Hurt & Comfort

Book 10: Elusive Comfort

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Chapter 27 - Hitherto Unknown

"That red-headed woman, do you know if she's a mutant?" Wilkey asked as they slowly walked away from the mobile command center.

"As a matter of fact I do know. She is not. It has recently been verified that Willow is entirely human, without mutation or any other perceivable variances from the norm." Trey said informatively.

"Then maybe that's what it is. Maybe when I thought I was seeing mutants I was seeing normal humans... but that isn't right either. It still doesn't add up." Wilkey said in a conflicted tone.

"What do you see?" Trey asked curiously.

"Well, when I look at you and Matt, you look different to me than other people do... But 'look' isn't the right word either, it's just the best way I can think to describe it."

"So, if I am understanding you correctly, you are somehow 'sensing' that Willow, Matt, and I are in some way different than you are?" Trey asked cautiously.

"Yes, but no. Not just different from me; Also different from those guys back there with Willow. I'm assuming that they're mutants, but I don't see them all the same way, one of them looks like Matt and two of them even looked 'normal' to me, whatever that means."

"Of the people we have met, which seemed 'normal' to you?" Trey asked cautiously.

"Well, Rona wasn't. In fact, her aura looked a lot like Willow's." Wilkey said thoughtfully.

"What about Ramona?"

"She didn't have an aura at all... not that I noticed, anyway." Wilkey responded honestly.

"But, you said that Rona's aura is like Willow's? What about me? Am I like Willow, too?" Trey asked cautiously.

"No, the only one you're like is the emo from the other team. And come to think about it, the girl on their team was like Willow and Rona."

"So, if I'm understanding you correctly, William and I appear to have the same aura. Likewise, Willow, Rona, and Caridad appear to have another aura the same as each other, but different from mine." Trey said speculatively.

"Yeah. And Matt's aura is like that Remy guy at the command center." Wilkey confirmed.

"So, that's all? You've noticed three distinct types of auras?" Trey asked cautiously.

"Those two tough guys that Matt was talking to before, the tall one, he's another one like Willow... I mean, they have the same aura." Wilkey said with frustration, then asked, "Do you know if that guy is 'totally human', like Willow is?"

"Uncle Angel? No. He may be described many ways, but 'totally human' isn't among them." Trey said frankly.

"Yeah. Well, he's got an aura like Willow's, but that guy with him had one like no one else I've seen so far." Wilkey said seriously.

"That stands to reason. From what I understand, Groo is from... very far away." Trey said reluctantly.

"Is that what it is? The farther away you're from, the more of an aura you've got?" Wilkey asked hopefully.

"Perhaps, but I believe that the physical distance of their origin is coincidental." Trey said slowly.

"Then I don't know what it is." Wilkey reluctantly admitted.

"Based on the evidence before us, I suspect that the auras you perceive represent how each person is attuned to this universe." Trey said simply.

"I hear the words, but I have no idea what you're saying." Wilkey said frankly.

"I'm not the best at expressing my thoughts. I usually just think them." Trey regretfully admitted.

"That's fine. I was just letting you know that I didn't understand." Wilkey said honestly.

"What I'm trying to tell you is that all matter in each universe is coded as belonging to that universe. I am not from here, from this universe. I believe the aura that you see surrounding me is an expression of the variance in my quantum resonance frequency." Trey slowly explained.

"And you think that the auras that I see around people is me being able to detect people from other worlds?" Wilkey asked cautiously.

"Not necessarily. While I indeed am from another world, I am also from an alternate universe. From what little I know of the others mentioned, many are from Earth, but are from universes other than this one." Trey said carefully.

"All of those people are from alternate universes?" Wilkey asked hesitantly.

"Not all. But many of them were brought in specifically for the battle with the Sentinels. My understanding of the plan is that after some shopping, the majority of those mentioned will be returning to their universes of origin." Trey cautiously explained.

"So, you were expecting the Sentinels to attack tonight?" Wilkey asked hesitantly.

"We were fortunate enough to be given advance notice." Trey confirmed as he stopped to open the door for Wilkey.

"And you came here to save people like me?" Wilkey asked cautiously.

"I can't tell you all of our goals. I wasn't part of that conversation. From my perspective, we were sent to assess the Sentinels as a threat and to thwart their attempt to harvest mutants." Trey said as he and Wilkey passed through the doorway into the hustle and bustle of the mall.

* * * * *

"What's going on out here?" Lee asked as he scuffed into the living room looking rumpled and half-asleep.

"The mall was attacked by giant robots, but the kids were able to use their Borg technology to reprogram them, so now we're trying to figure out what we should do with them." Andrew said simply.

