Chapter 6 - "Basic Training"
Greg stopped by Sunday night, after dinner, and met the New
Mutants, Xavier's junior students. He was noticeably more
open, though he avoided getting close to Charles, and the
psychics Karma and Mirage. It was pretty obvious he didn't
believe that Illyana was a real sorceress, and the youngsters
hastily escorted her away before she decided to prove otherwise
in some unpleasant manner.
Kitty inspected the biofeedback device with interest. It
wasn't as sophisticated as the systems the X-Men had, but
she declared it clever in its own way. They talked shop for
a bit, and Greg admitted he was Gregory Holland, a junior
at the University of Wisconsin, looking at getting a bachelor's
in Electrical Engineering.
"I'm just measuring the capacitance in this gap. My
field is nearly a perfect insulator."
"So you just put your finger here?"
"Yeah. I practiced getting some control of my heartbeat
and a few other things first. By then I had an idea about
how to get in the right frame of mind."
She half-jokingly tried to convince him to transfer to Xavier's
school. "It's acreditted, and Xavier's well-known as
a biologist. It's unusual enough to stick out on a resume.
You'd have no problem going on to grad school."
"I'm actually a lot more interested in the combat training,"
"That's not going to get you into a master's program!"
Kurt joked. He wondered again what had made this young man
Rogue had been trying to figure out a way to interrupt, but
she was glad Kurt saved her the trouble. Greg was paying way
too much attention to Kitty. And she was on the rebound from
Scott and Logan talked it over with him, and set up some
sessions twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays when he didn't
have afternoon classes.
Rogue was still thoughtful, but seemed to be a bit more relaxed.
She watched from an armchair in the den with amusement as
he learned how foolish it was to play Cyclops at pool. Kurt
was studying for one of Xavier's brutal physics exams in the
other corner; Logan was reading a book on Japanese prehistory.
The others had gone off on their own, some studying, some
crowded around the videogames up in Roberto's room.
During one of the short periods of Greg leaning on the wall
while Scott ran the table, she came to a decision. Leaning
forward, she said, "Good thing your girlfriend ain't
around to see this." She'd raided Carol's memories for
flirting tips; this was a bit clumsy, but she had to know.
"I don't have one. She ran off with Minnesota Fats.
That's my luck, with pool and women," he joked back.
I'm pretty sure I'm being hit on. What the hell is her
Scott finished the table, knocking three balls in with one
shot. "Your break," he called, grinning.
"You know, I think maybe I'll sit this game out."
He was smiling ruefully, glad he hadn't accepted the offer
of a bet. "Do you mind if I grab a pop or something?"
"You want a soda?" Rogue asked. "C'mon, Ah'll
show you where the kitchen is."
"It's pop, dang it. Where are you from, you heathen?"
Greg replied, mock-offended. Hmm, better tone it down just
a bit. She really is spectacular. If only she weren't
Kurt and Logan exchanged glances as the two walked off, discussing
the various virtues and failings of Yankees and southerners.
Scott kept his eyes on the pool table.
Rogue was still nervous, but at least now it was mixed with
a good deal of excitement as well. Now that she'd decided
on a course of action, she felt better. Waiting for things
was never her strong suit. Greg was on time for his Tuesday
session, and some fairly unsubtle hints had arranged for her
to be part of it. Things had gone okay Sunday night; she was
mostly sure he didn't think of her as totally crazy.
Scott was talking to Greg while she hovered on the far side
of the Danger Room, doing some stretches. They had provided
him with a costume made from unstable molecules; it was far
tougher than his street clothes.
"You'll probably understand the benefit of using codenames
during combat. Unless you have a suggestion of your own, Xavier
came up with 'Fortress' for you."
"Not bad. I guess that's what my field is." he
replied. The X-Men privately thought that the name suited
his personality as well. He still avoided personal questions.
"Today we'll work on airborne agility. Your job is to
dodge what we throw at you. Your field is one heck of defense,
but why take punishment that you can avoid?"
"Makes sense. Any other rules?" I hope she finishes
her warm-up soon; it's distracting. She's in excellent
"Of course there are." Scott smiled evilly. "You
can't attack at all, and you aren't allowed to extend your
field. Flying only." He walked out the door, shutting
it behind him.
He turned and scanned the bare room. Rogue had finished up
and was off to one side, waiting for Scott to get to the booth.
Lacking anything else to do, he floated to the center of the
room, glancing around, trying to decide what to expect. "I
take it you're one of the dangers I'm gonna be up against?"
"Yup. But not at first. Ah'm the advanced part of the
course." She grinned wickedly. Noticing that Scott had
reached the booth, she added quickly, "By the way, your
"Huh?" He stared at her, not his boots, which had
no laces. I'm not going to fall for that one!
Thus, the jet of water caught him full force in the back.
She laughed for a moment, then wondered if the joke had been
wise on someone with such issues about trust. It was worth
it! Look at his face! she finally decided. Her laugh rejoined
"Fortress" had flipped over from where he'd sprawled
in the corner, dripping. He was furious and soaked. "No
fair!" he cried. "I wasn't ready!"
