Notes: The characters from "Forever Knight" belong to Sony Tri-Star.
The characters from "Xena Warrior Princess" belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance
Studios. The characters from "Smallville" belong to DC Comics and Tribune.
The characters from "Mutant X" belong to Marvel and Tribune. The characters
from "Dark Angel" belong to Tribune. All other characters and scenarios
are fictitious and belong to me. Please send any questions or comments
Prologue [Amazon Village, 82AD]
Gabrielle, Bard-Queen of the Amazons, writes...
Rebuilding takes on many shapes and forms: Often the work is hard and tedious, yet the cooperation and goodwill engendered in the process provides a solid foundation for things to come. Here, the village has been rebuilt, and the sisterhood remains strong. In the future, our friends are forming a group of their own. The "Society of Tolerance," as Dave calls it, is coming together as this scroll tells....
Chapter 1 [Dallas-Fort Worth Airport]
Lana sipped on a latte from the coffee cart outside of the gate area and stared out the window to the west. She couldn't believe that she and Clark were finally on their way to start school. Even more bizarre, she wanted to do this to prove that a normal person could live amongst so-called new mutants. However, she had just discovered that she was a mutant as well.
It's hard to believe, she mused, taking another sip. Now, I know how Clark feels.
As if on cue, the object of her thoughts approached her. He had a serious look set on his face as well. "Hey. What's going on?" he asked, already knowing what the answer would be, but wanting to make sure.
"Clark, how do you deal with it?" she wondered, glancing up at him.
"How do I deal with what?" he responded, taking a peek around to make sure that nobody was close enough to overhear.
She looked around nervously before whispering, "You know. Being unique."
He nodded, riding the wave of uncertainty rising up within him. Despite the fact that she had known who he really was for the previous three months, Clark still felt nervous talking with her about his abilities. Still, she desperately needed somebody to relate to. I have to do that for her. "It's a challenge," he replied. "I think the toughest thing is having to act as if I can't do something when I really can do it."
"Like the desk in the Torch's office?"
"Exactly," he agreed. "You don't know how many close calls I've had over the years."
"I can imagine that Chloe's investigative mind is a tough thing to dodge," she cracked, sipping on her coffee and recalling her friend's face.
"That it is," he concurred. "She was always suspicious of me. At least, that's not a problem anymore."
She sighed, recalling the attack on The Torch, and Chloe's reaction to her extraordinary friends. Fortunately, by the time of the lunch at the Talon, the reporter had calmed down a bit. "I'm glad of that, Clark. Chloe's been such a good friend to us. Professor Dubois' self-control at lunch had something to do with that, I think. She realizes that we're still the same people we were before."
He looked at the History professor sitting across the gate area from them with his wife. The Duboises had made pleasant small talk at certain points on the flight, however, they had left the teenagers to themselves here in Dallas. "Well, it wasn't easy for him to hold the Child back, Lana. Trust me."
She sighed. Granted, she was dealing with her new abilities, but she thought for a second on what it was like for the professor. Not only did he have his powers, but the task of governing two separate mutant personalities inside of himself. I'm glad I'm not in his shoes. "I wonder how he does it."
"Lots of stress," he informed her, a little nervousness showing on his face. "After you and Dr. Dubois were kidnapped, I saw him go really berserk. Trust me, you don't want to be anywhere near him when that happens."
She shuddered, recalling his accounts of the attack on the classroom not to mention the looks that the students were giving the professor even after a week. Besides, Clark didn't show fear all that often whether he was acting or not. Finally, having seen him blast his way through a reinforced concrete barrier, she didn't really want to consider what the Other could do with that kind of power. "I hope we never get like that."
"We won't. Professor Dubois will make sure of that, Lana," Clark reassured her, rubbing her shoulders.
"Well, I wonder what's waiting for us out there?" she asked, turning back toward the window.
"A new experience. Going to school with a lot of other people in a big city. And to be with people like ourselves will be nice as well," he replied honestly. At least, I won't have to hide from everyone anymore.
"I wonder what our classmates are going to be like? You know, it's so weird. Back in Smallville, we knew all of our friends from as far back as we could remember. Now, we have to deal with not knowing."
Clark thought about those last words for a minute. "I figure it's going to be an adventure, Lana. We're going to experience a lot of new things. I'm looking forward to meeting new people." He flashed the warm smile for her benefit.
She giggled. What was it about Clark that made even the most serious doubts vanish? If she had to go through this adjustment, she was so glad to have him and the two professors to guide her. "Thanks, Clark."
