Chapter 20: Transitions

The street leading into Renovo Pennsylvania was empty of cars, but the sidewalks lining it were full as every living soul in town stood waiting and watching. Most had been there for over two hours already but no one was complaining about the wait. Few were even aware of the passing time as they were too engaged in wild speculation. Their patience was dramatically awarded with the arrival of several police cars, both state and county, followed by two large black SUVs with blacked out windows and no markings. Behind them came another blacked out truck resembling a cross between an ambulance and a Brink's armored car. Following behind it another SUV and more police cars, twelve vehicles in all.

The convoy pulled to a stop before the local Episcopal church were the city fathers anxiously waited with Mr. And Mrs. Hall, Halley's parents.

The passenger door of the lead SUV opened, emitting SHIELD agent Anita Hill. Wearing a conservative dark skirt suit and sunglasses, Agent Hill joined two other SHIELD agents along with the local sheriff by the back gate of the armored vehicle. She opened the door and out stepped Halley Hall.

It took a moment for the towns folk to recognize Halley in the dark blue sweat suit she was wearing, the knitted cap she wore over her shorn hair not helping, but when they did the air erupted with cheering. With a loud cry, mother and father rushed to embrace their daughter in a flurry of tears. All eyes and cameras were on Halley and her parents and as the local sheriff and minister joined to escort them into the church no one even noticed as a man in a wheelchair and a pair of teenagers exited the vehicle as well.

Agent Hill escorted Charles, Jean and Scott quietly through a side door into the church, were they in turn were met by a local deputy who guided them to a quiet classroom to wait.

With the entire town wishing to welcome their lost sheep home, Xavier and his companions were in for a long one.

An awkward and uncomfortable wait, air thick with suspicion.

"Are you sure there's nothing else you want to tell us?" Agent Hill asked, overtly directing the question to Xavier but subtly inviting his students to contribute what they would.

So far Xavier hadn't been very forthcoming.

SHIELD knew the boy who took the crystal was one of Xavier's students because Lt. Smith recognized him from her visit to the mansion. They were confident the same boy had then flown to Nevada. They also knew that the Black Bird flew first to Kansas and then north into the wilds of Canada. It may be one of the most advanced stealth planes on the planet but it was built using SHIELD technology and they had the means to track its movements.

Jean and Scott shared looks of unease before turning their gazes towards the Professor. They had unanswered questions of their own and were anxious for a private moment to ask them, their unhappiness was due to the knowledge that Xavier wasn't ready or able to answer.

Charles was very much aware of their disappointment and doubts.

"No, Agent Hill." He answered in a tired voice. It had been a long sixteen hours since he began the previous morning cataloging the contents of his vault. "I really wish I could shed some light on the situation, but I have no idea how or why the crystal did what it did, or where Miss Hall was being held. I'm afraid the student involved has no memory of what happened. As I already told your superior, all I know is that she was found somewhere west of Kansas."

"Utah actually." Hill volunteered. At their questioning looks she explained further. "Radar at the Nellis and Hill Air Force bases picked up your boy traveling near mach six at just over eight miles up, before he dropped down behind the Monitor Mountain Range west of Ely Nevada. After that he flew too low for radar to distinguish. We assume because of the presence of Miss Hall. Don't worry, there isn't much out there, we'll soon know where he found her. No, the real question is why the stone in your possession decided to act now, and why it chose Mr. Kent."

Charles had his own theory but he wasn't ready to share it, at least not with SHIELD.

After the rise of the crystal pyramid and Clark's subsequent collapse, the X-Men had retreated to the shelter of the Blackbird. Despite being electronically dead, it was still their best protection from the elements. Dr. McCoy had quickly reassured the worried Mr. Kent that Clark was only suffering from extreme fatigue, something Jonathan told them he had never witnessed in his son. They hadn't even had a chance to worry about how they were getting home before several SHIELD aircraft arrived. Fortunately Fury was easily distracted by the mysterious pyramid, but Xavier knew it was only a matter of time before the Colonel began wondering about the potential power of the boy who boarded his carrier. He wasn't afraid the Colonel would take any direct action towards Clark, that was the purpose for the institute after all, but he knew the Kent's wouldn't appreciate the added scrutiny.

