I don't own marvel (TOO DAMN BIG and not well planned) or Harry Potter, not enough forward planning, and far too many sheeple.
My beta has kept at me long enough to get through to me that I need to cut down my reviews and move them down to the bottom of the chapter, so if you are looking for a response and I haven't gotten back to you before you might find something at the end of the chapter. For now I would just like to say thank you to Kathryn518 for continuing to beta my new chapters and here we go.
Chapter 16 A Good Day
At about the same time that Harry and company were dealing with the Hand in Vietnam some action was occurring back at the mansion. After Juggernaut had smashed through the first set of wards he had put on it, Harry had made a mistake with the minor wards he set up around the X-Men's mansion afterward. All of them were intent based wards, which was fine enough but he hadn't connected two of the three wards to the house itself but to the desire to harm (an important distinction) the people within the mansion. If there was no one home, the other two wards wouldn't do anything.
The one ward he had connected to the house was a very low powered Notice-Me-Not, which could be overcome by anyone with enough mental toughness. It was a simple mistake and with everything that Harry was up to he could be excused for overlooking it, after all he was only human. Yet it was about to bite them on the ass in a… very minor way really, when they stopped to think about it. To the perpetrators, it would seem a much more substantial victory. The events set in motion however would run the gamut from minor to very major indeed.
"What do you mean there's no one in there?" Fatale asked X-23.
The younger girl shook her head, having just come back from another survey of the mansion. "No one home, all gone."
"We didn't see them leave, so do they have a teleporter or something? There's no way Nightcrawler could've taken them all off one a time could he?" Fatale frowned for a moment. "Not if they were going any distance anyway."
"Just stating what I know," X-23 said shrugging.
Fatale thought for a moment then nodded. "Let's go, I've had enough of this assignment, its high time we ditched this burg."
Her young friend nodded eagerly, and the two of them quickly got into their combat costumes and then made their way from the property they lived in as part of their cover and onto the mansion's grounds. For a moment they felt like they should turn around, like there was nothing interesting here, but their mental defenses easily overcame the weakening Notice-Me-Not ward and they swiftly ran forward.
X-23 led the way, moving swiftly through the forest, keeping clear of any security cameras set into the grounds, moving ever forward. The two of them swiftly made their way through the forest and they soon reached the mansion climbing up some hanging vine on the wall until they were resting on the windowsill of the second floor's atrium/sitting room. Once there X-23 used her claws to cut a small circle in the window around one of Fatale's hands' which was stuck against the glass using a glove covered with suction cups. Then Fatale lifted the small glass circle away, allowing the younger girl to reach in and lift the window latch.
Fatale concentrated for a second, activating one of her mutant powers, bending light around her to become invisible. She could also use it to actually disguise herself as someone else, but it had its limitations. She couldn't imitate someone else unless she had observed them from all angles up close, and she hadn't dared do that with any of the X-men. She might have gotten away with it if she'd been able to come up with an identity that let her into the high school, but as it was, invisibility would have to do. She couldn't do anything for X-23 though, and of course bending light didn't fully erase her presence, so things like motion, heat or even pressure plates on the floor still detected her presence.
She led the way inside, pulling down some infrared goggles, looking down at her feet along the floor of the atrium and then out into the hallway, then up at head height and around. Stepping back by the window she murmured quietly, "No infrared sensors or anything else sneaky I can see on this level. There is a camera at the far end and another one by the door to the elevator."
She picked to knives out of a bandolier she wore around one thigh then moved out into the hallway, throwing each knife in turn at one of the cameras. Her aim was very accurate, and both cameras were pierced right through their lenses. "Let's move on."
The two interlopers moved deeper into the mansion stopping at the top of the stairs, where Fatale took out another camera before motioning X-23 to join her. The two of them waited for a second tensely wondering if despite X-23's nose and other senses there was still someone in the mansion, but after a moment the younger girl nodded. "No one moving around, we're clear."
With Fatale able to bend the light around her she continued to lead the way, taking up cameras and then motioning X-23 two follow her. Soon, following a plan of the mansion Mystique had passed on after one of her first missions in the area, they were at the elevator that would carry them down a hundred feet down into the basement.
As soon as the door closed behind them however they ran into problems and a metallic voice intoned. "Access restricted, to access, please present eye for retinal scan." The top of the panel of buttons along one side of the door lifted upwards, revealing a small retina scanner.
This was a security feature Charles had installed when he first planned the mansion to keep out unwanted guests as well as the kids. If Logan or Charles were in residence it was normally turned off, but both of them made a point of turning it back on if they left the mansion for any reason. Cyclops could override it these days, since they had both decided to add him to the list of users, but the Danger Room wasn't a toy, and they wanted to make certain that none of the youngsters could use it as such. After all, they were teenagers, allowing them access to a system that could literally produce anything they wanted in hard light or robotic form (including, just as an example, robotic versions of famous actors/actresses) was a recipe for disaster.
"Shiiit….." Fatale muttered. "Mystique's notes didn't say anything about this. I'll try to break the system, you keep watch, warn me if anything, and I mean anything changes out there."
X-23 nodded, and Fatale opened a small pouch at her waist, pulling out some wires and a tiny electronic screen, before ripping off the front of the electrical panel.
Eventually Fatale was able to get around it, and the elevator began to move down, but it had taken over twenty minutes, and she shook her head. "We spent too long on that, and I think it sent some kind of warning to the security system when I was trying to break it. We better be prepared for the security downstairs to be ready for us. This just became a smash and grab, so get ready."
X-23 grinned, popping her claws out again and readying herself. "About time!"
The mansion itself didn't have anything in the way of active defenses at this point, but the basement was an entirely different matter. And Fatale had been correct, the time they had spent trying to bypass the security on the elevator had indeed tripped the alarm, and the central security system knew that they were coming, and it was up and ready.
Several guns popped out of apertures all along the basement corridor, both the walls and the ceiling, and even one double barreled machine gun that popped out of the floor hallway down the corridor from the elevator. All of them trained on the entrance to the elevator, several cameras came online pointing in that direction, ready and waiting. Even more security opened up along the other basement corridors, the one leading to the hanger bay, the Danger Room and generator.
The moment the doors opened X-23 charged out, ducking and weaving as the bullets began to fly, jumping up and slashing the closest gun station to pieces with her claws. While she was busy having fun Fatale simply walked down the up hallway, cloaked once again in her own personal invisibility. Her ability to bend light around her like this enabled her to bypass most of the security, but halfway down she stepped on the first of many pressure sensors on the floor. The double barreled machine gun turned toward her swiftly and Fatale teleported away just in time, the gun firing an instant after she teleported back into the elevator.
Fatale scowled, and began to throw knives with incredible accurately at the most distant gun stations, allowing X-23 to go to town on the nearest ones. Even so, the younger girl took several hits before they cleared that first corridor out, her blood splattering the walls and floor, but her healing factor healing her even before the blood landed.
Eventually they finished trashing every defensive installation in the first corridor then made their way down the first side one. That proved to lead to some kind of large empty room, and after looking at one another quizzically Fatale shrugged. "Move on to the next I guess." They did so, moving up two flights of steps then out into what looked like some kind of control room. "Okay, so obviously the plans Mystique got weren't complete," the blue haired African woman muttered. "But this definitely doesn't look anything like what we were told Cerebro looks like, right?"
X-23 shrugged. "Nope. Big blank room is interesting though."
"Not what we're here for 23," Fatale growled. "Let's just keep searching, and hope that the x-men don't come back.".
They thankfully hit the jackpot with their next corridor, costing Fatale the last of her throwing knives and X-23 quite a bit of pain from being shot four more times while clearing out the automated guns.
"This is the target, right?" X-23 asked.
"Yep," Fatale answered. The room had large screen on three walls, an equally large computer occupying the fourth, with another screen above it. Wires along the floor led from the screens and the computer to a metal chair set in the floor on a small dais. Behind the chair was a stand holding a metal helmet, which had wires leading down it into the floor. "This is it alright."
Fatale immediately moved to the computer bringing up the schematics of it quickly, and downloading it into a memory drive, along with the all the programs it held in its hard drive. While she was doing this X-23 had pulled out a camera and was taking pictures of the setup, including the helmet that Charles used to enhance the search parameters via telepathy. She paused, poking it with one claw. "We take this?"
Fatale paused from copying files and looked at the device. "Why not, this has turned into a smash and grab anyway, they'll sure as hell know someone was here." She was almost tempted to leave a few surprises behind them, but not only would such probably fail, after all Logan was no slouch at this kind of thing, it would also take more time. There was no telling if the X-Men had some sort of alarm that would sound off on their phones or something like that if their security was breached. She certainly would in their place.
They didn't actually since much of the security hadn't been upgraded since cellphones had become so common, and only Charles, Logan and Ororo had such on their phones. Logan had lost his during the attack by the Hand, Ororo had never replaced her own after it had been destroyed during her fight with Candra, and Charles had left his in his room when he left the hotel.
Ten minutes later Fatale finished copying files then frowned thoughtfully for a moment before deciding to smash everything in this room. "Smash it all, grab up that helmet and let's get going."
Nick Fury had decided to go to the X-Men's mansion himself to talk to this Harry Potter punk, hoping that the personal approach would work better than a formal message. This way Nick could hopefully get Wolverine to vouch for him. Of course Wolverine would probably not recognize him at first either, but he had enough dirt on Logan to make the man believe he was who he said he was.
Well, that is if he remembers anything of his past, we haven't been able to get anyone close to him since that ordeal with Weapon X. Either way, I really needed to get out of the fucking office. Nick thought to himself, driving his car off the highway and toward the small suburban community where Xavier's mansion was.
The politics of Nick's position were getting very, very bad. Not only were SHIELD's committee members always sticking their noses in, they felt he should be doing more to catch Magneto and other mutants. They didn't seem to understand that the mutants were not a major threat to American security yet. In the future maybe, but now he was happy with the work his field agents were doing, compiling a few names and faces to the Brotherhood of Mutants without devoting more time to them.
But that 'American security' part was another problem. SHIELD was supposed to be an international organization, but at the moment it was decidedly American. Every single one of its backers was American. Only Canada, Japan, Greece and Italy had actually agreed to let SHIELD act in cases of international dangers in their countries. Even the United Kingdom hadn't gotten on board entirely, and that was bad, considering it was one of America's strongest allies.
America could foot the bill easily enough for his group, but if they were seen solely as an American agency, then that defeated the true purpose that SHIELD was created to meet. He'd been pushing for more international recognition and backing since the very beginning, but all the council members were fighting him on it for some reason, unwilling to open SHIELD's information network to foreign parties. Nick refused to let them turn SHIELD into their own personal fiefdom, but fighting them was getting very, very irritating.
On top of that was the problem with Thunderbolt Ross and finally getting the old horse out of the saddle. That thought caused Nick to snort as he turned into the street see the mansion in the distance. After all he was actually quite a bit older than Thunderbolt.
But Nick was also much more flexible, and the Senate oversight committee for military affairs was fighting him tooth and nail about court martialing Ross despite the fact that he had 'Senate approval' that stated SHIELD was the agency assigned to anything that dealt with the Big Guy, and the fact his actions had led directly to a city center being trashed on the order of millions of dollars in damages, a hundred deaths and counting as well as another big green monster being created! But what Ross did have was a lot of friends and support on the oversight committee, and Nick had spent practically an entire week trying to deal with that issue and the issue with his own committee members, and had been forced to delegate more and more of the real work of his position to his aids.
He had at least been able to talk the Army's brass into removing Thunderbolt from command of his unit, which had too closely resembled his own personal army, and break said army up, sending the individuals out into different units. A few of those men worried Nick, but he had them marked down for observation, so he might for once be able to keep another group of fires from starting. A man could dream couldn't he? That had destroyed Thunderbolt's power structure and might keep him from becoming the threat that Nick could all too easily see him become in the future.
So Fury had desperately needed to get out of the office, and this is as good an excuse as any. His phone rang, and he honestly thought for a moment about not answering it, but sighed and put it on speaker phone. "Yes?"
"Sir, we picked up something on our surveillance of the mansion about two hours ago. The automated drones passed it on, but it still took that long to be noticed."
Nick nodded, the surveillance drones weren't allowed to be used on American soil, but outside of tying down someone with mental defenses like Natasha (and not like Clint, alas) they were the only ways they could keep tabs on Xavier's mansion these days. And even that was decidedly a catch as catch can thing. "What did you see?"
"Two people, profiles unknown, moving into the mansion from behind. We haven't seen any sign of a forced break in but…"
"Understood." Nick began to feel his adrenaline thumping for the first time in far too long. "I'll handle it."
"Sir, regulations state…"
"Lad, I wrote those regulations, and I am fully cognizant I am about to do something that breaks several of them, but I'm the man on the spot right now, and those same regulations state the man on the spot has final say. So you just tell a team to get on a helicopter and start up my way, but tell them to stay clear unless I tell them to come in."
Understood sir," the voice on the phone replied, sounding rather huffy and Nick made a note to make rotate that communications operator out into the field again. The boy needed a bit of real world experience to offset that by the book stuff.
Nick was almost tempted to simply gun his SUV's engine and blast through the mansion's gate, but decided that was both unnecessary and foolish. So he just drove up, hopped out and hooked up a device, one remarkably similar to the one Fatale had used in fact, to the gate's controller. The gate opened obligingly within four minutes and he got back into his car. SHIELD had a vague map of the mansion, and Nick knew that the main entrance opened into a foyer unfortunately free of cover, so he braked in front of the garage entrance, where he once more got out and overrode the security on its doors.
A single tap of a button made the back of the SUV pop open, bringing with it a bit of the trunk's floor. He reached in, pulling out a large handgun, which looked vaguely like a modified desert eagle, but not quite. They were a SHIELD special, commissioned before Stark went round the twist, and were loaded with a mix of rounds, ranging from explosive to stun. They were damn expensive, so only a few agents had them yet, but they were also the best gun a man could hold in one hand.
His other hand grabbed up a large serrated knife, and so armed Nick made his way through the garage and into the mansion proper with all the skill of a combat veteran.
Fatale and X-23 had just finished their jobs and were making their way out of the mansion in order to let Fatale more easily teleport them away. The place she had in mind was a city in Greenland, so any help she could have, such as not needing to port through the walls of a mansions or the ground around it, would make it that much easier.
She had thought they were in the clear so it came as a surprise when X-23 held up a hand as soon as the elevator doors opened, sniffing the air. "Someone here, not X-man, new smell."
Almost as soon as she said that Nick shouted, "Freeze, Federal agent," and then opened fire, his bullet setting set to stun. Fatale yelped and ported the two of them out into the hallway, then they both dove aside, leaving the helmet behind for now as they ducked and dodged the incoming fire.
Even so X-23 was hit twice, but the stun rounds, large heavy rubber bullets, only stung a bit. She snarled, popping her claws and jumping forward towards the shooter. "RARGH!"
"Oh now that brings back memories," Nick quipped, ducking underneath the charging young woman's charge, she was fast, but she fought like a berserker, which meant he had an edge there. He swiftly changed from the stun bullets to regulars, and shot her point blank when she tried to turn back toward him.
His grin disappeared however when a knife whizzed through the air where his head had just been. "Sorry Baldy, but she's with me, no shooting the teammate." Fatale riposted, then teleported right in front of the man who had so abruptly attacked them.
Her knife sought his throat, but Fury had jumped to the side through the doorway into the dining room the moment Fatale disappeared, and she teleported again to dodge two more bullets heading her way. "That's Mr. Baldy to you brat!"
A growl warned Nick that the other one was up and moving, and he backed away from the wall nearest the place he had downed her moments before just in time. X-23 clawed through the wall, tossing chunks of it his way, and he grunted as his shoulder was smashed by one such chunk. The Kevlar in his coat protected him from most of the impact, but it was still jarring and it distracted him just long enough for Fatale to disappear under her cloak.
Nick cursed then smashed a small bowl of sugar out onto the ground diving forward to duck under another slash from X-23. His knife flashed out, catching the girl in her side and ripping her side open, but as he had feared the wound was healed even before his lunge under her outstretched arm finished.
He heard the crunch of sugar from his side and whirled kicking out and catching the invisible Fatale in the stomach launching her backward to clutch her stomach, but this opened him up for X-23 to close, claws slashing again. He raised his knife in a block and watched in shock as the claws slashed through it, slicing open his Kevlar vest, leaving three long slashes across his chest.
Fury jumped away, raising his gun firing point blank before ducking away, raising his coat up to protect his head. This time the bullet wasn't normal or stun, but an explosive round, and when it struck X-23 in her stomach, it went off like five pounds of cordite.
"ARGH!" X-23 howled, the skin of that side of her chest blasted and burnt, some of it just gone entirely, revealing her innards and the adamantium coated bones protecting them.
Fatale gaped wondering what would happen if one of those rounds hit her. She swiftly threw her last remaining knives at Fury, catching him in his shoulder, the knife able to barely pierce the Kevlar there. The one aimed at his groin and the other at his face however occupied his attention long enough for her to reach over and grab her partner by her shoulder. "Let's go X!"
With that the two first teleported back out to the hallway, then as Nick moved after them, his gun still set on explosive rounds, Fatale reached down with her free hand, scooped up the helmet and then with a grimace of concentration, popped away.
Nick growled, leaning against the doorway between the hall and the dining area. "Well fuck." He looked around him then at the closed door. For a moment he thought about blasting his way inside, but if he did that he could kiss any chance of allying freely with the X-men and this Harry Potter person out of the water. Then he looked down at the remains of his knife, which had been made of titanium, but which the younger girl had sliced right through with her claws. And she was already healing before the other girl grabbed her.
He winced, feeling the gashes in his chest, as well as his shoulder, which while not serious was still debilitating then he pulled out his phone. Surprisingly it had survived, and he flipped it open. "Good job spotting them, there was an attempted break in, but no one's home. I'll wait for them here, but get Clint and that Alvers boy over here. I might need some more character references."
With that done and not waiting to hear the response, Nick put the phone away and began to perform some emergency first aid. He sat down wearily at the sofa in the living room, chuckling a little now at how his day out of the office had turned into more fun than he'd had in months.
While Jean and Harry were out on their date, Ororo spent time with Kitty going all around the city and watching the Festival of Lights. It was a truly magnificent sight, though dealing with the young girl's concerns about what she had been forced to do yesterday against the ninjas had been somewhat problematic. Still, Ororo would not have wished it any other way.
Kitty was a truly kind soul, and she didn't like using violence even against people who were trying to kill her. Even though her paralysis ward hadn't actually hurt the ninjas other than simply paralyzing them, sticking them in place, the news that this had eventually caused whatever spell was inside them to kill them (or whatever had really happened, even Harry didn't really have much of an idea, he hadn't studied them after all) shocked Kitty to the core and made her feel very guilty.
Indeed most of the kids were dealing with guilt about what had happened yesterday, with the stark exception of Scott and Jean. But while the other teens were seeking other people to talk to or places to seek advice from (Kurt had disappeared that morning in search of a church, and didn't come back until late that night) the young Kitty Pryde came to Ororo to talk to about it.
Ororo pointed out logically that Kitty couldn't have known what would happen when she had paralyzed the ninja. That Kitty had done them no real harm beyond doing so and in fact had put them down far more gently than Jean and Ororo had been doing at the time. And then when the girl responded with the fact that it was their being forced to remain in one place that had caused whatever spell was on them to start (or stop) working Ororo responded that it was because they were part of this Hand cult, not because of Kitty.
Eventually she got through to Kitty and she calmed down. The two of them spent the rest of that evening talking and having fun together until the young girl was dead on her feet, and once Ororo took her back to their set of bungalows she fell asleep before even pulling up the sheets.
Later that night Ororo was sitting out on the veranda of the bungalow she shared with Harry, not a stitch of cloth on her person as she watched the waves come in and out along the beach. This was the first night since they had slept together that first time that Ororo wasn't sleeping next to Harry, and it bothered her. Oh, she wasn't bothered about the fact that he was out with Jean that actually made her happy for both of them, after all she loved them both, not equally, but to see the two of them take such joy in one another made her happy too.
No, what Ororo was worried about wasn't anything like that; she was worried about the fact that so far in their relationship Harry had been the one putting forth the most effort. Other than being there and helping Harry through his grief over what happened to the wizards at Hogwarts, and being used as a sounding board Ororo hadn't really put in anywhere near as much effort into the relationship as Harry had.
I hope he didn't take my teasing about the translation spell wrong she thought to herself. It's just one of those things that bother me.I put in a lot of time to get as good with languages as I am, and suddenly realizing that some magic user could use a shortcut like that to bypass years of work irritates me. Harry didn't seem like he cared one way or the other, but maybe I should figure out somehow what he wanted to use his forfeit for.
Ororo thought for a moment about her man, and her own feelings for him. She had known almost from the moment they got together that this relationship was one that could last if they wanted it to. And her feelings for Harry had only grown stronger as she had seen more and more aspects of his personality, and vice versa. He was kind, friendly and generous to the point of self-destruction, in turns gregarious and insular, both of which called to her own admittedly odd nature.
She frowned a little looking over at the packet that Harry had handed Jean. She hadn't taken it with them obviously, and had left it out here when they arrived after checking in. Ororo had looked through it again smiling faintly at how good an offer it was until she got to the part about the stocks. She had known about the health care benefits, as well as the base salary and Harry had mentioned giving her some stock to give her a say in the company but 49%? If Emma could see that she would have blown a gasket Ororo thought, amused. I know he's not much of a businessman, but that's just too much.
She smiled now. That is one aspect of our relationship I will have to step my game up in, stopping him for making foolish mistakes like that out of the goodness of his heart. I realize that he doesn't trust nearly as quickly as it may at first appear, but still he can't just give away gifts like that if he intends to keep hold of the reins of his corporation. I suppose for the engineering, division, it would be alright, but not outside of it.
"I just wish there was more I could do," she muttered aloud, sighing faintly. At the moment most of the things we're doing are magical based and I'm no help there. It's a little frustrating frankly, and we have to take more of the burden off him. I can see it in Harry sometimes that it's getting to him slowly, the fact that at the moment he is utterly indispensable to our future plans. I'm perfectly happy with that, but he isn't and it's getting to him. He wants to leave a lasting mark on this world, something I wholeheartedly approve of both in the specific and in the concept, but to do that the edifice must be able to keep going without him there to power it.
She shook those thoughts off, resolving to talk to Jean about that later. Possibly between the two of them they could take more of the burden off Harry's shoulders. With that thought she sighed and turned in, resolving to get some sleep. After all, there was no telling about when her two loves would return.
Jean's reaction to the sudden flood of altered memories in her head was both immediate and sudden. She first grinned slowly and leaned in kissing Harry on the lips. Then when she pulled back Jean pinched him hard on the cheek scowling angrily. "You idiotic… man you, gah! That's what you were keeping a secret?! I could've been in space for over a month now and you didn't tell me! With that she leaned in and kissed him hard on the lips again, then moved back quickly summoning up her clothing again, completely unconsciously changing the molecules of her dress into the unstable molecules of her new suit, a sight that had Harry's eyebrows shooting up in surprise.
It was a show of telekinetic ability that was almost astonishing to him, despite his own ability with magic. The fact she was doing it unconsciously was even more amazing, and Harry made a mental note to start her on learning how to use transfiguration (or whatever it was she just did, that too would take some study) in combat.
Almost as soon as she stood up however she began to feel a little woozy, and began to gasp, "Wh-what?"
"Oh shit," Harry muttered and hit her with another spell. "It's a sort of anti-altitude spell, it helps makes the air you're breathing match the normal air rather than the thin hair up here."
"Makesss sense I suppose," she slurred a bit, shaking her head as the spell went to work. "I, I should've figured that there was something going on allowing us to breathe up here so easily. How does is work, and what happened did the first one fail or something? I don't remember you hitting me with a spell before we got here."
"Ah for that you have Hedwig to thank," Harry said chuckling a little. He motioned over to where they had begun this part of the date and made Jean looked down while his other hand made the bed disappear behind them. "And that hurt by the way," Harry said rubbing one hand over his cheek.
Jean laughed. "You deserve it, keeping that a secret from me for so long even though you knew about my dream to go into space. That was a little cruel you know."
"I didn't mean it that way," Harry said mildly putting his arms around her, his head over her shoulder and motioning again for her to look down into the snow. "See there, it's called a stabilization ward. It stabilizes distances, so you don't feel the effect of going up into the higher altitude."
He reached down and picked it up, and Jean noticed that it was about as wide as his palm and covered with very tiny script. "These are better than the spells because the spell won't last for very long, and they have to be place or height specific, never figured out why. These you can use at any height but they are a one off. There's no place in the array for it to take in power. Sort of a security concept I guess, though I could've gotten around it if I really wanted to. This though," he waved his hand at the landscape around them, "was a spur of the moment idea and I didn't want to use something experimental."
Jean nodded. "Ahh I see, and now, I think we have some place to go yes?"
"Go, go where" Harry asked jokingly, looking around him. "I think this is a fantastic view why should we go anywhere?"
Jean reached over and grabbed his ear twisting it a little. "Harry Potter," she said in a very calm, conversational tone. "I love you, and I truly enjoy your sense of humor most of the time, but going into space has been my dream since I was about four years old and heard this story of a boy and his robot that could transform into a spaceship, sharing facts about space. So if we do not start off right now, I'm going to have to hurt you."
"Your wish is my command, your royal Redness," Harry laughed faintly, "though I'll warn you that the disorientation that you felt from teleporting from New York to Vietnam will be quite a bit less than this one."
"Don't care," Jean replied chirpily. "Let's go."
Harry laughed again, squeezing his arms around her and bringing her into a kiss. She kissed him back, though didn't close her eyes like he had hoped she would and a moment later felt the vertigo as they teleported from the top of Mount Everest up to High Note which was still in orbit over New York.
Behind them on the mountains they just left a group of Nepalese mountaineers looking at one another. "The noise and the moans have stopped," said one to another. "Daylight seems to have banished them."
"I know, but what could have caused it? The voice, it sounded like a woman."
"Like a woman getting the fucking of her life you mean," one said laughing a little and spitting to the side. Up here his spit froze almost before it reached the ground and he chuckled. "I have no idea what could have caused it, but the lights in the sky will certainly make for an interesting story back down below won't they?"
They all laughed, and continued their trek, while around them the sun began to break through the clouds.
Jean groaned, her hands on her knees and she bent over trying desperately to keep her gorge from rising. "You, ugh," she gasped "were not kidding. Ooof, that was horrible. That was horrible to the Nth degree."
Harry gently began to make circular motions on her back with both hands trying to calm her body down a little. "There, there, it'll pass quickly I hope. And then I can show you around High Note, and you can tell me what you think."
Jean nodded looking up at him and said, "I'm sorry you know, I shouldn't've pinched you like that but like I said being in space has been my dream, even when my more powerful emotions were blocked I was able to keep that dream. Knowing that it was so close and that you were keeping it from me as a joke was well… it wasn't very nice."
"I know Jean," Harry replied smiling faintly, leaning forward over her to kiss the back of her neck whispering against her skin. "If I had realized that it had been a dream of yours for so long I would never have kept it a secret even if I wanted to spring it on you as I did." He shrugged. "I'll admit I sometimes am not so good at that kind of thing. But just because we are in a relationship and love one another doesn't mean we won't do stupid things that irritate each other."
"Well don't worry about that Potter, if you ever get too irritating you have two girls now who will smack you back into line no worries." She leaned up slightly sighing faintly. "And you have precisely an hour to stop doing that."
"I can see you're feeling better," Harry replied dryly taking his hands away from where they had gone around her, gently making circles on Jean's stomach as he talked. He stood up, letting her do the same, and held out a hand to her. "Shall we go?"
