Flight Risk
An X-Men: Evolution Fan Fiction
By Seriana Ritani


The piercing, wailing alarm jerked Rogue awake. It resonated through the whole house, accompanied by a sudden flood of dim red light. Across the room, Kitty woke up with a shriek of surprise and terror, dropping straight through her mattress and landing with a thud on the floor underneath her bed.

Rogue didn't waste time kicking her way out of her blankets; she just grabbed them in both fists and tore. "It's happening!"


Three months earlier . . .


"The right to privacy," Professor Rosenbaum announced, reading the words off the whiteboard where he'd slashed them in large blue letters. "Does it exist? Do we, as American citizens, have the right to keep secrets from one another? Is it in the Constitution? Should it be?" He capped the marker with an assertive click and tossed it into the chalk tray. "Discuss."

"The right to privacy is affirmed by hundreds of court cases," someone spoke up. "It may not be in the Constitution, but there's definitely judicial precedent."

"But the so-called 'right to privacy' interferes with law enforcement," someone else countered. "Surely the right to life, liberty and property takes priority."

"The so-called rights to life, liberty, and property don't appear in the Constitution either."

"The Constitution was never meant to be a comprehensive outline of the rights of U.S. citizens. Look at the right to vote. That's expanded radically since the Constitution was signed."

"It's expanded radically through Constitutional amendment. There's no 'right-to-privacy amendment,' so there's no right to privacy."

"So you're okay with the government putting bugs and cameras in your apartment? In your bathroom? In your bedroom?"

"I didn't say I was okay with it. I'm just saying that right now there's no real way for us to prevent the government from doing it."

"But if there was a constitutional right to privacy, what would that do to things like background checks? Public records? Freedom of the press? Registries for sex offenders and other criminals?"

"What about mutants?" asked Rogue.

Silence fell across the lecture hall. Every head turned to look at her.

She groaned inside her head. Her natural instinct would have been to just shut her mouth and stay under the radar, but she'd been listening to Professor Xavier for too long. And now she was in her least favorite situation: alone, and the center of attention.

Her professor's gray eyes fixed on her, one eyebrow carefully raised. "What about mutants, indeed," he echoed. "As we speak, a committee composed of members of both parties from the House, the Senate, and the White House is actively discussing the composition and proposal of a bill that would require anyone carrying a mutant gene to register in a national, public, online database. Perhaps, Rogue, you would care to give us your perspective on the issue."

Rogue felt the blood drain out of her face. "What?"

"The bill's due to be presented when Congress re-convenes. What are your feelings on the subject?"

Rogue struggled to keep herself calm. "Mah feelings . . . shock. Horror. Disgust. Terror. Fury. Is that enough feelings for you?"

"You believe the measure to be unjust?"

"Unjust? It's sick!" She was up out of her seat by now. "There are people in this country with special powers who spend their whole lives just tryin' to fit in. They've never hurt anybody, and never will. And you want them to register, like sex offenders? So people can throw rocks through their windows and deny 'em jobs and car loans and health insurance?"

"But mutants are dangerous," one of her classmates countered. "Citizens have a right to know if they live in the same neighborhood as convicted criminals, or in the same town as a nuclear storage facility . . ."

"You callin' me trash, CJ?" Rogue asked, letting a little too much southern sass creep into her voice. She won a chuckle from the listening audience. "Ah'm an Omega mutant. Ah'm plenty powerful. You think you shoulda got an e-mail before the semester started, tellin' you about me and givin' you the chance to move to another section? Or the chance to make me move to another section? Or drop outta school?"

"It's just a registry," someone else said. "It's paperwork. A registry isn't going to turn mutants into second-class citizens."

Rogue felt her hands clamp down on the edge of her desk. She was within a hairsbreadth of crushing holes in it, or of ripping the desk out of the floor. Instead, she snatched up her backpack and fished out her wallet.

"Look," she ordered, fishing out a photograph and storming down the risers to shove it in his face. "Look right there. That boy's name is Jamie Madrox. He's my housemate. He's fourteen years old and his voice still cracks. Last week, a bunch of high school jocks stuffed him in a dumpster and stood and watched while he got picked up by a garbage truck. They stood there and watched it nearly crush him to death. Not one of the jocks was punished. The Xavier Institute is paying for damages inflicted to the truck when Sam smashed through the thing to get Jamie out. So you look at my friend here and you tell me mutants aren't second-class citizens."

The boy, though shaken, tried to argue back. "That's one isolated incident . . ."

"'Isolated incident' my butt. This stuff happens all the time. Ever since the Xavier Institute went public as the country's only organized mutant community, we've been singled out and discriminated against. Half the businesses in town won't sell to us. We can't play on sports teams or enter competitions . . . can't even try out for school plays. Even right here at NYU-B, the administration makes me and all my housemates take all our tests in isolation. And we can't go to another university because this is the only one that will take us. Provided we pay a non-refundable deposit every semester equal to double our tuition."

