“On The First Day of Training the Avengers Gave To Me”
Written By Jeff Rist and Scott Redmond
Since the days that the Xavier family mansion had served as a training ground for just five young mutants, the Danger Room had been the place to cut loose and train in the use of one’s powers. While it had undergone many changes since those original days of it just being some robots and other obstacles it was still used for the same purpose in the new school. When the school had been taken over from Xavier many things had been stripped out for reverse engineering including the Shi’ar technology that powered the Danger Room.
When the new school had been thought of and designed something new was figured to take its place. Stark had given many of his newest gadgets that the Avengers themselves used in training. The entire room was quite self aware and could be programmed to defend against and conceive attacks against any power set.
At the moment the room had been divided into two as the young men and young women were on separate sides. Far above in the circular observation deck Headmaster Walker, Julia Carpenter, and Elvin Halliday stood in observance of the exercise about to begin.
“I got fifty on the chicks.” Walker said with a smirk.
“Jack!” cried Julia, shock clear in her voice.
“Sorry damn. The young ladies. Better?”
Julia’s hand rose and rubbed at her temples. “No its not. You’re betting on your students performances.”
Elvin stifled a laugh as he pretended to check the displays before him. Walker gave a shrug as his facial expression never changed. “Least I ain’t betting against them.”
Julia’s arms crossed over her chest. “And what about the young men?”
“Eh they’re thick skinned, they’ll be fine.”
Strawberry-blonde hair whipped around as the woman shook her head and muttered. “Men.” Gripping the microphone on a panel, Julia cleared her throat and spoke. “All right students we’re about to start the exercise. You’ll have ten minutes to work on the challenges that are presented to you. The team with the most members that complete their challenges wins. Remember the winning is not important. What is important is us being able to gauge the skills you have at the moment with your powers. Stand by for the whistle to start.”
Walker scoffed. “Winning doesn’t matter, typical.”
“Jack...just don’t.” As her hand moved back to rub her temples, Julia wondered just what it was she had done to deserve to have to do this alongside Jack.
"It doesn't matter what you believe in, as we're all the same. For those that are religious we're all the children of God, whatever God or Gods it is you believe in. Those that aren't religious we're all the same because we're all human beings. All the same species. So this deciding that one group is wrong or evil because they believe something different is not one that any should partake in."
Bonita Juarez, the fiery superhero known as Firebird, smiled as she stared out at her class letting the words settle in.
"That's bogus coming from you." All eyes turned as Julian sat at the back of the class, arms crossed over his chest and feet up on the seat of the desk before him. "You were the epitome of religious wacko back in the day. You even thought that God gave you your power. So who are you to lecture on such things?"
A snicker came from Terry, as he sat beside his friend with his hair hanging in his face and obscuring the rest of his expression save the twisted smile upon his face.
Near the front Humberto muttered about the disrespect of some. Bonita raised her hand so as to calm Humberto and any others down, palm out towards Julian before letting it drop again. "I'm sorry you feel that way Mr. Keller. The class is Religions of the World. One would assume that as the teacher of such a class I would speak on the various religions and anti-religions that exist."
Her eyes trailed across the rest of the class as she moved to the center of the front of the class. "I am and always have been devout to my religion. That does not mean that I don't accept the beliefs and opinions of others. This is a diverse world after all."
"People hate diversity; don't you watch the news there teach?" Julian said with a snicker. "Though do they even have a television in that little village you came from? Or do they rely on smoke signals or something."
"You ignorant..."Humberto started to mutter but Bonita placed a hand upon his shoulder and he signed and stopped from lashing out.
Julian was trying to bait her, something that other teachers had reported on. It was his form of getting attention. Julian would never admit it but he craved the attention, most likely from the fact that his parents both had no interest in him. It was a typical defense mechanism in his situation.
"I'm well aware of the news, I assure you. That doesn't change my feeling about the world around us and that all need to learn about and accept the beliefs and views of everyone else around them. A more rounded world is a world that accepts one another for who they are."
Julian and Terry met eyes and shook their head. "You seen the world out there? People are vile and hate one another. No point us having to sit through learning this if the rest of the world doesn't give a crap."
