They were loaded into a helicopter with the Avengers. Scott was groggy, having woken from the sedative several minutes into the flight. He sat on the end of a row, and Emma, still diamond, perched protectively in the seat next to him. A funny sort of pain was building in her head, like ants crawling around behind her eyes. The man, who had introduced himself as Agent Coulson, was gazing intently at them. The other Avengers, too, couldn't seem to keep their eyes off, and were staring curiously at the teenagers in front of them.

"Names and ages?"

Emma glanced discreetly at Scott, which proved ineffective as he had been reunited with his blindfold. What names should they use? He spoke first.

"Cyclops and White Queen. I'm twelve and she's thirteen." The man raised an eyebrow at their names, but jotted it down on his clipboard and continued. "Alright. Why don't you tell me about those men?"

Scott dipped his shoulder, as if to say, OK, Emma, your turn. She grit her teeth but began.

"Mutants are people with the X-gene. It's a change in your DNA that basically fucks with your life. Some people have physical mutations like wings or fur; some people have powers you can't see, like, I don't know, telepathy, and some have both. Cyclops shoot force lasers out of his eyes, only he was in a car accident. The trauma stops him from being able to control it. I can turn to diamond."

She swallowed and glanced at Agent Coulson. Her headache grew. He was calm, nodding and writing down everything she said. The Avengers, too, seemed to take it in stride. They probably dealt with a lot of crazy, in their line of work.

"Only, a lot of mutants are powerful. More powerful than humans. I mean, in diamond form, I can't get hurt. Nothing can stop me. There are people with a healing factor and people who can make things explode and people who can control your thoughts. So I guess the government was afraid of us."

"They started rounding us up. It's usually pretty easy to tell who's a mutant, because your abilities don't fully manifest until puberty. And then you can't really control it at first, so people notice. I couldn't transform out of diamond for a while, and Cyclops, you manifested in school, right? So he blew up his school. We escaped from a facility in Pennsylvania somewhere. There aren't many mutants left. A lot of them get killed during the preliminary tests, and a bunch more die during the operations. There were only about a hundred in our facility. Most of them were around our age."

Cap's hands were clenched on the armrests of his seat. His forearms and shoulders shook with tension, and his teeth were clenched. He was shaking with rage. Coulson had finished writing and was looking at her, eyes hard as steel. Thor growled slightly and gripped Mjolnir.

"We shall slay these fiends who would dare to harm the children of Midgard!" he roared. Outside the copter, thunder rumbled.

Hawkeye leaned forward, hands resting on his knees. He spoke in a low, urgent voice.

"Enhanced vision- could that be a mutation? "

Emma nodded, immediately. That was exactly the sort of thing the X-gene would affect.

"It started when I was thirteen. I was fucked up for weeks, because I couldn't help focusing on everything."

Tony leaned forward. "If nothing can hurt you, why did it take so long for you to escape?"

Emma stiffened, her hands fisting the legs of her suit. She trembled slightly, her breath gone, skull pounding, the ants swarming and turning her vision black as flashes of keep still shut up muscles locked unable as they cut-

"They have a telepath. Jason. He's the son of one of the generals. He can get in your head, keep you still," Scott said loudly. He groped for her hand, missing by only a few centimeters. She gripped and squeezed as her tremors subsided. The ants were still there.

"We're going to help you."


They were in a SHIELD base somewhere in New York. Theoretically secure, but Bruce could tell that Scott and Emma didn't feel particularly safe.

Currently, the three were in a small, sterile medical bay. The other Avengers had thoroughly briefed Bruce on their little situation. Bruce had asked them for blood samples, had assured them that if they didn't want them done, they didn't have to. But apparently, both Scott and Emma were stubborn, and were determined to go through with the test.

Well, that had been the plan.

In reality, Scott had panicked the moment the needle had entered his skin. He visibly tensed, and the assistant had hastily withdrawn the needle when he began trembling. She approached Emma with the other syringe, and then Emma had become distressed. In this case, "become distressed" was code for "had sunk to the ground, clutching her head in her hands and muttering feverishly about ants". She was now sleeping fitfully on a medical cot, clutching Scott's hand in a death-grip.

"I think her mutation's evolving," Scott had explained, trying to be helpful and avoid them having to sedate his friend. "This happened when Charles was going through withdrawal after he got taken in."

"Charles?" Bruce asked, intrigued.

