TITLE: The Evolution of Jubilee 1/3
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com. Feedback is better than chocolate.
PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
CATEGORY: Gen, drama
RATINGS/WARNINGS: PG, for occasional cursing
SUMMARY: A school field trip to a museum turns into a crusade for Jubilee.
DISCLAIMER: The X-Men and the X-Men movieverse belong to Marvel and
Twentieth-Century Fox and other entities with expensive lawyers. I am making no profit from this story. The Westchester Museum of Natural History and the Westchester News-Journal do not exist and in no way represent any actual museum or local newspaper. Barney's and the New York Times exist but I don't own the names or anything about them.
NOTES: This story is the result of a splendid session on museums, science, and society at the 100th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in November 2001. I should also admit that my husband and I (as well as my best friend and my grad school advisor) have brief cameos in this story, because I simply couldn't resist. In case anyone doesn't realize, Jubilee's background and personality are taken from the comics. Oh, and I can't forget to send the gift of a naked X-Woman of his choice to Wyzeguy for the beta, praise, guidance, and helpful suggestions when I got stuck.

//thoughts//

***************************

Later, when the teachers talked about it, they agreed that nobody could have expected Jubilee to start the whole thing. Paige definitely, Kitty maybe, and Rogue if pressed, but Jubilee? Never.

It all started on a quiet Friday afternoon--it's *always* a Friday afternoon when these things start--during the science class field trip to the Westchester Museum of Natural History. It seemed like a good idea at the time, get the kids out of the classroom, let them see the exhibits, then take them out for ice cream and ruin their dinners. Generally, a relaxing end to the week.

The young mutants swarmed up the marble steps past the columns like a horde of grasshoppers, buzzing their way into the cool and quiet museum, and separating instantly to devour their topic of interest. Their enthusiasm was dampened slightly by the pervasive hush of the museum, but not enough to completely ruin the "out of class for the day" mood.

Jubilee slipped away as soon as she could and found a quiet bench to sit on, in a dimly lit corner just outside the new exhibit entitled "Evolution: From Darwin On."

She leaned her head against the wall, humming a new No Doubt song she'd just heard on the radio, when her reverie was broken by a couple of fellow visitors settling on the bench next to her. Crossing her arms, she examined them out of the corner of her eye. They were old, at *least* 30 or even older, but they were being touchy feely, holding hands and snuggling. They were both short, and the guy was muscular and hairy, almost as hairy as Logan, but a little rounder. The woman had a ton of frizzy brown hair and a big nose, and was apparently annoyed by something.

"Good grief, can you believe it?" she asked.

The man grinned at her. "Yes, dear."

"Oh, shut up. Seriously, this has to be the worst exhibit I've seen in years. Who the frell thought it was a good idea to do an exhibit on evolution that practically ignores recent *human* evolution?" Her voice rose with every syllable, almost ending on a shriek. Now, she had Jubilee's attention.

"Are you sure your blood sugar isn't low? Anyway, you're the one who wanted to see it." He patted her on the head and she batted his hand away with a growl.

"Yeah, yeah, rub it in, why don't you. Well, the damn thing has been in the works for years, I had to see how it turned out." The woman took a deep breath. "It just irks me to see a lost educational opportunity. Think of the chance they had to educate people about mutants. About how human mutation happens, and the results in people's lives. And they wasted all this space talking about fish, fruit flies, and Neanderthals. And as for the section they *do* have on humans...Arg!"

"And the science explanations suck." The man sounded pretty disgusted too.

//Huh, I didn't think about evolution relating to mutants,// Jubilee thought. She might not care all that much about science, but she had an extremely personal interest in mutants.

The couple's conversation moved on to dinner plans, but Jubilee's interest was piqued. //Well,// she thought, //maybe it's time to go see what's got her panties in a twist.// She looked up at the brightly colored exhibit in front of her.

*****************************

The exhibit's gigantic strand of DNA, with its neon colors and flashing lights, Jubilee scorned as a waste of her time. She blinked as she surveyed the rest of the exhibit, which seemed to be composed entirely of transparent display cases filled with various animals.

Lacking an obvious starting point, she wandered over to a case full of bugs.

One of the captions read: "In the middle of the 19th century, pale-colored 'peppered moths' around English industrial cities began appearing in darker colors, possibly due to the increase in soot and air pollution. Birds could more easily find and eat light-colored moths. This is known as industrial melanism. However, recent investigations have found that the original studies looked at moths resting on tree bark, where they are not normally found."

