New York City
She eyed her target from afar. He was a large, heavyset man in a pristine, pinstripe suit. Men in dark suits flanked him on both sides. The man in question was Sam "Sammy Fingers" Rogato, a high-ranking lieutenant in the Philadelphia mob. His escorts were government agents. Today was the day Sammy Fingers was due to testify in court. Organized crime in Philly would be completely dismantled if he were allowed to testify.
It was her job to see to it that he never made it to court.
She pulled her red hoodie up over her face and began walking down the sidewalk, following the men from the other side of the street. Her brain processed the dozens of ways to complete her mission. Every angle, every chain reaction, and every possibility went through her head.
A taxi coming down the street's front right tire had three weak lug nuts. Probability they would fall off: 40-90% given the proper force.
The mailbox next to her had two rusted legs. Probability it would collapse: 75%
A carpenter's ruck was parked on the other side of the street. Pieces of lumber were fastened to the top of the truck's rack. The strap holding it down was frayed. Probability it would snap: 96%
Rate of success: 82-98%
The odds favored her. She looked around to make sure the coast was clear before acting. She slammed her shoulder into the mailbox beside her. The legs snapped and the heavy box fell onto the road, scattering letters and packages on to the street.
The taxi driver swerved to avoid the box. The sudden swerving caused the lug nuts on the right front tire to snap. The taxi's wheel popped off, sending the car skidding across the street on three wheels.
The taxi slammed into the back of the carpenter truck. The frayed straps snapped, sending a sharp piece of wood flying forward. The wood whistled through the air and struck Sammy Fingers in the chest. The sharp tip went through, piercing his heart like an arrowhead.
Sammy Fingers fell to the ground, the shard of wood sticking upright in his chest. The federal agents around him panicked and tried to figure out what to do. But at this point, it was a moot point. Sammy Fingers was dead by the time he hit the ground.
Smiling, she turned away from the scene and started to hurry down the street. She turned the corner and ran into a familiar face.
"Bravo, my dear,"
Erik Lensherr said from his wheelchair. Fred Dukes, known as the Blob, was standing behind Lensherr's chair. "I wonder, how much money did you just make?"
"How about you leave me alone?"
She asked, stepping around Lensherr and Dukes. "I'm not joining your little club. Pietro may have drunk the Kool-Aid, but I'm not buying."
"But I'm not selling,"
said Lensherr. He held his hand up and she stopped in place the metal belt buckle around her waist was holding her back. "This time, I'm in the buying business."
Turning his chair around, Lensherr looked up at the woman and gave her a small smile.
"Wanda, my dear, I'll say what I said before: You are maybe the most dangerous mutant I have met. I want to use that, but I'm no fool. How would you like to make a lot of cash in a quick amount of time?"
Hank said to the rest of the male X-Men. He led them through one of the recently renovated rooms. "Behold, the Danger Room!"
"This is it?"
Scott asked, looking around. The room was white, with nothing in it but empty space.
"Only danger I see in here is getting bored to death."
"Now, fellas, maybe it's like that room in Mission Impossible. Scientologist on wires. Now that's danger."
"Oh, yea of little faith."
Beast cleared his throat and looked up.
"Computer, ID login: Hotel Omaha 0000. Run scenario: 1012BAA."
On cue, the walls and floor shifted around them. They were no longer inside the all-white room, but back in Buenos Aires. The Sugar Man stood in front of them, his tongue lashing out at them.
They all scattered as the bulbous mutant struck out. Jumping onto a tree branch, Hank spoke up. "Computer, ID login: Hotel Omaha 0000. Pause!"
Sugar Man stopped in mid-strike. His whole body, and the entire environment, was frozen in time.
"Hard light simulation,"
Hank said as he jumped down. "Looks and feels like the real thing. I can program almost any scenario into the computer. This will give us more of a wide variety situations and scenarios to work with."
"Hank, this is--,"
Scott stammered, at a lost for words.
"-- kinda creepy,"
Rex said, poking at Sugar Man's cheek.
"This is like something out of Star Trek, man. The holodeck."
"That was one of my inspirations for the project."
"Let's do it,"
Scott said, nodding towards Sugar Man. "Start it back up and we'll give it a whirl."
