virgil's face loses all humor. Until now, I hadn't even thought he was capable of seriousness.
It's been hours since I woke up the first time—or maybe a whole day? I fell unconscious several times, so even if I could tell how long I'd been lying there while I was awake, I still have an unknown amount of time completely unaccounted for. I'm also hungry now, and very thirsty. The pains haven't gone away yet, though they have blended together in a silent storm surrounding my consciousness. I had forgotten what I'd been doing for a while, too, but as soon as I remembered, I started trying to heal my injuries again. But it still won't work. And I still can't get up. I still can't see anything. I can't even tell if I've made any progress!
I'm scared, hurt and totally miserable. I wish Robin was here; he'd know what to do. Shoot, I wish any of the Titans were here! Even Starfire would be a welcome face. Trapped under this huge something, battered and broken, my hope is running out. I descend into a fit of tears as it dawns on me for the first time just how hopeless my predicament is. I am completely helpless. I am alone. No one knows where I am.
A piteous moan escapes my lips. I am going to die here…
Tuesday; September 14, 2004
I don't particularly want to, but Virginia is fairly close to New York. A quick search for directions and I'm off.
Walking out of the library is easy, but it makes me uneasy. The whole time I've been in Virginia, I've been getting stares and whispers. Parents pulling their children close, teens gathering to consider an ill-advised plot, grown men and women changing direction at the mere sight of me. Pointing fingers, stares and a wide berth from everyone in the vicinity—something is very wrong.
Wrong or not, I don't have time to deal with this; finding out what happened to all the heroes is much more pressing. My bike had drawn the interest of a couple tweakers, but the sight of me drives them off.
Only twenty feet from my motorcycle, my ears catch the sound of air rushing to fill a new void. Whirling around, I easily spy the rock shooting clumsily for my face. No need to worry though, the aim is off; it'll miss by a few inches. The hush that comes over the suburban mall parking lot is threaded with tension as my audience takes in the assault. I stand stock-still while the projectile whizzes past—disturbing my hair and little else—as I pick out my assailant. 'Kid's fifteen, sixteen at best. Stupid; what does he really think he can do to me? I guess people have forgotten who Robin is on the East Coast.
I may have to remind them.
Thursday; October 14, 2004
Dane's green eyes stare placidly at my coffee. The patrons around me are eating normally, completely unaware of what sits in their midst, hidden by the guise of wavy, chocolate hair and crystalline, emerald eyes. Dane was always the quiet sort. Except when he hung with me; I talk even less than he does. Playing this part easily comes off natural and unthreatening.
I stare at nothing with Dane's eyes, but I see everything with my mind. A quaint little diner with a modest patronage. The girl behind the counter is young and friendly, but she expects to work here as long as the old cook in the back has. There are three men at the counter; one waiting for his order, the other two chowing quietly. The one still waiting is flirting with the waitress, but only because it's expected. He is an odd-jobber, passing through, on his way to the next meal ticket. The other two are businessmen on their lunch breaks. Both are attempting to ignore the conversation four feet away, but the one at the far end has a personal attachment to the girl. Thoughts of violent consequence mask the underlying cause of his rage. Behind me is a mother of three, but her oldest is in school now, leaving her alone with a toddler and a baby, even more stressed without her little helper. Lastly, a little ahead of me to the left is a group of teen dropouts. The girl in the group has had her eye on me since I strolled in; somehow they can always tell I'm the badboy type. Aside from the jokester, her male comrades are clearly aggravated by my monopoly of her attention. I still have Lisa at home, but a self-satisfied smirk threatens to overtake my face anyway. I can't let on that I've noticed her though, as angry as they are, her friends might see any reaction from me as an excuse to start something. Something I could easily finish, but unfortunately I am a meta, surrounded by people who hate metas, so I need to keep up the charade. I am Dane. I am normal.
Mutants. That's what they call us. Like there's something wrong with us. Where I come from, people want to be like us. These people are evil!
I want to leave this timeline—now—but I can't take the chance that whatever it is that brought me here will interfere with my portal. At least I know where I am now; Estes Park, Colorado in 2004. I'm in the wrong area, but that's easily fixed, and the time is close enough. Still, my girlfriend, my best friend and my entire life is in another timeline, on another Earth. I can't start over again; I have to get back!
My reverie is broken by frightened screams and angry shouts outside. Great, what poor meta are they harassing now? I push my way past the few curious diners of this establishment. You know, usually when people start screaming, everybody rushes over to help! How can they just ignore this? This is just wrong, I need to do something! Emerging from the diner, my mind goes blank and I just stare.
Giant, killer robots? The enormous rig fires off another shot at the kid it's chasing. This place has giant, killer robots!? What the fuck!?
Poor kid. A twelve or thirteen-year-old living in a small, Colorado town, and he's running for his life while people silently cheer. Only it's not so silent, because I hear it. Sometimes being a telepath really sucks.
