Early the next morning, Dave walked across campus. He couldn't sleep...the
anxiousness was keeping him on edge. Today was the day.
All of the planning,
all of our hopes start now. He hoped that some reading would calm him down
a bit. Let's see if those books have come in yet.
After walking through
the main library's front door and descending the stairs, a quick right
turn brought him to the new bookshelf. As per his weekly ritual, he ran
his finger along the spines of the tomes, making sure that the previous
month's orders were there. Occasionally, he would pull one off the shelf,
crack it open, and inspect a few pages to make sure the quality met his
Within fifteen minutes, he had six books stacked beside him, ready for checkout. Anticipating some challenging reading, he smiled to himself. After all, one needed to keep one's edge if he or she were to keep students interested.
"They meet your standards, I trust?" Caitlin asked, allowing a bit of humor to seep into her voice. The library dean approached him quickly and continued, "Why don't we put those in my office for now? Have you had breakfast yet?"
"Not yet. I was going to grab something out of the machine in the department," he told her as they got into the elevator.
"I thought so," she noted as they stepped off into her suite. Unlocking the door, she allowed him to place the stack on her desk before she secured it once again. "Breakfast is on me, David. You look as though you need to talk."
He sighed deeply and gave her the familiar glance.
"I thought so," she surmised as they walked out of the building, heading down the mall area and across the construction area to the rapidly changing Student Union. The old structure, long a fixture on campus, had been gutted and now, a new version was rising in its place. "You like the changes?"
"I guess. Personally, I wish they had kept it the way it was," he muttered. Aside from the money involved in the building project, he had a lot of memories wrapped up in the old Union. I know we have to move on at some point, but why does it have to be so hard?
"Things change, David. Life goes on," she reminded him. "You're not a student anymore. I'm not the same librarian that I was on the day I arrived. The campus has different needs now as well. The world has different needs."
"Don't I know it," he agreed although not as enthusiastically as she might.
She stared at him in surprise and shock. What's eating at him? This is the day of his big triumph. The day he sticks it to those bigots and begins his equality project. "Okay, what is it?"
"What's what?" he asked.
"C'mon, David. What's bothering you? I've never seen you back down from anything or anyone before. I also know when something's on your mind."
He nodded. "There is, actually. I don't know how good of a mentor I can be for these kids."
"What? You were one of the best peer advisors this university has ever had! Besides, who other than...someone like you with talents and experience living here can guide them? You're perfect for the job." Holding the door of the food court open, she allowed him to walk through before following him.
"There are other issues too, Caitlin. You know what...or rather whom I'm talking about," he argued.
She shrugged, sipping on a cup of flavored coffee. "If I get your meaning, I think he'll work with us. This is in both of your interests, David. You forget, I've talked to the Child and lived to tell of it."
"You shouldn't take it so lightly," he stated, taking a gulp of his juice and nervously tapping on the table with his pen.
"I don't," she told him. "But he's not really that bad, as long as neither of you are threatened. You can't remember this, but I've seen your moods at their worst. I saw what happened when you lost control. And I think this is going to be a good experience for you both. You're ready to take this role. The university administration supports you, as do the deans and the rest of the faculty. It's time to deal with the situation just as you said at the rally."
"And what happens if some super powered twit attacks campus?" he wondered.
"Been there. Watched you deal with that. You'll handle it or call for backup. From what I can tell, you have some pretty powerful friends of your own. Have confidence and try to remain positive, okay?" she assured him even as their waffles arrived.
He took a bite of the chewy item, savoring the taste in his mouth even while considering her words. Everyone really thinks I can do this. Maybe I should finally take their word for it.
"Seeing my reasoning, aren't you?" she jabbed playfully. "It took long enough."
"Yeah, I can see it," he agreed. "Thanks."
"My pleasure," she said. "Now, you know that I expect you to give these folks a tour of the library this afternoon. I want to welcome them myself. What time are you meeting with them?"
"About noon. Angie, Eve, Francesca, and Steve will be there as well. I figure we'll need a few minutes to talk with them. How about 12:30?" he detailed.
"Very good," she agreed. "I'll have Sue-Anne hold that time, and I'll ask that everyone keeps this low key. Sounds all right?"
"Great," he expressed. "Thanks for doing this, Caitlin. I really appreciate it."
"No problem. It's the least I can do. Now eat up. That's an order," she replied.
"Yes, Ma'am," he complied almost flippantly as he carved another piece. After all, the meeting was still four hours away and at least, he could keep his stomach full.
Lana rose early and looked out the window of the Hilton toward the mountains. The rising sun painted the scene with a panorama of vibrant colors making the geography a sight to behold. Dr. Dubois definitely knew what she was talking about. This is awesome. Her enhanced senses picked up on the spiritual energies surrounding her as well. All around her, she could feel an almost calming undercurrent, soothing her nerves. This is why Professor Dubois wanted to move here. The area helps him to keep the darkness in check.
