Chapter 4 (Spoilers: Mutant X "Lit Fuse" and Ashlocke Time Travel Eppie)
Adam checked his readouts one more time. In the previous few hours, he and Emma had scanned their latest recruits to the "Community of Tolerance," Ashley Elliot and Diana Bradley. They check out all right. Remembering their individual circumstances, the entire Mutant X team felt better that the two ladies were with them. Ashley's powers remained in check, allowing her to consume manageable amounts of power. In Diana's case, she was perfecting her time portals.
He smiled while descending the staircase toward the living area. There he found Ashley and Diana with Emma, Shalimar, Max, and Laynia. "How's it going, everyone?"
Ashley jumped up nervously; her mind still remembering the ruckus she had caused in the Old Sanctuary. "Adam, everything's all right, I hope. I don't want to be any trouble."
"Chill," Max advised. "Everything's going to be fine."
"I agree," the geneticist concurred. "You both are in excellent shape. Of course, you always need to practice with your abilities to hone them."
"Never give them a moment to relax, huh?" Shalimar cracked, shooting him a mischievous grin.
He returned the grin with a frown. "We all need to remain sharp. There's too much going on out there. Just look at the events of the past year."
"And we're supposed to go to college in the middle of that stuff?" Ashley wondered. "The Underground's been buzzing with rumors."
"Dave's been really great at holding things together," Emma noted.
"And he's had all of us there with him," Max added.
"Has he improved that temper of his?" Diana asked. "I still remember watching him take out those aliens on the Andromeda."
"Nope. He's still as split as ever," Shalimar commented.
"He only loses his temper when provoked," Laynia added.
"You sound as if you know about that," Ashley replied.
"I faced him many years ago. Facing the Child is not an experience to be taken lightly," the Russian mutant advised her friends.
Don't we know it? Thankfully, Dave's control grows with each mutation. Adam scratched his head, trying to put the best spin on the situation that he could manage. "The situation on campus is very stable. At least where you're concerned, his first concern is protecting you students."
"As is the Child's," Emma added. "Still, you both will be part of a group of pretty powerful people. I wouldn't worry about that stuff-at least not right now."
"Okay. I'll take your word for it," Ashley relented, allowing a smile to form on her face. Seeing Jesse and Toni Quintana enter the room, she asked, "Jesse, can I ask you both a question?"
"Sure," the density mutant agreed. "What's up?"
"What's your take on Professor Dubois?" Diana asked.
He looked at the others and sighed. In his mind's eye, he could still see the Child's rampages in the UMC and in Wabash.
"Jesse, come on. Be fair," his girlfriend coaxed, rubbing up against him.
"Toni, he did try to kill me and the others," he countered.
"Hey, I've seen him in a fight. Remember the trolls? I saw him taking them on too," she argued. Looking at the others, she emphasized, "His control has improved, guys. This has been a really bad year for him though."
"And for the rest of us," the psionic concurred, rubbing her temples.
"The close call with Clark, right?" Diana asked.
"And losing his family, dealing with his curse, not to mention fighting more aliens. Oh yeah, it's the stuff that dreams are made of," Max remarked.
Adam asserted firmly, "He got through it because we stood together. All of us. Trust me, we're in this together."
"You got that right," Shalimar agreed, nodding at the others.
"This is a great group. Welcome," Laynia mentioned.
The two newest recruits looked at the others and themselves. Granted, it was a week before classes would start. However, they would still need to adjust to their new classmates and the setting. That might prove enough of an adventure in itself.
Chapter 5 [Hotel Suleyman, Istanbul-Next Day]
Dave and Angie walked through the Hotel Suleyman's front door and looked around the lobby. Despite the number of times they had been there, the couple couldn't help being in awe of this place's grandeur. As always, Mehmet kept everything shining like a new penny, allowing the late afternoon sun to sparkle on the clean surfaces.
"He is amazing," she remarked dreamily.
He chuckled warmly, hugging her shoulders. "The man does know how to run an operation. That's for sure. Come on, let's go and say hi."
They walked up to the desk where their friend worked on his records.
Mehmet looked up and smiled warmly. "Good afternoon, my friends! Welcome! I trust your journey was a good one this time?"
"No adventures for us this time, Mehmet," she replied. "But knowing my husband's knack for finding trouble, one can never tell."
