Enter the Darkness


Enter the Darkness
By Morpheus

A teenage boy wakes up in the middle of the night to discover that his mutant powers have manifested and left him drastically changed. Fortunately there is help in the form of a mysterious stranger and a school for mutants. This story is a pseudo X Men fan fiction that is the follow up/sequel to my X Men fan-fiction The Ice Queen Cometh.

Part 1 of 7
By Morpheus

I clenched my eyes shut, groaning as I rubbed at my temples, praying to a God that I didn't really believe in for my headache to go away. The migraines had been coming a lot lately and this one was worse than any of the ones that I'd ever felt before. It felt as though my very head was going to split open.

"Why me?" I groaned out, knowing that I should go and grab some Excedrin but not wanting to have to face my mom or deal with her worries about my headaches again. She was something of a hypochondriac and was already half convinced that I had a massive brain tumor. The last thing that I wanted to do was to give her another reason to baby me.

Then just a minute later, as fast as my headache had hit me, it vanished. Or the symptoms changed as at that very moment, I suddenly felt a cold chill run all over my skin. It was as though I had goose bumps covering my entire body, which was a rather weird feeling.

"Oh man," I groaned, feeling kind of weirded out by the whole cold clammy goose bump thing, but thinking that at least it was better than the headache.

After a couple more minutes, I went to the bathroom to relieve myself, then got some cold water running and splashed it over my face. Unfortunately, it didn't really help with that weird feeling all over my skin.

As I looked up into the mirror, I was met with an almost painfully average looking face. It was the face of a skinny 15 year old boy with short hair. It was my face, the face of Nestor Randall. God how I hated that name, the source of a good amount of teasing. Unfortunately, my dad had a fondness for odd names.

"Marius," I said the name that my dad had given to our cat, then my brother's name, "Percival..." At least I hadn't been stuck with the nickname of Percy, though being called Nessie wasn't really any better.

Suddenly, it hit me again... The whole goose bump sensation grew even stronger, much stronger... And then there was the dizziness... I glanced down at my arm and let out a deep gasp. My skin... It looked almost gray... Then the dizziness hit me and caused me to close my eyes in order to catch my balance. And when I opened them up again, my arm was back to normal.

"Now I'm seeing things," I groaned, thinking that maybe it was about time to listen to my mom and let her take me to a doctor for a thorough examination. She would have done so some time earlier if my dad hadn't thought it was a waste of money.

Then as I left the bathroom, still feeling a bit shaken up but a lot better than I had been, I heard my mom call out, "Time to get ready for bed..."

"Just a couple minutes," I called back, thinking that I wanted to take one more look over my homework before I went to bed.

However, my dad's loud voice almost immediately responded, "You'll get ready NOW..."

I groaned at that but didn't dare argue. My dad wasn't exactly an understanding person when it came to anyone questioning his orders. Sometimes I thought that I still had bruises on my backside from when I'd done that as a kid.

Just as I was walking back to my room, I nearly walked right into my brother Percy. He was a year and a half older than me, and my dad's pride and joy. He was everything I wasn't...tall and athletic, as well as a good student. Me...I was just average.

"Watch it," Percy told me, giving me clear warning not to bump into him. After all, I was the one who was expected to get out of his way, even though I'd been walking down the hall first.

Once I was in my room, I closed the door and let out a long sigh. Then I glanced around nervously, feeling just a little embarrassed as I reached into my dresser and pulled out my night light, which I quickly proceeded to plug in. I never went to bed without it...a fact which Percy just loved to tease me about mercilessly. And my dad was even worse. I had long since resorted to hiding it so that they would think I no longer used it.

It wasn't that I was afraid of the dark... Not really... It was just that...I didn't like the dark. I didn't like it when I couldn't see things around me. I couldn't help but wonder what was out there...what could jump out at me. I know that it was pretty silly and embarrassing for someone of my age to be afraid of the dark...to need a night light in order sleep at night, but I couldn't help it.

A moment later, I just shrugged it off, as I did every night, stripped down to my underwear, turned off my main light, gave a quick glance to my night light and then hopped into bed. It was the end of another day, and hopefully the beginning of a great night of dreams.

I had no idea how long I had been lost in the arms of slumber, of how long I had been asleep or even any conscious awareness that I was asleep. But somehow, strange sensations began to seep into my mind and filtered through to my dreams, providing increasingly weird and powerful imagery.

Suddenly I bolted upright, finally driven wide awake by the dreams. I was breathing hard and my heart was racing... I could feel a layer of cold sweat over my skin, and then oh so much more. In an instant, I realized that my entire body felt VERY wrong... And then there was a strange coldness that seemed to flicker through and around my body... I couldn't explain it...only feel it.

And then I realized that my night light was out... My room was dark... Darker than dark. It was the deepest, darkest pitch black imaginable. Then in a near panic, I jumped out of my bed and hit my night stand, knocking it and everything on it over with a loud crash.

Then, I was startled to suddenly realize that I could see again... It was still pitch black, but I could see in my room...sort of. Everything looked sort of black and white like an old TV show, but with an eerie silvery sheen.

"What the hell?" I gasped out, realizing almost immediately that my voice sounded wrong. It sounded just as wrong as my whole body, as my entire being felt.

I gasped and frantically grabbed for the light switch... And as soon as I flipped it, I was suddenly blinded by the bright light which nearly burned at my retinas. I immediately scrambled backwards, smacking into my dresser and knocking it back against the wall with a thud, just before several bits of my clutter fell to the ground.

As I opened my eyes, the light in my room was still brighter than normal, but nowhere near as blinding as it had been a moment before. At the same time, things were no longer in that strange black and white that I had been seeing in, but back to their normal colors.

And then, I noticed a swirl of the darkest shadow, floating in midair just a short distance to my side. But even as I saw that spot of intense darkness, it was already fading away like a wisp of smoke until there was no trace that it had been there.

"Holy shit," I blurted out in terror.

Just then, I caught sight of the mirror that covered of the sliding door for my closet and let out a gasp of even more terror. I immediately stepped back from the monster that was in front of me, not even remembering that it was just a mirror until a moment later. And as soon as I remembered that, I froze, my heart jumping up into my throat.

The image in the mirror was unlike anything that I had ever seen. It was a girl who looked to be about my own age, standing there in nothing but her...my white underwear. Her skin...her entire body was a medium shade of gray. The hair which went down to her shoulder blades, her lips and even her fingernails which were long and pointed, looking almost like claws, were all the same shade of dark charcoal gray. And the eyes... Her inhuman eyes were solid black, like twin pools of ink.

"No...," I squeaked out, my voice barely whisper.

My eyes continued to take in details of the strange creature in the mirror, and I seemed unable to turn away. I noticed that her skin wasn't entirely that uniform medium gray... There were several stripes... She had stripes, one on each shoulder, as well as two on each side along her rib cage and waist... And each of those was the same charcoal gray as her hair.

Then I finally connected the strange way that my body felt with the creature in the mirror... And with a horrified, sinking feeling, I took one look down at myself and let out a long ear piercing scream...

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THERE?" My dad's voice screamed from the hallway just before my bedroom door was thrown open.

"I...I...," I stammered in terror and confusion as my dad stepped into my room with Percy standing right behind him.

Dad and Percy both froze as they saw me, their eyes going wide. They both looked confused, then horrified and finally furious.

"A mutie...," my dad finally gasped out in shock. Then he blurted out, "What the fuck...?"

Then Percy exclaimed, "Where's Nestor...?"

He and my dad both did a quick glance on the room then they both stared at me. My dad furiously demanded, "Where's my son you fucking freak?"

"What...?" I gasped in shock. I was already scared and confused by what was going on, and the way that my dad was treating me only made it worse. He didn't even recognize me.. "But I'm..."

"The stinking mutie ate him," Percy screamed out, then charged me.

I could only stand there in stunned disbelief as my own brother rushed at me and then slammed into me, sending me flying back onto my own bed. I barely even noticed my dad rushing out of the room as Percy came at me again, grabbing my arm in a painful grip and reaching for my throat with his other hand.

"What did you do with my brother you freak?" Percy screamed at me.

All that I could do was gurgle, unable to even breathe with the way that Percy was choking me. I was shocked and horrified by the look in his eyes... He meant to kill me...

Suddenly my dad yelled, "Get away from that monster..."

My eyes quickly darted past Percy to my dad, silently pleading for help. But as I saw my dad, my heart skipped... He was holding a gun, and pointing it straight at me. His intention was more than obvious.

"Get away from that thing," my dad yelled to Percy, "She might use her mutie powers on you..."

Then before Percy even had a chance to get out of the way, my dad fired a shot. I wasn't sure if he was really trying to hit me while avoiding Percy or if he was just firing a warning shot. But from the look on his face I suspected that it might be the former.

"Please...," I cried out as Percy stepped back, though my dad fired another shot, coming even closer to me. "NO!!!!"

My heart was racing as I stared at dad in horror. I was terrified, more terrified than I had ever been before in my life. More than I had ever even imagined that I could be. And mixed with that was the horrible sense of betrayal as my own dad and brother seemed determined to kill me.

Then without warning, the darkness erupted around me... The deepest, darkest shadows that I could imagine flowed outward and away from me. It was the same absolute darkness which I had awoken to, and somehow....somehow it was coming from ME.

But as I came aware of that fact, Percy exclaimed, "I can't see...," my dad fired another shot and I fell into the darkness...

The intense darkness had completely enveloped me and I was somehow falling through it... Somehow, I was not only surrounded by darkness, but only by the darkness. It was as though the entire world consisted of nothing BUT the darkness...

When the darkness faded away a minute later, I was laying on the cold hard ground. I nervously sat up, noticing that it was extremely dark without even a little light, yet it was a more normal darkness than that strange intense darkness which I had just gone through. And then, I realized that even though there was no light, I could see...though only in the strange black and white way that I had earlier.

"What...?" I squeaked out, immediately seeing that I wasn't at home anymore. And I was alone, without there being any sign of my dad or brother nearby. That was a fact for which I was infinitely grateful considering that they were both trying to kill me. Then I looked around and gasped as I recognized my surroundings. "I'm at school..."

However, I wasn't just at school. I was smack dab in the middle of the boy's locker room. I stood up and stared at the rows of lockers and benches around me in confusion. How had I ended up there?

"What's happening to me?" I cried out in fear.

Then I suddenly remembered what my dad had called me... He had said I was a mutie... Was that what I was? A mutant? That thought was just as terrifying as everything that had been happening to me. Everyone always knew that mutants were monsters...

I don't think that I'd ever met a mutant though. Not unless I counted Suzie Breckman, a girl at school who disappeared the year before. The rumor around school was that she was really a mutie and had run away when her powers showed up.

"A mutant..." I whispered in horror, then gulped. "I can't be..."

The word 'mutant' brought forth a number of unpleasant thoughts. I remembered all the stories and rumors I'd heard about them trying to take over the world and turn humans into their slaves. And then there was that Magneto guy who kept trying to take over the world...

"No," I whispered, "I can't be..."

I grimaced, trying not to think of the 'M' word anymore. Instead, I tried thinking things through, though it wasn't easy as I was horribly scared and confused. Nothing made any sense to me at the moment...

After a moment, I hurried to turn on the locker room lights, being blinded once again as the incredibly bright lights came on overhead. It took a moment, but as I looked around, I saw that my vision had shifted back to normal again. However, everything seemed a bit brighter than normal, just like in my room. It was as if my eyes were more sensitive to the light...

Now that there was light to see with, or at least to see in color with, I held my hands up for a closer look and gasped at the sight. Those weren't my hands. They were feminine looking, with nails that went into a bit of a point, making them look almost like claws. And of course, there was the fact that the skin was gray and the nails were a dark charcoal gray...

Then I looked down at myself and cringed at the sight. I had breasts...and gray skin...and weird stripes...and who knew what else. I had been turned into a girl. And worse, I had been turned into some sort of freak girl.

Though I hated the thought, I couldn't resist running to the locker room mirrors to look at myself, to gasp at the strange looking gray girl that I had seen in my mirror at home. I was horrified at the sight yet unable to tear my eyes away. It was like a car crash... It was horrible but you couldn't help but look anyway.

As I stared into the mirror, I was faced with the same creature...the same girl that I had seen in own mirror just a short time before. I took in all the same details, seeing them in more detail, though this time also noticed that she had pointed ears...like some kind of elf or Vulcan.

A small part of my mind noticed that if it wasn't for her strange coloring, the girl would probably have been considered quite pretty. She had a nice body and what appeared to be about B cup breasts, though I was no expert. However, there was no getting past the gray skin or odd coloring. Especially the eyes... The strange, solid black eyes...

"No," I cried out, tears running down my cheek, "this can't be..."

With that, I ran to the shower area and turned the water on. I stood there and scrubbed at my skin, trying to wash away the gray color... Trying to wash away the freakiness... But it did no good at all, and the harder I scrubbed with no effects, the harder I cried.

I must have tried washing myself off for a good half hour before I finally collapsed to the floor of the shower stall and just sat there crying as the water washed over me. I sat there for quite some time, perhaps as much as an hour before I finally found the will power to turn off the water and leave.

I was almost numb with shock as I made my way out of the shower.. Then as I sat down on one of the benches, I finally realized that I was soaking wet and the only clothes that I had were a pair of underwear...which I happened to have been wearing while taking my shower. The only thing that I'd had with me when I somehow left my house was soaked through and useless.

After several minutes, I finally gathered the courage to remove my underwear. But by this point, I was so out of it that I was almost mechanical while taking them off. I silently looked between my legs, feeling only a sinking weight as I saw what was obviously girl equipment rather than my normal boy stuff.

"I'm a girl," I whispered to myself after another few minutes. "I'm a freak..." I wasn't sure which was worse.

Eventually, it dawned on me that I was completely naked and had absolutely nothing to wear other than a pair of soaking wet underwear. I didn't have enough emotion left to do more than sigh at that. And with a tired groan, I knew what I was going to have to do.

I slowly made my way into the girl's locker room, knowing that as much as I hated it, my normal boy clothes might not exactly fit my changed body. I silently went from locker to locker, searching for anything that I could wear and hoping that it would be enough.

By the time that I had finished going through the entire locker room, I had found several jackpots. There were several lockers that girls had left their clothes in and had neglected to properly lock. I had even managed to pry the cheap lock off of one of the lockers which did have one. This provided me not only a couple towels to dry off with, but all the clothes that I would need for the moment.

Before long, I was mostly dry except for my still damp hair, and then I went about getting dressed. I was still in shock over my situation, which was perhaps a good thing as I was able to go through the motions of getting dressed without freaking out over the fact that I was putting on girl clothes, or the reason for that fact. And soon I was wearing a pair of loose fitting pants, a shirt and even a pair of gym shoes which I'd found.

With my mission accomplished I left the locker rooms without a word and silently walked down the halls of my school, not sure where I was going or what I was going do. That was not just my immediate problem either but my larger one as well.

I didn't bother turning on any lights as I walked through my dark school since my eyes had shifted back to that weird, silvery black and white vision. I was beginning to realize that my vision seemed to do that whenever I was in the dark, which I suspected might be a good thing since I sure as hell didn't want to walk around where people could see me looking like I currently did.

When I came to the vending machines in the school hallway, I used a bit of change which I had found while searching the locker rooms to buy me a bag of chips and a soda. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money to buy anything more than that. All of my own money had been left back in my bedroom, along with all of my clothes...and my dad with his gun.

Eventually I found a classroom which was unlocked and went inside, sitting down in the teacher's chair since it was the most comfortable and could even lean back. However, comfort wasn't exactly my most pressing issue, a fact of which I was extremely aware.

I looked down at myself, at my changed body, seeing it quite clearly even in the darkness. I gulped at that, remembering what I'd heard about muties and their weird powers. And as much as I hated the thought, it seemed as though I might actually be a mutie... A mutant.

"I can see in the dark," I told myself quietly, wondering if that counted as some sort of weird mutie power. Of course, that was nothing compared to what some muties could do. I'd heard that some could sneak into your thoughts and read your mind or even make you do things that you don't want to. And then there were ones who could blow things up and kill people. I'd seen some doing that kind of stuff on the news before and my dad had once said that all muties would do that if they could.

After a few minutes, I remembered that weird darkness which I had woken up in. It was the same darkness which had somehow saved me from Percy and my dad. Had I done that? A part of me was sure that I had. Was that my mutie power? I shuddered at the thought since I had never liked being in the dark before. A part of me realized that it was kind of ironic since I was sitting in the dark at the moment and had even been walking around the school in the dark without any problem at all.

"I did that," I whispered, scared at the thought.

And with that, I tried to see if I could make the darkness come again... I didn't want to. I didn't want to be able to call the darkness or have some sort of freak powers. But at the same time, I had to know.

Since I didn't really know what I was doing, I couldn't know if I was doing it right. But after a few seconds, some of that darkness began to form around me. It was just a few wisps, barely there at all, but there was enough for me to feel it. And once I did, I gasped in surprise and it faded away again.

For a moment, I was frozen in fear, and then I began to shake. It wasn't normal... I wasn't normal. I was a freak. A mutie. I had lost everything, even my face, my sex and my very humanity. There was no doubt in my mind that my life was completely and truly over. And I couldn't help thinking that maybe I should just do the right thing and end it now.

However, I made no move to kill myself right then, even though I knew that muties were monsters and that I should kill myself to avoid the horrors and shame. Instead, I just cried, then curled up and sobbed uncontrollably until I eventually fell asleep.

I had no idea how much later it was when I woke up, only that I could hear a lot of voices outside of the classroom. My heart jumped as I realized that I had slept through the night and that school was about to start.

"Oh no," I whispered, looking down at myself and gulping at the sight of gray skin and breasts. It hadn't been a dream...a nightmare.

Then as I stood by the classroom door, I heard one boy exclaiming, "Did you hear about Nestor Randall...?"

"No," a girl's voice responded.

"It's all over school," the boy told her, "A mutie broke into his house last night and murdered him..."

"There were cops all over the place," a second boy announced. "They think he might have been kidnapped..."

"No way," a third boy added, "I heard that the mutant ATE him or something..."

I was completely stunned to hear these rumors of my death and murder by...by myself. If this hadn't been such a nightmare for me, I probably would have laughed at that.

However, it was at that point that someone decided to come into the classroom. The door was pulled open, and several kids started to come until they saw me and froze.

"It's a mutant," one girl exclaimed in terror.

I had to fight back the sudden impulse to look around me to see who she was referring to, though the truth was that she meant me. There were several screams as a couple kids backed away.

"I bet she's the one that got Randall," one boy yelled out.

But as they backed away from the door, I took the opportunity to push past them and run down the hall as fast as I could. Unfortunately, there were lots of kids in the hall and just about every one of them was staring at me. Most of them backed away from me as fast as they could, several ran and there were even a few screams. I didn't know who was more terrified...them or me.

Unfortunately, it was about then that someone decided that I had to be stopped, and several large guys started chasing after me. ""No," I cried out, "Leave me alone..." However, it did no good and I had to run even faster.

Within a minute, I was blocked off, surrounded on all sides by kids who looked as though they wanted to beat me to death. There was even a teacher, but instead of trying to calm things down, he yelled out, "How dare your kind come here..."

There were dozens of comments around me, most of them vicious or nasty. I heard "Filthy mutie," several times, and other comments that were even worse. And the worst part was that several of them came from a boy whom I'd always thought of as my friend. Everyone, even the ones whom I knew and had been friends with for years were looking at me with the same expression that dad and Percy had.

I was absolutely terrified as I saw those expressions, as well as heard the threats against me. Then several of the larger guys gathered their courage and decided to prove how tough they were by coming at me. I so scared that I nearly pissed my pants, but there was nowhere to go.

Just then, I felt it... The darkness began to erupt and flow out from around me again. This time however, I was extremely thankful for it as it covered all the students and left them completely blind, while my weird dark vision kicked in and let me see perfectly fine. I wasted no time in pushing past the gathering mob and running as fast as I could. I had no idea just how long the darkness would last that time and wanted to make use of it while I could.