"That it does," her mother concurred, appearing in the corner of the balcony. "Good morning, Lana."
"Hi, Mom," she greeted, still feeling a bit unnerved about actually seeing the spirit in front of her. "How are you?"
"I'm great. How are you doing? Today's the big day, you know."
"Right," the daughter agreed. "I'm feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing. I mean...well...I was so glad to get away from Smallville and all. But, I forgot how big this place is!"
"The world is a much larger place than Smallville," her mother replied. "I know you'll make your way in it, and do quite well."
"I just want to make you and Dad proud of me," Lana admitted.
"We are proud of you," Laura assured her. "Just keep your head up high and do your best. That's all we can ask. Clark seems to be holding his own although he's nervous as well."
"He's strong," Lana noted. "I know he'll rise to the challenge."
"That he will. He's a good young man, Lana. Keep him close to you. Good luck today," her mother concluded before fading away into the corner.
This is definitely going to take some getting used to, she mused, walking back into her room to get ready to meet Clark in an hour for breakfast.
Twenty-five minutes later, another young woman toweled herself off as she stepped out of the shower. For Michelle Montoya, or "Mika" as her friends called her, being in Tucson was nothing new to her. For years, she had made frequent visits to the area with her parents for vacations and to visit her godparents. Now, it was time for her to start school. Although she had initially considered going elsewhere for college, being close to her "uncle" and "aunt" with whom she had always held a special bond made this place special. Her mother's announcement that she would have the opportunity to mix with others like herself was a bonus. No offense, I love D. J., but a girl's gotta have others to hang around with besides her little brother.
Then she heard a sharp little bark. She winced, guessing that her Highland terrier, Misty, had felt her thoughts. C'mon, Mika, you know she can hear you. While she had known about her telepathic abilities most of her life, the ability to communicate with animals was a new one for her.
["You bet I did," the pooch stated through their link. "At least we're off that big metal thing."]
["I love to fly," the girl told her pet.]
["You weren't the one in the belly of that thing. I thought it was the Milkbone factory for me that time. It was bad enough to be in that cage, but geez...squashed in with those hard things around me. Then that stupid cat wouldn't stop yowling all the way. You humans don't know how lucky you have it."]
Mika smiled warmly and rubbed the dog's head. ["You know I didn't mean leaving you behind. That's why you're here with me."] Hearing a chuckling noise in back of her, she turned to see her mother standing there with a big grin on her face.
"Hey, Sunshine, how's Misty holding up?" Karen inquired. "I bet she loved the flight, huh?"
[" 'I bet she loved the flight, huh?' " Misty groused to Mika. "Next time, she rides in that little jail, and I get to sit with that knockout schnauzer in first class."]
Mika shot her companion a stare telling the latter to cool it.
"I still think you should've called her 'Spunky'," Karen chuckled, petting the dog. "Next time, we'll make other arrangements for her."
"I'm not leaving her in a kennel or anything! You know how I feel about that, Mom," the younger woman protested.
The nurse sighed to herself. She's so close to that dog. If anything were to happen to Misty, how would Mika cope? For most of her teenage years, she and her husband, Mike, had been protective of Mika, trying to balance the need to watch over her and her need for fun and friends. However, despite being a fairly popular girl in school, she didn't have many close friends. Kind of like Dave was at her age, too. I'm so glad that he's trying this program. Hopefully, being around others like us will help her. "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. You'll see what I'm talking about when the time comes. Now, let's get dressed and get some breakfast downstairs."
"Can I get the strawberry pancakes?"
"Absolutely," her mother agreed.
Five minutes later, they stepped into the elevator, and started downstairs.
Even as Karen and Mika were heading down, Clark and Lana stood on their floor, waiting for the elevator doors to open. As with the others, he was a little anxious about the next few days and starting school. Despite trying to keep focused on the job at hand, he did make it down Speedway to the Kinko's to check his email. There, he found a message from Chloe wishing them both well and giving her new email at Cornell. I hope she's going to be okay. I know things didn't work out as she might have liked, but she deserves the best.
"What's wrong, Clark?" Lana asked.
"Oh, I was just thinking about Chloe. I hope she's going to like Cornell. It just seems weird to be going to school without her. When you said that last night, I realized that this is a turning point for all of us."
"We all made our choices," she noted. "Do...you...well...regret yours?" A slight note of fear crept into her voice.
"Not for a second," he affirmed, kissing her. "I love you, Lana."
"And I, you," she concurred, embracing him. Once again, I'm glad he's here with me.
As the doors opened, they came face to face with Karen and another woman about their age.
"Mrs. Montoya, good morning!" he greeted for them both.