"Yeah, Charles Xavier. Telepath. We used to call him Professor, but he said it made him feel old. He's had his mutation since birth, so he could control it and avoid getting taken in by the government. But then there was this thing between him and Magneto, and they found out about him. And I guess he drank a lot before, so he went through this awful withdrawal and when he recovered his mutation was even stronger than before."

Bruce nodded thoughtfully. "So this happens often, then? Someone's mutation evolving?"

"Oh, yeah. But sometimes we can't tell if it's really evolving or the mutant's just getting better at controlling it. I always used to wish I would be able to control mine. Beast said once we'd escaped, he'd make me a kind of visor with red quartz, so I could open my eyes and my beams would be refracted. Then I could control it, and, you know, see."

Bruce nodded thoughtfully. "You know, Tony could probably make you something like that."

Scott smiled brightly, and Bruce felt the Other Guy shift inside him. They had been talking for close to a half hour, and this was the happiest Scott had seemed. He felt a sort of solidarity with Scott. They both had an unwanted…thing, that was nearly impossible to control and that had effectively ruined their lives. He remembered his own imprisonment, the pain of experiments, the fear and rage churning in his chest as he ran, and he could hear the Hulk roaring. He stepped back, clenching his fists tightly. Scott was stiff, sitting bolt upright in his stool. Bruce swallowed and forced himself to take deep breaths. Gradually, the blood stopped pounding in his ears and his heart rate dropped. He sunk wearily into the chair beside Scott. "Sorry."

Scott nodded mildly. "No problem. Wolverine, at the base, he's kind of like you. He goes into these rages…and they cloned him, so now we have X-23 getting angry and clawing things, too. You should meet Gambit; he always manages to calm them down*. You wouldn't expect it, but there's something about him..."

Bruce found himself a bit overwhelmed by all the names. "It seems like you were quite close with the other people at the base."

Scott nodded emphatically. "Yeah. My actual brother is in there. That's why we have to go back and rescue them as soon as possible. But I care about the others, of course. White Queen had a sister there, actually, but then Kayla made a deal with Stryker and left, so they're not really sisters anymore."

Emma stirred at the mention of her codename. She sat up groggily, fisting her eye with the hand not clutching Scott's. Scott turned his head toward her.

"Are you okay? How's your mutation?"

They both remember the horrible week when Jubilee had nearly died, when her mutation evolved too fast (a reaction to the treatments, Hank said), and the burning energy coursing through her body nearly overwhelmed her. They remember when Beast had collapsed on the ground, shouting and writhing and transforming from a young man with hands for feet to a blue, furry, monstrous creature.

Emma grimaced slightly, kneading her forehead. "I think I've just developed telepathy."


Emma's new mutation was still weak. She could hear whispers of thought, and she could feel her how much stronger her mental shields had gotten. Charles had tried to teach them to block out telepaths once they found out about Jason, but so far Jubilee and Remy* had been the only ones able to pull them off successfully.

She sat with Scott at a large conference table. The Avengers were clustered tightly around. Captain America ("Call me Steve, please-") was leading the meeting, the primary focus of which was to figure out a plan of action for the invasion of the base. Scott and Emma had told them all that they knew about the layout and people (guards, scientists, prisoners, and the like). Mutants had been moved around the facility quite often, placed according to whatever experiment they were undergoing rather than given a permanent cell. Emma had spoken to about one hundred mutants, she estimated, and the information she had gathered proved invaluable. Scott had helped in a different way. Someone had had the idea of having him listen to a recording of a recent government meeting. He carefully noted all the voices he recognized, including William Stryker.

The plan was to send the more subtle members of the Avengers-Clint, Natasha, and Steve- to infiltrate the base. They would gather as much intel as they could, then contact SHIELD. The facility was technically a government-mandated operation. SHIELD would do its best to essentially bully Stryker into releasing the mutants. They assured Cyclops and White Queen that this would minimize mutant casualties.

If Stryker failed to comply, they would attack from the outside, creating a diversion that would allow Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Cap to remove the inhibitor collars and release the mutants, who could hopefully assist them in seizing the base.

Of course, minutes into the execution, the plan went to hell in a hand basket.

A/N: Next chapter will be BIG! I pinky swear to update Timor Mortis soon! Enjoy!

*These are legitimate things: Remy's powers allow him to create a sort of static field that telepath's can't penetrate; he also has a degree of empathy that he can use to calm people down provided they don't know about it. Additionally, Jubilee does have powerful, natural mental shields.