"And I don't want trouble either," Dave mentioned. "We're meeting Marie Haddad for coffee."
"Ah yes. She's waiting for you in the caf"," Mehmet noted. "Apparently, there is a new student of yours coming too. The young lady should be down from her room in a few moments."
"Very good as always, Mehmet. You're a true master at your craft," Dave complimented.
"For my friends, I always aim to please," Mehmet replied, bowing his head slightly. Seeing a customer approaching the other side of the desk, he said, "If you will excuse me. If there's anything you need, please let me know."
The Duboises grinned as they crossed the lobby holding hands. For once, they were going to have a normal conversation with their colleague. No vampires. No gangsters. Nothing unusual to speak of.
As they entered the caf", Marie waved to them. "Hey, guys! Good to see you."
"Hi, Marie. What's up?" Angie asked, giving her friend a hug.
"Nothing much. What's going on, Dave?" the Islamicist inquired.
"Oh just looking at new students for this upcoming year, working on another book, and the usual stuff," he replied almost nonchalantly. "So where's Jasmine?"
"She wanted to freshen up, I guess. But that was fifteen minutes ago," Marie noted.
At that moment, his senses picked up on something or someone above them. "What the?"
[Within his head, he heard the Child snigger, "Look up, Dumb Ass."]
He did and shook his head. There he saw a slender young dark skinned woman with a long jet-black pony tail hanging down her back. She floated on a fine blue Persian rug with yellow tassels.
"So where is she?" Marie asked.
"Her Highness is right above us," he chuckled, pointing straight up.
Angie shook her head, giving a mischievous grin.
Marie's jaw dropped. "By the Prophet! How?"
"Ancient Arabian secret, Dr. Haddad," Jasmine replied, alighting on the ground. "You are David and Angela Dubois, I trust? It is an honor to meet you both." She bowed slightly. "I am Princess Jasmine-A'isha."
"Thank you, Princess. It's good to meet you as well," the oncologist greeted, shaking her hand.
"You get style points on the entrance by the way," the medievalist noted. "I sensed you as soon as you flew in, but I figured you would want to do your thing, Princess."
The younger woman smiled as she took her seat. "Thank you. I am looking forward to coming to your university."
"And why would that be?" Angie wondered. "No offense meant, Princess, of course."
"None taken, Dr. Dubois," Jasmine assured her. "I would be honored if you would just call me 'Jasmine'. I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable because my father is a king."
"That's understandable although you shouldn't be ashamed of who you are. Trust me, this is a really special bunch, Jasmine," the medievalist commented. "Your grades are certainly worthy, but I wanted to follow up on Dr. Dubois' question if I might?"
"Certainly," she agreed. "May I see that piece of paper there?" After he gave it to her, the princess concentrated.
The paper glowed and turned into aluminum foil.
"Neat trick," the Professor complimented.
"Unbelievable," Marie gasped. Lowering her voice, she asked, "Is she like the others?"
"Kind of. She's unique, especially with the ability to transmute substances like that. The carpet is a nice touch, though. So how are the travel arrangements going?" he continued.
Jasmine replied, "Everything's fine. I can leave tonight if you wish."
"That would be great. Thank you," Dave accepted. "Do you have everything here?"
She nodded. "I wanted to ask if you have a problem if I bring a friend?"
"Friend?" Angie wondered.
Jasmine smiled. "My companion, Cocoa. He's a monkey actually. I keep him in a cage most of the time."
"The dorm you're going into allows animals, so I don't see why not," Dave replied. "Besides, Mika shouldn't mind. Oh, how is Cocoa around dogs?"
"She should be all right. Why? Does Mika have one?"
"She has a terrier named Misty," Angie revealed. "Did you have any questions for us, Jasmine?"
"I was wondering will all of my classmates be like me? Are they special?" the princess inquired.
"Some are. Some aren't. I guess the point is to learn how to co-exist with others both similar and different to ourselves," the medievalist commented.
"That's what I would like to do," Jasmine agreed. "Life in my father's harem is so tiresome."
Angie rolled her eyes. Of all the rituals. Unbelievable. No wonder she wants to get out.
"It does stink big time, Dr. Dubois. That's why I want out," Jasmine declared. Seeing the oncologist flush, she continued, "Don't worry. I am not offended."
