"Why don't we just take a house for good?" Jamie moaned as they drove slowly around the quiet suburban neighborhood. He was thirteen years old, but as the youngest in the group felt it was his obligation to complain. The houses were small and cozy, but each was well-kept. Cars, soccer nets, and worn tricycles were signs of obvious habitation, so the car moved past those without another look.
"I can only convince two, three people at a time," Drew replied for the hundredth time. He was in the passenger seat leaned back as far as it would go with his eyes closed. His short black hair, once meticulously spiked, was now clean but tousled from sleeping in the car. "People would start asking questions if we stayed in one place too long."
"Let them ask," Jamie said, voice uneven because he was leaning his head on the car window. "Emmy's old enough to be our guardian. She's been taking care of us for years."
"Yes, but I'm not your guardian," Emmaline said from the driver's seat. "Now you guys shut up so I can focus." Her eyes swept over each house with feigned casualness, but behind her dark sunglasses her unusual eyes were sharp and calculating. Jamie's sigh made her relent. "Sorry. You know we're doing the best we can." He nodded, but didn't reply. "It's not easy for Drew or me either," she reminded him. "We all—bingo." Her eyes latched onto a corner house. The yard was slightly overgrown, suggesting neglect. There was a motorcycle propped inside the open garage and a man in a sweaty shirt and reflective red sunglasses was working diligently on it.
Drew raised his seat up and looked at the house. "Single and unfriendly," he noted. "I bet the neighbors hate that he doesn't mow that lawn every week like the rest of them."
"A non-conformist in every neighborhood. No one will miss him for a few weeks," Emmaline confirmed. She slowed even more, making sure there wasn't anything they were missing. The man looked strong and angry, if the way he was shining the motorcycle was an indicator, but they weren't planning on fighting him.
Emmaline drove past the corner, circled back up to the front of the neighborhood, and parked by the community pool. In the summer while the pool was crowded, few people would notice the unfamiliar car. Getting out of the car they looked like three normal people. Emmaline was dressed conservatively for a twenty-three year old in the middle of August in dark jean shorts, tennis shoes, and a pale blue tank top. Her auburn hair was pulled in a high ponytail and swished against her shoulders as she walked. Drew and Jamie were dressed in casual khakis and t-shirts, similar to the neighborhood teens lounging by the pool.
They left their luggage in the car—it was less conspicuous to come back for it that night—and strolled casually down the street to the house they had tagged earlier. The spherical shield Emmaline maintained over the small group was clear but caught iridescent highlights from the summer sun though the passersby attributed to their imagination or the heat. As she walked, Emmaline kept the shield wide enough so the three mutants could walk comfortably on the sidewalk without brushing against the impenetrable edge.
They were not accosted on their way to the house though they went from the front of the neighborhood to the very back, but Emmaline still kept a cautious eye out. The warm weather had many families out of their homes, playing baseball in the front yard or sitting in rocking chairs with an icy drink. Emmaline waved calmly to everyone she saw, acting comfortable in the unfamiliar area.
Finally, they reached the house they had tagged earlier. The man was not in the garage or driveway and, since his motorcycle was still there, Emmaline assumed he was inside. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching them, the three mutants slunk around the chosen house and approached the back door.
The coarse grass of the unmowed lawn irritated Emmaline's skin but she kept her steps calm and even. The group moved into formation with Jamie in front, Drew directly behind him, and Emmaline in the rear. Jamie grinned, enjoying the job. Drew kept a bored expression, though his eyes danced.
Emmaline exhaled and extended her shield to incorporate the door knob. She nodded to Jamie, who shot a small bolt of electricity from his pointer finger, melting the metal lock and allowing them to push the door open. The moment they entered, a ringing mechanical voice said, "Intruder alert. Intruder alert."
Emmaline looked around the small kitchen for the source of the alarm, keeping herself calm and focused. Jamie looked to her, electricity jumping between his fingers. He had disabled many alarms in their past excursions.