It was up to him to protect them, as promised.

"I don't know why it chose now to act, Agent Hill. Perhaps that is something we can learn from studying the pyramid. As for why it chose Mr. Kent? Perhaps it just needed someone who could fly."

"He did a lot more than fly Professor. He successfully breached the Helicarrier's defenses and then its hull. Something I personally am not very comfortable with."

The look he gave her wasn't very sympathetic.

"Given what happened with your Sentinels Friday night, we are all dealing with things with which we aren't very comfortable."

Jean and Scott both gave a start, before turning their eyes curiously towards the SHIELD agent. Neither had before heard the term 'Sentinel', but they were both very bright and had little difficulty connecting the dots. The robots under the mansion, the machines that attacked and tried to kill them, belonged to SHIELD.

Any further awkwardness was brushed aside as Anita turned her head towards the door, hand reflexively going to the radio device hanging behind her ear. "Bring them in." She commanded in response to whatever she heard on the ear bud.

At her words the door to the classroom opened, another SHIELD agent poking his head through before stepping back to allow Halley and her parents to pass. Once the Halls were inside the agent closed the door, remaining outside to ensure their privacy.

Xavier turned his chair to the new arrivals.

"Mr. And Mrs. Hall, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Professor Charles Xavier and these fine young people…" He gestured to Jean and Scott. "…are Jean Grey and Scott Summers, two of the students from my institute."

Halley gave Jean a friendly smile, having gotten to know the redhead some during their stay at the Kent farm. "They are some of the people who brought me home." She explained to her parents, giving the handsome Scott a shy smile.

"Then we're right grateful to you for bringing our girl home." Mr. Hall said, stepping forward to shake their hands enthusiastically. His wife did her best to offer her own thanks through happy tears. She had yet to release her daughter's hand, as if afraid she might disappear again.

"Do you…" Mr. Hall was wringing his hands, struggling to contain his anger. "Do any of you know who took my Halley, or what they did to her?" He looked to his daughter. "She says she doesn't remember anything after they took her."

This was it, the moment Xavier lived for, the moment he dreaded most.

"Mr. And Mrs. Hall, your daughter…" He used his eyes to let Halley know that what he was about to say was as much for her benefit as for her parents. "…is a very special girl. She is one of a rare few born with a unique and powerful gift. I don't know who kidnapped her, but I do know that they were aware of her potential. We have every reason to believe that was the reason they targeted her. In fact, I fear she may be but one of many they have taken against their will."

"What sort of gift?" Mr. Hall asked, his voice projecting his unease.

"Perhaps it would be best if we asked Miss Hall that question." He gave the girl a reassuring smile as she tensed under her parents' questioning gazes. "Halley, can you tell us what happened the night you were abducted?"

"Uhm, sure I…well, I was leaving the library after my computer class and there was a strange man in the parking lot. I crossed to avoid him, there was no one else around and he made me a little nervous. I…" She paused, a small shudder at the memory of what happened next racing down her back. "I was moving past Mr. Daniel's van, at least it looked like his van, when a man grabbed me from behind. I…" She hesitated, as if confused about what she should say. "I slipped free…everything went black after that, the next thing I remember was waking up in Clark's arms." She ducked her head in a vain attempt to hide the blush spreading over her face at the memory of his body pressed against her own. It was after all the most intimate she had ever been with a boy and with her practically naked at the time.

Jean blushed as well, unable to entirely shield out the younger girl's broadcast emotions. Scott, unaware of the subtle sub context, misread Jean's reaction, his back stiffening as his lips drew into a tight line of disapproval. Fortunately for him everyone was too distracted by Halley's tale to notice.

Like Miss Grey, Xavier sensed the girl's emotional response to the memory but found it easy to maintain his detachment. Still, that wasn't the memory he was trying to evoke. Thanks to Lois Lane's vision he already knew what happened that night. Perhaps even better than Miss Hall.

