"Let me see if I've got this right." Seth said slowly.
After a nod from Brian, Seth continued, "The new guy's name is 'Piotr' and his team name is 'Fallen'. Right?"
"And he's going to help Lisa use her mutant ability better?"
Brian nodded again.
"And he's dead?"
Brian once again nodded.
"Okay. I think I must be missing something." Seth finally admitted.
"Beau has an ability to do... something. Whatever it is, it's supposed to help... I guess." Brian finished weakly.
"You guess? You mean you don't know?" Lisa hesitantly asked.
"Not really. I've seen that if Beau talks to Emily that things have a chance of working out. I'm still a little fuzzy on the how."
"If that's true, then how sure are you that you're not responsible for what happened to Marc?" Lisa asked firmly.
"Maybe if I'd never come here, events might have played out differently. I don't know. All I can tell you for sure is that I didn't intentionally influence events so that Marc would be hurt. In my glimpses of possible futures, I didn't see anything happening to Marc at all. In fact, I don't think I ever really noticed him being there." Brian finished with an apologetic look at Marc.
"Does that mean I have the 'forgettable' ability, same as you?" Marc asked with a grin.
"I don't know. You might have a non-mutant variant." Brian said as a slight smile found its way onto his face.
"Considering all my other gifts, or lack thereof, maybe you could show me some forgetability tricks. It might come in handy." Marc said with a grin.
"I never... I didn't think anyone could ever look at my ability as having value. But if you're serious about it, I'd love to help you learn what I know about stealth and camouflage techniques. I've actually studied some things to try and augment my natural ability."
"Not just me. Unless Beau knows some tricks he hasn't told us about, he might be able to use your help too." Marc said seriously, then finished with a smile.
"Actually, there's a chance that any of us could use that ability. If something happens that we can't use our regular abilities for some reason, it might be good for us to know how to fade into the background until the danger has passed." Seth said thoughtfully.
"You could be right about that. Maybe we could talk to Matt about including that in our defense training." Brian cautiously suggested.
"Or... maybe Matt doesn't need to know everything about all of our training and abilities." Marc slowly suggested.
"Why do you think that?" Seth asked curiously.
"Don't get me wrong. It's not personal. Matt's been nothing but nice to me and Lisa. I'm just thinking that it might be best not to share every detail of our team with every person that we meet." Marc said seriously.
"He did say that we should take off the training wheels and do for ourselves." Seth said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. He really wants us to be on our own." Louie agreed.
//But doesn't he need to know about our defences to help us strategize for a danger scenario?// Jesus asked cautiously.
"That would probably be easiest, but it might not be best for us in the long run." Marc said thoughtfully.
Louie enthusiastically nodded, then continued the thought by saying, "With all the telepaths and witches and who knows what else running around, someday we might end up fighting Matt's evil twin or his clone or him under mind control. It happens in superhero comics all the time." Louie said seriously.
"Even though it's probably really unlikely that we'll have to face Matt's evil twin, that doesn't change anything. I think Marc and Louie are right. We should keep from telling anyone too much about us. That also includes Clark, John, and Ronny." Slash said slowly.
"And Gar." Marc added.
Seth regretfully nodded his agreement.
"So, if I'm getting this right, we're going to be doing our defensive training with Matt, and doing what he tells us, but then when he's not around, we'll teach each other and try to learn new things to give us an extra advantage when we need it." Marc said uncertainly.
"This is kind of the point of having a team..." Slash began to say, but was interrupted.
"...to exclude people?" Lisa reluctantly asked.
"To become more to each other than to outsiders. I see it as taking what's being given to us and making it our own. Try thinking of it as another way for us to become more than the sum of our parts." Slash said with increasing confidence.
"Don't teachers always want you to use what they teach you and take it to the next level so that someday you can go beyond their teaching?" Marc asked consideringly.
"Not the teachers I've had." Brian said frankly.
"Should we keep Dr. Hoffman out too? I really trust her and I don't want to lie to her." Lisa said anxiously.
"I'm not planning on telling her everything, but I don't think we have to lie either. If the subject comes up, we can just tell her that there are team things that we're choosing not to share outside the group." Marc slowly said.