She took a deep breath to keep herself from boiling over, tucking the photo back into the vinyl picture-sleeve in her wallet. The Professor's steady eyes looked up at her from the group shot, gently encouraging her to keep her cool.

"Mutant registration isn't harmless. American citizens with the X gene are still American citizens. If they're forced to go public, they'll be hunted down like animals. Y'all all know they will. And some of them will fight back, and no one will be able to blame 'em for it, but people will get hurt. You wanna be safe from mutants? Just leave 'em alone. Mind your own business, and let us mind ours. Holy snot, is that so much to ask?"

The bell rang. Rogue looked down at her watch. How long had she been ranting?

Professor Rosenbaum grabbed his syllabus off the lectern. "Okay, nobody forget you've got pages 171 to 205 for tomorrow, and the online quiz."

Rogue hurried back to her desk, grabbing her notebook and textbooks and stuffing them haphazardly into her backpack. She'd made a complete fool of herself. She had to get out of here.

"Hey."

She looked up. The boy in whose face she'd shoved the picture of the Institute students was standing over her, his backpack on one shoulder.

"That was some speech," he told her. "You ever consider joining the debate team?"

"Mutants aren't allowed on the debate team," Rogue deadpanned. "Besides, Ah got enough conflict in my life."

The boy extended his hand. "I'm Will."

Rogue eyed the hand suspiciously, then took it. "Rogue."

"Do you . . . do you have a class right now? Or do you have a minute for a coffee or something?"

"Um . . ." Rogue felt her repressed rage fade into the back of her mind, replaced by a particularly human strain of discomfort that bordered on panic. She was not accustomed to being approached like this, and had very little idea of how to handle it. "You mean, like, to talk over class stuff, or . . ."

"Yeah, if you want to."

"Ah, um . . ." Rogue shouldered her bag and tucked one of her stripes behind her ear. "Ah really gotta get home and tell the Professor about this registration act thing."

"Don't worry about it. They'll never pass it." Will fell into step beside her as she headed out the door and into the hallway. "It's obviously unconstitutional. You said so yourself."

"Ah know, but the Professor has political contacts—"

"Well, let me give you a ride, then. My car's just—"

"Ah'm kind of involved with somebody," Rogue blurted out.

"Wonderin' when I was gonna pop up in dis conversation," Gambit commented. He was leaning on the wall outside the classroom door, smirking. "Hey, chère. Miss me?"

Instead of waiting for an answer, he caught her around the waist and kissed her.

Rogue found herself caught up in a swirl of emotion, information, and energy. A kiss wasn't just a kiss with Remy, it was everything . . . it was losing her entire self and swallowing up Remy's to replace it. Every time they touched, she learned him all over again. And now she tasted jealousy in him, and territoriality, and smugness, and pride. This kid was a rival, and Remy had to put him in his place. The kiss was a boast as much as an embrace: Dis is mine, and no one gonna take it from me, least of all a poli-sci freshman like you. Move along, Kid. Better luck next time.

The information that Rogue passed back to Remy through their kiss was mostly along the lines of You are such a jerk. I would shove you through the wall this second if . . . um . . . dang, lost my train of thought.

Rogue pulled back from the kiss, forcing herself not to smile while struggling for balance, and turned away from Remy. "Um . . ." Oh, drat, Remy's kiss had made her forget this guy's name. Will! Will, that was it. "Will, Ah'll see you in class on Wednesday, 'kay?"

"Yeah," Will agreed despondently. "Later."

Remy grinned at Will's retreating back. "Don't handle disappointment well, does he?"

"He was just bein' nice," Rogue insisted.

"He was hittin' on you," Remy told her, with the finality of someone who has decided that this is the last word on the matter.

Rogue rolled her eyes.

"Not dat I kin blame him," Remy observed magnanimously as the two of them headed out of the building. "If I was him, I'd be tryin' to make a play, too. I dunno if I've told you dis lately, but you, Miz Rogue, are one fine-lookin' woman." He playfully kissed the top of her head. "Good school?"

"Lousy. But Ah don't wanna talk about it right now. Let's just go home."

"Sound stressed," Remy observed. "De question is: are you seventy-mile-an-hour stressed or ninety-mile-an-hour stressed?"

"Kin we do a hundred?"

"Your wish is my command."

Motorcycles got good parking. Gambit's bike was pulled right up to the sidewalk, with two helmets locked to the handlebars with a bike chain. He flicked the combination, freed her helmet, and tossed it to her. Rogue shook back her head to get her hair back off her face. That turned out to be a mistake.

Something caught Gambit's eye. He stopped, his helmet held out in front of him, on the verge of being fitted to his head. "Rogue."

"Yeah?"

"Wha's dat?"

Aw, crap. She played dumb. "What's what?"

He reached towards her face and planted one accusing finger on her left earlobe. "That," he insisted, sticking his tongue between his teeth so he'd be absolutely sure he said the th clearly and she couldn't misunderstand.