Somehow, I was able to make it out of the school without getting caught again and lynched, and I knew that it was mostly due to that darkness. I was only disappointed that it had faded away before I had even managed to get out the school door. Because after that, I could only run to find a place to hide.

Enter the Darkness
part 2 of 7
By Morpheus

I managed to get a good distance away from school before I stopped to hide, thankful that no one seemed to have seen me. Then again, I think that some people might have seen me but had just not bothered to get involved, or had just not cared. It didn't matter much to me as long as they weren't after me like everyone else seemed to be.

Unfortunately, my good luck didn't last. It was several hours after the incident at the school and probably right around lunch time. At least that was what I guessed since I was beginning to feel pretty hungry. Just as I was leaving my hiding place in an alley to look around, hoping that I could figure out that to do for lunch, someone saw me.

"Holy shit," a man yelled at the sight of me, "What the fuck are you?"

"Oh no," I gulped in realization, cringing as I saw that he had friends with him, nearly half a dozen of them.

"She's a mutant," one of the other men exclaimed, more out of surprise than the horror that I had been hearing.

I gulped as I saw them, knowing what was going to happen next. I'd already seen it at school, when all of the kids came after me. And I'd already seen it with my own dad and brother. There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be a repeat of those incidents.

Then I felt the darkness again, rising up as if called by my fear. And perhaps it was, though at the moment I didn't care why it came, only that it had. I concentrated, hoping it would grow larger...and it did. The darkness quickly spread out from me, catching those men inside of it and blinding them.

"I can't see," one of the men screamed in fear.

"I'm blind," another one of them gasped out in terror.

They were all afraid...afraid of me. I smiled, feeling a huge thrill as I realized that fact. For once I wasn't the one who was running in terror and fearing for his life. They were all on the verge of panic and were starting to run, or at least tried to as they tripped over each other. Only two of them managed to reach the edge of the darkness and escape, and they kept running as fast as they could.

"Yes," I laughed in delight, finding the only joy that I'd felt since awakening in the night to the nightmare that my life had become. It was so much better to make other people afraid of me than it was to be afraid.

Then of course, the darkness began to fade, but that was all right as I had already started to hurry away from those men. I figured that even if they were afraid of me, it would probably be a good idea to get away while I had the chance.

I had only gone a few dozen feet when I suddenly saw a woman standing in front of me, if she could be called a woman. She was made of crystal...or perhaps ice. And as I watched, she grew larger, until she was 8 feet tall and towering over me.

"What...?" I stopped and stared up at her in shock and fear.

"So," the woman sneered as she glared down at me, "You're the one who kidnapped that boy..."

"What?" I gasped in surprise as she came forward.

Without knowing exactly what I was doing, I somehow called up the darkness again. It was getting easier to do. However, before I could run more than several feet, the ground beneath me suddenly became extremely slippery and fell onto my face. As I scrambled to get back to my feet, I realized that I was no longer feeling concrete...but ice.

"I don't think so," the giant woman exclaimed as the darkness quickly faded away. She came at me again, grabbing me with a cold hand and saying, "What did you do with the Randall boy?"

"Percy?" I squeaked out, thinking of my brother for a moment before I realized that she meant those rumors that I'd overheard at the school.

"Nextor Randall," she demanded, "Where is he?"

I cringed back from the woman. "I'm Nestor," I whimpered, tears pouring down my cheeks. "I woke up like this last night..." I cringed, then begged, "Please don't hurt me... I didn't do anything wrong..."

For a moment, the woman just stared at me in surprise. Then she let go of me, gasping, "You're a boy?"

"Yeah," I pulled back, "I...I was..." I wasn't sure what I was anymore.

Suddenly, ice around the giant woman crumbled and broke away, and she stood there, still made of ice but now of a more normal size. The same size that she was when I'd first seen her a minute earlier. And then even that changed.

The ice woman's body simmered, and suddenly she looked like a normal human. Now she was a beautiful blonde in a long white trench coat. From beneath it, I could see a brief glimpse of some sort of blue and white costume.

"My name is Bobbie Frost," the woman said, staring at me suspiciously, "But some call me the Ice Queen."

"I...I...," I stammered, feeling afraid of this woman. The look in her eyes was so cold and hard...

"YOU are Nestor Randall?" She frowned, "And you say that you changed to look like this last night..."

I could only nod at that as I glanced around, looking for a means of escape. "My dad started shooting at me," I told her quietly.

"Don't be afraid," she told me almost gently, "Now tell me everything..."

I didn't know what she wanted, so I told her everything that had happened to me from the moment I had woken up as a freak, including the way that dad and Percy had tried to kill me. I told her about school, and even about the weird headaches that I had been having for the last couple weeks.

"What do you know about mutants?" the woman...the Ice Queen asked me, a serious though not threatening look on her face.

"They're monsters," I blurted out, then immediately realized that I shouldn't have said that as she was probably a mutant.

"Monsters?" she demanded, her eyes going even colder and harder. "Are you a monster?" she demanded of me, "Do you have a craving for human flesh? Have you murdered a lot of people or plan to take over the world and enslave humanity?"

I could only shake my head at that and gasp, "No..."

"Mutants aren't monsters," she told me, calming down and becoming a little more gentle. "We are just people... We are merely humans who were born with an extra gift...or curse. And unfortunately much of the world does not understand this. They are willing to believe the worst and feed their hate and fear with misunderstanding."

"Then I am a mutant," I whispered. "And those headaches..."

"Headaches are a very common symptom of a mutant's powers manifesting," Bobbie told me. "They are caused as the part of your brain which controls your powers starts to become active." She paused for a moment, looking thoughtful as she added, "I know someone who suffered minor brain damage in that area. Because of that, he can't turn off his power to fire energy beams from his eyes..."

"And these weird shadows," I said, no longer really feeling afraid of her as she didn't seem all that threatening anymore. In fact, she almost seemed helpful. "Is that my mutant power?"

The Ice Queen...Bobbie stared at me thoughtfully for a moment before responding, "Yes. I think your powers might be linked to the darkforce dimension." At my blank look, she continued, "I know of several other people who have similar types of powers, and they come from being linked to what is known as the darkforce dimension. And from what you've told me, your powers appear to involve teleporting through the darkforce dimension as well..."

"Oh God," I whispered, not sure that I could take this all in. It was just too weird. It was too much. But she seemed to be the only person who didn't hate me on sight.

"And your powers really turned you into a girl?" she whispered, more to herself than to me. But when I asked her if she knew how I could chance back into a boy, she shook her head. "I fear that this is in your genes. Whether you like it or not, THIS is what you are..."

"Oh no," I cringed.

"Enough with the crying," she snapped at me in annoyance. "Crying about being a mutant or being a girl isn't going to solve your problems. This is what you are now...like it or not. Deal with it." Then she softened just a little as she told me, "You have to be stronger than that if you want to survive because things can get worse."

I wiped the tears from my eyes as I stared at this strange woman. Then I asked, "Why are you being so nice to me?" She was the only one who hadn't treated me like some kind of monster since I'd changed.

That seemed to surprise her and she even smiled a little. "Actually, I originally came her to stop an evil mutant..." She shrugged faintly, "I was nearby and heard about a mutant breaking into a house and kidnapping a boy...so I came to investigate."

All that I could say to that was, "Oh..."

"Have you heard about the old underground railroad that used to help slaves escape?" She abruptly asked me.

"I learned about it in school," I admitted.

"Well," Bobbie told me, "There is a mutant underground which serves much the same purpose. There are a great many people...humans and mutants alike who try helping mutants who are in trouble. I work with the underground, finding mutants who need help...like yourself."

She paused for a moment to stare at me, then said, "I know of a school that can help you learn to control your powers... And where you'll be able to fit in..."

"Do...do you mean that Xavier's place in New York?" I asked cautiously, having heard of that school for mutants on the news.

Bobbie paused to stare at me with a look of surprise, then she quickly shook her head. "No. Xavier's is far too dangerous. It is the base of operations for the X Men, and since the school has gone public with its existence, that makes it a very clear target for not only the X Men's enemies, but for anyone who has a grudge against mutants." Then she muttered something under her breath about how stupid it was to go public.

"It's that dangerous?" I asked in surprise.

Bobbie only nodded grimly, stating, "There are frequent attacks." Then she smiled, though it was more of a smirk, "However, I have recently been in contact with another school for mutants, one which is much smaller...but also much safer." She paused to give me a steady look before adding, "And since it is in Oregon, that also makes it somewhat closer to here..."

"Oh," I responded slowly, not sure that I liked the idea. I mean, I might be a freak now, but that didn't mean that I had any interest in being near a bunch of muties...mutants.

"Let me put it this way," Bobbie said, her voice going cold. "Do you have anywhere else to go?"

I froze at that, realizing that I certainly couldn't go back home. Even if I could convince them of who I was, I still couldn't go back. Not after the way that dad and Percy had tried killing me. And I sure as hell didn't think that they'd welcome me back with open arms. Not since I was a mutant.

"No," I admitted quietly, staring down in shame. "I don't have anywhere else to go..."

"We should talk to your parents first," Bobbie said thoughtfully.

"No!" I blurted out. Then as she stared at me, I told her, "I...I don't think they'd believe me..." My body was shaking and tears were beginning to come as I thought of how dad had tried shooting me. "They don't...don't like mutants."

"I understand," she sighed. Then she turned around and told me, "Put your hands around my waist and hold on tight. I left my car a good distance away..."

I was about to ask what she meant when she transformed into ice again and then formed some sort of ice slide in front of her. Before I even realized what was happening, we were sliding forward...faster and faster across this strange ice slide which she built in front of us.

"My transportation options are more limited than they used to be," Bobbie commented before picking up speed.

"Oh God," I cried out, both in fear and excitement. I'd never traveled in such a strange way before, nor even imagined that I could. It was almost traveling by water slide... It was no wonder that she was called the Ice Queen.

We finally stopped about an hour later, but by then my hands and feet were both freezing. Standing on that ice slide and holding onto a woman made out of ice wasn't exactly a good way to stay warm.

"We're here," Bobbie stated, gesturing to a white car with blue pin striping. "I left it here when I heard about the mutant attack." She said that last two words with more than a touch of sarcasm.

After this, we drove for several more hours, which was MUCH more comfortable than the ice slide, not to mention warmer. Bobbie wasn't very talkative, but then again, I wasn't feeling very talkative either. So much had happened to me in such a short time, and it was the first time that I really had a chance to sit and try taking it all in without fearing for my life at the same time.

When we eventually stopped again, Bobby turned to me and gave me a somewhat sympathetic look before telling me, "Since your body has changed so drastically, I think that you need to see a doctor for an examination."

"But I can't go to a doctor like this?" I gasped out, gesturing down at my female body and gray skin. I shuddered in shame at what I had become, and in fear as I considered what a doctor would do when they saw me.

"Not all humans hate and fear mutants," Bobby told me seriously. "There are a great many who don't... And there are quite a few who are part of the mutant underground. The doctor that I'm taking you to is one of them..."

I gulped nervously, especially as we stepped out of the car. However, Bobbie had parked in the back of a building and in a position where we couldn't be clearly seen. That was a relief, but I was even more thankful to get inside of the building and out of view.

"Wait here," Bobbie told me as we reached an empty room. "I'll be back in a minute..."

I nodded, feeling a bit nervous as she left me alone. However, she was gone for only five minutes before returning with another woman. The new woman was a middle-aged woman with graying brown hair and a pair of thick looking glasses. And it was pretty obvious that she was the doctor.

"This is Doctor Stevens," Bobbie introduced me. "She'll take care of your examination."

"Um...hi," I smiled weakly.

"You poor child," Dr. Stevens gave me a sympathetic look. "I won't hurt you..." She gave me a reassuring smile, "Come on..."

I glanced at Bobbie, who just gave a faint nod, then followed after Dr. Stevens into her office. She had me sit down on the examination table and began checking my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as a number of other things which were both part of a normal physical as well as more.

"Now please take your clothes off," Dr. Stevens told me.

"But..." I stammered.

"It's all right," she reassured me. "I'm a doctor and I doubt you have anything that I haven't seen before..."

"But," I repeated, blushing horribly though I didn't think that it would show with my gray skin.

"I know that you were a boy until yesterday," Dr. Stevens gently told me as she put a hand on my shoulder. "I know that this can't be easy for you...but I am trying to help. I need to see how thorough this change is..."

I didn't say anything to that, though I did give a nod before I started to undress. In just a minute, I was standing there naked in front of her and feeling quite uncomfortable about it. I mean, I was a boy and she was a grown woman... Or at least I had been a boy. I wasn't really sure what I was anymore.

Dr. Stevens acted quite professional as she looked me over, examining every inch of my body, much to my embarrassment. However, I grew much more uncomfortable as she had me sit on a table, put my feet into stirrups and started to spread them open. It was only then that I realized what was coming next. Suddenly, the room started to grow dark...as dark as the deepest shadows.

But instead of being afraid, the now blind doctor snapped, "Stop that right this instant."

"I'm not doing it on purpose," I protested, "It just happens when I'm a..." I was going to say afraid, though quickly said, "nervous," instead.

Dr. Stevens just let out a patient sigh, "Then try to relax and let it go. We can stay like this all day, but I can't finish this examination if I can't see, and I'm sure that this isn't very comfortable for you..."

"I'm trying," I protested, though the truth was, I didn't know how to make the darkness go away.

"Just relax and try making it go away," she told me again.

I nodded, closing my eyes and trying to make the darkness fade away like it had done on it's on every other time. To my relief, it did start to go away and normal light returned. I had to blink as my eyes shifted back to normal vision, which was somewhat uncomfortable.

"Good," Dr. Stevens smiled at me, "Now just stay calm..."

I tried to remain calm and relaxed, but it wasn't easy with her poking and prodding me down in my new nether regions. In fact, it was downright humiliating and uncomfortable. But somehow, I managed to keep the darkness from coming back.

"I'm a general practitioner and not a gynecologist," Dr. Stevens told me when she was finished, "But as far as I can tell, you appear to be one hundred percent female..."

"Just great," I grumbled as I put my clothes back on. I grimaced at the news, though it wasn't unexpected. Still, it was something of a blow to have had it made official. I was now a girl.

"I don't know what you're going through," Dr. Stevens told me as she put a hand on my shoulder, "I don't know what you're feeling. There is no way that I could. But I do know that this has to be incredibly hard for you to deal with... You have my greatest sympathy...and my confidence in your strength to handle it."

I wasn't sure what to say to that, so I didn't say anything. I just left the room with her and returned to where Bobbie was waiting. She pulled Bobbie off to the side and they talked alone for a few minutes before it was time to go.

"Thanks," I told Dr. Stevens as we left.

Just as we were out the door though, Bobbie stopped and gave me a steady look. There was a strange look of understanding in her eyes, which confused me as I didn't think that there was anyone who could understand what it was like. But that quickly passed and her expression turned cold again, something which I was beginning to suspect might be some sort of mask.

"Put this on," Bobbie told me as she handed me a gray hooded sweatshirt. "If you pull the hood up, it will help hide your features..."

I accepted the sweatshirt without a word, and a minute later, we were on the road again. However, we didn't go far...only to a drive through to grab dinner, and then to a motel where we were to stay the night.

I was sitting in the room that Bobbie had rented for me and wolfing down the food she had bought. I had forgotten just how hungry I was getting. I hadn't had a real meal since dinner the night before, over 24 hours earlier and before all the strangeness had hit me, so I definitely appreciated the greasy burger more than I ever thought possible.

Just a minute after I had finished eating my dinner, Bobbie came into my room, standing at the door and watching me silently for several seconds. She sighed and came over to the motel bed that I was sitting on, taking a seat next to me.

"I know that none of this is easy for you," she told me with a soft sigh, "Trust me...I know." Then she looked me in the eyes, "But you have to remember, this is YOUR body. It's not as if someone took your mind and stuffed it into someone else’s... You are female now. This is who you are. This is what your own DNA made you...just as it made you a male before. I know that this is difficult, and that it won't be easy for you to adjust... But you will. Humans...and mutants are very flexible that way. We can get used to nearly anything...even a sudden sex change if given enough time."

"You think so?" I asked half sarcastically.

"It just might take a LONG time," she sighed, glancing down at herself with a frown for some reason.

I just stared at her with a scowl. "That's easier said than done. You're not the one who has to go through it..."

Bobbie froze...figuratively, her expression going hard while she stared at me with those cold eyes. I could swear that the temperature in the room suddenly dropped by about ten degrees.

"Here," Bobbie said coldly, taking a book out of a plastic bag that she'd brought in and dropping it on the bed. "I thought this might help you..." And without a word, Bobbie turned and left my room, probably to return to her own room next door.

"What did I say wrong?" I blinked in surprise, wondering why she had gotten all huffy like that.

Then I turned my attention to the book that she'd left behind. The cover proclaimed that it was a book to help developing teenage girls... I paled at that, then gave it a closer look, finding that it was a book on how a girl goes through puberty, what to expect, and all sorts of other girl stuff. There was a chapter on periods and another on feminine hygiene.

"It's like an instruction manual for a girl," I muttered to myself.

In spite of my embarrassment, I opened the book to the first page and slowly began to read. As much as I might hate the fact, Dr. Stevens had made it very clear...I was a girl now. And even though I wanted to deny it, to pretend that I was still the same old me, I knew that Bobbie was right. I was going to have to start learning to adjust.

After only half an hour though, I put the book down and took a look at myself. I gulped at the bulges in the front of my shirt, then glanced around nervously, as though afraid that I was being watched. Without a word, I went and locked the door and then made sure that the curtains were pulled closed. This was embarrassing enough and I wanted privacy for what was going to come next.

I knew that if I was to stand any chance of not feeling like a complete freak and alien in my own body, I was going to have to get a little more familiar with it. That was why I undressed and stood there, staring down at my naked body. I let out a nervous sigh, then began to examine myself once again, this time much more thoroughly than I had in the school locker room.

"This is me," I told myself without much conviction as I ran my hands over my smooth skin, "This is my body..."

My altered body was quite a bit different from my old one, and it felt so much more sensitive, not just on my nipples and between my legs. However, as I thought about it, I realized that there were quite a few similarities as well. If I closed my eyes and didn't think about it, I could almost even forget that my body wasn't the same as it had been.

When I was finally ready for bed, I turned off the lights and sat there in the darkness for a minute. The lack of light was no longer a problem for me to see in, and as I looked around, seeing that there was no light through the window or any form of night light, I felt just a little more comfortable.

"Imagine that," I sighed.

The irony was not lost on me at all. Me, the guy who had been so afraid of the dark that he couldn't go to bed without some light now found it more comfortable to be in the dark. Strangely, it seemed a little more safe and secure. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I could see in it while no one else could, but as I drifted off to sleep, with the darkness of night spread over me like a blanket, I felt an odd comfort from it.

--------------------

When I awoke in the morning, I was disappointed though not surprised to find that I was still a girl. I sat up with a groan and poked at my breasts, shaking my head for a moment before climbing out of bed.

"I need a shower," I muttered to myself.

I frowned, not knowing when Bobbie was going to want to leave and deciding that I should probably get ready just in case. And with that, I went to the small bathroom that was attached to my motel room and paused to look at my reflection in the mirror.

"Ugh," I groaned, staring into the black pits that were my eyes. "I don't think I'll ever get used to that..."

Then with a grimace, I turned from the mirror and started my shower. Though my every instinct was to rush through it as fast as I could without touching my new parts any more than I had to, I forced myself to be slow and careful instead. I knew that the only way I would stop feeling like a complete alien in my own body was if I got a little more used to it, which wouldn't happen if I kept avoiding it.

However, once I was finished with my shower, I realized that I had another problem. The only clothes that I had to wear were the same ones that I'd worn the day before, the ones that I'd stolen from the locker room and the sweatshirt that Bobbie had given me. I sighed and put them back on, knowing that it probably defeated the whole purpose of taking a shower, but also knowing that I didn't have any other choice.