Jubilee read that one twice, then gave up on finding its point in disgust. At the end of the room, she saw John and Angelo wander by, and she considered giving up and joining them, but she decided to persevere. Next, she tried a case that contained pictures of different kinds of eyes.

"Many proponents of creationism argue that it is impossible that something so complex as the compound eye--many small simple eyes, each with its own lens and nerve receptors, closely packed together--could have come into existence on its own. Even Darwin himself said 'To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, and admitting different amounts of light... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.'"

//Is this exhibit supposed to *explain* anything? Geez, I hope not.//

Skulls at the far end of the room caught her attention, and she hurried over. Confronting her was a case full of bones with labels like "Radius and Ulna--A. afarensis," "Mandible--A. africanus," and "Metacarpals--A. robustus." The wall behind the bones was covered by a long timeline with entries such as "1974: Lucy discovered in Ethiopia" and "1953: Piltdown forgery uncovered."

//Huh,// she thought, //I wonder what forgery they're talking about, that sounds more interesting than the rest of this crap.// Dismissing distraction, she shook her head and kept going. If these human-looking things were here, mutants couldn't be too far.

Finally, against the far wall, she found what she'd been looking for. The final case in the exhibit contained more bones, and some photographs and text.

The first section contained pictures of a bunch of monkeys and people, all walking around, and it seemed to be all about how monkeys walked hunched over and humans walked upright. //So what, big deal,// she thought.

The next panel said it was about the origins of human speech, and showed a row of skulls with various bits highlighted. //What is a hypoglossal canal,// she wondered, //and why the hell should I care?//

The last section, finally, was labeled "Mutation Today." She stared in disbelief at the sum total of human wisdom on mutants, as seen by the creators of this exhibit.

A picture of Magneto next to one of the damaged Statue of Liberty. A complicated diagram that seemed to have something to do with which chromosome controls hair color. And a sample tract from the Friends of Humanity.

//Well, geez, that's lame,// she thought, turning around in hopes she'd missed something. //I mean, mutants popping up all over, riots, babies thrown out to die, and *that's* what they think is important?//

"Hey, Jubes, whatcha doin'?" Bobby asked, as he and Kitty came around a corner and found her staring at an exhibit case. He didn't wait for a response. "Come on, Peter found a video with animals having sex, and we were going to-"

"I don't get it," Jubilee said, not listening to her friend.

"Huh?" Bobby asked.

"This exhibit. I don't get it. It's supposed to be about evolution, right?"

"Um, yes?" Bobby said as he and Kitty looked at each other.

"Well, I slept through most of biology, but," Jubilee shook her head sharply, "evolution is all about mutation, right?"

"Yeeees," Kitty said.

Jubilee put her hands on her hips, finding herself unreasonably irked. "Then where are the mutants?"

Dead silence as they looked at her and then looked around them.

*****************************

Jubilee was annoyed, so she decided to take her concerns right to the top. She left her classmates wandering around the exhibit in confusion and marched up to the nearest bored security guard. "I'd like to speak to the guy in charge of this place."

The guard had her sign into a little book and pointed toward double doors marked "Staff Only." He said, "Through there, up the steps, make a right, the director's at the end of the hall."

She marched through the doors, and stopped dead in her tracks. Harsh fluorescents had replaced the warm, incandescent lighting, the neutral carpeting was now faded gray linoleum, and the paneled exhibit walls abruptly changed to greenish paint and a few bulletin boards. She blinked a few times, then marched up the worn stairs.

She saw as she approached the end of the hall that the battered door was ajar, and a light was on. She didn't hear any sounds, so when she reached the door, she pushed it open, calling out, "Hello? Anyone home?"

The room was empty of life, but full of just about everything else. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, shelves were filled with books, toys, and a variety of objects she couldn't begin to describe. The books had titles like "The Tourist" and "Europe and the People Without History" and the other objects included, from Jubilee's vantage point, a Power Puff Girl, a plastic shovel and bucket, and a miniature skull with a sign labeling it "Lucy's Younger Sister."

"Excuse me," a deep voice said behind her.

Jubilee jumped and nearly knocked the man (who looked rather like a rotund elf) over. He stepped back and smiled politely, stroking a short gray beard. "Geez," she said, "give a girl some warning before you scare the hell out of her."

"That's what I thought I was doing," he said. He stopped playing with his beard, and stuck his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

Jubilee looked him over dubiously, from the plaid shirt to the sneakers. "Have you seen the director? The guard said he'd be here, but there's nobody in the office."

