X-Men #8: Most Popular Mutant
*Xavier Institute: Danger Room; 3 months since Scott's enrollment*
"You are doing well, Scott. Here comes another wave", Scott heard the Professor say over the loud speaker. "Whenever you are ready, Jean."
Xavier watched as the two teens stared each other down, competition thick in the air. Behind Jean, table stacked with clay pigeons as the targets. Scott had to be on guard because unlike machines used for skeet competitions, Jean's telekinesis could throw multiples at varying speeds instantaneously. Back when he first done this with a launcher, he was a pretty bad shot, yet Xavier was not a trainer who took it easy on his trainees. No, once Scott had shown improvement, he called Jean in to up the difficulty.
Now, he was capable of shooting four clay pigeons in succession before they could make it out of his sight. That was the easy part, where Jean would choose to just throw them at any speed in his sights. No, the difficulty came when she threw them up in the air as another sailed closer to the ground. She would throw them at him at times, per Xavier's instructions of course, since at first she was reluctant about it. Scott figured perhaps goading her as they do this would get her to instinctively make his job harder. Boy, did it work. When you got the fiery red-head going, she was relentless. At one point, she thought it was a good idea to throw a good ten at him after distracting him with one. She got a firm talking to from the Professor about it, yet the tone in his voice told that of amusement over actual crossness.
"Impressive. He has improved a lot since then."
Xavier turned to find Emma watching from behind, mostly on Scott. Yes, the three have kind of formed a bond of sorts, with Scott always tagging along with Jean whenever she were to go somewhere outside the mansion, which was usually with Emma and Moira. Being the only guy, it was incredibly awkward to be the odd one out as they went shopping to carry all their stuff, though some of the girls who'd pass would eye him appreciatively. He wasn't all too thrilled, but he knew it was something he did to himself, for someone else. Needless to say, he got more comfortable around Emma through spending time with her and she begun to see the person behind the mask. A timid boy, yes, but a capable one when he knew what he wanted and what he was doing. So, Emma would test his limits in public and in the classroom. When Cerebro asked a question, she would say Scott knew and he would mostly always get the answer correct when she did. Emma explained to Charles that he needed to trust more than simply other people, a conclusion Xavier had come to himself, yet he did not see such perceptiveness from Emma. Granted, a telepath could see a lot, but perceptiveness for people like them came more from the solutions they had to conflicts that arose.
"Yes. You all have, young lady. It brings me great pride to see you all flourish in the environment that I created for you all. It lets me know that I am on the right path. I still am learning from you all, too, which helped me in adapting to help you all. A teacher does need to be consistent, but there are areas of flexibility that could be applied"
"But the one-piece suits are non-negotiable?", Emma asked as she eyed the suits both Jean and Scott wore.
"Yes, Emma. They are non-negotiable. They are an extra layer of protection in the dangerous environment that is the Danger Room", Xavier explains.
"I am just saying, I could get in contact with some people who owe me some favors that could fix that", Emma said gesturing in Scott and Jean's direction.
"Emma", Xavier said in a warning tone. Emma held her hands up in surrender and they returned their attention to Scott shooting every target Jean threw.
"Emma, I would like to speak with all of you up in the sitting room, if you don't mind", Xavier said suddenly. "Scott, Jean. Time's up. You both performed marvelously. Come on up. We have something to discuss."
*In the sitting room on the ground floor*
"Why have you called us here, Professor?", Scott asked once they were all situated.
"Well, Scott. I had gotten a call from Dr. Grey at the Bard College about a rumor of a possible mutant enrolled at the campus", Xavier explained.
"What did dad say about this mutant?", Jean asked.
"Well, Jean, he explained that it was hard to determine considering these were only rumors and he has not confirmed for himself. With that in mind, it should be noted this mutant, named Henry Phillip McCoy, is a teenage student around your age who is running on par with not your average college football wide-receiver, but he runs faster than your average college student track team athlete. He is a football player who was not sighted training on the campus and he exceeds not only the qualifications of your average high school athlete his age, but he is keeping pace with these college athletes", Xavier says thoughtfully.
"It could just simply be a case of misunderstanding. Perhaps he does night training or trains elsewhere", Emma suggests.
"Perhaps. That is where you come in. Dr. Grey has agreed to get you all on this list to tour the campus, but your jobs will be to actually solve this mystery", Xavier explains.
"You're not coming with us, Professor", Scott asks.
"Afraid not, Scott. I have a prior engagement and will be going out of town for a couple of days. I trust that you all will exercise the qualities the school had instilled in you all. Keep an eye on each other and stay safe. I scheduled you all a ride tomorrow to the campus and Moira will be taking care of things here while we are all away", Xavier explained.