It was a short time after this that Bobbie came in and stared at me for a moment before saying, "I'm curious... Let's try something..."

"Huh?" I responded, wondering what she was up to.

"I want to see your powers," Bobbie told me. "I want you to concentrate on summoning some of your darkforce. Not enough to fill the whole room... Just a little."

"But I don't know how," I protested. However, one look at her serious expression told me that she wasn't about to accept any excuses. "I'll try..."

After taking a deep breath, I tried to call on the darkness like I had before. And after only a little coaxing, it became to come out, to flow from around my body. It grew stronger and stronger, though Bobbie told me to back off.

"Just that amount right there," she told me. "And hold it... Don't let it go..."

The darkness hovered in the air around me like several ribbons, and I realized that I could feel a further, deeper darkness beyond that. Was that the source of this darkness? The darkforce dimension that Bobbie had mentioned? I had no idea.

"Stay focused," Bobbie told me gently, "Yes...that's it. Now allow just a little more darkness to flow through.... Yes...like that."

Bobbie nodded in satisfaction, even giving me a bit of a smile before giving me some more instructions. She even told me how to stay calm and FEEL the darkness, saying that I might be able to control it better. To my surprise, she was right. We even practiced this for about ten minutes, with me calling up small amounts of darkness and then sending it back where it came from. It was getting a little easier to do.

"Very good," Bobbie smiled, looking quite pleased.

I grinned back at her, feeling excited at what I was doing in spite of myself. "You're a good teacher."

Suddenly Bobbie froze, her expression going hard again. "I am not a teacher," she muttered bitterly, more to herself than to me, "SHE was..." Then she turned to me and said, "Enough of this for now. We're leaving in ten minutes..."

I just stared at Bobbie as she left the room, wondering what I had done to make her mad. Then I frowned, hoping that she wasn't too upset at me. Even though I had only met her the day before, she was now about the only friend that I had in the world. But there was another reason that I didn't want her to be mad at me as well. I didn't want to be a girl, but if I had to be, she was the kind that I wanted to be. She was tough and confident, and I doubted that there was much of anything that she couldn't handle.

"Imagine that," I muttered to myself in embarrassment, "Me looking up to a mutie chick as a role model..."

And with a sigh, I slipped on my sweatshirt and put the hood up, grabbed the book that Bobbie had given me the night before and hurried out of the room after her.

Enter the Darkness
part 3 of 7
By Morpheus

It was shortly after noon, two days after I had first met Bobbie and she had convinced me to go with her when we finally arrived at our destination. It had been a bit of a drive to the school in Oregon from where I had lived in California, but we could have arrived the day before had Bobbie not taken her time, made several stops on the way or insisted on stopping for the night early so that we could arrive during the day time.

One of the longest delays in our trip had been when Bobby had stopped off at a few stores in order to buy me a bunch of new clothes, as well as various 'unmentionables' which she had assured me I would need later.

"It wouldn't be right to bring you there without anything but the clothes on your back," Bobbie had told me with a smile. Then she had jokingly added, "That would make me look bad..."

I felt extremely nervous as we drove down a narrow road, surrounded with heavy trees on both sides. We were getting closer and closer to the school and I didn't know what to think of that. I was relieved that we were finally going to get there, yet at the same time, scared at the thought of going to school with a bunch of muties...mutants. Even if I happened to be one myself now.

"We're almost there," Bobbie told me as she turned down a private road.

When we finally stopped a short time later, it was because there was an iron gate in front of us. There was a heavy stone wall on either side which went off into the woods, probably no more than a few dozen feet on either side before ending. However, the thick trees would make sure that no cars could make it past anyway and Bobbie quietly assured me that they did have other defenses.

"This school started off as a hunting lodge and resort for the wealthy," Bobbie told me as she looked at the gate and then into the woods. "It was later turned into a summer camp for well to do kids before closing down after a few years due to lack of interest or customers. Now it has been upgraded and serves a new purpose."

"Teaching mutants," I responded quietly.

Bobbie nodded at that, then said "It's smaller and not as well financed as Xavier's. However, it is also more secluded and not as much a target." Then Bobbie let out a faint sigh, musing to herself, "It's similar to Xavier's when I first went there..."

My eyes locked on Bobbie at that and I gasped, "Are you an X Man?" Just about everyone knew about the X Men, though most couldn't seem to decide if they were heroes or terrorists. And to learn that I had actually met one...

"I was," Bobbie admitted, "once..." Then she scowled, "Now I'm just an ex-man..."

I just stared at her in confusion, wondering why she'd say she wasn't an X Man and that she was at the same time. Her comment didn't make any sense.

Bobbie didn't say a word as she went to the gate and pushed some buttons on a keypad. A moment later, the gate started to open. She gestured for me to get back in the car, and a moment later, we were going down another section of driveway, stopping in front of a really large building that was probably the old lodge. But from the size of it, I couldn't help thinking that it was closer to a small mansion...

When we got out of the car, I noticed a man standing under the porch by the front door. He had black hair and was dressed in a somewhat rumpled looking black suit. And as we walked up to the front door, he pulled out a cigarette and lit it, not taking his eyes off of Bobbie and me.

When Bobbie and I got close, Bobbie stopped. The two of them stared at each other silently, though I wasn't sure if it was hostile or not.

After turning and staring at me for a moment, the man said, "So you're the new student." He had a British accent, though it didn't sound all fancy like you'd expect to hear from a butler or something. Then he smiled and held out his hand, "The name's Wisdom. Pete Wisdom. I'm in charge of security around here and I'll one of your instructors."

"Um...hi," I said nervously as I shook his hand. My heart raced a bit as I wondered if he was a mutant, then felt stupid as I realized that he would have to be.

"I never imagined you as the teacher type," Bobbie said coldly.

"People change," Mr. Wisdom...Pete said, giving Bobbie a calm look back. "You should know that better than anyone Drake."

Bobbie and Pete stared at each other for a moment with the temperature seeming to drop several degrees before Bobbie told me, "We should get inside..." However, her eyes didn't leave Pete.

"You know the way," Pete shrugged, taking a drag from his cigarette. "I'd take you up myself, but I want to finish my smoke.”

After staring at Pete for another moment, Bobbie nodded and led me through the wide front doors. She didn't look all that happy to be there, or at least to have seen Pete. That didn't really make me feel much better about this whole mutant school thing.

Then, thinking about how Bobbie and Pete had been acting towards each other, I asked, "What was that about? And why did he call you Drake?"

Bobbie paused for a moment, giving me a steady look before letting out a sigh. And with a faint smile she told me, "Maybe I'll tell you about it sometime...," which of course meant not right then.

The inside of the house was pretty nice, though it didn't really look a whole lot like a hunting lodge or a summer camp. Maybe they had just done a serious remodel of it, or maybe the building had even been built a little more recently. Still, it looked a bit more like a hunting lodge or resort from the outside, so I was betting on the remodel.

Bobbie led me to a heavy wooden door, pausing only a moment before pushing it open, not even bothering to knock. Her expression had gone serious again, though she didn't look like she was about to face an enemy or something like she almost had with Pete.

As I stepped into the room, a single glance was enough to tell me that it was an office. There was a book shelf full of thick books, a filing cabinet and a heavy wooden desk. And of course, there was a man sitting behind the desk. He was a black man in his fifties or so with gray hair and a beard.

"I'm afraid that I have to get going again," Bobbie told me after giving only a glance at the man behind the desk.

"Already?" I gasped, surprised that she would leave so soon. I didn't even know anyone there yet...except for that Pete Wisdom, and I don't think that really counted.

Bobbie just nodded, then reached into her pocket and pulled something out. She gave me a gentle smile and handed me a business card. "If you ever want to get hold of me... Or if you just want to talk...my number is on the card."

Then with only a smile and a nod, Bobbie turned and left the room, leaving me there alone with the man behind the desk. I gulped, then slowly turned to face him, feeling more than a little nervous as I did so. I even had to struggle to keep the darkness from coming.

"She must really like you," the man behind the desk said with a smile.

"What?" I blinked.

"She is called the Ice Queen for more than just her powers," the man chuckled, "She's normally not nearly so social..." Then he gave me a steady look before adding, "And she drove you here all the way by herself rather than calling for us to pick you up with a helicopter... That says quite a bit..."

I was a little startled by that revelation since I had thought that Bobbie had no real choice but to deliver me herself. I certainly hadn't thought that she could have called a helicopter to pick us up. And I couldn't help wondering why she hadn't.

"My name is Earl Monroe," the man said, standing up and offering me his hand. I hesitated a moment and nervously shook it. "You could say that I'm the principal here at this school... Have a seat," he told me, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk.

"I'm...," I started, not sure what to say. I didn't even know where to start.

"It's all right," Mr. Monroe smiled reassuringly at me, "I know who you are... Ms. Frost called ahead and informed me all about you and your...unique situation."

"You know about my...?" I gulped, feeling quite embarrassed.

"Your gender reversal?" Mr. Monroe finished for me, giving me a sympathetic look. "Yes. But that is not a problem here... We are used to dealing with unique situations."

All that I could say to that was, "Oh..."

I still wasn't comfortable with the idea of going to a mutant school, and his bringing that up just made me wonder what other freaks would be hanging around. I doubted that there would be any that were freakier than me. The thought of living with mutants still made me uneasy, even if I was one myself now.

"Perhaps I should give you a little background," Mr. Monroe said. "I myself am a human and not a mutant. You might wonder why a human would care about teaching mutants how to control their powers..."

"A little," I responded slowly.

"Mutant powers can be quite dangerous," he pointed out. "For the mutant and anyone around them. This is one of the reasons that mutants are so feared. This school gives a place where you can learn to control your powers in safety, and experienced people who can help you learn how."

"That is a very good reason," Mr. Monroe sighed after a moment, his expression turning sad, "But not the only reason." He looked at me with a sigh, "My daughter was a mutant." There was another pause and his eyes looked a little misty. "She had the power to break matter down at the molecular level...to disintegrate things. But she didn't know how to control her powers. There was no one to teach her. And then there was an accident... Her powers accidentally destroyed part of a wall...and caused the rest of it to collapse on top of her...killing her."

"Oh," I whispered, suddenly feeling quite sorry for the man.

"This is why I founded...or at least co-founded this school," Mr. Monroe stated. Then he added, "My co-founder is a mutant who currently wishes to remain anonymous."

After this sad story, the rest of my introduction was a little more boring. Mr. Monroe spent the next fifteen minutes asking me about myself, getting to know me and telling me about the school, the school rules and what I could expect to learn. He also told me that there were currently less than a dozen other students at the school, which meant that it really was a small school

"But good for one on one instruction," Mr. Monroe had pointed out.

Mr. Monroe had also told me that, "Code names are encouraged here, but not at all required. My co-founder believes that the use of code names allows mutants to develop a sense of pride in their uniqueness and mutant nature."

Finally, Mr. Monroe stood up, reaching for a cane by his desk and them limping out from behind it. I stared at him for a moment, wondering if maybe his daughter hadn't been the only one who got caught under that falling wall. I didn't know and I wasn't about to ask him.

"Come now," he gestured for me to follow, "Let's get you settled into a room and give you a tour..."

Mr. Monroe led me down the hall until we came to what looked like a huge living room with a fireplace, several couches and a huge plasma screen TV. I gasped as I looked around, nearly drooling at the sight of that TV.

Then I noticed the skinny black kid sitting on the couch. He looked to be about my age. "This here is Puffer," Mr. Monroe gestured to him.

"This the new girl?" Puffer asked, jumping up and coming over. He gave me a speculative look, and one which made me feel oddly uncomfortable.

"Why are you called Puffer?" I asked him, trying to change the subject.

Puffer grinned, "Check this out..."

He took a deep breath, and suddenly he began to blow up...as if he was a balloon being inflated. His whole body grew bigger and rounder, and then spikes began to grow right out of his skin. I was stunned as I stared at him blowing up like that, realizing now where he got his name. He was like a puffer fish... But after a moment, he began to deflate again, the spikes on his skin pulling back in and vanishing as though they had never been there.

"I can sort of pop all at once too," Puffer told me proudly, "and shoot my spikes out. It's pretty wicked..."

"Let's see," Mr. Monroe interrupted, "I think we'll put you in with Rose..."

"You're putting her with the skunk girl?" Puffer laughed.

Skunk girl? I gulped at the thought, picturing some sort of anamorphic skunk, like a girl version of Pepe LePew or something. But a skunk... Now I was REALLY getting worried.

But when Mr. Monroe took me to the room, I was relieved to see a fairly normal looking girl wearing some sort of pink and blue spandex costume. My eyes were immediately drawn to her hair, which was shoulder length and solid black, except for the white stripe right down the middle...like a skunk.

"So that's how come he called her a skunk girl," I mumbled under my breath.

However, as she turned slightly, I let out a gasp of surprise. She had a TAIL. A big bushy black tail with a white stripe down the center. She had a skunk tail. And as soon as I saw that, I immediately took a nervous step back. I knew better than to get anywhere near a skunk tail, especially one that big.

"Um...hi," the skunk girl said, giving me a nervous smile, "I'm Rose..."

Then as I as she moved closer, I took another instinctive step back. She looked a little hurt at that. But it was then that I smelled it. However, it was certainly nothing that I would have expected to smell anywhere near a skunk. I smelled...flowers. Specifically, I smelled fresh roses.

"It smells like roses," I exclaimed as I looked around and saw no sign of flowers. "Is that your perfume?"

"No," Rose blushed, "It's me... That's my favorite smell...

Since Rose didn't smell anything like I had feared she would, I nervously took a step towards her and held out my hand. She looked at it for a moment before shaking it.

"You don't smell like I thought you would," I admitted with some embarrassment as I thought about how I'd reacted to the sight of her.

"I get that a lot," Rose told me with a self-conscious smile.

"So," I looked at her, "What's your...thing?"

"My thing?" Rose blinked. "Oh, you mean my power... It's smell." At my blank look, she smiled rather proudly, "I have a great sense of smell...like a bloodhound. And I never forget something that I've smelled. But I can also change my own smell..."

And at that, she suddenly smelled like oranges, and then cinnamon, followed by popcorn, before finally returning to her original rose scent. I figured that a power like that would have to save her a bundle on perfume.

"Oh, and I can sort of spray my smells too," she admitted, looking just a little embarrassed. But as I glanced at her tail, she giggled, "From my hands..."

Just then, Puffer stuck his head into the door and looked at us for a moment. Then he exclaimed, "I can't believe you put both the freak chicks in the same room..."

"Go away or I'll spray you," Rose snapped at him, holding out her hand, "You'll smell like perfume for a week..."

Puffer just took one look at me, smirked and said, "See ya later cutie," before turning and rushing down the hall.

"He's not usually quite that obnoxious," Mr. Monroe told me with a sigh. "He's just trying to show off..."

I just nodded at that, then glanced at Rose and around the room...our room. I froze at that, taking another look at her and blurting out, "I can't be her roommate..."

"You don't like me?" Rose gasped, looking hurt.

"No," I looked at Mr. Monroe, "I'm a guy..." Then I looked down at myself and cringed, "I mean...I was..."

"You're a boy?" Rose exclaimed in disbelief. She was staring at me and making me feel uncomfortable.

Mr. Monroe sighed, then looked at me. "Would you feel any more comfortable having a boy for a roommate...?" He gave me a knowing look.

I quickly thought about what it would be like to have a guy as a roommate and gulped. There was no way that he wouldn't stare at me...or maybe treat me like some sort of freak because of my sex change. And I sure as hell didn't think that I'd be very comfortable in that kind of a situation. So I reluctantly shook my head no.

"I did think this through before deciding where to put you," Mr. Monroe told me, gently putting a hand on my shoulder. "Like it or not...you are a female now. You will have to learn what that means, just as you will have to learn about your mutant powers. I believe that this is the wisest course... Rose can help you..." he glanced at her, "If she is agreeable to this."

Rose just stared at me for a moment more before nodding, "Okay..." She gave me a shy smile, "I'll be your roommate..." I couldn't help but giving a shy smile back.

"Very good," Mr. Monroe nodded with a smile of his own. "Now let's show you around the school and introduce you to your fellow students."

"I'll show her," Rose volunteered.

Mr. Monroe nodded, "All right then..."

"C'mon," Rose smiled, already moving to the door.

After Rose gave me a quick tour of the main lodge building where everyone lived, she took me out back to where the other students were at. I gasped in surprise at the sight of them, feeling extremely nervous to have so many mutants around. But as I glanced at Rose, knowing that she certainly wasn't the kind of dangerous mutie monster that my dad had always warned of, I felt a little more comfortable.

Off to one side, there was a man with dark hair who was wearing a gray and white costume, with lots of white armor plating. I guessed that he was a teacher because of his age, and he was talking to several teenagers before turning to face a target which was set up some distance out. Suddenly, the ground at his feet seemed to turn to liquid, because it all started to move and flow. And of course, the very ground itself rippled towards the target like a strong wave, hitting the target and destroying it.

Then Pete Wisdom noticed me and called out, "Hey everyone... Come on over and say hi to the new girl..."

I was a little nervous as everyone started to come in my direction, but I took a deep breath and forced myself to remain calm. After all, I told myself, they were just people... They were just kids like myself.

The first to come over to me was a girl about my own age, maybe a year or so older. She had short red hair with a single blonde streak hanging in the front, and was wearing a red and gold spandex costume that had what looked like a gold lizard symbol on the red field of her chest.

"I'm Salamander," she introduced herself confidently, "but people call me Sally for short. I'm a tactile pyrokinetic."

And with that, she bent over and touched the ground with her hand. Suddenly ground caught on fire where she touched it and a steam of fire shot out along the ground in a single straight line, turning at a right angle and going a little further. Then with a grin, Salamander stood up and the fire faded away as she lost touch with the ground.

"That's Silence," Rose pointed to another red headed girl, who had long hair and was wearing a green and gold costume. The girl smiled at me. "She can absorb all sorts of sound and sonic energy and use it to make herself really strong."

"She can't turn it off completely though," Pete Wisdom stated from the side. "The girl is always absorbing any sound around her body...even any that she makes. Because of that, she can't talk."

Silence clapped her hands together as a demonstration, and I couldn't hear a thing. She even yelled, or at least looked like she was yelling, though there wasn't a single sound coming from her.

"A girl who can't talk or make noise," Puffer grinned, "The perfect woman..." Silence just flipped him the bird and silently mouthed 'fuck you'.

"This is Surefire," Rose told me, pointing to a blonde boy with a green and gray costume and wearing a green metal mask over most of his face.

Without a word, Surefire turned and fired some sort of green energy blast from his hands. But to my surprise, the energy blast suddenly changed direction in mid-air, shot around and hit one of the targets out in the field.

"Show off," Rose muttered, though she looked at him in a way that made me wonder if she had a crush on him or something.

"I can sort of remote control my blasts," Surefire told me as he took off his mask.

Without the mask on, Surefire looked strangely familiar. Then I gasped, "You're Ryan Birch..."

Ryan Birch was an actor...and had been one of the child stars of a really popular sitcom for a few years. He had even done a couple of movies after that series had been canceled and had been something of a teen heartthrob. I knew a couple girls at school who had posters of him in their lockers. But about a year ago, he had sort of retired and disappeared.

"Yeah," Surefire sighed. He frowned as he looked at me, "Please don't go spreading it around though... Being a mutant ruined my career..." He shook his head, "I can just imagine what the tabloids would say if they knew..."

I could only nod at that as I stared at him. It was no wonder he wore a mask... If anyone had a reason to worry about being recognized while in one of those silly spandex costumes, it would be him. It was strange though, discovering that someone famous, that I'd watched on TV was really a mutant. But I guess even kids who work in Hollywood could be mutants.

"This is Catseye," Rose pointed to another girl.

Catseye was a tall and athletic looking blonde girl, wearing a solid black spandex costume. And when she turned to look at me, I could immediately see where she got her name. Her eyes were green and slitted like a cats. But that wasn't all. She had pointed ears and showed some sharp looking teeth when she smiled at me. It wasn't exactly a pleasant friendly smile though...more a predatory smirk.