"It does matter Mr. Keller. Because the more there are people like you, young people, learning to accept all others and spreading it around the better the world can be." Bonita said as a bit of a smile came to her lips.
"Yeah whatever." Julian muttered and plopped back in his seat.
An eyebrow rose as Bonita waited to see if the outburst was over, before she moved back into teaching her class. "All right, why don't we move into finding out what everyone here in the class believes shall we?"
It was clear that each of the students was more than ready for the test that was before them. On the side of the young men, Hellion was smirking and conversing with Trauma about how much he was going to beat the others by. Reptil stood aside and was shaking his head at the blustering of the other young man. MVP stood near the far wall that separated the males from the females and was stretching out every part of his body in preparation. Elixir was far apart as usual, not wanting to be near any of the 'freaks' as he called them.
Anole wandered over and poked Reptil, bringing him out of his trance. "Huh what?"
"Dude, you stare any harder and they're gonna think you got a crush on them."
"I'm not into guys...not that there is anything wrong with that."
Victor stared at the other young man with a straight and neutral look that could border on upset before laughing. "No worries, no offense taken. You really don't like them do you?"
"That easy to tell?"
"Well since you aren't interested in them then the only other reason to be staring holes through people is that you can't stand them. So I'm gonna go with that."
Humberto let out a soft chuckle for a moment. "Guess I'm that transparent. It's the attitude that gets to me."
[i]'Simulation beginning in thirty seconds. Simulation beginning in thirty seconds.'[/i] The robotic voice of the computer called out as they all glanced around. It was now or never.
Julia Carpenter sat in the teachers' lounge a stack of papers in front of her. They weren’t the papers on the poetry of Wordsworth she’d requested of her English students, but rather her stack of divorce documents. Lawrence Carpenter was an arrogant, greedy, self-absorbed bastard of a man, but he wasn’t stupid. He’d gotten a high priced attorney, Hamilton Berger of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe to represent him. Her only hope was that Foggy would agree to represent her, or she might lose Rachel forever.
The corpulent attorney put the last document he’d read down in front of Julia and shook his head. “Divorce is messy business, especially yours. He’s made some very damning charges against you Julia. Long unexplained absences, participating in a top secret government program, allowing yourself to be injected with God knows what. No judge would look at that and say “There is a mother who puts her child first.”
Julia moved a strand of blond hair behind her ear and shook her head. “I was doing all of that for the money. I was broke Foggy! I had barely enough to put a roof over our heads. When I ran into Valerie...” She stopped as Foggy held up a ham like hand.
“I know all of that Julia. I’m saying it looks bad, not that it IS bad. Most of your unexplained absences CAN be explained. You had relatives watching Rachel each time. Is your mother willing to testify in court? Ham Berger is a very sharp lawyer.”
Julia nodded, sighing softly. “I'd prefer she not testify. My divorce was hard on my parents. They didn't like Larry, but they were always, to my way of thinking, ashamed that their daughter failed at being a wife.”
Foggy shook his head. “None of that talk now. You Had to get out for your safety and that of your daughter.” He rose and smiled at her. “You go teach those kids something. I’ll work on bringing Rachel home.”
While the young men had their issues, it wasn't like the young women were issue free. As always the Stepford Cuckoos were alone in their own world ignoring the others. Karolina and Sister Grimm stood together; as they had a history together it made perfect sense for them to be around one another. Shy Dryad was off to her own with her one hand sort of wringing the other, as she hummed a tune lightly. With her unique situation Hazmat stayed to herself, meaning that Spider-Girl was similarly by herself by virtue of how all were broken down. Not by choice really.
"What do you think they will have us do?" Nico asked as she glanced around at the others.
"Probably some simple obstacle course or something maybe, cause their just testing us right? Cause this isn't supposed to be like training for just superheroes." Karolina chimed in from her friend's side.
With their eyes glowing, the Stepford Cuckoos at last paid attention to the others. "It is a test..."
"...We picked it up from the..."
"...minds of the teachers."
"We will each be tested..."
"...to check on the ability..."
"...in using our powers."
Jenny used her containment suit covered elbow to bump Mattie. "It's damn creepy when they do that thing."