"Thank you. It was just a knee-jerk reaction," Angie explained.
Jasmine smiled and stood up. "What time would you like to meet then?"
"Let's say about eight? We need to speak on some things," Marie proposed.
"Eight it is," Jasmine agreed and rolling up her carpet, walked away.
"She is something else," he told his wife and their friend. She's going to make an interesting addition to the group. That's for sure.
Chapter 6 [Talon, two days later]
Sasha walked into the Talon and looked around at the medium-sized crowd in the caf". For the past week, she had dreaded this appointment with her former classmates. After all, only three years earlier, she had tried to kill two of them right there. I wonder what they want. Bad enough I spent three years in that hell, I just want to put that all behind me. She sat down at an empty table and stared at her watch. Where are they?
"Hi, Sasha," Lana greeted albeit a bit nervously.
"Hi, Lana. How are you?" Sasha replied.
"I'm great. Thanks. The others will be here in a couple of minutes. Meantime, can I get you something?" the co-owner offered.
"A cranberry muffin and a cup of coffee would be great if that's okay?"
Lana nodded. "Great! I'll be right back." Seeing Dave walk in, she waved to him. "That's Professor Dubois."
"Oh?" Sasha wondered, seeing the medievalist approaching her.
"Hi, Lana," he greeted. "So, is this Sasha?"
The potential student quirked her eyebrow and glanced up at him. "That's me. Good to meet you, Professor Dubois. Please, take a seat."
She's direct. That's for sure. He gave Lana a curious glance while sitting down opposite to Sasha. Over in the corner, he saw Clark keeping an eye on things in addition to the Luthors walking through the door.
"Hey, is this a private party or can anyone join in?" Lex wondered, offering a view of the Smirk.
"Why not? The more, the merrier," Sasha remarked dryly. "I didn't know this would be a group thing."
"A great deal of college is a group thing, Sasha," Chloe pointed out, trying to hold onto her patience. "You did all right at campaigning when we were in high school."
Sasha frowned. "Not that great. I mean I know I can get pushy with people. That election was so important to me. My parents made me feel like it was everything."
"And did you learn anything from that?" Dave inquired.
"Just that nothing is worth hurting people like that," Sasha sighed.
"Drive and motivation are great things," Lex advised. "As long as they are kept in check."
"Well, my ambition now is to be a college student. I was hoping you could help me with that."
Sasha squirmed a bit as she stared around the table. "I'm not proud of what I did, all right? I just want to get on with my life!"
"Nobody's doubting that, Sasha," Dave mentioned. "And I'm not putting you on trial or anything. It's okay. Believe me, we all have something we're dealing with."
"Oh yeah. And what are you dealing with?" Sasha inquired skeptically.
"Uh, don't go there," Chloe suggested.
The medievalist glared at the prospective student. "Ever hear of inner darkness? I give the term a whole new meaning." He allowed his eyes to glow yellow and snickered darkly.
"Dave, uh...do you want to cool off a bit?" Lex inquired, rubbing his arm.
"Bro's fine," the Child growled before letting Dave back out.
The professor sucked in a deep breath before continuing, "You see, Sasha?"
"You just...changed," Sasha remarked.
"It happens," he told her as he took a gulp of his drink. "We all have our issues. The idea is to deal with them and make a positive contribution to society."
"And you think I can?" Sasha asked pointedly yet softening her glance just a bit.
After giving the others a look and seeing nods all around, he answered, "I think we all can, Sasha. What do you say? Fresh start?" He held his hand out, waiting for her to shake it.
"Well...okay. I'll give it a try," Sasha accepted, shaking the outstretched hand.
"Thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate that," Dave replied. "I promise you won't be disappointed."
"I suppose. When can I move in? Sorry if it seems pushy, but I've been living in a little room upstairs....It gets kind of lonely, you know. Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate Lana and you, Mr. Luthor, letting me stay here, but people don't really want me around."
"Well, you weren't the warmest person during freshman year," Chloe pointed out. "But we're willing to give you a new start."
"You just need to go through some tests with Dr. Kane," Dave explained.
"Tests? You mean he'll want to study me like a lab rat?" Sasha queried indignantly.
