A/N: Alirghty-right then. At least I updated a bit faster this time. And by the way- WOO! I got my tenth review thanks to Winterwarrior, and of course to all of you for giving me my 1st through 9th.
There is a bit of a reference in this chapter to my friend Artistry11's comment that you might pick up on (that is in no way suggesting that it's subtle) and I did try and make this chapter a bit longer than usual to make y'all more content.
And sorry if it seems a bit bitsy. The chronology was a bit hard to get exactly right in my head.
As always, read and review. Enjoy!
Overall, the month following "orientation" was a pretty lazy one. I really started to settle into the mansion after that. Apparently the x-men had decided to let us get used to things before truly starting boot camp. I have my suspicions it was partially so that I wouldn't have the excuse of 'my armour isn't fully grown yet' to get out of classes.
Speaking of, over the next few weeks after the gym class of hell my mutation seriously started to kick into gear. It started with another patch of bone pushing its way to the surface on my other forearm. The patches began to appear on both my shins, then the backs of my hands; it was like new teeth were coming through all over me!
After the first week had passed, the plates on my forearms and hands had just about finished growing. As far as I could tell, most of the armour was just defensive. All except for the row of threatening, marble sized spikes that had grown from the knuckles of each hand.
I didn't like what was happening to me of course. All it did was remind me that every day I was a little less human and I had even less chance of getting to go home one day. But I just kept my mouth shut and slapped a cheesy smile on my face.
Other people had very different opinions, though.
Aish and Bobby seemed to think they were cool. Like my own personal built in knuckle dusters.
Dr. McCoy seemed to think the whole thing was some kind of miracle. He was giving me regular check ups to make sure everything was on track.
If I had a dollar for every time he said 'oh my stars' I'd be richer than the prof.
"And you're absolutely sure that you didn't feel any tightness in your hand whatsoever?" he asked for the billion and fourth time.
I clenched my jaw so that I wouldn't bite him, smiled and nodded.
"This should be impossible," he explained. "For this to be true, the plates on your hands would have had to have formed over night, detached themselves from the phalanges and begun to rise to the surface before morning. Realistically, you probably shouldn't be able to move your hand very much at all."
I'm not sure if he was quite catching onto the meaning behind my current facial expression, because he just kept talking.
"It is, perhaps, possible that we misjudged the level of control you could have over your own skeleton. Rapid bone growth and detachment is certainly possible, though I would have thought it fairly unlikely at such an early stage of manifestation. Quite frankly, I think it's incredible."
"Yeah, that's uh- that's real nice, there," I couldn't even force any interest into my voice as I took my chance to cut in. "Listen, Doc, I was wondering; you said I'd be getting the body armour, but what's with the fighting gear?"
I held out my hand and waggled my fingers, forcing his attention to my knuckles. He looked a bit disappointed that he had to stop fretting about my phalange miracle.
"I'd say it's purely an intimidation technique. You should be finding a few of those, most likely in areas of bone concentrate where no vital organs are present."
"What do organs have to do with anything?"
Wuh oh. I saw his eyes light up as I invited him to talk again. You ask this man a simple question and he gives you an hour long scientific explanation.
"Well," he began dramatically, standing and walking over to a diagram of the human skeleton he had hanging on the wall. I wonder if it's always there, or just for my visits… "So far, the physical evidence has shown that in areas, such as your arms and legs, where vital organs are absent. The bone has risen above the surface of the skin to form visible slabs of armour as a form of protection. However it would seem that the regions surrounding your vital organs, especially the lungs, heart and brain, you have subconsciously concentrated on strengthening the bones, creating an impenetrable shell inside the body rather than forcing an outward one. Your skull has become extremely hard, practically unbreakable, while your rib cage has closed off, leaving no gaps or weaknesses anywhere. I have no idea how you're still able to breathe in this condition."
It took me a while to snap back into consciousness and realise that he'd stopped talking.
"So, what you're saying is," he looked a little too hopeful that I might have learned something. "That I'm pretty much invincible?"
He sighed deeply. "No, Seven. A slip of a bone could easily sever a major artery, or puncture a lung or something equally as important. You're also very susceptible in the gap between your rib cage and pelvis."
"What? Why?" Ok, so I was a little cheesed I didn't get to be invincible, wouldn't you be?
"Because," he gestured again to the diagram. "You have very few bones within that space, and the bones above and below are busy strengthening the body within their own vicinity. Far too busy to be worried about your stomach."
He chuckled and looked at me expectantly. I stared blankly at him.