"Halley" He prodded. "Do you remember how you slipped free?"

The subject of his attention chewed her lower lip nervously and he hurried to reassure her. "There is no need to be afraid. Whatever you tell us will be all right. We will believe you."

Still not sure what to say, Halley tried to describe what happened that night.

"There was someone else there, another girl I think and she was fighting with the man who grabbed me. I don't know what happened to her after I blacked out."

"What did she look like?" He gently prodded. Sensing her resistance to trying to explain, Charles changed tactics. "Halley, close your eyes and try to picture the girl from the parking lot."

Relieved that this wouldn't require her to say anything that sounded crazy, Halley closed her eyes and tried to picture the strange figure from her memories. Her mother was standing close beside her, hand tightly clasping her own, so when the older woman gasped in surprise it was right in Halley's ear. Opening her eyes, she found herself face to face with the blue glass girl that tried to save her that night. Halley drew back towards her mother in fear and the smoky figure disappeared. "Who…what?"

Charles gave her an approving smile. "The who Miss Hall, is you. As for the what, I want you to picture her again, only this time do it with your eyes open. Can you do that Halley? Can you picture her standing right in front of you?"

"But, what was she?"

"She" He explained patiently, "is you. Please Halley, will you try to picture her again?"

Giving a jerky nod, Halley drew a deep breath, then tried again. This time when the transparent girl formed in front of her Halley didn't respond in fear, but with curiosity. Tentatively she reached out to the other girl who mirrored her actions, reaching out towards her. As they touched each others hand, Halley was surprised to discover that though the glass girl's skin was firm and unyielding, it was also warm and soft.

"She" Xavier explained, his voice calm and with the cadence of a teacher. "is a projection of your power, your will given form by your gift. She appeared to fight with the man who grabbed you because you wanted to escape."

"Are you saying she does what I want?"

"No, I'm saying she does what you will. She is a part of you, just like your hands, and just like your hands she does what your mind tells her to. You control her. That is what we teach at the Xavier Institute, how to control gifts like yours, along with the restraint needed to keep from harming others with your power."

Halley's eyes widened with sudden realization. "Jean, you…?"

The redhead nodded with a grin. "Yes, we all do. You may remember what Clark was doing while he was carrying you."

"He was flying." Halley responded wistfully.

Scott, still laboring under his misconceptions, acted to push the conversation away from the taller Kent boy. "Every student at the institute has their own unique power. Together we learn how to use them without having to fear how the people around us will react."

"Which is why," Xavier intruded. "we came to Renovo. Miss Hall, we are here to invite you to join us. You can finish high school with us and learn how to control your power, while surrounded by classmates who are experiencing the same things you are. Will you join us?"

****(Page break)

When Clark first woke up in his room on the Kent farm it had taken a minute for his brain to wade through the confusion of why he was home, instead of in the bedroom he shared with Scott Summers at Xavier's mansion. The last thing he remembered was helping do inventory in the Professor's vault, then waking up aboard a strange military aircraft crewed by people in uniforms he had never seen before. Even stranger his father was there, along with Xavier, Dr. McCoy and several of the students from the institute. Clark had been so bone numbing tired he didn't have a chance to find out why, only remaining conscious for a moment before sleep reclaimed him. It was after dark when they landed in the Kent driveway and though he managed to wake up to disembark, he had been so fatigued he couldn't even walk unaided. Clark couldn't remember ever feeling that way and what's more with his crude stumbling he had tripped while climbing the front step, managing to bang his knee pretty good. He finally woke fully with the unaccustomed pain that shot up his leg. It had frightened him but he was so tired that when sleep finally came he forgot his fear, welcoming the warm embrace of oblivion.

Now waking up his body ached from the strain he had put it through and he wondered if this was how everybody else felt after a hard day. Climbing out of bed Clark stumbled his way towards the dresser and fresh clothes but stopped when his path carried him through the warm rays of the sun shinning into the room through the window. It felt so good, like the sun was filling him up with warmth and vitality, and by the time he continued on his way to the dresser he was actually feeling more like himself again. Not quite ready for a round in the Danger Room, but more than ready for breakfast on the farm.