"Why don't you tell her what you can do?" Pete Wisdom suggested.

However, Catseye just snorted, "Whatever I want to."

"She's quite agile, has a healing factor and enhanced senses," Pete told me, "Especially her eyesight. She can nearly see in the dark."

"Don't forget my claws," Catseye exclaimed, holding up her hands and revealing her VERY sharp looking nails.

I was really beginning to see a pattern here. It seemed like every one of them introduced themselves with their code name and power. I couldn't help wondering if this was some sort of custom for mutants or something.

After this, they introduced me to several more kids. There was Timelapse, a brunette girl who appeared to be 19 or 20, but turned out to really only be 13. She apparently had the power to temporarily alter her own age, and usually liked to make herself look just a little older than the other students.

And there was Nita, a cute 10 year old Puerto Rican girl that they called Tantrum because her psychokinetic powers kicked in whenever she got angry and destroyed nearly everything around her in what Rose called a poltergeist effect.

Then finally, there was Jessie, a 17 year old boy with dark skin and features. I thought that he was black, or at least partly black. But he reminded me a bit of Halle Berry in that his features were fine and light enough that you couldn't really be certain of his ethnicity. Jessie had the power to fly, but when he did so, a bunch of blue bubbles floated around him.

However, unlike the others, Jessie didn't have a code name or costume. He just wore a sort of generic looking dark blue jump suit which apparently served as his training uniform.

"I don't need any such thing as a code name," Jessie told me, "I have no intention of wearing spandex for a living. I'm going to be a lawyer..."

"Oh, you're going to be a super villain," Puffer joked, to which most of the others laughed.

"Giving yourselves ridiculous nicknames is silly," Jessie snorted derisively. "It's like a bunch of kids on a playground...or a gang where everyone is trying to make themselves seem tougher than they are."

"What would you know about gangs?" Puffer demanded, glaring at Jessie defensively.

"Personally," Pete Wisdom commented, pausing to light a cigarette, "I think the bloke has a point..."

"Enough of this," a voice said from behind us. I turned to see Mr. Monroe coming up, limping a little as he walked with his cane.

There was a woman with Mr. Monroe, an attractive woman who looked to be in her mid to late thirties, though she was dressed very conservatively. She had reddish brown hair that was pulled back into a pony tail and was wearing a business suit, with a matching brown skirt and jacket.

"Perhaps I should introduce your instructors," Mr. Monroe told me with a gentle smile. "This gentleman is Pete Wisdom..."

"I've already introduced myself," Pete said. Then he paused, "I just didn't show her this..." And with that, he turned and fired a bunch of glowing white knives out of his fingertips. They shot over and hit one of the targets, blowing...or burning holes all through it.

"Wow," I gasped, knowing that it really wasn't any more impressive than anything else that the students had shown me, but still being impressed nonetheless. I was getting a lot of that over the last ten minutes or so.

Then Mr. Monroe gestured to the dark haired man that I had seen earlier. The man with the gray costume and white armor that I had watched sending a wave through the ground like it was water. "This is Avalanche."

"Pleased to meet you," Avalanche told me with a nod. However, he didn't really smile. He looked so serious. And without a word, he turned and demonstrated his powers to me again, this time showing them intentionally.

"And this is Ms. Beltrane," Mr. Monroe gestured to the woman with him. Then he smiled, "No code name. She and I will be your teachers for the more ordinary subjects. Mr. Wisdom and Avalanche will be the primary instructors for your powers."

"What...what do you do?" I asked Ms. Beltrane.

"Tactile charged telekinesis," she responded crisply.

At my blank look, Ms. Beltrane reached over and picked up a rock from the ground. As she held it, her eyes, hand...and then the rock started to glow green. She pulled her hand away, but the rock remained in mid-air. Then, the rock started to move around her, circling her as though it was a moon orbiting a planet. It paused once it was in front of her again, moved several feet forward and then dropped to the ground.

"I am capable of touching an object and giving it a temporary charge," Ms. Beltrane explained, "Then while it is charged, I am capable of moving it with my mind. However," she looked a little embarrassed, "I can only charge fairly small objects and they don't retain their charge for more than a minute at most."

"So you can move things without touching them," I said slowly, "But first you have to touch them..."

"Not a very impressive power I fear," she admitted.

"As you will doubtlessly hear gossip about your instructors," Mr. Monroe told me, giving a steady look at all the students, "I feel that I should clarify the rumors up front...and give you their qualifications."

The three instructors all stood there, not looking completely pleased but not looking too uncomfortable either. This was obviously expected and they had probably gone through it with the other students. I guess the idea was that it was better to talk about them in front of them than behind their backs.

"Mr. Wisdom," Mr. Monroe nodded towards Pete, "is a former member of British Intelligence." He smiled in amusement, "Very James Bond I am sure. He has also had dealings with the X Men."

"I get around," Pete commented with a shrug.

"Avalanche is a former member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants," Mr. Monroe stated with a disapproving look. "He has also worked as an agent for the United States Government." Avalanche only grunted in response.

Then Mr. Monroe looked to Ms. Beltrane. "Ms. Beltrane was a teacher in a more...standard school, as well as owner of a small home based business. Unfortunately, one of her students discovered her secret and outed her. She lost her job and her business." Then Mr. Monroe shook his head sadly, "The irony is that the student who outed her was a mutant himself."

"Now," Mr. Monroe looked at me, "Each of these instructors has their own reasons for being here, but I can assure you that they are each very good at what they do and quite qualified to help you."

"So," Salamander suddenly asked me, "What are your powers?"

I felt embarrassed to be put on the spot like that, but I guess it was only fair since they'd all shown me. I took a deep breath, remembered what Bobbie had shown me about controlling my powers, and summoned the darkness. It was just a little at first, a bit around my hands, but then I decided to really let them see it up close and spread it out.

"I can't see," Catseye and Salamander gasped at once.

But as I let the darkness go away, Surefire turned to Catseye, "I thought you could see in the dark..."

"Normal dark," she growled back at him, "But that was NOTHING like normal darkness..."

"So you make it dark," Puffer exclaimed with a smirk, "I can do that with my light switch..."

"Hey," Surefire exclaimed, "We don't know your name yet..."

"Nes...," I started, then broke off, suddenly not sure that I was comfortable with them all knowing that I was really a guy. It was so embarrassing.

Then of course, I quickly thought of how they were all using code names. Maybe I should use one too. I had been thinking of calling myself Shadow. But then I had always been in Percy's shadow, and was now a shadow of my former self. And of course, a shadow wasn't anything... It was the absence of something, and I wasn't sure that I liked that, even if it was appropriate.

"Ness?" Jessie frowned, "Is that short for Vanessa?"

"Um...," my mind raced in surprise at that, "Yeah... Something like that." I quickly glanced at Rose who had a faint smile, though didn't say anything.

"Ness...," Salamander...Sally mused to herself. Then she suddenly grinned. "We should call you Dark Ness..."

I blinked in surprise at the sound of that, but repeated, "Darkness," to myself. It was kind of weird, but certainly no weirder than any of their code named. Besides, it had a certain ring to it. "I like it..."

"It looks like we found you a name," Avalanche commented.

"Silly nicknames," Ms. Beltrane muttered, giving a wry smile to Jessie who only nodded agreement.

"Welcome to the club," Surefire grinned at me.

Sally smiled, "Glad to have you with us...Darkness"

"What they said," Catseye nodded to me.

And with that, my new classmates...and hopefully friends began huddling closer around me to welcome me to the group. They were mutants...but that didn't really bother me anymore. They were all nice people...and I realized that I was now one of them.

Enter the Darkness
part 4 of 7
By Morpheus

It was only my second day at the school, and less than 24 hours since I had first arrived. Yet even in that short a time, I had already found myself sent to the Big House. Or the gym, depending on who you asked.

The massive building, affectionately known as both the Big House or the gym by the students and faculty was a short distance behind the main lodge building, and definitely NOT one of the original structures. It was mostly underground and pretty well disguised, though why I wasn't completely sure why, other than that Avalanche had said it was for security.

The Big House was definitely that. It was the primary training facility for the school, and was built mostly around a single large empty room which reminded me of the gymnasium at my old school, but was at least four times the size. Pete Wisdom had told me that it was no Danger Room, but that it worked...whatever that meant.

Of course, the large training room wasn't the only part of the Big House. There were several other rooms in the building as well, though they were all much smaller, including a weight room. Some of the weights and machines were so heavy, that there was no way a dozen people could lift them. However, Silence had quickly proven what those weights were for. They were for people like her... People who were a LOT stronger than normal.

At the moment, I was sitting in one of the smaller rooms, staring at a computer screen and some files that Pete Wisdom had given me to look over. They were files on several other people whose powers were also linked to the darkforce dimension.

"Cloak, Shroud, Silhouette, Asylum and Darkstar," I read off their names.

Most of them not only drew their powers from the darkforce dimension, but also had abilities similar to mine. Most of them could either draw on the darkness in that dimension as I had been doing, or teleport through it...like I apparently had the one time...the time I had escaped my dad.

However, my attention went to Darkstar, a Russian mutant whose powers were just a little different. Apparently she was connected to the darkforce dimension too, but her powers were to use it to fly and create solid objects out of the darkness. When I had asked Pete Wisdom if I might be able to do something like that, he had only shrugged and told me, "Perhaps once you get a better handle on your powers. But I wouldn't hold my breath..."

I sighed and turned away from the computer, standing up looking down at myself. I couldn't help blushing a bit at the sight of my new costume. This was my first time wearing it, and in fact it had only been designed and made that morning.

When they had asked me what kind of a training uniform I wanted, my first impulse had been to come up with something that would cover me up as much as possible and reveal the least amount of skin. Something which might hide my new body and gender. Perhaps a full bodysuit with a cloak to wrap around me. However, after a bit of thought, I decided to go the other way. I decided that if I was going to be stuck as a girl, I might as well start dressing the part. Or least I might as well start dressing to make my new body look good. It was a pride thing.

So there I was, standing there in a costume that was actually pretty close to how a lot of girls in my school...in my old school dressed. However, the biggest noticeable difference between my current uniform and their clothes was the color. I was wearing almost all black.

My costume consisted of a pair of black pants that were nearly skin tight, though not quite spandex. The boots were calf length, very form fitting and merged with the pants so well that they almost seemed to be a single piece. And then there was my shirt, a black tank top which left my stomach exposed and showed a little more skin than I was comfortable with...though I refused to let anyone know that. And finally, I had on a silver metal belt and a pair of silver wrist bands which finished the outfit.

I blushed a bit more as I remembered what Salamander...Sally had told me when she'd seen me in it. "Get a few piercings and the goths might go and make you their queen..."

"Great," I muttered to myself, "Queen of the goths." That certainly wasn't anything that I ever would have imagined being called before.

But just then, my thoughts were interrupted as Avalanche came into the room. He gave me a steady look and gestured for me to come with him. "We're ready for you now," he told me.

I followed him to the main gym area, where Mr. Monroe was waiting with a cart and a bunch of electronics equipment. He gave me one look, nodded and held up what looked like a suction cup.

"We will attatch several of these monitor on you before we begin," Mr. Monroe told me. "This will help us understand your limits."

A minute later, I had the monitors on me, feeling a bit annoyed at them. It was like having a dozen suction cups glued to my skin. Then Mr. Monroe and Avalanche both slipped on what were some sort of night vision goggles and nodded for me to begin.

"Okay," I took a deep breath, closing my eyes and then willing the darkness to come.

The darkness came with ease, forming around me and spreading outwards. My eyes automatically shifted to my special dark vision, which was a lot more comfortable than when they shifted back to normal vision. I looked around, seeing the room in perfect clarity, wondering at the same time if those night vision goggles were working.

"Ultraviolet doesn't work," Avalanche commented.

"Thermal vision does," Mr. Monroe told him.

I ignored them, or at least tried to as I spread my darkness as far as it would go, trying to see the limits of my range. However, I couldn't cover the entire gym area, and not even a quarter of it. It seemed that I could only spread my darkness out about a dozen yards or so at most.

"Very good Darkness," Avalanche told me once the darkness had faded. He looked at the scanners and electronic equipment and nodded. "It appears that your dark field blocks out all forms of visible light...as well as most non-visible light. And it seems that it even dampens much of the electromagnetic spectrum to some degree."

"Very impressive," Mr. Monroe smiled.

After this, they had me do a few more things, such as spread my darkness in one direction only...in front of me. It was hard as hell making it go in a single direction only, and I couldn't hold it for more than a few seconds, but it proved that it could be done. They also had me try holding the darkness as long as I could test my endurance. I could only hold it for a minute or two, depending upon the amount I had summoned.

"You will get better with practice," Avalanche told me with a satisfied smile. "Your range, control and length of time you can hold it will improve."

We continued with this testing and practice for another half hour before I was so drained that I couldn't call anymore darkness. At least not anything more than a faint wisp. Avalanche decided that this was enough for the moment and said that we'd work with my powers again later.

"Thank God," I muttered as I left the Big House, thankful for the break. I hadn't really done anything except stand there, but I was tired. I'd never imagined that using my powers like that could be so draining.

When I returned to the room that I now shared with Rose, I paused at the door, surprised by the scent of fresh baked cookies. And as I stepped in, there was Rose, sitting there with a smile and no sign of any cookies.

"That's kind of annoying," I told her, "You've made me hungry."

"Sorry," Rose smiled, though she didn't look sorry. Her tail was swishing back and forth, reminding me of the way that dogs wag their tails when happy. "By the way...I got that smell from the kitchen a half hour ago..."

And with that, Rose's scent changed back to that of fresh roses, which seemed to be her normal smell. I had asked her the night before if she was named Rose because it was her favorite scent, or if it was her favorite scent because of her name. She had only smiled at that, not saying a word.

"So..." I asked nervously, and even a little lamely, "What are you up to?" I still wasn't exactly sure how to talk to girls, or what we could even talk about. Even if I was one myself now.

"I'm doing an essay for Ms. Beltrane," Rose let out a sigh.

"She told me that I have to take some kind of test for her tomorrow morning," I told Rose, not feeling very enthusiastic about it.

"The entrance exam," Rose nodded, "She makes everyone take one so she knows what to start teaching..." She didn't look all that enthused about it either. Then Rose took another look at me asking, "Is that your new costume? Neat."

"Um...thanks," I blushed, glancing down at myself.

"About your clothes," Rose looked a little embarrassed, "I don't mean to spy or anything, but I noticed you don't have many clothes."

I gave a quick glance at my nearly empty closet. It wasn't completely empty and I did have some clothes, thanks to that brief stop at the store with Bobbie. However, that couldn't match the amount of clothes that a real girl would have collected.

"I...I've only been a girl for a couple days," I told Rose, too embarrassed to look at her. "And when I changed..." I grimaced, not sure that I wanted to talk about it. "Well...I left my house in a hurry." That was something of an understatement. "All I had were the clothes on my back..." And that was something of an overstatement as well since the only thing I had on was a pair of underwear.

Rose was silent for a moment, looking at me with an expression of sympathy. That was strange coming from a girl who looked like she was part skunk.

"Jessie has his license," Rose said slowly, "and he was going to take a couple of us to town later this afternoon..."

"You go into town?" I exclaimed, staring at her tail in surprise.

"Yeah," Rose nodded, blushing a little. "I just put on a big coat to hide my tail..."

"You're lucky," I sighed, knowing that a coat wouldn't hide my weird skin color that easily. I cringed at thought of going into town...knowing how people would react. I'd already seen it first hand. They'd either try to lynch me or run away, neither of which was very pleasant. But if I had my choice, I'd definitely go for the second.

"Lucky?" Rose blinked in surprise. Then she got a little defensive, "I was born this way. At least you know what it's like to be normal. I've always been this way. At school, I was always the girl who sat in the back of the class and wore a big coat all year round. And I couldn't control my own smell yet and always...stunk." She grimaced, with tears in her eyes. Obviously things hadn't always been easy on her.

"I'm sorry," I told her quietly.

Rose gave me a forced smile, looking a little embarrassed about her outburst, "At least you got to know what it was like being normal."

I just grunted at that. I didn't think that I was lucky at all having lost everything in my old life, including my own body, gender and identity. She had never been normal, so she didn't know what she was missing. But of course, I didn't say that to her. It was obvious enough that she'd had a very hard time herself and she didn't need my self-pity.

Then Rose's expression suddenly changed. She stared at me for a moment before asking, "Have you met Engine yet?"

"Who?" I blinked.

"C'mon," she grinned, "I'll introduce you..."

I wasn't sure where we were going, but Rose led me outside and down towards the lake that was just a short walk away. We followed a path along the lake, and then Rose stopped.

Just a short distance in front of us was a figure, an 8 foot tall metal statue. It was a light gray metal that was just a bit shiny, and in the general shape of a large man. But then it moved, turning just enough for me to get a look at its face. Its face...was not human. In fact, its face could have been that of a robot or something. It was somewhat like a skull, with no nose socket and the mouth looked frozen halfway open. However, there was a reddish orange energy that glowing from within its eyes and mouth.

"This is Engine," Rose told me, then whispered, "As in awesome engine of destruction." Then she turned to look up at Engine, "This is Ness. We call her Darkness."

Engine nodded his head a little as he looked down at me. Then he made a noise which sounded something like a cross between a loud groan and twisting metal.

"He can't talk," Rose told me. Then she frowned, "We don't really know a lot about him, except that his body is some sort of energy with a metal shell around it. Oh," she glanced up at Engine, "He's also as strong as the Hulk."

"As strong as the Hulk?" I gasped in disbelief. Everyone knew that there was NO ONE as strong as the Hulk. Not even the Avengers could stop that monster.

"Well, that's what they say," Rose admitted sheepishly. "But he's got a problem with endurance..." Engine nodded, giving that weird groaning metal sound again. "Whenever he exerts himself, his metal skin gets heated up. I've even seen it get red hot once..." She shook her head. "Mr. Wisdom says that if Engine pushes himself too much and overheats too bad, it'll destroy his metal skin and that he might explode and die."

All that I could think to say to that was, "Oh..."

"He usually likes to just hang out here and watch the lake," Rose told me.

I stared up at Engine and told him, "It's... It's nice to meet you..."

Engine gave that groaning metal sound again, which I guess was his way of talking. Or perhaps the only kind of sound that he could make. I guess that by looking at him, he probably didn't have vocal cords or a tongue to make sounds with.

But as I stared up at Engine's massive form, it was obvious why Rose had brought me there and introduced me to him. It was a not so subtle reminder that my mutation...and the physical changes that went with it could have been a LOT worse. I might have been turned into a girl and made to look really strange, but Engine was completely inhuman.

"Silence likes to come and sit with him a lot," Rose told me. "I think that's because neither of them can talk..."

"Makes sense," I shrugged.

After and I said good-bye to Engine and started walking back to the main lodge, she turned to me and said, "Anyway...about those clothes..." She grinned a little shyly at me, "I can always get you more clothes... Or maybe if you cover up and wear a scarf over your face..."

"Maybe," I responded quietly.

The whole hooded sweatshirt thing had worked pretty well when I was with Bobbie but that wouldn't do much if someone actually got close enough to see my face. After all, gray skin and solid black eyes aren't exactly inconspicuous.

"But I still have that other training session," I reminded her with a sigh, "So I'll probably be too busy to go..." Then I paused for a moment before exclaiming, "Hey...you said something about smelling cookies in the kitchen..."

Just a short while later, I had changed out of my costume and into some slightly more comfortable civilian clothes and was sitting in the large dining room that served as the school’s cafeteria. I frowned a little as I ate my lunch, well aware of the way that several of my fellow students were looking at me. It was the same way that I'd always looked at an attractive girl. It was pretty damn embarrassing.

Most of the others were there in their normal civilian clothes as well and told me to call them by their real names. However, Catseye at least preferred being called by just her code name, as did Puffer, who kept trying to hit on me.