"I'm sure Nimrod will tap you on the shoulder the next
time he sneaks up on you," Scott replied, not cowed in
the least. Greg had to admit to himself that they were right.
Come to think of it...
He launched himself out of the corner just ahead of a low-power
energy blast. "That's better!" Cyclops called down.
The young man wasn't stupid enough to get tagged the same
way twice. But they'd just begun.
The next hour pointed out several of Fortress' strengths
and weaknesses. He could accelerate extremely rapidly, and
because of his field, felt only a fraction of the forces involved.
He didn't get dizzy easily. But in a relatively confined space
like the Danger Room, he wasn't terribly maneuverable. Rogue
judged that that would improve with practice.
Greg was untangling himself from a net he hadn't quite avoided
when Scott signaled that it was her turn, and fired up the
program they had worked out beforehand. An aerial maze appeared
overhead, made of tubes, rings, bars, cables, and even some
flaming hoops. "Okay, sugar, let's hurry it up. It's
time for phase two," she called down lightly.
"So what's up?" he asked, floating up to join her.
"I have to get through that?"
"Sure. In thirty seconds."
"Oh, come on! That's..." he trailed to a halt as
she streaked into motion. Gracefully whipping around, over,
and through the obstacles, she rejoined him twenty seconds
"You're new, so you get an extra ten seconds,"
she told the dumbfounded mutant. "Whatcha waitin' for?
Greg never got below forty seconds that day, but after a
few tries he could make it through without hitting anything.
That's when Rogue started to run interference. She seemed
to know just where he was going to be, and have a well-placed
foot or backhand in the right place to trip him up. Once he
forgot the rules and swung at her, but again she simply ducked.
He apologized quickly.
"Sorry, really. I was just getting frustrated."
Rogue saw an opportunity. "That's no way to treat a
lady, sir. You'll need to apologize better'n that."
She was smiling, so Greg didn't think she was severely offended.
"I was just..."
"Not like that. You Yankees - y'all got no class. Ah
want flowers, maybe dinner somewhere nice. How's Saturday
"Uh... fine, I guess." What am I getting myself
"All right then. Pick me up at six, 'kay? Dress nice."
Carol had been an ardent feminist, and her flirting style
tended to be aggressive. It wasn't a typical southern belle
approach, but Rogue thought that maybe it was just the method
she needed. "Now, one more time, from the beginnin'..."
Sparring with Wolverine was another humbling experience.
The man was so ridiculously fast! He'd say "Go!"
and land three blows before Greg could even get his guard
up. He wasn't gentle about it, either. About the only good
thing was that he didn't think Fortress was ready for the
claws yet. Privately, Greg had to agree.
Fortress got up from the floor again, straightening his white-belted
gee. "What the heck did you just trip me with? You were
in front of me!"
"Why weren't you ready for it? You were too extended.
You practically invited me to loop out my leg." He sounded
personally insulted by the young man's incompetence.
Greg buckled down again. If it weren't for his forcefield,
he'd have had a diverse collection of disabling or fatal injuries.
As it was, he'd be sore tomorrow. He hadn't had a workout
like this in a long time. He was panting like a dog in the
tropics; Logan hadn't seemed to have broken a sweat.
It wasn't Greg's idea of the best way to spend a Friday afternoon.
Circling cautiously, Wolverine brought up his hands in a defensive
position. "I hear Rogue's taken a shine to you."
"Yeah, I guess," he replied, lashing out with a
fist. He wasn't using his full strength for this, though for
all the success he was having landing a blow, it wouldn't
Logan easily dodged the punch, and brought his elbow down
on Greg's forearm in a move that would have shattered bones
in a normal case. Greg simply felt embarrassed. He was trying,
"Got a date tomorrow, right?" Logan asked, simultaneously
executing a vicious uppercut. Greg jerked his head back and
it missed. He felt pride for an instant; that was only the
third blow he'd managed to dodge or block this whole match.
Then the kick took him directly in the stomach.
He collected himself from off the wall. He'd been thrown
six feet! How could the little shrimp be that strong? "Yup.
Gonna get dinner, maybe catch a show," he panted, charging
forward. He had a plan.
Logan said, "One piece of advice..." and slid to
the side, escaping the roundhouse Fortress threw. But Greg
had expected that, and immediately whirled into a back kick.
Wolverine dodged that too, but Greg had thrown a jab where
he thought his opponent would be.
Somehow Wolverine grabbed his arm and whipped him onto the
floor. "...we all like her a lot. Don't toy with her."
He had Fortress in an aikido hold, twisting his arm behind
his back in a very uncomfortable position. It was surprisingly
effective. He thought that with his full strength he could
break free, but that was against the rules.
"I'm not sayin' it has to work out, but if it doesn't,
let her down real easy, okay?" It wasn't quite
a threat. But Greg didn't think it was just a bit of friendly
"Got it. I'm not some kind of schmuck." Logan let
"That's enough for today. Good combination, by the way.
Just make it faster next time." His sensei bowed, and
Greg hurriedly mirrored the move. Logan walked off toward
What exactly what that about? Greg pondered.
Yet again, he wondered just what their date was going to be
Continued in Chapter
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