"Hi, Clark, Lana. Going down?" Karen asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," Lana agreed, stepping inside. "We were just going to have some breakfast."
"Well, so were we. Mind if we join you?" Karen wondered.
"That would be great," he agreed. Seeing Mika smile nervously at him, he introduced, "Hi, I'm Clark Kent and this is Lana Lang. And you are..."
"Michelle...Michelle Montoya. My friends call me 'Mika'," Mika replied shyly.
"Are you just starting too?" Lana inquired.
"Uh huh. And you?"
"Same here," he told her. "You know what they say about safety in numbers. Want to stick together?"
"We'd like that," Lana added. "If you don't mind, Mrs. Montoya."
"Call me Karen and I think that would be a marvelous idea. Now, that breakfast is getting cold so let's get to it."
With that, the elevator doors closed again, lowering them to the lobby and the food. The rest of the day seemed brighter already.
Adam analyzed the latest readout from his additions to the new mutant database. Earlier that morning, he had sent the team out to collect the remaining members of the experimental student group. Once they were back there, it was a simple matter to scan each of them in turn and input the data into the computers.
Just as I suspected. They are a powerful group indeed. I'm glad that we got to them before the GSA could.
Walking over to the table where Samantha Cooper, the last of the group, laid waiting for her results, he smiled at the possibilities for the young mutants.
"So how am I doing, Adam?" she wondered, running her hand through her blonde hair nervously.
"You're doing fine, Samantha," he assured her. "I'll be eager to see how you progress with your abilities. Thanks for letting me do the scan."
"No problem," the elemental told him, climbing off the table. "Do you mind if I cool myself off?"
"Go ahead," he agreed, observing her carefully.
She took a deep breath and concentrated. From her hands, a small yet powerful wind gust blew into her face, drying the sweat from her forehead. For a few seconds, she kept it up before tiring. "Whew."
"Impressive. How long have you been doing this?"
"For about a year now," she replied. "I wish I had more stamina."
"That will come. Just be patient with yourself, Samantha, okay?" he advised, allowing a warm smile to crease his features.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll try not to let you down," she promised.
"I'm sure you won't. Now, let's go join the others. We have to be in Tucson in about 25 minutes," he told her.
She furrowed her brow. We're almost 250 miles north of there. Even in the plane, it'll take us longer than that to get there. What's he got up his sleeve? Following his lead, she descended the stairs to the living area where Mutant X and five others waited for them.
"How did she make out?" Jesse inquired.
"She did quite well. As everyone did," Adam replied, suddenly turning serious. "Okay, everyone, we'll be leaving soon. Does anyone have questions?" Seeing a hand raised, he indicated, "Michael."
"I thought we were going to the university. Why did we come here first?" Michael Riley, a tall and bulky man wondered.
"I wanted to make sure you were all okay before you started down there. Besides, it never hurts to keep the database up to date," Adam informed him. "Don't worry. We'll be on our way soon enough."
"How are we going to get there?" a Chicano male probed. "Can your plane go that fast?"
"Where we're going, we won't need the Double Helix, Sebastian," Shalimar replied. "We're going to get some help in that regard."
At that moment, the Native American member of the entourage turned to the corner. "There's something there."
"Where?" Samantha asked. "I don't see anything, Martin."
"There's something there," Martin Littleclaw insisted, watching the area carefully. In addition to his own shape shifting abilities, he was a trained shaman and healer.
"Indeed," a disembodied voice affirmed from the gathering mists. Stepping out of the cloying cover, Deirdre and Max surveyed the group and smiled. "Hi, everyone. Welcome to Arizona. I'm Deirdre, your conductor of sorts."
"Hey, guys. I'm Max," Max added, managing a smile for her fellow enhanced companions.
"Is everyone set at the university?" Adam inquired, putting his jacket on.
"We're all waiting for you," Deirdre indicated. "Shall we?" Seeing the others' reactions, she stated, "I assure you, it's quite safe."
"We've done the express route a couple of times ourselves," Emma added.
"Okay, are there any other questions?" Adam asked. Seeing none, he continued, "Okay. Then everyone into the mists."
Martin stepped through and used his own trained senses to survey inside of the portal. "It's okay, guys. Let's go."
Having received affirmation from their new friend, the others followed him. A minute later, Mutant X stepped through and Deirdre sealed the portal behind them.
[Social Sciences Building, Campus]
About half an hour earlier, Dave sat in his office waiting for the time to tick down to noon. After breakfast, he had wandered back over toward his office, taking a while to look at the campus and allowing himself to adjust to his new role. Well, it's not really a new role. You're back to playing peer advisor again. Get it through your head, Dave. You can do this.
["Ah'll say," the Child concurred.] In the corner, the familiar ebony form with the orange corona appeared.