Salamander told me, "My real name is Abigail Collins, but you can just call me Sally. Everyone does."

Surefire...Ryan looked at me, giving me that famous charming smile that appeared in several movies and countless posters, "So Ness, are you going to town with us?"

"You can sit next to me," Puffer grinned, leaning forward and putting his hand on my shoulder.

I grimaced, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, as well as fighting the urge to punch him. "You're not my type," I growled.

"What?" Puffer pulled back and glared at me, demanding, "Is that because I'm black? What's the matter...you don't like brothers? You've got a problem with me gray girl?"

"How about me?" Ryan smiled, "Am I more your type?"

"No," I grimaced, glaring at Rose who was sitting there giggling. "Leave me alone."

"Then what is your type?" Puffer demanded, "C'mon gray girl..."

I was getting really frustrated at this point and snapped, "Rose is more my type than you are..."

Suddenly, the whole room went completely silent while they all stared at me. Rose was turning bright red and cringing in embarrassment. I immediately regretted saying that...and embarrassing her so much.

"You're... You're gay?" Jessie blurted out in surprise.

"No..." I started to say, then froze. I gulped, suddenly realizing that I was now a girl...and I was still attracted to girls... So by definition, that did make me a lesbian. "Sort of," I muttered, blushing myself, "It's complicated..."

The rest of lunch was pretty quiet after that, for which I was thankful. It was pretty obvious that both Ryan and Puffer were embarrassed by the way that they'd been hitting on me, yet from the look on Puffer's face, I suspected that he'd probably try it again later. I groaned at the very thought.

"Sorry to embarrass you like that," I told Rose as we left, "I didn't mean to..."

"It's all right," she blushed. Then after a moment, she said, "Did you mean it when you said that I was more your type..." I could only nod in embarrassment at that myself. "I'm sort of honored but..."

"But you like guys and I don't look like one anymore," I finished with a sigh. She nodded her agreement, looking sort of apologetic, but I shrugged it off, trying to pretend that it didn't bother me. "It's all right... I understand..."

"We can still be friends though," she told me.

"Thanks," I told her with a weak smile.

I spent the next several hours just wandering around the school and getting familiar with my surroundings. Whenever I ran across one of the other students, they just shrugged off the whole thing in the dining room. Apparently my being a lesbian wasn't really a problem, just a bit of a surprise at the time. I guessed that something like being gay was pretty minor in comparisons to being a mutant freak.

But eventually it was time to go back for my second training session. And after a quick stop back at my room to change clothes again, I made my way back to the Big House.

When I got to the large training room, I was a little surprised to see Salamander, Catseye, Surefire and Jessie already there and in their costumes, apparently having just finished with some training exercises of their own. They were even beginning to walk out as I came in.

I stared at them for a moment and blushed as I thought about the conversation in the lunch room. I was still kind of embarrassed about the whole thing.

Not sure what else to say, I just gave a weak smile and said, "This whole thing almost makes me feel like some kind of super hero...like the X Men."

I had never really considered the X Men to be heroes, and had always thought that they were probably terrorists like my dad claimed, in spite of all the TV news stories saying that they MIGHT be heroes. However, recent experiences with how much normal people hated mutants caused me to give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially after learning that Bobbie was one of them.

Suddenly, Salamander snapped, "The X Men aren't heroes!" She was glaring at me and the ground around her feet had caught on fire.

I took a nervous step back and gasped, "What?"

"Those fucking bastards abandon their own at the drop of a hat," Salamander snapped furiously. Then she took a deep breath and grimaced, "My big brother Rusty used to hang around with that crew..." I was a little surprised at that as it was the first I'd heard of it.

"Uh oh," Surefire muttered, "You shouldn't have mentioned THEM." At the same time, Catseye just stood back with her arms crossed and a bit of a smirk on her face, obviously enjoying the scene.

"Those people abandoned my brother when he needed them most," Salamander growled. "He got sent to prison for something he didn't do...and without even getting a trial. Where were his friends? When he got attacked and put into a coma....where were his friends? They didn't help him. It was a group of terrorists...and only because they wanted to turn him into some sort of mind controlled slave. Where were the X Men? They didn't bother to free him. It was Magneto who did that... And when some psycho mutant murdered Rusty, the X Men were nowhere around. But they were quick to show up and help everyone else who was there with him..."

Salamander was definitely getting herself worked up at this point, and the ground around her was really getting all hot and fiery. Everyone was stepping away from her until she took several deep breaths and stared to calm down.

"Stupid X Men," Salamander muttered as she stomped off, not saying a word of apology.

"She's a little touchy about that subject," Surefire told me with a shrug.

All that I could do was look back to the door that she'd left through and shake my head. "I guess..."

"She has issues," Jessie commented.

Then Surefire whispered to me, "There are enough issues around this place to open a magazine stand." I couldn't help chuckling a little at that, though unfortunately it came out a little more like a giggle. And unfortunately, I knew that I myself had at least a rack of those issues.

"We're just going to clean up and head to town," Surefire told me, "Are you coming?"

"I can't," I sighed.

"Why not?" Pete Wisdom asked as he came up behind me.

"Um...this training thing," I reminded him quietly.

"I think you can skip it this once," Pete grinned.

"She needs her training," Avalanche announced as he came up as well.

"She needs some new clothes too," Pete pointed out. "Rose tells me that she only came with a couple sets..." Avalanche gave me a steady look for a few seconds and then nodded agreement.

"But I can't go," I grimaced, gesturing down at myself, "I mean, look at me..."

Pete just smirked a bit at that, pulling out a cigarette and putting it to his lips, ignoring the glare from Avalanche as he lit it. Then he absently reached into his pocket and pulled out a metal can which he tossed to me.

"I thought that might come up," he told me. "That's why I got this."

"What is this?" I asked, opening the can only to see that it was full of some sort of cream. Skin colored cream. "Makeup?"

"Sort of," Pete shrugged, reaching into the can and taking a little bit which he smeared onto the back of my hand. "It's a breathable latex cream. You go ahead and spread it over your face and hands, keeping it thin. It dries quickly and gives your skin a more normal color."

"Really?" I exclaimed, looking at the small patch of almost normal looking skin on the back of my hand.

"It lasts between four to six hours before it starts peeling," Pete told me. "And you can peel it off anytime..."

I stared at the patch on the back of my hand, which seemed to have dried already. Then I picked at it, easily peeling it off. It of reminded me of when I was a kid and used to smear Elmers glue on the back of my hand and then peel it off when it dried.

"You'd better get changed," Avalanche told me with a hint of a smile.

"All right," I laughed, rushing back to my room with the can clutched firmly in my hand.

It didn't take me long to get back to more normal clothes, and then to smear the cream all over my hands and face. It took a minute to dry, but once it did, I stared down at my hands in relief. They almost looked normal again. Except of course for the fact that they were girl hands and the skin turned gray again at my wrists.

Once I put on the hooded sweatshirt that Bobbie had given me, all that was visible of my skin was my face and hands. The hood made sure that my pointed ears and charcoal gray hair were kept hidden as well. And if it wasn't for my black eyes, I would almost look like any other girl. And a pair of sunglasses would fix that.

A few minutes later, I was out by Jessie's car, waiting for everyone else to get there. Then I noticed a woman who looked about thirty or so coming towards us with a bit of a smirk on her face. It took me a moment to realize that it was Timelapse, having made herself a little older.

"I'm going to have to keep you kids from getting into trouble," Timelapse said, sounding a bit smug.

"And I'm going to be keeping an eye on you," Pete Wisdom said from the side, taking a drag from his cigarette. "You ain't going into no pubs on my watch girl..."

"Awwww," Timelapse whined, sounding more like the 13 year old that she really was.

"You're going too?" Sally exclaimed, not looking pleased with that.

"There's not enough room in the car," Catseye pointed out.

"You kids are crazy if you think we're letting you go out without a chaperone," Pete grinned, "Besides...I need to pick up a few supplies of my own." And with that, he gestured to where his own car was parked, "I can take a couple of you if you don't want to be too crowded."

"And smell your cigarettes the whole way?" Timelapse grimaced and stuck out her tongue, "No way..."

Surefire...Ryan chuckled at that. Like me, he was wearing a disguise, though for an entirely different reason. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses so that no one would recognize him as a famous child star from TV.

It didn't take long to get the riding arrangements taken care of though, and as there were a couple more people wanting to go than there were seats in Jessie's car, Silence and Ryan went with Pete.

As soon as we got to town, Pete immediately vanished into the nearest bar while the rest of us kind of wandered into a pizza joint and arcade. Timelapse immediately went for the dancing video game, which was sort of funny to watch as she still looked like an adult. The rest of us just sat down and ordered a couple pizzas.

As we finished eating, Silence and Jessie wandered off to play some games as well, leaving only me, Sally, Ryan, Rose and Catseye there at the table. We were all looking at the remaining pizza, probably each wondering the same thing...if we should have just one more slice.

"So," Ryan looked at me, "What does your family think of your coming to school here..."

I froze at that, gulping before I quietly told him, "They don't..."

"They don't?" Sally frowned in confusion.

"They don't know," I said quietly, staring down at the table in front of me. "They think I'm dead..."

"What?" Sally blinked in surprise as well as curiosity.

"They think I was murdered," I whispered, pausing for a moment before looking her in the eyes, "By a gray skinned mutant girl..."

"Oh shit," Ryan exclaimed. "Surely you can tell them..."

I just shook my head at that, tears beginning to come down my cheeks though I fought to hold them back. "The last time I saw my dad, he was trying to kill me..." My voice choked, "My dad was trying to shoot me..."

There was complete silence at that, and the others looked mostly uncomfortable. They started to filter away from the table, letting me have some room by myself.

"Are you going to be all right?" Rose asked, putting a hand on my arm. I just nodded, and she backed off to leave me some space as well.

Strangely, the only person who hadn't left me was Catseye, the one who had been avoiding me and just about everyone else since I arrived at the school. She just sat there, looking at me through the glasses that she was wearing to hide her own odd eyes, her expression unreadable.

Finally, Catseye took off her glasses and stared at me with her green slitted eyes. "I know how you feel," she told me quietly. She was silent for a moment, "I know what it's like to have your own parents hate you..."

"What...?" I whispered in surprise.

Catseye gave me a weak smile that I think she meant to be cocky. "My dad...," she spat out the word as if it was a profanity, "If you can call him that... He was a mutant psycho called Sabertooth..." She grimaced, looking furious as she continued, "He raped my mother...and probably doesn't even know I exist."

All that I could do was squeak out an, "Oh..."

However, Catseye continued as if I hadn't uttered a word. Her words were quiet but bitter. "My own mom could barely even look at me. I'm a reminder of what happened to her... And it only got worse when my powers started to kick in...especially since they’re so much like his..."

I just sat there, staring at Catseye, my own problems forgotten for the moment. Not sure what else to do, I carefully put my hand on hers, offering what little comfort I could. It seemed to be enough as she gave me a faint smile back before slipping her glasses back on.

It definitely seemed to be a day for heartfelt revelations and pained history. Rose, Sally and now Catseye. Ryan had been right. That school was full of issues.

Enter the Darkness
part 5 of 7
By Morpheus

I hate tests. But unfortunately, my whole day seemed to be dedicated to them. I'd already spent half the morning taking the placement test for Ms. Beltrane and was now back at the Big House and in costume for some more testing with my powers.

"You can't fully control your powers until you know exactly what they are," Avalanche had told me when we started.

For the last half hour, I had been doing some exercises with my powers, mostly just summoning small amounts of darkness and dispelling it. It was getting quite easy to do and I was getting a little bored. But then Avalanche suggested that we try something different.

"You said that you managed to teleport through your darkness once before," Avalanche told me. "I'd like you to try working with that..."

"I don't know how," I admitted.

Avalanche just frowned. "Remember what you were thinking when it happened the last time. Try remembering what it felt like."

"I'll try," I whispered, not wanting to think about it...not wanting to remember. My own dad had been shooting at me and I had been scared shitless. That was the one point in my life that I wanted to remember the least, but also the one that I could never forget.

With that, I closed my eyes, grimacing as I pulled the darkness around me. I remembered the last time that the darkness had been so...intense. I remembered falling through it... And though I wasn't sure what I was doing, I tried willing myself to go deeper into the darkness.

Suddenly, I could feel it. The darkness increased around me, growing even deeper and darker until even I couldn't see anything around me. My heart raced in fear as I saw nothing but pure darkness in all directions...yet strangely enough, I realized that I could sort of feel it...feel through it as well. It was almost as if the darkness was a part of me.

Just a moment later though, the darkness faded a bit and I was able to sense...and then see things around me again. I hadn't moved a step, yet it was obvious that I was not standing where I had been. And as the darkness faded away from me entirely, I gasped in shock, realizing where I was at.

"I'm home," I gasped in disbelief, staring around my own back yard. And then I stared at the very house which I had barely managed to escape from just days earlier. "Home..."

I was both excited and scared at the same time, not sure what to do. My heart pounded in my chest, and for a brief moment, I even thought about going in and trying to explain what had happened to my mom. She was at least a little more reasonable than my dad.

But then, the back door opened and my brother Percy stepped out. He didn't see me...at least at first. However, that changed in just a moment as he caught sight of me. His expression went to shock and horror...and then hatred.

"MUTIE!" he screamed out, though whether as an insult to me, a call for help or a warning to anyone else nearby, I wasn't sure.

"No," I winced at the sheer hatred in his face. And before he even took his first step towards me, I was taking a step back and summoning the darkness at the same time. This time though, I was summoning it intentionally...and trying to teleport a way.

Once again, I was once again falling into the deepest darkness, which I now realized was actually the darkforce dimension that my darkness came from. I was actually going into that dimension when I teleported.

"Oh shit," I gasped the moment that I came out of the darkness, once again finding myself in the boys locker room of my old school.

There were several screams, yells and curses as the various boys who were in there, in various states of dress and undress saw me. The fear, anger and confusion were so thick that I could nearly choked on it. And before anyone had a chance to yell, "Kill the mutie," I jumped back into the darkforce dimension.

When the darkness passed again, I collapsed to the ground in exhaustion, barely aware that I was back in the bedroom that I shared with Rose. I just sat there for a few minutes, trying to catch my breath and steady my nerves.

"I can't believe it," I whispered, both afraid and in awe of what I had just done. I had just gone all the way back home...and back again in almost no time at all. It was frightening...and exhilarating at the same time.

Finally though, I realized that I had probably get back to the Big House because Avalanche might be worried about me. I smiled nervously, deciding that I had better walk this time. I didn't want to accidentally end up back in my OLD bedroom the next time.

When went back to the Big House, I gave Avalanche a nervous smile, "I accidentally went back to my home town..."

All that he said to that was, "You'll do better with practice."

I wasn't sure that I was ready to practice teleportation again, but he insisted. "Focus on your destination... Concentrate on where you wish to go."

"Okay," I told him, taking a deep breath before summing the darkness and stepping through it into the darkforce dimension. I knew that I could do it, especially since I'd already managed to get back to the school that way. So it wasn't any surprise when I stepped out of the darkness back into the room I shared with Rose. "YES." Still, it was a relief.

After a moment to rest up and catch my breath again, I returned to the Big House, this time using my power. It was getting easier to control now that I was beginning to understand what I was doing. I even managed to arrive just several feet from where I'd left a few minutes earlier.

"Very good," Avalanche told me.

Avalanche was just beginning to tell me to try it again when Pete Wisdom came over. "I think it's time for a little game of tag," he grinned to me.

"Tag?" Avalanche frowned.

Pete just grinned, "Trust me..."

It turned out that what Pete meant by tag wasn't exactly the way that I'd always played it before. He had all of the students go out into the woods, each of us with a ribbon tied to our belts. The goal was for us to all separate and then try sneaking up on each other and steal the other person's ribbon, knocking them out of the game. The last person standing was the winner. I grinned a little as he explained, thinking that with my powers, I was guaranteed to win.

However, I as we played, I quickly learned three valuable lessons. The first was that creating a darkness field in the woods so that I could hide inside was not necessarily a good idea. A huge spot of pure darkness kind of stood out and let everyone who saw it know where I was at.

The second lesson that I learned was that I could not keep my darkness field up forever, and when I eventually dropped it, I became quite visible again.

And the final lesson that I learned was that I should look up, because you never know when a cat girl may jump out of the tree from above you. I think that Catseye left me with a pretty good bruise when she tackled me.

When the game was over and Catseye had been declared the winner, we all gathered around in the outside training field behind the lodge. We were all joking with each other about how close we had come to getting away, or how close we had come to taking someone else out.

"At least I wasn't the first one taken out," I muttered to myself as my only consolation. That honor fell to Timelapse, though I hadn't been far behind.

"Now let's try it again," Pete announced, "This time you'll divide into teams..."

When Pete chose the teams, I ended up with Catseye, Jessie and Puffer. Salamander, Rose, Silence, Timelapse and Surefire were on the other team. I didn't think that it was quite fair that they had five people while we only had four, but Pete said to deal with it. But I glanced over at Catseye and grinned, thinking that we couldn't lose. With my darkness and the two of us being able to see in the dark...

As soon as the game began, Jessie and Puffer went after Timelapse and Salamander, while I pulled up a darkness field which covered Silence, Surefire and Rose, as well as Catseye and myself. I was sure that we had the advantage.

But Catseye immediately yelled, "What the hell? I can't see..."

"I thought you could see in the dark," I exclaimed.

"NORMAL dark," she shouted back angrily.

But suddenly, everything went quiet. Extremely quiet. There wasn't a single sound anywhere. Even as I tried yelling to Catseye, I realized that this was the world of Silence, using her second power. The power to absorb sound. I also realized that at the moment, she was the only one of us able to hear, just like I was the only one able to see.

Then there was the smell... The horrible, awful smell which made me gag and nearly vomit. There was absolutely no doubt where it had come from since only a skunk girl like Rose could make something smell that bad.

Then while I was distracted by the silence and the horrible smell, I forgot that Silence could hear me retching and yelling, while Rose could smell us. I didn't remember until Rose charged me and said, "Sorry," as her hands dug around my belt and pulled out my ribbon.

And at the same time, Silence was following the sound of Catseye's choking and trying to take her out. Fortunately...or unfortunately, Catseye was fast enough to scramble for her ribbon as well. They each managed to get each other's ribbons about the same time, taking them both out in a tie.

"I can't believe it," I groaned in disgust at myself while dropping my darkness field, "I'm the only one who can see and you took me out like nothing..."

"Only because you weren't focused," Rose told me with a giggle, "I couldn't have done it if you weren't so distracted..."

"God that stench," I grimaced.

"Is this better?" Rose asked as it started to smell like roses again.

"Much," both me and Catseye said at the same time.

Then I glanced over at Catseye and realized that she looked pretty bad. She actually had emptied her stomach while I'd only come close. And she looked absolutely miserable.

"I ought to skin you alive for doing that," Catseye spat out at Rose.

"Her enhanced sense of smell makes her more susceptible to my smells," Rose giggled.

"Like my eyes are more sensitive to light," I thought aloud. Then I blinked, "Then why weren't you hit by your own smell?"

"Strong smells don't bother me," Rose shrugged. "It's something with my powers... No matter how strong the smell or how bad it stinks...I can handle it no problem. In fact, that smell doesn't bother me any more than smelling apples. As far as I'm concerned...it's just a smell."

"You're lucky," Catseye growled.

"Don't forget the game," Pete called out.

However, Pete's warning was too late as Jessie took advantage of her own distraction to suddenly land next to her and grab her ribbon before she realized what had happened.

In the end, it was my team that won, but only barely. No one had been able to touch Jessie or Puffer since Jessie could stay out of reach by flying and Puffer kept blowing up like a puffer fish so no one wanted to get close. But the final thing in our favor was that Salamander's own ribbon accidentally came loose and fell off on its own. Otherwise, we might never have been able to get close enough to snag it.

"Game over," Pete shouted to us. "Time to hit the showers..."

