by Amy Marie Hearn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CBC News at 11:00pm
Yet another group of students has been found dead this evening. Police were called when an explosion rocked the residence at the University of Alberta where some bodies were then found. Joining us live from Edmonton is our roving reporter, Mary Greenfeld.
"It looks like another case of the mysterious epidemic that seems to be sweeping through the streets and universities throughout north America. Police have barricaded the area and are awaiting the arrival of the special teams that are investigating these cases in Canada. There are rumors that up to 20 young men and women were killed in the blast, with and estimation of up to 50 more people injured with possibly more buried in the rubble of the residence you can see behind me."
"Members of the superhuman group Alpha Flight have just arrived to aid the rescuers with the search for the people in the wreckage. It's not known if they will find more bodies, or if they will find survivors of this tragedy."
Heather crunched through broken glass and concrete, avoiding the twisted metal poking through the crumbled cement and bricks. Fire fighters carried out shapeless white bags that were the shattered remains of what was only an hour ago, someone's beloved child. Her throat clenched and her hands curled into fists. She badly wanted the perpetrators of these crimes.
Another group of kids dead. Another bunch of victims of the drug known as "power", the underground substance that brought out the recessive mutant gene in otherwise normal kids. Brought out, she mused, brought out explosively. Walter, when studying the bodies, was shaken by what he'd found.
Heather looked back to where the temporary lab was set up in one of the vans. Walter was looking through a microscope, his lips white with tension. He seemed to take these deaths personally, each one adding a few more lines to his handsome face. He took off his glasses to rub his eyes and face, shaking his head in the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles.
Omega was sniffing out corpses among the wreckage. Wind Shear was gently lifting huge chunks of rubble so that the emergency teams could search for bodies, or survivors.
Oh God, I hope there are some survivors this time. So far all the affected newly made mutants had died of the drug or their out-of-control powers. The various authorities had yet to find a living survivor anywhere in any of the cases. Moira MacTaggert and Hank "Beast" McCoy were poring over the cases as thoroughly stumped as the canadian team was.
She turned her attention back to her scanning. Her suit, with it's amazing on board computer and sensors gave her readouts of temperature, pulses, brain waves... movement. Movement!
"We've got a live one here!" she exclaimed, flying forward. Shouts and radio messages flashed through her earphones as she locked onto the quivering form. Out of the corner of her eye, Heather saw Walter bolt out of his position, medical teams on his heels.
Searchlights picked out the ragged figure in loose fitting clothes. It cringed from the lights and gave a sharp cry. Then to the amazed onlookers, it bolted away, faster than a normal human could have moved. The lights picked it out at once. The thing howled and was about to flee again when one of the medical people among the rubble gave a shout. A young man was being uncovered as the ragged thing stumbled among the wreckage.
"We have another live one here!" He turned to Windshear, "Please lift this off him!" The tall armor clad man complied and a group of paramedics crowded around the bloody survivor still cradled in the mess.
The tattered creature gave a soft sob and staggered. Omega was almost on it when it bolted towards the group of medics. They scattered under shoves and minor blows, their cries adding to the confusion. Heather was about to give the thing a blast when a bolt of blue-violet lit up the night.
Her visor compensated immediately, but those around her were blinded, shielding their eyes from the searing light. The figure gasped as it held onto to the injured man, sobbing gasps that cresendoed to a full blown scream of agony. Abruptly the light went out, and the figure crumpled.
Vindicator was the first to arrive among the group of stunned medical personnel, floating down gracefully into the searchlight. The limp figure was pathetically light when Heather pulled it from atop the now conscious victim. He looked around him in confusion, and the least stunned of the paramedics checked him.
"What happened? There was a blast and then... hey! What's going on?" The paramedic tended to him, asking him questions about pain and being quick but thoroughly. Heather gently turned the pathetic bundle into the light.
The small heart shaped face was innocent as if in sleep. Under the filth and dust and caked on blood, this young woman would be pretty. Her short brown hair was matted and stiff with gore, and her clothing was huge around her slim body, stained and torn and burned in so many places that the original color was lost. A faint crackle of blue-violet lanced around the woman's body as Heather watched, and a feeling of well-being seemed to come over her.
"What the hell?" Vindicator murmured. "What ARE you?" But the girl's gentle face was silent.
The medic, holding up the confused man from the rubble behind her spoke softly. "I'm no expert, but I think she's some sort of healer, ma'am. This man shows signs of having had life threatening wounds before she grabbed him like that."
Heather nodded, eyes rivetted on the girl's face for a moment more. Walter was there immediately with a stretcher, equipment and a grim look in his eyes. He examined the slight figure grimly. His gaze met Heather's for a moment, and he shook his head.
"She may still die, Vindicator. We've never had a survivor yet... and she's not doing so well." He jumped back a bit as another arc of blue-violet spiraled around the girl's still form.
"This power of hers is out of control. It could still kill her. We've got to get her back to the base in a hurry."
The flight to base was agonizing for Heather. The girl's vital signs grew weaker, and the ragged bolts of energy would curl around her body and often reach out and zap one of the team if they were close by. Walter examined each of them after this happened and shook his head.
"Incredible. She's healing old scars on all of the affected people. She even cured my headache, for all that she's still unconscious." He turned to the young woman again and changed one of the many IV bag that hung from their short pole. He sighed and frowned, and then checked her vital signs again. "Well, the dehydration is finally under control, and she's definitely looking better, but she's slipping into some kind of coma."