The former Spider-Woman covered a snicker as she smiled under her mask. "I know what you mean."
"So it's just like a basic 'What can you do' type test then. Okay." Nico said as she nodded and rubbed her chin. That seemed more the speed of most.
[i]'Simulation beginning in thirty seconds. Simulation beginning in thirty seconds.'[/i] The robotic voice of the room got their attention, except for the stoic blonde triplets of course, as they waited to see what happened next.
Jack sat at his desk, his feet on top of the oaken surface. He was waiting for the student to arrive. Joshua Foley had been placed in a room by himself and so far he’d been a terror to everyone. Unfortunately, Julian Keller enjoyed provoking the kid and Jack had to grin in spite of the seriousness of the situation. Keller was a jackass, that much was certain, but in this case he could be forgiven...slightly.
His cowl was behind his head, revealing the shock of blonde hair and strong jaw. Square fingers rubbed the chiseled lines of his jawbone as he mused that he needed a secretary. A hot redhead maybe, like Pepper Potts. Tony probably wouldn’t give her to the school, but she sure would be nice to look at. Maybe she has a sister.
The door to the office opened and his eyes flew to the mutant who entered. “Foley...” he said pointing to a chair. “Sit.”
Joshua shook his head. “I don't take orders from genetically engineered freaks.” Joshua responded crossing his arms.
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Sit your ass in the goddamn chair now you little bastard or I’m going to give you a reason to sit.”:
“Do you always talk to students like that? I’m amazed you were asked to be headmaster. Then again mutant aberrations and freaks deserve a teacher like you.” Joshua said as he sat in the chair.
“Only to the pricks.” Jack responded, still not taking his feet off the desk. “You are a mutant. A really powerful fucking mutant.”
“I have written to several leading scientists to reverse my aberration and make me pure. Dr. Kavita Rao is working on a cure for the X gene. I have volunteered to be her human test subject.” He opened the folder he carried. “You’ll have to sign. As much as it pains to have this aberration to my otherwise pure blooded ancestry, it pains me even more that you are my legal protector.”
Jack picked up the document. Read it, and then shredded it in the shredder. “You have lost the use of the phone privileges and we will be taking your computer tech away also.” Each dorm room had the latest in StarkTech computer gadgetry and the students had a communal phone which they were allowed to use once a week.
“You can’t do that...I’ve got rights...” Joshua said springing up from his chair. “I’m not a prisoner...”
“Like hell you have rights. You can’t claim you deserve special perks and the mutant freaks don’t. You are here because I can’t legally imprison your sorry ass. Do you know what they do to fuckers like you in prison Joshua.....They make them their bitches. So I suggest you stop with this pureblood shit, before I allow Keller to actually follow through on his threats.
“Keller is an idiot. And a freak.” Joshua said staring at Jack. “I will not disown my beliefs and those of my parents...”
“Your parents tried to have you killed smartass.” Jack growled. “They want you dead. Get that through your skull. Until you do, you will not have access to those privileges. It’s time you learn some pigs are not more equal than others.”
A grunt came as a large boulder came rolling out of the wall, and MVP leapt to the side to avoid it. At the same time fire sprung up from the ground and he rolled out of the way just as fast. Leaping up he began sprinting for a flag across the room with his name on it.
Far above the instructors kept watch on the events. "Looks like MVP really is at the peak of human ability. Not a single test has done more than slow him down." Rage said as he made a few notations.
"Oh please, I could beat that kid at his in my sleep." Walker muttered, glaring down at the test.
"Jack, even in your prime you were never that fast." Julia threw out without taking her eyes off the test.
Muttering, Walker didn't bother replying. It was not worth whatever retort she'd have ready. "No respect." He muttered.
As the instructors traded barbs, Anole slid along the wall as he blended in with the metallic colors. A small laser had emerged from the floor and began shooting at him. As soon as the mutant had gone into camouflage mode it had seemingly lost him. The plan was to creep along until he was close enough to leap behind and disable it.
"Just a bit further." The reptilian mutant muttered.
Suddenly the laser whirled right at him and began firing. "Oh crap!" Victor muttered as he leapt to the side to avoid being shot at. "Next time, no talking."