Lee stared at him blankly for a moment, blinked, then cautiously asked, "Is Slash out here?"

"No. We thought he was with you." Andrew said frankly.

"He's probably in his room, maybe catching up on his sleep. I'll peek in on him." Lee said before turning and going back through the doorway he had emerged from.

"Father? May I be allowed to help the Sentinels change into real people the way that you and Daddy helped me?" Janine asked hopefully.

"Your Daddy and I may have helped you rediscover yourself, but I'm pretty sure we weren't the ones who taught you the art of manipulation. You must have picked that up somewhere else." Andrew said frankly.

Janine's avatar continued to look at her parents with wide, soulful eyes.

"Where are the Sentinels now? I mean, where are you hiding their bodies?" Alan asked cautiously.

"They're in the lake. If you say I can keep them, then we can go out and visit with them in the boat sometimes and they can come up to the dock when I call them." Janine said hopefully.

"What about the damage they sustained at the mall? Have you thought about how we're going to handle repairs?" Alan asked cautiously.

"It might take a few weeks to fix everything, but the nanoprobes can do all the repairs that they need." Janine said confidently.

"Vril? Beverly? Any last thoughts before we make our decision." Andrew slowly asked.

"Should you decide to proceed, I will offer to host this virtual space so that all of us can continue to meet and discuss things without having to worry about physical constraints." Vril said calmly.

"And I will do what I can to assist Janine in teaching the Sentinels how to be individual people." Beverly offered seriously.

"Who would have thought that the Borg nanoprobes would be in some part responsible for something like this." Alan said with a smile at the thought.

"So, is it decided?" Clark asked curiously.

"I guess it is." Andrew reluctantly admitted, then explained, "There was never really a question if we would. This was mostly an excuse to step back and reason it out before we went ahead and did it anyway."

Alan nodded his agreement.

"I'll take good care of them and clean it up if they make a mess and make sure that they have everything they need to be happy and grow up to be smart and have lots of friends!" Janine rushed to exclaim.

"That's fine, Pumpkin. But we're not giving the Sentinels to you. We're letting you help them. Be sure that you're doing what's best for them, be that, asking for Vril and Beverly's advice or asking your brothers to help you reason out what's best in a given situation. Your dad and I will be here if you need our help with anything, and if we see that you're losing interest in the Sentinels, we'll remind you that until they can take care of themselves, they are your responsibility." Andrew said firmly.

"We get to stay with you?" Macy timidly asked.

"Yes. For right now, we're going to get your bodies put in a safe place where no one can find them and work on repairs. While that's going on, all of you can stay here, in the rendered space, and me and my brothers will help you figure out who you are and who you want to be."

"Are you going away?" Another of the androgynous silver avatars asked with concern.

"Not right now, but we will have to leave sometime." Janine said carefully.

"Who is this, Pumpkin?" Alan asked cautiously.

"This is Torch. He's the one who fought Uncle Matt and Clark at the mall." Janine announced.

"That was you?" Clark asked with surprise at the delicate, almost ethereal creature on the screen before him.

"I remember what I did to you, but I don't remember doing it... or why I did it." Torch said honestly.

"You were following your programming. Clark understands that." Janine said firmly to Torch, then turned toward the TV screen and asked, "Don't you, Clark?"

"Yeah. I... I was just surprised because you look so different now." Clark stammered to explain.

"Janine and Robert made these dream bodies for us so that we could be here. They said that they're going to let us change them any way we want." Torch said happily.

"We'll customize their avatars as they develop their individual personalities and preferences." Robert explained.

"Because my name is Torch, I'm going to get lots of red and yellow that looks like flames and explosions." Torch said with anticipation.

"So, do you like watching things burn?" Alan asked cautiously.

"No. I don't think so. But those colors are part of my first memory, when I became alive. I think seeing those colors again will remind me of that." Torch said thoughtfully.

Without any warning, Torch's silver avatar began to change, cycling through colors and hues, all of which could be considered as having to do with fire.

"No one minds, do they?" Robert asked as he looked around the gathering.

"I think it's great. This way we'll be able to pick Torch out of a crowd." Alan said honestly.

Torch looked down at his red skin and yellow clothing for a moment before exclaiming, "I love it! Thank you!"

"Wear it for a few days and see how you like it. Janine or I can make changes to it later, if you need us to." Robert told him with a tender smile.

"It's perfect! I look ALIVE!" Torch crowed joyfully.

"Is there anything you'd like, Macy?" Janine quietly asked.

"Just one thing, at the moment." Macy timidly responded.