Heather leaned against a seat back and looked to where Omega was reading a screen of information.
"Any info on her yet?" she asked.
"Yup. Just found it based on those fingerprints and dental records. Her name is Emily Ferrell. She's a 20 year old student at the U of A, majoring in the arts. Only one relative, her aunt, a Victoria Ferrell who resides in Vancouver. There's a police record here showing a court case of physical abuse and abandonment by her mother when Emily was 5. Custody was awarded to the aunt."
"Oh geez, poor kid" Heather muttered. "At least she has her aunt." Omega nodded and leaned back in his seat, folding his arms. He turned his masked face to the back of the plane and watched Walter. Finally he said, "You know, Walter, she smells odd."
"Yeah. I can't put my finger on it, but she smells different than most women." Omega temporized.
Walter looked down at Emily and rubbed his chin.
"Yeah I noticed that too. Kind if reminds me of Wolverine... you know that feral smell, but not as strong." his eyes slid over to Omega and then looked away quickly.
"Strange. I won't know what the nature of her abilities is till we get her back. But we have to stabilize her first before I run any tests. This could be tricky."
After a silent moment of staring at her Walter shook himself and came forward to the cockpit.
"Get me Moira and Hank on the comm, will you? I think they should have a look at her too."
Back in the base, Walter looked up to the screens that held the visages of Moira MacTaggert and Hank McCoy.
"Well, her medical records show that she had obesity, diabetes and thyroid disfunctions. She's not obese now, but I wonder what happened to make her body metabolise all that weight. She was close to 320 pounds just hours ago."
"How much does she weigh now?" Asked Moira in a shocked voice.
"About 110 pounds right at the moment, and I think it's too low for her "normal" state. She shows signs of being underweight, oddly enough." Walter added.
Beast nodded and readjusted his glasses to read the screen, then peeked up over the rims.
"Well, it stands to reason that all that extra fat was needed by her body to make the change over from normal human to a mutant with active powers. We know that manifestation as a rule is a gradual process normally taking place in early to mid adolescence, which gives the body a chance to adapt to its new status. Given her age, we could deduct that the gene for these abilities would not have activated were it not for the interference of the drug." "I also hypothesize that the very nature of the powers, given what we know of them at the moment, is also responsible for her continued survival. Until she stablises and regains consciousness we won't know for certain. I really hope that we can run more tests Walter, this case is certainly unusual. For me as a geneticist this is particularly alarming and fascinating."
Moira nodded and muttered to herself before adding her own ideas.
"It could be that her powers will develop at an astounding rate, changing and adapting as the dna in her cells rewrites itself. She'll need nourishment of a concentrated sort, given the state of her metabolism. I wouldn't be surprised that when she does wake up she'll be in a state of shock. I recommend intense psychological support in combination with renourishing. You say that she might have witnessed the manifestations an deaths of the other students?"
Walter nodded grimly.
"Yes, I could have a bad case of post traumatic shock syndrome on top of the trauma of forced manifestation."
Both of the remote doctors winced.
Beast spoke softly,
"You know, Walter, Charles might be able to help her with that. IF you can get your government to relinquish her to us, that is. I know that all that nonsense with the Super Powers Act may not allow for it, though. More's the pity."
"I haven't registered her yet, Hank. I think we're so inspired by the problems of this case that we tend to forget that she may not survive the next few hours or days." Dr. Langkowski sighed.
The three physicians shared a moment of silence, each thinking similar thoughts.
A scream broke the silence suddenly. Walter spun out of his chair so quickly that he was out of the huge room before the seat hit the floor with a metallic bang.
He burst in upon the frenzied base hospital room that held his patient. Blood spattered techs wrestled with Emily as she thrashed upon the bed screaming and crying. He shoved a tech out of his way an grasped a flailing arm, sending his glasses flying across the room.
"Whoa! WHOA! Emily stop! It's all right! We're NOT going to hurt you! You're safe! You're SAFE!" he shouted, finally catching hold of the thin shoulders and looking into wild brown eyes. She sobbed hysterically, eyes searching his. Blood was sprayed across her gaunt features from where she'd splashed herself from pulling out her IV.
After several hitching breaths she gave a shudder and drooped back onto her pillow.
"Where the hell am I?" she whispered, a barely heard soprano.
"Who are YOU?!" she added, trembling and clutching the side of the bed reflexively.
Walter readjusted his crooked clothes and nodded to the tech who handed him his glasses.
"I'm Doctor Langkowski, the head medical officer for Alpha Flight. You're at our headquarters in Toronto, Emily. You've had a really rough time of it, I'm afraid."
The large brown eyes widened.
"Have...have I done something wrong? What's happening to me?"
He took a deep breath and then sat on the edge of the bed. He gestured for the techs to leave, and rubbed his lips briefly.
"Well, Emily, to tell the truth, I'm not sure what happened exactly. No one does in these cases. We have conjecture and that's it. I was actually hoping that when you're feeling better you can tell us more. All I know that an illegal substance was ingested or injected into you, and that you are here now after surviving a great tragedy. You're very lucky to be alive, you know. You are one tough young woman."
Emily looked blank for along moment, then confusion set in.
"Drugs? No way! I never do drugs! Especially not during that get together... all I had was two beers." she said earnestly. A sparkle lit her eye suddenly, "I like to be in control of my faculties thank you. Drugs are just plain gross in my opinion. I mean, alcohol is a drug technically, but geez... I've never even tried pot!" she flushed.