She shook her hair down over her ear. "Don't start with me."

"Rogue."

"Don't! Ah've had a hundred-mile-an-hour day and Ah just wanna go a hundred miles an hour without havin' this stupid fight one more time."

"C'mon, Rogue . . ." Now he was pleading, which was harder for her to counter.

"No."

He lowered his voice, not to wheedle, but to keep passing students from overhearing them. "I'm a Master T'ief, Rogue. You're my woman. And how does it look if a Master T'ief's girl goes wanderin' around in public wearin', of all unholy things, cubic freaking zirconia?"

"It is one pair of worthless three-buck earrings, Remy! Nobody cares! Ah'm entitled to wear three-buck earrings to school if I want to."

He had his thumb behind her earlobe now. She could see him trying to figure out if he could get the simple faux-diamond stud out of her ear before she grabbed his hand and broke his wrist.

"Nobody'd care, bébé. Nobody'd even be able to tell."

"Ah am not comin' to school with fifty thousand dollars' worth of rocks in my ears!"

"Five thousand?"

"No!"

"Five hundred. I'll steal somet'in' on sale at Sears."

"Gambit!"

"Please. It's embarrassing."

She dropped her voice to a hissing, angry whisper. "Ah'm real sure the Thieves' Guild spends its time checkin' out my ears as a way of makin' sure that you're livin' up to that thing." Her eyes darted down to his shoulder, where they both knew the black scar of his rank was hidden underneath his clothes.

His arm was around her waist, drawing her to him. Trying the charm now. Gambit had no compunction whatsoever about PDA; out of the corner of her eye, she saw a cluster of coeds slow down to stare at them.

"You," he murmured . . . he'd dropped his voice by half an octave, too, the cheater . . . "are de most beautiful woman in de world." His bright and blazing eyes were doing that smoldering thing, which he only did when he wanted her to do something and needed her to forget why she didn't want to do it. "And I . . ." There was the arrogance; he was still incurably self-absorbed . . . "am de best t'ief in de world. An' you're my girl. If dere is any one person on dis planet who should not be reduced to to de outright indignity of wearing fake stones, it is you. People'll start talkin', say I ain't treatin' you right."

She meant to snap at him, but her voice came out kind of vague and dreamy; he had a kind of power that took the sharp edges off words. "Since when do you care what people talk about?"

"Jus' lemme spoil you un tout petit peu. One thing. A stone, a pearl, anyt'in' you want."

"Anythin' Ah want?"

"Name it. It's yours."

Ha. She had him now. She slid her arms around his neck, her helmet dangling from her fingers to hang between his shoulder blades, and sidled just a little bit closer to keep him from realizing he'd just made her an unconditional promise. Proximity could turn his brain off if she played it right. "What Ah want, right now, more than anything in the whole world . . ."

"Dites-le moi."

"Ah wanna get on this bike. Ah wanna drive at a hundred miles an hour. Ah wanna go home, take a shower, and do homework in front of the fire in the library while you play with mah hair and we eat chocolate-chip cookies. Can you steal me all that, Master Thief?"

He closed his eyes, and his lips pressed into one thin, hard line. She'd got him, the sucker. "You are a very frustratin' woman," he informed her.

"And you're a pain in the butt, but you promised and now you're stuck." She sidestepped deftly out of his embrace, shook her hair back again (hoping that the cheap little earrings flashed the sun straight into his eyes), and slipped her helmet on with an air of great satisfaction. "Let's go."


Author's Notes:

Hi! Is anybody out there? I'm back! I missed you!

Author's Militant Disclaimers! Flight Risk is NOT FINISHED YET. All the other Flight stories had been through at least three whole drafts before seeing the light at good old ff dot net. However, after two months of writing, eighteen months of dreaming but not being able to write, and seven more months of writing, I'm kind of sick of the sound of my own voice. And this project is massive . . . already far and away longer and more intricate than Fly By Night. So I am publishing. Tentatively. Carefully. Because I'm starting to realize that I need the fresh perspective that comes with knowing I have an audience. And I miss all my wonderful reviewer buddies . . . let's hope you're all subscribed and know when this goes up. And if I were you guys, and I'd been promised another story well over two years ago, I'd be kind of miffed by now. So I ask for your patience. This is going to be published more slowly than the other stories were, so I can keep my writing well ahead of the light of day. I hope I won't have to, but I may have to backtrack and fix stuff. (I really hope I don't have to . . . gosh, that'd be embarrassing.) And I hope for your feedback and your encouragement . . . in the past, your reviews have made me a better and a happier writer than I have any business being.

A million thanks to Escajunkie, who's been my companion in solitude while I got my writing groove back.

Okay, that's enough out-of-character stuff. OOC's no fun anyway, right?

French lessons:

Un tout petit peu: Just a tiny bit.

Dites-le moi: Tell me.

If you can't figure out bébé, you can go GoogleTranslate it.

And . . . that's it! We're off and running!

—Seri