Having a pretty good idea of what would interest her Harry took Jean on a very brief tour of the asteroid. First he covered the area where he was putting in the laboratories, where he was setting up one laboratory for when Reed was introduced to High Note, sometime in the future but not a set date as yet, the farming areas, the small forest, where Melody was sleeping at the moment and then straight to what he knew would really interest her, the observation area.
Jean laughed a little looking around. "I can see Ororo's been here, her sense of interior design is everywhere. Though the view in here," she murmured looking away out into space, her eyes drinking it in, "that is magnificent." She moved forward pressing her face against the glass like a puppy looking out a window. Then she looked over her shoulder her smile almost positively wicked. "When we do go all the way all for the first time, this is where we're going to do it."
"Really," Harry laughed coming up behind her and pressing her flush against the glass, his hands pinning Jean's against the glass on either side of her head as he began to nibble at her neck. "I was thinking more along the lines of Olympus Mons myself."
"That'll do Harry, that'll do," Jean murmured pressing back up against him, for a moment, but her attention was firmly on the view in front of her. "So, how do we get out there?"
Harry's eyebrows rose. "Are you sure that your powers will be able to handle that?"
"Don't know, but if my powers failed," she smiled, leaning up to kiss him tenderly on the cheek. "You'll be there to protect me won't you?" Her lips lingered briefly on the check she had pinched down on Mount Everest then leaned back looking at him expectantly.
He laughed, moving aside. "Manipulative little minx," he said slapping her rear as she moved past him on their way out of the observation deck. She jumped a little but laughed and the two walked swiftly to the hangar area which Harry hadn't changed much as yet.
Harry quickly used a few spells on himself, an air renewal spell, another spell to slow down his breathing, a heating and a shield spell then stood waiting next to Jean as she brought her own powers up around her. The aura of flame covered her in a thin veneer of flame from head to toe, capturing a bit of the air around her.
With that done she tentatively reached out a telepathic tendril to Harry, who felt it hitting the exterior of his mental invisibility cloak and then he opened up a small pathway under his invisibility cloak allowing her access to his mind again. "Scientifically speaking," he sent as soon as the connection was made, "that shouldn't really do anything to help you breathe in space you know?"
"I believe that the Eternal Phoenix would laugh at the very idea that science as we understand the term could have any bearing on its powers or even its avatars." Jean laughed.
Harry chuckled, and hit the button that decompressed the hangar Bay. Moments later the hangar bay doors opened out to space, and Jean laughed as her aura did indeed protect her. Putting it in words would be incredibly difficult, but Jean thought that maybe her flame was simply changing something in space into air for her, or maybe calling upon the Phoenix flame did something to her body making her not need to breathe? In any event she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Hey Harry?" She said looking over her shoulder again.
She reached over quickly touching his shoulder gently, "You're it." With that she blasted off as fast as she could go, straight through the bay doors and out into the wilds of space. Harry gaped at her for a moment, wondering where this rather coquettish playfulness was coming from. After a moment he simply chuckled and chased after her enjoying it anyway.
He raced off after Jean, though his magic couldn't quite propel him as fast as Jean was moving until Harry figured out a way to sort of create dozens of Bombarda spells behind him to thrust him forward. Even so he barely kept up with her because Jean allowed it, until they entered a small field of debris from several satellites and bits and pieces of other detritus. There the tag game began to be much more about maneuverability than pure straight ahead speed.
Harry quickly closed the distance, tagging her leg and then racing backwards as fast as his magic could push him, ducking underneath a broken down bit of flotsam, then dodging around it as she flamed straight around the other end.
Jean slapped his shoulder and raced away again, zooming now away from the earth at speeds that their bodies should never have been able to endure, one protected by his magic, the other by her own powers and the shard of the Eternal Phoenix in her. The game of tag continued for two hours or so, but eventually Harry was forced to call a halt to proceedings. "Enough, enough, I give," he laughed, grabbing Jean's hand as she circled around him again laughing in delight. "Let's head back, I'll show you a few more things that then we should probably head back down to join Ororo and the others."
Jean frowned a little, then realized how far out from Earth they'd come. They were literally over the moon right now, and she gasped in astonishment. "Did we really cover that much distance?"
"Yep," Harry shrugged. "It didn't take us that long to get out here really."
Jean hummed thoughtfully to herself then reached forward to take Harry's other hand with a smile. Harry smiled back leaning into kiss her and suddenly with a pop they were both back in High Note. Still smiling Harry moved away and lead Jean around again much slower this time, and then stopped in the room he had devoted to making the Orihalcum.
She took one look around and asked Harry "What the hell? Is this Fiendfyre of yours that dangerous that you need all these wards? There must be dozens here." While she was no expert, the sheer number of arrays in the room was startling. There was nowhere near the amount that Harry was putting in the Room of Requirement, but the fact that all of these were geared to stopping one spell was startling as hell.
"Yeah I do," Harry muttered. "Remember what I said, Fiendfyre wants to get out of control and burn things. But it supplies the right mix of heat and magic, its better than even Blackfyre. I tried to make the magical portion of the metal with Blackfyre at first because that's a little easier to control if you're a Black by blood which I technically am, but I couldn't figure out a way to recreate it with runes, so I would have to stay here and use it personally."
"Not a chance in hell Harry," she murmured, looking around and thinking. "You've got too many other demands on your time to let Ororo and I put up with you disappearing up here for large lengths of time. Is there any reason you couldn't enlarge the entire unit?"
"You mean other than there not being enough space? I don't want the runes of this room to be anywhere close to the runes of anywhere else, there's such a thing as spillover, and the other wards aren't compatible with these, that's why I didn't hit this room with a space enlarging charm or runic array. Hell, technically some of these runes shouldn't work together, but I was able to make them work here, I don't want to press my luck."
"I mean maybe enlarging the room physically. There was a lot of junk out there, add it in, physically enlarge area that way, you can create more of this metal in one go. We'll toe the stuff over, you start transfiguring into rock, or," Her smile suddenly widened. "We can go out to a NEA, a near Earth asteroid. There are upwards of 4,000 of them ranging across the size spectrum. The Atiras, or Apohele asteroids classification are the closest, heck that's probably where Magneto found this asteroid."
Harry blinked. "You'll have to tell me more about them, but for now, let's do this."
With that they zoomed out into space, both of them now moving far faster than they had before, yet even so it took them longer than they had spent playing tag to find some of the NEA asteroids. Once Jean found a small asteroid she didn't think was among the named asteroids to add to High Note, Harry hit it with several disillusion spells and the two towed it back to High Note. With Jean holding it in place Harry merged the smaller asteroid to High Note's side right over the room which he had set up to create Orihalcum. It wasn't as easy as sticking the smaller unnamed asteroid against High Note, he had to go slow so that the outer wards and the Fidelius would cover it.
This took him another solid hour, and he smiled as he finished. "That's it for now, I'll come up and enlarge the interior setup after we're finished with Hogwarts, it'll keep for now. Let's head down to the others, I bet they're worried about us." Jean nodded, reaching forward to take his hand, and the two went in to have lunch with Melody before heading down to Vietnam.
"…Cold Steel, so good you can bet your life on it!" On the TV room that dominated an entire wall of the sitting room a cold steel commercial was blazing until Cordelia grabbed up the flicker and muted it. She looked over at her sister where she was calmly going through notes, at a small table set up in a corner of the room and shook her head. "How the hell have you stayed so calm through all this, Emma? You even demanded Cold Steel change its advertising to take advantage of the attack on us for god's sake! It's barely been twenty-four hours, and I'm still getting the chills sometimes."
"A Frost getting the chills. Really, how droll," said Emma, looking over at her and cocking an eyebrow. "I can be calm dear sister because it wasn't the first time I've been attacked like that. Experience breeds familiarity and also a certain amount of a blasé attitude. I hope you won't have to get used to it, but as long as I'm the head of Frost Corps, I'll have an enemies and some of those enemies will be willing to resort to… extra-lawful means in their attempts to remove me as an opponent."
"Were you able to talk the police into looking into Hammer Industries as a cause for why we were attacked? That still makes the most sense to me," Cordelia asked, her eyes narrow and dangerous, showing the dangerous amount of concentration their family was known for. While none of the men or any or the weapons they used could be linked back to Hammer, the timing was very suspicious, and Emma's younger sister had latched onto that suspicion without any prompting from her.
"Not so directly, no." Emma actually frowned now, putting away the work she was doing. They were about to have some sister bonding time watching a movie, hopefully not a sappy movie but Cordelia was the one picking it so Emma was uncertain what to expect. She briefly looked down at the papers smiling victoriously inside. When the knowledge that Emma had fended off an attack with her company's weapons went viral the sales of Cold Steel weapons had gone up across the board.
Several private security firms had asked for weapons demonstrations, and a few American and Canadian police districts had also contacted their sales teams. Though in the case of the police, they would probably not be buying the weapons anytime soon. The private security firms, most of which handled security in Africa and the Middle East and other areas of unrest, had long-standing connections to other weapons manufactory companies, including a few that Hammer Industries covertly owned. With that and the mud in the face that Hildebrandt had taken being at the scene of what was being called a murder by the sensationalist media (pushed by her friend Paris in return for arming the woman's own security team with anything she wanted gratis) as well as this latest debacle, Hammer Industries was having a very bad month.
If only I could figure out a way to extend that to Shaw having a bad month. Shaw's own weapons company was not at the moment in direct competition with her own. And to be frank most of the weapons he made went to his security teams, allies and cronies. He produced steel, a lot of it, and some other resources both in the gathering and in the creating, which was his major money maker, and that couldn't be touched by anything she personally could do. Although Harry's long term plans should cut him off at the knees, oh god I am sooo looking forward to that. I think he had something to do with this latest attack, I can't prove it, but all my instincts and the information I have on him tell me that Hildebrandt would never be that overt. One specialist possibly, but an entire team of mercs on American soil while he's still nearby, no that's not his style, and he knows that Justin Hammer will react poorly to more setbacks in America.
On the other hand, Shaw had no real reason to be involved with something like that, and he wasn't so stupid as to act precipitously like that, So Emma was uncertain if it had been him, or some idiot under him. On the other hand, her plans for the Hellfire Club were moving right along, and she had some ideas to hasten a few of them, but that would take some fine finagling. Luckily, I am a most excellent finagler…
She shook her head and came back to the conversation. "The question was did I have any proof of that supposition Cordelia, and I did not." Not that I wanted to share at any rate. The last was a thought she kept to herself, since even her sister didn't really know what her powers were. Cordelia was bright enough to have an idea that she had some kind of power especially after she had anticipated the attack on them, but what that power was Emma hoped that she hadn't yet realized.
"Instead I merely guided the conversation and hopefully the follow-up investigation will head in the direction I hope. I doubt they'll be able to find any connection between that lot and Hammer Industries itself, but possibly Robert himself, or whoever he used. Regardless, if Hammer was involved, and recall my dear that we do not have much proof other than the timing. Don't let yourself become too wedded to one idea that you dismiss others."
Cordelia nodded thoughtfully, flipping through some VCR tapes looking for a movie that the both of them would like. "Have you ever thought about adding some… superpowered help to our security team?"
"I have yes," Emma replied now looking at her sister thoughtfully. "Unfortunately with all the paperwork and other demands on my time I haven't been able to do any research just yet on people who might be willing to work for us or who we could recruit. We might be best served grabbing some down on his luck mutant and pay him, but then it I'd be right back to square one on the character issues about which I have gutted our current team."
"Actually," Cordelia said looking over at her now, meeting her eyes. "I know of this one girl at my old school. She, um, she might have some kind of electromagnetic powers. She made up her own suit and acted like a crime fighter for a time, but her roommate found out and blabbed about it. She distanced herself from that, and the matter was forgotten because, well, the roommate was a bit of a ditz, but she might be a good place to look. I think her parents had to pull her out of school they couldn't pay for it or something her father was laid off something like that. There's also this guy in New York who apparently goes by the name Spider-Man, but I doubt we could recruit him. He's acting like a hero though the Daily Bugle says otherwise, and I doubt he's interested in money or the bottom line."
"I've heard of that one too, silly really. Oh, heroes are nice and all, but they think only of the problems in front of them, rather stupid frankly. As for this girl you mention, that is much more interesting. Anyone else?"
"Not that I can think of personally. Oh there are several that we could probably bail out of jail, but you said you wanted people who didn't have any character issues." The younger woman brightened up for a moment. "Although, we could still look at them, see if any of them are willing to be reformed, or possibly be a poster child for rehabilitation. Doing something like that and being public about it would be fantastic PR wise."
"Hmmm… It's a thought certainly. We would have to do through background checks on any we wish to rehabilitate like that however. As far back as possible, full psych evals… still it is a definite possibility, though they would need to want to be a part of society again, we can't simply keep holding a sledge hammer over their heads or whatever to keep them from acting out. Not only would that mean their desire to be part of society is forced but these hands," she held up her thin, pampered, lily white hands, which still had blisters from the unused to work of firing her submachine gun, "are not built to wield a sledge hammer."
Cordelia laughed at her joke then found the movie and said happily, "Found it, Dr. No extended edition. Now where's that popcorn?"
By the time Harry and Jean returned it was around midmorning, and all the kids were awake and out and about. Although calling them kids wasn't really accurate anymore, and Harry reminded himself he shouldn't be doing it any longer. They were all blooded now, and he hoped that they were mature enough to realize if they needed to talk they could go to someone else. Scott hadn't needed that after his run-in with demons helping the Fantastic Four, but then again demons were sort of very easy to hate. In Harry's opinion assassins like the Hand were pretty much the same, but that wasn't going to fly with the kids.
None of them were around however, so Harry cheerfully hoped that they were all already taking care of that issue. He opened the door to the bungalow he shared with Ororo motioning Jean inside, and neither was surprised to see Ororo there sitting nude at one of the tables as she munched on what looked like some kind of bagel. Fresh bagels and fruit were Ororo's favorite morning meal.
The two of them kissed her on the cheeks and sat down on either side of her, smiling and reaching for some food her themselves. Harry however stopped Jean's hand as she reached for one of the fruit. "Don't get between Ororo and clementines," he warned, "it isn't pretty."
Ororo laughed a little sheepishly an odd sound coming from such a self-possessed woman is her. "I have things that bother me sometimes, and clementines are my favorite treat. On that note though," She said reaching out a hand to grasp Harry's own. "I wish to apologize for poking fun at you and teasing you about the translation spell. I know that it was necessary, it's just that I don't like seeing it used, it makes all the work I put in learning languages the old-fashioned way seem superfluous and rather stupid. But I didn't mean to tease you that much, I hope you didn't take it poorly."
Harry chuckled. "You'll find my feelings are very hard to wound Ororo," he said lifting her hand to his mouth and kissing it tenderly. "Trust me, if you hurt my feelings I'll let you know. I just had this conversation with Jean, funny that. I love you Ororo, and sometimes loved ones irritate each other. Don't worry about it."
Ororo sighed. "That is a load off my mind." She looked over at Jean now, "How did your date go?"
"Let's just say that Harry here went above and beyond," Jean laughed then scowled a little at Ororo. "And did you know what he had planned for our date? And the present he was going to tell me about?"
"Yes, I thought he probably should have told you about it sooner, yet at the same time it was a very well-chosen present wasn't it?"
"True enough," Jean replied chuckling again, her fingers twining around Ororo's finger on the table. "It's fantastic, and we spent the rest of the date up there." She filled Ororo in on what they had been doing up in space, as well as a few suggestions Jean had offered to Harry on how to improve the asteroid base while they were working to enlarge it. Harry was enthusiastic about those suggestions as well as her help, and felt that Jean's suggestion about enlarging the Orihalcum factory would probably solve that bottleneck. It wouldn't be a resource that they would suddenly have an abundance of, but it certainly would become far less time-consuming to create in large enough amounts to be useful.
After that Jean cocked her head to one side and asking a little hesitantly, "Um, you know, this is a three-way relationship, and you and I haven't as yet done anything but kiss that one time."
Ororo laughed, reaching over to caress her cheek tenderly. "Well then, let us take care of that right now. I was thinking of going flying today, and I would dearly love the company."
"If I might make a suggestion of where to go," Harry said, "heading up the coastline might be good. Ha Long Bay is a port up north that is supposed to be one of the most magnificent sights in the world. Filled with little rock islands that come out of the sea everywhere. I saw a picture in a brochure, can't remember most of it, but the picture was amazing."
"We could ask Kitten about its significance, but instead let us simply follow the coast and see for ourselves. Are you ready to go now?" Ororo asked holding her hand out to Jean.
Jean laughed a little embarrassed. "Are you seriously going to go out like that?"
Ororo looked down at her nakedness and laughed. "You Americans, you need to get over that whole nudity taboo thing." She stood up and moved over to the drawers where she had put her clothing, taking out a simple silk dress and pulling it over her head. It fell to her knees, but it was very obvious that she wasn't wearing anything underneath it, both because the color was white and slightly see-through.
That sight made both of her lovers gasp and Harry very consciously shifted in his seat.
Jean however simply stared blushing hotly. "Th-that's even worse!" she said pointing at Ororo. "Have you ever heard the concept that concealing just enough to interest is almost as devastating as showing it all?"
Ororo looked at them both and chuckled. "Very well, I'll change into something else."
Jean almost stopped her but shook off the temptation. "Good God," she muttered, as Ororo moved into the bathroom to change this time, laughing quietly at them still. "The unembarrassed slightly naïve Ororo I could deal with. The unembarrassed not at all naïve sex bomb, that's going to take some getting used to."
Harry very seriously considered just grabbing them both and tossing them into his room and having his wicked way with them both, since Jean had been saying that while turned around and picking up the pale white dress that Ororo had dropped after their exclamation. He too shook it off though. "You're telling me. It's as if sometimes she doesn't really realize how sexy she is, and the other times it's like she can turn it on or off and when it is on you seriously feel the effects."
"Poor baby," Jean laughed. She leaned over and kissed him hard on the lips before pulling back before he could deepen it. "What ever will you do?"
"Praise magic for the girls who have for some strange reason fallen in love with me?" Harry asked quizzically. "Well that and take a very cold bath, maybe with ice in it."
Jean laughed again. "That'll do Potter, that'll do."
Ororo came back at that point, dressed in the costume she had worn during their escapade in London. "I don't suppose you could hit us with one of those Notice-Me-Not spells of yours Harry?"
Harry nodded agreeably, thinking that this would also be a good chance to see something, to see if he was correct about something in Ororo. If he was, the results would be phenomenal, though it would certainly be a long-term project rather than a short term. He waved a hand at both of them, and they glowed briefly as the spells hit them.
The two women kissed Harry on the cheeks and flew out of the door. Harry chuckled, and sat down in one of the plush chairs, pulling out the array for the farming area up in High Note. He was almost done with the array that would protect the elves while they were in there, and he had already finished with the other one that sped up time. It would take several days to put in place, but hopefully not even a full week and that plus Jean's help would have solved the two bottlenecks in his industrial plans.
Ororo and Jean flew out over the ocean, smiling and laughing in the sunlight at the sheer exuberance of flight. For Ororo this had always been one of her greatest joys and pleasures, and for Jean she still wasn't quite used to it yet despite how much time she had spent since learning how to fly actually flying. She looked over at her sister-lover or whatever they were called when you were in a polyamorous relationship, running her fingers through the water as the skin the long it its surface. "I have to thank you for this above all else. Without your help I'm not certain how long it would've taken me to learn how to fly, but it certainly would've taken me much longer than it did."
"It was my pleasure Jean," Ororo replied, chuckling as she saw a bit of a fish try to bite her friend's fingers as they zoomed along right above the water's surface. She led the way up north of Hoi An along the coast, the two of them moving faster than all but the fastest boats. In point of fact they were going so fast they were leaving a wake behind them, but the description Harry had given of Ha Long Bay had interested both ladies enough for them to not notice. Soon they came to the outskirts of the bay and they both stopped and stared.
From where they were hovering they could see dozens of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Some of them towered above them in height, their sides carved by wind and rain into majestic natural shapes. Others were small, barely sticking out of the water, but teeming with birds of all shapes and sizes, which were eating from the mollusks on them or simply waiting there. All of them had some kind of growth on them, a few had lichen, some had grass, several of them had trees and bushes, many had a veritable forest rising from the karst's rock faces. Everywhere were small fishing boats, ranging from one man cogs to twelve man boats, only a very few of them had motors, most had sails, many of them seemed to be row boats. All in all it was a magnificent scene.
"Harry can certainly pick them, can't he?" Ororo said as they hovered there, taking in the breathtaking view in front of them.
"True," Jean replied. "That view from the observation deck was just fantastic, and this whole trip has just been… The next time he takes you out on a date tell him to take you to Everest too, trust me it's worth the trip."
Ororo shrugged. "I would prefer to go back to Africa if I got the chance, so I could show you both some of the sights I saw when I was young."
"I think I'd like that." With that Jean lead the way forward and they continued, flying slower now, moving around and above the rocks, which were made from limestone, shaped and eroded over millions of years.
The two of them soon alighted on a rocky outcropping staring out around them at the port, half of it hidden in mist coming off the ocean from the heat of the day. It was indeed a sort of rock/water maze and after a moment they smiled at one another and hopped off, moving down to skim over the water again, avoiding the people as they went.
One boat they passed seemed like it was run by a whole family and for some reason the Notice-Me-Not spell didn't seem to work on the kids. There were three of them and all of them, ranging from a toddler up to a pre-teen boy, stared at the two flying women. Ororo noticed this and waved. Awestruck the children waved back and before they could shout and point the two women were gone around one of the larger karsts.
"So," she said as the two of them continued to explore, reaching out with one hand to Jean's hand as they moved along. "Now that you have had an official date with Harry what do you think? You skipped most of the date and went straight to what you are working on up in High Note earlier."
Jean shuddered a little as the memory of what her and Harry had done together on top of Mount Everest came to her. "It was beyond anything I had ever dreamed or hoped," she murmured. "There's just no comparison between Harry and Duncan in any way shape or form, I always got the impression that Duncan wanted to overpower me, even his kisses were like that. With Harry I don't get that impression. Yes he controls the kiss, but he doesn't…it isn't…"
"I understand Jean," Ororo said as her friend floundered. "Would you like to know something? I've known almost since the beginning that if we put in the effort Harry and I could be together for the rest of our lives. And ever since we have gotten together, that feeling has increased. I love him, I love him so much, our relationship has come to be one of the pillars of my world."
"And to a somewhat lesser extent you and I," she added looking over and Jean. "You are the sister I never really had. Oh," she waved her free hand, "my older sister is nice enough, but our age difference is a bit much, and by the time I was old enough to be of any interest to her we moved to Cairo and she was left behind to finish school. And," Ororo smirked wickedly as she reached out running her free hand up Jean's stomach and between her breasts up her neck to lift her chin. "I certainly don't want to do the things to her that I want to do to you."
Jean blushed hotly but took Ororo's questing hand and brought it to her lips kissing it before pulling the other woman into a kiss. Again it wasn't like kissing Harry. Ororo's lips were soft, feminine, and smaller, but just as sweet, and the feel of their breasts mashing together shot pleasurable sensations up and down her spine.
The kiss continued for some time, bet eventually Jean reluctantly pulled away and the two flew on moving through the bay still holding hands. "I get the same impression," she confessed. "It's like there's a connection between us. Did you know he actually let me into his mind again? I know he did it once when he was trying to teach me Occlumency, but this was different. It was like rather than doing it to teach me, I mean he had all these defenses up before. This time he didn't and he left me a back door! I could talk to him with my mind right now."
"And you are concerned of being unworthy of that trust, that love," Ororo said shrewdly, pulling the younger girl into another hug. This time however they were not actually standing up in the air, but rather laying out right above the water, and they continue to move slightly as she held Jean in a hug. "Jean, when Harry loves someone, he puts his all into it. He's pretty much like that throughout his life in all honesty. But one thing you need to know, is that Harry would not have opened up to you if he didn't think you were worthy of it. He may seem to trust easily, but he doesn't let people inside him, inside his final defenses unless he knows that they won't betray that trust. I trust you, Harry trusts you, trust yourself to not fall short of our expectations."
Jean looked at her, her heart and her eyes for a moment and then nodded leaning in to kiss her gently on the lips. She pulled back, and noticed that they were about to hit a dolomite. "Woops!" She laughed pushing them up into the air where both women righted themselves so that they were now standing up right and flew up over the rock face. "So on that note, how should we help and possibly reward our man?"
"My own thoughts had been running parallel to that one," Ororo replied. "The problem is that much of what we're doing at the moment relies on Harry's magic. I've already taken over as much as I can of the task of setting up our company as I can, and you've taken over as much of the redesign of Hogwarts as you can. At the moment for what our current projects are we're in a bit of a holding pattern unfortunately. Though if anything new comes up we should look into taking it off his shoulders. And no more crises," she added emphatically.
"Amen," Jean muttered. "We've got enough on our plate without other shit coming along."
After that the conversation turned to other things. About 30 minutes later they decided to land and simply look out around them for a time. Ororo leaned her head on Jean's shoulder for a moment, sighing happily as they looked down from their perch on one of the taller karsts watching the comings and goings of the fishermen/women/families, letting the peace of the scene fill her.
Jean turned her head, kissing Ororo on the forehead then the nose which caused her to giggle a moment and then found her lips met by Ororo. Unlike the kiss they had shared before, this was a little more needy, and Ororo deepened it quickly her arms going around Jean. Jean moaned into their kiss when Ororo's hand found a small spot on her lower through her suit which was particularly sensitive for some reason, and began to knead her through her suit there. She opened her mouth, tongue questing out for Ororo's.
The two girl's tongues met in Ororo's mouth, slimmer yet surprisingly not as dexterous as Harry's, yet the kiss was simply sweet and amazing, and both of them lost themselves to the feeling for a moment. Ororo eventually broke the kiss to move down to Jean's neck, kissing and sucking at the skin there murmuring, "Vanilla and cherry, interesting."
Jean laughed throatily, moving her own mouth down Ororo's neck in turn. "And you taste like chocolate and cinnamon."
They both pulled back and laughed a little, then slowly their eyes closed and they began to kiss again.
After a moment they pulled back and Jean simply laid out her head on Ororo's bosom sighing happily. They stayed there for a time, simply looking out and occasionally exchanging a kiss, then Ororo reluctantly stood up. "Come, it's time we got back."
Jean nodded a groaning agreement, and they both got to their feet and set off again through the air, once more holding hands.
When he went out to look for them, Harry was pleasantly surprised to find that the kids were indeed already dealing with the aftermath of their first real mission. He found Scott talking quietly to Evan underneath an umbrella out on the beach. The three local girls were in nowhere in sight, which was probably a good thing.
As he walked up Scott was saying "it's not like you don't have to feel guilt Evan, if you didn't feel guilt after you killed someone that would make you a monster. That guilt, that empathy for your fellow man is what separates us from people like, like that Sabertooth douchebag. Well, that and the fact that we only kill in self-defense, and the fact that we are fighting for a cause, the cause of coexistence with humanity rather than mutant supremacy or just to kill someone. If those Hand ninja hadn't come after us, we wouldn't have gone after them. Yes, killing is horrible, but if you want to be out in the field you have to realize that it's going to happen. You can fight against it, you can make certain it doesn't happen unless it really needs to, but in the end you'll have to kill to defend yourself and your teammates. Sometimes it's that simple, them or us, and I know I can trust you to protect my back."
"Evan sighed, running his hand through his spiked hair. "I know that, it's just did we have to kill all of them? I mean I know they didn't give us a choice of the time, but looking back on it couldn't we have just knocked them out or something?"
