Anzai's School for Gifted Basketball Players

"We have reports of evil mutant activity," Kogure reported.

"Evil mutant activity," Akagi repeated, voice flat.

"Yes, evil mutant activity." Kogure recited, somehow managing not to roll his eyes. "I'm not sure whether it's the mutants or the activities that are evil, however."

Akagi mulled that one over. "I think it's bullshit."

Kogure sighed. "Yes. Our esteemed headmaster often...exaggerates. For to him all the world's a stage, and we X-men merely players in't, so we had all better play ball."

Akagi gave his second-in-command a stern look, because the quoting Shakespeare thing and making up basketball metaphors thing got really old after a while. But since Akagi's eyes were completely hidden by his ruby visor, Kogure remained oblivious to his captain's ire. No doubt he would continue to quote Shakespeare and make up bad basketball metaphors for the rest of his furry blue days.

- 0 - 0 -

"Rogues?" said Miyagi.

Rukawa looked up upon hearing his name, then went back to sleep upon realizing that his commanding officers weren't talking about him at all.

"We're not sure," Kogure replied from his place in the co-pilot's seat. He turned to look at Miyagi, who was putting on his yellow trenchcoat and arm-length blue gloves. "Professor Anzai said he'll give us the details when we get there."

Miyagi slipped his shiny blue shades over his eyes, making himself looking even cooler, in a '90s kind of way. "So we'll be jumping off the X-Jet into a renegade mutant war zone, totally blind. I betcha the Professor will sit us down for a nice little powwow about loving our fellow mutants and feed us some marshmallows while we sing kumbaya. Shitting bull, love it."

"That was possibly offensive."

Miyagi blew a pink bubblegum bubble in response.

Nearby, Sakuragi extended his claws with a showy snikt. "This tensai will carve them into pieces! Those evil mutants won't know what hit 'em!" Everyone ignored this.

"I'm sure the Professor has everything under control," Akagi said from the captain's seat. His voice was calm, but the knuckles gripping the control stick were noticeably pale.

Mitsui, who was sitting behind Akagi, had his arms crossed and his "bad boy" face on. In other words, he was sulking. "I should be driving the X-Jet, I'm the one with freakin' telekinesis."

"You're on probation," Akagi reminded him with a threatening glint of his ruby visor. "No driving. No whining. No going evil. Any more of that Dark Phoenix shit and you are dead, do you hear?"

"Dead whatever. He'll just come back anyway," Miyagi noted.

"Micchi, the man of fire! Micchi, the bird of fire!" Sakuragi grinned. Mitsui just scowled and plotted ways to destroy them all, deep in his darkest of hearts.

Rukawa snored.

- 0 - 0 -

Kogure set the X-Jet to landing mode. "We're just arriving at the coordinates now."

"Is that a basketball court?" Miyagi groaned, peering out the window.

Mitsui had two fingers pressed to his temple and a look of intense concentration on his face. "Anzai-sensei...I mean Professor A is down there waiting for us. He says we're a bit late," he told them. "He's there shit, Sendoh and those idiots."

Akagi made a face.

Miyagi made a face.

Kogure made a face, though he tried to hide it behind a genteel veneer.

Rukawa made a snot bubble.

Sakuragi made up for his teammate's lack of response. "Aw yeah!" he yelled, whipping his right arm up over his head and right into the ceiling of the X-Jet, which made a horrible screeching sound as the adamantium blades tore gaping rents in the weaker alloy, letting in freezing, shrieking mile-high air until Miyagi casually lifted a hand up and sent up some fireworks to pyrotechnically seal the holes (no one understood how this worked), and Kogure flipped a re-pressurization switch, and Akagi fired glares and eye beams at Sakuragi, creating massive skin burns that healed almost immediately and which no one blinked an eye at (unless you counted Akagi's ruby eye) because this kind of thing happened a lot when you had a six feet tall, hyperactive teenager on your team with foot-long, razor-sharp claws attached to his knuckles.

Without further incident, the plane landed, someone woke up Rukawa (making sure not to touch him) and Akagi roared, "Move out!" rather unnecessarily.