"Yeah. And if there's something we need and Matt can't get it for us, she's someone else we can go to." Seth quietly added.
"What about Quaid?" Louie said quietly.
A few looks went around the group and it was finally Slash who said, "You're a member of the team. We can tell you what we think, but we can't command you."
"When I first got here I was afraid of everyone." Louie said distantly.
//Terrified.// Jesus interjected.
Louie smiled at the response, then continued, "But then I got Seth as a roommate, and he was really nice to me.
"Then I met Quaid and he wanted to talk to me and spend time with me and find out about the stuff I like and stuff like that.
"Quaid even showed me that I was in a safe place when we woke everyone up this morning and everyone laughed and thought it was funny.
"Now you're calling me your superhero expert and asking me what I think about stuff."
"So what do you want to do about Quaid?" Marc asked cautiously.
"I know how you feel about me telling him stuff, so I'll look at each thing and decide how much he needs to know about it." Louie said seriously.
"That sounds like an excellent way to go. I think that would be a good rule of thumb for all of us." Marc said seriously.
"Yeah. Just as long as we're all sure to let everyone know who we're letting in on things." Seth added earnestly.
"Right. No one needs to worry if they tell someone..." Marc began to say, but stopped at a distant, inquisitive look on Brian's face.
"What is it Chesser?" Marc asked cautiously.
//Tex is ready to come back if Sideway will bring him in.//
"Yeah. I'll get him." Seth said as his horns flashed brightly to reveal Beau's location in the room.
"Is that what you were reacting to?" Marc asked Brian quietly.
"Once all the decisions were made and committed to, a new series of futures presented themselves. I just wanted to take a quick look at them to see if any of them are time sensitive." Brian explained.
"Is there anything we need to worry about?" Marc asked cautiously.
"My power isn't absolute. I can't see all of everything. But what I'm foreseeing right now is the possibility of one or more gunmen coming for Beau. And if they come, they won't think twice about shooting whoever else gets in their way." Brian said urgently.
"Would it be better if I stayed away?" Beau asked as he stepped forward to join the group.
"No. We've had one shooting. That's more than enough. There's not going to be any more." Marc said firmly.
"I like that plan. Let's do that!" Seth agreed wholeheartedly.
"But this means that all of us are going to need to buckle down and get serious about our training." Slash said firmly.
"As inspirational as that sounds, I think it might be better if we let Matt and the X-Men take care of it." Lisa said anxiously.
"You see, that's the thing..." Marc said to her urgently, "...we can't be with Matt and the X-Men all day, every day. Our only choices are to live in fear and isolation or learn how to take care of ourselves."
"Or die." Beau quietly added.
"We're not really considering that as one of our options." Marc countered.
"Remind me later and I'll tell you some things about Necromancy. It might actually be more of an option than you'd think." Beau said frankly.
"Thank you. No." Marc said simply, leaving no room for misunderstanding.
"So, Beau, did you find out anything that will help me?" Lisa asked hopefully.
"Oh, yeah. It took us a few minutes to figure out what we were supposed to do. But after talking to Piotr, I think there's a pretty good chance that we'll be able to stabilize him and perform the necessary rituals."
"To do what?" Lisa asked seriously.
"It's kind of hard to describe without it sounding really creepy. I suppose that if you get technical about it, you could call it possession... but it's not as bad as it sounds." Beau hurried to assure her.
"I've got to be honest. The word 'possession' is really putting me off. Do you think you could explain it so that it doesn't sound like I'm going to become some kind of soulless monster trying to devour the brains of everyone I know and love?" Lisa asked weakly, trying to cover her nervousness with humor.
"That hardly ever happens." Beau tried to assure her, then before she could react he continued, "But what we'll actually be doing is making a... think of it as a cloak. When things get dangerous, you'll be able to drape it over you and you'll have Piotr's basic skill set and years of experience."
"That seems a little bit unfair." Lisa said quietly.
"He's dead. He doesn't need them anymore." Beau said frankly, then thought to add, "Besides, he wants you to have them."