"For being you," she told him, kissing his cheek. "C'mon, they're going to be announcing the flight pretty soon."
Across the area, Dave sat next to Angie, nervously sipping on a cup of tea and thinking about the future. Granted, while he had been talking about bringing new mutants to the university to study, it seemed like such an easy thing to do. Surprisingly, the paperwork had gone smoothly with the administration. However, the attack on Smallville had given him some food for thought. What would happen if the GSA attacked again? Was it right to expose the so-called "regular" students to that threat? How would he arbitrate the understanding and peaceful coexistence between the two groups? And then would Nick have enough control over the vampire Community to insure peace from that front as well.
What the Hell am I getting them into? What am I getting myself into? He shook his head and sighed.
Beside him, Angie observed his body language with concern. The trip to Smallville had been nerve wracking for them both to say the least. With Eckhart's attack and demise, nobody knew what would happen next. She knew that he was having some doubts about his ability to mentor new mutants on how to function in regular society, especially given his own issues. This is necessary. He has to lead. And I'll be right beside him every step of the way.
"Yeah?" he responded.
"What's up?" she inquired although she could guess at the reason.
"Dave, this is me you're talking to, remember? Now what's wrong?" she insisted, the knowing frown on her face.
She knows me too well. "Well, I don't know how I can lead these kids when I can't even keep myself in control. I can't even control the Child. If I can't do that, then how can I do that with them?"
"Now you're sounding like Eckhart, Dave," she admonished. "It's not about control. It's about guidance. You're not these kids' babysitter. We're here to be role models and maybe a bit of guidance. Adam will help us with their powers. Hey, we're not alone in this, okay?"
"I guess. It's still seems so overwhelming," he admitted, sipping on his tea as he watched Clark and Lana.
"Having feelings of deja-vu again?" she asked.
"Uh huh. They really do remind me of Karen and me at their age," he noted. "I want to spare them all of the heartache."
She rubbed his shoulder. While it had been fun at first to let him reminisce, it was starting to get a bit old for her. "Look, they have to live their own lives. I really admire that protectiveness of yours. It's one of the things I love about you, but he's not you and she's not Karen, okay? Trust me, I agree with what Lex said at the airport. You're doing okay and so is Karen. Besides, you've got me, Buster."
"I know that, Angie," he told her, kissing her cheek. "Remember what I told you on our wedding night?"
"Besides 'I do'?" she teased. Seeing his expression, she nodded. "Yes. Just remember that we have to live in the present and not the past. You've been doing so well with that lately."
"I have you to thank for that, Princess," he asserted, giving her another kiss.
She giggled. "Keep that up and I'll have to start charging for admission."
He grinned. "Just try it. Oh, and thanks."
"For what?" she wondered.
"For keeping me on the straight and narrow," he stated as the flight was announced. "That's us. Let's go!"
Seeing their teenaged students coming toward them, the two faculty members stepped into the boarding line and headed toward the plane. Soon, they would be back in Tucson, and the real work would begin.
Nick walked into the El Gato Negro still feeling uneasy about the events that had just transpired. After dragging Eckhart's bloodless corpse from the alley beside Smallville High, he and everyone else was certain that the threat of Genomex had been dealt with-at least for the moment. With the body's disappearance, he wasn't so sure. Who had done it? LaCroix was away in Toronto with Divia. There were two candidate groups-the Renegades and the Enforcers. But which would do something so foolish as try to resurrect a cold-blooded zealot such as Eckhart?
Janette watched as he approached the bar, pouring a glass of straight white wine even before he asked for it. She knew when he was concerned about something and, judging from his facial expression, this matter was quite dire.
"Ah, Nicolas. How was your foray to the Midwest? Did it bring back any memories?"
"Not for me," he replied flatly, taking a sip from his glass. "Dave, on the other hand, had another of his flashbacks."
"Oh dear," she expressed, recalling the professor's previous tantrums. "And the town is still standing?"
"It is. Every building is still standing. There's one hole in the basement of the high school, but otherwise, everything is unscathed."
She shook her head in disbelief. Could it be that his control is improving after all of this time? One can only hope so.
Picking up on her thoughts, he only betrayed the slightest smile across his face. Unlike LaCroix's treatment of him-or maybe because of it, he tried not to intrude on her thoughts too much.
"So, is he ready to start this academy of special mortals?" she asked.
He nodded. "It's not exactly an academy, but yes, his 'class' will be arriving over the next few days."