- 0 - 0 -

"So let me get this straight, Professor." Miyagi's sunglasses glinted ominously. "You called us down here to take care of 'evil mutant activity,' but actually you just want us to play some frickin' basketball with these brain-dead morons?" He blew a particularly bad-ass bubble to show how bad-ass irritated he was.

"Oh ho ho," the good Professor laughed in his kindly, beneficent way. "Oh ho ho."

"I must admit," Kogure said delicately, waving a clawed, furry hand at the court, "that it's hard to see how this constitutes 'evil mutant activity.'"

They all watched as Uozumi, struggling to see out of his shallow, domed helmet, threw a wobbly cross-court pass to Sendoh, who somehow caught it gracefully-enhanced agility as a mutant ability was such a cheat, honestly-before laying the ball in the net with a sweet twist of the wrist and a languid, lady-killer smile on his face...while Uozumi, being the Unstoppable Juggernaut that he was, ran off the court, crashed his way through a fence, and just kept on going and going and going until they couldn't see him anymore. No one seemed to care.

Fukuda, who was wearing his trademark red and yellow rubber suit, jogged up to Sendoh and gave him a high five, which somehow caused the rubber gas lines attached to Fukuda's hands to start spewing fire in a great orange column above their heads, disintegrating the basketball net immediately.

"Ah ha ha, I think you have competition, Man of Fire," Sakuragi sniggered, poking Mitsui in the side.

"Whatever," said Mitsui, and tried giving Sakuragi a killer migraine but failed to penetrate that thick skull, as usual. Stupidity had to be a secondary mutation, he fumed. He settled for punching Sakuragi in the face instead.

"Hey, Cher," Sendoh called out, still smiling in that annoying, vaguely Cajun way. "You wanna play with Gambit?"

Rukawa looked up ever-so-slightly, and even had a facial expression.

Meanwhile, Kiyota was not only hopping mad but literally hopping around, mad, way back near the free throw line where he'd been left behind by the play. "It's not fair that Sendoh gets to use his powers during a game!" He croaked as his long yellow tongue leaped out of his mouth and snagged three flies in quick succession. "My stupid powers work against me! You know how hard it is to play basketball when I'm eating flies?"

Jin, nearby, gave him a disgusted look as he smoothed down his pink tights, which had bunched up during the play. "Kiyota-kun, I wish you wouldn't do that when I'm around."

"You could help us out a little, you know. A little something something to even up the odds."

"I'm not going to alter reality just to win a three-on-three."

"Even just a little-"

"I'm not going to put a jinx on Sendoh either."

Kiyota gave Jin a sour look and flicked his tongue at him. "You really are a witch."

Mikio, who'd been left even further back than Kiyota, finally caught up to his teammates. He was huffing and puffing so much he looked even more like a marshmallow than usual. "You guys *huff puff* need to *huff puff* wait for me."

"And you need to move faster on the court," Kiyota accused, rather hypocritically. "You shouldn't take that 'nothing moves the Blob' thing too seriously."

"It's not my fault that my powers make me fat-"

At that moment Uozumi came rampaging back onto the court-from the direction opposite to the one he'd left from, it might be noted-forcing everyone to hurriedly get out of his way, but poor Mikio was not very good at hurriedly doing anything, not since his mutation turned him into the Immoveable Blob, and Mikio did indeed prove to be an Immoveable Blob even when the Unstoppable Juggernaut plowed directly into him, thus causing a massive Paradox as Unstoppability contended with Immoveability; and everyone wondered if this was it, this was when the Universe was finally going to implode on itself and they could all bugger off for the weekend, but then Physics tried to assert its authority and for a moment traumatic memories of Inertia and Force Times Mass and Please Find Net Force And Do Show Your Work passed fleetingly through the minds of all, until a half second later those memories were forgotten with a great sense of relief in the ensuing chaos of Shit That Happened because of mutation and lack of proper reality that always made itself known whenever youngsters with unusual abilities gathered together to throw an orange rubber ball into a hoop in dramatical yet rule-governed ways approved by both the NBA and Japanese school system.