"Ah, that would be me." The man flashed a quick grin, and meandered into the office to settle down at the desk with a sigh. He swiveled the chair around to face the door and said, "Won't you come in?"

She shook her head and followed the man into the office, settling down in the only chair not covered in books, which creaked a little. "So, I'm here to complain."

"Complain?" His eyebrows shot up, and he leaned back, resting his hands across his ample stomach.

"Yeah, I'm a student at the Xavier School, and we came here to see the evolution exhibit, but it's really stupid."

"Ah." The temperature in the room seemed to drop with one syllable.

"It hasn't got any people in it, it's all about animals, the captions don't make any sense, and it totally ignores mutants," Jubilee persisted, expecting to annoy the guy even further.

His eyes widened and he looked at her more closely. She held her ground. She'd come here to complain, and damn it, she was going to complain. She was shocked when he broke into a wide grin and held out his hand. "Congratulations, that may very well be the first useful and intelligent comment I've received on that exhibit. Please, let me shake your hand. My name is Joe Dent. You can call me Joe."

"Jubilee," she said, shaking his hand in a slight daze.

He continued, "I agree with you, the exhibit misses the point entirely. Evolution isn't just an abstract scientific concept anymore, it is the lived experience of mutants around the world, and it is irresponsible of us to ignore that."

"But then why-"

"Why did we do this exhibit?" He sighed. "I'm afraid the company that designed it was hired before my tenure here began, and I started too late to have any input. To make bad matters worse, some influential members of the Board of Directors love it. Politically and practically, there is little I can do without a public outcry." He looked directly at her.

Did he mean what she thought? "So, if there was a lot of noise about how bad the exhibit is, then you could change it?"

He started to smile. "Yes, we would then be forced to make the exhibit more inclusive."

"Hmm." Jubilee sat and thought for a moment. She certainly knew how to make noise. "It might just happen. I take it you'd have to disavow any knowledge of this conversation?" //Whew, too much _Mission Impossible_ there, babe.//

"Unfortunately, yes. But believe me, if you make the noise, I'll fix the exhibit. Besides updating the exhibit text to be understandable, I was thinking of adding an oral history approach."

"Huh?"

"Interviews. Interviewing mutants in the area, and using their words to describe what it's like to be a mutant. Mixing that in with the hard science. It would make the exhibit more interesting, as well as more realistic."

"But why did mutants get left out in the first place?"

"That's complicated, and requires an introductory course in cultural anthropology to explain properly. But to simplify, it was deemed too politically sensitive a subject to touch. If they explained that mutants are a naturally-occurring phenomenon and it's probably not polite to lynch them, then someone might be offended or upset."

"That's dumb," Jubilee said with the conviction of someone who has never attended a committee meeting.

Lips twitching, the director said, "Just think of the Board as the running dogs of capitalism." When she looked perplexed, he shook his head. "Never mind, I think that joke isn't funny until you reach graduate school, anyway."

They talked about the exhibit for half an hour, the director describing things that were wrong, and Jubilee asking questions, until she realized she should rejoin her classmates.

On her way out, she stopped briefly to look at a small sign posted by the light switch. In ornate script, it read: "Given standard temperature, light, and humidity, the organism will do as it damn well pleases." She turned to look back at the director, who smiled at her beatifically and went back to typing on his computer. Jubilee, in a daze, wandered back down the stairs toward the exhibit hall.

******************************

Ten minutes later, she found Scott frowning at a caption in the evolution exhibit. "I want to write a letter and complain," she said.

She wasn't sure what he was doing behind his dark glasses, but suspected he was rolling his eyes. "No Cheetos in the cafeteria?"

"No, about this exhibit."

That stopped him cold. He turned the glasses on her. "I'm sure I'm going to regret this," he said. "*Why* do you want to complain about this exhibit?"

"Because it's bad."

"I think you'll have to be a little more specific than that. Not enough flashing lights? No music?"

"It ignores mutation as a lived experience," she said, remembering something the museum director had said.

Scott's jaw dropped. //That's pretty cool,// Jubilee thought, //I've never seen anyone actually *do* that.//

"Huh?" he managed after a while.

"That means it doesn't talk about what it's like to be a mutant."

"Yeah, I actually knew that. I just didn't know you did."

"So, I want to write a letter to complain." She paused, having reached the tricky bit. "Will you help me?"

He couldn't have looked more surprised if the parrots in the case in front of him had launched into an a capella version of "Doo Wah Diddy."