"No, nothing like that. Look, Sasha, we have a database of everyone on that campus. It's just so we have a record of you and your capabilities. Think of it like a driver's license record or a Social Security record. And hey, because of it, I found some long lost family members. It has its benefits. However, it will not be used to track your movements. You're a college student like the others here. If that's okay with you, then you can move in tomorrow morning if you want."
Sasha adjusted her glasses while considering the Professor's words. It seems like a big lab experiment. Still, it is a chance to be a regular student again instead of this parole stuff. What the hell? "All right, Professor Dubois, I'll be ready in the morning."
"Sensational." Dave grinned at her. "Classes start on Monday."
"Don't worry, Sasha. Lana and I will be happy to help you get your books and stuff," Chloe volunteered.
Sasha gave them all a nervous smile. "I really do appreciate this. Thanks."
As she put another round of coffees on the table, Lana smiled warmly and told her, "It's our pleasure, Sasha. Do you need help packing or anything?"
"Thanks. I think I've got it under control. I did want to say something to Clark first," Sasha replied.
"Sure. What's up?" Clark asked, walking over.
"Clark, I owe you and your mother an apology. While I was in jail, I had a lot of time to think about what I did to you both. I would feel a lot better if I could tell her that," Sasha expressed.
Clark nodded, smiling reassuringly. "I appreciate that and I know she will too. We can go as soon as we're done here."
"I'm satisfied. Why don't you go ahead? And, Sasha, for what it's worth, that's a nice gesture you're doing. Keep up the good work," Dave concluded, putting his papers away and standing up. "It's a pleasure. Everyone, I'll see you tomorrow." With that, he left $10.00 on the table to pay for the coffees and a hefty tip for Lana and Miri before walking out.
"He seems so nice. It's hard to believe that he's the same person they talk about here," Sasha presumed.
"He's a great person," Lex noted. "The only thing is that if he's pushed, he explodes. Most of the time, he's really relaxed. Now let's get over to the Kents. It's time to get on with your new life."
Sasha nodded silently and followed the others out of the caf". Despite her lingering nerves, she felt better about this upcoming experience and that these people were going to be with her.
[Two hours later]
Sasha sat down into a chair; her eyes locked on a spot within the Kents' living room floor. Everyone had listened to her apology, allowing her to say her piece. "I hope you all can accept me."
Jonathan looked at his wife, son, and daughter-in-law with concern. Given the young woman's track record, he really didn't want her near any of his family-much less going to school with the latter two.
"I'm glad to hear that you're trying to straighten things out," Martha told her sincerely. "We'll do everything we can to help. You'll understand if we're still a little nervous given what happened before."
Sasha frowned. "Nobody's going to let me forget that, are they?"
"No but we're willing to be there for you," Martha stated, recalling the bees coming after her. "It's going to take time."
"And we want to be your friend," Lana insisted.
"Just take one day at a time," Dave added. "You'll have plenty of chances to prove yourself. This isn't about your past. Just play your part, go to class, work hard, and keep your nose clean. That's all we ask."
"And we're all willing to help you adjust," Clark noted, smiling warmly.
"Thanks, Clark and everyone, I do appreciate that," Sasha expressed. "I won't let you down."
Just make sure you mean that. Jonathan sighed, still unsure of the apologetic woman. Hearing a knocking at a door, he saw a slender woman with long red hair pulled back in a ponytail standing there and looking around nervously. "Hi, Sarah."
"Good afternoon, Mr. Kent. How are you?" Sarah replied with an anxious smile, walking into the house.
"We're great," the farmer told her. "Professor Dubois is waiting for you."
Sarah nodded. Since her abilities had surfaced three years earlier, she had sought guidance on their use. After her friends told her about their experiences, she applied to the university, hoping to join them. Seeing Clark and Lana standing there, her face brightened. "Hi, guys! It's great to see you!" She hugged them both.
"Hey, Sarah," Clark replied, embracing her.
"You're looking great!" Lana cheered. "Ready to start school?"
"I guess," Sarah supposed. Then, seeing the diamond ring on Lana's hand, she wondered, "How's married life treating you both?"
Lana let her eyes sparkle at her husband. "We're enjoying it, thanks."
Sarah smiled mischievously at Clark. "See, Clark? I told you not to hide your feelings. See how easy it is when you aren't pushing the other person away?"
He squirmed with embarrassment. "Yeah."