"And this is why I hate it when we play basketball with these guys," Miyagi complained to Akagi, who could only nod dumbfoundedly in agreement.

- 0 - 0 -

"Kiyota! Jin! Mikio! You move like a bunch of first generation scrapheap Sentinels! I used to pull those tin cans apart in two seconds and I'll do the same to you!" Taoka glowered at his team from under his magenta helmet and crossed his magenta-clad arms over his magnificent magenta chest armour. He certainly cut an imposing figure, or he would if he were wearing a more masculine colour. He was not called the Master of Magenta behind his back for nothing.

"I'm starting to regret joining this team," Kiyota muttered.

"You call yourselves Brotherhood members?" Taoka screamed. "That was pathetic! I refuse to see us shamed before the X-Men! Better to die on our feet than live on our knees!"

"What?" said Mikio.

"I don't get it either," Jin told him reassuringly.

Sakuragi got a sudden a-ha look on his face. "So that's why Professor Anzai said there was evil mutant activity. They're the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!"

"Idiot," Rukawa stirred from his stupor long enough to mutter. "You just got that now?"

While Sakuragi attempted to eviscerate Rukawa, Taoka wrapped up his usual post-scrimmage dressing-down of his team with his usual cry of "Let naught stand before our might on the basketball court of the world!"

"Are we gonna play now?" Miyagi whined. "I'm almost out of gum."

"Five on five, no powers" Uozumi announced. "Akagi and I will sit out." He straightened his dented helmet and picked at his newly applied bandages as he said this.

Mikio, who looked just as beat up as Uozumi, asked in a pitiful voice, "What about me?"

"Suck it up," Taoka barked at him.

Mikio sucked in a giant breath then exhaled sharply, blowing Kiyota off his feet.

"I definitely regret joining this team," Kiyota muttered from the ground.

- 0 - 0 -

At a certain point in the game, Rukawa was seen to grab a pass from Miyagi, dribble toward the net at a languorous clip, stop, set his form, and throw in an easy, clean jumper, with no one even trying to block him.

"Wow, I couldn't even touch him," Fukuda deadpanned. "He is just that amazing."

"Rukawa, put on your damn shirt!" Akagi bellowed from the sidelines. "You send someone to the hospital again you're paying the bill!"

"I think he's okay the way he is," said Sendoh with an appreciative grin.

Rukawa almost seemed to be smiling as he walked over to his bag.

"'That which at once giveth him his nature, gives him sin with it,'" Kogure quoted to Mitsui. "I guess Rukawa really has no choice but to cheat. Sendoh, likewise, can't turn off his enhanced agility, Mikio is just big, and yours truly also has enhanced agility. So I guess it's fair enough."

Mitsui nodded absentmindedly, too busy reading the thoughts of everyone on court and cheating his ass off to pay attention.

Meanwhile, Uozumi had blown the whistle and signalled a no-basket. He now called everyone to line up for a jump ball. Rukawa showed up at the centre circle wearing his usual green and yellow spandex shirt, arms fully covered, but Uozumi glared at him anyway. "One more incident and I'll throw you out," he warned.

"Do it!" Sakuragi said gleefully. "Even the one-eyed gorilla is better than this stupid fox."

"Sakuragi!" Akagi bellowed from the sidelines, again. "I told you not to call me that!"

While Sakuragi was being yelled at, Uozumi scowled and threw the jump ball, figuring that if everyone was going to be an idiot today, did it matter if he started the play before both center players were ready? They would all blame it on Sakuragi anyway if Mikio won the jump ball.

"Sakuragi, you metal-plated moron!" yelled Miyagi.

"Augh, where's the ball?" Sakuragi panicked.

"I knew that was going to happen," Mitsui told him. "But I decided not to do anything about it."

"You don't need telepathy to know the idiot's going to be an idiot," Rukawa said matter-of-factly.

Kogure sighed as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants scored an easy point.

- 0 - 0 -

On the sidelines, Akagi was facing his own ordeal.

"Anzai-sensei," he began.