"And what is your take on all of this, Nicolas?" she wondered. "Is this why you are so concerned, mon Cher?"
He shook his head as he emptied his glass. "No. It seems we have a missing body in the morgue, Janette."
Her eyes bulged wide. "A missing body? From Natalie's examination room?"
"Yes. And it was one of us who took it," he informed her. "The steel lock was ripped apart." He winced again.
"So who was it? Why does this body concern you so?"
"It's Eckhart," he revealed. "If one of the Enforcers or Renegades brings him across..."
She nodded, understanding his meaning. "Ah yes. This is a problem, Nicolas. However will you handle it, hmmm? As Elder, it's your prerogative that has been slighted."
"I know, and we're searching for the body, as well as the responsible party," he told her. "I just wish that I didn't have such a bad feeling about this."
"Based on what you have told us, I don't blame you," she replied. "The last thing we want on our hands is a war between mutants and vampires. I trust you know what would happen?"
He stared at her for a minute, recalling earlier incidents from his experiences during the Crusades. When two opposing forces were fighting for survival and territory, the battle was nasty. In this case, he wasn't so sure that the Community would win. For that reason, we need to deal with Eckhart. He will try to convince the Enforcers to go after new mutants or-at the very least-Mutant X--to suit his own agenda. If he is with the Enforcers, Ali would be more than happy to assist him, seeing as the group members are Dave's friends.
Then his reverie was broken. Something familiar was close...very close indeed. "I have to go. Be back." With that, he hurried out of the bar and took to the sky.
She watched the doors swing shut, hoping that her master wasn't being too rash in rushing off to meet the threat.
Even as Nick and Janette were talking in the Gato, Alyce inspected an exquisite Mayan display which had taken her and Brigid most of the evening to set up. The potters' carvings of animals intrigued her as always. However, she couldn't help but think of her first few encounters with Nick in Toronto. The jade cup had been one of her favorite artifacts...until LaCroix destroyed it in the slaughterhouse. What a waste. Such a fine piece of work gone forever.
"Excuse me, Dr. Harris?" Brigid asked. "Is there anything else?"
"Hmm?" the curator responded, snapping out of her reverie. "No, Brigid, that will be all. Nice work."
"Thanks," the junior expressed. "I'll see you on Monday night."
"See you Then" Alyce concluded as she watched the assistant descend the staircase and disappear through the front door. After the latter's departure, she headed for her office, eager to finish the report for the Head Curator. This exhibit's going to be great! The public will love it! Just before she reached the desired door, she felt her senses tingling. Other vampires? Now? Nick isn't there, so what's going on? "Hello? Come out. If you are who I think you are, you know I can sense you."
Silence greeted her challenge, however she still felt the intruders' presences. As they drew closer, she could see them in the dim light. One vampire was thin with white hair, pale skin, and red eyes. The other had slightly darker skin, jet-black hair, a familiar Turkish mustache, and wore the uniform of an Ottoman Janissary. Ali here? Does Nick know?
A dark snicker came from the former Janissary as he addressed her. "So where's the Elder? I want to see him."
She steeled herself. Since taking the magical elixir, she was supposedly as strong as Nick used to be, but she didn't want to fall short of that ability. "I don't know. He's working."
"Ah, playing detective, I assume," the older immortal noted, a wry smile on his face. "I really should enlighten the others to his real nature one day. Speaking of revealing real natures, I have a friend for you to meet. This is Mason and he's an Enforcer in training."
"I'm...an old friend of his," the fledgling added, shooting his master a glare.
Ali nodded. "Take her!"
Eckhart took off, flying at the curator at top speed. He was determined to please his new master and to deal with another friend of his mutant adversaries.
Alyce avoided him with ease. Allowing her eyes to flash yellow, she vamped out, and grabbed him from behind. She threw him about like a rag doll, breaking bones, and peppering him with glass shards. "Had enough?" she asked coldly, a dark glare shooting into his eyes.
Eckhart cringed momentarily. All of the cuts...the dirt...the blood... For a brief instant, his instincts screamed at him to cover himself lest he infect himself. The sight of his master reminded him of what he was.
The Turk intervened, allowing his 'son' to crawl away. He wasn't going to lose a second creation to this accursed city's residents. Not this soon. Still, her display had given him some food for thought. This isn't the same fledgling that watched the death duel in Istanbul. She's changed.
"I'll be sure to deliver your message to Nick when I see him," she said, watching him carefully.
"Do that...if you survive!" the Enforcer growled, advancing on her.