"Alarm off," said a man's voice, and the alarm was immediately silenced. The man they had seen earlier walked into the kitchen they had entered. He had not taken off his red sunglasses though he was inside and was unshaven, which made him appear dark and menacing as he crossed his arms and snapped, "Who are you?"
Emmaline quickly pushed out her shield to envelop him. He started in surprise as it went over him and took a step towards them. Emmaline narrowed her eyes. Few people noticed the shield's touch. Drew held up a hand and said softly, "We are not here. You are going on a two week vacation to New York." His voice echoed strangely an octave higher and lower. As always, it gave Emmaline a chill down her spine to hear him. "It is a spontaneous decision, so you tell only your friends where you are going. There is no need to have someone watch the house."
Instead of complacently nodding, the man took another step towards them. "I'm not going anywhere. Explain why you're in my house."
"A mutant," Drew hissed. "Pull in the shield, pull in the shield."
Emmaline snapped the shield back to exclude the man and whirled around. "Out now," she told Jamie, who was thankfully already backing to the door. "Never mind," she said loudly to the man. "Wrong house."
"Bar exits," the man commanded. The house obeyed immediately. Thick bars clicked into place over the doors and windows, showing an unnerving amount of technology for a suburban house. "Charles didn't send you," he stated, taking a step towards them. "So who did?"
"Let us leave," Emmaline said firmly, standing in front of Drew and Jamie even though she trusted her shield. "No one sent us. We weren't trying to hurt you." Her voice was forceful, but he didn't look convinced.
"Three mutants just happen to turn up in my house?" he said sarcastically. "Does Magneto think I'm so messed up I can't take on three kids?"
"No one sent us," Emmaline repeated. "I don't even know who those people are." Ignoring her, the man grabbed an unusually flat phone of the counter, pressed a button, and held it to his ear. "Listen, you don't have to call the cops. I promise we'll leave and not come back."
"Yes, it's me," he said into the phone. "No, not yet. But listen, I've got three mutants in my house." He snorted. "I'm fine… Well, if they're not ours, then… One girl, early twenties, two boys, mid-teens. Some sort of force-field and hypnotism. Yeah."
As he continued talking, Jamie breathed into Emmaline's ear. "Let me out. I can zap him and take out the alarm system."
"We're not going to hurt him until we're sure he won't let us just leave," Emmaline muttered, watching the man closely. She hadn't allowed Jamie out of the protectiveness of her shield in months. "But if I say go…"
"Let the Professor decide what to do with them," he said angrily. "Oh, all right. How are you already so close? Well, good. Oh, don't worry. I'll blast them if they try anything. Bye, Storm." He closed the phone and held it loosely in his hand. "The X-Team's coming to pick you up. If Magneto sent you, then the Professor can handle you. If you're rogues… well, then the Professor can handle you."
Emmaline pulled the shield in to release Jamie. "Go!" she shouted.
Electricity arced through the air, hitting the metal cell phone. The man was thrown against the doorframe and fell down unconscious. White lightning raced around the walls and skittered across Emmaline's shield, and the bars on the exits lifted. Once the door was free, Emmaline looped Jamie back into the shield, opened the door, and ran out.
They kept pace with each other racing around to the front of the house, but slowed when they saw a couple strolling on the sidewalk across the street. To avoid suspicion, they walked nonchalantly together back up the street. Emmaline hoped she didn't look as shaken as she felt. "Scott!" They heard a shout from back at the house.
Risking a quick look back, she saw a teen emerge from the house. Emmaline wished there were more trees or hills in the neighborhood so he couldn't see them so easily. "Over there!" the teen called over his shoulder, pointed at Emmaline, Jamie, and Drew.