"One thing, Charles", Moira said walking into the room. "Before ye all go off packing, I must remind the children that all you're assignments due previously will be extended to the day after you all return. And Charles, I am afraid this will be the one time ye have to call in a cleaning company ya trust. Perhaps from friend or somethin'. The thing is, Muir Island called. I am needed for important business, so I will be off for the rest of this month."
"Is that so? Well, then, I wish you safe travels", Xavier said.
"You're leaving?", Jean asked.
"Only for a small while, dear. I plan on coming back to meet this boy. Hopefully sooner than estimated if things aren't as bad as they appear", Moira said.
"If you have need of anything Moira, please reach out", Xavier said seriously, knowing the kind of person Moira was.
"I will, Charles. But really, it is probably nothin' to worry about", Moira said waving off the thought.
*Bard College Campus*
"Okay, all you beautiful young people! Welcome to the prestigious Bard College! I bet you're all excited to plan for the next stage in your lives, am I right?!", their tour guide had said to the group, who awkwardly stayed silent throughout the tour.
"Be sure to thank your father for getting us on the list with Peppy Patterson here, Jean", Emma communicated telepathically to her three classmates.
"Hey! My dad has more important things to do than oversee how someone else presents themselves. Besides, they are really trying here on top of whatever work college piles on them. Give them a break already!", Jean thought to Emma.
"That's enough you two. We gotta stay focused. The professor said that are job will be to gather info on where this Henry kid is and whether he wants to join the school", Scott rebuked in his head.
"Oh yes! Just what every college student would like! To uproot their lives because a bunch of misfit students of a newly formed school asked pretty, please with sugar lumps on top to come join their school", Emma snarkly replied.
"Hey, no one asked you to come along, Emma. You could have easily stayed home and looked after the Institute, while Scott and I would find Henry ourselves. I am sure we could have managed", Jean snapped.
"I could, but seeing how we are still in this tour group and not out looking at the places where Henry would be hanging around, I am sure you are both correct", Emma said.
"Oh yeah, and you are quite the detective yourself, following us like with everyone else", Jean said.
"Oh for the love of-"
"Okay all, thank you for stopping by. Now you all can look around for yourselves this campus. If you all have questions, please come find me. My phone number is....", the student listed off all the ways the group could contact them in a quicker manner than necessary. Despite the apparent change in plan, almost none of the group moved a muscle, confused about what was going on.
"What the?", Scott exclaimed wondering what caused the change in tune from just excited to overly energetic.
"Emma!", Jean whispered dignantly to a smug looking Emma.
"What? You made a valid point. We were all wasting time, so I rectified the situation", Emma explained with no hint of remorse.
"You could get them in trouble!"
"I saw in their head. They didn't want to be here anymore than we did", Emma said as she was looking at her nails.
"That isn't the point! Ugh! Scott, go with Emma to look for Henry. I gotta undo the damage Emma just did right now. I will catch up with you after", Jean said before returning to the group to fix the students mind.
"Alright, Emma. I know you don't exactly take kindly to being ordered-", Scott started, except Emma interrupts him.
"Oh contraire, dear. Sometimes a girl could use a firm hand, but those are under very consensual circumstances and are to be used for special moments and circumstances. This is not one of those circumstances", Emma said as she kept her quick pace. "We needed to get a move on and we could not do that, stuck in that group with that living embodiment of rainbows and sunshine."
Scott did not know how to respond to that. Emma was overreacting clearly, but Scott was not looking to start another argument. Perhaps when they got to a more relaxed state, they could discuss Emma's nee to cooperate with the others. Right now, they had a mutant to meet with. Emma stopped by a tree and began to survey the area. How she was able to walk so easily in the grass in heels, Scott couldn't figure out. Why Emma would bother is another mystery.
"This way", Emma said suddenly as she started in another direction. It was then that they suddenly saw a game taking place on a football field, with a lone football player performing a level above the rest as multiple players could not either catch or tackle him down.
"Is that McCoy?", Scott asked.
"Indeed, it is. I can see why the rumors were starting to gain traction", Emma noted. "And it seems he is showing off a little more than usual."
"How could you know that?"
Emma didn't give answer, but an "Are you kidding me" look that said it all.
"Oh. Right. So, is he?"
"The rumors pan out, but they tell only part of the story", Emma remarks.
"What do you mean?", Scott ask curiously.
"His mind....its so hard to follow at times. It is running at a quicker rate than your average person, calculating multiple variables on the field to determine the best outcome to score a-"
"TOUCHDOWN! RAPTORS WIN!!!"
The crowd roars its applause for the team as they all celebrated their win. They'd won state championships, defeating the undefeated team for seven years running. McCoy soaked in the glory and looked to the girl he had been looking to impress. The girl who finally found time in her schedule to see a game. Maybe this would be the day she'd agree to go out on a date.