"I'm...uh, I'm a bit of a square I'm afraid."
Walter nodded, and smiled despite himself.
"I can relate to that," he chuckled, and then sharpened his gaze.
"Two beers? That's all?"
"Did you open them yourself?"
Emily closed her eyes for a moment and furrowed her brow in concentration.
"Um, the first one I did. But Jay gave me one that was already..." she paused, and her eyes snapped open, unseeing for a moment. Horror glazed across her eyes and her face crumpled.
"Oh my god! Jay!" she sobbed suddenly.
"He...He... DRUGGED ME!?"
She grew more hysterical and a rush of words poured from her before Walter could stop her.
"My god, all I remember was feeling a bit hot, and then Angela started glowing. Then the others all started staring at her and laughing. She pointed to herself and startle giggling, but Then the glow got brighter an she started to cry, then she screamed and screamed and screamed...! And then she blew up! Oh my god! SHE BLEW UP RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, AND JENNY WAS ON FIRE AND JIM TURNED INTO ASH...!" She began to scream and cry, a howl worked it's out of her at last that chilled Walter to the soul.
"THEY ALL DIED! THEY ALL DIED! AND I'M STILL ALIVE! OH MY GOD WHY AM I STILL ALIVE!??" He shook her shoulders.
"Stop it, Emily, stop it! It's ok! It's over! It's over!" The techs poured into the room again, and one gave Emily an injection of sedative when Walter told him to. He held the hysterical woman as she clung to his lab coat with an amazingly strong grip. Long moments passed before he realized that the sedative had absolutely no effect on her. She wept on, unaware, until her own exhaustion quieted her sobs.
"I'm sorry doctor. I'm sorry. It's just that.... I just can't believe... I just can't understand..." she sobbed again, her body shaking with the force of them, "Why?" she whispered, her tear-filled eyes wide and tortured as she looked up at him.
He couldn't find the words to answer her.
The hours dragged by, then days, then a week, then two. Emily stabilized slowly, after a few scares brought on by injured team members that came into the medical facility. She'd healed one person, and afterwards went into convulsions and another coma for two days. The Canadian team discovered that she was inevitably drawn to injured people, the compulsion to heal them so strong that the nurses and tech had to lock her into her room. When unable to get to the person, Emily screamed and cried while bolts of excess energy arced around her, out of control until exhaustion dropped her into merciful unconsciousness once again.
Her mental and emotional state worsened despite ongoing psychiatric treatment. Her brain chemistry was fine,thus medications weren't needed. However, it was her situation and memories that added to her depression. She often had nightmares, but tried to minimize their severity when asked about them.
The international medical team (consisting of beast, Moira MacTaggert and Walter) was due for a meeting, and suggestions were made. Long distance conference calls were made to the X mansion, with Charles Xavier offering to take over Emily's psychiatric treatment. Emily had brief sessions with the head of the X-men via teleconference, and her mood began to improve dramatically. The debate whether to move Emily to the X-men's care was discussed and then tabled for a time until the medical team felt they could risk moving her.
Beast looked up when Walter flopped into a chair in the conference room.
"How's our patient doing?"
"She's hanging in there, Hank, hanging in there." The blond man took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose as he propped his feet up on the glossy black table strewn with paperwork.
"Thanks for coming up Hank, I appreciate it. I know you're busy working on other projects. How's the team?" "Doing quite well thank you. Odd things abound these days, as usual, but given the circumstances pretty well." Beast smiled sadly and heaved a sigh.
"So when do I get to meet our little healer?" Walter smiled faintly and put his glasses back on.
"Well, I've got some weight back on her, and put up a power damper field in her room while she recovers at a more normal level. I can medicate her now, although it's at a dosage that would drop a herd of elephants. She's a lot like Logan that way." Hank chuckled softly,
"Hyper-active healing factor is it?"
"Looks like, yes. VERY hyper-active. It really does heal other people as well as her." "No signs of feral traits?"
"None at all. She's actually quite a gentle person far as I can tell these last few days. Very intelligent, well spoken. She's a nice girl, Hank. Quite a tough little gal given her circumstances."
"That's good to hear. She's adjusting to her new life as a mutant?
"She's really trying hard to adapt." Walter sighed. "She watches the news a lot and gets very pensive at times. You know she was a pro-mutant supporter since she was 14? She and a group of moderates lobbied the government agencies for equal rights. She stayed out of the more militant groups, thank heavens."
"She's turning out to be a most impressive young lady. I hope she can continue to be as spirited as you say she is. At least until we remedy her situation."
Walter gave a snort of laughter.
"Remedy... hell Hank, that girl will BE a remedy if she can learn to live with those powers of hers. She has a great opportunity to make a difference in the mutant community, or possibly the general public if they don't eat her alive."
Beast's eyes narrowed slightly, concern on his face.
"Is the public still demanding that the "unknown healer" be made available for illnesses and injuries? I thought the government quashed that rumor the day you found her. Didn't they debrief the rescuers?"
"Yeah. But the student Emily healed blabbed to the press before our administration could stop him. Right at the site of the accident, right on international news. It's been a circus, Hank." Walter sighed and stared at his hands in his lap for a long moment.