"Kid's power is handy, ain't well versed in stealth though." Walker said with a grunt.
"He's a child Jack, not a trained spy." Julia shook her head at the man.
"Coulda fooled me."
Hellion just cackled in the middle of the room as all the weapons being thrown at him were bouncing harmlessly off his telekinetic shield. "Come on! That all you got?"
Below him safe in the shield as well, Trauma laughed along and tried to stay as still as possible. His powers were not very useful when one came down to it in such an experience. Unless someone there began to get very afraid of something and it was doubtful that any of the young men were going to become frightened by anything. "They can't match you with anything at all."
Reptil ran past and shook his head. "Way to let your lackey skate by Keller."
"Bite me dino boy." Trauma said with a raised middle finger.
"That lackey enough for you loser?" Julian said as he laughed.
"Dumbass." Humberto muttered as he came to a stop, feeling the ground shoot up under him. The panel rose far into the air of the room and robots emerged and charged him. With concentration his skin became thicker and scaly as a large tail came from his back with three spikes. Two horns grew on his forehead and one smaller one on his nose. Channeling a Triceratops, he attacked the robots. "Let's see how tech fares against dino power."
Rage shook his head and stared at the action below. "That Keller kid is a real prick."
"I kinda like him." Walker chimed in.
"Course you would." Elvin said with a roll of the eyes.
"What about Terrance? We have no accurate gauging of his abilities as he hides behind his friend. Bit disappointing." Julia added to the conversation.
"Fail em. That'll teach the brown noser to fuck around in my school."
"Classy." Julia said. "Humberto seems to be very well versed in his powers."
"Let's throw a curveball." Walker struck a few keys as he spoke.
Down below Humberto suddenly gulped as the ground that had risen below him suddenly vanished. AS the robots and the young man began to fall, he concentrated harder than ever. The additions gained by from the Triceratops faded quickly. Instead another power kicked in as his skin got scaly once again but this time a bit different. Flaps grew under his arms and his nose became more pointed as did the back of his head. Feet took on talon like qualities. With arms out and a quick flap he began to glide and at the last minute pulled up and skimmed over the ground before flying up and away.
"Whoooo!" The young man cried out as he flew just like the Pterodactyls of old.
For once Walker actually grinned. "Not bad. Not bad at all."
A hand waved off the offer, the owner of the hand moving settling in the seat they had already been offered. Sean glanced around at the office and it amused him to see that it wasn’t like the old days of Xavier. Gone was the wood paneling and the artistic decor that made it seem like the study of someone like Xavier. Instead there were various weapons on some shelves from ancient times and a shield that was hefted up on the wall, a black and red painted circular shield with a star in the middle.
All of it clearly painted the office as that of the new headmaster. Jack sat in the chair across the desk and poured himself a glass of the scotch since Sean had rejected it. “I forgot, drinking problem right?”
“Aye. Better to not tempt old vices.”
Jack nodded. “Understandable. Major pain in the ass, but understandable.”
Sean raised an eyebrow as he leaned forward slightly. “Harder for some than others I imagine.” Curiosity was growing as he began to wonder why he had been summoned.
“Yeah sure. Alright Irish, let’s cut to the chase shall we. I ain’t the type to beat around the bush. You’ve done this whole headmaster thing before. From what I hear you were pretty good at it. You and that Emma Frost chick. Hot stuff that Frost. You hit that while you were there?”
“No...cannae say I did.”
“Shame. Anyways back on topic. Bet you can guess I’ve never done this whole thing. Kids ain’t my thing at all. There are times I can’t even stand them honestly. But I want to make a difference here. Give these kids a chance. Not draft them into some super war they may not even want to be part of. You know what I mean?”
Sean nodded. “I’m quite aware of such a sentiment.”
“You're also probably familiar with the fact that I’m getting some flak for taking this job. People are thinking I can’t handle it. That I’m too volatile to do it. Bunch of fucking idiots wouldn’t know what they were talking about if it hit them right upside the head and laid them out. Anyways I’d go a long way to have someone like you standing behind me for support and all that.”