"Run," Emmaline said and they broke into a sprint together, not looking back again. By the time they turned the next corner, Emmaline was regretting not parking closer to the target house. Though she was in good shape, the heat was making her tank top stick to her back. Jamie was beginning to lag as they got closer, worn from his extensive use of his power. He got too far behind her and the solid shield rammed into him from behind. He fell, scraping his hands and knees, but got doggedly back on his feet. Emmaline said, "C'mon Jamie, we've got to go."
"We can't stay on the sidewalk," Drew told Emmaline after another minute of running. "Veer left." She took his advice and found that they were running in a playing field. Overhead, the sunny day was taking a dangerous turn, with black clouds suddenly swirling over them.
"I can recharge and take them," Jamie panted, pointing up to the thunderheads. "They're not going to stop chasing us."
Emmaline looked behind and saw that the teen was joined by a dark-skinned woman with white hair and a strange blue man, and all three were in hot pursuit, getting much too close for comfort. "Fine," Emmaline forced herself to agree, and she stopped, pulling her shield away from Jamie for the second time that day.
Jamie halted abruptly and thrust a hand towards the sky. A bolt of lightning obeyed, coming down and striking his hand. Though Emmaline had seen it before, it made her flinch every time to see him struck by lightning. His hair stood on end with the energy he had taken on, and he turned to the oncoming trio, electricity crackling dangerously across his skin. He leveled a hand at the teenage boy. Suddenly, the blue man was behind him. He grabbed Jamie tightly around the chest and vanished with him.
Emmaline gasped, horrified. She let Jamie out of the safety of her shield and now he was gone. The blue man was almost immediately back without Jamie, appearing first beside the other two mutants who had stopped to stand a few feet from Emmaline and Drew, and then bouncing back off Emmaline's shield. He tried again from another side, but couldn't get through. Another bolt of lightning, this one not called by Jamie but seemingly random from the storm overhead, struck the shield. The energy arced around it before vanished harmlessly into the ground. Finally, the teen sent out a blast of ice, which covered the whole field except an uneven circle around Emmaline and Drew.
"Where's J—where is he?" Emmaline asked defensively. The three mutants stood in a row, watching Emmaline and Drew suspiciously. Or more likely, watching for her shield to waver. When they did not answer her question, Emmaline shouted, "Where is he?"
"He is in the containment area of our ship," the blue man offered, his voice colored by a strong accent. "He is unharmed."
"Why were you in Scott's house?" the black woman challenged, arms crossed.
"We weren't sent by anyone," Emmaline repeated what she had said to the man earlier.
"We needed a place to stay," Drew admitted. Emmaline glared at him, but avoided her gaze. "I have a mutation. I can convince non-mutants that they had planned a vacation or something so we can have their house for a week or two. If we had known that guy, Scott, was a mutant, we wouldn't have even gone there. Give us back Jam—" Emmaline stomped on his foot. "Our friend. Give us back our friend. We haven't hurt anyone."
"Scott was unconscious when we got there," the woman stated, crossing her arms.
Emmaline stepped slightly in front of Drew, glaring at the woman. "That was because he wouldn't let us leave. I'd advise you not to make the same mistake."
"Bluff," the woman said correctly. "If either of you had defensive powers we wouldn't just be standing here talking. Since your shield is obviously not coming down, I see two options. You come with us back to the school so we can make sure you're not with Magneto. If not, then we can train you there. Or, we leave you two and just take your friend with us."
Emmaline froze. She couldn't make Drew do this, but she couldn't abandon Jamie. "Give us a minute," she said to the imposing mutants, and turned around to Drew. "I have to look out for Jamie," she whispered. "I can walk you to the edge of the woods under the shield. Then you can run, and I'll let them take me."
"No," Drew whispered fiercely, brows furrowed. "I'm not abandoning you two again. We're in this together."
Checking his face to make sure he was being honest, she nodded and turned back to the mutants. "Exactly what is this 'school'?" she asked.
Please review and let me know what you think. I've got the first few chapters written and will post the second one the moment I get ten reviews. This story is set right after XII, so Jean just died (and she's not coming back in this story). Let me know what you think!