She felt a vestige of her former fear run down her spine before her strength kicked in. With her forearm, she blocked a wicked punch and delivered one of her own, sending him back into the display case. "Leave now," she advised firmly.
He rose to his feet and managed to backhand her quickly, staggering her. Shockingly, she stood there and took it. "Amazing," he hissed, grabbing a wooden fragment and swinging at her.
"I've been taking my vitamins," she quipped, grabbing the piece and pulling against him in an insane tug of war. "Maybe you might beat me, but I'll make sure you smart for it." She let go of the wood and shoved both it and him straight back.
Again, the Enforcer staggered to his feet. This time, the rage was clearly evident on his face. "I don't care what infidel sorcery this may be, you're dead!" Then he felt a familiar yet distinct vibration behind him. Looking down into the lower atrium, he could see Nick standing there, eyes glowing bloody red and a grim expression on his features. "Brabant!"
"Ali," Nick replied flatly. "What are you doing here? And what have you done with Eckhart? I can sense him here."
"He's mine now!" Ali asserted, glaring daggers at the former Crusader as he guided his fledgling to his feet.
The Elder joined the others in the blink of an eye. At least, he could tell Natalie what happened to the deceased villain. "So he is. However, as the Elder of Tucson and of this region, I order you to stay away from the mortals and mutants!"
Eckhart scowled wordlessly at him. Nobody tells me anything like that.
Reading the fledgling's mind, Nick added, "Stay away, both of you. You've already caused the Community, our friends, and me enough grief as it is. Don't push me on this point."
The Enforcer master stared at his longtime adversary for a span of several mortal heartbeats. He's different too, he realized. Somehow, he's grown more powerful...perhaps surpassing even his sire. There will be another time for this debate to continue.
Looking at his charge, he instructed, "Follow me, Mason." Without another look at their opponents, the intruders disappeared into the atrium and through the doorway through which they had come.
She exhaled deeply, allowing herself to quake a bit. "I...I did it. I actually did it."
He smiled warmly and embraced her. She's no longer a fledgling, and she's capable of holding her own against even the toughest of adversaries. "You sure did."
"When did you get here?"
"Just as you were teaching Eckhart the facts of immortal life," he cracked good-naturedly as he ran his hands through her raven-black hair and kissed her on the cheek. "I'm really proud of you, Alyce."
"Thanks, Nick. Now, I need to worry about how to clean up this mess," she noted.
"Let's get to it. We'll have this place cleaned up in no time," he agreed, grabbing a broom. "C'mon."
She nodded, a warm feeling running through her. I'm not a weakling anymore. I'm actually worthy of his love. Another deep breath later, she began to pick up pieces and move them into place. Triumphs aside, this mess would need to be cleaned up on several levels: the Head Curator and Mutant X. Eckhart's resurrection and Ali's reappearance meant trouble for them all. How much trouble remained to be seen, but trouble nevertheless.
Additional Note: Mutant X Spoiler: Interface
Meantime, all was relatively peaceful in the new Sanctuary facility. After dropping Nick off in the desert just west of Tucson, Mutant X had hurried back there to check on things. Granted, Eckhart's death probably put the skids to any GSA activity for quite a while, but it never hurt to be sure.
As soon as they arrived, Adam put Jesse and Shalimar to work scanning the database for possible activity. The former geneticist wanted to leave nothing to chance.
"How's it looking?" he asked about 15 minutes later.
"Nothing at all," she replied. "In fact, it's almost too quiet."
"That's what I think too," Adam concurred, sipping on his hot cocoa. "Jesse?"
"Same here," the computer whiz told him. "How do you think Eckhart's death will affect the GSA?"
"It's hard to tell," Adam postulated. "Either the whole operation could break down or another head could be appointed. In any case, the next move is up to them."
"That's a scary thought," she said, casting him a worried glance. "Especially with the new branch of the Underground ready to start up.
The leader nodded. From his years at Genomex, he knew that there were other dangers within its walls besides Mason Eckhart. Now could be the time when one of them is released. We must be vigilant.
"You okay, Adam?" Jesse inquired.
"Yes. Sorry, I spaced there for a second. So, how are the new members of the Underground doing?"
"Everyone is on their way to Tucson except for Michelle Bigelow. She's with Emma at the moment," Brennan stated, walking up the stairs.