Sean chuckled and rubbed at his chin. Out of all the things he had figured that would come out of his being summoned the reality of the situation had never really crossed his mind at all. It was amusing for various reasons none of which Walker would probably pick up on.
“Am I missing something here Irish?”
“No ye not headmaster. It's just amusing is all. If ye must know it won’t be an issue at all. Funny as it might seem I do support your ways.” Sean said as he leaned forward again and placed his hands before him.
“Color me intrigued.” Walker said.
“Ye know that I was with Xavier. I respect and admire the man. That’s a hard fact that’ll never change. While I respected him his methods were not always my choice. Ye can see from the files if you looked that the school I ran might have been Xavier in name but was nothing like the program Xavier started. It was different. Kids came first over powers or ideals.” Sean paused and made sure to make eye contact. “That’s what ye say this school is about. A place for the kids to be kids and learn about themselves and made decisions of their own when the time comes. That’s what I want to be part of and if ye need me to stand at ye back and make sure this keeps on going on ye got a deal.”
Walker smirked. “Never any doubt in my mind Irish.” A second glass was pulled out. “Sure you don’t want this scotch though?”
Sean shook his head and rose up from the seat. “I agree with ye, but that doesn't mean ye not an ass Walker.” Sean said in an amused tone as he moved out of the office.
Walker was left alone and grinned as soon as he was. “Knew that would work.”
As the young men ran through their exercises, the young women similarly were put through the paces. Spider-Girl soared through the room, dodging projectiles of various kinds that were tossed her way. A moment of thought brought out the three spider like legs from her back and as she neared a wall she used her regular limbs and the special ones to brace on the wall. Just as she braced she used the force of pushing forward to push off into a swing to the right, just as the items aimed at her hit the wall where she had been.
"Gotta try harder than that." The arachnid heroine called out as she swung through the air.
"Cocky. Typical for a spider hero." Walker said before catching Julia's gaze. "Yeah?"
"Nothing, just wondering how good it would feel to punch you right now."
"Clearly I'm not wrong."
Sighing, Julia turned back to the monitors. "Moving on. Time to mix it up some."
Suddenly a blade came out of the ceiling and sliced right through the web that Mattie was swinging on. With a yelp she was falling. No new webs were coming. Something was jamming them. "Crap." She muttered.
Three spider legs came out again as she shoved them forward. At the last moment they were forward enough that they connected with the ground first and she was able to swing her legs up into the air sending her up into a curving arch that ended with her landing on her feet on the other side.
"Impressive." Was all Walker could offer.
As they had no real physical powers, the Cuckoos huddled together on the far side of the room as they were solving various mental puzzles. They blew through them all so quickly that the computers could not keep up. The decoy in another state they were to find and read the mind of had been more than simple to find, even easier to get into their mind.
"This is truly..."
"...boring and beneath us..."
"...give us a real challenge."
The girls shook their heads as they transmitted their words mentally to the staff as well. Walker chuckled. "I like these girls."
"You would. No doubt some perverse male idea about twins and triplets. You men are disgusting sometimes."
Elvin's head popped up. "Hey!"
"Okay not all men." Julia relented. "Just men like Walker."
"Ain't no other men like me Julia. I'm one of a kind."
"Explosive!" Came the cry from Sister Grimm as she aimed her magical staff at the oncoming projectiles that were flying through the air. They exploded in a fiery explosion, pieces falling towards the ground.
At the same time Karolina sailed through the air with rainbow like color tailing behind her. Her hands glowed as she shot energy out and took out the targets that were popping up quickly all over for her. Below Nico was struggling to think of another word to use to attack, as she could not use the same spell after she cast it, and Karolina spotted the issue. Ignoring her own targets which were going away quickly, she banked around back towards her friend.
"Duck and cover Nico!" Sailing overhead her ducking friend, she unleashed her energy and took out the projectiles quite easily.
Nico smiled. "Nice one!"
"She left her own targets to cover up her friend's slow thinking." Elvin said as he glanced at the others.
"That's teamwork." Julia replied.
"Nah that's stupidity. Teamwork is all well and good but if someone is dragging down in the field you gotta make choices. Spell girl could have gotten out of the way and been okay. If sparkler there had been chasing a villain intent on destruction they woulda got away and caused untold destruction. She dropped the ball there." Walker said while shaking his head.