"Give him some slack, Sarah. He did get it right...eventually," the former cheerleader declared, rubbing his shoulder. "By the way, there are a couple of people you need to meet. That's Sasha Woodman in the chair and the gentleman standing in the corner is Professor Dubois."
"Great to meet you both," Sarah greeted, overcoming her own shyness. "I'm Sarah Conroy."
"It's a pleasure," Dave replied, shaking hands with her. "Looking forward to working with you."
"And you, sir," she told him. Turning to Sasha, she asked, "Are you from around here?"
"Yeah, I am, but I spent the last three years in Metro," Sasha responded while rubbing her forehead. "And you?"
"I'm originally from Granville, but I've been living with the Stuarts for the past three years," Sarah noted. "Being around Clark, Lana, Chloe, and everyone again will be great!"
Thinking about how much she had missed while in prison, Sasha frowned. I've got to make this work. I can't lose any more time. "Yeah," she sighed, getting up from the chair and heading for the door. "I'll see you all tomorrow. Thanks again, Professor. Good seeing everyone again." With that, she headed out the door.
"Is she all right?" Sarah wondered.
"Sasha's had a hard time of it, Sarah," Lana informed her. "When she wants to talk about it, she will. Meantime, are you ready to go?"
"I'm packed. I can't wait," Sarah told them.
Dave nodded, feeling pleased at her enthusiasm. Yet he was concerned about Sasha's depression. I hope we can work with her.
Chapter 7 [Next day-Graham Hall, Campus]
Mika looked around the room, hoping that everything was finally clean. For the previous two hours, she had swept, mopped, and wiped every surface. After dumping the dustpan into the basket one last time, she sighed, "I think that's it."
["It should be," Misty, her highland terrier cracked. "I don't think that Mom wanted us to clean like this."]
["Misty, stop it. Jasmine's coming a long way to go to school here. I want her to feel welcome, Mika directed.]
["Yeah, yeah....Hopefully, she won't be too loud. Your friend there liked to mutter in her sleep," the dog retorted, commenting on Lana's talking in her sleep.]
["So? You bark in yours."]
[The dog shot her an indignant look. "Do not!"]
["Do too," Mika shot back.]
["Do not!" the dog countered.]
["Says me. And as owner, I get the last say," Mika giggled, making a playful face at her companion.]
Crap, I hate it when she pulls that 'I'm the owner, so I'm right' junk. Misty plodded into her basket and sank into the cushions there. She was sulking and wanted Mika to know it.
["Now, Misty, it'll be okay," Mika soothed, rubbing her friend's head. "You'll see."]
Misty glanced up at her sarcastically.
Hearing a knock at the door, Mika took a deep breath. "That could be her."
["Unless you've called the pizza guy again," the terrier deadpanned.]
The college student sighed, walking to the door and opening it. Seeing the Arabian woman standing there, she asked, "Jasmine, right?"
"Yes and you're Mika Montoya?" Jasmine asked, managing a nervous smile.
"That's me," Mika replied pleasantly. "Welcome! Come on in."
"Thank you. This is very nice," the princess complimented while stepping in and taking a look around the area. "I like your teddy bear. So where is your friend?"
"Friend?" Mika asked.
"Your companion. Professor Dubois called her 'Misty'. I'd like to meet her," Jasmine continued.
"She's right here," Mika indicated, stooping over the basket and picking Misty up.
"She's beautiful!" Jasmine put her hand up for the terrier to sniff. "I hope we can be friends."
As the terrier ran her nose over the princess' skin, she picked up on a strange smell. Whew! What is that? Then again, it's coming from outside too. She yipped twice.
"What is it?" Jasmine inquired.
"I'd like to know the same thing," Mika agreed. ["Misty, that's rude. What's the matter?"]
["She's got a weird scent. There's something weird out there," the terrier informed her.]
"Hmmm..." Mika scratched her head. "You wouldn't happen to have any friends that we should meet, do you? Misty smells something out in the hall."
"How would you know that?" Jasmine asked, looking at the other student and her dog.
"You might say that we have a bond," Mika replied, still managing to keep the smile on her face. "So, are we a threesome or a foursome?"
"We're a foursome," Jasmine declared, walking back out into the hall and bringing a small cage into the area. Inside, a monkey chattered away. "This is Cocoa."