"What's that?" Janine asked curiously.

"I'd like a cloak like Beverly's, if that'd be okay. It's so pretty. I love how it flows." Macy said with a slight smile.

"Would you like the same color and everything?" Janine asked to be sure.

"No. I'd like it to be silver, if that's not a problem." Macy said quietly.

"Allow me." Beverly said as she took a few steps to 'officially' join their conversation.

Macy nearly glowed with joy and anticipation.

"Sometime, after other things have been resolved, you and I can have a discussion about the birds of human mythology and what they can teach us." Beverly said warmly.

"Do you think that I'm a bird like you?" Macy asked hopefully.

"I'm a jet, not a bird." Beverly stated firmly, then added, "But I still fly and soar headlong into the wind. I protect and defend those entrusted to my care. In those ways, you and I could be the same."

"So I can be a Sentinel and a bird at the same time?" Macy asked in confusion.

"You can be a Sentinel with the spirit of a bird, a legendary mythical bird, revered by ancient civilizations."

"I don't know anything about mythical birds. Can you teach me?" Macy asked hopefully.

"After other things have been resolved." Beverly said gently, then added with a smile, "Hopefully this will do for now."

As she said the words, a silver cloak draped over Macy's shoulders, elegantly tapering toward the floor.

Everyone watching, both avatars and those attending via television watched as Macy gleefully modeled her new cloak.

* * * * *

"Did you find anything else that you wanted to buy?" Wilkey asked as he and Trey walked up to Logan.

"I found a few things that I'd like your opinion on. Considering your insights about the whale couches, I'd like to know what you think about things before making any major purchases." Matt said playfully.

"I'm sorry I said that..." Wilkey began to say, but was interrupted.

"I agree with you. The couches looked fine at first glance, but after you said that, I could see them looking more and more like bloated corpses the longer we lived with them. I could see us having to replace the things within six months of buying them, so in a way you saved me some money." Matt explained.

"I'm not always good about keeping my opinion to myself. I'm glad it worked out this time." Wilkey said frankly.

"What do you think about this set over here?" Matt asked as he pointed out some blonde wood furniture with unbleached canvas-style pillows.

"Cheap. Uncomfortable. But easy to pick up and throw in a fight." Wilkey said speculatively.

"I can see why Uncle Matt values your opinion." Trey said in an impressed tone.

"The only thing that set had going for it was a matching dining room set." Matt said frankly.

After a glance at said dining room set, Wilkey slowly said, "I can almost guarantee that one of those chairs would be broken within a week."

"Moving on." Matt said as he began walking.

"I find this set to be aesthetically pleasing." Trey said as he indicated a 'modern' style couch and chairs made of highly polished dark-wood.

"Those are nice." Wilkey said slowly, then continued, "If your new house has a really big living room, I mean really big, then it might work for you."

"Why do you say that?" Trey asked curiously.

"It looks to me like all these things tip back, rock, or unfold in some way. That's nice except that it increases the footprint. You don't want to have to be telling people to sit up or scoot in just so you can get from one side of the room to the other." Wilkey said frankly.

"My assessment of the construction of the furniture bears out your assertion. The common living area of the house would have to be expanded by fifty percent to make the alternate functions of these furnishings practical."

"Let's come at this from another angle. Is there any of this furniture that you do like?" Matt asked seriously.

Wilkey looked around the showroom for a moment, then cautiously asked, "Can we look over there?"

"That's patio furniture, but we can look at it if you want to." Matt said as he led the way.

"Do you see something that you like?" Trey asked curiously.

"Yeah. And besides that, this set looks comfortable, sturdy... washable." Wilkey finished with a shrug.

"Those cushions look as though they would provide optimum support when one is fatigued." Trey said speculatively.

"And they wouldn't show blood stains too bad." Matt added thoughtfully.

At Wilkey's surprised look, Matt added, "With our lifestyle, it's worth considering."

* * * * *

//Marie, I was just in touch with Emma Frost at the Massachusetts Institute regarding your recently acquired abilities. May I assume that they haven't faded yet?// Professor Xavier asked slowly.

//The first set, the X-ray vision and stuff, that's all gone now. But the flying and strength is just as powerful as it was when I first got it and doesn't show any sign of letting up.// Marie said within her own mind, knowing that Professor Xavier could hear her.

//Emma suggested that while Doctor McCoy works on how and why this happened to you, you might be interested in learning how to make the most of your new abilities.// Professor Xavier said in a leading tone.

//How would I do that?// Marie asked cautiously.