Avalanche had been watching the whole thing without a word, but as I walked past him, he told me, "You need to pay attention to your own teammates and their abilities so that you don't trip them up that way again."

Then as he was about to add something else, I sighed, "And I need to focus..." I let out a sigh at that, especially as he nodded.

I grimaced and shook my head in self-disgust as I made my way back into the Big House, and then into the locker room where I'd changed into my uniform. Without a word, I stripped out of my costume and climbed into the showers, letting out a sigh as I did so. It felt kind of nice.

Just a minute or so later, I heard something and turned to realize that the girl...the other girls were in the locker room with me. I gasped in embarrassment and instinctively caused the darkness to form.

"Hey," Salamander exclaimed, "Cut that out... I can't see..."

"Sorry," I apologized, pulling the darkness in closer to myself so that they could all still see...just not me.

"What the hell are you doing that for?" Catseye demanded, "It's not like you have anything we haven't seen before."

"But," I stammered, the darkness fading around me. "But I'm..."

"Oh yeah," Salamander shrugged, "that thing you said at lunch."

"I don't care if you're a lezzie," Catseye snorted, "Just don't hit on me and we'll get along fine..." And then, as if to prove her point, Catseye finished taking off her own clothes right in front of me. She even seemed to be almost inviting...even daring me to take a good long look.

Salamander shrugged, "What the hell..." And with that, she took off her own clothes as well.

Rose, the only other girl who was in there at the time gave me a knowing look, and blushed just a little bit before she took began taking off her clothes. She had apparently decided that the fact that I was really a guy, or at least had been, didn't matter in a situation like that. And I guess she didn't mind the possibility of my oggling her, though I made a point of looking away, in spite of the fact that I really did want to look.

"Nothing I haven't seen before," I muttered to myself under my breath, thinking of every time I looked in the mirror.

I sighed and finished up with my shower, trying not to look at any of them too obviously, but it was pretty damn hard. Somehow I managed though, and got dressed. It was strange to realize that this whole situation was going to be the norm from now on.

"Being able to go into the girls locker room is every guys dream," I told myself with a long sigh. But of course most guys don't realize that they'd have to become a girl in order to do so. "Lucky me..."

When I left the Big House, I found Ms. Beltrane out behind the lodge, working with Tantrum...Nita, trying to teach her how to control her powers. Normally it was Avalanche or Pete who did all the teaching about powers, but since Ms. Beltrane's powers were so similar in nature to Nita's, that made her the logical one.

Then I noticed the cute little 10 year old girl who was sitting off to the side and watching the two of them silently. It took me a moment to realize that this was Timelapse at a new age. I hadn't seen her become so young before since she usually seemed to prefer being older than she really was rather than younger.

""You can do it," Ms. Beltrane told Nita in a gentle tone, "Just be calm and let your mind feel the rock..."

"She won't be able to do it," Salamander...Sally quietly told me as she came up beside me. She glanced at me and said, "Tantrum can't really do anything with her powers unless she's angry, and then she can't control them." She chuckled at that.

"Ms. Beltrane seems to think she can," I pointed out.

"Yeah," Sally nodded, "But they also say that Nita is a real strong psychokinetic and might be as powerful as Magneto some day." She shrugged at that, "I'll believe it when I see it."

I just nodded at Sally's comments, feeling a little less skeptical about Nita's abilities than she was. I had a feeling that Nita could be capable of doing a lot more than just destroying everything around. She just needed to learn how to control her powers first. And as she struggled with a rock, even causing it to wiggle a bit where it sat on the ground, I could see that she was beginning to learn.

After watching Ms. Beltrane and Nita practice for a few more minutes, I turned and went inside. As interesting as it was to watch the little girl TRYING to move objects with her mind, I'd already had more than enough with practicing powers myself for the day.

When I got to my room, I stopped to look at the new clothes that I'd bought the night before but still hadn't bothered to take out of their bags. I hadn't thought about it until it was too late, but I didn't actually have any money to buy anything with. Thankfully Pete had been real understanding and had even paid for everything himself.

"I guess I should put this away," I sighed as I dug through my new clothes.

It didn't take me long to get all my clothes put away, then I sat down to read through the book that Bobbie had given me. But after awhile, I grew tired of that.

"How much sex ed can a guy...girl take?" I muttered to myself. I knew that it was important, but I could only handle taking so much of that stuff at one time.

Then I decided that perhaps I hadn't had too much training with my powers after all. Since I didn't see what else to do at the moment, I began practiced my teleporting a little bit more. I didn't do much though, only going between the lodge and the Big House, which was just enough to build up my confidence in my abilities.

The rest of the day passed pretty quickly, and I was feeling fairly satisfied with how things had gone, or at least how well they'd gone after the morning practice. I still felt a little bruised due to Catseye's ambush.

Later that night, as I lay curled up in my bed, covered by the comforting blanket of night, I glanced over at Rose who was already asleep on the other side of the room. I could see her just as clearly as if it were light out, except that it was in the strange black and white vision which was becoming more familiar to me.

Then I let out a sigh and closed my eyes, unable to get the image of her naked body out of my mind. I couldn't help thinking of earlier that day in the locker room, when I'd gotten a very good look at not only Rose, but of Catseye and Sally as well. It had been very...interesting.

As I lay there, I became aware of the fact that my body was responding to my thoughts. My charcoal gray nipples were becoming hard...and very sensitive. And at the same time, the sensations that I was getting from the new equipment between my legs was indescribable. It was all warm and gooey and tense at the same time. It felt sort of like an erection...but completely reversed. I wasn't sure how to describe it, even to myself.

"Wow," I whispered, thinking that it felt a little similar to what I used to feel when I got turned on as a guy, yet at the same time, completely different.

I felt a little hesitant as I began rubbing my nipples, gasping at just how well they responded to the touch. They felt even better... And after a moment, one of my hands slipped between my legs, rubbing at my equipment down there. It was all moist...and felt incredible.

After playing with myself for awhile, the pressure began to really build. It didn't feel nearly as insistent as it had as a guy though. Then I paused, realizing that I could smell myself. I gulped and quickly pulled my hands away, grimacing as I did so. I REALLY wanted to keep it up, but I knew that if I could smell that, then Rose most definitely could. Sure she was asleep, or at least I thought she was, but I didn't want to take the chance that the smell would wake her.

"Damn," I muttered to myself, feeling frustrated as I clenched my hands into fists at my side. Just when I had finally found something good about my new body, I had to stop it. "Maybe later," I told myself silently, knowing that there would have to be time when Rose wasn't around.

And with that, I rolled over and closed my eyes, trying not to think about those sensations that I had felt and was still feeling to a large degree. It wasn't easy, but I did eventually get to sleep.

--------------------

I let out a long sigh as I sat down on the couch in the large common room, turning my attention to the big screen TV. It had been a long day and I was ready to do nothing but watch a movie and veg out a bit.

It had been a week since I had come to the school, and I surprised myself a bit with just how much I was getting used to it in that time, and with how much I had already learned to control my powers. In fact, while I had been doing my training session that morning, I had even discovered a whole new use for my power.

When I summoned my darkness, it was basically pulling a part of the darkforce dimension into our own. And when I teleport, I was basically just stepping all the way into the darkforce dimension and then stepping out in a different place.

During my training session that morning, I had been standing next to one of the walls of the 'gym' while I spread out my darkness field. My darkness field had actually gone right through the wall behind me... And when I sensed my field, I could sense through the wall as well. It had been an act of curiosity when I stepped through the wall...as though it wasn’t even there.

Pete Wisdom had told me that my newly discovered ability to walk through walls was pretty much like my ability to teleport. But instead of going all the way into the darkforce dimension, I was only partly in it...and out of phase with most matter in our own dimension. It didn't really make much sense to me, but there was no doubt that it worked.

Unfortunately, the rest of my day wasn't quite as successful or as productive as my training session, at least not to my perspective. The rest of my day had been spent in class, listening to Ms. Beltrane talk about English, the Civil War and how it related to the current situation between humans and mutants, as well as a few other subjects. But at least with just a couple of us, it was easier to actually learn anything than back in my old school.

But after all of that, and another game of Pete's version of tag that afternoon, I was ready for some good quality mind numbing TV. And it looked like I wasn't the only one with that idea as the other students were gathering around there as well. One of them even brought a horror movie to watch.

We had been watching the movie for about half an hour or so when Puffer exclaimed, "Man she's hot," referring to the hero's love interest.

"Yeah," Ryan responded, "But she's a total bitch..."

"What?" Jessie asked in surprise. After all, that actress had a reputation of being nice. She almost always played a really nice girl.

"I met her a couple times," Ryan shrugged. "She might usually play heroine roles, but in real life she is a total bitch. You wouldn't believe what a snob she is..."

"Really?" Sally asked, seeming rather amused by that.

Then as the main villain came on screen, Puffer said, "Well I bet that guy is a total freak in real life..."

Several of us nodded at that. The guy was playing the main villain really looked the part, which wasn't surprising as he played a villain in just about every movie that I'd ever seen him in.

"Actually, he's pretty cool," Ryan grinned. "He played the villain in one of my movies, and he taught me a couple of card games while we were on the set."

We laughed at that and Ryan told us about some of the other famous people that he knew from his years doing TV and movies. There were even a few big named celebrities on that list.

Then the movie got to the point where the main villain summoned a demon. I wouldn't have thought much of it, except that Puffer exclaimed, "Hey, that thing looks like you Ness..."

I stared at the screen and gasped as I realized the resemblance. The demon in the movie had dark skin and hair, as well as pointed ears and solid black eyes. Just like me. Then I gulped, feeling a cold chill run down my spine.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Sally asked me after a minute.

"Leave me alone," I muttered, wanting to just curl up into a ball and vanish.

"Ness?" Rose asked gently.

"What's wrong with you girl?" Puffer demanded.

"I'm a freak," I spat out bitterly.

Over the past week, I had thought that I was getting used to it all, that I was adjusting to my new life. But all of a sudden, it had all hit me again. I was just like that demon in the movie... I was a freak who couldn't even go out in public without a disguise. Even among the other students I was a freak. I was a freak among freaks.

But it was more than just being a freak. I couldn't help remembering that I had lost my entire life, my entire identity and sense of self. I had thought that I was adjusting to being a mutant, a freak and a girl...but now it looked like I hadn't adapted as much as I'd thought.

"You're not a freak," Sally tried to reassure me, though she didn't sound all that sincere.

"LOOK AT ME," I jumped up and gestured down at myself. I stared down at my breasts, which I had gotten so used to over the last week that I often forgot just how strange they really were to me. "Just two weeks ago I was normal," I spat out. "I went to bed as a normal person and woke up like THIS."

"It can't be that bad," Jessie said, "So your skin changed color..."

If only it had been just my skin changing color. I think that it might have been easier to handle. But it was more than that...much more. My entire life had been torn away because of that little X factor in my DNA. My very sense of identity.

"You don't understand," I spat out at him, "When I went to bed...I was a GUY." I knew that it was a mistake as soon as the words slipped from my lips, but it was too late. And as they all gasped in surprise, all but Rose, I sneered, "Do you have any idea what it's like having an overnight sex change?"

"Whoa," Puffer exclaimed, staring at me in disbelief. "You're a guy?"

"No way," Catseye said, staring at me intently, "I saw her naked and I can tell you that she's all girl..."

"She WAS a guy," Rose said quietly. "Her mutation changed her..."

"You KNEW?" Sally stared at Rose with almost as much surprise as she had just been staring at me. Rose only nodded, not saying a word but giving me a reassuring smile.

I grimaced in mixed anger and embarrassment, fighting back the urge to call up the darkness and vanish into it. But I knew that I wasn't angry at them. They had been nothing but nice to me since I'd arrived. Even though I looked weird, they had all welcomed me, treating me like I was one of them. And as uncomfortable as revealing the truth made me, I figured that I at least owed it to them.

"I...I was a guy," I said more quietly, sitting down again and clenching my hands. "I...I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but it's just..."

"Too weird?" Puffer responded.

"I think she means it was personal," Rose said, putting a hand on mine and giving me an encouraging smile.

"Well," Sally said, "We already knew you were...well...gay, so I guess this isn't much different..."

"She's a transvestite," Puffer snorted.

"No. That's a cross dresser," Sally said, "And she's a girl, so that means she's not a cross dresser..."

I just took a deep breath and held it, hoping that they wouldn't all freak out on me. It was hard enough as it is, but I was a freak, even among the freaks. There would have to be a limit to how much weirdness they could accept from me, and I hoped that this wasn't it.

"Okay, so you were a guy," Catseye snorted, "Can we get back to the movie already. I can't hear what they're saying..."

Puffer just crossed his arms and muttered, "I can't believe I was hitting on him..."

"Her," Rose pointed out.

"You don't mind if we still refer to you as HER do you?" Jessie asked a little cautiously.

"That's fine," I told him with a sigh. "I think its better that way..." It would help me to get used to my new gender. I had been trying, but I guess I needed to try a little more.

We talked about this for another couple of minutes before we went back to the movie, but I knew that the others were still thinking about it. I caught just about all of them glancing at me when they didn't think I would notice. Fortunately, none of their looks seemed hostile...only curious. And thankfully, none of them seemed really all that freaked out by my revelation.

"I guess being weird makes you more tolerant of other people's weirdness," I quietly mused to myself. And being so weird myself, I guess I didn't have much room to be judgmental of other people either.

However, the night wasn't out of surprises just yet. A short while later, Mr. Monroe came in and called for our attention. As I turned, I was a little startled to realize that he wasn't alone. There was a woman standing next to him. She looked to be in her thirties, had brown hair and glasses, which along with her suit made her look quite conservative.

"Everyone," Mr. Monroe announced, gesturing to the woman beside him, "This is my co-founder for this school. Let me introduce you to....Ms..."

"Corvax," she said announced, "Sonja Corvax..."

Enter the Darkness
part 6 of 7
By Morpheus

The whole room went silent as we all stared at the newcomer, the woman whom Mr. Monroe had just introduced as Ms. Corvax, one of our school's founders. She just stood there, silently staring back at us with an unreadable expression.

"It is a pleasure to finally meet you all," Ms. Corvax finally said.

I know that I wasn't the only one who was surprised by her presence. Mr. Monroe had said that his co-founder wanted to remain anonymous, but it looked like she had changed her mind for some reason. I wasn't sure what that meant.

Ms. Corvax slowly walked closer, giving us each a closer look. However, her eyes stopped on me and she looked at me with just a little more curiosity than she had shown the others.

"So you are Nestor," she said. "I understand that your mutation has been somewhat...unusual."

"I..." I glanced at the others, then back at her, "I go by Ness now..."

"Oh yes," she smiled with some amusement, "Dark Ness."

"Ms....Corvax," Mr. Monroe glanced at her, "is here to see how the school is coming... Please remember your manners."

And with that, Ms. Corvax took another look at all of us and then left the room with Mr. Monroe. It wasn't until she was gone that I suddenly remembered that Mr. Monroe had told me that not only did his co-founder want to remain anonymous, but that she was a mutant as well.

"I wonder what her powers are," I mused aloud.

Neither Ms. Corvax nor Mr. Monroe had made any mention at all of what her powers were, which seemed somewhat odd to me. Just about every other mutant that I'd met had been introduced with their powers along with their name.

"No idea," Sally responded. No one else had any ideas either, so the subject was dropped for the moment.

When the movie was over, I sighed and started walking towards my room, surprised by all of the events of the day. I had discovered a new power, revealed my secret to the other students and had even met the mysterious other founder of the school. It had been a busy day, but even busy days have to end.

But as I was going down the hall, I heard a little girl’s voice exclaim, "Turn that light off... I can't sleep if you keep leaving that stupid light on every night..."

"But I can't sleep when it's all dark," Nita's voice quickly followed.

And as I stood there, Nita came out of her bedroom, dressed only in a pair of pajamas. Another little girl about the same age, also wearing only pajamas followed her, hands on her hips and scowling. I thought that it was somewhat amusing that Timelapse and Nita were roommates, but I guess it made sense since they were the two youngest kids at the school.

Timelapse scowled in annoyance, growing bigger and older right before my eyes. She aged several years, until she looked to be about 11 years old, but with her pajamas so tight that they were ready to burst open. She finally noticed this and then became younger again, stopping at the age of about 9 or so where her pajamas were a bit loose on her.

"I can't sleep if you keep leaving that light on overhead," Timelapse grumbled.

"But I'm afraid..." Nita whined.

"Hey," I called out to them, causing them both to jump as they apparently hadn't noticed me in the hall. "So you're afraid of the dark," I looked down at Nita.

Nita gulped and took a step back away from me. I hadn't realized it until then, but she'd reacted like that just about any time I got too close to her. But now I guess I could understand why. With my power to call darkness, I had to represent everything that she feared.

"I am...I was afraid of the dark too," I told her gently.

"YOU?" Nita gasped in surprise, looking kind of doubtful.

"Sure," I grinned, "I couldn't sleep without a night light... But I grew out of it..." I just didn't mention that this was only a week earlier, or that the only reason I no longer needed the night light was that now I could see in the dark.

"That's funny," Nita giggled, apparently no longer quite so threatened by me.

I just smiled down at her, then on an impulse said, "Maybe you should use a night light." I glanced over at Timelapse, "You can have a bit of light but it won't be enough to bother her..."

"Do you know where I can get one?" Nita asked hopefully.

"Yeah," I responded without thinking about it, "I can get you one..."

I gulped as soon as the words were out of my mouth, but it was too late. I'd already said that I would do it, so now I would have to.

"Just a minute," I told Nita.

And with that, I stepped back away from her, summoned just enough darkness to cover myself and then jumped into the darkforce dimension. My heart was racing by what I was about to do, though whether out of fear or excitement I didn't know.

"I'm home," I said as I stood right outside of my house. Or at least my old house since I knew that I couldn't very well call it home anymore.

For a moment, I just stood there, looking at the night sky and then the windows that had the light coming from them. My dad was in there... Percy was in there... And after what had happened, I knew that this wasn't my home anymore. They would NEVER accept me as I was.

Then, I thought of my mom, who was inside that house as well. I hadn't really given her much thought since she was always in my dad's shadow, following his lead. She wouldn't try to kill me like dad or Percy, but knowing what a hypochondriac my mom was, even if I did manage to somehow convince her of who I was, she would just think of my mutation as some kind of horrible disease which could be cured if I only went to the right doctors or took the right medicine. But after my time at the school, I had come to realize that being a mutant wasn't a disease. It was a part of who I was...like it or not.

I frowned nervously as I stared at the dark window to my old bedroom, knowing that I should have just teleported directly there. Then taking a deep breath, I extended my shadow and walked through the wall, which was pretty much the same process as when I teleported except that I didn't lose my connection to the real world while I was doing it.

As soon as I was inside of my bedroom, I froze, feeling my heart race. I was more than a little afraid that Percy or my dad would hear me and come barging in again, so I made sure to be VERY quiet.

The first thing that I noticed was that my room had been cleaned up a bit since I had last seen it. Not only had all the stuff that had fallen on the floor been put away, but my bed had even been made as well. I knew that I had my mom to thank for that as I didn't think either my dad or brother would care about the mess.

After a moment of just looking around, I reached for my night light, which had been pulled out of the wall and was now sitting on top of my dresser. Then I took another slow look around, gulping as I did so. When I'd left there earlier, it had been with nothing. Not even any clothes. And since I was there, I figured that I might as well pick up a few other things as well.

For the next minute, I looked through my room for anything that I wanted to take with my. My old clothes were completely useless to me now, and as I thought about it, I realized that I didn't really have a whole lot of other things that I cared enough about to bother with. I grabbed a couple of personal possessions and tossed them into my old book bag, feeling a little disappointed that I didn't really have anything more.

Just then, I heard a loud gasp, which was followed by a blinding light as someone flipped the light switch. It took me a moment for my eyes to shift over to my normal vision, but for that moment, I was nearly blind.

When I looked up a few seconds later, I gulped at the sight of my mom standing in the doorway. That was the first time that I'd seen her since the night before everything had happened to me...since before my mutant power had manifested and turned me into a girl and a freak. And at the moment, she was staring at me in fear.