"Come on, Scott", Emma said suddenly as she headed somewhere else.
"What? Emma we-"
"Can ask him later on. Let him have his moment of glory", Emma said before turning back to continue her path back. It was then that Scott Summers began to wonder about the enigma that was Emma.....
*at a cafe nearby; around 5:00 pm*
"Okay, so this is the plan. We head over tomorrow, during Henry's lunch. That is when we will discuss with him about the opportunity Charles planned", Emma explained to Scott and Jean.
"I still can't see why we couldn't have asked McCoy at the game", Scott said, looking to get a straight answer from Emma.
"Didn't seem like the right time. I am sure you would not have wanted to take on all those sweaty player forming a wall to get past in their collective 'bro hug' moment", Emma said with quotation gestures with her fingers.
"Typical, Emma", Jean said under her breath.
"Yes, I am sure you and your telekinesis would have been so much help as you tossed players around as easily an Angry Bird", Emma said in response.
"Emma is right about one thing", Scott intervened, hoping to diffuse tensions. "There is always tomorrow. Let's sleep it off and we will try again."
As the three walked in unison, Emma reflected on the joy McCoy felt, having all his loved ones there to support his accomplishments. Reading his parents thoughts, she saw how much they adored him and the planned party they kept in surprise for him. A moment like that, with parents like them, it would have been something Emma herself treasured if she ever had that kind of moment. That wasn't all that was wrong with approaching them. Emma saw into the parents heads their fear of mutants and how Henry made sure to keep his secret as best he could. Ergo the comment Emma made of him showing off more than usual. He had to prove he was good, worthy of his scholarship, but tailor his abilities enough. He did so try his hardest and all of it could have crumbled with a simple question. No, Henry wasn't leaving this life behind and Emma wouldn't put him in a situation that would risk that.
They were about to enter the Uber when Emma suddenly felt a shot of pain, terror, and anger....not from her but from-
"Henry! He is in trouble!", Emma shouted.
She didn't give them anytime to process as she took over the mind of the driver to gun it to the factory where Henry's dad worked. Filling in the details of what happened to Jean and Scott in their heads, they made it a point to keep together as Jean screened their presence, while Emma monitored Henry. It was then that Emma stopped in front of a window on the second story and gestured the two to wait. Out of nowhere, Henry breaks through the window to get away. Emma tells Jean to not wipe the guards mind completely, but make the description of Henry fuzzy in the guards head.
"Henry, stop!, Emma commanded in his head. Henry obeyed, confused as to what he just heard in his head suddenly.
"Henry, do not be afraid. We mean you know harm", Scott says with hands up in a show of being non-threatening.
"Who are you people? Nevermind, I don't have time for this! My parents-"
"We know, Henry", Jean said. "We are here to help you."
"How can you help? We don't know each other or-"
It was then that Emma interrupted Henry mentally.
"Henry, I am Emma Frost. I am talking to you telepathically and am telling you to trust us. We can and will help you get your parents back, safely", Emma said with full confidence.
"Why would you help me?", Henry asked feebly.
"Because you had a good life going with so much potential. You don't deserve for someone else's selfishness be the reason it all goes to hell", Emma said, looking away as she said so.
*At a not-so abandoned warehouse*
"Be cautious", Henry warned. "They have some kind of power dampeners, so our powers will be lesser than they would at peak performance."
"How did they get their hands on that kind of technology? Who could be researching tech to use against mutants?", Scott asked aloud.
"Does it matter? They have it and we will gain the information once they are subdued and Henry's parents are released", Emma said.
"Just call me 'Hank'", he chimes in suddenly.
"Hank?", Jean asks, looking to Henry.
"Its a nickname I preferred over Henry", Hank said.
"It suits you, Hank", Jean says with a friendly smile.
"Y-yeah, thanks", Hank said with a blush forming at his cheeks.
Hmm, Emma amusedly thought to herself. It seems things didn't work out for him and that other red-headed girl. Rebound? Who knows? It looks like Jean's goody-goody nature might just be dear Henry's type. To be fair, that is most boys type with girls like me being the other end of the spectrum. But is Henry her type? Does it matter? Nah, but it was fun to speculate.
"The police are already called, so all that's left is for us to infiltrate the place" Emma explained.
"Okay, so here is the plan. Hank, your job will be to follow what they wanted you to do initially. We don't want your parents being put at risk for any reason", Scott explains to Hank before turning to the girls. "Jean, you will be with me to cover my back. They may have power dampeners, but how much of our power is cut off is an unknown variable I want to take a chance on."
"Aye, aye, captain", Jean joked with a salute.