"Remind me not to be on a team with you in the future."
"Shoulda bet on the men." Walker muttered.
"Jack!" Julia actually seemed quite upset.
"What? Just saying, I'm fond of my money."
Hazmat had hardly moved from where she had been the whole time, off to the side in her containment suit. The suit that kept her from hurting every single person that was around her on a daily basis. While that was the main reason for the suit there was one other reason that made itself evidently clear as soon as the system sent robotic attackers for the young woman.
Her hands rose and began to glow as suddenly a green tinged energy shot out from her hands and struck the first attacker. With the suit the radioactive and dangerous particles within her could be formed into a beam that could do damage. If used on living tissue for too long though it could hurt them greatly.
There was quiet in the room as Julia turned towards Walker and eyed him. "Nothing to say here?"
The headmaster just shrugged. "Girl's tough. Got real big balls. I like her."
Thick blades were swinging through the air chopping through the vines that were created by Dryad as she backed away with a bit of fear in her eyes. As they got ever closer she started moving backwards faster till she realized that she had hit the wall.
"No no." She murmured. Even though she realized that the staff would never allow her to be chopped into human mulch, the fear still was there.
The blades swished closer and as the last few moments before they got really close came she let out a cry and suddenly the ground exploded as thick and powerful roots shot into the sky and hit the ceiling, as her hands were outstretched with the palms out. A horrible grinding sound came as the blades slammed into the roots and were torn apart. As the whirring sound from the blades came to a stop, Callie opened her eyes and glanced around sheepishly. A glance was given to the dome above as she mouthed the word sorry.
The three instructors all stood there staring for a moment. "Holy shit." Elvin muttered as he pressed a few buttons, without looking, to log the information.
"That kid is damn powerful. Shy as a God damn mouse, but powerful. We can work with that. Yes we can." Walker said as he rubbed at his chin.
"Lucky she's on our side then." Julia added.
Walker nodded. "Ain't that the truth?"
Files of information obtained about each and every one of the inaugural batch of students was stacked up on the room's large circular table. There was a large A in the middle of the table with an X through it, symbolizing how the school was combining parts of the Avengers way with the X-Men. Along with the personal files were stacks of notes and readings taken from the training simulation the day before.
"So that's everything then?" Sean asked as he leaned forward to place two hands upon the table top, propping himself at an angle.
"That's all of it." Julia replied as she glanced around at all within the room.
"They're quite a bunch of young adults. As evidenced by their...unique personalities." Bonita chimed in as she stood with her arms crossed.
"That's putting it nicely I think." Elvin said with a chuckle.
Jacqueline frowned slightly. "How would you put it then?"
"We got some good kids, and we got some punks. Simple as that. In no way would I call Julian Keller or Joshua Foley 'unique'. They're straight up punks. One of them hates his own kind, and who knows what other feelings he harbors."
"They're all here for the same thing, our help." Sean said as he chimed in before it could turn into an argument. "So that's what we're going to give them. Our knowledge and our expertise. If they go out and can't change for the world afterwards that will be upon their heads."
Walker at last spoke up. "Irish's right. We're doing our part here and now. We've watched these kids, and we've seen what they can do. But Elvin's got a point. We got some assholes here, I should know. I'm a glorified asshole. That's why I'm gonna come down on them hard. I'm gonna push them. Cause I might be an asshole but I'm a damn fine hero. And they will turn out to be fine citizens or heroes when they leave here. Even if I have to put my boot so far up their asses they puke leather for the rest of their lives."
Pausing he met each of the other staff members gaze. "Don't get me wrong, I'm gonna take this job seriously. Don't mean I can't be a right piece of shit from time to time or make some jokes. If I didn't take this job seriously I wouldn't be here. We got our detractors out there, and they can kiss my pale white ass for all I care. SHIELD don't think we can do this, so we're gonna prove them wrong."
Julia smiled and shook her head. "So what next?"
Walker grinned widely, which was off putting with the person smiling being him. "We get some sleep, cause starting tomorrow we kick it into high gear."
Next: The School Year Begins!