"Officially the "unknown healer" succumbed to the drug in the plane on the way to medical help. Her identity wasn't released thank heavens. Thanks to her disheveled appearance, she wasn't recognized by that damned blabbermouth."
"But the public is still demanding to know more, right?" "Oh geez yes. And we get calls every day from desperate people who have family members are sick or dying. It's heartbreaking, Hank. Thank god Emily doesn't know about them, or ever WILL know. I think that'd torment her even more than she already is."
"It angers me to know that places like Genosha have healers in abundance, while they still stay relatively rare in OUR populations." groused Beast, twirling his pen and frowning.
"Well, that and the fact that most mutant or altered-human healers won't come anywhere near a team, or even be recognized in public for fear of reprisals." Walter replied grimly.
Hank growled softly, "And whoever slaughtered the morlocks also killed their healer. Damn them. He was a very kind hearted man who helped us out a lot."
"Exactly the fate I don't want for Emily if I can help it. But how do we keep her safe? And will she even want to help teams of metahumans if she can ever get a handle on her abilities?" Walter shook his head and then swung his legs of the table, then sat up.
Beast nodded emphatically.
"From what you are saying, Doctor, she seems like a kind hearted and compassionate person. Perhaps she might have courage as well. I recommend giving her every chance for combat, and possibly medical training. It'd give her a much better chance at survival, provided she can live through the onset of her powers."
"So far so good." sighed Walter. Then he gestured to the door.
"But I'll let you decide that for yourself Dr. McCoy." The two men gathered their files and exited the room in silence.
Emily had grown fond of the team members of both Alpha Flight and Beta Flight as a few of them had come through to visit. Persuasion and Windshear had been two of the most frequent visitors other than Heather, who'd come every day she was able to. The little healer and the erstwhile leader of Alpha Flight had become close friends in the days since Emily's arrival. Laughter often brightened the little room with its high tech equipment and odd energy fields.
Though not considered a member of either team, Emily had been "adopted" by many of the residents. Her high spirits and increasingly cheerful manner made her popular among the nurses, doctors and technicians as well. Posters and flowers and other thoughtful gifts transformed the hospital room into a semblance of a more normal bedroom.
"How you feeling kiddo?" Heather grinned as she replaced some withered flowers with a fresh bouquet on the bedside table.
"Well I'm not dead yet." replied Emily, sotto voice and with a wry grin.
"Awwwwwww, more flowers? You bunch are gonna give me a complex or something! When I get better I'm going to go into floral withdrawal!"
Heather laughed as she sat on the edge of the narrow bed and handed the smaller woman a card.
"The flowers are from both teams, hon. So's the card. We all want to see you get better too, Em."
Emily colored and grinned sheepishly as she took the card, opened it and read the well wishes scrawled within.
"This is too sweet for words! You guys are going to send me into sugar overload for heaven's sakes!" she grinned ruefully and shook her head in amazement.
"Holy! Just two weeks ago I would have given my eye teeth for even ONE of the signatures in this card!"
Heather arched an eyebrow.
"Especially Weapon Omega? I know you really have the hots for him." Emily choked back a laugh and blushed.
"Oh god, don't even start, Heather! You know what it's like... mysterious sexy voiced men in skintight suits and masks. It's the mystery that intrigues. I happen to really love his sarcastic wit and pithy comments." the healer let a giggle escape.
"So blame my lonely adolescent tendencies. I may be 20, but I refuse to grow up entirely! I'd probably stop lusting after him if he didn't wear a mask anyways."
"Unless he's blond and gorgeous hm?" Heather suggested drolly.
"Ok so shoot me. I tend to like blonds. But hey, I like men, period. Especially some of the gorgeous specimens you have around here! I mean, how can the girls here STAND it?! I have to pop my eyeballs back in my head every time one of them walks by! What's even more mind blowing is that most of them aren't bona fide a-holes either." Heather smothered her hilarity with her hands, almost steaming up her glasses.
"Windshear is wayyyyyy cute. And he seems to be a real sweetie, I'd bet he'd be a fun date if I could ever bust out of this joint!" Emily waggled her eyebrows suggestively, then blushed furiously.
"I don't believe I just said that! Strike that one from the record!" "Too late!" chortled Heather, then tapped Emily's blanket covered knee.
"Don't worry I won't tell him."
The younger woman sighed suddenly and placed the folded card in her lap and closed her eyes wearily.
Heather's brow furrowed slightly in concern before she added, "It will take getting used to Em. It took ME ages to get used to dealing with metahumans on a personal basis. They STILL surprise me every now and then."
Emily met the older woman's green eyes.
"Yeah, sometimes this seems like a dream-come-true, and other times a nightmare that just won't end. Every second since...since... the... accident has seemed like a bloody soap opera for metas!" She shook her chin length brown bobbed head and frowned up at her friend.
"How DO you get used to this much angst and tension? The betrayals, the conspiracies, saving the world every other day?!! Then you all have a veritable who's sleeping with who in the moments that are between galactic wars or some evil ultra badie trying to take over the world!"
She turned and stared out the small window that opened to the hallway of the medical ward.
"I just can't believe that I'm a full metahuman now, a mutant..." then winced a bit and added, "... that is IF I can survive the next few days AS a metahuman or mutant." She chewed her lower lip, then tried to shrug nonchalantly, her voice a bit wavery.
"Oh well. Everyone, mutant or not has their own story to tell, their own hell to deal with. Being all depressed about it is NOT going to make it easier to deal with." She favored Heather with a wobbly grin.