"But, we aren't ready for combat. None of us has our gear, you yourself are without your visor."
"Well, then, that'll be our scenario. The four of us have to take down Sugar Man without being prepared."
He smiled at Hank, his eyes glowing red. "Start it back up..."
"Computer, ID login: Hotel Omaha 0000. Resume scenario."
The Sugar Man moved again and the four young men jumped into combat with the simulated foe.
While nearly all the X-Men gave the Danger Room its test run, their teammate sat four stories above them in the professor's office. Jean was sitting with Charles on the floor of his office, both of them cross-legged.
"Telepathy is a burden, Jean. Make no mistake about that. The willpower to drown out the voices, the temptation to constantly read someone's mind for answers. It's not an easy thing to live with. When it manifested in me, I was nearly driven insane. But, I have faith in you. Your telekinesis has progressed so fast, I think it's time to remove one of those mental blocks. Are you ready?"
she said nervously. "I mean, I'm as ready as I'll ever be, I guess."
"I'm going to take things slow. You'll only have low level telepathy. You can read thoughts and psychically communicate, but you can't probe into minds for information and memories."
Charles held his hands out and Jean took them. They closed their eyes and he reached out into her mind and found the mental block he had installed nearly a year ago. When he had first found Jean, she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. It was that block that had saved her sanity, and now he was undoing that. As nervous as knew Jean was, he was just as nervous about the outcome of this experiment.
he said, opening his eyes. He shut off his telepathy, trying his best to not broadcast his thoughts out. "Now, tell me what I'm thinking."
~You're wondering if you actually managed to turn off your psychic ability. You have.~
Charles said enthusiastically. Jean laughed and hugged her teacher. Their tender moment ended as the door to Charles' office burst open.
Rex shouted, stopping short as he saw Jean and Charles hugging. "Oops. Didn't mean to ruin the moment you guys were having."
"What's wrong, Rex? And why is your shirt collar smoking?"
"Umm... just a training exercise,"
he said, patting the his shirt. "Umm, but yeah, Hank wanted you to come see something on TV. It's about that doctor guy from Michigan."
Charles nodded and left the room. As he left, Rex looked at Jean and smirked. "If I cuddled up to him like that, wonder if I'd get the grades that you're getting..."
Jean rolled her eyes and flipped her head. Rex felt his feet push out from under him and he hit the floor hard. Grinning to herself, Jean followed Charles out the door.
"Help? Anyone? I think I broke my coccyx... Heh... coccyx."
Jean found Charles in the common room on the second floor. He was sitting with Hank and Jefferson, watching the news. The reporter talked over footage of a man in a courtroom.
"And the verdict has come in. Doctor James Bradley, guilty on the twenty-four counts of illegal human experimentation. Bradley was arrested last year for tampering with as many as twenty-four unborn fetuses. He injected stem cells into the unborn children, risking birth defects and causing at least three miscarriages."
"Guilty, just as you expected he would be."
"Yes... but something about this doesn't seem right to me. Why was Bradley experimenting on the fetuses? I can't place it, but his process seems vaguely familiar."
Jefferson said. "Didn't that old Nazi and his buddies do something like that?"
"You're absolutely right. But, Adler and Schultz were injecting mutant blood into unborn fetuses."
"But it's the same methodology. Stem cells being injected into the fetuses could cause birth defects... but what, after all is mutation, if not birth defects?"
"Of course. So, this man has been attempting to do what? Make new mutants?"
"It seems that way..."
They watched as an armored car carrying Bradley rolled out of the courthouse parking lot. Protestors were gathered around the car, yelling and chanting.
"We spoke to the man leading the protests here today, Graydon Creed."
The TV cut to a man standing with the protestors. He was now clean-shaven and in a suit, but it was the same man that had tried to slaughter mutants in the Kentucky backwoods months ago.
"What has happened here today is the first step on the road to retribution. This Bradley man is the epitome of science run amok. He has experimented on the most innocent of innocents. If he isn't put to death for his crimes, then I and my followers will consider it an absolute miscarriage of justice. If no one will speak for the innocents, then the Friends of Humanity will."
"I think we need to go to Michigan,"
Charles said, leaning back in his seat. "I have a feeling that Doctor Bradley may not be long for this world."