"He does? I mean... how? Didn't you just say that he was dead?"
"I summoned his spirit to talk to him. He's in a really bad place right now so I offered him my help and presented him with his options." Beau said in prelude, then continued, "Basically, I could leave him be, in which case, he would dissipate over time. I could cross him over, which isn't really an attractive option in his case."
"Why not?" Lisa felt compelled to ask.
"The afterlife of those who commit suicide is rarely a good one." Beau said regretfully.
"We'll just have to take your word for that." Marc said weakly.
"Yeah. You're the expert." Louie added with a grin.
"What we ended up doing was discussing different ways that we could give Lisa access to Piotr's ability; to use his exceptional strength and all the years of experience that go along with it."
"What did you come up with?" Marc asked cautiously.
"To put it simply, it's possible for me to imbue a physical item, let's just say it's a cloak for now, because that's symbolically how it works."
"How's that?" Marc asked slowly.
"When Lisa puts it on, Piotr will be spiritually standing behind her, not exactly controlling her, but encouraging her movements. Lisa will always be in control, but Piotr will be able to help her make the best decisions and bypass some of the mistakes that often come with having exceptional strength." Beau carefully explained.
"And when she takes the cloak off, he's gone?" Marc asked cautiously.
"Theoretically, yes." Beau reluctantly confirmed.
"What do you mean 'Theoretically'?" Marc asked firmly.
"The truth is, sarks don't last forever. They fail. It's not a matter of 'if' it will happen, but 'when'. I can't predict what will happen to Piotr's essence when the sark finally does fail, but he's willing to forego his other options so that he can help Lisa. He wants to pass his skills and experience on to someone who can make good use of them."
"So Lisa's just going to have a Piotr coat that she puts on when she wants to fight?" Slash asked cautiously.
"Something like that." Beau confirmed.
"What is Piotr going to do when he's not helping Lisa?" Marc asked cautiously.
"He will be bound to the sark. When it's not being worn, he will exist in a state of limbo, barely aware of the world around him or the passage of time." Beau carefully explained.
"That's horrible." Lisa gasped.
"I'm open to other suggestions." Beau said frankly.
"Can't you at least give him a gameboy or something like that to do?" Seth quietly suggested.
"He won't have enough of a physical essence to be able to play it. The most he might be able to manage is spelling words on the spirit board or maybe some bumps or knocks." Beau said seriously.
"Even if he's dead, he shouldn't have to be all alone. We need to find a way to include him on the team, even at times like this, when we're planning what to do next." Seth said passionately.
"It's not anything that I've ever thought of doing, but Piotr has a very powerful presence. If I'm careful to make the sark so that it's not too heavy, I might be able to embody him as a sheet ghost." Beau said speculatively.
"Sheet ghost?" Lisa asked hesitantly.
"Yeah. You know how a kid dresses up like a ghost and wears a sheet and says 'Boo!'? It's just like that, minus the kid." Beau explained.
"So you're going to make Piotr wear a sheet?" Seth asked cautiously, obviously feeling that he wasn't comprehending some essential part of their plan.
"Not a literal sheet. That would probably be too heavy for him. But for the purposes of our discussion, it's close enough." Beau said seriously.
"So when Lisa puts the sheet on, Piotr will... do what?" Marc hesitantly asked.
"If you're uncomfortable with the word 'possession', how about the word 'merge'?" Beau asked cautiously.
//If you think about it, that's exactly what Louie and I do when we become Vile Kricket.// Jesus said frankly.
"That is true." Lisa slowly acknowledged.
"Good. Again, using the imagery of a cloak or a veil you can imagine Piotr guiding and encouraging Lisa to make the best use of her strength in a given situation." Beau said seriously.
"So, does that mean that before he died, Piotr was super-strong too?" Seth asked cautiously.
"Yes. His place on his team was pretty much what Lisa's place on our team is probably going to be." Beau said frankly.
"And he committed suicide?" Slash asked quietly.
"Yes. Although I don't have any reason to believe that one thing has anything to do with the other." Beau said honestly.