After getting dressed and cleaned up for the day Clark made his way downstairs and into the kitchen where he drew up short at the sight of Dr. McCoy drinking coffee at the table with his parents. They had clearly been talking but with his currently low level of energy he hadn't heard them.

"Good morning son." Jonathan greeted him. "How are you feeling?"

"When I first woke up I was still feeling pretty worn out." Clark answered honestly as he made his way to the counter to get his own cup. There was a window over the sink and once again he paused to bask in the warm rays of the sun. "But I'm feeling much better now."

Dr. McCoy's brow rose in interest, he could actually see the color returning to Clark's face, fatigue sloughing off like an old coat.

"Clark." Setting his drink down, Hank watched the boy intently. "Do you remember what happened or where you went yesterday?"

Drawn in by his teacher's request, Clark reluctantly left his place at the window and carrying his cup joined them at the table. "No Mr. McCoy, the last thing I remember is doing inventory in the Professor's vault. Scott was looking at a crystal in a drawer, then I was waking up on a plane."

"Why…" Martha asked. "…would Professor Xavier have you doing inventory in his vault if he keeps such dangerous things as this crystal in it? Why does he have such things in a school in the first place?" Her tone was almost accusatory.

"I'm sorry Misses Kent." Hank quickly apologized. "Nothing in that vault is, to the best of our knowledge, dangerous. Most of its contents are merely records, the names and locations of known mutants, information that needs to be protected but holds no threat in and of itself. Until this incident with Clark the crystal in question was only known to be useful as a focusing lens for a certain type of machine and though it could prove dangerous if abused or used improperly, on its own it was believed to be just a harmless rock. Charles kept it for study, while a second stone was held by the government for the same purpose. The location of the third was unknown until Clark retrieved it."

"Still…" Jonathan spoke up. "…why was Clark exposed to it? Why was he doing inventory in the first place?"

Clark and the doctor exchanged uneasy glances.

"Last Thursday night …" Clark began hesitantly. "…the Professor was called away because of an emergency involving his brother and well he was gone some of the kids decided to…throw a party. They made a real mess and some of the guests decided to wander about the mansion. The Professor just wanted to make sure nothing was missing, just in case." He wisely chose to neglect mentioning nearly getting killed by a robot.

"Clark." Jonathan's voice expressed his disappointment. "You know better than to participate in an unsupervised party."

Dr. McCoy came to Clark's rescue, much to the boy's soon to be enduring embarrassment. "Clark wasn't involved Mr. Kent, he wasn't there, he was on a date."

The response from his parents was everything Clark had feared.

"A date?"

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"With who?"

"Son, I'm not sure you're old enough for dating."

"Oh hush, Jonathan. This is why we sent him to Xavier's school." Martha turned her hungry eyes to her squirming son. "Who is she? How long have you been dating? Did you have a good time?"

Clark raced to cut her off before she could get to kissing on the doorstep. "It wasn't really a date per say, it was just Lois and all we did was go out for dinner."

"Lois? You mean that girl we meet at the institute? Did she let you hold her hand?" Martha teased.

"Mom! It's not like that. Lois is Chloe's cousin."

"Chloe? Our Chloe?" It seemed the elder Kents had totally forgotten Clark's little incident in the face of his budding love life.

"Yea, she's one of the older students at the institute."

"Older? How much older?" Jonathan did have a nasty tendency to look for the bad.

"Not that old, she's sixteen." Clark struggled to look casual under the weight of their questioning, but he was still a teenage boy and his parents made all sorts of presumptions based upon his rising blush.

"Well we'll just have to meet her for ourselves." Martha decided. "Maybe you can invite her to Thanksgiving dinner."

"Mom!" Maybe talking about the robots would have been safer.

****(Page break)

It was Sunday morning and armed with his newly minted driver's license, Alex Rickman picked up Chloe in his father's old four door sedan. Back pack in hand, the blonde girl waved goodbye to her dad with a promise that she wouldn't be too late getting home. Climbing into the car she greeted Alex with a warm smile. Then with an inexperienced jerk, he pulled the car away from the curb and they were on their way.