"Cyclops," the wise old mutant said very gently. "I've told you, just call me Professor A. It's my codename. Oh ho ho!"

Akagi gritted his teeth. "Professor A, you know I hold you in the highest regard."

"Of course I know. I'm the world's most powerful telepath."

Akagi's teeth were sustaining damage from all the grinding he was putting them through. "Then you know what I think about this...cooperative training that you've arranged. With the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants."

"I do know what you think, but I think it's better for you, psychologically speaking, if you tell me yourself."

Akagi decided that the good professor had just given permission to be rude. "Are we superheroes or basketball players?" he demanded heatedly. "Sometimes I think you founded the X-Men just to keep the Shohoku team together."

"Now, Akagi-kun," Anzai said mildly. "You know that I only coached at Shohoku as a cover for finding and helping young mutants find and help themselves. That is my goal. But since basketball is such a good team-building exercise, and since we need to keep up appearances, why not continue it? Besides, this cover story of ours will make it much harder for our enemies to find us, and, more to the point, we get funding."

Akagi grunted, having heard these arguments before. He opened his mouth to reply-with logic, something that was lacking around here lately-but Anzai beat him to the punch.

"I understand it's hard to be both a basketball player and a superhero," he said, a little sadly now. "Yazawa, my first X-Man, was not able to withstand the pressures of a double life. The hiding, the fighting, the was too much for him. Such is the great tragedy of young mutants everywhere." He gave a sigh, and Akagi groaned internally when he saw tears forming behind those thick, impenetrable glasses. "I know I put a great burden on your shoulders, Akagi-kun. But they are very wide shoulders."

Ugh, metaphors now. It was like talking with Kogure, but worse, because Anzai-sensei was pulling out his "regret for his shameful past" card. Akagi bowed his head with another grunt, knowing he'd been beaten. Anzai graced him with a generous, gently victorious smile, then turned back to the court.

"Sakuragi, please refrain from puncturing the basketball. Oh ho ho ho!"

- 0 - 0 -

Sakuragi calmed down, the ball was saved, and the game went on. It was a heated game, a game of passion and wills and pride butting against pride. Neither side was willing to give an inch. Dramatic turnovers were turned! Daring three pointers were dared! Audacious alley-oops went oops! Sneaky scams were flimflammed and grievous fouls were foul indeed!

And the insults flew fast and furious across the court!

"Mikio! I didn't recruit you for your pretty face! Use that fat body of yours to box him out!"

"Jin! Just 'cause you dress like a ballerina doesn't mean you have to defend like one! Lower your waist!"

"Sendoh! Did you forget to eat your breakfast this morning? What the hell is wrong with you!"

Sakuragi whispered to Fukuda, "Your boss is kind of crazy." Fukuda just answered him with a "like duh" kind of look.

"Fukuda, stop consorting with the enemy! Sakuragi, mind your own business!"

"Kiyota! Isn't a frog supposed to be able to jump?"

"Miyagi! Your may be Jubilee but you got nothing to be happy about as far as I'm concerned!"

"I'm not even on your team!" Miyagi complained.

Taoka's ire was not assuaged. "You should be on my team! I invited you personally! How dare you turn me down!"

"Geez, Louise, that was way back in my first year of high school!"

"Hey, how come you never ask this tensai to join your team?" Sakuragi growled.

"And you!" Taoka ignored Sakuragi and turned his thunder on Mitsui and Rukawa, the latter of whom was getting ready to do a throw-in. "I asked you two ingrates to join me too!"

Mitsui and Rukawa looked at each other and shrugged in unison.

The master of magnetism was not gladdened by this response; he seemed to crackle with magenta fury, filling the air with a tension that was as heavy as a...very heavy magnetic field. It made Sakuragi's bones feel mildly itchy. For a moment it seemed that Taoka would unleash his awesome powers and DESTROY these INSOLENT FOOLS who DARED defy him, but then he took a deep breath and said, in a seductively magnetic voice, "It's not too late, young ones. You can still join the winning side. We mutants will rule this world eventually, and the nationals too. Join me, my friends."