["Yes?" the medievalist asked, setting the book he was reading down on the desk. "What's up?"]
["Nothin' much. Ah jus' wanna meet th' new recruits," he replied. "Don't worry. Ah'll stay quiet."]
That would be a first.
["Ah heard that!"]
The professor smiled in spite of himself. "Just testing."
["Ya'll like livin' dangerously, don't ya?"]
"You know me. Never a dull moment," Dave deadpanned, glancing at his watch. "Speaking of the kids, it's almost time. See you soon, okay?"
["Right," the Child concluded, disappearing into the background.]
"Great. Time to go face the music," he sighed, walking out of the office and out the side door. There, he saw Steve and Natalie approaching him. "Hey, what's up?"
"Everyone's set over there," the agent told him. "Let's go."
The trio quickly made their way into the Student Center and up the stairs to the Faculty Club. There, he saw Karen waiting with Mika, Clark, and Lana. "Hi! How was your morning?"
"Great," Karen assured him. "They got to know each other and I took them on a tour of the city. I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not," he told her. "I'm glad you did that. Thank you."
At that moment, a portal formed, allowing Cybelle to step into the room along with Miri. "Hello. Sorry I can't stay, but there's urgent business back in Althanor. I wanted to bring Miri for the big event. Dave, can you have Deirdre bring her back later?"
"Absolutely," he agreed. "Is everything okay?"
"Uh huh. Just need to keep an eye on some things," the priestess indicated, stepping back through the mists.
"Thanks, Auntie," Miri expressed.
"My pleasure," Cybelle accepted before vanishing from view.
"Who was that?" Clark asked.
"That's my sister, Cybelle," Dave explained. "She's a priestess like Deirdre."
"Ah," the young man stated, filing that information away for later thought. Then he asked his former classmate, "How's it been going with your Dad?"
"We've been catching up on lost time," she replied pleasantly. "It's been nice to see him and my grandmother again." She walked over and hugged her school chums, aunt, and uncle. "So when do we get started?"
"As soon as Deirdre and Max get here," Dave informed her, ruffling her hair.
"Uncle Dave, come on! Bad enough that Dad does that, but you're embarrassing me in front of my friends," she complained.
He chuckled. "Okay, Short Stuff, you win."
In spite of the protest, she grinned at him as she joined Clark, Lana, and Mika. Even though technically it's not cool to let the uncle do that, I really don't mind. Of course, I would never admit that publicly.
At that moment, Deirdre popped into the room followed by Max, Mutant X, and the new mutant students.
"Hi, Papa," Deirdre greeted. "Everyone's here."
"Great. Thank you," he told her as he surveyed the five additional students. "Hi, everyone. Please feel free to take a seat and relax. We'll be starting in just a minute." As they did so, he joined Adam on the other side of the room. "Everything come out all right?"
"Just fine," the leader stated. "Their scans were okay. We've got a really special group here."
"I gathered that." the professor smiled, walking back to rejoin Eve and Max who were sitting at the front of the room. Off to the side, he saw Steve and Natalie accompanying half of the new students at one table. On the other side, Mutant X and the other students watched him carefully.
"Hi again, everyone. Welcome to the University of Arizona. I'm Dr. David Dubois, a History professor here. I'm a mutant as well. I look forward to seeing you in my Western Civ. Class. Dr. Messenger?" Dave started.
Eve stood and introduced herself, "I'm Dr. Eve Messenger, a Religion professor and expert on Eli. While I'm not a mutant, I know your type really well. Several of you are in my Religion 100 class, and I'll look forward to seeing you as well."
Steve was next. "Hi. I'm Agent Steven Petersen of the FBI. Don't worry; the Bureau's not going to take you in. I'm here to work with your profs and make sure that you're safe. Good luck with the classes."
Then Natalie got up. "Dr. Natalie LeBeau, Tucson PD. Welcome."
"You know Adam and the others," Dave noted. "Clark?"
The young man stood. "Hi, Clark Kent from Smallville, Kansas."
"I'm Lana Lang. Also from Smallville, Kansas."
Mika cleared her throat. "Michelle Montoya...although I like to be called 'Mika'. Great to see you all!"
Miri was last. "I'm Miranda Arighatto although I prefer to be called 'Miri'."
"Well, there you have it," Dave concluded. Then seeing Xena and Gabrielle enter the room, he added, "Well almost."
"I'm Xena and this is Gabrielle. Welcome, everyone," the warrior introduced herself and her companion.
"Okay, any questions?" Dave asked. Seeing no hands, he continued, "Okay, gang. We've got quite a tour ahead of us. If you have a question, please stop me, okay? Next stop, the library."
The group got up and followed him out of the room, heading outside. Once there, they waited a minute for Angie and Francesca to show up before starting the campus tour. Once that had happened, Dave started them on their odyssey of self-awareness.
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