The robot is big and clunky, so I have time to run into an alley before I 'shift into my superhero persona. Superhero, heh. I wonder how many will call me that in this world.
Superman seems like a good choice for this situation, so I augment my DNA to become kryptonian. Superstrength and speed will be very helpful here. The kid is completely terrified and will likely run from anything that comes near him, so I focus on destroying the murderous automaton instead.
"Additional mutant signature detected."
That must mean me. I fly up and rip off pieces of armaments.
"Situation assessment; category 4 mutant: hostile. Requesting additional units."
Well, at least the damn thing is programmed to tell me all it's plans. What kind of idiots created these things? Figuring those people may actually be that stupid, I fly up and jam a fist in each eye. Are you blind now, you piece of crap?
"Unit function compromised; request immediate assistance."
Ha! Wow, what dumb fucks! The enormous behemoth seems to not only be blind, but is also suffering from an inner ear problem now. The metal monster teeters around, kicking up it's legs trying to regain balance, while terrified townspeople flee in all directions. Watching from a good distance, I make sure it doesn't hit anything important—like something with people in it. Even from here, my telekinesis can turn any iffy moment into a near miss and I can see everything that happens very clearly.
Finally, the robot loses its fight with gravity and is about to sit on someone's house when I swoop in to save the day. Just like I've seen Superman do so many times before, I come up underneath the thing's ass and slowly lift it high in the air, saluting the crowd as I go. I don't expect cheers for me, but I figure it might minimize their fear or outrage. I hope.
Once I'm a couple hundred feet up, I can spot a nice stretch of tree-dotted valley, devoid of roads and houses. Looks like a good place. Digging into the outer armor on it's rear end, I spin my load once around and hurl it off to the future junkyard.
"Mutant target acquired; mutant capture sequence initiated."
Tuesday; October 12, 2004
Picking at my new and very uncomfortable, obsidian uniform, I mull over the new information I've absorbed recently and try not to let the despair it elicits overwhelm me. I am waiting for my trainer to arrive so he can teach me to fire a gun. I don't want to fire a gun—I don't even want to learn—but I'm going to because I have to if I want to stay. And I want to stay because they fight the 'mutants' like I did back in Smallville. And I want to fight the mutants because they have declared war on the innocent, normal people that need someone like me to protect them.
I am in deep.
I've seen the death and destruction they have caused, though. I've seen the terror they spread, and the lives they destroy. The HPV showed me—it's a literal war. I have to do something, and since I had no idea about this, I obviously need their help to really fight these…mutants. It's not like I haven't teamed up with other vigilantes before—to save people and fight a dangerous enemy. But this time is different. The stakes now are higher than ever, and even worse, I can't use my powers this time. The HPV has no idea I'm different from these mutants; they'd probably kick me out if they found out about my powers. So I'll use them in secret, after I go home to the apartment they rented me, because here, as a soldier in the Human Protectorate's Vanguard, is where I can do the most good.
My gaze settles on a sleek, coal-black figure topped with a cascade of red. Her arctic-blue eyes seem to see more than just mine, as though staring through me, she sees the secrets of the universe. I shift uncomfortably on my feet and try to find an angle where I can't see her eyes.
"Come on Kent, don't be shy. I don't bite."
I offer a weak smile and fall in step behind her.
"My name is Lieutenant Donna Price, you can call me Lt. Price, sir or ma'am. When I give you an order, I expect you to follow it. Don't interrupt me, don't question me, and above all, don't insult me. And for god sakes, quit staring at my ass."
My head snaps back up instantly—I hadn't even noticed it drift down!—but she did. My cheeks burn brighter than her hair while I look for a spot to stare at so I can pretend I'm not really here. Lt. Price laughs derisively and resumes her list of rules.
When we get to the firing range, I notice I'm not the youngest person there, in fact there are several kids that should be starting high school in a few weeks. Yet I'm probably the worst shot in the room. The sandy-haired kid to my right looks like he's been handling a gun since fifth grade; rigid stance, even hand, excellent aim, and a hard, yet bored, expression. What have I gotten myself into?
"It's alright Clark. Nobody's perfect the first time."
I know Lt. Price is trying to make me feel better, but somehow she makes me even more nervous. I try to pretend I'm alone, then fire off a few more rounds. All misses—I can't even hit the paper!
"Grr. I'm never going to get this!"
"Calm down. Listen, all you need to do is relax. Take a deep breath and let everything go. No one is judging you here. Just take your aim, focus on the target, and pull the trigger."
Following her instruction as she tells me, I try one more time to hit the target.
"I did it!"
A huge smile on my face, I stare at the three holes just outside the outer ring of the target with pride. I barely hit the paper at all this time, and I'd fired four rounds, but the fact remained that I actually managed to hit something this time. I know it might not seem like much to most people, but after a lifetime of having every sport be instantly easy, it feels good to finally have to work hard for my success…even if it is from firing a gun. Even if it is training to fire that gun at people. Even if it is training to become a killer. Staring at those three holes on the target, my blood turns to ice; I know what they expect me to do with this training. How can I feel good about that?