"I don't join evil psychopaths," Rukawa said bluntly, "or basketball teams that keep losing."

While Taoka was fuming, and the Brotherhood team members were busy going "Hey!" Rukawa inbounded the ball to Miyagi, who made a "niener niener niener" face at Taoka and passed the ball to Mitsui, who happened to be standing behind the three-point line, and you know what happens when Mitsui gets the ball and he's standing behind the three-point line. The shot sailed true, except that Kiyota made a gigantic! leap! for frog-kind! and managed to graze the ball as it left Mitsui's hands, causing it to wobble slightly in the air and bounce off the side of the rim instead of going through the net as it definitely would have, because teenage basketball players only miss three pointers when there is some obvious reason for it, like frogs getting in their way.

"Wild monkey!" Sakuragi called out. "You de-evolved into a wild frog but you can actually jump now!"

Kiyota did not understand that this was Sakuragi's way of praising him. "Shut up!" he yelled back. "Stupid red-furred monkey! You're still stupid no matter what animal you are!"

While the two primate-like players (the two who were on the court, that is) were distracted, the blob-like player grabbed the rebound and passed it over Miyagi's head to the talented Cajun wannabe, who passed it downcourt to the pyromaniac, who passed it to the witch, who shot his own flawless three-pointer and naturally got it in because there were no frogs getting in his way.

"I kind of hate that guy," Mitsui said in a fit of dark jealousy that someone should have paid attention to.

"Sakuragi, pay attention to the play and stop being distracted by that moron!" Akagi roared from the sidelines.

"Ha ha ha!" Kiyota cackled. "You got yelled at by the big blind gorilla!"

"Kiyota! Stop acting as stupid as that idiot!" Uozumi's bellowed from the foul line.

"Nya ha ha!" Sakuragi snickered. "You got yelled at by the bucket-head boss monkey!"

Simultaneously, the aforementioned big blind gorilla and bucket-head boss monkey stomped across the court and whammed their giant fists into their kouhai's heads.

"Children of the Atom!" Anzai called out. "Please try not to kill one another. Resurrections do get tiresome."

"Now I don't want any of them on my team anymore," Taoka told Anzai in disgust. Inwardly, he contemplated flying off to Genosha or Asteroid M or some other place with a Fortress of Solitude where he could sit around and seethe in peace about the war he wanted to start. Or maybe he would just go get some ice cream instead.

- 0 - 0 -

Despite Taoka's grumblings, all in all the day went pretty well. No major incidents, no deaths, no destruction of the world, no time travel, no travelers from alternate dimensions-just an ordinary day of insane basketball shenanigans. Even the rule about not using mutant powers was generally followed, as far as anyone knew. It seemed they would all get to go home with their limbs intact that day.

Until, of course, stuff happened.

It happened when the score was 182 to 180 for the X-men. (No one had been defending well that day.) There were thirty seconds left.

Then Jin scored another three pointer, and it was 182 to 183, for the Brotherhood, with twenty seconds left.

And that's when Mitsui snapped.

"That's it!" he screamed. "I know you're using your stupid witchy powers!" He pointed a finger at Jin, who just gave him a confused, wide-eyed look.

"I agree!" Sakuragi agreed, not yet sensing the danger. "He scored twenty one three-pointers in a row! Even Micchi can't do that!"

This did not make Mitsui happier.

"You thought you could get away with it, huh?" he went on, unleashing his inner bully on poor Jin. "You're altering freaking' reality right in front of us! How could anyone not notice that? You must be shielding your mind from me too!"

Sendoh coughed. "One might say that reading minds also constitutes cheating."

"Mind your own fucking business," Mitsui snarled at Sendoh.

"Hey, just trying to play peacemaker?" Sendoh didn't have much of a sense of self-preservation. He raised his hands in a gesture of innocence and smiled in that charming yet annoying way of his. It reminded Mitsui that Sendoh had scored an awful lot of points this game too, the prick. Mitsui's eyes started to look distinctly fiery, causing his more prudent teammates, who knew what was coming, to look around for Someone Else to solve this problem for them.