"Good," Adam replied, allowing himself a slight smile. This experiment was definitely breaking new ground by placing new mutants in close proximity to regular society. I hope that Dave can pull this off. If anyone can, it's him, especially if we help him. Scanning the list of candidates, he took a deep breath. Among this group were several potentially powerful individuals including shape shifters-a rarity among the Children of Genomex. If the GSA were ever to get their hands on them, it would mean the destruction of everything we hold dear. We have to succeed. Snapping back to reality, he told the trio. "Keep monitoring things. If something happens, we need to know immediately." With that, he descended the staircase, heading for his quarters. It had been an extremely long day and he was eager to rest for a bit.
In another part of the renovated complex, Michelle sipped on a cup of tea, trying to relax. The partially decorated area seemed strange to her, especially after the elaborate nature of the old Sanctuary. While she knew that this place would be just as nice as its predecessor soon, it reminded her of the vulnerability of all things. Thankfully, Emma was able to stop me before I revealed any information to Eckhart. She shook her head, recalling how the administrator had her convinced that the team and her former high school classmate were the enemy. How close I came to destroying everything.
"Hey, what's going on?" Emma asked, sitting down next to her.
"How do you all do it?" Michelle wondered.
"Do what?" Emma inquired curiously. She arched her eyebrow as she tried to grasp her friend's meaning.
"Be such heroes. I can't imagine doing what you guys do day in and day out," the telecyber revealed.
Emma smiled and rubbed her shoulder. "It's tough sometimes, but someone has to do it. Otherwise, the Eckharts of the world win. You know what, though?"
"Seeing you as you and not some reprogrammed robot for the GSA makes it all worthwhile, Michelle. You don't know how hard it was for me to see you taking their side," Emma noted. "I am so glad to see you back to the way you are." A tear creased her cheek as she embraced her friend.
"At least, I finally get to go to college, right?" Michelle asked cheerfully. "I can't believe that it's finally going to happen. I was so swept up by the GSA's crusade that I felt as if I missed out on something. The university is amazing! I can't wait."
"It is that. Oh, I hope this works out for you. I've met two of your classmates. They're from Kansas, but they're looking forward to coming out here."
She smiled warmly. At least, I'll be part of something that's a force for good. "What's Dr. Dubois like? How will he work with us?"
"He knows his field of course, and he's a mutant as well. He's a nice guy, Michelle, but like all of us, he has his issues."
Michelle nodded. From what I remember of the battle inside of Genomex and from reading Sanderson's report, that's putting it lightly. "Emma, you've seen into his head, right?"
"I have. Why?"
"Is it true that he's...well...explosive?"
Emma squirmed uncomfortably. How can I describe what's going on inside of his head without making him sound like a raving lunatic? "He has his moments," she understated. "Consider him a product of his environment."
"What do you mean?" the former GSA agent asked, her confusion made very clear by her tone.
"Well, did you meet Stuart Dubois?"
"No, but I did observe him. He's a real piece of work all right," Michelle replied, recalling Eckhart's uncooperative ally.
"Now, imagine growing up with him. Dave did...and he developed in a rather...unique way. You know the saying 'having two minds on something'? He literally does..."
"So, he does have two distinct personalities. The field agent's report had stated as much. How can we trust him not to flip out on us?"
Emma bit her lip. That's the question, isn't it? "Just don't provoke him. Trust me, Michelle; he's really a nice person. He just needs a little understanding."
"But if he's threatened?"
"Then...all Hell breaks loose. In this case, his Child persona surfaces, and you don't want to be in his path at that point. My point is that he is really gaining a lot of control these days. You should have seen him in Smallville. Dave managed some degree of control throughout that whole episode," Emma recounted. "He's getting better all of the time."
"Okay. If you say so," her friend concurred. "Personally, History was never that strong a subject for me. I'm hoping he's a good prof."
Emma grinned warmly. "If his lectures are anything like the speech he gave to the students, it should be quite entertaining. He loves to mix wisecracks into his dialogue. Judging from his record, he definitely knows his stuff."
"Well, I hope so," Michelle sassed. "We're paying big bucks to get me there. If he's not that good, you know what I'm going to say."
"'You're over that place'?"
"Right. But, I'm willing to give him a chance." The telecyber took another sip of tea. "When does the party start?"
"Tomorrow afternoon. Meantime, it's getting late. Let's get some sleep. Maybe we'll talk a little bit. Y'know, the way we used to do to fool our parents?" Emma suggested, a warm smile on her face.
Michelle shook her head mischievously. This is just what I needed. She's right. Following her friend's lead, she headed for the sleeping quarters and some girl talk.
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