Silverado High was in the unincorporated township of Paradise Nevada, a town that did not look like the sort of place you would expect to find a hub of the drug trade, what with its dense bungalow style row houses and a swimming pool in nearly every back yard. Even the high school looked more like something from Beverly Hills 90210 than the wrong side of L.A. or Chicago.

Chloe was actually a little jealous.

No, not the kind of neighborhood in which you would expect to find a drug dealer Chloe thought to herself. Though on further reflection, she had to admit that maybe it was. After all, no one outside of a sixties commune sold drugs because they were a great humanitarian. No, they did it for the money and looking at the Aberdeen home it was clear that a lot of money was being made. The house itself was grand enough but there were also several outbuildings all gathered behind it on a very large lot surrounded by an eight foot fence. Around a large warehouse like garage were parked several diesel tractors with sleeper cabs, along with a row of long gray box trailers. Being Nevada there wasn't any grass beyond the immediate environs of the house. A house that gave the false impression of sitting in the middle of nowhere with the fenced ground taking up the entire area on the west side of the road, while the east side was empty fields except for a small row of business offices standing beside the intersection. To the north stood Silverado High itself. At Chloe's direction Alex had pulled into the parking lot of the business buildings, parking his car facing towards the road and the Aberdeen property with their backs to a private law office and a small ice cream parlor.

A short time later Alex was exiting the ice cream parlor and making his way across the small parking lot to his father's car, an ice cream cone in each hand. Reaching through the open driver's side window he held out one of the cones to the distracted blonde within. Chloe had been watching the house across the street with a pair of field glasses when her view was suddenly obstructed by pink sugary goodness. Accepting the cone with a warm smile, she set the binoculars down on the seat between them as Alex climbed in behind the wheel.

"Thanks!" She said, before extending her tongue to sensually travel from the base of the dollop of Ice cream to its swirled top.

"Uh, oh. Your welcome." Alex struggled to reign in his teenage hormones, focusing his gaze on anything but that enticing appendage. Trying to distract himself, he asked; "So, see anything interesting?"

"No." Chloe answered, voice tinged with slight disappointment.

"Then I uh, guess all we can do is sit here and wait?" Alex didn't sound at all upset or disappointed with the idea.

"Yea, I guess so. Well that just makes this a real stake out." She answered, doing her best to drum up some enthusiasm. This was what being a real reporter was all about after all. Whatever it took to get the story.

After an hour of watching nothing happen at the house, they moved from in front of the ice cream parlor to the high school parking lot lest someone wonder at their prolonged presence. The greater distance was not as ideal for watching the house but it did reduce the chances of raising suspicion on the part of those inside. The field glasses helped reduce their disadvantage and after more hours of waiting they finally saw a tractor trailer rig enter the grounds through a large gate on the north side of the property. The unmarked truck crossed behind the house to the large garage were two rather rough looking men from inside opened the large sliding doors. The truck pulled entirely within and the men closed the door behind it. Nearly another hour after the truck's arrival they saw a familiar camaro pull up, entering through the front gate it bypassed the house and parked beside the warehouse. Climbing out of his car, Robert Wardell went to a door on the side of the garage and after knocking was let in by another rough looking character. Half an hour later he exited the building and with the squeal of burning rubber left the grounds.

"Well, there goes Robert." Alex stated the obvious, voice dead with boredom. This wasn't the way he dreamed of spending an afternoon with his hoped for girlfriend.

"Yes, but I didn't see Gerald anywhere." Chloe's voice in contrast was edged with growing excitement. "I don't think this was a social visit."

Investigative interest aroused by her observation, Alex perked up. "You don't think he was here to pick up drugs, do you?"

"Yes I do. There's no business name painted on the trucks but I bet you some of them travel over the border into Mexico. We need to get the number off of one of those trucks and identify the company that licenses it, then I can hack into Customs and see if any of their trucks do cross the border." She gave it a moment of intense thought. "Maybe I can even use weigh station records to track the rest of them. I think we just found Robert's supplier!"