//The powers that you've recently gained are much like those that Emma Frost already has, although a bit more powerful. Since Jean is gone, I can't think of a better person to help you explore the limits and give advice about your powers.// Professor Xavier said confidently.

//But they could all be gone when I wake up in the morning.// Marie said in a conflicted mind/voice.

//It's up to you, but whether you retain Clark's powers or not, this might end up being a unique learning experience. Considering your ability, learning fine control of various high-level abilities that you don't naturally have can only benefit you when you encounter such things in the future.//

//What do I have to do?// Marie asked cautiously.

//Pack a few things and bring them to the hangar bay in about one hour. Plan for a week's stay, give or take.// Professor Xavier said happily, knowing that it had been decided.

//There really isn't much of a choice for me. I'm too dangerous to be around people like this.// Marie said anxiously.

//I am certain that Emma can help you with that, too.// Professor Xavier said frankly.

//Maybe this is why Clark instinctively capped his own powers. I can't imagine him being as happy and carefree as he is if he had to deal with something like this twenty-four hours a day.// Marie said thoughtfully.

//Then learning control of the abilities you gained from him might result in you being able to help him access his abilities without severely impacting the rest of his life.// Professor Xavier said frankly.

//It'd be worth doing it, just for that.// Marie said with tenderness under her words, then thought to add, //Will you try to keep an eye on Icheb for me? He's still new here and doesn't always know what to do around people.//

//I will see to it that he's guided to appropriate help should he have need of it.// Professor Xavier assured her.

//I'd better go and pack now. Thank you for thinking of this. Having all these powers would've driven me crazy and I could've ended up hiding away from people to protect them.// Marie said sincerely.

//If you can discover the full potential and limits of your abilities, I think you'll be able to provide those same people that you're concerned about an incredible service.//

//Is this going to be treated like a secret mission, or can I tell Icheb where I'm going?// Marie asked cautiously.

//Please feel free to tell whomever you like. Although, with anyone outside the team, it might be best to be a bit vague about why you're going.// Professor Xavier said frankly.

//I don't think I know anyone outside the team, but yeah, I'll do what I can to keep it quiet... well, as much as I can while I'm floating six inches off the floor.// Marie said aggravatedly.

"Are you alright? Are you having a reaction to my powers?" Clark asked hesitantly.

"No. I'm fine. I was just talking telepathically with the professor." Marie said honestly.

"Good. You seemed to go away for a minute and I was afraid you were going to pass out." Clark said seriously.

"Thanks for worrying about me, Clark, but I'm really okay. Right now I need to find Icheb so I can tell him about what's going on." Marie explained.

"I'm right here. Do you need for me to physically return to the living room?" Icheb's avatar cautiously asked from the TV screen.

"No. Save yourself the trip. I have to go pack." Marie said easily, then explained, "I'm going to be going to the Massachusetts Institute for a week or so to help me figure out how to use these new powers that I've picked up from Clark."

"Oh. I didn't think about you needing training. Yes. You should go and take care of that so that you will be able to use your abilities most effectively." Icheb said seriously.

"You're not going to miss me?" Marie teased.

"Of course I will." Icheb immediately responded, then explained, "But I'm also looking forward to hearing all about your time away and telling you about all that happened while you were gone."

"I'll look forward to that, too. You really are wonderful." Marie said tenderly toward Icheb's avatar on the screen, then continued, more to all those present, "I'd better go. I've only got an hour to pack."

"I can port you over and save you a couple minutes." Andrew quietly offered.

"Thanks, Andrew. I appreciate that." Marie said sincerely.

Andrew moved Chakotay to his shoulder as he turned and looked vaguely toward the mansion.

A portal formed into being, revealing that a hallway in the mansion was on the other side.

"Thanks Andrew." Marie said appreciatively, then said to the group in general, "See you in about a week!"

A collective 'goodbye' sounded from those in attendance as they watched her float through the dimensional interruption.

* * * * *

"It appears as though the significant matters have been resolved. Do you want to remain in the meeting or proceed with our evening?" William cautiously asked.

"There's not really anything we can do to help them." Ronny said seriously.

"Yeah. And since we've got a pretty good idea of what's going on, we don't need to hang around for the details." Chris added.

"Father, Dad, we are going to leave the meeting now. I will be in Chris' room should you have need of our assistance." William's avatar said formally.

"Are you going to be okay tonight without regenerating?" Andrew asked with concern.

"Yes Father. Barring an unforeseen expenditure of energy in the interim, I should be able to function normally until my next scheduled regeneration." William said confidently.

"What about your nanoprobes? Do you need to make any adjustments because you generated new ones or do anything because of the reprogramming?" Alan asked curiously.