The smile slips off my face and I stoically reload to try again.
Saturday; October 23, 2004
I awake to a gentle rocking and the smell of Beefy Burgers.
"Dana, wake up. I got you some dinner."
I open my eyes and to my dismay, spy a clown head on the wrapper of my burger. Tiny. We probably lost our one shot at him because I got sucked into a hole in reality. Damn.
"I should call. They're probably worried about me."
"Who, the X-Men?" Josh seems a little too hopeful for yes to ignore. He sets the tray down on his nightstand and turns back to me.
"No. Who exactly are the X-Men? And what did you mean when you said you were a mutant? You look fine to me."
He blushes at my comment—then realizes I am serious.
"Um, well, the X-Men are all mutants—good mutants, I think, and a mutant is someone who was..born…with…..powers." Josh trails off at the end, studying a band poster hung next to the door.
"Are…you a mutant?" For a second I think he's staring at my modest chest when his gaze drops, but it dawns on me that most superheroes have powers.
"Oh! No, heh, just a regular, old human." Apparently this isn't the answer he wanted to hear. "But I've got nothing against them! Just clowns." Josh starts to feel better, so I add playfully, "You're not a clown, are you?"
The two of us share a good, long laugh, releasing all the pent-up tension from earlier. It never occurred to me before how long it had been since I was happy, but experiencing this moment with Josh reminds me of how tense and serious I've been this past year.
Josh's mom went straight to bed after her date, so he was able to spend all his time with me, filling me in about mutants, the X-Men and all the prejudice and hate the media forgot to mention. Oh yeah, and the date.
"Two thousand FOUR!?"
"Shh! Keep it down, my mom's a light sleeper! Yes, two thousand four. So what?"
"So what? I wasn't even born until twenty-twenty-three! Oh my god, I'm in the past. Slag it, how the heck am I going to get back?"
Josh is floored by this revelation, but that doesn't stop him from trying to make me feel better.
"Don't—don't worry, we'll figure something out."
His strong hand rests on my shoulder and the rising panic begins melting away. It's a silly idea, but I can't help feeling like I've found my new Batman. Josh is several years younger than me, yet I've begun to feel safe around him—in some ways, more safe than when I'm with Batman.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. However this happened, there's gotta be some way to undo it, right?"
He gave me an encouraging smile.
I can't believe all these feelings I'm having for him, but I need him. Without him, there'd be no way I could have handled this problem or had any chance of fixing it. But because of him, I am actually feeling optimistic. Maybe I can find a way home!
"You said the X-men are good mutants, right?"
"Yeah, why? What are you thinking?" A smile spreads across his face as his thoughts catch up to mine.
"Think maybe the X-Men know something about timetravel?"
Saturday; October 16, 2004
"Who are you calling?"
I know that the chances Richie hasn't left Dakota already are pretty slim, but I still feel like I need to rush. Cyclops leaves so I can make the call privately, looking a little confused. I punch in the number for Wayne Manor and wait for the familiar voice of Bruce Wayne.
Not Bruce Wayne.
For some reason, an older woman answers the phone. Maybe this is a bad time? Panic flashes over me until I remember this is an emergency.
"Um, hi! I need to speak with Mr. Wayne immediately. It's an emergency!"
"Emergency? Oh, my! I'm terribly sorry, but you have the wrong number. There isn't a Mr. Wayne living here."
"Oh, heh, sorry." I hang up quickly and dial again.
"Hello?" It's the same woman again. Definitely not a wrong number.
"Uh, this is 728-4535, right?"
"You sure this isn't Bruce Wayne's phone?"
"No, I'm quite sure. I've had this number for thirteen years, and I've never heard of anyone named Wayne even living in my building. Are you sure you aren't just remembering the number wrong?"
That isn't right.
"Oh, yeah. That's probably it. Sorry to bother you. Um, bye!" Something is going on. Thirteen years? Ha! I called this number once about five months ago when I spotted a fat, umbrella-carrying weirdo at the docks two nights in a row. I'd heard Gotham mentioned and figured Batman might be missing that guy. This is his number. He must be in trouble.
Cyclops comes back and asks me how it went.
"Uh, fine. I'm gonna need to go somewhere for a while. I'll be back later."
"Do you need a ride?" He starts to head in the direction of what I assume to be the garage.
"Wait, no. I'm cool." Running back to the hanger, I retrieve the old hubcap I picked up at the junkyard. I don't really know any other way out, so I retrace my steps back to the only exit I've seen, near the room the phone was in. I blow past Cyclops on my way back through the house and he shouts something, but I've already used my powers to open the doors and am racing out. Outside, there aren't any other buildings around on the enormous property the Professor built on, so there's nothing to slow me down while I climb higher on my makeshift flying disk. It's only after I'm speeding across miles of empty forest that I realize I don't really know where I am or how to get to Gotham from here. I mean, I could follow the coastline, but…up or down?