"Where's Anzai-sensei?" Kogure asked Akagi anxiously.

"Getting ice cream or something with Taoka-sensei," Akagi muttered back.

"That fucker," said Kogure, unusually eloquent.

By this point, the green portions of Mitsui's costume had somehow darkened into an ominous shade of crimson. As they watched, his hair lengthened and became somehow blacker, flowing around his face in a dark silky wave. His front teeth fell out too. It was an awe-inspiring display of primal power and terrible beauty and Kiyota might have wet his pants, no one was sure.

Mitsui slowly walked over to the ball, which had rolled to the side of the court after Jin's three-pointer, and picked it up with a palpable sense of doom.

"Mitsui, no!" Kogure cried out in anguish as the air crackled around them. "You're on probation!"

But it was to no avail. Mitsui suddenly burst into flame, like the Phoenix of legend, and everyone there truly understood why he was called the Man of Fire. Wreathed in a dark blaze of power and holding in his hands the basketball, that symbol of all they held dear, he stood before them fully reborn into his former glory-as his vengeful, team-wrecking, bastard of a delinquent self.

"Fuck you all!" he screeched, soaring up to the hoop like a flaming fireball and dunking the ball in with a ferocious caw of primal fury.

Then, with a flash of light and a puff of sulphur, he zoomed into the distance, probably off to devour an innocent planet or beat up some innocent freshmen, whichever showed up first.

In the ensuing silence it was Fukuda, uncharacteristically, who spoke first. "And I thought I had a bad temper."

"You fire types are all the same," Mikio said. "Just like Pokemon."

Miyagi complained, "Ugh, I hate cleaning up after him when he does this."

At this point, Anzai wandered back onto the court with a vanilla ice cream cone, and Taoka with a chocolate one. "Did we miss something? Oh ho ho ho!"

- 0 - 0 -

The X-Jet, in all its sleek and stealthy glory, lingered for a moment over the Brotherhood's heads in what could only be described as a glum sort of hover, then reluctantly clunked off in the same direction that the Dark Phoenix had taken.

"So...did we win that game?" asked Kiyota.

"I did score that three-pointer at the end," Jin commented.

Taoka gave his team a solemn look.

"We have witnessed true power today. Let this be a warning to us as we set forth on our mission of world domination," he proclaimed. "For power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

"I think I heard that in a book before," said Uozumi dubiously.

Sendoh nodded. "You know, I didn't want to say anything, Taoka-sensei, but you might be more persuasive if you didn't make a dramatic speech out of everything."

"And if you were nicer to us," Mikio added.

Taoka made them run laps until they puked.

- 0 - 0 -

Aboard the X-Jet, Sakuragi suddenly remembered that the X-Men had been trailing by one point when they'd left the game.

"Daaaaaammnn iiiitt!"

The ensuing hole in the ceiling was rather large.

- End -


"Sendoh! Did you forget to eat your breakfast this morning? What the hell is wrong with you!"
-Taoka says this during the second Ryonan-Shohoku game.

"Better to die on our feet than live on our knees!"
-Emiliano Zapata Salazar, but also said by Magneto in "Enter Magneto," the second episode of the '90s X-Men cartoon.
(Guess where I heard it first.)

"That which at once giveth him his nature, gives him sin with it"
-Thomas Goodwin
(I found this by googling "that which nature gives," which is what I wanted Kogure to say. I think this must be how the X-Men writers find quotes for Beast)

"Power [tends to corrupt], and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
-some guy named John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
(So this isn't from Animal Farm?)

Author's Notes

A list of all the characters in this fic and their X-Men roles:

Anzai-sensei: Professor X
Akagi: Cyclops
Kogure: Beast
Mitsui: Jean Grey
Miyagi: Jubilee
Rukawa: Rogue
Sakuragi: Wolverine

Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
Taoka-sensei: Magneto
Uozumi: Juggernaut
Sendoh: Gambit (sometimes he joins the other side, you know how it is with the X-Men)
Fukuda: Pyro
Jin: Scarlet Witch
Mikio: The Blob
Kiyota: Toad