"Emma, you will be out here to monitor our progress as well as to make sure the authorities don't see us. If you can, possibly make sure not one of those bozo's get away. No one deviate from the plan. Lives are at stake. Okay, people, lets move!", Scott said.
As planned, Henry took the prototype tech to his parents kidnapper, a crazed maniac called El Conquistador. According to Hank, he wielded some kind of sword that charged and shot a concentrated bolt of electricity powerful enough to incapacitate him. Despite the medieval ensemble that the men armored themselves in, they all wielded handguns, which Scott thought wasn't the best weapons to use with their helmets that obscured their vision. Not that Scott was complaining about it. With Jean's telekinesis, she formed a shield around Scott and herself to block any incoming bullets that were more accurate than Scott could have predicted. Even with the dampeners active, Scott took special care to measure the intensity of each shot. Scott was not looking to have any blood on his hands. Even with their small number, Jean and Scott's training prevailed as Scott hit every man that raised their weapon at him and Jean threw men one after the other as she took their guns from their hands.
When word came to El Conquistador that they were being overrun by teens, Hank sprung into action. Using the poles as leverage, he jumped up and over the men's heads one after the other. None of them could get a good shot. From a flip off the pole to jumping off another guy to tackle another, Hank made quick work of the scum, leaving El Conquistador the last one standing. With a mighty leap, Hank made the first strike.
Punches and sword swings were trades as both men went at each other. Conquistador tried to gain distance to subdue Hank with a zap out from his sword, but Hank wouldn't let up. Hank used is incredible agility to outpace the armored mad man. Too much was at stake for Hank to hold back at this point. With so much to lose, Hank threw the Conquistador into wall and held him in place by the neck. Taking the helmet off, Hank claimed his victory with a final punch to the face. He then ran to his parents and untied them. But when he opened his arms to get a big hug, he found none came. On his parents face were not a look of appreciation and pride, but of fear.
"Ma? Dad? What's going on?"
"Henry", his father said in trembling voice. "What did we just see? How did you do all that? Son, what are you?"
His mother didn't even look at him. He was a mutant. A filthy mutant. What would everyone say?
"What am I?", Hank chuckled nervously. "Dad, I am your son. I have not changed. I saved you! You're safe now."
"No. Look, we appreciate what you have done, Henry, but we-"
Just before Mr. McCoy could finish his sentence, he suddenly froze mid sentence, as did his wife stop crying. As Henry was questioning to himself different hypothesis that explain this, Jean and Scott caught up to him.
"Wow, nice work", Scott gave as he surveyed the room full of unconscious men. Jean though could feel the mixture of negative emotions from Hank and approached with a hand to his shoulder. Then she turned confused after finally seeing his parents seemingly frozen in motion.
"Emma? Were you responsible for-"
"Yes. I put them telepathically in a frozen state to offer you a choice. Henry, I can wipe their memory of this entire confrontation. They will remember that they were saved, but not by you. They won't remember that you are a mutant and you can go on living your life as it once was", Emma's voice rang in his head. Hank thought about it, about how he could have his secret safe. Who would believe the madman and his flunkies?....But did Hank really want that? Even before his mutant powers manifested, he had very large hands and feet as a child, which his parents would tell him not to draw attention to. He would always see their looks of caution, being sure that Hank wouldn't slip up and wave his hands wildly or do anything a normal kid would do when playing. When Hank learned of the word mutant, he knew that this was something he had to hide. A slightly abnormality from a birth defected kid they could handle, but a mutant? God forbid!
"No, Emma. Let them keep their memory", Hank said as turned to walk out of the room sadly.
"Are you sure, Henry?"
"I am sure. Let them live in their perfect world where everything is normal. They lost their son this day and it is their loss, not mine", Hank said with fake confidence.
"Yes. It is, Henry. You are a wonderful individual, perfect as you are now. Now, hurry out, all of you! I can't telepathically suggest these police for too long without them asking questions", Emma said. Doing as she said, the three mutants left out the back way that Scott and Jean had entered through. No police had found evidence the three were there.....
*the next day*
Hank should have seen it coming. He should have known that he got off too easily.
"I am afraid so, Mr. McCoy", said the chancellor. "They have footage from surveillance camera's showing that it was clearly you that broke into the facility. You are lucky they dropped charges because the device was returned mysteriously to their front door. But our college cannot have that kind of publicity associated with us, so it pains me to say that we have revoked your scholarship."
"You can't!", Hank said. Taking a deep breath, Hank decided enough was enough. "You know what? Fine! Thank you for this opportunity, I will be sure to take my leave with no further protest!"
Walking out of the office, Hank took the time to calm himself before taking out his phone and dialing the number given to him last night.
"Hey! Emma! Listen, is that offer for the school still available?"