Overcome with the excitement of the chase, Chloe threw her arms around the boy next to her in a brief but happy embrace.

Alex was now just as excited, but it had nothing to do with Wardell or drug trafficking.

Releasing him Chloe turned back towards the estate, a fierce and predatory cast coming over her face.

"We need to see what's inside that warehouse." She said.

Fortunately for Alex he was too distracted by the lingering warmth of her embrace to grasp the full implications of what she was saying. If he had the only warmth he would have felt would have been in the front of his shorts.

****(Page break)

Xavier, Jean and Scott quietly left the church house through a side door, leaving the Hall family behind to endure the caring attentions of their neighbors. Agent Hill and most of her men remained behind as well to arrange continuing security, no one wanted the happy homecoming to end in another kidnapping. SHIELD agents were being posted to watch over young Halley until she was safely sequestered within Xavier's mansion.

Another agent, the one who waited outside the door during their meeting with Halley and her parents, escorted them back to the intimidating black van and after closing the door behind them he joined the driver in the front. No one noticed the bulky vehicle heading east out of town.

Alone in the back, Jean and Scott were free to let fly the many questions burning within and as for Charles, he was left with no room to run.

Scott fired off the first salvo. "Professor, SHIELD's sentinels, were they the robots under the mansion?"

Gritting his proverbial teeth, Xavier answered without prevaricating. "Yes Scott, the robots that attacked you and the others were part of the security systems SHIELD installed under the mansion. When Mr. Torque violated Cerebro's integrity he unwittingly initiated a worst case scenario that resulted in their attacks."

"But Professor, why?" Jean's voice exposed her dismay and confusion. She thought she knew him, but the man she admired would never stoop to the use of killing machines on children.

Charles gave a heavy sigh. "I've never told you the full story of why I started the Institute, or of how my friendship with Magneto became so adversarial in nature. To put it bluntly, you and Scott are not my first students." Xavier's entire frame stiffened, as if it was suddenly bearing a great weight. The lines of remembered grief on his face became so deeply etched that he seemed to age decades before their young eyes. "When I first met Eric I was still a young man, fresh out of college, mind rich with visions of the future before me, and meeting another like me…I don't think either of you can understand, in fact I have worked hard to keep you and the others from ever experiencing what it was like to feel so isolated by your gifts. When I met Eric and learned that there were others like me, words can't express how liberating it was. Caught up in the fires of possibility we constructed the first Cerebro and set out to gather as many mutants as we could find. Ororo was little more than a child, Mystique barely out of her teens."

He paused, a small smile coming to his lips at their evident surprise.

"Yes, Mystique was once part of my new family." The smile quickly disappeared. "One of the few to survive."

Scott and Jean exchanged uneasy glances. This was not the way they expected this to go.

"There was another who was gathering mutants, a man by the name of Sebastian Shaw. You may remember I told you that there were others who showed less restraint than Magneto when it came to killing, Shaw was one of those people. He called his group the 'Hellfire Club', after certain elitist organizations from English history. Like those before him Shaw believed that his birthright, in this case his mutant gifts, entitled him to indulge his every whim. Shaw was an amoral hedonist and were Magneto fights for mutant supremacy, Sebastian fought for personal aggrandizement alone. He destroyed lives…and friendships. The fight against Shaw was what introduced me to Fury and SHIELD. By the time the Hellfire Club and the funerals were done…my family was gone, only Ororo remained. The others left, some like Mystique followed Eric joining his new crusade. In time Logan found his way back and I still hope that some of the others will to, but my focus has been on building the future, not mourning the past. Those robots and the rest of the security systems SHIELD installed were put in place to protect you and the other students from another attack like the one that destroyed your predecessors. I can't adequately express how distressed I am that they turned their weapons upon you, that was never my intention."