"Is it going to be safe for Lisa? What are the chances that whatever caused him to commit suicide are going to start working on Lisa, trying to get her to do the same thing?" Marc asked seriously.
"Piotr told me that when he was alive, he had problems... a disorder. It messed with his mind pretty bad and sometimes he made bad decisions because of it." Beau tried to explain.
"Is he better now?" Slash asked cautiously.
"From the way he described it, it sounds like what he had was some sort of a physical defect or imbalance. Now that he's been separated from his body, he doesn't have the compulsive urges that he had in life." Beau slowly explained.
"That's if you believe everything he tells you." Slash carefully offered.
"He didn't make exaggerated claims to make himself look better or berate himself to try and gain my sympathy. He told me what happened to him in fairly straightforward terms and I had no problem believing it. I can't promise that he's telling the truth, but I believe that he is." Beau said honestly.
"What do you need to be able to create your sheet-thing?" Marc slowly asked.
"Some silk or something else that's really light and airy. It will need to be as lightweight as possible." Beau said thoughtfully.
"Like this?" Seth asked as he pinched a sheet of something that looked like cobwebs from nearby.
"I don't even know what that is." Beau said honestly.
"Neither do I. But if it needs to be super-ultra light, this stuff really is..." Seth said seriously as he handed the wispy sheet of ephemeral strands to Beau.
"But if you change your light on it, will it turn into razor wire or wet ramen noodles?" Slash asked curiously.
"Yeah. I guess you're right." Seth said regretfully.
"No. This might actually work. I'm going to have to try a few things first to be sure, but there's a good chance that I'll be able to use your ability to alter states of matter in my spelling. This could end up being the perfect shroud for Piotr. Not only could it be more durable than cloth, but it would also be able to perform functions that a normal sheet or veil couldn't." Beau said thoughtfully.
"Can you do it right now?" Seth asked cautiously.
"No. I wouldn't be able to do anything with it. The first thing I'm going to need is magic supplies." Beau said seriously.
"Seth, if you'll let me out, I can go check on that right now." Lisa said seriously.
"I should go with you so that I can describe what I'll need." Beau hurried to add.
"If the meeting is breaking up, I think I'm ready to go back to the real world now. I'm starting to feel a little tired." Marc said quietly.
"Remember that Gar might still be asleep. We'll need to be quiet when we go back." Beau cautioned.
"We can change dimensions in the hallway, if that would be better." Seth cautiously offered.
"It probably would be. That way we aren't as likely to startle someone into making noise." Slash agreed.
"As soon as we're done getting Beau's supplies, I'll be back to stay with you." Lisa told Marc gently.
"If it's all the same to you, I'd really rather you go with the team to speak for both of us. When you come back later, you can tell me all about what you guys have been able to accomplish." Marc said hopefully.
"It's a deal." Lisa said warmly, then leaned in to give Marc a kiss.
The others smiled at each other and waited for them to finish.
As soon as Lisa stood, Seth stepped forward and gently placed a hand on Marc's arm.
As all watched, Marc faded from existence.
* * * * *
"Lisa, how sure are you that you can get me the magic supplies that I need?" Beau asked cautiously.
"I know someone who knows magic. That's about all that I can tell you." Lisa said seriously.
"Finding 'real' magic supplies can be a challenge." Beau once again cautioned.
"All we can do is ask." Lisa weakly responded.
"Do you two want to be next?" Seth asked seriously.
"You're really getting into this aren't you?" Lisa asked with an amused grin at him.
"This is what I can do that no one else can. I'm going to do my best so you guys will always know that you can count on me." Seth said earnestly.
"I'm right there with you. The thing I'm planning to do with Piotr might end up being the only big thing that I can find to do. So I'm going to pull out all the stops so that when it's all done, I'll know that I've done my absolute best."
"Are you two ready?" Seth asked seriously.
"Yeah. We'd better get this thing going."
"I'll follow you through that arch..." Seth said as he pointed, then continued, "As you pass through, I'll send you back so that you'll appear in the hall."
"Sounds good." Lisa said as she started walking with Beau at her side.