I grimaced at the way she was looking at me, though it wasn't a new experience. It'd gotten that look from other people, though at least it was a little better than the hatred that had been in dad and Percy's eyes. And, at least she hadn't made any move to run or scream for help.

"Who...who are you?" my mom finally gasped out. "Why do you keep coming here?" Then she gulped, "What did you do to my son? Where's Nestor?"

I could only stare at her for a few seconds before looking down at the floor and quietly responding, "I'm Nestor..." And as I looked back up at her, I added, "Or at least I was..."

"Do you think I'm stupid?" she glared at me, looking more angry than afraid, though there was definitely still some of that in her face as well.

"I'm not lying mom," I snapped back, a little more loudly than I intended. I was beginning to cry as I told her, "I woke up like this in the middle of the night..." Then I gestured down at myself and spat, "and while I was freaking out...dad and Percy came in and tried to kill me."

Mom just stared at me in disbelief, "No..."

"It's me," I told her quietly, too embarrassed to look at her. "I'm a mutant..."

"You can't be...," she gasped. "Nestor wouldn't..."

"You think I wanted to turn into this?" I grimaced as I looked down at myself. "I didn't... But I don't have any choice in it... I am Nestor...or at least I was." I gave her a weak forced smile as I added, "I'm called Ness now..."

For a moment, she just stared at me, then I saw her visibly gulp. "Is...is that really you?"

I could only nod weakly at that, "Yeah..."

"You're a mutant?" she started cautiously, unable to keep the...displeasure from her voice. "Maybe a doctor can fix you..." She stared at me intently, "We can get you plastic surgery to make you look normal..."

I just stared at her, letting out a sigh as I did so. It was about what I would have expected from her. And if I let her have her way, I'd spend the rest of my life going from doctor to doctor trying to find a cure for something that couldn't be cured. There was no way that I could live my life like that.

"It doesn't work that way," I told her quietly, grabbing my bag and taking a deep breath. "Maybe... Maybe I'll send you an e-mail..."

And with that, I took a step back and called the darkness around me, vanishing from that room and returning to the safety of the darkforce dimension. Then from there, it was only slight effort until I was back at the school, just down the hall from where I had left Nita.

I let out a sigh as I thought about what I had just done. I hadn't thought that I could go home, and this recent trip certainly proved it. My mom didn't hate me like my dad and brother, but it was also obvious that she wouldn't accept what I had become either.

"What's done is done," I told myself halfheartedly

Then with a sigh, I reminded myself of why I had gone through all that trouble in the first place. Or at least, I reminded myself what the rationalization I had used was, as I wasn't sure that some part of me hadn't wanted to go back and had just seized on the opportunity.

"I'm sorry for the wait," I told Nita as I handed her the night light, "I had to go pick it up."

"Oh wow," she grinned, surprising me by throwing her arms around me in a hug, "Thanks..." And without another word, Nita turned and ran back into her room...to try out the night light no doubt.

I smiled faintly as she ran off, then summoned the darkness and teleported myself out to an area by the lake. It was all dark, with the only light being that which was coming from the crescent moon, and the glowing smile which came from the metallic face of my companion.

"Do you mind if I sit here with you for awhile?" I asked Engine.

Engine just nodding, giving that twisted metal groan of his and turning his attention back to the lake. I sat down on the ground beside him, feeling absolutely tiny in comparison. It was strange, but as noticeable as he was, I hadn't really seen him around much since I'd come to the school. He avoided all normal classes and most training sessions, preferring just to sit off by himself most of the time.

After remaining with Engine for awhile, I decided that it was getting late and that I should probably get going to bed. I said a quick good-bye to Engine, who didn't seem to need sleep...nor food or much of anything else for that matter, and teleported back into the main house.

I let out a yawn as I walked through the dark hallway, smiling as I knew that everyone else had probably already gone to bed and turned off all the lights. I felt a faint bit of pride in the fact that I could see without any light whatsoever.

"Maybe I should have just gone straight to my room," I thought aloud, but I actually preferred the solitary walk through the dark halls.

But then I saw the light up ahead of me through a crack in the door to Mr. Monroe's office. And as I got closer, I could hear voices. I could hear Mr. Monroe and Ms. Corvax talking.

"I am quite pleased to see you here," Mr. Monroe was saying, "But I must admit that I am somewhat startled. I had thought your intentions were to avoid the school entirely..."

I knew that I shouldn't be listening in, but I was curious as to what they were taking about so moved closer, even looking at them through the crack in the door. I got a pretty good look at Ms. Corvax but then nearly let out a gasp as her whole body shimmered and changed. A moment later, she looked absolutely NOTHING like what she had. She had BLUE skin and red hair. The clothes that she was wearing were something like my own costume, being black pants and top. And as she turned, I could see that she had yellow eyes.

"I haven't been avoiding the school by choice," Ms. Corvax...or the woman she had turned into said. "But for necessity. I have a number of enemies, and my...employer keeps close watch on me. I was able to slip away for several days, but I don't dare stay any longer."

"Whatever your reasons Mystique," Mr. Monroe told her, "I am thankful that you finally came to see the school you helped open."

"I helped you open this school and asked Avalanche to teach here for a reason," Ms. Corvax...or Mystique as Mr. Monroe had called her responded thoughtfully, "You were right about the need for a safe place for young mutants to learn to control their powers. Xavier had the right idea of that. But Xavier is a fool." She gave Mr. Monroe a cool look and continued, "As you humans say, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Xavier's school has already been attacked several times, and by Magneto no less... It is only a matter of time before the students there are killed."

Mr. Monroe nodded understanding. "Still, I wish that you were able to stay. Your experience could be invaluable to these children."

"Perhaps once circumstances change," Mystique told him, though her tone indicated that she didn't have much hope of this.

With that, Mr. Monroe poured a couple drinks for Mystique and himself, then held his glass up for a toast. However, Mystique didn't bother wasting time with the formalities and quickly drank half her glass in a single gulp.

I watched them for a few seconds more, feeling incredibly curious about this Mystique person, especially since Mr. Monroe had been so secretive about who it was that had helped him found the school. But then my manners finally caught up with me…as well as fear of getting caught listening at the door. And with that, I quietly backed away.

Then feeling a little guilty, I made my way back to my room. Rose was already in bed and asleep, so I was careful not to make any noise as I went in. At least I didn't have to worry about having to turn on the light and possibly waking her.

And as I lay in bed, drifting off to sleep, I couldn't help thinking about Ms. Corvax...and the strange way that she looked after she had changed. Mr. Monroe had called her Mystique, but that didn't tell me who she was or what all the mystery around was about. Maybe I'd find out later. Maybe.

--------------------

The next morning, I thought of telling Rose about Ms. Corvax, as well as what I had seen and heard. However, that would have meant admitting that I had been snooping and listening at doorways, which was something that I didn't want to do. So that meant keeping quiet about it...for the moment.

When we went down for our training, Ms. Corvax was there, looking like a normal person again. I couldn't help wondering if this was something to do with her powers or if it was something else. Specifically, I was wondering if it might be something that I could use to look more normal myself.

"Okay kids," Avalanche called to all of us as we sat out in the open field behind the lodge, "Why don't you all give our guest a little demonstration of what you can do. Darkness...you start."

"Okay," I sighed, taking a deep breath.

Using my powers wasn't that big of a deal, but being the center of attention like that was kind of embarrassing. I tried not to think about that as I summoned the darkness and spread it around me, just a short bit at first, but then far enough to cover Ms. Corvax as well. I figured that she'd get a better understanding of my power if she got a first hand dose of it.

After cutting my darkness field off, at least long enough for Ms. Corvax to see me, I called it up again, this time only long enough to step into the darkforce dimension and then back out a few dozen feet away. That seemed like enough of a demonstration for the moment and seemed to satisfy Avalanche.

"All right Ness," Salamander grinned at me. Then before Avalanche could say anything, she announced, "I'm next..."

And with that, Salamander stepped forward, smirked a little and then put her hand to the ground. An instant later, the ground around her hand burst into flame, and then a stream of flame shot out along the ground, making a wide circle around all of us...and then going out as she pulled her hand away.

"Reminds me a little of Pyro," Avalanche commented, seemingly to Ms. Corvax though he didn't really look directly at her.

After this, the others began giving demonstrations of their powers as well, much as they had when I'd first come to the school a week or so earlier. Ms. Corvax didn't say much, only watched with interest and nodded a bit. I wondered if she was going to demonstrate her powers as well.

But then, there was a sudden crash of lightning, which was shocking in that the sky was fairly clear. A moment later, a short distance away, the air began to shimmer and ripple. A dark blue...bubble appeared in the air and quickly grew. It grew until it was probably about 10 yards across, then just...popped.

However, when the bubble vanished, it left something behind. Or more specifically...5 somethings. People. And people in costumes at that, though I wasn't sure that one of them could really be called a person since he was about 7 feet tall and seemed to be made of gray stone with all sorts of dents and craters in his body.

One of the people who had suddenly appeared was a big blonde man wearing a brown and tan costume. He looked pretty mean as he snarled, "Where the hell are we Bubbles."

"Please don't call me that Sabertooth," a skinny guy with glasses responded. "My code name is Orb. And as for where we are, I have no idea. All I know is that I teleported to where our target is located. At least assuming that the hair sample that you gave me is from the target..."

"Crater," the one called Sabertooth snarled, looking up to the big rock man, "Don't lose focus." Then he turned his attention to a large, bald black man in a red and black costume, "And you'd damn well be as good as promised Barrage."

"I'll do what I was hired to do," the black man...Barrage snapped back, "Same as you."

Sabertooth nodded at that and glanced at the last member of their group, a man in green and dark gray armor. "You'd better not get in my way Delay."

Suddenly, Sabertooth turned to face us, his eyes going narrow as he took a couple of sniffs in the air. "Raven," he growled, looking towards our group, "I can smell you so you might as well come out. Don't make me come over there to gut you..."

Just then, Ms. Corvax changed, turning into that blue skinned woman that I'd seen her turn into the night before. All of the students stared at her in shock, though Avalanche didn't seem the least bit surprised. She glared at the intruders and snarled, "What are you doing here Sabertooth?"

"We're here for you frail," he smirked, "We've been hired to take you out... And I'm going to enjoy it..."

However, it was at that moment that I noticed Cateseye... She was staring at Sabertooth with a look of shock...and absolute hatred. It wasn't until that very moment that I remembered what she had told me awhile back... That her 'dad' was a mutant called Sabertooth...

"Oh shit," I gasped.

And at that very moment, Catseye charged straight at Sabertooth, shouting, "YOU FUCKER!"

Before I had even fully absorbed what was going on, Catseye was on Sabertooth, slashing at his throat with her claws. He staggered back a little, blood gushing out, and with a snarl, slashed back at her, catching her on the chest and knocking her away.

"Feisty little girl," Sabertooth snarled, his voice gurgling a little until he spat out a bit of blood, "I'm gonna enjoy gutting you... But just out of curiosity....why so personal?"

Catseye just snarled, "Because seventeen years ago...you RAPED my mom...DAD." The look on Sabertooth's face was one of complete surprise, a fact which Catseye took advantage of to charge at him with claws slashing again.

At the same time, Ms. Corvax...Mystique...or Raven...whatever the hell her real name was, pulled out a gun that I didn't even know she had and began shooting at the five intruders. She had a cold look on her face as she did so. And without a word to Avalanche, just a glance, he turned and sent a wave of dirt and debris towards them.

"Don't forget the target," Delay yelled to his teammates.

"And the kids?" Barrage asked.

"Casualties," Sabertooth snarled, too busy with Catseye to do more than give the order.

"Move kids," Pete Wisdom yelled out, "Get to safety..."

"The hell with that," Salamander snarled, "They ain't gonna make me no casualty..." And with that, she sent a stream of fire towards the invaders, almost along the same path as Avalanche's dirt wave. However, the invaders were already scattering all over the place.

I saw the big guy made of rock, the one they'd called Crater. He was slowly coming towards us, walking right through Salamander's fire as though it wasn't a problem. Surefire shot him with an energy blast though it only caused the big creature to pause for a moment.

But then, a great big crater in the middle of Crater's chest began to glow red. And an instant later, a ball of red energy shot out of the crater and hit near us, exploding and causing us all to run and scatter. The hole charged up for another blast, this one being aimed straight at Mystique, who was saved only when Avalanche sent a wave of dirt up in front of her to block it.

"Stupid gits," Pete growled, suddenly firing a bunch of white hot energy knives from his fingertips... They hit Crater and seemed to do some damage, but not enough to stop him.

"Get out of here," Mystique yelled out as she fired several more shots, "You kids shouldn't get involved... It's too dangerous..."

It looked like Timelapse had taken the hint because I didn't see a sign of her. Jessie was in the middle of trying to get Nita out of there as well, but she was yelling and screaming. I'd never seen her get angry like that before. And just a moment later, I saw why she was called Tantrum.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake, but this time it wasn't coming from Avalanche. Rocks and debris around the yard all began to lift up into the air. Several of the rocks even started to explode. And Nita...Tantrum stood there with a pissed off look on her 10 year old face. Her eyes were glowing white...

"Get away from her," Jessie yelled as he flew up into the air, "She can't control her powers..."

I already knew that it was definitely a good idea to keep back from Tantrum while she was throwing one of them. She was too dangerous to get close to because her psychokinetic powers would throw anything...and anyone around.

At the same time, the one called Barrage opened up with his powers. He held out both arms, and suddenly started firing energy blasts. But it wasn't just a single blast... Instead, hundreds...thousands of tiny red energy beams were shooting out of his arms like some sort of machine gun. Or like a gattling gun. He was mowing down trees, and probably would have gotten all of us if Salamander hadn’t sent a wave of fire right at him.

Just then, I heard the roar of twisted metal. And following that was Engine, running across the yard, making huge dents in the ground with every footstep. He wasn't really moving all that fast, but I knew that he was moving real fast for him. His eyes and mouth were both aflame and he looked pissed....or at least as much as his expressionless face could.

Engine's attack caused Barrage to turn and open fire on him, though it didn't seem to do much to the large metal mutant. A moment later, Engine attacked Crater... It was quickly obvious that Engine was not only larger than his stone counterpart, but stronger as well. He picked crater up and tossed him into the forest, through several trees.

With a loud roar, Engine turned his attention to Barrage, who opened up with more of his gattling gun energy blast attacks. Engine slowly stepped forward, causing Barrage to look quite afraid.

But then Crater climbed out of the trees, firing a blast of red energy from the crater in his chest. It hit Engine, knocking him back just a little. It was enough to draw Engine's attention, and keep him paused long enough for Crater to charge right at him.

I know that I wasn't the only one to freeze and stare at the two giants fight. They threw punches at each other and then I realized that Engine was taking damage. His metal skin had dents and scratches all over it, and there was even a small crack with reddish orange energy leaking out.

Just then, the one called Delay went running right up to where Engine and Crater were fighting. And in what I thought was an act of stupidity, he actually grabbed Engine... His hands glowed green... Then Engine glowed green... And suddenly...Engine vanished.

"Damn," Delay growled as he shook his hand, "I burned myself. That metal bastard was hot..."

"What the hell?" Salamander gasped out in shock.

Pete snarled, "What did you do to him you wanker?"

Delay just turned and laughed, "Don't worry... All I did was send him an hour or so into the future. In fact, he's safer than all of you... By the time he comes back, you'll all be dead and we'll be gone..." Then Delay smirked, "Unless we stick around long enough to kill him when he pops back..."

Without a word, Pete threw up his hands and fired a bunch of his white hot energy knives straight at Delay. But Delay just held up his hands and the energy blades froze in mid-air, covered with a blow glow. And while we were all staring in surprise, Delay took several steps to the side, just in time for the energy blades to continue flying forward...missing him by at least five feet.

"Damn," Pete growled.

But as Pete got ready to throw another burst of energy blades, Delay had a look of intense concentration and pain on his face and then he held out his own hand. A wave of blue light shot from his hand, and as it caught Pete, our instructor vanished...to what I assumed was the same fate as Engine. And from the look of it, it seemed that doing that from a distance took a lot more out of Delay than it did by touching them, such as he had with Engine.

Then, as if things weren't bad enough, I looked over and was horrified to see Sabertooth standing over the motionless body of Catseye. He smirked, licking the blood from his fingers.

"A regular daddy's girl," Sabertooth laughed cruelly, almost sounding a little proud at the same time. Then he looked towards all of us and asked, "Who's next?"

Enter the Darkness
part 7 of 7
By Morpheus

I stared in horror at the sight of Sabertooth standing above my friend, his hands covered with her blood. What was even worse than the realization that he would do something like that to my friend, and to his own daughter at that, was the look on his face which revealed just how much he had enjoyed it.

And as I stared at Sabertooth and then the empty spots where Engine and Pete Wisdom had been standing, I finally screamed out "RUN".

It was obvious that I wasn't the only one had been thinking that very thing. Even though Tantrum was in the middle of throwing one of her tantrums, Jessie grabbed her and flew up into the air, obviously deciding to evacuate the youngest person first...even if that was also the most dangerous to him.

Salamander grimaced and sent wave after wave if fire at our attackers, creating a massive wall between them and us. And at the same time, Surefire was firing his energy blasts through the fire, hopefully to hit them on the other side.

"Take advantage of this distraction to run," Mystique ordered us, "It's me they want...not you. GO."

Salamander and Surefire both let out another attack before turning to run towards the Big House. However, Mystique started running in the opposite direction, towards the woods. Without really thinking about it, Rose and I both started after her.

"I hate running," Mystique snarled furiously.

When we got to the edge of the trees, Mystique stopped and turned to us, "You two kids should go the other way. Sabertooth will track my scent and you do not want him to find you with me."

"Your scent?" Rose asked, then began to grin. "No problem." And with that, Rose held her arm out and sprayed Mystique with a fine mist. "That'll cover your scent... Now you smell just like a deer..."

Mystique frowned as she sniffed at herself. Then she had a thoughtful expression, just before her whole body started to shift and change. A moment later, she looked like someone else entirely. In fact, she looked like a teenage girl.

"Wow," Rose exclaimed, "How'd you do that...?"

"It's my mutant power," Mystique stated grimly, "I'm a shape shifter."

All that I could say to that was, "Oh..." I was a little disappointed to realize that her trick to look like a normal person was part of her mutant power and not something that I might be able to use for myself.

But just then, Sabertooth arrived. He came up a few dozen feet away, sniffing at the air before snarling, "You know better than to think you can trick me like that Mystique... I can SMELL you..."

And with that, we all started to run, but it wasn't Mystique that Sabertooth went after...but Rose. As soon as I realized this, I stopped and stared at the forest that she had disappeared into, gasping in horror.

"Rose," I gulped, realizing what must have happened. She must have changed her own scent to Mystique's in order to throw Sabertooth off the trail of the real Mystique. I had to help her...

But before I could think of how to help Rose, Barrage showed up and opened fire, his energy barrage tearing through all the trees behind me. I gasped in fear and finally thought to use my powers, spreading a thick layer of darkness around me.

"Just because I can't see you doesn't mean I can't hit you," Barrage shouted out, firing right into my mass of darkness.

I wasn't sure exactly how it happened, whether it was my subconscious mind using the same trick that I used to walk through walls, or if it was just the nature of my darkforce field. But when Barrage's energy bursts hit my darkness, they were absorbed into the darkforce dimension rather than hitting me. He fired and fired into my darkness, while I remained perfectly safe inside of it.

"Come on out where I can see you," Barrage snarled in frustration.

However, I didn't think that it was a great idea to remain there as his target and stepped all the way into the darkforce dimension in order to escape. Since I could only teleport to places that I've been, or to where I knew I was going, I couldn't go help Rose, no matter how much I wanted to. But there was someone else that I was dying to know about.

"Catseye," I gasped as I appeared next to my fallen friend.