"Second-guessing yourself is sometimes a good thing," Scott said sternly. "But there are limits. Fact, they came after us. Fact, we went after them so that they couldn't come after us again after having learned of our abilities, making their second attack probably more effective. Fact, we saved two lives going after them, Shiang-Chi and Mr. Smith. Fact, all of those ninjas came at us with intent to kill. With all that said, we met only or second, possibly third life and death struggle and came through. I'm damn proud of how well we did. I'm damn proud of you, I'm damn proud of everyone else. You didn't flinch and you didn't hesitate once it began. That's as much as anyone can ask."
"I just wish that made me feel better. But you're right, I guess the reasons are what separates us from people like them." Evan sighed again, staring out over the ocean contemplatively.
Scott clapped him on the shoulder,. "Like I said, it doesn't have to be easy, in fact it really shouldn't. It's just something you have to do, to protect yourself and your teammates."
Evan nodded and after thanking Scott for the talk moved off, nodding agreeably to Harry. Harry stared down at Scott where he was still sitting and nodded himself. "A good pep talk, have you done that for any of the others?"
Scott shook his head. "Rogue went to the professor, I hope he's giving her the same general talk," he frowned a little, having hoped on some level she would come to him for help. "Maybe a bit more peacenik version, but hopefully it'll help her."
Harry understood why Scott had as it of misgivings about that, but in all actuality Charles had his head on screwed much better than someone like Dumbledore had. Charles understood the fact that sometimes lethal force was necessary, he didn't like it but he wasn't about to say it wasn't necessary against someone like the Hand.
Scott went on. "Kitty talked to Ororo last night, and I think Kurt found a church somewhere in town and went there yesterday. Whatever he was told I don't know, I'm not about to ask. Kurt's," he paused for a moment then went on, "Kurt's the only one among us who is very religious."
"Catholic right?" Harry asked.
"Oh yeah," here Scott smiled. "Very Catholic, very religious for some reason. Despite the fact that he, you know, looks sort of like the Christian version of a devil." He went on much more seriously. "I haven't teased him about that, and when Evan tried to when he first joined us I stepped on it hard. Even when I was, um, even when l had a stick up my ass I knew there were some lines you shouldn't cross."
"You're a good man Charlie Brown," Harry laughed a little reaching down and grabbing the younger man shoulders. "You did well too. You all did you're right about that, but I'd say you're ready for the big leagues now, Scott."
"So does that mean you're going to step away even further?"
"It means that you kids are your own team, and I'm not part of it," Harry said bluntly. "I'm not going to be around to lead you, and I'm not going to be watching 24/7 just in case you get in trouble. I'll still be around in case you get into magical related issues or in way over your heads, but I'm going to trust you guys to handle your own stuff like the adults you've proven to be. Don't hesitate to ask for my advice on any team members or anything like that, but out in the field you're going to be on your own. Frankly I'm so busy right now I probably shouldn't have even taken off these past few days, and I haven't even begun to do all the things I want to do."
"Putting together your own team?" Scott asked shrewdly.
"Pretty much," Harry nodded. "I haven't put it together yet, and our purview won't be just protecting and defending humanity from mutants and vice versa. Our remit is going to be quite a bit larger than that."
Scott nodded, but didn't even think of asking if he and the others could join up. For one thing, he somehow knew that Harry would refuse, and for another Scott knew they'd be busy enough as it was. He'd caught a bit of the news on the television, and the mutant issue was continuing to heat up back in America.
In point of fact they'd probably be sent out on missions to protect their mutant brethren almost as soon as they got back. There had been several ugly riots, and the Friends of Humanity had lynched one mutant in Boise, Idaho. The fact that he had been a barely preteen boy and his only mutation was having bug eyes rather than normal human ones hadn't seemed to bother them at all. There was an upsweep of pro-mutant support after that, but not nearly enough to offset the building wave of fear and hatred. Harry on the other hand seemed certain that he and his team were going to be dealing with other issues almost as much as that one, and Scott wondered if they were able to handle everything in America would Harry be able to handle everything else?
That was a question for the future however right now he wanted to ask some advice from the only adult male who he wouldn't be utterly embarrassed about asking for said. "Actually, can I ask you some advice now? It's about relationships."
"Oh dear," Harry muttered looking away and scratching his chin thoughtfully. "You can ask; I'm not certain how much I'm going to be able to help you."
"Well, I probably don't have to tell you, but I'm sort of developing an interest in Rogue. But, she's on the team, and I don't want to play favorites or anything like that. Worse what happens if we break up? That might ruin our ability to work together."
Harry actually smiled at that. "Ah, yes the age old question of relationships in the work place. Some places would tell you that kind of thing is death on unit cohesion, but I never noticed that. I dated two girls, not at once no," he answered the question he could see building in Scott's face. "But one after another. It never bothered any of us. I would say it makes you a little worried about someone but as a leader you have to treat all the people you lead equally."
Scott nodded agreement at that and Harry went on. "Just make certain to keep any romantic moments to yourselves. You don't want to rub it in anyone's face. But as to your second point yes, breakups can be ugly, but if it is mutual and you were friends first you can generally talk it out and move on. Simply keep your head up and make certain you both go into this relationship with your eyes open about the troubles you can run into, and I think you'll be fine. That's all I can tell you."
"Not as helpful as I hoped but thanks anyway Harry, I think I'll talk to Rogue when we get back. When are we leaving by the way?"
"As soon as I can round up the rest of you lot and Ororo and Jean come back. You know where Shiang-Chi and Dennis are?"
"I think they were out in the hotel's lobby. Shiang-Chi is reading some book last I saw him, and Mr. Smith was signing up for a massage or something."
Harry nodded, and with a last clap on the shoulder left Scott to find the two ex-prisoners. Dennis was in fact sitting talking philosophy with Charles, who had finished speaking to Rogue, having helped the girl through her issues with fighting the Hand. All of the teens bar Scott would still have problems with what had occurred, nightmares, insomnia, a bad reaction when they went back to training, but nothing truly major.
Harry told the two older men they would be leaving soon, and then found Shiang-Chi in the lobby. Killing two birds with one stone he decided to check them out, informing the front desk that they would still be using the bungalows for a time as a meeting place.
By the time he was back Jean and Ororo had returned along with all the teens, even Logan was there, staring at the two girls coming in holding hands, shaking his head and muttering something under his breath. It sounded like 'lucky bastard,' which, looking at his two ladies was something Harry could wholeheartedly agree with.
Ororo and Jean smiled at him, moving to either side and leaning in to kiss either of his cheeks. This caused Kurt, Evan, Rogue, Charles and the newcomers look at the trio in shock. Kurt and Rogue in particular looked troubled. Kurt was a staunch Catholic, and the idea of a polygamist relationship went against his religious beliefs. Rogue was a little better. She had been raised by Mystique in the deep South, so had an odd my of casual indifference and southern values when looking at relationships.
Neither Harry nor his ladies were willing to give them an explanation about their relationship however. Harry merely blushed very slightly and looked around at them all, pulling out the hoop he had made into a portkey again. "Everyone ready to go?"
Reluctantly everyone reached forward to grab on, and a moment later they disappeared from the bungalow and Vietnam.
Sebastian Shaw leaned back, listening to the music of Phantom of the Opera sans voice, one hand holding a Cohiba Esplendido, one of the best, and most expensive cigar brands in the world while he sat on a plush chair in his mansion's sitting room, his eyes closed for a moment as he thought about his next move. Before him were several reports from different sources, including one that had a picture on it.
The attack on Emma did not go nearly as well as I could have hoped, but it gave me another clue as to what she can do with her power. Two of them actually going by this autopsy of the mystery shooter, hah, a brain aneurysm, please. Though her younger sister didn't exhibit any kind of power. Ah well, she's young yet, mutants usually activate their powers between 12 and 20, so she has a few more years to prove herself a member of our superior race. And thanks to Empath there is no way anyone could trace this back to me. His manipulation of Hildebrandt's second in command was a master stroke, and the man himself took care of everything else.
With any luck she will come to me now to bolster her security team if nothing else, and I won't even ask for much in return. Not right away, right now I have more important things to do than break one uppity bitch to heel. Still, eventually Emma will be brought under my power, and with her at my side I can supplant Buckman, kill Peirce and suborn the entirety of the Hellfire Club both here in America and abroad. Britain will fall first of course, they have no one worthy of being even a bishop anymore, and will welcome us with open arms. And with the money and power of Hellfire behind me, my Hellions and my own abilities and resources we can begin to take our place on top of the world.
One of the papers in front of him was a handwritten letter from his former lover, informing him she was not going to be coming back to America or him ever again, that she had sought to mitigate the darkness within him she could see, and had failed but had no desire to remain by his side forced to watch his descent. Sebastian had ignored everything but the fact she was breaking up with him, that was the only part that truly mattered, and he had sent out an order to a team of assassins to kill her for that effrontery. There had been no love between them of course, at least not from his end, but no one was allowed to break away from him without consequences.
But this… this is much more important, and rather disturbing. His hand gently rested on the report with the picture, and he grimaced. Bolivar Trask, I remember him, cleared of some war crimes after the Korean War. His view on mutants is well known, but what does he have to do with this Sentinel Program, and what is it? I must find out more. Empath and Emma have come up blank on it, but something tells me this is important. Maybe… maybe I should open up some talks about this with Edward. Get a in at the top as it were? Or perhaps I should simply have Trask kidnapped and questioned. No, that's too overt at the moment. Hmm….
Almost the moment they appeared again in the garage Logan and Harry at least knew something was up. Everyone else realized the same thing least the moment after they got over their portkey sickness again. Shiang Chi and Dennis of course had it worse. Dennis collapsed face first into the garage floor, clutching his stomach for a moment utterly out of it while Shiang Chi merely buckled to his knees, his hands around his own stomach.
Even in the garage there was the stench of smoke and with the door open they could hear the murmur of voices. Scott moved forward his eyes already glowing slightly behind his sun glasses, while the others prepared themselves.
Logan sniffed the air scowling. "I smell gun smoke and other things. One scent I recognize, I think it's that Alvers punk." At that Kitty blinked in surprise wondering what the heck her boyfriend was doing here. "Two others, don't know either of them, there's a lot of gun-smoke, a lot of blood in the air, something familiar about it…"
Charles frowned faintly. "I can sense three individuals as well, Mr. Alvers is here along with another man I think I've felt in the area a time or two, but the third is unknown to me and has some very good mental defenses. I could however easily read Lance or the other one's mind, but rather than resort to that let's just see why they're here shall we? I don't sense any anger or violence about them at present."
"Keep your eyes open though," Scott said warningly. "Maybe they've found some way to hide their intentions from telepaths or something."
Logan growled and, ignoring Cyclops' hissed warning, made his way out of the garage and into the mansion.
Harry nodded at Dennis and Shiang-Chi. You two wait here until you're ready to move."
Harry and Ororo shared a glance looking to Jean who shrugged and sent "I can't feel anyone else either. If they're hiding from Xavier they can certainly hide from me unfortunately." She frowned a little, "I've been deliberately trying to move away from my telepathic power because I pick up so many emotions when I use it, but I think I need to start working with it some more." She actually enjoyed sending to Ororo and Harry because of that. The only feelings she got from them when she connected to their minds was a feeling of love for her and one another. It was extremely soothing and empowering as well.
Harry shrugged. "The Room of requirement is almost finished Jean, you can work in there on it if you like. Don't know enough about how telepathy works and how it's different from Legillimency to help you though, sorry."
"Nor I," sent Ororo taking her hand as the trio followed the others inside. "This is one problem I'm afraid you'll have to solve on your own Jean."
"No worries," she said snuggling into Harry's shoulder for a moment as she squeezed Ororo's hand before they crossed the threshold between the garage and the rest of the mansion. "I can handle it."
"I have no doubt of that," both of them sent at the same time, causing all three to laugh quietly.
They caught up quickly with the others to see a bald black man with an eye-patch sitting down on the sofa with Wolverine staring down at him, his claws out. "Seriously Logan, is that any way to greet an old friend?" The man said raising one finger to tap gently on the claws.
Lance, who was standing by the entranceway between the sitting area and the hallway, coughed uncomfortably, feeling Kitty's eyes on him. "Um guys this is Clint he's sort of my new guardian I guess." Lance gestured to another man in the back leaning against the wall, with short cropped blonde hair and a narrow-eyed expression that was latched onto Logan at the moment.
Harry recognized him as the man who had been observing the mansion during the Juggernaut assault whose memories Harry had obliviated. He was curious however how Lance and this Clint man had met.
The younger man went on a little more cautiously. "Um, and the man sitting on the sofa is Nick Fury, director of SHIELD and Clint's boss. It's a sort of super spy agency, they apparently are supposed to deal with super-powered threats and the like."
"Bullshit!" Logan growled popping the claws of his other hand. "I know Nick Fury bub, and you ain't him. Too young by half, and Fury was white."
"You remember that time in Istanbul? Something about the beer there got through your healing factor, and you kept on getting drunk while we were searching the bars and night clubs for our target. The same German spy kept on seducing you, three times in a single week and each time she tried a different way to kill you in your sleep after the two of you were done."
Logan coughed a little embarrassed. Something they added to their beer in Istanbul got through his healing and that German gal had been one hot firecracker from what little he could remember. The beer actually getting to him though, that he remembered clearly even through the haze Weapon X had made of his memories.
Logan shook his head "All right he is who he says he is, though why the hell he's got a whole new body I don't know. There was no one else with us then and it ain't important enough for anyone impersonatin' Nick ta bother remembering even if they were a telepath. I also know for damn sure Nick wouldn't have put that in his official report about that little debacle, after all," he glared down at the man "I wasn't the only one who fucked up during that assignment was I?"
"Not going to argue with you there," the older man said sighing a little. "I made my fair share of screw ups, but that was more embarrassing than most." Not only had the two of them been going after the wrong target, but the actual target hadn't even been in Istanbul at all. The man they were after was supposed to be a diplomat who was trying to convince Turkey to join the war on the Axis's side right after the assault on Pearl Harbor. Luckily Turkey's leaders were far too cagy to actually join up.
Harry frowned. "Well then, why don't you explain why you're here and what happened here."
"I'm here to talk to you Potter," the old man said looking at him. "And as for what happened to your house, I didn't do it. I tried to stop the two people breaking in, just luck I was here at all frankly. But even with me trying to stop them, whatever they were here for they got I think. Some kind of helmet and something else? Anything you want to share Professor Xavier?"
"No, not really. I fear however that we need to see what the damage is." He looked over at Lance and a gentle probe told him that the young man had arrived on the scene to find Nick busy preforming emergency first aid on himself, and since then it had only been about thirty minutes, so none of them had the chance to try and get downstairs. "If you will excuse us, I believe that we need to do a survey of the house, see what was taken, and how much was damaged."
"Head upstairs for now and busy yourselves, I don't want this man to know any more about our operations than is needful, and his mental defenses are such that it will take me some time to get through them subtly." Charles sent, and the X-men turned away making their way through the first and second floors of the mansion save for Kitty and Scott. Scott went back and showed Shiang-Chi and Dennis up to the solarium, while Kitty looked a question at Lance.
Lance frowned, looking at Clint who nodded his head, a very lopsided smile on his face. Lance groaned a little, foreseeing much teasing in his future, then pushed off the wall and moved over to Kitty and the two of them walked off to talk. Logan joined Clint at the far wall, nodding to him before going back to staring at Nick Fury, still trying to figure out why Fury seemed to have an entirely new body, and if so, why he still had an eye-patch.
Harry sat down across from Nick, while Ororo and Jean took up position on the wall behind him. "So, what brings the director of SHIELD all the way out here?"
"Like I said, you" the older man replied bluntly leaning back slightly and bringing a cup of coffee to his lips. "It took us a while to get a handle on your powers Mr. Wizard, and even longer for that to reach someone who actually believed in the occult. That process was helped along when that thing in London happened, and then you did something to one of my agents. I don't like that," he said his eyes narrowing "I don't like that at all, and I'm wondering if you're friend or foe. At the moment I just can't tell. So what's your game Potter?"
"I could've made it permanent you know," Harry said mildly, not reacting at all to the other man's commanding tone. "I just wanted her to not remember my face, or any of my powers or the powers of my associates. I didn't erase her mind or shatter it as I could have, and seeing as I have a distrust of those who try to hide in the shadows when they have no need to, you should be thankful. As for my game," Harry shrugged "my intentions are to change the world. Not just for myself, not putting myself on top like so many others seem to want to do. Though I have to wonder why they wish to? Surely the paperwork alone would make that job rather joyless wouldn't it?"
Ororo and Jean chuckled a little though the older adults all simply stared at him shaking their heads.
"Tough room," Harry muttered, but went on more seriously leaning forward, his green eyes intent and latching onto Nick's single brown one. "I want to change the world to make it a better place for all humanity, not just homo sapiens or homo superior or whatever you call them though I frankly think it's a rather stupid distinction. And I dislike the idea of any belief or concept that tries to paint an entire group with a single brush. I will protect humans and mutants from one another, at the moment that is all you need to know."
"Wrong," answered Fury grimly. "How are you going to go about that? What means are you going to use to achieve those goals, how are you going to go about changing the world as you put it?"
"You'll see in a few weeks," Harry replied blandly, his face giving away nothing.
"My job as director of SHIELD is to protect the world from interior threats of all shapes and sizes. At the moment I can't tell if you're a threat or not. Give me enough information to make that decision in your favor or I'll just have to make it on my own."
"That's up to you," Harry said shrugging. "I'm not your enemy Director Fury, but nor do I think you truly understand or have fully embraced that remit of yours. If you did I would possibly call you ally, as it is… no. How much of your funding comes from other countries? How much of your manpower is devoted to the 'traditional' enemies of America shall we say? America hasn't taken a stand one way or another yet about the mutant issue, but I can see which way the wind is blowing, and I find it depressing that the so-called 'land of the free' seems to think that only matters to people of the 'right sort'. I find it deeply disturbing that gay or black people don't seem to see the connection either, I understand the fear but ignorance?"
"So you're saying you're entirely focused on this mutant issue?" Nick said skeptically, "Bull shit, you're a big thinker Potter, I can see that, what's your long game?"
"None of your business. Nick," Harry said sighing. "I'm not your enemy, I'm not even thinking of doing anything that could seriously harm American interests, or the rights of the individual. I'm thinking of defending a minority group and stopping said minority group from lashing out, what's so wrong with that? I'm only your enemy if you make me your enemy." His eyes hard and noticeably, and he stared at Nick grimly. "You don't want that."
"Is that a threat?" Nick growled back. "I don't take kindly to threats."
"Not a threat," said Harry softly, "A promise. You have no idea at all how powerful I am, how much of threat I could be. Nor do you ever wish to find out. The fact that even America doesn't publicly acknowledge the existence of your agency, the fact that you are spending so much time on people who aren't a threat like the FF bothers the hell out of me."
Harry had recognized Natasha in London and had put two and two together and was most displeased when he realized someone was watching the FF for some reason, despite the fact they had proved themselves so often. "Get your own house in in order before you go looking for more trouble Fury."
Nick scowled but couldn't argue the point. It was true that most of SHIELD's manpower was taken up by things that he felt they didn't need to be handling themselves, and it was also true that the committee members were a little too interested in keeping their identities secret (though of course he knew who they were) for his own peace of mind, and why they wanted to keep such secrets was a mystery to him as well. Their priorities were also bothering him more as time went on.
He sighed leaning back then said bluntly, "I don't like it. I don't like having someone with power likes yours running around loose with no ties to anyone else, Potter. Eventually when you come out into the open Potter you'll be a target for every group out there if you don't ally with someone else, and when that happens what will you do?"
Harry smiled thinly. "As I said, you have no idea about what I can do, what resources I can call upon. If I am challenged I will respond in kind." The phrase 'keep that in mind' hovered between them unspoken.
The fact of the matter was Nick Fury and Harry Potter were simply too different to get along amicably. Nick worked in the shadows to protect the status quo, and followed orders (most of the time), and was willing to work within the system if he could. He was also preternaturally suspicious, especially of super-powered individuals. And tended to look at the big picture rather than the individual.
Harry had never worked within the system save for asking the British government in his old dimension for aid, and really didn't see the point. He was unwilling to follow anyone else's orders, and his trust in governments and government agencies, while slightly more than it had been at one point, was still hovering around zero, which had grown to include SHIELD once he realized Natasha was keeping tabs on the FF. And while Harry was capable of working in the shadows, he detested the necessity, and tended to live his life by the phrase 'small pictures all together make big pictures'.
Nick's one good eye remained locked on Harry's face for a moment, not at all happy at how this had gone, but lacking a big enough stick to make the conversation go his way. After a moment he stood up, deciding to give up on this for now. "Alright Potter, just remember we'll be watching you." I definitely need to get a supernatural consultant, have to figure out a real appraisal of Potter's powers. The question is, where do I find someone like that, make certain he is trustworthy, and hide the reasons for the new hire in our books somehow?
Harry smirked but did not reply to the rather transparent and somewhat amusing threat.
Logan moved forward. "I'll walk ya out Nick, and you can explain why the hell you've got a new body."
Nick chuckled and filled his old comrade in on what had happened to his old body, as well as how he had found himself in his new one. As they reached his SUV still parked outside the garage doors, Nick stopped walking to look at Logan. "Logan I gotta say this bluntly, did you ever have a daughter?"
"What the hell, where did that come from?" Logan gaped at him.
Nick frowned. "One of the girls that attacked this place while you lot were gone… she had claws like yours, only two of them on each hand. She looked, she looked a bit like you. She fought like you too, in your of your berserk rages anyway. She had your healing power too, and her bones were coated with adamantium." Nick reached down to his pocket and pulled out the hilt of his knife. "This was a titanium knife, and she slice through it like a hot knife through butter. And she was good real good."
Logan's face showed shock, and he wondered if that was the smell that had seemed so strangely familiar to him. That makes a lot of sense really, but what am I going to do about it? I know my memories are fucked up, but there's no way I could have a daughter and not know about it could I? "What about the other one?"
"An assassin out of South Africa named Fatale. Powers include teleportation, limits unknown put postulated at only being able to teleport to someplace she has already been and invisibility, though how she produces that effect is also unknown. Light black skin, spiky short cropped light blue hair. Wanted for several murders in Africa, Europe, two in China, this was the first time she was seen in America though."
Logan frowned then nodded. "Thanks fer telling me about this Nick, I got no idea where the girl could have come from, but I'll figure it out." If I've got a kid out there I want to meet her, figure out who her mother was, and how the hell she got adamantium on her bones! If anyone from the old Weapon X program was involved I will fucking skin them alive!
Nick pretty much knew what Logan was thinking, and wished the man success in his venture. Of course he could also be used as a stalking horse to figure out who the hell those two had been working for, and if he wasn't here the X-men would lack mature leadership, which might make them at the very least easier to spy on. Nick sometimes hated thinking like that, but after so long it was second nature. "No worries, I owed you a few anyway. I'll see you round old man."
Logan barked a laugh and watched as Nick got in his car, with Clint, and a happier looking Lance following. The punk actually still had some of Kitty's lipstick on his check and Logan smirked knowingly at him causing Lance to look away quickly.
After waving the trio off Logan returned to the group, which had congregated around the elevator down to the basement. Harry had made profligate use of the Reparo spell, but there was still some evidence a fight had occurred here.
The X-Men were exchanging worried glances and Charles was frowning unhappily as they stared at the elevator. "How did they know we weren't here?"
"And how did they get past my wards?" Harry said thoughtfully activating his mage sight. He scowled angrily and cursed himself roundly. "Damn it Harry you're not an amateur, you can't make mistakes like that."
The others looked at him and he said unhappily, "I only tied one ward to the house itself, a low powered Notice-Me-Not just to keep prying and inquisitive eyes away, both of the other wards are intent based on causing harm to the people here, with no people here they won't do anything. Unfortunately I guess the first doesn't work very well on people who have mental defenses, or maybe it just became too weak to do anything, at least that's what I'm seeing. I haven't been here long enough for it or the other two to take power off me and none of you have a magical core it can feed off of. All of them are so low on power it's amazing they're still up at all."
Or is it? he thought, looking over at Ororo for a second. She's been here longer than I have the past few weeks, especially around the time when they were studying for their finals. But the spell I put on her and Jean both lasted the same amount of time? I can't get her hopes up if it's not true…
He turned back to the conversation shrugging apologetically. "Sorry, this is my fault entirely."
"No it isn't," Charles sighed. "I had been intending for a while to upgrade the mansion's exterior defenses the summer. It looks as if I delayed it too long."
I'm also concerned about how they were able to watch the house without me knowing Charles thought to himself. Seems as if I've been missing quite a lot lately, I need to think about that. I can't keep making mistakes like this.
Logan grunted, "I think we've all been taking our security a little too much for granted here. We shouldn't've been relying solely on your spells Potter."
Harry shrugged, looking up from where he had been using a Reparo spell on the elevators controls. "In any case, I'll redo them before I leave today, and if someone reminds me I'll do the same thing whenever I stop by. For now however, let's go down and see the damage."
The damage, it turned out, was quite extensive, though Harry's spells made most of it right, he couldn't fix everything, the more electronic the thing he repaired, the worse his spell worked.
Jean popped open the newly repaired front panel of Cerebro and stuck her head inside for a second before backing out, scowling. "Everything in here is shorted out, and its missing parts. Sorry Harry, but your spell seems to have met its match here."
Harry frowned looking at where the helmet that Charles used to augment Cerebro should have hung. "I can't repair something if its parts aren't all here. So, what exactly did they get away with?"
Jean and Charles exchanged a look then Jean shrugged. "I would assume they got a copy of the programming, the blueprints for the system and of course the telepathic amplifier/converter. On the other hand, the program and the blueprints are the same ones that I mentioned just aren't very good. I think they could easily solve the mechanical issues, but not the programming ones. That will take them years to refine down to something that can match having a telepath of Charles' caliber."
"So not good, but not the end of the world." Harry exchanged a glance with Ororo and Jean who both nodded, understanding that his own magic-based system would hopefully work far better than Cerebro did at the moment.
Charles frowned. "I will call the friend who designed this for me, maybe he can help us upgrade it in the future."
With that the group broke up slowly. Jean stayed there for a moment to write up a list of missing parts to leave with the X-men, while Harry went up to her room and had a few house-elves take her stuff up to High Note, where Harry and Jean would set up another room for her like she already had in Hogwarts. Ororo also called on house-elf assistance to grab her own furniture.
Scott and Logan went to see if the security computer had been able to record anything about the attackers, and Evan and Kurt went up to grab some food, while Rogue went out for a drive.
While they were doing this Kitty, after talking to Lance for a time and clearing the air between them had made a beeline for the phone. She had not forgotten Harry's offer of a summertime job, and if her boyfriend wasn't going to be around she wouldn't have much else to do, though she was also thinking about talking to her parents about something else. She was on the phone for about 30 minutes, and by the time she was done Harry and his ladies were ready to go. She bolted towards them a wide grin on her face. "My parents want to talk to you and Storm in person, get a feel for where I'll be working, but they're all right with me getting a job guys!"
"Excellent Kitten," Ororo replied enthusiastically letting out a bit of air as the younger girl hugged her exuberantly, which Ororo returned.
Harry watched the two of them, his eyes strangely calculating for a moment though there was a hint of humor in it as well. "That is good news," he said, reaching out and ruffling the bushy-haired girl's head. "I'll work up a contract then send your parents a copy. Did they tell you their fax number or something?"
Kitty gave him the fax number and after that another round of farewells the trio was ready to go. They picked up Shiang Chi and Dennis, who had remained up in the solarium, and all five of them were teleported back by Cory straight into Hogwarts in the dining hall.