Jubilee held her breath. She knew she wasn't his favorite student, and she'd spent a great deal of her time annoying him, but if there was anyone on the staff who could write a killer letter about science, he was the guy. Hank was her buddy, but he didn't seem like a letter-to-the-board type, unless the board knew a lot of eight-syllable words.

"I would be delighted to help you," Scott said after a moment. "In fact, if you think it would do any good, I'll write one of my own."

"Yeah, it'll do some good," she said with satisfaction.

**************************

It started with a letter from Jubilee and one from Scott. But when he gently pointed out to her that two letters might not even make it off a secretary's desk, the great letter-writing frenzy began.

Soon Scott was coercing the other teachers to write as well, and Jubilee started on the students. The halls of the school rang with conversations like this:

"Yo, Johnny!" Jubilee called, gallivanting down the hallway like a runaway freight train. Several students leapt out of her way as she buttonholed the unfortunate St. John outside the Professor's office.

"What's up?" he asked, watching his friends desert him in the face of a determined Jubilee.

"You're gonna write a letter of complaint about the museum exhibit."

"I am? Why would I want to do that? You know, I've got that project due for Mr. Worthington and I haven't even started the research-"

"Puh-leaze, you're not gonna do that until the last minute anyway. Just give me a few minutes and write a letter, then you can do whatever you want." Jubilee grabbed his arm and started dragging him toward the computer lab. "C'mon, just one little letter to the museum board, that's all I need."

"What am I gonna write about?" John whined.

It was an uphill battle the whole way, as her fellow students weren't quite as enthusiastic as Jubilee. But she persevered and not just with her classmates. Jubilee was nothing if not direct and pragmatic. She realized it might look a little funny if the only people complaining were students at the Xavier School.

So, she launched her attack on the venues she knew best: stores at the local mall, talking to shopkeepers she knew, chatting up people in line, stopping by every cafeteria and fast food place where she was known. She had Kitty talk to the local librarian, and even Bobby agreed to talk to a few people he knew in the community. Jubilee was psyched, but her excitement began to wane after a few days of community apathy.

After dinner, about week and a half after the fateful museum visit, Jubilee dropped down onto the couch next to Rogue, who was watching a sitcom.

"It's not working," Jubilee said.

Rogue laughed at something on the television. "Hmm?" She asked, "what's not working?"

"The letter thing. Nobody wants to write a letter and nobody cares." Jubilee gave a heartfelt groan.

"What do ya mean? We've all written." Rogue turned to face her friend.

"Yeah, but trying to get anyone else to do it is like pulling teeth. They nod and nod and agree that it's just a terrible thing, but they're not interested in actually *doing* anything."

Rogue patted her arm carefully. "These things take time. But nobody'd be upset if you, you know, stopped. You've done a lot."

"No!" Jubilee stopped. "It's just...it's important and nobody else is gonna do anything. So it might as well be me."

"But Jubes, you might want to get used to the fact that maybe you can't solve this."

Jubilee crossed her arms and glared at her friend, then leaned back and stared mindlessly at the television. Rogue, satisfied, went back to watching the show.

//Why *do* I care so much about this?// Jubilee wondered silently, as on screen a couple of beautiful people argued with each other about what to have for dinner. Stretching out her legs, she propped them on the coffee table while she pondered. //I've never taken anything this seriously before, why now?//

The television switched to a commercial, and Bobby came by to ask Rogue if he could borrow a CD. //I mean, here I am living at this great school, where the worst thing I have to worry about is getting my homework done, why should I stick my neck out over a stupid museum exhibit?//

She leaned back on the couch and watched the school life drift around her. Pietro flashed by, once again forgetting to slow down to the same pace as everyone else. Bobby and St. John were sitting outside on the steps amusing themselves by alternately freezing and thawing a can of soda. Mr. Worthington wandered into the room, looking for Angelo, his white wings stretched out behind him as naturally as a bride's train.

Jubilee held up her hands and let out a series of tiny colorful fireworks. Rogue yawned and changed stations. Bobby cracked the can, causing chips of icy soda to cascade down the steps, and John laughed at him. Mr. Worthington said to the room at large if anyone saw Angelo, they should send him to the Danger Room.

//This may be the only place in the world right now where who I am is cool, where what I can do is totally normal,// she thought.

She laced her hands in her lap and stared down at them. //I always hated feeling like a freak. That look people got when they realized what I was, like I was a disease that might infect them.//

//I just wanted to feel like I was normal.// A tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away before anyone could notice.

--tbc in part two--