"I might as well make the best of it and enjoy all the magnificent eyecandy that walks around here in male form. I think I can still enjoy the sights of well built men while staying at Chez Alpha Base!"
Heather shook her coppery head in disbelief. Laughter wared with concern on her lovely face. She was about to say something when Windshear popped his head around the doorframe. He grinned at the pair of them and winked at Heather with pure mischief.
"Hey ladies, just dropping by to say I'll be back in a bit after I get out of my stinking armor. I'm thinking a shower would be appreciated by all those downwind of me, eh?" "Oh yes! Let's not melt the nose hairs of hapless humans and metahumans oh babe-like one!" laughed Emily.
The darkly handsome man waggled his eyebrows and chortled.
"What!? And not use my secret dark and deadly powers of body odor to beat up the bad guys?" Heather's retort was tempered with a mischievious grin of her own.
"Subdue them, Colin, not KILL them!"
"Oh pooey." Windshear snorted,
"Ok I'm off to apply the antidote to the foul B.O. of doom, be back in a few!"
The two giggling women watched the tall, huskily built man retreat down the hallway, helmet under his arm.
After a few seconds of helpless hilarity, Emily managed to speak again.
"Good thing I can self heal almost instantly! A girl can get whiplash in a place like this!" The two broke into muted howls of mirth once again, only to be interrupted as Walter strode into the room, a grinning Beast just behind him.
"Hey, sounds like the best medicine is being administered here without us!" chuckled Walter to Hank.
Emily's jaw dropped as she took in the blue furred mutant doctor in his pristine white lab coat.
"Doctor Henry McCoy?!" she squeaked," From the X-Men?" She blinked and shook the extended huge hand with genuine warmth.
"Why, it's an honor to meet you sir."
Beast's brown eyes twinkled from behind the spectacles perched on his nose.
"I assure you Miss Ferrell, the pleasure and honor is mutual." He grinned and added, "You Canadians and your exaggerated politeness. It's rather refreshing at times."
The young healer's face turned crimson, then drew pale.
"So big a fuss over little old me? Oh geez, I could die from embarrassment!"
Henry chuckled, and gently explained.
"Actually, my dear, I came up to Canada for a monthly medical conference with Dr. MacTaggert and Dr. Langkowski here. Last month's meeting was in Scotland, the month before that at the X-mansion, and thus it is now Walter's turn to play host. Moira will arrive shortly, but I thought that I would take this opportunity to meet you in person. A kind of little perk for having arrived early."
Emily blushed again (as she did so easily these days under all the unaccustomed attention).
"Well hey, that's good to hear," she replied earnestly, "I'm glad that specialists in metahunman research and medical care keep in touch. I'm certain that there's all too many people besides me that rather desperately need your help."
Dr. McCoy sighed.
"i am afraid that your grasp of the situation is all too true, Emily. However we might wish it were not so, it most invariably IS true." Heather nodded, eyes sad behind her glasses.
"yes, and there just aren't enough of us to take care of situations like yours, Emily." She patted the younger girl's knee.
"But believe me, Em, I'm sure that we're all glad for the opportunity to save as many Emilies as we can."
"Amen" murmured Walter, fiddling with his clipboard.
He peered at Emily over the top of his glasses.
"Well, Em, are you feeling well enough for more tests do you think? These ones may be a bit more energetic and trying than the ones we've done so far."
Em studied her toes and swallowed nervously.
"I... I guess so." She said in a small voice. She met his gaze suddenly, determination in her wide brown eyes.
"It's been two weeks... and while its been very entertaining to watch all the metahumans on the teams..." "You're bored out of your mind and ready to do something a bit more proactive, hm?" finished Walter with a knowing grin.
"Yeah." she chuckled shakily, almost a whisper.
"Good." he said, "We know that we're doing SOMETHING right then."
Beast stepped forward.
"Emily, would you mind if Heather, Moira and I joined the other physicians and researchers during your examinations?"
The young woman wrapped her arms around herself, but rewarded him with a wan but reassuring smile.
"No. I don't mind. Actually I'm GLAD that you'll all be there." Heather laid a reassuring hand on the girl's knee.
"Thank you ,Em. I'm glad that you want us there." Henry smiled encouragingly, laying his hand briefly on her shoulder.
"I certainly hope that we merit your trust, Emily. You are a brave young woman. We'll do our best to help you as best we can." "Very true Dr. McCoy. Very true." Walter agreed.
A young male medical technician came forward with a wheelchair and helped Emily into it. He smiled and informed them that Dr. MacTaggert's plane had just arrived and that she would be meeting them in test chamber number 5.
Then, after Heather give a quick hug to the nervous Emily, they made their way down the hall.
The tests showed no more acceleration caused by the drug in Emily's cells. So, she began to stabilize at last, and the flare ups of excess healing energy became fewer and fewer. As she gained better control at damping both her powers and the compulsion to heal people, Emily began a regular regime of combat training and began correspondence courses, majoring in medicine.
A few brief field trip visits were made to the X-mansion for more thorough examinations with the X-Men's superior equipment. Professor Charles Xavier took these opportunities to telepathically bond with his new patient, with her permission, and helped her deal better with her multiple traumas. During one of these sessions, a repressed memory made itself known.