Dennis looked around him pleasantly surprised. "A most fascinating domicile Mr. Potter, I take it this is going to be the head of our operations?"
"For now, I might separate the security division for a bit after we get the actual company situated, but we'll see. Dennis, get me a list of names you might want me to higher and I'll go over them, but I'll warn you, I will want to meet them in person first. And Shiang Chi, the training area isn't ready just yet, but if you can get me a list of items and training gear and stuff like that you'd want for a team of around ten or so for training purposes I'll have one of the house elves pick them up."
"How do your little servants pay for things?" Shiang Chi asked.
When Harry repeated the question one of the older elves popped in at that question, and replied quickly. "We leave the money in the cash register Master."
"That works." The older man nodded. He looked around the interior of the ancient seeming Castle, though it was still somehow buzzing with life, wondering what the two of them had gotten themselves into, and decided, somewhat surprisingly that he was looking forward to finding out.
After that Harry had one of the elves show the two up to one of the rooms on the sixth floor which was being made into the teacher's suites, and the others decided to spend a few hours with Melody before getting used to the time zone again.
Given the time difference between Vietnam and New York, most of the team decided to head to bed once they finished, since it was three o'clock in the morning here and they wanted to get back to the local timeframe.
The next morning most of the kids decided to head off and do their own thing , it was the first week of their summer and they wanted to enjoy not having school. Scott would have joined them but felt the professor's voice in his head asking him to join Logan and Xavier in the professor's office as he walked into the garage. With a sigh Scott turned around, amused to note that Rogue was already gone, having taken Logan's jeep yet again. Soon he was standing in front of the open door. "You wanted to see me sir?"
"Yes Scott, come in," Charles said nodding his head. He waited until the young and did so, waving him into a seat. After he did, Charles asked, "Did you happen to overhear the conversation that Logan had with Mr. Fury before he left?"
Scott shook his head "No sir, I lead Mr. Smith and Shiang-Chi upstairs while Fury was talking with Harry, and then stayed up there with them. Why?"
"I got this Chuck," Logan said raising a hand and staring down at the younger man from where he was leaning against the front of the desk. There'd been a sort of tension between the two of them since the Hand incident whenever they were around one another. Scott had taken charge and led the X-Men efficiently and well during both the initial attack and their own response, but he had also given orders to Logan and Logan wasn't very happy about that. Not only was he more used to being a loner, not taking orders from anyone but his superiors back home, but he didn't like taking orders from someone so much younger than him. Still, that was about to be a non-issue. "Something came up in that attack" he stated bluntly. "Turns out that one of the attackers Fury dealt with might be somehow related to me."
"Related how sir?" Scott asked coolly.
"Related like she might be my daughter," Logan growled.
Scott blanched a little at the idea of a woman with Logan's face but shook off the image quickly. "That's … Given your surprise I take it you didn't know about this Sir?"
"Damn right I didn't," Logan muttered. "I thought I'd been pretty careful with every girl I'd been with." He chuckled evilly at the younger boy's blushed. "Damn kid you're going to have to get used to talking about fuckin' eventually, or you'll die a virgin."
Scott resolutely turned from looking at Logan to the professor. "What does this have to do with me sir?"
"I'm leaving," Logan said simply. "I'm going to stay here for a few days, see if I can figure out anything about the identity of the girl, and then I'm going to start hunting up clues. I'll stop in here sometime, but you'll be the one leading the team from now on."
"Both in the field and in training?" Scott asked.
"That is the point of this meeting Scott," Charles said, hiding his sadness at the necessity with ease. He wasn't about to say that Logan couldn't go off on his own of course, but he had hoped the man would at least agree to stay until they could get another person in to help the kids train. Of course where he would come up with someone like that outside of Harry and Ororo that he trusted Charles had no idea at the moment. "Do you think you're up to it?"
Scott nodded slowly, thoughtfully. 'I can do that I think. Though, I'll need one of the others to help me in at least an advisory role when the new students get here this summer. Do you have a specific ETA on that sir?"
"Late July actually. I'll be heading out on meetings almost every week to make certain about that, but yes most of them have already said yes and one or two unfortunately don't have a choice given their backgrounds, all that's left is the haggling so to speak about other issues. As a teacher you will have access to their backgrounds, but I hope that I don't have to tell you that I want you to make your own impressions about them without bias. And who do you think you will tap to be your assistant?" Charles replied,
Charles had noticed that Scott was interested in Rogue and vice versa, and he wondered if Scott would once more follow his heart, or if he could keep his budding relationship separate from the team.
Scott however had a very good idea of his team and their personalities. "I think I'd use Kurt sir. He's got a lot of flexibility and his personality is a good contrast to my own. And don't worry sir, none of us will act biased to the new students regardless of background or experience," Scott replied crisply. "But I have a question. What if your search puts you up against Magneto, Logan?"
Logan shrugged. "I'll figure something out myself kid, don't worry about that. I've been at this game a long time, and even with my memories scrambled I'll be able to handle myself."
"And how goes the search for a new language teacher sir?"
"I've contacted three of the ones Ororo and I agreed could handle things here, but only one of them has expressed interest, and I'll be meeting with her in a week. Even if she accepts she won't live with us here however, which is something unavoidable."
Scott nodded, and figured that since he was already 18, and Rogue was going to turn 18 along with Evan soon that the adults had decided that they too are adults so didn't need a semi-official minder outside of Charles himself. Even so long as a month ago that would've made him smile in triumph, now he simply accepted it moved on. "And um," he said a little more embarrassed, "Er, what about a live-in cook? Or something… he trailed off then came back a little stronger yet still embarrassed. "You know none of us can cook sir."
Logan and the professor shared a chuckle. "We've gotten some help there. Harry has decided that as long as Kitty, who he terms as his apprentice is here that he'll have a house elf looking after us. They won't be around all the time of course, none of us have a magical core that they can 'feed' off of I believe is the term, but they will at least make certain that there is always food at mealtimes."
Scott breathed a sigh of relief at that. He had not been looking forward to trying his own hand at cooking, and the less said about everyone else's attempts other than Kitty's at cookies the better. How Rogue had been able to burn soup he didn't know, but he seriously didn't want to see what Kitty and Evan could come up with again. The thing they had created was supposed to be chicken Parmesan, but it looked more like an escaped lab experiment.
"Will you still lead the exercises while you're here Logan?" he asked "Or am I taking those over immediately?"
"Immediately kid, I'll be too busy and I want to leave in a few days anyway. I'll check in on ya of course, see what you're doing wrong, but you're on your own for now."
Scott nodded, keeping his irritation at the other man's tone hidden. "Is that all professor?"
With that the meeting broke up, and Charles turned his attention to Logan. "While I am happy with Scott's progress and with his leadership of the team of course, I hope that you could stay on here a few days longer before taking up this search. Still I won't stop you, and I can even give you a place to start. There is a house next to our property abutting the back of it. Our neighbors have memories of the two that had lived there and…"
Over the next week the trio worked on various projects both together and separate. Ororo handled going through the dossiers for prospective employees that their personal director had compiled and the list Dennis made covering his contacts around the world and for the actual security division. She did however have to step on several of his ideas rather promptly, limiting the list in scope. Contacts and analysts and computer experts were one thing, but they wouldn't actually need security guards or agents. Security, both physical and other (which covered a rather wide gamut) would be provided in other ways.
She also went over the first few choices she had compiled for teachers for the school, as well as one position which she designated den mother. This was going to obviously be a boarding school, and one of the issues with boarding schools was that their parents were not there obviously. Having someone who wasn't a teacher but was an adult figure of either gender around to handle problems and provide a ready ear for any non-school related issued that popped up was a good idea, one that Harry and Jean both approved of. "You sort of became the den mother at the Institute Ororo," Jean had said when she mentioned it. "But with all the other hats you're wearing already I can see why having someone dedicated to that task would be a good move."
Ororo was also practicing with her own mutant power outside on the lake and in the air above Hogwarts. She had a few ideas of new ways to use it and she wanted to see if some of them panned out like the focused tornado sphere had.
While she was doing that, Harry and Jean finished the redesign of Hogwarts and Jean led the elves in putting in the actual wiring both for electronics, Wi-Fi and everything else. Despite making time every evening to be with the others during dinner time that task consumed her days almost to the exclusion of all else, and what little other time she had she spent on another little project she was working on, something she refused to share with the other two, calling it payback.
While she was doing that, Harry finally finished his work on the Room of Requirement, and after going over what it could do with everyone else he devoted an entire day off for training himself.
After imagining what he wanted to face Harry moved inside, and almost immediately died under the spells thrown his way from a doppelganger the room had created to face him using, as Harry had phrased it, all his power and knowledge. "Holy bleeding fuck!" Harry shouted, dodging to one side as a stream of something white zoomed past him.
Before he could set himself dozens of spells were heading his way, and Harry yelped, dodging and shielding frantically. Even the shield Sciath na BhFéadfadh, the most powerful shield he could call upon, only bought him a few seconds before collapsing, and Harry frantically began to cast spells back at his doppelganger, who sneered and waved a hand destroying most of them before they reached him and easily dodging the others, returning fire.
Ten minutes later Harry was staring down up at his doppelganger who merely stood there after Harry went down. The spells they had thrown back and forth had been insane. Harry found himself back on his heels the entire fight, taking hits from spells Harry knew were in his repertoire but had only rarely used. Facing a person with as much power and knowledge as himself was a definite wake up call, and sobering in the extreme. The landscape around him was also shattered and boiling and in some places simply gone, like reality had warped and shattered and Harry shuddered. "Alright, so that's what I can do I guess if I take all the stops off. Fine. So, let's do three rounds of that, I doubt I'll be pushed that far for a while, but it could help me prepare to face the Celestials and other similar threats. That Galactus fellow the FF dealt with in particular concerns me."
An instant later the doppelgänger appeared across from him and the next round began. Harry lost three more times before he finally got a hang of his magical strength and the spells he could throw out.
"That actually makes sense," Harry murmured after sneaking in a nasty flesh to acid curse in under the barrage of area effect spells. "After all, outside of Selene, Magneto, and the Juggernaut I haven't run into anything that demanded my all,
"All right," he said shaking his head while around him various targets appeared and the setting changed to that of a barren desert environment. Let's do some more experiments here."
Over the remainder of that day and well into the night Harry worked on, and eventually realized a few things about his power level. One, it was huge. Harry realized that the spell to gauge his power didn't tell him enough so turned to other means. The easiest test to measure a wizard's power was to create the most complex and strange thing he could, then see how long it would take his conjuration to disappear. Harry's didn't disappear. He created it at the beginning of the day, a huge rose created from several different metals and complex substances, and not a bit of it had wavered or disappeared. It sat there, it's very existence a massive finger at the laws of Conservation of Energy throughout the day, and would still be there two weeks later when he next used the RoR in this format.
Harry tried all of his high-end spells, trying to exhaust himself really, throwing all the spells he could around save for his Bloody Insane spells, which he would never be able to actually practice, not even in a room as heavily warded as the RoR was. The results were… sobering, and he began to feel like that genie from that Aladdin movie. "infinite cosmic power," Harry murmured, hovering in what felt like space as he looked down at what had once been a world (thankfully completely created by the magic of the room) which now was simply a large number of bits and pieces spiraling away. "Itty-Bitty living space."
However he was able to learn how to limit himself just as much as he learned how to pull up his full power, and had found out how to call upon pure magic without even the use of nonverbal spell or any kind of gesture. That alone made the day an excellent use of his time, and he exited the room quite a bit more tired than he normally was, and he fell asleep quickly.
The next day Harry called Wyatt where he was still staying with the FF.
"Hello Harry, how are you doing? What can I do for you?" Wyatt said, the first one to answer the phone for some reason.
"You mentioned a friend who had a daughter or niece was it? Who they wanted to enroll someplace where she could learn how to use her powers?"
"Yes I did, are you ready to go forward with that?"
"I'm ready to meet with her and her parents, we won't be set up for an actual school here just yet until we get in a few teachers of course, but I do have the space available to start training her"
"That is a relief," Wyatt said rubbing his forehead. "There's been another incident with her powers, and with all the fervor going on about that murdered boy in Boise the family's anxious to get her someplace safe. Not that taking her would be any easy task for the 'Friends of Humanity," the normally even tempered Native American scoffed nearly spitting the words. "They have no friends among the Cherokee, they would find it very hard indeed to get a hand on her."
Harry nodded grim agreement, and hoped that the X-Men were up to the task of protecting defenseless mutants from the so called Friends of Humanity and other threats. He wasn't certain how they were going to go about that, but the heat being directed at harmless mutants like that boy and others whose mutations were merely physical and didn't actually add anything to their abilities was horrifying. It also made what he continued to think of as the 'Israeli Initiative' look better and better.
And with that in mind I think that gathering some more resources would be a good idea he thought remembering that he was getting close to the bottom of his ready cash supply. He had run out of gold a month ago, but the amount he'd turned into cash in various ways would see them through the rest of this month and the next at the very least even with the massive amount of money he had spent on material to revamp and upgrade Hogwarts. Still their funds could use a shot in the arm, and he could always use anything else he could find. Time and past to see to Selene's caches, and maybe those bank accounts as well…
"If you can either give me a number to call, or a time and place to meet them, we can set up a first meeting sometime in this coming week."
Wyatt nodded, and asked "Do you want to talk to any of the others?"
Harry shook his head. "Not right now, though tell Reed that if they're free sometime next month we can continue that discussion I had with him after that problem with Dr. Doom."
"And there's another thing I have to do," Harry groaned as he signed off. "I've put that off for long enough."
"Indeed my love," Ororo said coming in behind him and sitting down next to him on the sofa. Ororo and Jean had created a sitting room for the trio with the help of a few house elves that was in a former classroom right by the staircase up to the Headmaster's quarters. Jean and Melody's rooms had been moved town to be right by it. Melody was still living up in High Note, she was now on the same time as Hogwarts, and they brought her down for dinner every night.
The sitting room was composed of several large leather chairs, two plush bean bags, and two furry sofas along with a TV system, though that was a recent addition, and wasn't hooked up just yet.
"We do not want to make Dr. Doom an enemy more than is necessary. I have no doubt that we will clash with him eventually on one issue or another, but at the moment we're still at vaguely clean state stage. It's been over two months since he expressed interest in talking to you, I think you need to send him something now, or he might start to take offense at the amount of time it is taking you to get back to them."
Harry frowned. "I'd hoped to wait until I was set up as a power in the world or at least a known power in the world. But you're right, I have to send Doom something now."
Ororo smiled faintly and kissed him on the cheek. "You already are a power in the world, my Harry. You might not realize it fully, and much of the world has no clue, but I'm positive that's Dr. Doom would not be unaware of it."
"That's true enough," Harry sighed. "I've reread the FF's files on him, and that man is almost frighteningly intelligent. Sort of like Reed, only without even his level of empathy, and Doom has ambition to match his intellect."
"That could possibly be the line you should take with him, appeal to that ambition and possibly his ego though not," Ororo warned seriously, "in any adroit sort of matter. Doom is far too intelligent to be taken in by such, yet appealing to his ambition might help."
Harry nodded, and leaned forward to kiss her on the lips. "I'll send him something tomorrow, and I'll send it with Hedwig. That should show both my trust and the amount of respect I have for him, I have no doubt he'll be able to tell that she's my familiar after all."
"And," Ororo said amusedly, "Hedwig can almost certainly get away from anything Doom throws at her."
"True." Harry chuckled. He hadn't actually realized it, but as Harry's powers grew so too did Hedwig's abilities. Before he had come to this dimension those abilities made her almost frightening in many ways. Now, there was no almost about it, and Harry had tested her a few times over the past few weeks as well.
"After you send that message off, come down and join us in the dining hall. I think Jean had something she wanted to show us all." Ororo ordered, her eyes sparkling with amusement. Harry nodded and, not ten minutes later joined her, Jean and the others down in the dining hall, while Hedwig winged her way off to Dr. Doom in Latveria.
Jean still hadn't moved in with them up in the headmaster's tower, not wanting to take that final step just yet. Not surprisingly Ororo agreed with her, saying that she had only been officially going out with Harry for a little over two weeks now. Harry of course didn't say anything, he wasn't about to push her, though he had teased her a time or two about how much better the bed up in the headmaster's room was in comparison to hers.
Jean and Ororo were already in the dining hall, playing with a bit of a hard light projection in the center of the hall while Dennis watched interestedly and Shiang Chi sat nearby sipping a glass of tea. He looked around trying to spot where the projectors were and smiled faintly to see dozens of them up in the ceiling. "I take it you finished rewiring everything?" he asked Jean dryly.
"Yep!" Jean chirped happily moving over and giving him a slow, thorough kiss which Harry returned tenderly. She pulled back sighing happily as Ororo took her turn, and the two of them grinned at him.
He shook his head a little stunned by the double it attack there. "If you two keep doing that I'm going to grab you both and drag you up to bed and we won't leave it for the next few days."
"Flatterer," Ororo said laughing lightly. "Still, now that this is done and I've gone through the dossiers for the teachers and everything, and our guests are ready for work?" She looked over at Dennis and Shiang Chi, who both nodded agreeably, "We can move on."
Harry nodded, sitting down at the table and motioning them to do same. He smiled faintly at the image of some kind of flowchart disappeared behind the two of them. "So now we not only have magic but high-tech as well, excellent."
Jean shrugged. "I also set them both up with a TV and Internet access, Sir Dennis I think is keeping an eye on public opinion and trying to get a handle on the worlds view of mutants right?"
Besides that first test of Harry's, the former spy had been tested a few times since. He still had quite a bit of loyalty to the crown, yet had no desire to go back to work for it, and was unwilling to be a small cog in the big machine again. He also seemed rather angry at the way mutants were being viewed, comparing it to the system dehumanization the Jews went through under the third Reich.
Now Dennis replied, his urbane British accent standing out in comparison to Harry's practically non-existent one. "Oh yes old boy, I've been trying to keep a heads up so to speak. Sent emails to several old chums the world over, they've agreed to exchange contacts with me. Next I'll want to head out to meet with a few contacts in the real world, specifically a few people that specialize in computer and electronic corporate espionage. A few fellows who are working in the field so to speak." He frowned sadly. "I was sad to hear of the old Union Jack dying, he was a good man, but there are a few of the old crowd, and one or two new up and comers in the UK and the colonies I want to look up."
"Remember what I said," Harry warned, "I want to meet anyone you'll be employing for us directly before you hire them. I'll set up a meeting room and some way to get them here without having to show them everything else sometime in the next few days, so wait for that."
Shiang-Chi spoke up then. "I readied a list of everything I would require to start training people in the martial arts." He shrugged. "I would prefer to have an outdoor dojo rather than an underground area like the current setup, but given the weather of this part of the world I can understand why that isn't a good idea. Other than that, I've spent my time exploring the surrounding forest and lands, and resting of course."
The young man was feeling rather torn about his life at the moment. For so long his whole existence had been dedicated to serving his father, who he thought a great philanthropist working for the betterment of the world. Then when he learned the truth he turned around and concentrated with the same level of dedication to taking his father down. Now Shiang Chi didn't have anything like that to truly concentrate whole-heartedly on, though he was grateful to Mr. Potter and the others for giving him a task that allowed him to help aid such a good cause. It would take him a while however before he got used to the void not having his own cause to fight for had caused inside of him however.
Dennis on the other hand had thrown his whole weight into his new job just as he had his crusade against organized crime in Vietnam. The cause of normal/mutant cooperation was an excellent one, and something he could tell would benefit the world as a whole. The fact it made him the boss of his own agency was a very major bonus.
"So what's next?" Jean asked.
"A few things," Harry said thoughtfully tapping the table in front of him. "I want to head out and raid those caches of gold and other things that I told you about. I have no idea what's in them, my… informant was not that generous in her knowledge. She merely gave me the locations and the information to access the accounts, nothing else. I'm worried about what might be there, Selene was around for a hell of a long time, well before recorded history, and there's no telling what she ferreted away. I also want to head over and see if I can figure out a way to get through to what King William called the dark regions, the other areas in Britain that are warded against non-magical's. If there's nothing there, we could probably sell the land for quite a bit of profit. Or we could simply keep it the way it is."
He was also wondering how the hell those places had been hidden from the sight of Dr. Strange and his predecessor. Harry had determined during his own the wizards of this universe had quite a bit of esoteric knowledge of, and assorted magpies tendency toward anything to do with their own school of magic which was strangely at odds with what Harry was used to in his old dimension. The wizards in his dimension discarded knowledge if they deemed it too dark, or at least they did so publicly.
The Unspeakables of course didn't, but they horded it away, never used it. He had no doubt that the Unspeakable's had a vast library, possibly larger than the libraries of both Hogwarts put together, though how much of it was actually useful was debatable. The wizards in this dimension hadn't developed that tendency, possibly because of the numerous wars they fought amongst each other and the fact that they had never spread out beyond Britain coupled the fact that Britain was where they had started from, not ancient Greece or Egypt as was the case in his dimension.
What they lacked in comparison to sorcerers was power. Most sorcerers probably didn't have the knowledge available to break down wizard created wards or protective spells, but that certainly would not be the case for the Sorcerer Supreme or wizards of equivalent knowledge.
Dr. Druid certainly knew about the dark regions, and he now spoke up from where he had been sitting quietly reading a book on potions that Harry had given him. He was trying to create a periodic table of sorts for the potions, and was having a bit of luck though not nearly as quickly as Harry could've hoped. "I certainly would be interested in that as well," he flexed his wooden hand thoughtfully. "I honestly have no idea how the wards are still up after so long, I know for a fact that one of them at least is not on any ley line. That's about all we can tell about them from the outside."
He paused thoughtfully and then went on slowly. "It could be that other beings moved in after the wizards were gone and found a way to keep the wards up. Vampires for example, I know ancient vampires have similar abilities to sorcerers, and they certainly have learned enough about the art."
Harry nodded grimly. "If so I'll burn them out. The idea of vampires having a secret unassailable hiding place like that is a bad one." He frowned thoughtfully. "If it is one of the other magical races that I know of from my own dimension, somehow surviving to the present day, I'll probably just leave them alone."
The green-eyed wizard had been greatly disturbed to read of the wizards in this dimension having wiped out the dragons, and working in concert before their isolation with regular sorcerers to wipe out centaurs and goblins, but if either of those races had been able to survive then taking over a position created by wizards to hide themselves would've seemed poetic justice. After such a history however their welcome to him would probably be in the form of violence to say the least.
"I will hit up Selene's caches," Jean replied promptly. Harry looked at her and Jean shook her head. "You can't take everything on yourself Harry, and it sounds as if the dark places you guys are talking about needs a wizard's touch to get through the wards. The caches, since they rely on hiding rather than wards to protect them, probably don't. Or if they do," she said her had fingers flashing with telekinetic lights, "I can probably figure out a way around or through them."
"She's right Harry," Ororo said softly leaning over to kiss him gently on the cheek. Dr. Druid coughed looking away embarrassed. He was still not used to the three of them being in a relationship, and was a little bemused by the fact all three seemed so happy about it.
Ororo went on, not noticing their ally's embarrassment. "I realize that much of what we are doing at present needs magic to do, but you have too many demands on your time. You cannot keep piling more things on your own shoulders, when you have Jean's and my shoulders to call on. I will handle interviewing the teachers, and I will look up this one," she said holding up a specific folder.
Harry looked at picture on top of the folder and smiled faintly, nodding agreeably. "That will set up the training portion for our team certainly, and add a veteran presence to the team itself. After this is over I can get started on figuring out how to connect to the ley lines."
Jean nodded, "Can't argue with that. Though, you might want to talk to Emma about setting up a PR blitz once we start making money. We seriously need to start pushing back at the hate propaganda it's gaining too much headway in China, Russia and America."
Smaller countries were more ambivalent to the mutant threat, not having as many mutants popping up in their populations, but Russia was already calling for all mutants to be regulated by the state, and it looked as if the battle in the Senate was going to come to a head in the next election. Despite the fact that there were numerous other threats to world peace, including one very nasty terrorist group that seemed to be operating out of the Middle East and some sort of new criminal syndicate starting up in the states and Italy (or possibly an old one with a new phase and new technology) the public had grabbed onto the mutant menace as the one that was most dangerous and important.
"I'll talk to Emma as well," said Ororo smiling lopsidedly. The White Queen was rather an amusing woman to talk to at the best of times, full of barbs and hidden angles. Talking to her was fun, and Ororo was becoming fond of her. She was no closer to agreeing to let Emma join the trio then she had been after that gala where they met Tony Stark, but she could acknowledge that such a time might be in the future.
"I'll want Emma's input on the various interviews in any case. Might I use Cory? Using him will allow me to set up as many interviews as I can today, in New York, London and Galway then tomorrow I can go see Kitten and her parents." Her smile widened. "I'm looking forward to that."
Jean nodded. "I know, not seeing her and the others every day is weird. I hadn't realized it would be, but it isn't a bad thing so much as just odd."
Harry shrugged not having that issue, but watched Ororo thoughtfully. "You can call him whenever. I'm not certain what the younger set of elves are up to, but I know that it'll be interesting once they shared with the rest of us."
Ororo and Jean joined him in chuckling at that while the other men looked on confused. All three of them had noticed over the past few days that more than half of the younger set of elves, those below a certain age and those of more of a flexible set of mind, had not been taking part in the usual rotation of activities. It was a fact that they still didn't have as much to do as the 200+ elves could handle, so it was a good thing allowing the work to be spread out over a smaller group.
What they were up to was a minor mystery but since their loyalty was literally unquestionable, Harry had decided to let sleeping dogs lie. Cory and a few others, those that were more at home with technology and moving around in the non-magical world, were an exception which gave Harry a hint as to what the others might be up to.
Harry turned to look at Jean. "I'm not happy about this," he said honestly. "Magic is so diverse and can be so deadly. I would really prefer to wait and hit them up later myself."
"Harry," Jean replied, her voice soft, "I know you want to protect us, but I can handle this, truly. You can't keep on doing everything yourself like Ororo said. Hell, load me down with as many spells as you want but unless you can be in two places at once, I need to be the one to handle this."
"Jean, its not that simple, Selene…"
"Selene wasn't a wizard, she didn't rely on the same warding system the wizards did, she'll have active defenses which I can get through using my own powers. Haven't I been able to overcome most of the things you can throw at me in the Danger Room? I can handle this."
Harry frowned, he was really not happy about this, but Jean and Ororo were right, neither of them would be able to get through active wizard wards, whereas Selene didn't seem to use the same type of defense. And she's right about her ability to match most of my offensive spells with her telekinetic power. If she has time to react Jean can figure out ways to use her power to overcome my magic. She's not strong enough to truly match me, but she should be able to match whatever Selene left to defend her caches. Selene wasn't subtle, and was rather contemptuous of me, let alone non-magicals. And she didn't have any knowledge or wards, at least that's my impression given her abilities and how she set up her place of power in the Gherkin and it matches the information Death crammed into my head. All of her caches are hidden through nonmagical means rather than behind wards.
Eventually he sighed. "Alright Jean, but you'll need a spell on your mask to let you see magic, and I'll redo the modified confounding charm on it when I add that just in case you meet any of the locals. I also prepared an initial small load out for us that I'll want you to take, mirror, regular radio, a small foldable knife, some pouches with emergency rations. It's on a belt up in our quarters. I'll also give you something called a mokeskin pouch. It's magical and bottomless, and no magic can get back out of it, so whatever you find just push it all in there and we can go through it here. And I'll write up some notes about what to look for once you're on the ground." The pouch had been a present from Hagrid, and while he had never trusted the half-giant thanks to his utter devotion to Dumbledore, he could never truly bring himself to hate him either.