As they passed through the arch, Seth placed a hand on each of their backs, only for an instant.
* * * * *
"Do you know where we're going?" Beau asked cautiously.
"Back in there, to start with." Lisa said as she pointed back to the room where Marc and Gar were recovering.
As Lisa and Beau quietly walked in, they both noticed that Marc was already fast asleep.
"I'm afraid you won't be able to visit for a while yet. Both of my patients need their rest." Dr. McCoy informed the pair.
"I was actually looking for Tara. I needed to ask her something." Lisa said quietly.
"If I'm not mistaken, Tara is in her childhood development class right now." Dr McCoy said thoughtfully.
"I guess we can talk to her later. Do you know when her class lets out?" Lisa asked cautiously.
"The class that she's taking also functions as a daycare for the working parents around the school. I don't think anyone would mind if you stopped in to visit, although you might be asked to hold or feed a baby or two while you're there." Dr. McCoy finished with a smile.
"Do you think it'd be alright if we went in for a minute and asked her a couple questions?" Lisa asked cautiously.
"I'm sure she wouldn't mind at all. I think that she might enjoy a bit of distraction at this point in her day." Dr. McCoy said speculatively.
"We're not familiar with this place, do you know what room she'd be in?" Lisa asked cautiously.
"Certainly. The room we're using as a daycare is located down the hallway to the left of the main entrance, as you walk in, it's the second door on the right." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
"Thank you Doctor. When Marc wakes up, be sure to let him know that I'll be visiting him later." Lisa said with a loving glance in Marc's direction.
"I have no doubt that he already knows, but I will be sure to relay your message nonetheless." Dr. McCoy said pleasantly.
Lisa looked to Beau, and seeing that he was ready, led the way to the door.
* * * * *
"I thought you were talking to someone about supplies." Slash said as Lisa and Beau walked into the hallway.
"We needed to find out where she is first." Lisa explained, then thought to ask, "Where are you guys going to be when we're done?"
"I don't know, but what I'd really like to do is find a place where we can practice with our abilities where we won't be in anyone's way." Slash said frankly.
"Now that Beau's made his decisions, I could use a few minutes with my dice and cards to help provide us the best options." Brian said seriously.
"Thanks for staying out of my stuff with Piotr. I feel a lot better knowing that everything that happened was 'real'." Beau said sincerely.
"That was the whole point of me staying out of it. But now it would probably be a good idea for me to use my influence before too many random things creep into our path. When that happens, it's usually not a good thing." Brian said reluctantly.
//You influencing the random factors causes them to want to align against us.// Jesus said speculatively.
"The more I use my power, the more off-the-wall random things seem to happen when I'm not using it." Brian admitted.
//I was wondering about that. It seemed like you were getting a benefit without paying a price. But now I can see that the price is that you're on a slippery slope. If you don't maintain a balance, you lose control and it buries you.// Jesus said thoughtfully.
"I don't have it all figured out, but it's something like that." Brian reluctantly confirmed.
//If you would like, there is someone who I can contact to find a place where we can practice our abilities.// Jesus said slowly.
"Who are you going to contact?" Seth asked cautiously.
//I believe Matt referred to him as 'The Professor'. I can sense his presence very strongly and I am certain that he knows exactly where we are and what we are doing.// Jesus said somewhat distantly.
"I think I know who that is. I met him on Thanksgiving. His name is Professor Xavier and this is his home. He's the one the Xavier Institute is named after." Slash interjected.
//Would you like for me to ask him?// Jesus asked cautiously.
"Yeah. See if he's got a place for us to practice. If he does, then we can go there while Lisa and Beau get their stuff worked out." Slash said seriously.
//Got it.// Jesus said simply, then fell mentally silent, at least to those in the hallway with him.
* * * * *
//Is this Professor Xavier?// Jesus asked hesitantly.
//Yes. And I have gathered that you are called 'Jesus'.// Professor Xavier cautiously responded.
//Louie was in a fragile state at the time due to a recent exorcism attempt by his family... never mind. The name kind of stuck with me and now I'm used to it.// Jesus said nervously.