He coughed and quickly went back to talking again. "However, it's very unlikely that you'll ever break a bone, and if you do you could most likely seal the fracture instantaneously." He grinned at me widely.
I looked a little dissatisfied and decided to go for one more shot at getting some cool side affects.
"And," he said with a smirk that said I would be pleased with what followed. "You'll most likely never have to go to the dentists again."
My cheering could probably be heard all the way to the tennis courts.
"So, what did you do with it? Bobby thinks you took it out into the woods and burned it."
"I don't like you hanging around with that boy," I said in my best irritating mother tone, marching towards my bedroom with the Texan hot on my heels.
"Don't change the subject. What'd you do with it?"
Aish was completely exploiting her ability to make people tell the truth.
She wanted to know how all the furniture in my room had "mysteriously disappeared". I'd thought I was home free once I managed to get past Jean's telepathy, but I'd forgotten about the other newbie. It was lucky for me I'd found a way around her truth field as well. Just because you can't LIE, doesn't mean you necessarily have to tell the TRUTH. All you have to do is talk about something completely different (but still truthful) until she was out of range.
She was out of range just as soon as I dived into my room and slammed the door behind me.
I smiled to myself as I thought of the oddly coloured bed now sitting in the homeless shelter down town.
And when the mysterious disappearance occurred, I was permitted to go and make choices myself, as I wasn't going to be too busy that day. Ha!
I couldn't do much for the colour of the walls, but I managed to cover most of it with posters of various celebrities, most of whom I didn't know, with the exception of the occasional Charming Line poster which Aish kept trying to steal.
My bed was a simple blue one which reminded me of my bed back home, and I'd outdone Aisha's bean bag with a cushy, old leather chair from the op-shop which tried to swallow you every time you sat in it. I'd gotten over the computer thing by begging Kitty until she at least let me have my email back.
But now wasn't the time to dwell on these facts!
I had to plan… for my REVENGE!!!
I chewed loudly at the biscuit, letting some crumbs fall to the floor.
Jean looked up confused to see what I was doing, her eyes quickly narrowing as understanding dawned.
"Mm-mmm," I hummed as she scanned my face to see how easily I'd back down. The answer was 'not very'. "This biscuit is just so, SO good, y'know?"
"Where did you get that?"
I swallowed, ignoring her question and continuing with my in-depth description. "It's like it's crispy on the outside, but it still melts in your mouth, I just- I just can't explain it. You'll just have to try one for yourself. Oh wait!" I slapped myself on the forehead as if I hadn't been aware. "You'd have to know where the stash is for that to work wouldn't you."
I turned to leave and felt a light tugging at the edges of my mind.
Time for phase two of my plan; the telepath repellant.
As loudly as I could inside my skull I began to drive her away with the unimaginable power of singing.
KARMA KARMA KARMA KARMA KARMA CHAMELEAN!! YOU COME AND GO! YOU COME AND GO-OO-O-OH!
I held back a triumphant grin as I glanced back and saw her face practically contort in agony.
Give the mutation a few more days and I had two pointy lumps coming up on my back, either side of my neck. Dr. McCoy said they were probably another form of intimidation, an extension of my shoulder blades.
Actually, he said scapula, and I'd had to look up what that meant. You learn something new everyday.
Another day and they'd broken the skin and were growing quickly. These ones did hurt, rather than being just itchy and flakey. The flesh around them was especially tender; I had to sleep on my stomach for a week.
Two weeks into living at the mansion, and my armour was just about finished cooking. Looking at myself in the mirror, I was a completely different person. If you could call me that.
I had massive hunks of bone showing on my shins, forearms, hands, and the top of my thighs as well as the skeletal version of shoulder pads protecting my ever so delicate shoulders. Seriously; why the shoulders but not the knees or elbows? Does that make any kind of sense to you, 'coz I'm at a loss.
Anyway, it looked like the knuckle barbs and the massive spiny type blocks of bone rising up from my back and resting beside my head on either side were the only parts of the armour designed to actually scare people off (although, I'm sure the rest of it would do that just fine in a casual public setting). At least, I guessed the spiny things were just scary looking. They seemed pretty useless thus far, and were too close to my back to really stab or bash anyone to death with, so yeah, I was pretty sure.
I started singing Boy George in my head again as a precautionary measure while I slipped my hand into the hidden compartment in the back of my wardrobe to fish around for a packet of chips.
I'd been asked to go to the professor's office, which didn't bode well. I think we all remember what happened the last time I was called to the principle's office, don't we?