Jean stood up, grabbing a final bit of fruit and popping it into her mouth before leaning over and kissing Harry, sharing the fruit with him in a spontaneous and extremely sexual display. She stood up sighing faintly and licking some of the juice away from her mouth before smirking at him. "In that case I think I'll go and get changed." She moved gently out of his arms smiling and actually giggled a little as he whined when she did so.
Harry shook his head that had really got to him for a moment there, and looked around. "Can I use the holographic projections too?"
Jean shook her head. "Sorry," she said raising one wrist where a small metal bracelet with several glowing buttons could be seen. "I've only made two of these things. We only had the parts for them really. I had to cobble it all together so it isn't perfect just yet."
"Put what you need to make more on a shopping list," Harry replied, then chuckled as he was poked from behind turning to see Ororo glaring at him. "Ororo I guess will be the one handling that as well."
Ororo nodded faintly smiling in triumph internally. She handed him her own bracelet, and he began to call up a small computer board in front of him under Jean's direction. It connected to the primary server that Jean had set up, and allowed Internet access and a lot of other things.
It had nowhere near the capability of JARVIS, or even the series of computers that Reed had installed in different segments of the Baxter Building, but it was good enough to create a 3-D map of the world and let him input different places highlighting them in red via the coordinates.
"These are the caches," he said, "I just wish that SHE had been able to give me more information about what was in them." Harry didn't think saying that he had gotten his information from Death would go over well with their two new friends. "I have a vague idea that this one," he pointed at one in the Middle East, "was her main emergency gold deposit, but it's this one that worries me." He moved the globe around twisting his fingers under the image enlarging it and twisting it in at the same time.
It came to a stop to show them South America, and a glowing icon of what the map called the Atacama desert. "If you're up to it Jean," he said looking at her as she returned a little worriedly "that is the one I would like you to hit up first. I got the impression that it was her main magical cache, and I seriously do not want to know what could happen if someone stumbled in there. Selene wouldn't have left anything around if she wasn't certain that her defenses were up to date and able to stop anyone from getting in but those defenses may have been draining power from her in some way, and I've learned since coming to this dimension that there are far too many adventurers around that like to poke things and say 'what does this do'?"
Jean laughed. "Ahh but that's how science was invented Harry. Yeah I can do that." She frowned momentarily. "Can you ask one of the elves to pop me to our other base, and I'll fly down there." While she wouldn't be able to blurt out anything about High Note thanks to the Fidelius on it, but even if Shiang Chi and Dennis had passed every test so far, there was no need to even hint about the existence of the asteroid in front of them. With the tricks Jean had come up with during their little jaunt in space she could easily fly down through the atmosphere from High Note. And it had nothing at all to do with wanting to check out the view from space again. No, nothing at all…
Harry smiled knowing precisely what she was going to be doing for a few minutes at least once she got up to High Note again. Jean had routinely taken off on an evening this past week just to sit and stare out into space.
Harry and Ororo joined her a time or two, but Ororo was much more at home with an atmosphere around her. She said there would was some kind of weather in space, but it was an odd feeling to her, something she would have to get used to before being able to try and control it. "That's fine I'll have Zippy pop you over. He's sort of taken over the duties between here and there, I think he's trying to dislodge Cory from his position as best popper."
Jean nodded, "In that case I think we should be about it."
Harry nodded and sent a brief commands out, printing out the list of information he could remember from the information death stuffed into his head, the longitude and latitude coordinates, and several other bits and pieces of information that Jean could use to find the specific cash when she was down on the ground.
Dennis came over as well, volunteering to guide her in via communicator. Jean came back after they set that up, and tucked the communicator Harry into her belt along the pouches Harry had prepared. Harry also said, as he hit her mask with several spells, "I've also fitted each of your uniforms with a Disillusion ward. So long as you're just flying along or just standing still, it'll make you invisible to anything but pressure sensors or short range sonar."
After one last round of kisses between Ororo and Harry and her Jean waved farewell and Zippy, a young elf with a very odd braided haircut, popped her away.
"She was in a good mood wasn't she?" Harry said smiling happily.
"Success will do that to one my dear." She waved her hand, not incidentally waving it through the hard light projection of the earth. "This was a major project, and she not only succeeded, she exceled. That plus letting her in on High Note last week, it's no wonder she's euphoric."
"Chasing dreams and seeing them slowly come true can indeed provide a major attitude burst," Harry nodded. The two of them exchanged a grin and a lingering kiss then went to get ready for their own tasks.
Jean spent about an hour up in High Note playing around with Melody and staring out the viewport before tearing herself away to head down to the Atacama desert which was located in Chile. Flying down took her about an hour and a half, and she reveled in flight as she always did, zooming through the stratosphere down on a diagonal towards Chile. She passed briefly over Brazil, and remembered the odd reports about a city state of Roman expatriates having been discovered recently. If I have time I definitely want to stop in, that sounded fascinating, like a living, breathing Pompeii. Or at least do a flyby.
Soon enough Jean was over the desert. She frowned, sending out her senses, making certain there was no one around then lightened on the ground. While she trusted the feature Harry had built into her suit, to keep her from being seen unless she was moving too much, she didn't want to suddenly walk into anything she could avoid.
She needn't have bothered however, the Atacama desert was one of the most inhospitable places in the world, so hot, so arid, that only very tough or extremely adaptable life could live here, and no humans lived in it.
She momentarily dropped her telekinetic aura, and gasped slightly before raising it back quickly. "Yeah," she muttered, "no chance of other people being around here willingly." With her telekinetic aura up Jean could regulate her body's coolness a bit, much as she had been able up in space, but without it… Jean was in extremely good shape, but she had never dealt with a place like this. She concentrated for a moment closing her eyes and creating what Jean would term a loop of power, designating a bit of her mind to keeping it up while the rest of her concentrated on her exterior environment. After a moment Jean opened her eyes nodded and started to move her forward, looking around, raising her communicator to her face. "This is Phoenix to Gian-Diep-Chu, do you read me?"
After a few moments she heard a response from Dennis. He had chosen to simply go by the Vietnamese name of spymaster for now, though eventually he might choose something else if he continued to handle their communications like this. The voice going both were badly scrambled thanks to the communicators, and the use of call-signs and that would hopefully stop people from tracing them. "This is Gian-Diep-Chu, we read you, somewhat loud, not very clear, over."
"Can you walk me toward the target?"
"Confirm that, move to the north of your position on a straight line, you'll be looking for something on your right. Do you know what to look out for?" Dennis wasn't certain what they were searching for, but he knew just enough about magic to not want it out there where anyone could find it.
"Harry's notes say to look for a fang shaped rock with a very light blue marking right above where it sticks out of the ground, so yeah. Just tell me when I get right on top of it."
Jean soon reached the area right near where the map said the cache was and began to search around. This took her about an hour, by the end of which she was rather sweaty and irritable despite her ability to regulate her body temperature. However she had found the marker. A large stone, that seemed as if it had been carved naturally into the shape of fang, and a very small almost invisible line of blue paint along the bottom to denote the entrance to the secret cache.
Jean stared hard at what looked to be a solid stone surface of a huge rock face sticking out of the desert then reached forward pressing her hand against it. It was solid, but if the cache was here this was the place. She briefly wished that she knew a trick to duplicate that echolocation spell that Harry had briefly mentioned once when he was explaining how they had found the Hogwarts library. Jean shrugged stepped back and gestured, and a blast of telekinetic force slammed into the stone wall, shattering the rock face. When the dust cleared Jean saw that she had indeed found the entrance to the caves that housed Selene's ill-gotten gains.
She waited a brief moment, letting the air inside the cave to settle then moved in flaring her aura out to allow her some light to see by.
Inside the cave the ground was smooth, almost like a floor made of glass but it was made of volcanic rock instead, which was bizarre here in a desert. All the walls were made of the same volcanic rock or something, all Jean knew was it seemed to drink in the light from her aura, making it unable to truly light up the area until she flared it out even more, and she scowled irritably. "Thank God I'm the one doing this, Storm would be a wreck in here. Alright, I'm moving in, I doubt the coms will penetrate through solid rock, so I'm starting up again."
'Roger that, be careful, I don't want to explain to Mr. Wizard how you got yourself injured."
"Roger that," Jean chuckled.
She moved further inside, quickly leaving the small amount of light cast by the open entrance behind her. At the far back of the cave Jean found stone stairs leading down and she frowned thoughtfully. After a moment she sent a brief blast of telekinetic power forward, a wall of force that road the steps going downward.
Like Jean had almost expected this triggered several small poison darts shot out from the walls and ceilings. She frowned thoughtfully staring at them then pulled out her small viewing mirror. Harry had made these at the same time he had made one for Emma, and then had almost forgotten about handing them out to her and Ororo, only to be reminded by Hedwig a few days ago. "Storm?"
The mirror soon went from its normal reflective surface to opaque then it showed Ororo's face, smiling back at her. Her hair was undone, and it looked as if she was combing it after a shower as she responded. "Yes?"
"Sorry to interrupt you," Jean apologized, "but Mr. Wizard was right to be concerned, there are traps here. Can you give me any hints to what to look out for? I mean I just got lucky, I came upon these stairs and I decided not to trust them. I used my power to trigger several traps, but what if one of them collapses the ceiling on top of me or in front of me and blocks me from going forward or brings the whole down or something?" Despite this being a magical method of communication Jean was taking no chances.
Ororo frowned thoughtfully. "Most traps before technology truly became common place are pressure based, so if you're flying through you should be good. Avoid touching the walls however, they too might have traps on them. Keep a close eye out for tripwires in midair, and you may want to send forward a bit of dust every now and then to check for defendant tripwires, even infrared if that was around but when that place was built. I doubt it given the age of it, but you never know."
She went on from there, describing several types of other traps that Jean could be running into, finally finishing by "And if you see a lock or anything like that call me back, and be certain to hold up the mirror to it. There are several little traps that can be placed around the lock itself, but I know what to look for." She smiled briefly. "My time as a thief in Cairo did give me quite of bit of esoteric knowledge did not?"
Jean chuckled as she moved on, liking the fact that she could hear one of her lover's voice as she moved deeper into the dark gloominess of the caverns. "Yes, and made you into the person you are today. We're not just the sum of our good experiences Ororo, we're the sum of all of them, and if you hadn't gone through what you had you wouldn't be the magnificent woman Harry and I have grown to love."
Ororo smiled, happy that Jean had never looked down on her for her previous lifestyle. After all, Ororo hadn't just been a pickpocket. She had eventually become one of the best sneak thieves of Cairo which was how she had gone through Candra's defenses to steal that gem of hers, which Ororo subsequently turned in to her gang leader. Until that minor issue with her gang leader wanting to pimp her out came up Ororo had been quite at home on the street.
Ororo supposed she could have simply stayed in Cairo and gone into freelance work, but freelancers rarely survived long unless they were very, very good indeed, and while Ororo would hold up her hand to the first very, she wasn't quite at that level. Besides, Ororo had been a young girl at the time, and what could happen to a woman in that kind of profession didn't bear thinking about.
"Thank you for that Firebird," Ororo said looking at her with worry and love in her eyes. "Be careful, no amount of treasure is worth your life."
"No worries there Windrider." With that Jean and Ororo signed off and Jean made her way down further keeping all of her senses and pushing them out as far as she could, her fingers almost twitching in readiness to send out telekinetic power.
Ororo turned away from the mirror, placing it gently into her purse and watched as Nessy, who had become her sort of hand-elf, finished doing up her hair in a tight bun along the back of her head. She wanted to appear professional today, female yet professional, outgoing but not available. She had already talked to Emma, and the blond had helped her decide on the clothing and hair style, and with Nessy's help Ororo thought that she was able to convey the correct message. She had learned her lesson from that young man who kept on hitting on her, and she did not want to deal with that again. "Thank you for your help Nessy."
"You are most welcome miss," Nessy responded, curtseying. "Does miss want me to continue to look up uniform designs?"
"Yes thank you. There's no rush, but I think all of you would look much smarter if you had uniforms, and none of us have enough time to design them. Something understated though."
Nessy responded in the affirmative and popped out, after which Ororo exited the bathroom of the headmaster's suite nodding to Cory who was waiting there for her. "Can you pop me to Ireland please, the same place as before?"
"Yes miss, I'm able to pop anywhere my master has been, no matter how much time has passed." Cory had been able to pop to the place they were talking about because Harry had gone there before to talk to some government reps about what they could offer him as incentive.
"Hold on Ororo," Harry said, coming up the spiral staircase. "I want to hit you with a spell before you head out, it should help you from accidentally revealing any secrets and make whoever you talk to unable to share it with anyone else. Dennis just brought it to mind really."
"A most excellent idea my love," Ororo said bushing his cheek then stood still as he cast a spell on him for several minutes, muttering words under his breath.
Finally he nodded. "All done." Ororo thanked him, and the two exchanged another kiss then Cory popped her to a small unmonitored parking lot in Galway, Ireland.
Looking around, Ororo nodded. "Well done Cory, thank you." She briefly reached down again and ruffled his ears, smiling faintly. "I'll call you when I'm ready to go so can you follow me for now?"
Cory nodded, "Yes miss, I will follow you."
Ororo nodded and as the house elf disappeared to wherever they hid while waiting for orders she stepped out into the street, making her way down to a bus stop. Eventually she found herself outside of a small 'hole in the wall' pub, where she was scheduled to meet her first contact of the day, and in many ways it was the most important one as well. It would give them both another trainer for the team they were going to set up, as well as providing them with hopefully a second intelligence operative or an operative with intelligence experience at any rate, and a team member.
The man was already there, grabbing a beer from the bar when she entered, and Ororo took a moment to study him. Tallish, thin and athletic, decent looking she supposed, though not her type, wavy light ginger hair and brown eyes. Smile lines around a face that had seen quite a lot to not smile at, experienced but not old, age was given has 35. At present he was wearing a tweed sweater and some kind of flat hat she had only seen in a few fashion pictures before whose name escaped her. Done with her perusal she strode forward toward him, her hand outstretched to shake "Sean Cassidy?"
The man bowed gallantly. "Aye that'd be me m'darlin'" he said, in a full Irish brogue. "Would ya be Ororo Munroe then?"
"I am, shall we sit?" Ororo asked, gesturing to one of the tables.
She sat across from him and he sat down looking at her. "I' faith I don't know why you want ta meet with me lass, you offered a job in in your e-mail to me, but ye dinna go into any details. I have to say that while I'm takin' a wee hiatus from me work from Interpol, but I c'n be called back at any time." Sean had actually buried himself in his work for Interpol for years, ever since his wife had died thanks to his brother's neglect. That and one nights stands with women the world over had helped him ignore the pain, and eventually get over it. Of course his 'skills' made him in high demand to his superiors.
"I realize that," Ororo replied smiling faintly. "But I would like you to be aware of a job opportunity Mr. Cassidy, or should I call you Banshee?"
Sean leaned back, his eyes narrow now. "And had do you know that name lassie?"
"I'm certain you have read Interpol's files on powerful mutants, though hopefully they don't have that much on me. My name is Storm."
"So it's like that then is it?" Sean asked rhetorically, draining his beer. He looked over the rim of the glass toward her, trying to figure out what angle this was. He knew the name of Storm, but the file he had seen hadn't had a description of her. And if it had it certainly wouldn't have done her justice, he thought raking his eyes down her body discreetly. This is one enchanting woman. "Why don't you put your offer on the table lass, I've never been one to beat around the bush. Who exactly are you recruiting for, and why?"
Ororo smiled and did so, hitting the high points of their sales pitch, the fact that they were putting together a mixed unit of mutants, superpowered and normal humans both to defend mutant rights and to take on any world threatening issue that came up. But they had to be the right kind of people, both as people they could trust, and as role models. That eventually they would be stepping out into the public eye, and that they had already secured alliances with the Fantastic Four, who governmental suspicion were extremely well thought of by the general populace of both America and the world at large.
Sean sipped his beer thoughtfully. It sounds interesting, but how good could the team be?
He asked a few probing questions about the team and found to his surprise that he was the first person that was going to actually be recruited, but that they already had three people on it as well as a trainer and someone to head the intelligence division. "Who do ya 'ave fer that can I ask?"
Ororo paused for a moment thinking then shrugged and said "Sir Dennis Nayland Smith."
Sean's eyes widened, then he chuckled. "I know him, an upright an' honest individual, a little too honest for the spy game if ya ask me, which was why he stayed over in Vietnam after the rest of the Brits pulled their big noses out. That's a mark in yer teams favor lass."
It was Sean's turn to pause thoughtfully and he did so leaning back, tapping one finger on the table in front of him as he sipped his beer slowly. Finally he looked up at her and said "I'm not going to say yay or nay at the moment lass, but c'n I ask if you guys were involved in that ruckus in London a few weeks back?"
"There was much going on there that the public does not know, mainly for their own good. Suffice to say that there was a threat to the lives of everyone in London that could have eventually been a world class threat and we stopped it." Ororo answered affirmatively, yet without giving any real information.
The Banshee nodded thoughtfully then shrugged. "I'll tell you plain lassie, I'm interested. It sounds fascinatin', and if ye're connected to Mr. Wizard," and he chuckled a little at the name "then if e'en half the tales that're buzzin' 'round the spy community, at least I know ye'll have the firepower ta back ya up. I'll have to think about it some more, I'm not going to make a snap decision about this you ken, but I am interested."
Ororo smiled faintly. She prided herself on being a good judge of character, not as good as Harry possibly, but good nonetheless. She could tell his interest had spiked almost immediately when she said they would be fighting for mutant rights, as well as equality. And it spiked even more later on when he asked about London. There was also the fact that Harry had hit her with a modified Notice-Me-Not spell before he left the castle, so she had no qualms about giving him time to think about it. "That is fine Mr. Cassidy, if you wish you can reach us on this number.
She handed over a small card, which only held the number to the cell phone Reed had given Harry, nothing else. With that she stood up gracefully, and Sean stood up hastily. "You dinna need ta rush off Lassie, don't ya have time ta spend having a drink with an Irishman?"
Ororo shook her head firmly. "I'm sorry, but my boyfriend might not appreciate that."
Sean chuckled backing away. "Message understood lass."
After exchanging farewells the two of them backed away from one another, Ororo leaving the bar quickly and heading to a deserted alley where she could call Cory. She had a lot to do today, and with the time spent going from places where Harry and Cory had been to before to where she was meeting the teachers, she didn't have much time to spare.
Jean descended down the staircase without further incident, going down forty feet or so before she came out onto a long corridor sloping down. She kept moving down through the strange sloping corridor, stopping occasionally to close us down the corridor to check for wires. She wished Harry had been able to tell her more about any magical traps that could be in here, but his 'don't touch anything if you don't have to' hadn't been very helpful. The spell to see magic was somewhat helpful, though it didn't seem to see inactive magic, and didn't give her a total 360 degree view around her either.
Jean had felt something hit her telekinetic shields a few times, the first few had been rather weak, but the last one had actually made her stop and pour more power into her shield. It'd been an odd greenish glow that zoomed towards her from three corners the first two times.
The third time however it had been this almost oppressive black and red cloud that seemed to boil out of the very obsidian stones around her. It had actually been enough to push her back, though the oppressive fear and what Jean would call primeval emotions trying to break her mind couldn't get through her belsham-tress. "Good grief," Jean muttered, her voice loud in the dead air of the crypt. "That was unpleasant. Still, why do I get the impression that it was just the tip of the iceberg?"
By her estimate she had been going down for about an hour or so since she had called Ororo. She was going slowly, but that still meant that they were going deep into the ground, that wasn't good. "I really, really hope there isn't any kind of Indiana Jones-ish trap in here that collapses everything, that would truly suck."
Finally the slope ended, and she moved forward along the now level corridor.
Unlike the slope and the series of steps before it, this corridor was not simply matte black obsidian stone all around her. Instead it was lined with faces, all different, all looking somewhat human yet in the throes of great agony, fear or some other dark emotion. It was hard to tell, and Jean didn't care (and wasn't stupid enough) to examine any of them closely enough to find out. Warily Jean made her way through them, still floating in the air, trying to keep to the center of the corridor despite the fact that it was actually a bit wider here, so wide now that she and her two loves could probably have walked along it abreast with elbow room.
Jean didn't notice that set into the center of the floor which had always been smooth was a small line, moving from one end of the corridor together. At the direct center of that line was a slightly larger circle, going around a small socket that was filled not with the obsidian of the rest of the corridor but a black diamond. Black on black of course it molded into the rest of the background, but it's purpose was very different.
The somewhat intrepid explorer passed over it, and almost immediately she felt the difference in the air. It was more oppressive for one, and she could almost hear a throbbing noise in the air, beating at her senses. The silence of the corridor was suddenly broken by the sound of cracking noises, like stone grinding and shattering.
She looked around her as the masks came alive, and suddenly from out of the corridor's walls forming two dozen golems made of stone and iron. What was worse the a stone wall slammed down behind her, blocking her escape. "Shit," Jean growled, looking around for what the hell she had tripped and finding it right below her. "Damn," she muttered again shaking her head. "No wonder I couldn't see it. A trap, I guess an array of some kind set up on a black diamond on black. And my eyes couldn't spot it."
Then there was no more time for words, as the two nearest golems attacked her immediately. She dodged to one side, surprised at their speed which was well above human normal despite looking as if they weighed more than a main battle-tank. Her hand flashed out, slamming one backwards with a blast of telekinetic force but after a second it simply shrugged it off and kept on coming.
"Oh this is so not good," Jean growled, ducking again with telekinetic reinforced speed as her instincts warned her to duck. Doing so allowed her to avoid the punch that would've slammed into the back of her head. With a thought she reinforced her shield just in time to avoid being smashed aside by another blow in the side. Two more hammered into her shields, but they held for now, and she returned fire, throwing the golems way, but doing no real damage to them as more came on.
Jean reinforced her shield shaking her head. "Crap!" The blows hadn't quite gotten through her shield, but even with reinforcing it she had still felt it, and knew she might have a few bruises tomorrow. She slammed out the telekinetic blasts now rapid fire, not going for brute force this time but precision trying to find a weak point to blast through her attackers. Each attack was made to penetrate rather than to simply slamming into and she immediately saw a difference. The first golems Jean hit with it looked as if it had been made into Swiss cheese. Several jagged holes were blown straight through it even as she watched the stone of the corridor seem to flow up into it and the golem reformed. "That's new and rather irritatinGGG!"
Again she ducked under a blow this time slamming her hand back against the golem, pushing a blast of telekinetic power through the slap using it as momentum to push herself back in away from the middle of the corridor ducking and dodging so that eventually she was back where she had started.
"This way I don't have to guard my back against any of you at least, allowing me time to do this," Jean said holding her hand up in the air while her other held up a shield keeping them away from her. In her palm flickered a tiny flame, growing into a large fireball swiftly, then she concentrated on compressing it. She waited a brief moment, putting more even more power into her shields just in case, then thrust her hand forward sending the now nail sized fireball towards her attackers.
A moment later it hit the first and Jean had to close her eyes reflexively as the blackness of the corridor lit previously only by her aura suddenly flared with a massive explosion. There was a resounding "BOOOM!" and Jean shuddered as her shields almost failed and she was thrown backwards into the closed door behind her, slamming into with punishing force despite her shield. She gasped, and it was almost like was there was no air to breathe for a second, but Jean waited it out, her eyes closed trying to regain her battered sight for a moment.
When Jean again opened her eyes it was to see a corridor that had been slagged from end to end. The obsidian of the wall was actually bubbling, turning into molten rock in places, and all of the golems were just gone.
Jean breathed a sigh of relief before standing up on shaking legs. "Note to self, no more using compressed fireballs inside." He turned to the door leading back the way she had come debating whether to break it down now or when she had to actually retreat but Jean decided against doing so just yet. Who knew, the thing might be booby-trapped either magically or physically, and could trigger a general collapse.
With that thought Jean turned away and again moved forward, walking now wanting to conserve her power for any future use just in case. About three minutes walking past the black diamond that had been the center of the golem trap the passageway took a sharp right turn, and about five feet in was a large wooden door. Or at least it looks like wood, at first glance. When Jean stood before it she realized it wasn't wood but a kind of bone, aged and darkened, lots of different sized bones melded together to look like slates of wood. "Okay that's just disgusting," Jean said this stepping back a little. "Selene was one crazy bitch."
Jean moved back towards the turning point, almost hiding her body around the turn and aimed a blast of telekinetic fire at the door. The blast continued for a moment then she stopped and looked, staring. That last should've been blown the door into its composite atoms, but it had simply absorbed her flames. There wasn't even a mark on it. "As Harry would say, bugger," Jean frowned, pulling at her hair thoughtfully. "Methinks I need to find another way."
She looked around the entrance way, trying to find anything that looked magical or like a switch or anything like that. She didn't find anything, but she hadn't really hoped to. Instead Jean stared up at one of the corners of the stone arch around the wood, and smiled. "I wonder if this stone is protected in the same way as the wood."
She raised her hand, tapping the rock there with one finger and concentrated, pushing her kinetic power into the rock face through her finger. It was slow going, because she didn't want to just blast her way through and trigger another trap. "Slow and easy, slow and easy" she chanted to herself, more to break up the oppressive silence of the corridor than in real need.
A moment later there was a crack, and the small triangular shaped area of obsidian rock above the doorway shattered. She caught the pieces with small tendrils of telekinetic power and sent it around the corridor to join the rubble from the destroyed golems, not noticing that a few of those remains were twitching.
Jean flew up so that she could see through the hole she had just created lighting her finger and moving her hand into the space so that she could see on the other side, and smiled brightly. What she could see was something almost like Harry's laboratory that he was setting up at Hogwarts and up in High Note. There were dozens of books lining the walls in large black (what else?) bookshelves, though the majority of bookcases were not filled looks but with other paraphernalia. There was a large crystal ball of some kind set on top of a plinth in the middle of the room, surrounded by fluffy large pillows, sort of like what you would find in a Bedouin tent. There was a wooden chair in front of a table in one corner near another, smaller bookshelf.
She sent her telekinetic power forward slithering down the back side of the door, and she at last found a latch and she unbolted it quickly, opening the door with a loud creak. With that, Jean stepped into the work room, looking around. Grabbing a bit of rock dust from the hallway she scattered it around everywhere, coating everything in the lab with a layer of it but not seeing any further traps.
With that done she took another step into the lab, looking at a few of the items and frowning faintly. Jean's telekinetic power was her primary power, but that was personal preference rather than a sign of its power level in comparison to her telepathy. Her telepathy was also very powerful indeed, but it also leaned more towards picking up emotion as well as thoughts rather than simply thoughts than Emma's or even Betsy's and she didn't like using it much.
Jean had rarely been in the position of being able to feel emotions from items, but some of these items were very odd. One of them looked like some kind of demon elves, and she almost she shuddered at the malevolent aura it was giving off. Other items gave off emotions of fear, and one or two seemed to be almost trying to grab her attention, but their attempts couldn't get through her belsham-trees.
Others were simply odd in appearance, one of them looked almost alien. One was some kind of helmet, which looked somewhat Egyptian but was clearly not, and made of a shiny metal, half of it missing, sheered off by some magical blast or something, but it was the shape of it which told Jean it had not been made for anyone with a human's head, more pointed in the back. Jean looked at it closer than the others, wondering what it could be.
Mindful of both her lovers' advice about not touching anything Jean moved back reached for the mokeskin pouch Harry had given her hanging on her belt. She opened it as wide as she could and with a thought she began to gather in books and items, tossing them all inside without touching any of them.