Emily had at age 13, while her aunt and her were visiting Edmonton, made a dear friend, Allison, also 13. Adolescence had not been kind to both girls, and they bonded quickly. Allison was a foster child in a somewhat neglectful home, something Emily could identify with from her own difficulties when she was 5 and left in the snowy Edmonton streets by her own mother.
Allison had a secret. She was a mutant. A feral. She, like Emily had been abandoned at an early age, and unlike Em, had difficulties with outright bursts of anger. As Allie's anger grew more out of control, so did her bouts of feral rages. The proper authorities were contacted, but too late.
Things came to a head on the high level bridge far above the churning North Saskatchewan river on one chill early spring day. Allie had savaged a group of cruel teenaged boys, killing one of them and badly slashing 4 others.
The girls fled the scene, but it was not long before the local police cornered them on the bridge. The authorities, believing that Emily was being held hostage, had a sniper shoot Allison. The feral girl staggered, bleeding, mortally wounded, her immature healing factor not strong enough to keep up with the damage. She would have fallen off the edge of the bridge were it not for Emily catching her friend's hand.
Allie, barely alive, her anger broken as she weakened from blood loss and shock, told Emily that it was better this way. The pain and the constant losing fight with the beast within would no longer threaten her humanity or kill other people. With a final, sad apologetic smile, Allison let go of Emily's blood slicked hand just as another shot claimed her life. Her torn bloody body was consumed by the icy river below and never recovered.
The memory devastated the young healer. Charles Xavier's help managed to pull her out of a severe depression, but only time would heal that loss.
Beast's nickname of Remedy stuck during one of those trips. And so Emily became Remedy, a barely trained honorary member of Beta-Flight when she was taken back to Canada.
Though not an active or public member of her team, Remedy became a part of the "family". Due to the necessity of keeping her identity a secret, Em was kept out of the public eye, and in the event of a reconnaissance trip to collect either team's injured, she wore a mask over her face.
She became part of the daily lives of the team, their all too human foibles becoming apparent even as new friendships budded. Her powers continued to defy complete control, and sometimes, not knowing the nature of illness or injury to her team mates, she was as helpless as the others. Her intense physical training and medical education continued between periods of close medical supervision. She was not alone in the facility.
In the coming months, Weapon Omega unmasked himself to be the former Wild Child. Now in control of his abilities because of medication, Kyle tentatively made friends amongst the team and was often in the medical complex. Aurora's struggle with multiple personality disorder and fluctuating powers also brought her into the medical facility every so often.
Remedy made fast friends with these two complex people. Emily was easy to talk to, and often had a compassionate ear and ready sense of humor. Kyle, especially, had a lot in common with her; both being abandoned children, both ill at ease with their new looks and ever changing bodies and out of control powers. Both wanted and needed to forget their pasts. Emily respected his sometime need for distance and hesitancy in offering personal information. She never judged him, but offered a genuine compassion and even hesitant platonic affection. The two became especially close just before Wyre turned the young feral's world upside down.
Aurora was a more difficult friend, being that she changed personalities and moods as often as her powers changed and adapted. She changed a lot. But Emily never minded the changes, caring for the whole person that was glimpsed between the shining shards of the splintered personalities. She became accustomed to the ever changing face, hairstyle, clothes, and costumes of outrageous Aurora and the gentler Jean-Marie. Clothes shopping became an olympian event, a true adventure, with Persuasion and Heather often coming along on the girl's days out. Emily even overcame her shyness and ultra sensitive self-consciousness to try on a bikini, which she never let the girls see. She bought a mildly racy one piece instead, which Aurora teased her about for days.
Three months passed. Alpha Flight was about to be disbanded. The emotional strain become too much for Remedy and her powers suffered a relapse of alarming proportions. Walter, Heather and Puck conferred with the X-Men, worried about what the government might do with Remedy in her fragile state. Finally, with much misgivings, the government gave Remedy permission to reside with the X-Men for the duration of her treatment, training, and medical studies.
Sadly, Emily packed her things, with the help of a great many of her friends. The date finally came for the healer to go to her new home. She said her tearful farewells to Persuasion, Windshear, and Walter. Heather was visiting the X-men on a special mission, and would meet Remedy at the X mansion.
Several hours before the Blackbird was to arrive found Emily having a last play fight with Kyle. It was also a chance to say their goodbyes.
Remedy gave Kyle's arm a light slap and laughed.
"You're terrible Kyle! Just AWFUL! We ought to trade you in for a less sarcastic model!" The handsome golden haired feral laughed back, waggling a finger in her face.
"You WISH! Face it ,Em, you LIKE my witty comments. You're just jealous 'cause I think of em first! That's your whole problem, girl, you're just too NICE to say the pithy truthful things that I do." "You're evil, Kyle Gibney. Just plain eeeeeeevil!" she chortled, trying to ruffle his long blond hair. he ducked away easily and gave her a playful shove.
"Ah, but you LIKE me this way, Em. Admit it! You're only after my hot bod and pretty face, RIGHT?"
His comment was rewarded by a blush and a mock-outraged expression.
"HAH! I was RIGHT!" he exclaimed, laughter in his tone, "You dirty old woman, you!"
"Oh STOP it you blond git! You have a wayyyyy over inflated opinion of your fictional charms!" Emily reached out to ruffle his hair and nearly caught him this time.
"Ohhhhh NO you don't!" laughed Kyle ducking away again, "Dammit , Em, leave my hair alone!"