As I walked and ate my chips, I made sure to take a detour past Jeans room so that she could take a look at my tasty treat.
Before I could even knock on Xavier's door, I heard him call softly, "Come in, Seven."
Note to self: use telepath repellant on the professor.
I stared at the object he'd handed me. It looked like just an ordinary watch. What was I supposed to do with it?
"This, Seven," Xavier began, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards, probably at the cluelessness of my thoughts. "Is called an Image Inducer. We've decided that it would be best for you to have one before you start school in a few days."
My eyebrows raised, but I'm not sure whether it was because I didn't know how to react to the present, or if it was from the shock that I'd be starting a new school in a few days.
When exactly were they planning on telling us?
I fished around for a suitable reply and eventually came up with, "Cool."
Then I thought again, and decided it was best to ask now, rather than later.
"What does it do?"
He smiled and chuckled warmly at my ignorance before answering. Actually, now that I think about it, he didn't really answer at all.
"Put that on, go stand in front of that mirror," he said, practically gesturing to the full length mirror in the corner of the room with his eyebrows. "And press this button." He pointed out which part of the watch I was meant to be pushing, and nodded as if to tell me to get a move on.
I hesitated before stepping in front of the mirror. I wasn't a huge fan of my reflection at the moment. I took a calming breath, slipped the inducer onto my wrist and took the step I needed.
There was my reflection. Bones sticking out at weird angles, some even sticking out at normal ones. I was disappointed deep down that I hadn't magically changed back somehow. I looked back at the prof.
"What now?" I don't think I quite ironed out all the bitterness before I spoke.
A hint of worry showed on the bald man's face, but he simply nodded once and said with a touch of reluctance audible in his voice, "Press the button."
I turned back to my own image and cautiously pressed my finger down.
My jaw dropped, and I'm sure my eyes lit up. I was me again. All of my bones were on the inside where they should be, I didn't have anything remotely vicious looking sticking out from my knuckles; I was normal.
I reached one tentative hand back to feel behind my head, and yelped as it unexpectedly hit something hard. The spines.
It wasn't real. It was just a hologram.
"The image inducer can only change your appearance, Seven. It can't change who you are."
See, this was why I didn't want people reading my mind.
I walked straight to the door, turning back only for a fraction of a second to mumble a thank you to the professor.
I didn't turn the image inducer off. Not yet.
Aish eyed me carefully; either still curious about my new bedroom set up or trying to work out why my armour had gone missing for the last three days. I ignored her and shrugged my shiny new back pack further up onto my shoulders as we got out of the car and stood outside our new educatory building, too nervous to actually go in. School bags, books, pencil cases and the rest had all been provided for us, despite the fact I had my old bag with me still.
"Apparently we'll be getting another batch of new comers this afternoon," she began, suddenly in the mood to strike up a conversation after five minutes of silence.
"Seriously?" I asked, feigning interest. Hey, it's not lying if it's in question format.
Personally, I wasn't too interested in another few pimply faced teenage mutants reminding me what I was all the time, ESPECIALLY when I've just found a way to drown it out.
"Yeah, Bobby gave me the inside scoop." I think she did realise I wasn't too fascinated but just kept talking anyway. "I think it's about time we weren't seen as the newbies though. I mean, it's been over a month, how long could that last?"
Wow. A month. A month since I'd lost everything and a month of avoiding people around the halls of the mansion. The only people I talked to without being forced were Aish, Jean and Dr. Hank. That can't be seen as socially healthy.
"We gonna go in?" she asked, looking like she was on the verge of deciding to just turn tail and run.
I swallowed. "Guess we're gonna have to."
She turned to me with a solemn expression and reached out to shake my hand.
"It was nice knowing you, Seven."
I mirrored her actions, but with a far more troubled face.
We shook hands and marched determinedly through the school gates.
Aish didn't have time to react before she was hit in the face with my toy dog.
She was on the cushy leather chair with very few throwable items, whereas I had the bed and plenty of ammunition. I figured I had the upper hand.
"Well, maybe if you had spoken to someone at all today…" she trailed off, grumbling as she pried Atticus off her.
We'd made a deal. Did that mean NOTHING to her? We were meant to stick together on the first day because we were both new. By the end of the school day Aish, 'the cool new kid from Texas', had made friends with practically the entire student body while I hung around awkwardly in the background. Being within a twenty metre limit of her did NOT count as sticking together.
Did they not get cheesed when they couldn't lie about homework?