Jean whirled around suddenly to face the doorway having heard something moving. In the doorway stood a golem, though this one wasn't as well put together as they original ones had been. It had three arms, one arm taking place of a leg and one of the upper arms looked as if it had been patched together. Behind it she could see more movement, and Jean frowned faintly rubbing her nose irritably. "What does it take to put you lot down permanently!?"
She raised her hand, creating a shield around the door pushing the first golem back into its fellows and she held them there with one hand while her other systematically continued the task of filling the moleskin pouch with the items here.
Finally Jean removed the last item, the giant crystal ball from the center of the room. Not once did she touch any of the items. Once that was done Jean turned her attention to entrance way again frowning. I don't want to keep fighting these bastards all the way back… With that in mind she asked the air around her hopefully "Er, any house elf listening?"
Nothing happened and she shrugged. She hadn't thought she'd be able to summon a house elf. She had never actually been able to unless one had already been assigned and watching her. The elves didn't make a big deal about it, but they preferred to take orders from Harry than Ororo or Jean.
She hesitated just a moment too long, and the first golem had somehow reentered the doorway, one of its fingers on the hand that had replaced a leg scrapping along the stone of the entrance way under her shield. When that happened it triggered another trap. This one was designed as a purely destructive one rather than one designed to kill or keep out explorers and suddenly the entire room was filled with purple lights.
Jean backed away into a corner, raising her shield and making it so that it blacked out the air just in case of some kind of gas and then suddenly the purple lights all shot out purple lines connecting to one another. There was a flash and a resounding sound like a keening wail, and Jean shuddered as her body began to vibrate as if it was coming apart.
She reinforced her shield again, blocking out any and all sound or light or any other kind of sensation. Jean didn't even notice when the golems that had forged through the doorway when she rerouted the power that she had been using along that shield to her own came through and began to crumble into nothingness, nor did Jean notice when everything in the room fell apart or exploded, adding to the keening wail as if the sound was somehow in some was attacking the molecular bonds of everything inside the room.
At the same time her belsham trees came under attack from a brute force assault, hammering in. Hastily Jean threw out the image of a massive steel and stone wall to reinforce them, and even then she couldn't block out the pain getting through. Jean gritted her teeth though, pushing back with all the will that had made her the first true avatar of the Phoenix since before the creation of the earth, holding the line both physically and mentally with grim determination.
The attack seems to go on forever, but Jean continued to fight back, pouring more and more of her will into the shields trying to keep it together. Eventually it subsided and she slowly allowed her senses to come back one at a time, though she still kept her shields up for a moment.
Once she was certain the danger had passed Jean went to her knees as she at last released her control, gasping in air for the first time inside this dungeon without her telekinetic shield between her and the air. She was so exhausted that she didn't even notice, and she suddenly wasn't looking forward to having the flyer back to High Note. "Holy crap," she gasped, "what the hell was that!?"
She looked around, and noticed that there was nothing in the room anymore. The rugs, the plinth in the center, the bookshelves the tables and the golems, both those, everything was gone as if it never existed. There wasn't even any dust or other residue on the floor. "I seriously hope Selene doesn't have something like that set up at all her caches," Jean said pushing her to her feet with a groan. She almost reached out to the wall to steady herself but first made certain there was nothing underneath her hand before touching it. Once that was done she looked around again, and noticed that something was different. Where before had stood one of the bookcases against the far wall there was now a small hand sized open aperture.
Jean looked inside of it, and realized with surprise that she would barely be able to fit one of her rather small hands inside yet on the other side was a slightly wider hidden hidey-hole. Resting on the floor of that wider area was a gem about as big as her hand with all her fingers extended. She sort of recognized it, she had seen two like it before. "Well now," she muttered, smirking a little. "It looks as if Juggernaut's patron is about to lose another tether on this world." She frowned thoughtfully though, because it wasn't the red color that the other two gems she'd seen associated with Cytorrak had been. Instead it was yellow, almost like a citrine.
"Now if I was a bitch like Selene would I put a final trap on something like this? Yes I would," Jean muttered to herself, kneeling down so that she looked closely at the edge of the tiny hand sized opening. It took her a single look to realize the gem or her hand would have to scrape along the top or bottom if she just reached in and tried to remove the gem physically.
And even with my telekinetic power it's not going to be easy to get that gem out without touching any of the sides. So the entire thing is probably a pressure or touch based trap of some kind. Harry said there were a few wards like that.
Jean stepped well away, taking a moment to gather herself before reaching forward with one hand two fingers extended as she sent a tiny tendril of telekinetic power through the small aperture. Carefully and very slowly Jean raised the gem into the air, moving it forward just enough so to make certain that she had judged the height right and then slowly moving it through the opening.
Selene had been even trickier then that however, as there was a slight dip in the upper side of the small opening, and Jean had to alter the gems flight just slightly to move around it
"Pity I didn't find something shut all the wards and defensive spells down," Jean said to herself, as the gem finally came out of the aperture without having touched the side. "Or maybe there isn't anything like that around. Some of these traps seem much more final and pyrrhic to be the kind someone can turn off."
Again she didn't touch anything, not even letting the gem come close before opening the bag again and sending the bag toward it with a wave of her other hand. The opened mokeskin pouch soon engulfed the jam, and she sighed with relief as she telekinetically closed the pouch before returning it to her side.
Around her a loud rumble suddenly began, and she heard a crash from somewhere in the distance. The ceiling above her began to crumble, a stone slamming down right next to her. "Oh you have got to be kidding me!" Jean summoned her powers again, speeding out through the corridor and away as around her the ceiling and the walls shattered and fell.
She had to dodge aside several times along the corridor to swerve around falling rocks, but eventually she was back in the stairwell racing up through the air. The stairwell too was collapsing, even the entrance was and Jean barely escaped out into the scorching air of the Atacama desert before for the entire edifice simply collapsed, leaving nothing but wreckage. After it was all done, you would be very hard pressed to tell this rock from any other.
Jean lay on the ground outside, gasping in air as fast as her telekinetic abilities could allow. "Well, this was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had lately," Jean groaned, pushing herself up off the ground after several minutes of rest.
She leaned against the fang shaped rock with the blue marking just to regain her strength for a moment, noticing that the mark too was now gone. She reached again down to the belt and pouches Harry had prepared for them all and pulled out an energy bar biting into it hungrily. It didn't really help her mental and telekinetic exhaustion, but it helped her physical and mental ones at least.
Jean reached down to her belt again, picking up the radio and talking into it for a moment. "This is Phoenix to Hogwarts, this cache is done, I'm going to rest here and then make my way to the next one slowly."
Dennis's voice came back quickly. "Roger that Phoenix, good to hear from you, you were out of com range for a while there. Take your time, there's no rush."
"Thank god for that," Jean muttered closing her eyes for a moment, "Phoenix out."
About ten minutes later Jean stood up eventually, still shaky from the experience. "I hope the other caches aren't as bad as this…" She began to walk away, unsteady at first but regaining her strength slowly, despite the oppressive heat and dryness of the air. Eventually Jean felt up to finally taking off, and she pushed off the ground into the air. She still wasn't feeling up to flying all the way up High Note though, and simply flew over the desert then up into the mountains and down again. If I can get someplace with some water, maybe I can rest enough to make the run up.
"Or maybe I can just find some place to crash for an hour or so," Jean muttered, as she skimmed along the mountains. Eventually she left them behind like she had the desert, and she let her shield slowly falter leaving only a bare minimum around her, continuing to fly on above the rain forests. Jean didn't realize that she had just passed from Peru into Brazil.
Jean did notice however when she came upon what looked like a semi-active volcano, and was about to skirt around it when she noticed a young woman standing at the very lip of the volcano. On the other side of the short, squat volcano she could see a city, like the one she had briefly seen on the news about the Neo-romans, set like a white pillar of impossibility in the middle of the rain forest.
Ignoring that for now Jean raced downwards thinking that maybe this was some very odd suicide attempt, until she saw the woman's form suddenly shift into something that looked like flame and molten lave flow and she seemed to add a bit of rock to the lip of the volcano's top, before standing back.
She looked up suddenly, looking straight at Jean. "Who are you?" she said getting into some kind of combat stance that Jean hadn't seen before.
Jean thanks the stars that Harry had hit her with that translation spell. With Ororo having gotten over her irritation at it Jean predicted that it might turn out to be one of the most useful spells in his repertoire. She raised her hands in the air, saying "Easy, friend. Or at least not an enemy, passing through?"
"You mean fly through," the girl said amused. "How exactly are you flying Ms. 'not an enemy'?"
"I'm a mutant, same as you I suppose." Jean chuckled, landing next to the woman. All that time spent on trying to figure out how to find mutants, and I suddenly stumble into one? If Murphy is a God, he is making us his bitches.
"Mutant," the woman muttered one finger tapping the upper arm of her other arm. "Yes, that is what the Brazilian delegates that have come here have said I am. All my people now is that I am unusual, I have been outcast enough for that, putting a name on it won't make things any better."
Jean nodded, sitting down on the lip of the volcano to stare at her. the girl was lithe, somewhere between her and Kitty in age, though her body was much more that of a gymnast or track athlete than either Kitty's dancer look or Jean's slightly tougher, more muscled (and larger chested) form. She had black hair falling straight down past her shoulders to midway down her back, and tanned skin. She was also wearing a bit of lipstick and what looked like a toga.
She pulled out another energy bars bit into it before waving the remainder at the girl who declined wrinkling her nose. "Sorry," Jean muttered, "but I just had quite a bit of exercise I suppose you could say, I had to use my power quite a bit. Not on your land, or in Brazil at all. In some desert whose name I can't remember that way," she pointed over her shoulder.
The younger girl smirked a bit, somewhat disarmed by the other woman's attitude. "If you were in the Atacama you passed straight through Bolivia before reaching here. What's your name stranger? Mine is Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla."
"Phoenix," Jean muttered then swallowed.
"The immortal firebird? You must think highly of your skill to take such a powerful avatar." Amara's tone wasn't judging, just evaluating.
"Let's just say that it was sort of an obvious choice shall we? As to your powers," Jean went on, "and being ostracized like that, it isn't unfortunately unusual for mutants to run into. In fact it is becoming a major issue on both sides. A lot of mutants seem to think that their powers put them above humanity. that we should be ruling them. Others seem to think it inevitable that we will be persecuted for our powers and want to strike first, and then there are regular people who either think we're a minority group that needs to have its rights protected, or think we're dangerous freaks and want to either wipe us out or use us." She shrugged. "Human nature I guess, though that doesn't make it any better, and it won't stop me from trying to change it."
The young woman chuckled. "True, though I personally have only run into some persecution here. I am the only mutant among my people, and apparently there are few enough in Brazil as a total to make it a very small issue there, but my power is much greater than most of the ones that have been reported."
"You simply turn into magma or create it or what?"
"No, my powers are geothermic based as far as I can tell, I can open fissures and manipulate magma. I can turned into my magma form without difficulty, control comes much harder." She looked embarrassed for a moment gesturing at the volcano. "I created this when I was… bullied a few weeks after I had my first period. It was when my powers awoke, and even under the circumstances at the time it was a bit too much. I have yet be able to control it all the time, and I need to take this form to do it." she gestured down at her body which suddenly transformed, looking now as if it was covered in flowing magma and fire. It was actually rather beautiful the Jean, but she could see it might be off putting to others.
"How old are you?" Jean asked.
"17 going on 18 in three months, why?" Amara cocked her head, looking at the older woman.
"Tell me," Jean said slowly looking at her thoughtfully. "What do you think about the issues I just mentioned? And are you happy with your life here?"
Amara frowned tapping her arm again. "I would say I am more content than happy. I am the daughter of a senator, a member of the ruling body here. It's an easy life, but not exactly interesting or very engaging. I was excited when the Brazilian's made contact with us, even more so when they were able to punch a road through the rainforest to us so that we could open up formal dialogue. But even with that there doesn't seem to be any way I can break out of the mold. To my father and his fellows my powers are strange freakish things they'd prefer not to acknowledge.
She laughed suddenly. "My mother has even mentioned I need to find a way to get rid of them or at best control them because not being able to hurts my marriage prospects. But I'd rather use these powers that I have been given, and fighting for the good of all would be a good cause. Do you know anyone who's hiring?" she asked jokingly.
"Actually," Jean smiled "I do." She went on to describe a bit about the team they were putting together, leaving out everything about Harry's powers, plans outside the team, High Note (which she couldn't have talked about anyway) or Hogwarts. She ended with "and I can have's a the messenger drop off a communication device for you if you want to think about it and get back to us later."
Amara again tapped her upper arm with a few fingers, thinking thoughtfully. "It's certainly interesting, and my parents would jump at the chance for me to be able to go to someone to help me train in my powers. As I said I've made some headway, but having someone to help would be excellent. For that alone I think they would let me go to this school you all are setting up, and I can even suggest another student, or perhaps even a member of your team. I will warn you though he's an arrogant little asshole."
The sudden curse word from the woman who had been so poised and polite startled Jean into a laugh. "Is he that bad?"
"You have no idea, though it might be just his attitude to me because I'm a woman. His names Roberto da Costa and he has a Brazilian. He's a star in his soccer team and the son of a wealthy businessman, and around here soccer players can become bigger than movie stars. Either because of his upbringing or his soccer aspirations he is massively egotistical, arrogant and more than a bit of a peacock. Luckily his girlfriend seems to be able to control them when she's around."
She shook her head, "I met him on a trip with my father to Rio de Janeiro. I know he's run into some problems lately because of his powers which seemed to have awakened under similar circumstances to my own. Luckily I believe that his girlfriend has refused to abandon him, though if she has a mutant power I do not know what it is. Heck, I only know that much because my father and his hit it off."
"Interesting," Jean said nodding. "I don't think I have enough energy to deal with him today, but if need be I can smack him down if we go see him. I long do you think you'll need to think about this?"
"Oh I'm sold already," Amara laughed. "The idea of using my powers for a good cause like that is fantastic."
"And it gets you out of being the 'daughter of a senator'," Jean laughed.
"That too," Amara replied without a hint of embarrassment. "It'll take me a few days though to talk my father into letting me go, I don't want to simply run off. If you have your messenger delivery a device to me as you said, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. How will I recognize your messenger?"
"Oh trust me," Jean laughed again as she pushed herself to her feet, swiftly rising into the air. "Hedwig is very noticeable. You'll know her when you see her." With a firm handshake of farewell she zoomed off, leaving behind a young woman who suddenly realized that the world was open to her filled with possibilities. She chuckled then turned back to head towards the city the distance.
Dr. Doom turned from one of his experiments to stare at the window as his suits security features warned him that something was looking at him. When he turned, he noticed that it wasn't a person so much as an owl, a beautiful look Bubo Scandiacus, if he was any judge. However it was staring at him with possibly the most intelligent eyes he had ever seen on animal, and he had met several humans who could turn into animals before. On one claw she was carrying a message and inside his mask Doom raised an eyebrow. "An owl delivering a message? How quaint."
Her eyes narrowed and Doom was amused to feel a bit of danger in the air from moment as if she was going to attack him. Evidently the owl was much more intelligent than that however and decided against it, instead simply holding out her leg to him. With one steel gauntleted hand he reached forward plucking the message off her leg. "I don't suppose you'll tell me how you got through my defenses?"
The owl proceeded to preen itself with quite a bit of smugness in her manner, and Doom surprised himself by chuckling a little. "I did not think so."
With keeping one eye on the owl, he reached over and touched a small device in the center of his room, which controlled a defensive system based of using quantum energies to create a cage over any other living being in the room. It was one of his better designs, working off several former defensive installations he had created previously, many of which the FF had run into. It should have immediately captured any other living creature, human or otherwise in the room yet the field didn't appear around the owl, only a brief flicker of red energy that disappeared quickly.
Instead she simply glared at him more as if wondering how he dared try and trap her. Doom scowled in response. That was a minor mystery however, and instead he turned his attention to the letter.
Lord Doom, King of Latveria,
At our first meeting you mentioned a desire to, in your words, do business with me. While I realize that it has taken me overly long to get back to you, I am ready now to meet with you on neutral ground what business you have in mind. I would prefer someplace in Europe, but in the end the decision of the place I is up to you so long as it is on neutral ground. Naturally, I will choose the time, thus neither of us can prepare any untoward surprises for the other. A person of your intelligence will not need to be told this but I will state it plainly that I will be prepared to deal with you fairly so long as you deal fairly with me. Take that however you will.
Signed, Harry Potter, Wizard.
Doom stared down at the message thoughtfully, while in his heads up display some information about the owl appeared. He smiled faintly, seeing why the cage of energy hadn't worked. The owl was in fact generating her own energy field, and had automatically modified it in some fashion to counteract the energy field that his device put out. If she could do that so quickly, then it was almost certain that she could continue to do so even if he modified it to keep changing frequencies. Though that still didn't answer his question on how she came to be here...
Moreover his sensors were indicating that the owl had another sort of energy inside of her leading off into the distance, one that his computer had seen before albeit nowhere near as powerful in a few other animals when he had dealt with witches is in the past. So the owl is Potter's familiar he thought, he is either very foolish, very trusting or wishes to show that he is taking our correspondence seriously. Which is it I wonder? Given the fact that Potter's has not come out into the open or allied himself with any government that might negate the idea of him being trusting, and possibly foolish as well. And a man who can be as dangerous as the recordings from London indicate, would be intelligent enough to take our correspondence seriously.
Doom too had an intelligence service, though his was more electronic and robotic based than was normal. Doom was not one who trusted agents easily, especially agents that would sell out their own countries or groups. This probably made him much saner than most people would give him credit for. However he had robotic spies in nearly every major city in Europe. The one stationed in London had captured some of the activity in London after rebooting itself from being deactivated in some magical fashion. The information he had gleaned from that as well as the machines deactivation had helped him come to understand how powerful Potter was, and how dangerous.
While it has taken him quite a while to get back to me it has not taken long enough for me to take offense from that. And the issue I need his… aid for, no matter how distasteful it is to admit that, is dire enough that I will agree to meet him on neutral ground. But he would do well to remember that Doom is not to be trifled with. A show of knowledge for now. With that he turned and picked up a pen and paper.
While I would have preferred that you contacted me earlier than this, I cannot take offense at the amount of time it has taken you especially given the activities you were a part of in London. I presume that clearing up after the madwoman Selene has taken up much of your time? What runic system was that Selene was using, I recognized a few runes from the Cimmerian system but not the others? A fate worse than death indeed for those in London.
Know however that any further delay will be unseemly, and might result in our current neutral stance changing. Due to this, I will meet you in Barcelona, Spain on Tuesday and you may determine the place in the city itself and the specific time. Naturally I will follow the letter of any agreement we reach. I would prefer this meeting is between the two of us alone.
Dr. Doom, king of Latveria.
Done with his message he rolled it up tight then Doom turned back to see the owl still staring at him, her body relaxed yet Doom knew that was a lie. "Return to your master with this," Doom said handing over the note, then waved one gauntleted hand. "You may go now."
He almost laughed aloud as the bird gave him a rather huffy look as if to say 'I don't need your permission'. Evidently the bird was very hard to impress, and he continued to watch as the bird lit off the windowsill, and flew out over the grounds of his Castle. Doom swiftly connected to all of the surrounding cameras, and was able to catch the moment the owl disappeared.
Swiftly he moved over to another computer and began to run the video of that disappearance through several different image analyzers. His whole castle was protected against magical teleportation or scribing or anything else he could think of, and of course was protected electronically as well, but it the owl had disappeared almost completely, without anything he had built even registering her departure. After a moment he sat back chuckling a little at the minor mystery and setting up a few of his computers to work on it. With that done Doom turned back to his own computer screen, mind already back on his current task.
At the same time that Jean was having her bit of adventure Harry had decided to find the dark places that King William had mentioned. With Dr. Druid's help he created a holographic map again like the world globe, though this time it showed just the UK.
The older man shook his head smiling faintly. "There aren't many dark places anymore, most died decades ago, and one I know collapsed during the wars due to some errant bombing, though it was only noticed later. In fact there are only three left. This one," he said pointing to one that was almost central Britain, "is very small, possibly the size of a place for rituals? It isn't quite over lay lines but it is close enough that the wards there could be tapping into the closest, I'm not quite sure but I'm certainly not going to say it would be impossible for wizards. It's deep in the valleys there, so it's kind of out of the way even so and I think only someone very conscious of their environment would be able to notice that they had just been guided to one side somehow."
He tapped another one down in Wales. It was actually somewhat close to his own area, but it covered much more land. "This one might well have covered a small community. Again the wards around it are very subtle. People think they can't enter, turn aside or other issues. I think there are other wards deeper in, I for one keep having issues with my bowels when I try to get through, and I cannot get a hold of the wards for some reason to get past." Harry chuckled and Dr. Druid went on quickly. "It's also helped by the fact that it's out of the way in the hills, but I'm not certain what you'll find there."
"And this one?" Harry asked, pointing at one where the doctor had marked out the third dark zone. This dark zone was right over a ley lines, so there was no mystery as to how it was still powering its wards.
Dr. Druid nodded, a faint frown on his somewhat scarred face. "Yes that one is quite a bit larger than the other two almost four times the size of the second one actually. It is almost certainly the one that the King and his government figured out first, as you can see," he said gesturing at the map. "It's right in the middle of the Thames Valley, and that isn't exactly an out-of-the-way area. If anyone thought about it mathematically they would figure out that their maps and land surveys are missing something. Couple that with satellite data on the size of the area, and there is no chance of it remaining hidden."
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "Regardless of anything else unfortunately I might have to sell that one. It's too central a location, and if I have to take down the wards to enter I can't very well argue that it isn't part of Britain can I?"
"I believe that he would be most interested in it yes," Dr. Druid chuckled dryly. Even if it's just used as farmland that could add a third again to the amount of farmland in the Thames Valley. It's quite a chunk of land, and I have to think that you should probably visit that one first Mr. Potter."
Harry nodded, and suddenly Hedwig appeared on his shoulder. "Excellent timing as always Hedwig." he murmured lifting one hand to gently stroke her plumage, surreptitiously looking at her legs but not finding a note there. Hedwig precked, leaning into the caress slightly and nipping at Harry's ear affectionately. They had only been able to spend a few hours together over the past week as Harry was in a rush to finish the work on the room of requirement, and test himself, and spending time with Melody, Jean and Ororo. Hedwig did not begrudge ay of the human females their own time with her Harry, but still wanted to spend time with her human so was looking forward to this.
"Did you have any trouble dropping off that message for me?" Harry asked, carefully not looking at Dr. Druid or Dennis where he sat in front of the map of the world, reading some kind of printout.
Hedwig shook her head all the way around signifying no, holding out her forearm with a note on it.
Harry immediately pulled it off and read the message, frowning faintly. I suppose that's the best I'm going to get. Whatever Doom wants from me must be something major though for him to not even try to intimidate me. I don't like the fact he really has dabbled in magic, or the fact he somehow knows about Selene and what happened in London, but I can live with it.
He quickly put the note away in a pocket and changed the subject. Harry gestured at the spot on the map, blowing it up momentarily to allow Hedwig to look at it. After a few seconds perusal she precked affirmatively before Harry could even tell her what he wanted. "We've got a bit of a mystery there Hedwig, so if you could go and find a suitable location for me to pop into, you and I can try to solve it. Your senses will almost certainly be useful once we get there."
Hedwig nodded, and pushed herself off of his shoulder. A moment later she disappeared and Dr. Druid chuckled quietly, rubbing at his eyes, deactivating his mage sight. "That is like no teleportation I've ever seen. Not even your little house elves move in quite the same way."
"I have no idea what she does," Harry replied honestly. "Every time I think of looking into it something else comes up, but I'm happy to allow Hedwig her little mysteries."
Dr. Druid chuckled. The two continued to talk quietly to one another for about an hour or so before Hedwig came back, and she and Harry communed for a moment before he nodded. "Good spot Hedwig," he murmured and nodded to Dr. Druid. "We'll be back."
The doctor nodded at the younger man, who promptly disappeared without loud pop in the air. "I have got to learn how to do that, even Mr. Potter's teleportation is much easier than my own," Dr. Druid muttered pushing himself up and out of the table he had been sitting at wincing occasionally. Even now there were just some pains that he still had to deal with after his battle with Selene.
Harry appeared in a small clearing in grove of trees about 5 minutes' walk away from the area where the wards were set up. He could feel them him even from here, and they were indeed running off a small drizzle of power from the ley lines. They were nowhere near taking as much power as the wards in Hogwarts even now, so it was no wonder they were still standing.
He moved towards them, and almost immediately as soon as he faced that direction he felt the first ward hit him. "It isn't all that subtle," he muttered shaking his head. It wasn't a suggestion it was almost a command to look away, and with every step he took in that direction it got worse. "Even normal people would recognize this," he said sighing a little. "Wizards and subtlety just do not go together alas. Well in some cases it does," he laughed quietly, he could do subtle of course and he knew several back in his dimension who could, if they chose to. "It's just that the vast majority of wizards would not even know what it meant unless you forced them to look it up in a dictionary."
That thought cheered him up and Harry forged through the ward ignoring it easily until he had to stop for a second when he came to a second one. This one was not a modified confounding ward to push interest away, this was a full on dissolution, hiding the area in front of him from view.
It looked to his nonmagical eyes as if he could step forward and suddenly be on the other side. It was much subtler than the first, and Harry wondered idly if maybe they had been set down by two different people.
When he activated his mage sight however he could see the wards laid out on the land, and noticed there was a third ward. Cracking his neck for a moment he raised his hands and began to weave his own spells through the wards, pulling their lines of power this way and that. Eventually he was able to make a hole in it, and moved through it quickly with Hedwig perched on his shoulder.
Suddenly around them the area which had been clear plane and fields, was now a small group of dilapidated houses and wild fields of grass and weeds everywhere, crisscrossed with the remains of very low walls practically everywhere, which had probably marked separate warding lines which failed over time, unlike the third ward, which was directed at keeping creatures in. Here and there Harry could see bones of large creatures, ranging in size from a large deer to much larger. "Interesting, I think we know now why the wards covers so much area."
Harry moved through the area, all of his senses alert his mage sight active and a ready spell in one hand. On his shoulder Hedwig too was tense and ready.
There were fifteen houses all clustered together, sharing a common green between them and an outer wall surrounding them about waist high separating them from the fields where Harry supposed they raised the animals he could see, which he was most certainly going to examine before he left.
The wall was made of stone and was still in generally good repair, though the houses, like the walls Harry thought possibly separated the animals, did not look so good. The wooden thatch rooms had caved in, the wood had rotted, and there didn't seem to be anything else or anyone living here of course. Harry hadn't thought there would be, but a small part of his mind had held out hope.
After making a careful external examination of the small community Harry moved around the interior wall until he came to a entrance where his mage site told him was another, much nastier ward, and he began to dismantle it entirely. That took him about thirty minutes. He could of course have just powered through it, but he didn't want to get into the mindset that exchanged brute force for thought without having a very good reason. Besides it was good practice.
Once inside Hedwig left his shoulder circling the area looking for any dangers while Harry made his way towards the well he could see at the epicenter of the shared common green. He stopped momentarily when he nearly stepped on the remains of a sign, which had probably been blown here from the gate. He turned it over, and could barely make out one letter in five, not enough to really figure out what it said.
A minute Later harry reached the well and he looked down into it shaking his head. He could barely make out a rune down below, but the spell it was powering, either to clean the water or create it as there wasn't any in the well, was gone now. It looked as if the only wards around that had been linked to the ley line underneath this land were the ones defending it from outside interest.