//You've been watching us, even at the Wagner school, you must be incredibly powerful.//
//Yes. Quite. Beyond that, I use a device to augment my natural abilities which allows me to extend my reach quite a bit.//
//I can see that being handy.// Jesus easily admitted, then cautiously asked, //So is there somewhere around here that my team can go to practice with their awakening abilities?//
//Yes. We have an area dedicated to just such a purpose. If you will go down the hall, past the elevator, the 'Danger Room' will be on your right.//
//'Danger Room'? Is that something we should be worried about?// Jesus asked hesitantly.
//Once your team has attained a certain level of skill, we may see value in using the equipment to challenge your teammates. But for now, it's simply an open space where they will be able to use their abilities without having to worry about breaking anything.// Professor Xavier assured him.
//I'll let them know. Thank you, Professor.// Jesus said respectfully.
//I understand your need to get everything organized and established. But when things are a bit more settled, I would like very much to invite your team to stop by for a visit and perhaps even train with the X-Men so that everyone can get a sense of each others' abilities.//
//I'll be sure to mention it to the team. I think that they'll probably enjoy that idea.// Jesus said pleasantly.
//Lisa's getting anxious, so I'll let you go.//
//Thank you again, Professor.//
* * * * *
//The professor said that there's a room at the other end of this hall where we can practice without having to worry about breaking anything.// Jesus said seriously.
"So you told him all about who we are and what we're planning on doing?" Slash asked with concern.
//No. I just asked him about the room. I think he was probably aware of us before we were aware of us.// Jesus said frankly.
"If you'll show us where you'll be, we'll go and do what we need to do." Lisa said anxiously.
//Just go back the way we came, past the elevator. The room we'll be using will be on the right.// Jesus said simply.
As the group started walking, Seth quietly asked, "So this professor guy knows what all of us are thinking right now?"
//He knows that we're here and why. As far as individual people and their thoughts, I doubt that he'd have a good reason to go that deep.//
"But he could if he wanted to, right?" Seth asked to verify.
//Yes.// Jesus confirmed, then added, //But so could I.//
"Yeah. But that's different. You're a real person to me. I trust you. I don't know this professor guy and where he's coming from. Knowing that he can root around in my brain makes me nervous." Seth said honestly.
//Well, thank you for calling me a 'real person', I will take that in the spirit that it was intended. As far as trusting the professor... I'm not going to tell you that you should. The most I can offer on the subject is that there's not much you can do about it. If Professor Xavier wanted to read you for some reason, I doubt very seriously that I could stop him. On the other hand, if he were trying to control you or mesmerize you with an illusion, I think I could probably detect that and I might even be able to disrupt it.// Jesus said thoughtfully.
"Do you trust Professor Xavier?" Beau asked cautiously.
//I don't particularly distrust him.// Jesus hesitantly responded.
"But..." Seth said in a leading tone.
//But what?// Jesus automatically responded, obviously playing dumb.
"But do you think he's going to try to murder us, steal our abilities, make us his mind slaves, recruit us, or make us cookies?" Seth asked impatiently.
//I can't say anything for sure, but from our discussion, I got the impression that he wants for us to form our team and to get comfortable with our abilities. Once that's all done, he would like for us to meet with his team and maybe even train with them a little, I suppose so that all of us can test our abilities against some new opponents.// Jesus finished thoughtfully.
"So no mind-enslavement?" Seth asked to be sure.
//Or cookies.// Jesus confirmed.
"Is this it?" Lisa asked as the group stopped outside a huge steel door.
//Yes. It's called the 'Danger Room', although I have been assured that this is simply a place where we will be able to forego restraint without having to worry about breaking valuable equipment.// Jesus said seriously.
"Good. Then we'll meet you back here." Lisa said seriously, then glanced at Beau to see if he was ready.
"We'll be upstairs in the nursery if you need us for anything." Beau added.
//I should be able to contact both of you telepathically if something comes up that you need to know about.// Jesus said seriously.
"Excellent. Good to know." Beau said with a smile before following Lisa back down the hallway, toward the elevator.
To Be Continued...