Scott and Jean were both intrigued and saddened to learn more of the Professor's mysterious past, not to mention their new insight into Logan's attitude. Scott, at least, was also slightly insulted. "While I can understand your fears Professor," He started hesitantly, "we may be young still but we are far from helpless. We certainly had no trouble destroying the robots meant to protect us." he finished with confidence, drawing a proud smile from his mentor.

"Yes, you did. Even Colonel Fury was impressed. No, I have already decided that there won't be any more Sentinels. From now on we will provide our own security. I firmly believe that if we work together, there is nothing we can't accomplish."

"Don't let Lois hear you say that," Jean interjected light heartedly. "or she'll have the younger students running military drills."

"Yes, I fear you may be right." Charles responded with a chuckle, sorrows retreating back into the past where they belonged.

Scott couldn't help his own sarcastic rejoinder. "Yea, but I bet Logan would approve. I can picture them now, circling a card table under a single hanging bulb, plotting new ways to make us suffer. All in the name of toughening us up, of course."

****(Page break)

Colonel Nick Fury stood with his arms folded, feet planted firmly upon the field of snow and ice while the light of the artic sun shinned coldly off his shaved head. He wore a thick field coat but it was clear by his stance that he wasn't even aware of the cold. No, all of his attention was focused upon the crystal structure rising before him, especially the crest adorning the wall above what were clearly stairs.

The pyramid Kal'El built rose from the ice in frozen solitude, but the tundra around it was filled with frenetic activity as a small fleet of aircraft carried in trailer loads of equipment, along with several weapon platforms. While Fury stood watch SHIELD was building a small city of winter camo colored structures surrounding the crystal edifice. Fury couldn't help but think that it was beginning to look suspiciously like a scene from ancient Egypt, only with cold white sand.

"Colonel."

Fury turned his good eye to the officer addressing him. Of Japanese descent and in his late twenties, the officer stood with a rigidity and confidence that would have suited any Samurai warrior of the past, though the traditional kimono had been exchanged for a black flight suit under a heavy winter coat. The tag on his lapel read Lt. Kimura, he was Fury's personal pilot and aid de camp.

"Lieutenant, report."

Lt. Haru Kimura was not offended by his commander's terse tone, scion of a long line of military men he had been hearing it all of his life. "Lt. Smith is currently overseeing the search of the Nevada desert, nothing yet to report. Agent Hill sent word that Halley Hall will be attending Xavier's Institute after Thanksgiving. She also advises that the Professor is dissatisfied with the Sentinels' performance, it is her opinion that he will deny permission to replace them with the newer model."

Fury's grunt made it clear he wasn't surprised, while simultaneously expressing his own opinion on the matter.

"Tell her not to push it, I'm not impressed with their performance either…they were destroyed by children. Speaking of which, where is the Kent boy now?"

"Still in Kansas sir. Dr. McCoy reports that the subject is in good health, merely fatigued. He expects a full recovery."

"Good, crystal or not that boy was impressive. Have Lt. Smith prepare a full dossier, I want to know the name of the cow that provided the milk for his breakfast cereal, everything."

"Yes sir."

"Is the scientific team ready for transport?"

"Within the hour sir, unless you want to include Stark, Coulson advises that it will take more time to convince him."

Fury smirked. "Tell him to skip Stark, we're not that desperate. No, let's just start with the team from the helicarrier."

"Understood sir."

As the Lieutenant retreated to his aircraft, Fury returned to his silent vigil.

Author's note:

Not quite a whole year but close, I can't believe it took that long. I like to do 15 pages to a chapter and this one barely touches 11, but Fury seemed like a good stopping point so I stopped instead of including a conversation between Clark and Hank. So far the next chapter of Hogwarts is only 5 pages long and Fallen 2. Not going too fast there, but hopefully soon.

Sorry about the wait Highlander.

Taking into account that I never even thought of including SHIELD until a reviewer mentioned them, they are starting to play a large part in the story. Regarding their history with Charles I am borrowing bits and pieces from every source I know, without treating any like cannon. So far Xavier's original group included Ororo, Logan, Hank, Mystique and Magneto. I haven't decided who died or others that might have lived and left. It may never come up.