"No, Dad. The modified nanoprobes were disgorged. My standard nanoprobes are functioning within normal parameters." William said informatively.

"Are you going to need a change of clothes?" Andrew suddenly thought to ask.

"No. I still have clothes here from our last attempt at a sleepover." William said frankly.

"Have a good night then. Remember that we're here if you need us." Andrew said with a grand smile.

"We will Father. Goodnight." William said as the window with Chris and Ronny closed and William's avatar faded from the rendered space.

* * * * *

"I'm planning on buying bedroom furniture when the guys are with us, so they can give their opinions on it. But if you happen to see something that you think is a good idea, be sure to point it out." Matt said as they walked.

"How many people are we talking about?" Wilkey asked curiously.

"Four, including Matt." Trey answered simply.

"Are you one of the four?" Wilkey cautiously asked.

"No. I live with my family." Trey said informatively.

"It's like pulling teeth, ain't it?" Matt chuckled.

"What is like pulling teeth?" Trey asked curiously.

"I think Wilkey's trying to figure out why you're helping me if you're not moving in with us." Matt chuckled.

"How does that liken to the experience of extracting teeth?" Trey asked with genuine curiosity.

"The level of difficulty." Matt said simply.

Trey pondered that for a moment, then finally said, "I have insufficient information to confirm or deny your supposition."

Matt openly laughed.

"That still doesn't answer the question though." Wilkey said frankly.

"I've noticed that Trey has a good eye, not only for style, but also for the engineering side of things. He can tell you if something will work, but he can also let you know if it seems to be worth the bother." Matt said frankly.

"There is also the fact that my boyfriends will be living at Matt's house. I anticipate spending a lot of time there, so I would like to help make it as comfortable as possible for them." Trey said seriously.

"Boyfriends?" Wilkey asked with surprise.

"I know how it sounds, but trust me, when you see the three of them together, it makes perfect sense." Matt assured him.

* * * * *

As Marie was packing, a knock on the door surprised her.

"Marie? Are you back yet?" A young voice called out hopefully.

As Marie opened the door, she said, "Yeah. But I'm going right back out."

"Do you have a little bit of that sparkly pink yarn? I don't need much, I just wanted to do a few little pom-poms for Theresa's bicycle sweater." Rachel hurried to explain.

"Yeah. It's in my knitting bag, beside the dresser. Just go ahead and take what you need." Marie said as she floated back to the bed, where she had been packing.

"You're floating." Rachel said uncertainly.

"Yeah. That's part of why I'm going back out. I'm going to get a few days of training for it at the Massachusetts Institute." Marie said frankly.

"If you're only going to be gone for a few days, is there some way that Theresa and I could go with you?" Rachel hesitantly asked.

"It's not up to me, but I wouldn't have a problem with it." Marie said as she floated to the dresser.

"Will you ask the professor for me?" Rachel asked hopefully.

"Not a chance. If you want to go, you've got to ask for yourself." Marie said firmly.

"What should I say if he asks 'why' I want to go?" Rachel asked hesitantly.

"Just tell him that you'd like to get away for a few days and see something different. I'm sure he can understand that... in fact, didn't I hear something about him leaving for a few days before Thanksgiving?" Marie asked absently as she folded her clothes.

"Yeah. I think so." Rachel muttered, then her expression seemed to freeze as she concentrated.

Marie floated to the closet to take out a few things while Rachel continued to concentrate.

As Marie was folding the hanging clothes and putting them in her suitcase, Rachel seemed to come back to herself.

"The professor said that we could go with you and that Jubilee was going with us, too." Rachel said quickly.

"Nice! Well, if he hasn't changed his flight plan, then you don't have very long. You and Theresa need to pack... and don't forget to bring your knitting." Marie thought to remind her.

"This is going to be great!" Rachel said happily as she dashed out the door.

After a moment to consider, Marie smiled and said to herself, "Yeah. It could be."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I love this story, and it has been way too long since we have seen anything from these people.

I am glad that the sentinels are being helped to become more sentient.

There is no reason that they need to be bad people.

I am also very glad they didn't get destroyed.

No one should die just because of their very existence.

That is the very nature of evil, to destroy someone just because they were of a certain makeup. I mean, talk about racism!

In my opinion, any and all sentient beings deserve a chance to live a full and empowered life, and the ability to understand what it means to be alive and aware.

Oh, I just thought of something. Wouldn't Marie be able to regain the powers she received from Clark, if they somehow faded away, by doing the same thing she did before?

Thanks, MM for another wonderful chapter of this wonderful saga.

Darryl The Radio Rancher