The main stone was also easy to find with his mage sight. It was in the largest house, set up in one of the corners and Harry scowled at it, for it was obviously of bad (i.e. cheap) quality because it was coming apart at the seams despite having nowhere near the load the hearth stone at Hogwarts handled with ease, let alone the amount it had handled for centuries on a wartime footing. The fact it was small, only about three feet tall couldn't explain the amount of decay he saw. He could also see that bits of it were not proper granite but some other stone mixed in.
"No use taking that alas. Pity, I could seriously use another hearth stone. On the bright side there don't appear to be any human remains left," he muttered, shaking his head. "I've had enough of that thank you so much." Indeed, so much time had passed that even the bodies of people who had been killed in their houses had decayed utterly, for which Harry was very thankful.
Harry explored each house in turn, trying to find anything of interest here, and in one of them he found a passageway leading down into the basement. Inside the basement he found several shelves cut out of the surrounding ground, and his eyes lit up as he saw what was there. "Potion ingredients, excellent!"
Moving forward he cast a few spells on all of them using a spell he had learned from Professor Sprout and smiled happily at most of the returns. Only a few of them had gone bad, and some of them probably had increased their potency over time. He could recognize a few vials of preserved Dragon's blood, and he wondered if maybe the bones outside were still good to use for ingredients.
If so, this place is a major find even if I can't keep the land itself. I will definitely need to check on that.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his shrunken trunk, expanding it quickly to normal size, then began to grab everything off the shelves, stuffing it all into the trunk. With that done he exited the house, checking the others to see if they had similar setups but they didn't. As soon as he finished with the last one Hedwig zoomed down, landing on his shoulder and he shook his head. "I didn't find anything, did you?"
The snowy owl hooted mournfully shaking her head.
"Didn't think so, well now out into the fields I guess. We'll start with the largest skeletons first." Hedwig nodded and launched from his shoulder again in search of anything small and squeaky or big and dangerous.
Harry went from skeleton to skeleton trying to identify them and only succeeded in doing so to four. One was the very few remains of a manticore, consisted of a rib cage and one paw. The second were the bones of a three headed snake of some kind, while the third was most definitely the bones of a small basilisk. The fourth was probably what had killed everything else, the remains of a nundu, a huge cat creature who was known as one of the few animals more dangerous than a basilisk or dragon due to its poisonous breath, magical immunity and brute power. It was also the most complete skeleton, and Harry shuddered a little guessing that it had died of starvation after killing and eating all the other animals.
Regardless of his ability to identify them he magically gathered them all up and put them into his trunk to join the potion ingredients he had found earlier. A last perusal from the sky with Hedwig and Harry nodded, deciding they had found everything they could here.
With that Harry began to cast spells, shattering the walls one by one outside of the house that contained the hearth stone. This took him about forty minutes, and after he was done the entire community was simply gone, the houses utterly demolished, the walls torn down and the stones that had made them shattered, their bits and pieces scattered. After that he searched out the surrounding ward stones and frowned in thought. Take the wards down now, or wait until William pays me for the land?
Eventually he decided to leave them up for now. Harry didn't think he'd require the land here, and space expansion charms could do so much anyway. Still he would rather wait on that decision until he could talk it over with his ladies, and besides William was a politician. "Despite William being a generally nice old man, I would prefer to continue to deal with him from a position of strength rather than hand him the land and expect to be reimbursed."
After saying that aloud Harry chuckled quietly. "You think I'm picking up some of this business acumen stuff, Hedwig?"
Hedwig declined to answer tucking her head underneath her wing in reply. "Thank you for that vote of confidence."
With that they popped back to Hogwarts wards and filled Dr. Druid in on what he had found. After a few minutes they were off once more, teleporting to the entrance to Dr. Druid's house. The older man moved inside, taking this opportunity to grab a few items that he wanted, and with one of the elves helping him, began to shift all of his furniture to one of the rooms in Hogwarts that he had been living in for the past week and a bit. After that Dr. Druid would take down the wards around this place, while Harry moved on to the dark place nearby.
Moving from Dr. Druid's house down to the dark place in Wales was easy. Harry simply drove there, enjoying the day with Hedwig actually amusingly sitting on her perch right in the midst of the air stream coming in from the window and from there connection he could tell she was enjoying it. Harry refrained however from making any jokes about how much she resembled a dog however, he liked his ears where they were.
He stopped and parked in a small town which was the nearest point he could drive to that wasn't private property near the dark zone, then disillusioned himself and disappeared into the woods surrounding it, moving up the hills. About 20 minutes' walk later through the woods both Harry and Hedwig suddenly stopped a feeling of unease hitting them. It was very subtle, almost as if he felt he was being watched or approaching a wild animal of some kind that he shouldn't go near. "Okay, now we've seen what the subtle wizards of this world can do. Damn that's good…"
With that he began to cast spells, activating his mage sight and looking around. He frowned however when he noticed that the strange fear ward was the only one he could see. He nudged his head against Hedwig and said, "Keep your eyes peeled, if they were subtle enough to put something like that up they might have something else some kind of trap even more hard to spot inside. And you're better at spotting things like that then I am."
Hedwig precked affirmatively, staring ahead with her unblinking owl eyes. Harry moved forward cautiously but nothing happened for the next 15 minutes. the next few wards were easy enough for Harry to spot, they were simple prank wards really, very odd to see protecting a magical community yet they would certainly be effected.. There was a bowels loosening one, which Dr. Druid had mentioned, a dizziness one and several others of similar natures. "Why do I get the impression Hedwig that we are coming on something that the Marauders would've liked quite a bit? I halfway expect Sirius to pop out of from behind tree somewhere."
Hedwig precked amusingly at that putting her head against his and Harry chuckled. He no longer felt much sadness when he thought of Sirius. His other friends were another matter, because they were so much younger. His dog-father been middle-aged, and despite his time and Azkaban had lived through a pretty full life. Neville and the others however had died young after a little over a year of pain and death, and that had made their deaths all the more tragic.
Five minutes later and four more prank wards of varying power Hedwig precked sharply nipping Harry's ear and he stopped suddenly. "What?"
Hedwig launched herself from his shoulder, flying ahead and circling around what looked like a regular moss covered rock. She flew back without touching it For a moment even with his mage sight on Harry couldn't see what had caught his familiar's attention, then he did and Harry blanched. Good grief, that is nasty, a ward that would pull out my bones and make the dance in front of me as I died? That is both immensely inventive and incredibly disturbing. Why do I get the impression that the people who sent this up are just like the group that set up the wards on the Buckingham Palace?"
His familiar nodded her head affirmatively and Harry looked at her "You think so or you know so?"
Hedwig's abilities to see and understand ward structures were amazing even to Harry. She could see things that he couldn't, magical connections that seemingly did not exist to his senses. Or perhaps his human brain simply couldn't quite fathom them. Whatever the case it had been proven that she could see things that he couldn't, and sometimes those things are very important.
The snowy owl replied in the affirmative again and he frowned faintly. "But those wards weren't so old they could've been there before Buckingham Palace was built. Did one the conclaves not retreat entirely from non-magical interaction?" He smiled faintly "I love a good mystery, so long as I can solve it anyway."
With that he got to work dismantling the ward, taking it apart slowly. It was dangerous work, as there were more than a few traps built into it as well and he chuckled admiringly as it finally came apart under his assault. "I think I would've liked to meet the people who put this up, it would have been an interesting learning experience.
Hedwig landed on his shoulder, and the two went on. Harry paused for a moment as he looked at the back of the stone and he laughed aloud when he saw what was written there. "'Laugh this one off'! Oh that's good."
He continued on his way, and about 10 minutes later came upon what this was all supposed to protect, a small community built around and under trees, smaller than the community he had been before. There were about seven houses, one of them was so dilapidated he wasn't certain if it was a house or something else. They were all spread out under the trees, with no walls between them only one surrounding wall at head height. Or at least it should've been at head height, age and the effects of wind and rain had taken its toll, and it was now simply a pile of rocks rather than a wall.
Harry sighed, some of his good humor leaving him at the sight. "I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up to find anyone alive, but I did anyway." With his mage sight on he could see that there was a hearth stone, nowhere near the size of the one Hogwarts had but still large for community like this set into the center out in the open which was odd in and of itself. Normally heart stones would be protected or hidden away somewhere, like the one at the last community which had been hidden behind wooden panels that had rotted. Here it was as if the group didn't want to hide it away.
He looked around, trying to see if there was any other active ward in the area and frowned when he noticed a very major one, a heavily modified disillusion ward still up and running in a small house set near the hearth stone, Harry had never seen some of the little add-ons to it, but he thought that maybe it could have been designed to hide something from the dementors. It was so small he had missed it at first, and it was with a start that he realized it was a house elf dwelling. Harry and Hedwig exchanged a look, and Hedwig leapt from his shoulder into the air circling the property once before coming back down precking affirmatively.
Harry jumped up over the mound of rocks that marked where the surrounding wall had once been, making his way through the community. The insides of the houses were utterly trashed, but this wasn't just caused by wind and rain, Harry could still see burn marks on the rock, several other signs of combat everywhere, and he chuckled darkly. "These people put up one hell of a fight, though I wonder why they remained here rather than retreat to Hogwarts?"
Eventually he moved out of the houses and towards the house elf dwelling, and spent several minutes taking down the ward around it, then looked inside. Inside were four small cribs, holding house elf babies. They looked no more than a few months old or at least the house of equivalent, Harry didn't know how house elf babies matured. He looked up from the inside and noticed a small stasis ward that he hadn't noticed from the outside, and smiled. "Whoever did this wanted these babies to remain alive come what may."
Harry glanced over his shoulder at the heart stone which showed absolutely no sign of wear and tear. The wards around this place hadn't anywhere near the power requirement necessary to pull enough power from the ley line to hurt the hearth stone and unlike the stone at the last place this one was of excellent quality. The wards could've stayed up for literally forever, so long as nothing happened to the lay line itself. Someone would have eventually gotten through, and found these babies, and hopefully care for them.
With a sigh he stood up and moved to the hearth stone, erasing the wards on it slowly one by one, until it stood free of them all. That took them about an hour and a half, because he didn't want to damage the hearth stone. This and the house elves were a major find. The house elves not so much admittedly, though of course he was happy to have found them and be able to let them have a chance to actually live rather than sleep on, the years not touching them. But another hearth stone would allow him to use one somewhere now and still have one in reserve. Pity Charles' mansion isn't anywhere near a ley line. Of course he'd do a few tests to make sure that there was no hidden damage anywhere, but that was for later.
As soon as the last ward went down he said in a loud voice, "Mertie?"
An old house elf matron appeared in front of him, gasping a little. "M, master, huh, calls Mertie?"
"Sorry Mertie, I know you're not the best popper," he said kneeling down next to her and placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. "However I think this requires a mother's touch."
Mertie was the female equivalent of the majordomo, the oldest female house elf though not by a wide margin. There were several others close to her own age, but she was the undisputed leader of the group. Her eyes widened when she looked past Harry's waving arm into the small house elf house. "Babies! Master whys they be…"
"I don't know why they were here," Harry said shrugging. "I think they just didn't trust the wards of Hogwarts, or perhaps didn't know Salazar had found a way to protect them." Or maybe, a darker part of his mind thought, they knew of Dumbledore's stupid plan to have the house elves slowly die off, and decided that their house elves at least would have a chance to live no matter how far in the future it might be. He shook that thought off and asked "Is there anything I need to do for them?"
"Master be bonding them when they are able to walk," Mertie said firmly. "Until then house elf magic be helping them, it be like baby food," she explained trying to put it in human terms.
"Whatever you need you will have Mertie," Harry said formally, and then waved his hand. "You need any more help, want me to call one of the others?"
Mertie nodded and Harry called three of the other similarly aged matrons, and one of them helped Mertie take the entire house elf house, popping off with it back to Hogwarts with its precious cargo. Once Harry uprooted it from the ground the other two took the hearthstone back to Hogwarts.
Once they were gone Harry stood there for a moment looking around. This had once been a really nice place, and he could easily picture it full of life and people. He debated putting up his own wards to guard this place until he decided what to do with it but after a moment shook his head sadly. This place deserved to have people living in it, people coming in and seeing it, and it would be a long time before he had enough workers of his own to set up in a community like this.
With that thought he got to work burying the few not completely decomposed bodies he found, setting them up in a series of graves outside the community.
After that he went to work on erasing any trace of magic from the area. Let that rest of it stand, he thought to himself, let the wind and rain finish their work, and let other people come and see, I don't have the heart to destroy it all.
Harry never noticed the half buried sign by what had been the entrance to the small community, a sign that still held, badly faded but still visible, the Welsh letters for the name Duchairn.
Once he was done he shook his head. "One more Hedwig, then it's back to Hogwarts and a well deserved rest for the evening."
Hedwig precked rather sadly, looking around, her own feelings much the same as her human's yet also thinking o the variety of small tasty things she could find in the fields around them.
With that Harry popped them back to where he had parked his car, and after undoing the dissolution spell on himself they got in, driving up from Wales to near where he remembered the last dark zone was. Once they were in the area he called the castle on his communicator and had Dr. Druid help them find a place to park, but it was quite a ways distance, since this place was deep into the woods and hills.
"My advice would be for you to fly there Mr. Potter," Dr. Druid said via the communicator. "That is, unless you have a secret desire to be hiking for the next several hours."
"Sound advice Dr., and a very accurate summation of my feelings at the moment," Harry said dryly. "I'll call you back if I need help."
With that Harry and Hedwig took the air after once again disillusioning himself, and flew on in the direction that Dr. Druid had indicated. Hedwig flew ahead, but she was quickly back, precking angrily.
No, Harry realized, as the snowy owl came closer, it wasn't anger so much as fear. "Oh joy, he muttered "that's just what I need. Back away Hedwig, head back to the car, I'll meet you there."
Hedwig nodded, increasing her speed as she passed him. That, Harry reflected as he watched his familiar fly off, was probably not a good sign. The only thing that could scare Hedwig that much were dark creatures such as dementors or lethifolds.
Did someone else find a way to capture a few dementors? But wouldn't Death have pointed me in that direction, she really didn't like the fact that the others had escaped her. Harry paused a moment in midair and said softly "Magia Erebea," activating his defensive spell, and with a faint touch to his chest deactivating the illusion of regular clothing he had been wearing. He still hadn't gotten out of the habit of wearing his crisis suit 24/7, though Ororo was trying to break him of it.
Harry floated on, keeping his eyes peeled and about 5 minutes later came upon what had so scared Hedwig and he stood back with a hiss. "By Merlin, Morgana and Maeve…"
Harry had come upon places that had been the sites of some very dark rituals during his war against Voldemort and his followers. That was what he was feeling now. Whatever was ahead of him, hidden behind wards to keep out unwanted visitors and any non-magical was the site where something dark, something incredibly powerful had happened, something so powerful that whatever it was continued to power the wards without any connection the ley lines or anything else.
Harry moved forward again, and began to deactivate the wards but these were not subtle wards these were simply powerful, and they had multiple magical signatures on them something Harry had seen only rarely before outside of Hogwarts. Deciding enough was enough he simply summoned up his power. His eyes crackling with power, Harry reached out and gripped the magic of the wards, shattering them, ripping them asunder with his own magic. There was a boom and a crash of thunder and the ground shook but Harry was willing to deal with a bit of damage to the environment to get in and deal with whatever was in there.
With the wards down, so too did the illusion that had been part of them collapse. What had been a small hill covered with trees like the dozens of others around was now revealed as a plain hill with a single badly overgrown dirt path leading up it. It was also obviously raised by magic in some way, the uniform nature of the hill said that much, though it hadn't weathered he test of time and erosion any better than anything else Harry had seen today. On top of that hill was a large stone table, shattered now, as was the remains of the hearth stone that had centered the wards.
Harry landed next to it, shuddering a little at the feeling around him. There were a few remains in a few of the seats, and were a few remains around it, just a few pieces of metal that might have been pins and one or two small rings. At each position along the table were small family crests of some kind. Harry didn't recognize any of them, though he had only done a brief perusal of the history of the wizards in this dimension.
That was enough however to tell Harry where he was. "Ahh," he said rather sadly, touching the stone table. "So this is where it began. This is the meeting place that portrait of this universe's Dumbledore spoke of, where that Celestial appeared and summoned up the dementors and set them upon wizard kind." He shuddered again, feeling the evil that remained in the very air here. Souls had been pulled from the afterlife here and then twisted and mutated into the darkest, most vile of beings imaginable. No wonder this place felt so vile.
Harry growled, his eyes lighting up further, words failing him at the moment yet he knew what he had to do now. He raised himself into the air again, and began to chant a spell of purification. It was holy spell, one of the ones he had learned from a book he'd borrowed from Dr. Strange in return for allowing the doctor access to his own library. The spell had been developed to cleanse an area after a demon summoning by a Sorcerer Supreme in the distant past. Harry hoped it would work well enough here, and he would take great pleasure in destroying the remains of this enclave of wizards.
The chanting and spell casting went on for several minutes, since the spell was not a wizard spell it had to be modified to not call upon other powers. Harry was still firmly of the belief that that was a bad idea in the long run, though he had to admit that it seemed to be working for the Sorcerer Supremes. It just gave him the willies really.
About fifteen minutes later he cast the spell, and a hard white light enveloped the area blooming and blossoming from the tips of his fingers each beam zooming down into the area around the stone. Lights flashed up from where the original beams impacted the Earth, and soon they intersected creating a woven net of white lines. With the final word of power they imploded in some fashion and Harry closed his eyes reflexively. After a moment he opened them, sighing faintly as he realized the spell had worked, dispelling the sense of evil in the air.
Harry breathed slowly in and out for a moment, and was not surprised to hear the flap of wings behind him. "All done, Hedwig," he muttered, "well with that at least."
He started casting spells again, reducing the remains of the table and the shattered heart stone under it to rubble then scattering the rubble down the mountainside, smashing and changing the hill's shape enough so that it looked more natural, and finally transplanting a few of the trees nearby up onto the top of the hill so that it at least looked from a distance as if nothing had ever been there. It would take a while for it to actually look that way, but he hoped that no one would stumble on it and ask awkward questions. Frankly he didn't think they would, right now it looked as if something weird happened, but nothing pointed to magical weird.
"And if they ask other questions it's not my problem," Harry said to himself and Hedwig precked agreement. With that Harry turned, and headed back to his car, now eagerly looking forward to a well-deserved night of leisure.
Jean rested for about an hour up in High Note, spending time with Melody and surprisingly enough rediscovering her childhood love of Disney films. There was something in particular about the Jungle Book that she liked, though hearing Melody sing along with 'I wanna be like you' might be the reason for that.
After the movie was over she bade Melody farewell with a hug and a kiss on the cheek then left the forest area, and went into the control room, changing High Note out of its current orbit and over to the Middle East. It was slightly more difficult than the previous movement, since there were several satellites from major world powers dedicated to staring down over this particular hotbed of unrest. Still, she was able to guide it through the detritus in Earth orbit eventually. Once the giant asteroid coasted into its new orbit, Jean stood up and stretched, "Once more into the breach."
With that she went into the docking area. She spent him few moments to simply floating up out in space before siding again turning her head down towards Earth and zooming down into the atmosphere. About 20 minutes later Jean was through the atmosphere and again flying nape of the Earth, though the scenery this time was markedly different than the rain forest. After a moment Jean pulled out her communicator. "Hogwarts this is Phoenix, I'm moving towards the second target, can you guide me in?"
Sir Dennis's voice answered her quickly. "Roger that, are you sure you rested enough?"
Hopefully Jean said shrugging. "We'll see in a bit, but my powers come back to me pretty quickly." Indeed, while her body was still sore and she was still dealing with some after effects of mental fatigue, she could tell that her powers were already back to full strength. Must be a Phoenix thing, she thought to herself laughing internally.
With the old man's help she was able to quickly guide herself to the target area though there she ran into another issue. "Great just great, right next to a terrorist base."
"That's an assumption Phoenix," Dennis replied, "though it's probably a good one given the fact you're on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
"Whatever, going in silent now." Jean was soon floating in midair staring down at what looked like a small but extremely well hidden terrorist camp set into the hills and mountains of Afghanistan. It was up a small ravine, set into the mountainside itself, with absolutely no flat land around it. Yet that hadn't seemed to stop the terrorists from setting up what looked like a gun range, and there were about 10 of them outside taking potshots downrange. Several more lounged around the entrance to a cave system of some kind, though Jean of course couldn't tell from this angle how extensive it was. But there were three or four more caves of similar nature all around them, and all of them had seven or eight terrorists lounging around outside.
She frowned thoughtfully. If Selene set up the same defenses here as she did in the other cache, then I might not be in any position to fight them afterward. Best hit them now I suppose. Jean felt a little queasy about that, after all these guys were just regular humans and there was no way they could fight her and expect to win, not without taking her by surprise and that wasn't going to happen. Before she became the Phoenix maybe enough bullets in the air flying towards her could have overwhelmed her telekinetic power, but not faster bullets gave her much more trouble, a Vulcan cannon for example was something she was not looking forward to facing in the future, but handheld rifles, pistols and machine guns , no chance.
Maybe I can just scare them off Jean thought, looking around. Then she stopped and turned back, noticing another terrorist had just come out of one of caves. That is a face I think I recognize.
She zoomed closer hovering right above them trusting in the dissolution ward Harry had placed on her costume to keep her from being seen. The man was swarthy with a beard, but other than that he had a very nasty scar running over his forehead from right above one ear and to his opposite eye. That scar was the reason Jean remembered him. She had seen it on the news recently, this face and a name (which Jean couldn't remember) connected to some kind of bombing of a US embassy in Africa or some kind of attack on a school somewhere in Russia? Regardless, she knew the UN was after him.
With that she knew what she had to do. She frowned a little not liking to use telepathy like this, but it was much easier than killing them. With that thought Jean reached out with her mind, gingerly touching each of the terrorist's minds, trying not to delve too deep but creating a small, tiny surface connection with each of their minds then shoved her power down that connection with all the speed of a punch to the jaw.
Their brains shut down for the moment, knocking them all unconscious. Every terrorist in sight slumped to the floor one after another all around where Jean was still hovering in the air. There were some outcries from within a few of the caves, and dozens more men came charging out. Jean realized that the caves were much more interconnected than she had thought but another wave of telepathic power shot out, and each of their minds shut down as soon as they came out of the caves.
A pile of them began to form around two cave entrances in particular and she laughed lightly wondering what they would think when they woke up all in a pile like that. Of course they wouldn't, she had made certain to use enough power to knock them all out for at least ten hours. She couldn't be quite as exact as Charles could be in such a thing, but she made up for that with power, which would be enough for this.
After a few minutes she sent forth her telepathy again, trying to make certain there were no more terrorists around. After a moment she nodded in satisfaction and pulled up her communicator from her belt.
"This is Phoenix to Hogwarts, hostiles are down, searching for the markers now, but start looking for the nearest UN base, I'll have some refuse to drop off."
"Roger that," Dennis replied, sounding a little nonplussed, but rather amused besides. "You know, I believe it is going to be a true delight to work with you lot, I'll get back to you on where a UN base is. Be aware though it might not be the closest one, I think I read a report somewhere… anyway I'll get back to you when you're done."
Jean moved up the ravine further into the mountains to an area well above the terrorist's caves, and soon she found what she was searching for. This was a small pebble that was an oddly stark white color stuck among the otherwise basalt and shale rock face.
Once again Jean rose into the air and then began to pummel the ground with telekinetic bursts, seeing if there was a false wall anywhere. Soon enough the façade of rock that had covered the entrance to this cache had shattered under her blows. The dust and noise receded slowly, then Jean blanched, hearing a scuttling noise within. "Oh what now?"
That question was answered as out of the ruins came several dozen large stone scorpions, growing larger the moment they came out of the ragged entrance. At first they had been size of kittens, but the moment they hit the ground outside the hole they all grew significantly, and each of swiftly towered up as tall as 9 feet at the tail, though their main body was only 3 feet above the ground.
Jean groaned leaping into the air and holding her head momentarily with both hands. "Selene, you were a paranoid bitch."
Despite her irritation however out in the open these constructs were not a real threat to Jean. She stayed well above them, ignoring their snapping claws and striking tails, raining down blows of telekinetic power slamming into and shattering them. However she remained up there for a few minutes, waiting to see if these would have the same trick that the golems back in the Atacama had.
Sure enough they began to reform and she scowled angrily. She looked around frowning for a moment. There was nothing here that was that important, so Jean decided to use the same trick she had against the golems initially. However Jean first threw up another shield downrange towards where the terrorist base was, enlarging it to cover the area around them.
Once that was done Jean turned her attention back on the scorpions, and concentrated, taking a large spark of flame and shrinking it down, down, down and then firing it off into the mass of scorpions still trying to reach up to strike her.
This time she was well out of range, and when the explosion occurred it ballooned large, almost looking like a nuke had gone off.
It was only after she recognized that fact that Jean scowled. "Damn it, I hope it doesn't actually register like a nuke on the satellite above us, that would start a lot of awkward questions. In point of fact it didn't, what Jean had created by her powers was called a compressed air bomb mixed with a tiny amount of a fuel air bomb. The flame and the oxygen around it greatly expanded, creating a shockwave and explosive effects that read to sensors much like those types of bombs. Since both were low yield however they wouldn't register on satellites and unless someone was close enough to see they wouldn't notice it. Thankfully this was not the case, there weren't even many locals to see it.
Jean waited a few minutes to make certain the scorpions weren't able to put themselves again then made her way down towards the ground again, landing lightly outside the cave. She moved inside, her aura up and ready as well as providing her light but it turned out to be unnecessary. This wasn't the entrance to a large system of tunnels, that was why there was an active defense right on the door. This place was simply a much simpler cache, little more than a 30 x 30 foot cave.
Oh, and it was filled with gold. Gold ingots, gold coins, gold statues, a gold mirror, numerous gold figurines that going by Harry's description of the woman might have been made in worship of Selene. "Good grief, was she the center of a religion or something somewhere?" Jean suddenly chuckled, then burst into laughter. "This solves all our money issues, but first…"
She reached to her belt again pulling out the small handheld mirror that could connect her to Ororo, Harry or Emma. She pressed her finger to the top and said "Emma?"
It took a minute for Emma to answer, though when she did she looked pleased. "Jean, how are you? "It's lovely to see you but I thought we were talking tonight?"
"We are," Jean assured her. "I wouldn't miss it, we'll have a lot to fill you in on the last few days, and I bet you will too."
"Oh yes," Emma nodded. "I've had quite a busy week, though I think I have a few things I'd like to talk to Harry about. My designers looked at his designs, and I think they'll sell like hot plates, and I was… feeling a little… guilty about pressing him so hard on the deal. I've also added a young woman to my security team, and I would like him to look at her regarding her powers."
"Don't be," Jean replied firmly. "He needs to learn this whole business thing, don't let up on him. And I'll look forward to hear all about it tonight, but I want to show you something first. You now Harry said that his supply of gold was running out?"
"Yeeeessss," Emma said slowly.
"Well," Jean said and turned the mirror around so that it faced the rest of the cave, "I think I just solved that issue." She paned the mirror around but stopped halfway when she heard a faint thump. She looked around quickly, but didn't see anything around her and turned the mirror back, one eyebrow raised in surprise. She looked through it and saw Emma had fainted in a heap on the floor.
The sight caused Jean to break out into laughter again, and she lifted the mirror into the air letting it hovering there with through her telekinetic powers as she opened the mokeskin pouch and, still not touching anything for fear of it all being cursed, simply threw the gold into the pouch as fast as she could. Two of the largest statues didn't fit at first, so she had to bend and twist them, something she took a bit of joy in doing, since they were both made in Selene's likeness.
Emma woke up halfway through the process muttering, "I just had the strangest dream…"
"Wasn't a dream," Jean replied cheerfully.