["Oh, this is special," the terrier expressed with a clear sarcastic emphasis.]
Mika shot her a look telling her to 'cool it'. Then she replied to Jasmine, "Nice friend you have there. Is it a he or a she?"
"Cocoa's a boy monkey, all right. Sorry, he takes a while to get used to people. Getting here was a bit strange, you might say."
"Uncle Dave pulled his mist and fog trick, I take it. You'll get used to it, Jasmine. Meantime, let me say hi to Cocoa," Mika supposed. She looked at the monkey and greeted, ["Hi! I'm Mika. I hope we can be friends."]
Cocoa calmed down in response and seemed to relax.
Jasmine shook her head. "That was amazing! How did you do that? Are you a mutant too?"
Mika grinned and nodded. "Yes. I can talk to animals and understand them. That's why I knew about Misty's reaction to Cocoa's scent on you."
["You can understand me?" Cocoa wondered.]
["Oooh, the chatterbox gets it!" Misty cracked.]
["Misty, stop it!" Mika directed.]
["That's okay. Jasmine's father thought I was a pest too," Cocoa pointed out, sulking.]
[Mika opened his cage and asked, "Can you sit on my shoulder for a minute?" When he had done so, she continued, "Now look, you aren't a pest. Misty needs time to adjust to you too, all right? As long as we all can get along, I don't see what the problem is. Isn't that right, Misty?"]
["Yeah. I was playing with him," the terrier admitted.]
["That's okay, Misty. I hope we can be friends," Cocoa replied.]
Mika and Misty looked at each other strangely.
"What is it?" Jasmine asked again. "What's going on?"
["Damn! He understood me!" Misty exclaimed.]
["Of course, I can if you don't drown it in sarcasm," Cocoa teased.]
Amazing. I'll have to let Dr. Kane know about this. "Sorry, Jasmine, it seems I have another gift that I wasn't aware of. I can also let animals talk to each other." I wonder if I can do the same thing for people and animals too.
"That's a neat talent! I hope that's true because I would love to speak to Cocoa directly at some point," Jasmine hoped.
"Give me some time to practice," Mika advised. "Maybe someday soon."
"That would be so cool. What about our classmates? When do we meet them?"
Mika chuckled warmly. "Tomorrow morning, I guess. Are you in that poetry class with us?"
Jasmine pulled out her schedule and looked at it. "Introduction to Poetry English 150?"
"That's the one," Mika confirmed. "Most of our group will be there and wait until you meet Byron. He's Mr. Poetry."
"That's great," Jasmine agreed. "I can't wait."
Meantime, Sarah busied herself with unpacking and hanging her clothes up in the closet. She had expected a five hour flight back there from either Smallville or Metropolis. The Professor's 'fog and mirrors' stunt (as Chloe liked to call it) left her aghast. This is going to be something else. Seeing the pictures over on her roommate's desk and the posters on that side, she wondered who had that space. "I hope she's nice."
"Hi," a voice called from the door. "Are you Sarah?"
"Yes," Sarah replied, turning to see a brunette woman enter the room. "Are you my roommate?"
"Since this is my stuff, yeah, you might say so. I'm Samantha Cooper. It's great to meet you," Samantha greeted, smiling warmly.
"Thanks. It's nice to meet you too. This is such a big campus!" the new student expressed.
"It is but you'll get used to it," Samantha noted, closing the window and starting the air conditioner. "Do you have all of your paperwork done?"
"I registered for classes back in May and I downloaded my schedule before we left Smallville yesterday. I think there's a poetry class or something tomorrow." Sarah put some pictures on her desk. "Clark, Lana, and Chloe are going to be there too."
"Most of us are going to be in that class. Are you ready for 'Lord Byron' to hold court?"
Sarah rolled her eyes and smiled. "His poetry is the talk of Smallville. Sandra, his girlfriend, raves about it."
"You're from Smallville too, huh? Well, if you're anything like your classmates, you'll do great," Samantha complimented. "Hey, want a cappuccino? It's not going to be as good as Lana's but it's better than nothing."
"Sure. Would you mind answering some questions for me while we sit?" Sarah asked.
"No problem," Samantha agreed, shutting the door behind them and leading the way toward the hot caffeine.
Onto Part 3
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