She was on the ground, her whole body covered with blood. I could see all sorts of gashes in her skin. And with a horrible feeling, I reached over to feel her pulse. I closed my eyes, terrified that it was too late.

But then Catseye groaned and rolled over, staring up at me and blinking a few times. "Ness...?"

"You're alive," I gasped in relief.

Catseye nodded and sat up, grimacing badly as she did so. "Hurts like hell," she spat out, "But I'll heal..."

"Did you see where everyone went?" I asked her, glancing around nervously.

"Sorry," she groaned, "I was too busy bleeding for that..."

Suddenly, I heard a familiar rumbling sound and looked over to see Avalanche sending a wave of dirt and stone at Crater. Crater just smashed through it and started moving towards my teacher.

"I guess that answers that question," I muttered.

A moment later, I heard Puffer shout out, "You want a piece of me punk?"

I was a bit startled at that as Puffer had been one of the first to take off when the trouble started. But now he was back, and puffing himself up. Somehow though, I didn't think that it would do much against Crater. And when he 'popped' and had all of his spikes explode outward, even having several of them hit Crater, nothing happened. Crater didn't seem to be bothered by them.

However, the fight was far from over as a moment later, a wave of fire shot out at Crater as Salamander came running back, followed by Surefire who shot out an energy blast. The blast missed Crater by several feet but then did a U turn in mid-air and came back...hitting the stone mutant right in the back. And it looked like that one hurt him good.

"Take this," Surefire yelled, firing a second energy blast at Crater.

This time, Surefire caused the blast to change direction at the last moment and hit him right in the middle of the crater his chest. Crater went flying backwards, letting out a hell of pain. And when he stood up again a moment later, there were several cracks around his chest.

And as if that wasn't enough, Silence went charging forward. She had vanished as soon as the trouble had started too, but it looked like she hadn't been able to stay away. In fact, I hadn't really even noticed that she'd been gone until then. But with someone as quiet as Silence, that wasn't much of a surprise.

"Look out," I called to Silence, seeing the glow in the center of Crater's chest, which indicated that he was about to shoot another energy blast from it.

But Silence had seen the glow as well and jumped out of the way in time, then charged at Crater, picked him up over her head and tossed him straight at Delay, who was standing a short distance away. And in what was either an instinctive act or just one of self-defense, Delay caused Crater to suddenly vanish.

"Damn," I gasped as I watched my friends fighting the invaders. I felt a surge of jealousy as I saw them using their powers. I kind of wished that my powers were a bit more aggressive like that. But as it was, my powers were more for running and hiding than they were for fighting.

"The target," Orb yelled out, "We have to get the target..."

"Sabertooth is taking care of her," Delay snapped at him. "We just need to keep these kids from interfering..."

Just then, Barrage came into view and yelled, "Leave that to me..."

And without another word, Barrage opened fire. Avalanche responded by sending up waves of dirt and stone to block the attack, but he couldn't stop it all. Several of the pencil thin energy pulses got through, and one of them hit his leg.

As Avalanche went down in a scream of pain, I jumped up and spread out my darkness, thinking that if I covered us all up, then Barrage wouldn't know where to shoot. I just hoped it would work... Unfortunately, the others weren't close enough for me to protect them all. I was only able to cover Catseye and Puffer...both of whom cursed at suddenly going blind.

"Fucking darkness," Barrage yelled out, opening fire again, this time shooting his energy blasts wildly. He was shooting all over the place, not even looking where he was shooting. Even while down, Avalanche was able to throw up a bit of a dirt shield to protect Silence, Salamander and Surefire, though it looked like it was taking everything that he had.

A moment later, Barrage's wild shooting backfired on him as his energy pulses ripped right through one of his own teammates. Orb let out a scream as his body was riddled with energy bursts. He was thrown back, obviously dead unless had had some sort of super strong healing factor. And even then I doubted he could survive that.

"You idiot," Delay yelled, "You just aced our transportation out of here..."

"He got in my way," Barrage snapped back.

I was terrified as I stared at Barrage, knowing that at any moment he would turn his barrage of energy pulses on us again. And at that moment, I realized that I was the best hope my friends had of surviving him. I'd already shown that I could absorb his energy pulses into the darkforce dimension, so all that I had to do was get between him and everyone else.

"I'll be back," I told Catseye as I got up and charged towards Barrage, spreading my darkness field out as I got between him and the others. I was going to absorb his pules... I was going to keep any of them from being hurt...

"Fucking darkness," Barrage spat out again, opening fire right at me. I grimaced and hoped that the darkforce dimension could keep absorbing the pulses as it had before. And at the moment, it seemed to be working pretty well.

When Barrage stopped firing, I took a deep breath and tried pulling my darkness closer to myself. I wasn't even sure exactly what I was doing, only that I wanted to be seen while keeping the protection of my darkness at the same time. And in a moment, my darkness was spread over my body, covering just my skin but not extending out any further. I looked down at myself and realized that I had to look like a living shadow...a patch of solid black in the shape of a girl.

"Interesting," I commented as I held my hand out in front of me. I imagined that I had to look quite strange indeed at the moment. However, I couldn't hold the darkness that close and concentrated about me for long... Not long at all.

Barrage just stared at me for a moment, then opened fire again...right at me. But as when my field was spread out further, I was able to divert his energy pulses directly into the darkforce dimension, while I was safe within the folds of my darkness.

"What the fuck are you?" Barrage gasped as he stopped firing.

I paused to smirk, then responded, "I am Darkness..."

Then before Barrage could do anything, and because I couldn't hold it any longer, I spread my darkness back out, catching him within it. He was rendered completely blind by the all consuming darkness while I was still left with the ability to see.

I was a little startled to see Barrage look afraid. After all, I certainly wouldn't have expected someone like him to be afraid of the dark. But then again, he was in a place where he couldn't see, and with an enemy that he didn't know much about. But instead of laughing at that realization, I took the opportunity to rush up to him and punch him as hard as I could in the face.

"DAMN," I spat out, clutching my sore hand. I'd hurt myself with that punch more than I had him.

But Barrage had heard my voice and now had a better idea where I was at. He came towards me and I took a deep breath. Before he even touched me, I felt him doing the same thing that I did when I teleported...shifting over entirely into the darkforce dimension. He let out as scream as he fell further and further into the darkness, into an empty void that had absolutely nothing save the dark. I could feel him floating away from me, further and further. Yet I could still feel his presence. I could still find him...and even pull him back if I wanted to.

"But I don't want to," I grinned as I dropped my darkness, now standing in the grass with no sign of Barrage near me at all. I could go back for Barrage later, but at the moment, it was much more convenient for me to leave him trapped in the darkforce dimension where he was helpless and harmless.

"What...what did you do to Barrage?" Delay gasped as he stared at me, the fear clearly visible in his eyes.

"I ate him," I grinned, giving him my most evil looking grin. I wasn't sure how good it was, but with my odd features, it seemed to be effective.

"Well isn't that great," another voice said. I turned around and gasped at the sight of Sabertooth, standing there with a satisfied smirk on his face.

"The target?" Delay asked.

"Terminated," Sabertooth told him, sending a cold chill down my spine.

"Rose...," I squeaked out, the tears beginning to form in my eyes.

"We have three losses," Delay told Sabertooth, glancing to where Orb was splattered along the ground, "Including our exit..."

Sabertooth nodded at that and responded, "Good."

Then before I realized what was happening, Sabertooth slashed out with his claws, catching Delay right in the face and sending him flying back. And before Delay had even hit the ground, Sabertooth started to shift and change. A moment later, Mystique was standing in his place, with a gun pointed at Delay's forehead.

"Mystique," I blurted out in surprise.

She took one look at me and then the other students then frowned. She looked as though she was debating something with herself and then lowered the gun, firing two shots, one into each of Delay's knee caps. Then she pressed the gun right into his crotch.

"I'm letting you live this once," she hissed at him coldly, "But if you EVER dare come after me or these kids again..." She pressed the gun into his crotch, eliciting a gasp of fear. And from the look on her face, I had absolutely no doubts that she would eagerly go through with her threat. Or worse.

I let out a sigh of relief that it had been Mystique and not Sabertooth, and that our attackers were taken care of. Until I remembered Rose and let out a gasp of terror.

"ROSE," I blurted out, immediately jumping into the darkforce dimension and teleporting to where I'd left her by the edge of the trees. "Come on..."

I just prayed that Rose was still alive, that Sabertooth hadn't caught up with her. Then I ran into the trees as fast as I could, hoping that I could catch up with them in time, that she had been able to avoid him long enough for me to get there and help.

But before I had gone too far into the trees, I was hit by a horrible, gut wrenching stench that caused me to stop and empty my stomach. I clenched at my mouth and nose, cringing at how bad my eyes burned. And I took several more steps forward, terrified that this was some sort of last defense of Rose's, or something that had happened upon her death.

However, what I saw was definitely NOT what I had been expecting. Sabertooth was on the ground, curled up into a ball and looking unconscious. His whole face was badly torn up and slashed, as if he had been tearing his own face apart with his own claws. And spread around him were several patches of vomit.

"Oh my God," I gasped out, having to fight back another wave of vomiting myself.

"Kind of sad isn't it," Rose said as she stepped out from behind a tree.

"You're all right," I sighed in relief.

Rose just nodded and gestured to Sabertooth, "Sensory overload... His enhanced sense of smell couldn't handle my powers..." She smirked at that.

I just stared at Rose in amazement, hardly able to believe that she'd taken him down single handedly, not even laying a finger on him. And then I let out another sigh of relief as I realized that he had been the last of them. It was over.

Since I didn't know what else to do about Sabertooth, and I sure as hell didn't want him suddenly jumping up to tear out my throat, I dropped him into the darkforce dimension the same way that I had Barrage. I figured that it was a lot safer having him there. And after we returned to the join the others, I did the same for Delay as well.

Once things were safe, everyone started to gather around to see what was going on. I was relieved to see that no one had been hurt too badly. Sure, Catseye had been pretty torn up and Avalanche had been hit in the leg, but she was already almost all the way healed and he wasn't in too serious a condition. The only other injury than besides theirs, other than a few bruises, belonged to Jessie who had broken his arm. But ironically, his injury had come not from our attackers, but from Tantrum's power while he was dragging her to safety.

"I can't believe it," Mystique muttered to herself, shaking her head in disbelief, "Sabertooth was taken out by a skunk..." She gave a quick snort of laughter, obviously amused by that fact.

"You...you two seemed to know each other," I said cautiously.

Mystique scowled, then nodded her head faintly as she admitted, "We have a...history together." Then she added, "But I don't know who the others were..."

"What I'd like to know," Salamander exclaimed, "Is who the hell you are?" She was staring at Mystique suspiciously.

Mystique gave Salamander a cool look and simply stated, "My name is Mystique."

"And she is the one who helped me open this school," Mr. Monroe said as he came over. He gave Mystique a careful look, then looked around at us, "We thought that it would be best if you did not know who she was just yet." That didn't sound quite like what he'd said the night before, but I figured that he was trying to save face.

Then Salamander turned to me, "You didn't seem very surprised when she changed..."

I frowned, then admitted, "I wasn't..." And at Salamanders disbelieving look, I added, "It wasn't my secret to share..."

Salamander didn't look too happy with that answer, but Mystique gave me a look of interest, looking just a little surprised as well. She was probably trying to figure out how I figured out her secret, or maybe wondering if I was just bluffing.

But then before anyone could say anything more about that, Mr. Monroe looked around and said, "We have two missing..."

"Delay hit them," Surefire told him. "He said that he sent them an hour into the future..."

"I certainly hope that is the case," Mr. Monroe finished, looking less than pleased.

We waited around a little bit, and then suddenly Engine appeared...in the exact same spot that he'd disappeared from an hour earlier. And he seemed confused as he looked around, apparently wondering where Crater and the other attackers had disappeared to. A few minutes later Pete Wisdom returned as well.

"What the?" Pete gasped as he popped back into place, "Where did those bloody wankers go?"

"The fight's over," Mystique told him. Then she looked to Avalanche, who was sitting down and keeping off his leg, "It appears that you taught the students well." However, Avalanche only grunted at that, though he did look somewhat pleased.

But while everyone was starting to fill Pete in on what had happened after he had vanished, I remembered the third person that had been jumped forward in time...if you could call Crater a person. I made sure to be in place for when he popped back, then immediately snatched him into the darkforce dimension before he barely even had a chance to realize he was back.

However, now that I had all of our attackers trapped within my darkness, that only left the problem of what to do with them next. I certainly couldn't leave them there forever, though Mystique seemed to think that this was a good idea. In the end, I knew that I had to let them go. They'd all die in there if I didn't. But since I could only teleport to places that I had been to before, that definitely limited my options.

Then I suddenly remembered a very long and very boring car trip that I had taken with my family about a year and a half ago. We had driven across Utah, which had miles and miles of just empty nothing. And with that, I teleported into the middle of nowhere, smiling as I saw that there wasn't ANYTHING nearby at all. And with a bit of a laugh, I opened my darkness field and just dropped them onto the ground before immediately teleporting away.

When I got back to the school, the others were in a big talk about our attackers, or perhaps it was more of an argument about what to do next. Several of them looked afraid while a couple others seemed almost frantic.

"What if they come back?" Puffer exclaimed, "I thought this place was safe..."

"They didn't know where they were," I pointed out, having paid a bit of attention to their teleporter since his powers were similar enough to my own. "Orb said that he didn't even know where he was...."

"They don't know where we are," Pete pointed out with a scowl, "So we're still safe enough." He glanced to where Orb's body was still spread out on the ground, not needing to point out that they only found our school because of a teleporter, and one who was now dead at that.

"They came here after me," Mystique said grimly, not looking happy at all. In fact, she looked pretty pissed.

"It's not your fault," Mr. Monroe told her, trying to be reassuring about it.

"It's not safe for me to stay here any longer," Mystique told him, reminding me of what she had said the night before about why she had stayed away so long in the first place. It looked like she had been right. It was dangerous, but I still kind of hoped that she'd stick around a bit.

"What are you going to do?" Pete asked, casually lighting a cigarette.

"I'm going to find out who sent them," Mystique stated, "Then I am going to make them pay..." She said it in the same kind of tone that most people said that they were going to go to the store for groceries. Yet somehow, I believed her.

"Need a hand?" Avalanche offered.

"No," she shook her head. "I'll take care of this on my own. The students need you more..." Avalanche just nodded at that, not seeming all that surprised.

Within the next hour, Mystique had returned to her Sonja Corvax form and left the school, having given a vague promise to return once things were safer. I didn't know how much longer that might be, but I had little doubt that we would see her again.

After she had left, I just shook my head, muttering, "What a weird day..."

The truth was, the day was only half over, but it was already busier than most entire weeks. And as I thought about the events of the day, I couldn't decide whether to be horrified by them...or excited. Then I couldn't help wondering if that was how things were for the X Men.

--------------------

It had been a week since the...incident. A week since the school had been attacked by those would be assassins, a week since we had managed to fight them off. Yet in that time, I still couldn't stop thinking about what had happened.

The whole event had been so exciting yet extremely frightening at the time as well. I suppose that those two things always went together. That was something that I'd never really thought about until recently. But I guess that is what makes haunted houses and roller coasters so fun.

Right after the fighting had ended, I had been a little surprised to notice that the scratches and dents in Engine's skin were fading. They were all healing up, even the gash that had been leaking energy. And within an hour or two after the fight, his metal skin looked as good as new.

Surprisingly, Catseye actually seemed really pleased with herself, even though she had lost the fight with Sabertooth and gotten torn up pretty badly. I guess that just being able to finally confront her 'father' and get all of that pent up anger out of her system was somehow therapeutic, though I didn't quite understand how.

And even now, Pete Wisdom was still fuming about how they had avoided all of his security around the perimeter of the school by teleporting right into the middle. Now he was looking to upgrade the security to make sure that something like that didn't happen again. I certainly hoped that he succeeded.

As for me, the fight, and the way that I had been able to handle Barrage had given me a lot more confidence. The way I figured it...if I could handle a life and death situation like that, I could handle almost anything.

A moment later, I shook myself out of thoughts of the past and looked down at the letter that was opened up on my bed. I had been a little surprised to get a letter from Bobbie, especially since she could have used a phone or E-mail to talk to me instead. But I had also been kind of excited.

"Cool," I grinned as I picked the letter up, thinking about what Bobbie had said in it. She told me that she was going to be coming to the school for a visit next week, and I could barely wait. But she'd also said something about there being something important that she wanted to tell me. I just wondered why she had to do it in person when she could have told me in the letter. "It must be something important..."

Then as I put the letter away, I turned and caught sight of myself in the mirror that Rose had hanging up over her makeup stand. The sight of a gray skinned girl no longer surprised me when I looked in the mirror, and it was getting more and more familiar with every passing day. I couldn't help wondering if the day would come when I would no longer even remember what my old face had looked like.

"Not too bad," I said, not referring to my face in the mirror, but to the black dress that I was currently wearing.

Rose and Sally had both been trying to talk me into wearing a skirt or dress for the last couple days, and I had finally given in. I figured that If I was going to be a girl, I might as well accept it and at least try to act the part. Sure I felt a little self-conscious in the dress and low heels that they had given me, but I had to admit that they weren't quite as bad as I would have imagined.

"At least they didn't make me put on makeup," I grinned to myself in the mirror. Of course, they probably would have tried talking me into it wasn't for the fact that my skin was gray and not exactly suited for makeup.

Then I reached up to my pointed ears and chuckled, knowing that in just a few hours I'd have them both pierced. Sally had been quite insistent about it, and I had to admit, at least to myself, that I was kind of looking forward to trying that out. If was going to be a girl, I was going to at least try being a decent looking one. I was even thinking about getting a navel piercing like Sally had suggested.

I smiled a little as I thought of my new friends. Rose, Sally and Catseye had all been helping me out quite a bit since learning that I had been a guy, and they had all become good friends. I'd never had friends as nice as them when I had been a guy. In fact, as a boy I hadn't had many friends at all.

However, thoughts of my new friends also brought a slightly nervous feeling as well. I had been with them all in the locker room a number of times, and had even seen all three of them naked on most of those occasions. But strangely, the sight of their naked bodies was becoming less and less interesting. In fact, I was becoming increasingly sure that I was less and less attracted to girls in general.

I let out a long sigh, wondering if this was some sort of side effect of my turning into a girl. Perhaps it was all the girl hormones that were now rushing through my body. I didn't know. I only knew that I was losing my interest in girls. And I was a little nervous that this might mean that I would soon start finding boys interesting instead.

"If it happens," I told myself, "It happens..."

One thing that I had learned since my awakening as a mutant...and a girl, was that people change. Whether you like it or not, everyone changed. And the only thing that you could do was fight who you are and end up miserable and bitter...or go with the flow. I had made a conscious decision to go with the flow. If I did start liking boys, it would be strange, but I would deal with it.

But there was one thing that I wasn't sure that I could deal with. And that was my family. I frowned as I remembered their reactions to me, even the look on my mom's face. It was hard enough for me to accept myself as I now was, and I wasn't sure that any of them ever would.

"Maybe I'll send mom an E-mail," I mused quietly.

Maybe I would try to contact my family and see if we could work things out. However, after a moment, I decided to hold off on that for now. It was still too soon, and the hurt was too fresh. Maybe later when I had a chance go get over it a bit more, when I had accepted myself a little more, then I might be able to get them to accept me as well. It wasn't too likely, but it was possible. Anything was possible.

"People change," I smiled weakly, hoping that this could even apply to my mutant hating family.

Of course I myself had changed. In fact, I had changed more than any person had a right to. I had changed from a human, or so I'd thought myself, into a mutant. I had changed from a boy into a girl. I had changed from Nestor...into Ness.

And, I thought to myself with a bit of pride, I had changed from someone who was afraid of the dark, into someone who had the courage to face the darkness within himself...herself. I had the courage to even face being girl and a mutant freak.

"I was afraid of the darkness," I proudly announced as I turned to go join my friends in the common room, "Now...I am the Darkness."

THE END



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