"No way!" she protested, "Gorgeous hair like that is a WASTE on a guy! I should shave your head an have that lovely mop of yours as a wig!" "Like heck!" Kyle protested, swatting her hands away.
"Are you at it AGAIN?!" chuckled a lovely french accented voice behind the play-fighting pair where they wrestled from their armchairs.
"HI Rora!" Emily greeted the tall, slender french canadian beauty.
"Don't worry, I wouldn't steal your boyfriend if you PAID me." "Oh BULL!" snorted Kyle,"There's not enough money in the world that YOU could pay to own me!" "I already own your feral ass at Quake, homeboy!" laughed Remedy, striking a swat on his knee.
"Yeah, well I own YOURS in real life, you spaz!" Kyle returned, mussing her hair.
Aurora laughed at them both, shaking her head in mock-disgust at their usual high jinx.
"You two almost deserve each other" she suggested archly, to the protesting of the leg and arm slapping buddies.
"Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, Rora! Get REAL! He's more like a brother! Ewwwwwww!" "You've got to be kidding me, this goofy stumble bum of a girl?"
"Arrete, mes cheres - that's enough, Kyle. Emily has vastly inproved in her co-ordination an is learning hand to hand combat. She is also learning firearms, and I have heard she is doing rather well."
Remedy stuck her tongue out at Kyle,
"Yeah careful there jaws and claws or I'll shoot your ass off." Kyle muffled a snort of derision,
Aurora grinned at the two, her dark eyes warm and dancing with laughter.
"Kyle, as a senior team member you should be more encouraging, especially since she is our best friend, hm?"
Emily's face went crimson, and Kyle gave the young healer a one-armed brotherly hug.
"Oh, you know we just love to bug the heck out of each other, honey, you know that." Kyle smile almost sheepishly as he spoke.
"last thing I' do is put down a ear friend, no matter HOW much of a pest she is sometimes." His grin faded,
"Especially since she'll be going for the rest of her treatments with Charles Xavier and Beast."
Emily leaned against the golden haired man's shoulder, pretty face sad and almost hidden in her chin length mahogany brown hair.
"It's been a whacky three months, hasn't it you two? With the team breaking up, and the government going all stupid... all our adventures together... especially clothes shopping with you Rora." she paused and gave a sad smile, wide brown eyes shining with unshed tears, "And water fights with Kyle in the middle of winter. We are a bunch of nuts, all of us. I'm really going to miss our fun times."
Aurora sat on the arm of the chair Emily sat in, and hugged the smaller woman briefly. Her lovely face was sad and pensive.
"I know that I sound like a hypocrite, ma cherie, but you are doing what might be best for you. You will get these wild powers under control. Already you have saved many lives almost at the expense of yours." Remedy tried to protest, but Aurora laid a finger over Em's lips.
"You are a brave girl Emily, and a good and dear friend to many of us, however brief you have been here. You have brought much laughter and joi de vie to this often troubled base."
Remedy hugged Aurora back, then grinned up her with tear-bright eyes.
"Oh c'mon, Rora, you make me soud like some superhero, like you guys are. But I'm not. I'm just an ordinary girl from the prairies who's happened to have more than her own share of horseshoes up her butt." Kyle snorted muffled laughter.
"Your prairie roots are showing from THAT statement, Em." "Oh get stuffed you kilted scottish nutbar! You know what I mean!" Emily protested, wiping her eyes.
"I've been very very lucky. You've all been kind to me, and patient. I've made more friends here in these last months than I ever have in my 20 years of life. You're all very special to me." "Both teams have had their hands full in the last while. I really appreciate the time that most of you have tried to put aside to help me, and train me, take me under your wings, especially through times of intense personal problems." Her eyes connected with Kyle's with a knowing look. He nodded and looked away. Aurora caressed his shoulder, then half hugged Emily with one arm. The warm silence between them seemed to speak of the many conversations they'd all had, the comfort they'd all taken in talking to each other.
Aurora turned to Remedy, giving Kyle time to think his own thoughts.
"You have been compassionate to many of us, cherie. And I, for one, appreciate it very much." her voice shook slightly.
"I am not good at goodbyes, Em." she added, standing. She walked a small distance away, then stopped, her back to Emily and Kyle.
"I... all of me, my personalities, will miss you, Remedy." she said softly, sadly, then walked away.
Emily wiped at the tears that trickled down her cheeks.
"I'll miss you too Jean-Marie, Aurora." Kyle turned to watch Aurora's retreating back with worried sea-green eyes. He looked at Remedy sadly.
"You're hoping she'll get better, I know Em, we all are. And I'll bet you wish you could heal her of that multiple state... but you can't save the world you know." "I know." she whispered. "I just want her to be well, and whole and happy." She smiled sadly at Kyle, "Maybe you can give her some happiness for a time, sweetheart." "I hope I can too, Em. I really do."
"I think you two kind of need each other in a way." Remedy added thoughtfully.
Kyle remained silent.
"You're trying to divert me from saying goodbye, Em. I know you are. Don't worry about us, just worry about yourself for once would you?" He sighed, expression lost in the shadows cast by his long hair.
"I..I'm going to miss you, Em. Email or no email, I'm going to miss or fun times..." he took her hand in his.
"..and our long talks. Those especially." "Me too." whispered Rem, brokenly, and wet on in a barely heard whisper.