Maybe this was an over reaction of sorts, but there was no way in hell I was going to admit that.
"I did," I huffed, aware that my immaturity had no bounds at this moment and got up to get some chocolate bars from the cupboard, humming the usual tune loudly in my skull. "I said hi to the cafeteria lady."
I poked a triumphant finger at the turncoat and bit off a large portion of chocolate from the bar in my other hand.
"Oh shut up," she said pegging Atticus back onto my bed with far more force than necessary.
My mouth hung open as I turned into the hallway my bedroom was located on. I felt panic start to rise up in my chest as I saw the heavy cardboard boxes being carried out of the room by two of the men living at the mansion. Had I done something wrong? Were they kicking me out already?
I couldn't have been in Aisha's room begging for her forgiveness for more than two minutes, and THIS happens?
I managed to kick my muscles back into gear and get my legs working again, going over every tiny miniscule action I'd made since I got here.
Oh no! Maybe they found out about they furniture and Scott got upset.
That theory (I thought it was a pretty good one) was quickly put to rest as I heard Scott's own muffled voice strangle out from behind the latest of the boxes to wander out the door.
"How much did she get?"
"Hey look, I found more over here!" Bobby was helping them forcibly remove me? That's just cold (excuse the pun).
I couldn't do anything but stand and watch helplessly while they removed the sealed boxes, utterly confused about what could possibly be in them.
I heard a chuckle beside my right ear and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Jean there, looking smug.
"Oh, just a few snacks we happened to find hidden in the nooks and crannies of your bedroom."
I stared, mouth wide simply shocked that she'd do something so heinous.
"You honestly didn't think I wouldn't get suspicious if you where shrieking song lyrics in you head every time you reached into the wardrobe, did you?"
"How could you do something like this?" I choked out, still aghast.
She smiled, holding back another evil chuckle at her own little joke. "Well, there's no way you were going to get away with it. It just wouldn't be fair to anyone else in the mansion."
How could someone so old be so immature? I thought Bobby was bad, but this was just plain weird.
She didn't seem impressed with the 'old' comment in my head. Both our eyes narrowed and my usual stubbornness returned with new found vengeance.
"Oh, it's on." I refused to blink before she did. "You're goin' down, Red."
She smirked and turned to walk away.
I bet she just REALLY needed to blink.
Aisha crossed the room in less than a second and grabbed me by the wrist. For a moment I was scared she was going to hurt me, and so was more than a little shocked when her face lit up with a big grin and her eyes glinted in the dim light of the forty watt bulb overhead.
"The noobs should be arriving now."
She pulled me out the door with such force that I think I left one of those cartoony dust clouds behind me.
We suddenly halted to a bumpy stop and the top of the huge staircase in the lobby. Just being led in by domineering looking Scott was a pack of shaggy new mutants.
Well, only one of them was shaggy really. A boy of about fourteen in a blue jacket with the collar up and a backpack slung over one shoulder. He had a huge floppy mass of light brown hair that managed to stick out in every direction and still hang in front of his eyes. The boy had to keep flicking it out of his face in order to actually see.
The next person my eyes were drawn to was an older girl, at least nineteen, who seemed a little nervous. She was dressed in simply a long sleeved top with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a pair of jeans with a skirt over top. She had her hair tied back and covered by a bright red backwards baseball cap.
Finally there was a boy who made Scott look like a nine inch action figure. The only reason I could think for why I hadn't noticed him first was that he seemed to have just arrived having brought the luggage of the whole group in with him (except for shaggy's backpack).
He was massive; at least seven foot, but without looking too bulky or muscular. He dropped the other two suitcases on the marble floor but held the one which I assumed was his own under one arm as though it was a kid's toy. I looked him up and down, fascinated that any appearance could still surprise me, but there was something tugging at the edge of my memory, some hint of recognition. But not one thing about this boy seemed familiar.
For starters, he appeared to be made of some kind of black, volcanic rock, making it very difficult to distinguish where each part of him started or stopped due to every inch of him being the same colour of pitch and, apparently, defying any hint of shadow or light that tried to touch him. His hair (Also black. SURPRISE!) was cropped short leaving nothing to get in the way of his glowing red eyes. Two horns grew from his forehead, folding back elegantly to rest just above the top of his head.
Then it hit me.
I remembered those horns.
I'd seen them almost every day of my old life and the thought made me feel sick to my stomach.
The boy gave me the once over with a disgusted look.
His voice was a lot lower than I remembered. I guess everything had changed a lot since I'd last seen him.