Emma once more looked through the mirror and saw the gold disappearing into the pouch and shuddered a little. "You have no idea how much I want to kiss you right now." Jean laughed again, and Emma pouted. "Damn redheaded tease, that's what you are."
"Still," the blonde went on more seriously, "That will definitely help Harry in the near future, though I don't think you'll have to wait much longer can you start up your company. I've been hearing rumors from several levels of my pharmaceutical company about new drugs on the market that can do things no drug has ever done before, and if companies like mine have heard about it, then the militaries of the world have all heard of it, and from there you can segue into the civilian sector easily. You three are due to talk to the British government and King William in another week or so right?"
"Yes," Jean replied. "Are you still going to be able to free up time to meet him with us?"
"Set up a definite date and I'll free up time on my schedule," Emma promised. "You have to get that deal done quickly, and Harry needs to get the best deal he can get. I've also thought up how much Harry should sell the potions themselves for. I know that he might be able to find a way to eventually meet demand, but that is well into the future correct? Until then, he needs to sell them dear."
"He won't like that," Jean warned finishing her task, before blasting out at the surrounding walls, causing nothing but the rocks to shatter. Satisfied there wasn't another hidden area, Jean once more tied the pouch to her belt and leapt into the air moving back towards the unconscious terrorists. "Harry's doing it as a business true, but he's also viewing it as a way to help other people, and that's a big thing for him."
"I know that," Emma responded sharply, "but they won't care for it if they don't have to pay for it, and he can't let himself be taken advantage of. No one will take him seriously, he'll never have the amount of clout he wants to have, if other people can take advantage of him."
"Which is why you feel guilty," Jean replied shrewdly. "You think you took advantage of him."
"I know I did," Emma returned, her face creased in worry. "He's given me not only this deal with this guns but so much other help, I should be deeply in his debt and I .. when he offered the deal I responded as a businesswoman."
"I still say you did the appropriate thing if only to give Harry a learning experience," Jean replied, "but if you're thinking of helping him out, there are other ways to do it. Information for one, you once said that you had one of the best information networks available in the private sector, if we can have access to it that would be a major help."
Emma frowned for a moment her instinct fighting against her desire to help for a second. But eventually she nodded. "So long as he realizes that he can access any information elsewhere in the world but that I want to handle things in America myself that's fine. There are several disturbing things going on with the American branch of the Hellfire Club in particular. I'm not certain when it will all come to a head, but I imagine it will in the next few months. At least it will concerning the first level shall we say."
"And you want to keep handling it yourself?"
By this point Jean was hovering over the terrorists, and she concentrated again, lifting them up into the air. She tied them up with various pieces of rope and other items lying around, including some chains from out of one of the caves whose past use Jean did not want to speculate upon. She briefly wished she could transfigure things like Harry could, but that at last was beyond her ability for now.
"Yes I do," Emma replied calmly. "You might think it foolish of me, but I want to fight my own fight. And in the world of the Hellfire Club, I don't think Harry would be of any use other than a blunt weapon. I don't want to use him like that."
Jean shrugged. "I'm in no position to question that, I prefer to fight my own battles when I can myself. Anyway, I'll talk to you tonight okay?"
Emma nodded, "I'll call you all on Harry's mirror."
"Fine," Jean said "See ya then."
The call ended and Jean flew away, dragging with her the 50+ (she hadn't bothered to actually count them) terrorists including the one that she knew was on the international most wanted list. She put her mirror away and pulled out her radio. "Hogwarts this is Phoenix, I'm finished here, have you found a UN base for me?"
"Roger, coordinates are…"
It took her about an hour flying nape of the earth to arrive in the air base controlled by the base, and almost immediately she got a sort of escort in the shape of two helicopters who pulled up on either side of the floating clump of terrorists. Suddenly someone with a trigger finger began to blast away with a heavy machine gun from the side of one helicopter.
The dissolution spell on Jean's costume had come back online after she had attacked the scorpions and ransacked the hidden cache. Indeed Jean was feeling the burn at the moment, and was looking forward to getting something to eat. However this meant the fire wasn't aimed at her it was directed at her prisoners, and she frowned. With a wave of her hand Jean sent out a wave of telekinetic power to stop them and her disillusion spell came down. But her frown wasn't from the necessity of that, it was from what she had sensed before the machine gun opened up, or rather what she hadn't felt.
There were some shouts from the helicopter, but the firing ceased, and she landed in front of the entrance to the base. Several guards stood there looking at her in shock, though how much that was from her outfit and how much of that was from the fact that she had just swatted bullets out of the air was a question. She didn't let them say anything simply saying quickly "I believe this gentleman is of interest to you all?"
Jean lifted the head of the terrorist she had recognized from the news but before any of the men at the gates could speak up a loud voice with a Boston accent shouted from inside the base. "He is indeed ma'am."
The man striding toward the base's entrance was a tallish man, though he was almost squat with muscle, and while he appeared to be middle aged, there didn't seem to be an ounce of fat on him. He had a magnificent orange handlebar mustache and was strangely wearing a bowler hat of all things. He was also wearing a uniform that had a shield logo like the one that Fury fellow had flashed at the mansion before trying to interrogate Harry. He was wearing two pistols of an odd design, but his hands were well away from them.
The man knelt down in front of the prisoner, smiling grimly before looking up at Jean. "Dum Dum Duggan, SHIELD international intelligence agency. My team and I have been looking for this ba-um person for over two months without even finding a clue to where he was hiding. Can I ask how you found him, and who do you work for? I don't recognize the uniform."
The words were bland but his eye were sharp, trying to see through the modified confounding charm that Harry had placed on Jean's mask for the day, but failed. Jean simply smiled, thinking up an idea on the fly. "If you're from an intelligence agency, I presume you heard of an incident a bit over a month ago in London?"
The man's eyes narrowed, and a few of the troopers nearby began to mutter to one another, their accents showing they were British. Jean ignored this however and went on "I was in the area to clean up some dangerous loose ends from that little mess in London and stumbled on these gentlemen right on the doorstep."
"Ha, ya wouldn't happen to be Irish would you, because that kind of luck is amazing!" Duggan nodded over to a younger man who was standing beside him dressed in the same uniform. "But you didn't answer my other questions ma'am, and why is it if I look away from you I can't even remember the color of your hair?"
Jean chuckled dryly. "No I didn't, and trade secret. My name is Phoenix, and I work for myself." Technically true, since Harry hadn't started to pay her just yet.
Duggan chuckled, not at all put out. After all, he wasn't about to tell the young lady all about him, and he wasn't so much about control or the future as his boss was. Duggan cared more about the job in front of him than stupid ass, made up political or social positions. "Duly noted ma'am. Still, can you at least give us a location?"
"Sir," a man in a major's uniform said, having joined the discussion a second ago. He was glaring at Jean distrustfully. "I realize it seems like she helped us out here, but don't you think we should take her into custody? She's broken several international laws after all."
"You wouldn't be able to hold me," Jean said, smiling thinly, her telekinetic aura crackling about her.
"It's my call major, not yours," Duggan said sharply. "And in my life, I've learned not to look a gift horse in the mouth."
Jean smiled faintly, finding herself liking Dum-Dum's gruff attitude. She gave them the coordinates, having made sure at the time that she had left nothing of Selene's behind. She frowned for a moment then decided not to share what she had felt when the man in the helicopter opened fire on her prisoners. There was a chance it would make things with the as-yet-unnamed major more difficult, since she couldn't figure out a way to inform them of it without giving away at least the fact she had empathic powers. And she in no way wanted to share anymore of her less obvious abilities than she had to.
So instead Jean said, "I would get this lot into their cells but watch the one with the scar, I think he has the look of a person who'd rather kill himself than talk." Duggan glanced at her sharply at that and she nodded her head slightly, then gather her power again. "And with that gentlemen, I will leave you to it." Without further ado Jean gathered her power and took off, zooming high into the sky and out of sight before any of the men could try and stop her.
The major looked after her spitting to the side in disgust as he muttered, "Mutant freak."
Duggan scowled at the man, but had other things to worry about right now than stamping on the blatant racism. Ironically, or possibly sadly, the major was a black man who probably put up with some prejudice at one point or another, yet didn't seem to see the connection.
However this and dealing with the prisoners meant that he didn't notice one of the soldiers who had been on the helicopters was staring surreptitiously at the prisoners even as his captain took him to task about firing on the terrorists Phoenix had dropped off. On one wrist was a small tattoo of a mythical beast, a hydra.
Jean didn't know about or care about that right now, all she knew was that she had had a very full day. "So," she said to herself as she skyrocketed up towards High Note. "Lots of magical items and books for Harry, a major new source of gold, and a terrorist dropped off with the UN to give myself and hopefully mutants in general, some good PR. Yeah I think I can call it a day." She laughed and zoomed onto the air dancing around him sheer joy.
That night the trio came together, and after spending some down time with Melody, they adjourned to a meal up in the headmaster's room, which had a small discreet dining area now. The dining hall would of course be used for main meals both for the students and the rest of the team they were putting together, but if they wanted to just have a simple meal romantic or otherwise simply be alone, this place would do nicely.
Melody had come down to Hogwarts, the animals having returned to the area around the castle at this point, and she was eager to see what the songs of wild animals sounded like.
After a brief round of kisses, which the trio had to stop themselves from getting too into they all sat down digging into the lovely lasagna the house elves had appeared for the evening. Melody did not like meat all that much, and had a chicken parmesan.
Ororo went first, having had by far the easiest day of the three. After she was finished Harry nodded thoughtfully sipping at the small glass of soda. While Melody was almost an addict for anything with grape in it Harry had decided that birch beer, despite its odd name, was truly one of the best drinks he had ever had. "So you think that Cassidy will join up with us?"
"I think he will think about it for a while but yes eventually Banshee will. My other interviews did not go nearly as well as I said." Ororo frowned, torn between anger and sadness at the thought.
While Emma had been able to help her compile quite a list of teachers both in America and in the UK who could teach at both the elementary and secondary levels, teachers were very good at keeping their political and social views to themselves, and it'd taken quite a bit of wrangling to get each interviewees opinion on the mutant question out of them without giving too much information in turn. And when Ororo had she had been appalled to find that only one out of every three came down on the side of mutants. Many were entirely neutral, a wait-and-see attitude that she could respect but most certainly wasn't what she wanted in one of their teachers especially starting off. The others had all been anti-mutants, though the reasons differed widely.
"Still, I think we can put together at least a preliminary group, and get them signed up and here to prepare their classrooms and assign them their roles. Assuming of course that they pass the final test of the anti-lying or trustworthiness ward, whichever you want to call it."
Harry nodded. "You're going to meet with Kitty's parents tomorrow right, if she can start work soon I'll put her to work on that project. Still, that's pretty good for a start. And with the gold and bullion that Jean found we'll be able to pay for them and everything else we need without making a significant dent for at least half a year." He turned to Jean now, "But let's go back over the first place you hit. Walk us through what happened there."
Jean did so, though she had already told Harry what she had found, including her worries about the gem. Once she was done giving a more detailed report her two lovers sat there thinking.
The weather goddess came out of it first reaching forward and grasping Jean's hand. "You faced far more today than we had expected Firebird, I believe that the next time we hit up one of these caches two of us at the very least should go. I could've helped you spot some of those traps, and it's very likely you would never have activated the trap that set off those golems. And without them you wouldn't have tripped the other one."
"But I also might not have found the gem," she cautioned
Harry shook his head. "There are a few spells I think you could figure out a way to duplicate the effect of telekinesis, though I would be more concerned about you Ororo, are you sure you would be all right in that kind of environment?"
"No," she said sadly, "but we can set up a video recorder and attach it to Jean as she goes in and I can walk her through. And besides if I am there, I might be able to help if she has to retreat."
Harry nodded, and asked Jean to hand over the mokeskin pouch. "I'll put this in the room of requirement set it to defense and lock it in that mode for now, so that only I can unlock it. I'll go over each piece carefully, but that's for another day. Right now, tell me about the gem in particular."
"Well like I said before, I think it's another one of those gems from Cytorrak I think his name was, only it's not the same color. It's about as large as my hand if I stretch out all my fingers, yellow in color and gives off this odd energy. It almost seemed to pulse after a pulled it out of that secret shelf. I didn't even let it come within a foot of me until I put it in the mokeskin pouch. Thankfully whatever vibes these things give off seem to have been stopped by the magic of the pouch."
Harry frowned. "A job very well done Jean. There were other gods that were part of that pantheon, I think I might need to talk to Stephen about it. Certainly I will be draining it of its power, but there's no need to rush at the moment. And as long as it stays in that pouch, he said nodding at it, "no magic is going to get out. At least, he thought to himself, I hope not.
Jean stretched a little wincing as a bruise bothered her and Harry said solicitously, "are you all right? What a back rub or something?"
"That would be lovely," Jean sighed leaning back. "While I had some time to rest after that first adventure it still took a lot out of me physically. Whatever that second trap was, it nearly got through my shields, I could feel them dimming as the seconds passed!" She shivered a little, "It was not a pleasant feeling."
"I can relate," Harry said nodding and moving around the table. He began to massage the redhead's soldiers, at the same time telling the two women about his own day.
Ororo smiled happily. "I think you had a full day as well Harry, and I am happy you found those house elf babies."
Melody, who hadn't been able to follow most of the conversation nodded firm agreement. "All things should have the right to live and make their own song. I hope Mertie will let me see them, babies have such amazingly wild tunes."
"Be that as it may, it is getting late, and if you want to head out tomorrow and see if you can find some animals, then you should head to bed now young lady." Harry said looking over at the young girl and smiling slightly.
Melody nodded and after a round of kisses Ororo went with her to tuck her in before coming back quickly. Harry meanwhile had enlarged the small mirror and placed it up on the wall of the bedroom, having moved Jean there and sitting her in a large conjured leather chair for now.
Ororo smiled faintly sitting at Jeans feet and leaning her head on the other woman's knees, looking over at the mirror. "So, unless Emma has something for us that disrupts it, what will you be doing tomorrow Harry?"
"Working on the Book of Students and connecting it to the air ley-lines." Harry replied firmly. Indeed he was actually going to start it as soon as his two ladies were asleep. He wanted that set up as fast as possible, so he could start bringing in mutants of all ages, not just for the team but to get them somewhere safe. Russia, China, the Middle East and America scared him with how they were acting toward the 'mutant threat'. The underlying reasons for those reactions were different, but the outcome was the same, and it worried him.
Both of his ladies nodded, though they didn't look at him. Ororo had her eyes closed now as Jean ran her hands through her white hair. Jean had long since closed her eyes in bliss under Harry's ministrations of her shoulders.
It was this scene that Emma appeared in on the mirror. She took in their content expressions and smirked. Another woman would have felt insecurity seeing the trio so happy with one another and without her there, but not Emma, she merely wanted to join them. "Oh I do hope I'm not interrupting."
Harry looked up from where his hands were working on Jeans arms at the moment, while the two women both opened their eyes to look at the mirror. Jean smiled in welcome, while Ororo simply smirked back at her. "Good evening Emma, or it's nighttime here at any rate. Jean said you had something special to ask about?"
Emma glanced over at Jean who smiled encouragingly at her and Emma nodded back. "I have several things I want to talk about Business first, the designs you made are very popular among my own weapons designers. Your profits from our deal there should be very good indeed. Second point of interest, I've worked up the kind of deals you should get for your potions. Tell me a time you want me to free up when you set a specific time to meet the king and whoever else, and I'll be there."
Harry nodded, smiling faintly. "Not going to tell us more about the assassination attempt Emma?" Emma had mentioned that in their first conference call after coming back from Vietnam, and all of them had reacted in their own ways, but that was several days back.
"No I am not because it is my problem to deal with." Emma said firmly. "Even with your abilities Harry you don't quite fit as a spy, and it would be an ill use of your talents. This is my problem, I wish to solve it my way."
"Even the ones with the Hellfire Club? I can tell you're worried about something there."
"Harry… these aren't your kinds of problems, and you're not a business man, so your ability to help would be limited. Once you have opened your potions business, maybe then you can start to truly help me. I think the London branch of the Hellfire club is ripe for the picking, you could take it over with ease once you have the capital to become its King. On that note," Emma said a little hesitantly, "I think once you do come out into the open I would like to introduce you to Paris. She is truly gifted in the world of public relations and media manipulation. If we can somehow convince her that mutant's aren't a threat, that would be a tremendous boon to that cause."
And if we can convince her, it might convince Buckman of the same thing. I wish I knew he was as serious about their relationship as Paris is, I really don't want to do anything that would take her dream away from her, but Edward and his Sentinel program is worrying me more and more, Emma thought to herself.
"I'll want to meet her before of course but I agree it would be a tremendous boon. And yes, joining the UK branch of the hellfire Club is something I'll look into at the earliest opportunity. Now, Jean mentioned that you had something you wanted to ask me?"
"Yes, She has decided to go by the name of Firestar, and I was thinking you could put her through her paces for me at some point, or at least give me some instruction on how to do the same or set up a facility to do the same. I'm also intending to add someone else to my security detail, but he will be what we are calling a rehab project. I researched several dozen young and middle aged superpowered criminals in custody in the US to find someone who could be rehabilitated and possibly become part of society again. The one I decided to possibly attempt to rehabilitate is named Sandman, or at least that's his chosen moniker is, and as the name implies he can turn into sand and manipulate his body into various sand based weapons. He's in jail for multiple violent crimes, but his personality isn't unrepentantly criminal. Going by his file it seems more as if he fell into a life of crime, and I've scanned him. If he is able to continue to use his powers which I will admit he's rather addicted to, and is able to live a high end life he might be able to keep on the straight and narrow. However, I would prefer some way of making certain that he doesn't turn on me, other than simply shutting down his brain of course."
"I can do that eventually I suppose," Harry replied, "though this next week is going to be damn busy, what with the business with the king, setting up the business, and of course meeting with Dr. Doom before that."
"Of course," Emma replied. "I wouldn't dream of doing anything that would take precedent over that, to put it bluntly Dr. Doom is one of several 'super villains' that frankly terrify me with their potential." She shuddered a little then went on. "In other news I'm trying to set it up so that you can access Frost Corps intelligence apparatus, without anyone realizing you're doing it. A back door like that is difficult to make however without any of my own people knowing about it, so it might take some time."
Harry blinked and then smiled. "Thank you, I hadn't realized you're even thinking of doing that."
"I owe you," Emma replied simply then winked flirtatiously at him. "I owe you a lot, and I like you a lot. Eventually I am going to be in a position to show that to my satisfaction," she purred, her eyes half lidded as she stared at him and Harry surprised himself by blushing a little. Emma giggled wickedly and smirked as Ororo cleared her throat but turned back to the conversation. "Until I set up that connection however, is there anything in particular you want me to have them be on the lookout for?"
Harry frowned for a moment moving past his embarrassment and thinking hard. "How good are your resources in China? Or Europe? I think we can assume that the X-Men will at least be able to keep a lid on the more dangerous elements in America and possibly Canada."
"Europe my company has almost complete penetration in," she replied crisply. "None of the governments there outside of the UK, Latveria and France have any idea how penetrated they are by other Nations intelligence agencies or even corporations like mine. They're rather a joke in many ways frankly, though I don't have as much resources in the Middle East as I could wish, its too chaotic and dangerous in many ways for my company to have expanded into it just yet, though that might change. Israel however is pure death on any other country's intelligence agencies, and that of course covers corporations like my own even if some of my companies have strong holdings there. You do not fuck with Mossad, and thankfully even my father was able to learn that."
"Good to know," Harry said wondering what was behind the rather firm declaration there. He had never actually made a study of the intelligence agencies of other countries, and had only done a very brief perusal of this world's history or even his own for that matter.
"China is worse, I have some representation in most of the coastal cities, but deeper into the interior those resources peter out."
"And in India?"
"Some more penetration there than in China. Not a lot, where the culture is rather against us, and the fact none of my companies at the moment have any one working at a high level of Indian descent. Is there any particular reason?"
Harry smiled faintly, remembering two twins that could never have been more different from one another, and yet deep down so very much the same, and both of them had been very dear to him, albeit in different ways. "India hasn't taken a position on mutual rights one way or another, but for some reason it hasn't broken out into violence either. I'm not quite sure why, but I'd like to keep it that way if we can. I also have some business deals that the government of India might be very interested in, and that can be the doorway into a discussion there."
Emma nodded. "I can see that, though if you go into India I would recommend getting a business expert that specializes in Indian affairs. I'm afraid I won't be of much help there."
"That's fine, I intend to hire several such experts over time, though I'll have to talk to the personnel director we've retained for that bit." Harry nodded. "It's only an idea at the moment, well away into the future. Will you want to meet with us before we go to see William and his government representatives to prep us or anything?"
"Oh yes," Emma replied fervently. "I want to make certain that you know what to say and most importantly what not to say."
"I'm going to go back to school aren't I?" Harry replied rubbing his forehead. "All right, that's fine I guess."
From there on the conversation turned to other matters, covering Emma's continued attempts to get to know her younger sister, a few things she decided to share with the others about the Hellfire Club while the trio shared with her what they had been up to lately.
Emma was not surprised that Ororo had run into the difficulties she had with hiring teachers. Most teachers simply kept their heads down in terms of politics and social issues, for fear of losing their jobs in case they espoused a point of view that the school wasn't willing to put up with or the community was against. Jean's adventures surprised her, but she was proud her friend had been able to get through all the traps the ancient sorceress had set up.
The conversation wound down after about an hour, and Emma at last yawned and declared "Enough, I will talk to you all again soon, but for now my bed beckons."
"We'll try to set up a time for us to test out this Firestar for you, and I'll want to see Sandman in action before I can tell you whether or not I can figure out a way to stop him if he goes out of control."
"Not a problem" Emma replied, yawning again. "Good night ladies, Harry." With that she waved at Jean smirked a final time in Ororo's direction and signed off.
Jean nodded as well stretching and wincing a little. "I'm for bed as well," she murmured leaning down to kiss Ororo lovingly on the lips for a moment and then turning around to the same day Harry. "Good night you two."
Harry raised an eyebrow as the redhead sauntered down the spiral staircase and shrugged. "I was going to offer to give her a more thorough massage, but I guess she's too tired."
Ororo chuckled wickedly standing up easily and pulling him into a deep lingering kiss. "More time for me then," she breathed into his ear and giggled (something she never did when around anyone else) as he picked her up easily her legs going around his middle as they made their way over to the bed locked in a deep kiss.
Later that evening while Ororo slept on blissfully, Harry softly removed himself from the bed and went to start his next job, that of connecting the massive cluster of spells and runic arrays of the Book of Students to the air ley-lines, which would take him all night and the next day.
While Harry was doing that, Jean continued with several personnel and business related projects while Ororo went to New York to speak with Kitty and her parent. Shiang-Chi surprisingly had bonded with Melody and the two of them were out the entire day searching out the different animals that had moved into the previously warded area around Hogwarts. Melody said the young man had several interesting songs that used different wind and string instruments she had never heard before. She also said he was sad about many things, and needed to be cheered up, so Harry and the others were happy enough to let them go out together, though the house elves had assigned one of their members to watch them both as long as they were in the warded areas.
Ser Dennis Wayland Smith was moving forward with his plans to create an intelligence apparatus for Harry's corporation/group, making up a list of possible agents, though Harry was pleased to note he never tried to contact any of them just yet. Dennis spent most of his time today just as he had for the past week, watching the news for them both international and local.
The UK government had begun to take a stance against mutant persecution, clamping down hard on several riots tossing the rioters into cells, and putting permanent black marks on their records. A local group much like America's Friends of Humanity was shut down hard, its organizers jailed and awaiting trial for hate crimes. It wasn't a popular move, and seems to have caused some backlash, but not much of one. Since the army and the navy had long believed that the same thing applied to mutants as it did to other minority groups there was a firm basis for integration, and King William was extremely well thought of. When he and his PM Thatcher agreed, the entire government swiftly followed.
Harry however didn't know anything about that at the moment, concentrating solely on his own job. He looked down probably at the huge book underneath his hands. It wouldn't be perfect, and it would definitely be a 'learn as you go' kind of thing, but when you were dealing with something as chaotic and wide ranged as the genetics when so many millions of things could constitute a mutation, that was almost to be expected. He had tried to set as wide parameters as he thought he could find, but he knew he would still miss some students, that their 'magic', which was the way it was defined by the massive series of spells and runic arrays he was working with. However Jean had volunteered to interact with the book as Charles did with Cerebro, and with her power directing the search they would be able to cover the entire world far better than Charles' old version of Cerebro could. The ward to provide that connection was the thing that had consumed the majority of Harry's time on this project.
With a final twitch of his fingers Harry connected the ephemeral line of magic from the spell array he had slowly, painstakingly constructed 'hooking' (words sometimes failed magic, they really did) the air ley line above Hogwarts. The magic then expanded, creating an effect on the line like a spider's web on a wall, and through it connecting every other air ley line in the world. After a moment he could tell the spell was flowing correctly, and Harry smiled, stepping back his hands moving to both sides, permanently fusing the spells of the book to the ley line. He rubbed his forehead for a moment closing his eyes as he did, that had been rather difficult, and most definitely a monstrous mountain of fiddly bits.
He smiled suddenly, as he realized the book had written down a name already then moved onto several others.
Harry looked at the area where the first name was, and blanched a little. That particular country was one he didn't trust more than he could throw it without using his magic, and he stood up abruptly. He waved a spell, sending out Patronus. "Jean, I'm done connecting the ley lines to the book of students, it's already started to write down the names of possible mutants, I'm going to go out and check the first one because I think he might be in danger if his powers just activated."
He smirked to himself, smiling faintly as he teleported away to High Note, which he would maneuver over the spot and then zoomed down. It was time to see if the book had found him a student or a team member, and Harry wondered which it would be.
THIS WAS THE LAST CHAPTER BEFORE MOVING ONTO THE MAIN GAME! Things will start moving, the world will recognize Potter's power, and he will no longer be able to hide in the shadows. Of course this means new enemies as well of all types.
So, Magneto's forces are going to get a shot in the arm recruiting wise, but then again so is Harry and Magneto's system won't be perfect.
I will cover the Book of students in greater depth later at an appropriate time. I did not want to end the chapter on an info dump.
I hope everyone liked how I portrayed Shaw in these last few chapters: a quasi-refined, somewhat sociopathic thug. That was the way I saw him in the comics, so I hope I hit it here. And can anyone tell me why most alternate universe versions of Jean Grey go bad? That is so much bullshit, especially when it's almost never her own fault. So sad. I think the writers realized they had made a woman who was so much better than any of the men they wanted to pair her with, and decided they couldn't have that and used various corrupting influences to do away with her. Sort of like why the Invisible Woman was so much of a joke in the early years, used only as the damsel in distress, only that stopped and the Jean Grey issue didn't. I gave her screen time in this chapter to even it out between her and Ororo, and to show how powerful she is at this point, though she is nowhere near her peak. Next chapter alas she really won't have many opportunities to shine.
I would like to point out before anyone mentions it that I do know Tom did not cause Maeve Cassidy's death or anything like that, but that is what Sean feels. Instead of falling into crime, which I always found rather weird given his background, he buried himself in work instead.
Some reviewers I'd like to mention are Narsil, Joe Lawyer, N0mster and Byakugan789 for their continued aid in this story. There were literally dozens of other great reviews, and I know I missed several good ones when I was responding in PM's. I'll try to do a better job getting back to people in the future, as I won't be responding to reviews any longer in the chapter, it has just become too much clutter, sorry.
That's all, see you next time, when Harry and his group fight quite a few enemies, meet with several students/possible friends, one king, one despot, and one god, not necessarily in that order and as always please review.