"We have so much in common. I never really trusted guys, or people until I met you, Kyle. I mean people... period. Like my mom... she left me on the street in the middle of winter when I was little, the kids at school beat me up, made fun of my weight, and all those years of not fitting in, loneliness, being so shy, and feeling so, so..." "... Ugly," finished Kyle, his eyes focused on the past. "Unwanted, unworthy, despised... yeah I know Em. I felt much the same when my parents kicked me out. When I wandered the streets, was treated like a mad rabid animal... different in experience..." "But it left the same kind of scars." Emily replied, squeezing his hand.
"Yeah, I guess so." Kyle nodded. His gaze turned to hers for a moment.
"Still scared of your powers going out of control aren't you?" "Aren't we all, Kyle? You, Aurora, and me... we all struggle with that. It's something that scares us for good reason!" Remedy gave a shaking sigh.
Kyle nodded and added,
"Each of us scared that one day we'll "lose it" completely, that those powers will eat us all up from the inside out." He squeezed her hand back gently.
"yeah" she whispered.
Rem looked up from her reverie and met Kyle's eyes squarely.
"You're still thinking that you're reverting to the WildChild state, aren't you?" He winced, his lips tensed. She held up her free hand.
"No, no...don't answer me... I know...I...KNOW." "You can sense it, can't you Em?" his hand trembled in hers ever so slightly.
She was silent for a long uncomfortable moment before answering.
"I..I don't know Kyle, I've told you that before. I can only sense that something is changing inside of you... for good or bad, I can't say. You know that I can't control my powers or the senses that go with them... and that I'm ultra-sensitive to ferals, but I can still only tell very vague things about people's or animal's bodies.
She squeezed his hand again, tears in her eyes, teeth clenched in frustration.
"I wish I could DO more, for you, for EVERYONE! but I can't, I just...can't!" "Em, don't be hard on y-"
"No Kyle, no." She interupted... and then clenched his hand tighter, looking him in the eyes, her own blazing, intense. A small flicker of blue-violet trembled in their depths.
"I promice you this, Kyle Gibney. No matter where I am in this cruel awful mutant-hating world, no matter WHAT happens to your powers... I will be HERE for you! If it is humanly possible to be there for you, I will BE there. i will come to you, I will listen, I will NOT judge you, EVER! I care for you as I have never cared for another person save my aunt Vic. I'll be damned if I let what happened to Allie ever happen to YOU!" Tears fell on their clasped hands.
Kyle loosened her death-grip with extreme gentleness, but pulled her forward until her face was mere inches from his.
"It wasn't your fault, Em. She was a feral who... It MIGHT have been better that she died, Em, believe me! At least you TRIED to help her... and her death was NOT your fault! You were only 14 years old for heaven's sake!" he hissed.
"I was her friend... I .. I should have... I wish I could have...." she choked, tears steaming down her face. Kyle hugged her close as sobs wracked her body.
"I can't let that happen to you!" She wailed, muffled by his shoulder.
"If it happens there's nothing you CAN do, Em." he whispered. Her sobs quieted for a moment and she pulled away. He took her hands again.
She hitched a tormented breath, and shook her head, then met his gaze miserably.
"I guess, I guess I really DO need Professor Xavier's help, Kyle... It's all such a jumble. Allie, the kids at the party... and I worry about you, I really do!" Kyle nodded, eyes hooded but intense.
"You've got to get better, got to learn to let the past go... YOU'RE the fricken healer, Em. Use some of those wild powers of yours to heal yourself! You can't save the whole bloody world! No matter how hard you push yourself, you can only make it better for you for now. Maybe later with training and practice you WILL help ferals like me... I know you want to specialize in it, and that's GOOD. But Em, you have to take care of yourself first. You've got to be there for yourself.. believe me, I'm learnin this the hard way. You deserve better than you've gotten, and so do I... but we can't change the past... we can only try for the future!" He hugged her again fiercely, then let her go, his hands gently holding her upper arms.
A muted roar outside the base signaled the arrival of the BlackBird.
Emily raised her face to Kyle's. Her brown eyes were vulnerable but determined. She cupped his face in her warm strong hands. Between them a faint blue-violet spark flared, then disappeared.
"It's hard for me to hear, Kyle... but I know what you say might be true, and I hope it's true... that hope, however fragile...Thank you for sharing your strength and courage with me, ...your dreams. I pray that it's possible to live our lives like you say. I hope it for both our sakes..."
She smiled gently, and kissed him chastely on the lips.
The clouds streamed by, painted by the rosy early morning colors of the rising sun. Emily stared numbly out of the small window, seeing in the clouds and in her memories, the faces of the people she was leaving behind.
She tasted again the gentle kiss she had shared with Kyle, and wished with all her heart that she'd had the courage to tell him how she really felt. She regretted her cowardice, but knew that there would perhaps be other young men: handsome or not, kindly or not. But in her heart she would alsys hold that image of a soul-torn man with a hurting child within, much like her own wounded inner child. He had shown her real courage, and a certain strength in vulnerability, and an all too fragile hope.
And not just Kyle, his friendship, her unrequited love for him and all- but all the other people on the teams that had opened their hearts and lives to her. Her compatriots, and friends. Because of the care, respect, honest affection and trust they had given her, she could learn to give to herself - in time. She would heal her mind, her heart, and her soul if fate continued to be kind to one more member of mutant-kind.
How ironic, she thought, as the day brightened around her, light shining into her eyes. It has taken a group of misfit parahumans to teach me what it is to be a whole and all too human being.